"Sometimes you can press a little bit and you're trying to do too much and you're trying too hard. You want to win so bad and you want to help the team so badly that you end up trying too much instead of letting the play come to you." - Ed Belfour
Granted, chess isn't a team sport, but I think that Eddie the Eagle's quote sums up something that I find myself facing.
Last year I had a terrible start to the year. I was at 1711 in the beginning of 2012. By August I was down to 1560, and by January of 2013 I was back over 1700. How did I do it? Well, mostly by not caring about my rating in terms of my performance. In other words, I never let the ratings of myself or my opponent factor in to any decisions I made.
A large part of why I had slid so far from my peak was that I was letting rating issues make too many decisions. i.e. "This position looks drawish, but I can't take a draw against this guy since he's 200 points lower rated than me." Or "I can't play the Sicilian against this guy, he's 300 points higher rated so he'll know the theory way better than I do." etc.
Then one day I decided that I didn't care. I was perilously close to my floor, so why care about the rating at this point. I just needed to fix whatever was wrong. Almost overnight I gained 100 points back. Now I have gained another 100 on top of that and am at my all time peak of 1763.
So you would think that it would be easy to just keep on keeping on and continue to not care at all about the rating. But here's the issue...my goal is to make it over 1800 by the end of the year. And at this point I'm close enough that I can taste it.
The Southwest Chess Club Championship started last Thursday and will run over five more Thursdays. In round one I was paired down with a 981. I had the Black side of a Scheveningen and my opponent actually played book moves for a while and seemed to have an attack coming. Then he managed to drop a piece. At that point I should have simply relaxed and kept calculating as the win should be a simple matter of technique as he had no comp for the piece.
Instead I found myself becoming more tense. I won a pawn, and then another pawn, and with each material gain I felt tighter and tighter. It was then that I realized that I was worrying about the possible rating impact. "What if I blow this? I'll lose dozens of points!" I kept telling myself not to worry, but I kept worrying.
Naturally I easily won the game, but now I find myself worrying that ratings may be once again on the verge of driving my decision making.
So I'm going to have to watch that. I'm not sure how to pull this off, but I feel that if I can the surge will continue.
Here is one of my games played back in Jan 2012 when I was worrying about ratings and results. I build up a ridiculous advantage and then throw it away and draw this game.