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Follow Your Routine – In Life and Chess

Sabina Foisor

by WGM Sabina Foisor


This may sound like a cliché title, but the more I think about my less fortunate experiences in past tournaments, the more I realize the nuances of routine in my daily life, as a player in particular and a professional in general. Many chess players, as well as other sportsmen, have the tendency to repeat things that help them win. For example, you might have heard chess players discuss their wardrobe change when losing a game (and never trying it again during that tournament) or maybe you’ve heard about the “lucky pen” story. Sometimes myself and other chess players blame losses on various things, but I think if you learn a routine that works for you during tournaments, you shouldn’t stray too far from it.


I believe to play chess well one must have an open mind and do things that really benefit them – regardless of their difficulties – and not allow themselves to believe only in luck. Thus, preparation for a tournament should involve more than just a couple of months of preparation, but rather a routine that becomes part of your lifestyle. So, one should learn to enjoy doing every day what is good for them in the long run. Life is a process and improving in chess takes time; if you only have a tournament in mind, what will you do for the rest of the year?


After an unsuccessful U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, I took a little bit of time to think about what went wrong. I started my chess preparation for this prestigious event in February; I ate healthy meals; I exercised and trained every single day; yet, toward the end of my games, I couldn’t keep my calm and missed a lot of opportunities and tactical ideas. I am thankful for the Saint Louis Chess Club for giving me the opportunity to fill the GM residency position for two weeks after the tournament concluded; during this time, I was able to do what I enjoy – teach chess, but also spend some time alone thinking about what went wrong in the tournament I just finished. I compared what I did differently to win last year’s Championship and realized I hadn’t been serious enough with keeping a good daily routine, not only during the duration of the championship, but throughout the year. I was changing my hours of sleep. I allowed myself to eat carbs and sweets during the tournament, and I hadn’t always finished my 10k steps.  


I think you cannot only dedicate a couple of months prior to an event to get in shape and stay in shape. I think it needs to become a lifestyle to come naturally to you. You have to learn to enjoy the process if you want to be successful in chess by learning to build up a routine throughout your life. Make healthy eating decisions, exercise regularly, get enough hours of sleep every day, and most importantly try to make sure you keep a regular training session every day even; if some days you can only work on chess for one hour, make that one hour count. Before the tournament, if you happen to play in a different time zone, I believe it is important to start organizing your days in such a way that you would follow as close to a similar day to how you would behave during the event. Get your body used to waking up and having breakfast at the same time, etc.


Finally, you need to train your body to work during the time that you are going to be preparing and playing during the event. You also must make sure you give your body needed exercise. I do not believe you have to keep the same cardio procedure you would normally do at home, but certainly taking fast and active walks or swimming throughout the event helps to pass negative energies that you might have acquired during your games, while also relaxing you for a good sleep.


Sometimes you need to fall to be able to see what’s best for you. Let’s learn to make habits we can commit to as part of our lifestyle and improve our chess game!