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One week in the life of a chess professional

Monday, 21 January 2002

Got up at 7-40. Before 8-00 I checked my e-mail — in Ireland, as in most European countries local phone calls are not free. This means that surfing the Net can add considerably to your phone bill (and it does in my case!). Last year I signed up for a special service — I pay a fixed amount each month (about €50), but can go online between 18-00 and 8-00 for free. Thus, I tend to spend most time online in the evening. Also, I try to check my e-mail before 8-00 in the morning, so the call is free.

As the past weekend was pretty busy for me (I went to Birmingham to play in 4NCL), after breakfast I took things easy, catching up with Sunday newspapers — till about 9-30.

Between 9-30 and 13-30 I prepared papers for my accountant, went to meet with him, paid a few bills and sent some letters — usual stuff. While it does not seem to be very productive, it takes an awful lot of time!

After lunch my wife gave me a lift to a school where I teach chess. It’s a small national (none-private) boys school and I teach two groups there — at 14-30 and 15-30. About 7 years ago I taught chess in 4-5 schools and did it for 3 years. I reckon that I probably taught over 200 kinds in Ireland how to play chess and this makes me feel good! Yet, the pay was poor then (despite the Celtic Tiger — that animal was never nice to me!) and I gave it up when my financial position improved. Also, I felt tired. But last year I came back to the idea and offered my service to one of the schools. I asked for a higher (and more appropriate!) fee — about €6.40 per hour per child. This is roughly $5.50 and is still below a typical charge for a similar service in USA and UK. The response was good — the classes were over-subscribed. However, I don’t want to have more than 20 kids in the class — it won’t be fair to them and would be too stressful for me! During the classes I usually show some tactical ideas for 15-20 minutes, ask questions and then let kids play, correcting them when they play 1.a2-a4?! or 1.h2-h4?!. Both classes went well, but when I came back home at about 17-00, I felt pretty tired — 35 kids are 35 kids! :-)

Shortly after coming home Elena (my wife) and I went for coffee with our mutual friend. Then I dealt with a book order, which had received in my shop at Grandmaster Square. When the site took off, it was not generating any income. Yet, I felt that it had to make some money if I wanted the site to stay alive. I noticed that when it comes to Web sites, the initial enthusiasm usually fades away when it is not backed by finance. So, I added Online Auction site to GM Square and later opened a shop there. The auction is doing really well and the shop has a pretty decent selection of chess goods. I hope it will do well — bookstores in Ireland have pathetic selection of chess titles and there are no specialised chess dealers apart from me. The shop is located at https://www.web-guardian.com/gmsquare/cgi-bin/store/commerce.cgi. I prepared the order, charged buyer’s credit card and posted the books to USA. I find that most my clients come from USA — obviously e-commerce is much more common there. I have orders from South America and Japan too. Irish customers use the shop as well, but there are surprisingly few orders from continental Europe. It could be competition with the London Chess Centre, though its online shop (unlike its mail-order catalogue!) does not have a good selection.

Later I read a book for a while and then watched ‘Simpsons’ with my kids — I felt pretty tired. It could be reaction to the past chess weekend or to the classes I gave in the school.

At 19-00 it was Internet time. I checked the TWIC and fide.com sites to see what happened in Moscow. Poor Ivanchuk — is losing 3½-1½. The match is over... Before the match I though that Ponomariov was 55-45 favourite — mainly because of his much better nerves. Kasparov gave 55-45 in Ivanchuk’s favour. I should have bet on the match, I guess. The quality of play in the match is very poor - could you compare this match to something like Spassky-Fischer, Karpov-Korchnoi or Karpov-Kasparov? Or any of the matches played since 1951? I cannot. Of course, shorter time control is a sacrifice, which FIDE had to make in order to turn chess into a real sport (why?) and more TV-friendly show. So, next time you watch Ponomariov-Ivanchuk match on CNN, BBC, Eurosport or TV-5, please bare this in mind and stop criticising FIDE!

I receive about 40 e-mails every day and in the evening I tried to catch up with some of them, while chatting with my friend in Moscow on ICQ and checking games from the Corus tournament on TWIC. Around 22-00 I stopped surfing the Net and went to watch a movie on my video. Not much chess today...

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted