When work gets tough, I always look to chess – now just a hobby for me – for some joy and relief. So it was a nice boost to get a mail from my Dad at the beginning of April, pointing out that I’d just achieved my highest ELO rating ever – 2670 – beating my previous best of 2668 in January 1999! To celebrate that, I asked Natasha if she could make a “Chess for Life” chart for my career, just as she’d done for our role models. And here it is – thanks Natasha!
Looking back, I made smooth, consistent progress from the age of 14 until my retirement towards the end of 1999… but it didn’t feel that way! The period immediately after turning professional at the age of 16 was difficult: you can see a little dip in rating before I started climbing again. I was also a hair’s breadth away from stopping in 1995, worn out and driven to distraction by the painful process of pushing my rating from 2550 to 2600. You can see this struggle in the “staircase” pattern in my rating chart around that time: little steps forward followed by periods of stagnation or consolidation, depending on your viewpoint!
After my return to playing chess (albeit as an amateur now) I had a wonderful 2011, winning 2 strong international opens and peaking at 2662 before a disastrous start to 2012 brought me back down to earth! Since then, I’ve played a lot less but managed to play quite well on my infrequent outings.
This brings back a lot of memories! The fondest ones are probably of the period between 1996 and the end of 1998, during which I won a Gold medal for England at the 1996 Yerevan Olympiad, shared in the team’s success when England won the European Team Championships in 1997 and finished =3rd in the Category 18 Tilburg tournament of 1998. Happy days!