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GM Chirila on a Millionaire Kickoff Print E-mail
By GM Cristian Chirila   
October 8, 2015
As the Millionaire Chess Open kicks off in Las Vegas (October 8-12), with our top three US players participating (Nakamura, Caruana and So), Grandmaster Cristian Chirila goes over his intense preparation for the second edition of GM Maurice Ashley's groundbreaking concept. Follow the event on the live broadcast link, twitter and facebook. 

Last year's most exciting open chess tournament was undoubtedly the Millionaire Chess Open. During its infancy, this completely new concept was full of controversy. Luckily the haters were immediately silenced by the ongoing stream of exciting new features. It was almost like chess players were like rock stars in the mesmerizing Vegas air. We were being spoiled with massage tables, a private lounge, and many other features that were unheard of in any previous open chess tournaments.

Everything seemed too good to be true! The tournament ended, the number of participants did not meet the expectations, and I assume the organizers lost a lot of money. To sell chess is no easy task and I am sure I wasn't the only one that believed there would not be a second edition...fortunately I was wrong!

The second edition was announced quickly after the end of the first one, and many new adventures were promised by the organizers. I immediately knew that I will play, therefore I registered as soon as I was certain about my schedule during the month of October.

Having slightly more than 100 days of preparation ahead of me before this event, I organized a clear schedule to help me reach both mental and physical peak performance before the competition. The following training routine is personally crafted and has been created specifically for my needs, nevertheless if you take some of these ideas and mold them based on your needs, I am sure you will see an improvement in your play. Let's start!

My training routine has three main components: the chess, the mental, and the physical.

The Chess

My overall performance during recent tournaments has been good but at the critical moments I am often caught off guard due to my severe time trouble addiction.

This is a problem that has affected beginners and top players alike (see Grischuk's severe addiction). There is no clear path to what you need to do in order to correct this, there are only few steps that you can take to reduce the problem:

1.     Acknowledge:
as with every other addiction, it is important that we understand we have a problem. There are those moments when you take 10-15 minutes in order to make a minor decision, which might not influence the course of the game. This unnecessary time burn will hurt us later in the game when we will be presented with important crossroads.

2.     Perfectionism : I tried to remember I don't need to play a perfect game in order to win, often times the one that makes the last mistake loses. Trusting your intuition is key in correcting this habit.

3.     Practice: Playing bullet and blitz games on the existing chess platforms around the web. Recently I started streaming my sessions live on the Chessbrah channel. You can see a fun example below of what Eric Hansen, the founder of the Chessbrah, does on his channel. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cvGlLYIFMk). Please do not try this method at home!

I also played a couple of tournaments in September. You can see my results here over Labor Day Weekend and the G/30 National Championships. I played many rapid games in these two tournaments, which helped with my time trouble addiction.

 I worked on exercises to improve my intuition, like the following:

Black to move: What would you play? No doubt the majority would vote to play solidly in the center with: 1... Be6!? 2.Rd1 Rad8 and then Black would not stand badly. Black, however, played differently. In the diagram position he started analyzing the possibility of invading on h3 with the queen... 1...fxg3? 2.hxg3 Qh3 3.Rh2! [3.Rg2 g4 4.f4 Nf3+ 5.exf3 Bd4+ 6.Rf2 gxf3 7.Bxf3 Qxg3+ 8.Bg2 (8.Kf1? Bh3+ 9.Ke1 Rae8+ 10.Ne4 Rxe4+ 11.Bxe4 Qg1+-+) 8...Bh3 9.Kh1 Rf6] 3...Qxg3+ 4.Kh1 Bh3 5.Rg1 Qh4

a move that can be easily missed when calculating from afar, for this reason we should listen to our intuition in this case and not dwelve into unknown territory. [6.Bxh7? Ng4! 7.fxg4 Be5 8.e3 Bxh2 9.Qxh2 Kxh7-+] 6...g4 7.Nf2 h5 8.Bf5!+- [8.Nxh3? g3 9.Rxg3 Qxg3÷] 

I also worked on my openings. I analyzed all the games in which my opponent outplayed me from the opening. This particularly paid off in a mini match against IM Aleskerov. I firstly played him in early September. While I won that game, my opening was far from perfect and he equalized without a single problem with black.

After the tournament I corrected my approach towards that line, and when we met again 3 weeks later, I managed to get an almost winning position straight out of the opening. Analyzing your games can pay off handsomely!

Chirila,Ioan Cristian (2529) - Aleskerov,Faik (2315) 

G30 National Championship

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5 3.Nc3 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Qb3!

The most critical continuation [5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Nf6 7.Bd3 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 Bd6 9.Bg5 Be7 10.Nge2 Nbd7 Chirila vs Aleskerov, 1-0 in the end I managed to win this game but my opening yielded no advantage whatsoever. Despite this line being a definite sideline, black achieves immediate equality if you don't capitalize right away.
5...Nc6 6.Nf3 Nb4 7.e4!

White gets a very nice attack
7...Bxe4 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Ne5 Qe7 10.a3 f6 11.Bd2 fxe5 12.Bxb4±
8.Ne5 Be6 9.Bc4 Bxc4 10.Qxc4 Qe7
10...Nd3+! black should have realized that his only chance for a decent position is to exchange my most active and damaging piece, the N on e5. 11.Nxd3 exd3 12.Qxd3 Qd7 13.0-0 Bd6 14.Qe4+ Ne7 15.Qxb7 0-0 16.Qf3 /+/- white enjoys a nice advantage due to his extra pawn. Once he finishes his development he will be able to start the conversion process]
11.0-0 f6 12.Nb5
12.a3 would have been winning on the spot 12...fxe5 13.axb4 c6 14.dxe5 black has nowhere to run with his king and he lacks greatly in the development department, the position is almost hopeless. 12...Na6

12...c6 13.Nd6+ Qxd6 14.Qf7+ Kd8 15.Qxb7 fxe5 16.Qxa8+ Ke7 17.Qxa7+
13.Qa4! Kd8 14.Rd1!! I missed this move during the game, now black is in big trouble due to his inability to finish his development
quite a funny position
14.Na5 c6 15.Nc3 Bb4 16.Nb3 f5 17.f3 Nf6 18.fxe4 fxe4 19.Bg5 0-0-0 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Nxe4 f5 22.Nf6 Qe7 23.Rxf5 Bd6 24.Raf1 Nc7 25.d5±

I converted safely in a few moves 1-0

Also see a video showing the last few seconds of the round.

These two problems were the most important ones for me to correct before this event, and I think I covered it quite well. We shall now wait and see how well my preparation helped when the real test of fire begins.


The Mental & Physical
In recent years I have spent a great amount of time trying to understand why most chess players, myself included, fluctuate so much between good and bad form. What I realized about myself is that I burn out very fast when it comes to chess preparation. If I stay more than a few hours at a desk, looking into a monitor, creating opening files, I will soon lose interest and start procrastinating. This translates into mental tiredness, so my solution revolves around switching gears from chess to other mental activities in order to keep a balance and maintain that spark that keeps you motivated and driven throughout the cruel training sessions.

My first intention was to start learning a new language. Chinese was my pick, unfortunately I gave up this idea faster than expected. The truth is languages are difficult, and they can definitely becoming grueling mental tasks once you really start scratching below the surface. I needed something that would help me relax while putting my brain to work. One of the few things I enjoy the most is doing physical activities. I play pretty much every sport except baseball and American football, though the latter I like watching.

I always wanted to learn martial arts but I did not have the luck to find something that really suited my style. I've enjoyed watching MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) watch on TV for a while now, so I decided to join a nearby gym.

With MMA, I keep both my mental and physical game up to par, killing two birds with one stone. MMA helps me relax after a day's heavy workload, while developing muscle memory, hand-eye coordination, and greatly improve my cardio and mental stamina. I recommend any type of martial arts to those interested in deepening the connection between the mind and body.


Hints to help you improve your training program:

1.     Identify your weaknesses. It is important that before you start putting pen to paper and creating your training routine, you are certain about the aspects of your game that need improvement. Otherwise you will end up circling around and not being able to come up with a clear winning strategy. When playing a game you will have a conversation with yourself, try to remember the things you did not feel comfortable with during your games. This will be a clear hint on what you need to improve on.

2.     Diversify your training. In order not to burn out, try coming up with engaging and fun activities that will keep your drive and motivation to maximum levels. Example: switch gear from training openings and creating new files, to playing games online where you verify your openings. Don't fall into the trap of playing nonstop without analyzing your games in between bouts.

3.     Do not neglect your body. The mind will always work better in a healthier body. There is no coincidence that almost all top players are young, hungry wolves that regard physical training as a must to succeed in chess. The game itself is draining, and if you neglect this aspect of your training you will end up not having enough energy and mental stamina to finish the last rounds of important tournaments (often times these are the critical championship rounds).

I hope this routine will resonate with your ambitions and therefore will help you in maximizing your results and achieving your true potential. Good luck...and good luck to myself in what is going to be a test of fire in the dry Las Vegas air!

Follow along at http://millionairechess.com/