Chess Without The Stress

One of the best examples of a successful amateur in chess is my friend Gerard Welling, the Dutch IM. Gerard has considerable talent, of course, but he has never been a professional, and what makes his play so interesting nowadays is his excellently-thought out approach to tournaments. The recent Gibraltar international was a great example. Two months beforehand, Gerard suffered a heart attack, so even playing was brave. He decided, in his own words, to play “stress-free chess”, using solid openings, not worrying about opening preparation, and being ready to sacrifice a few rating points, just to enjoy playing. He spent each morning walking around The Rock, enjoying the fresh air and scenery, and then just played in a relaxed, solid manner.

The result was great – 6/10, including a remarkable 2/5 against GMs, with Black in four of those five games! And, despite (or, rather, because of) avoiding mainstream theoretical openings and not spending every morning wired up to his computer, none of his three losses was the fault of the opening.

His last-round game was the greatest triumph of all for his approach. His opponent, a 2500-GM and former British Champion, tried to blast Gerard’s solid Schlechter-Slav off the board, walked into an alert response, and was demolished in 26 moves as White, the entire game lasting barely 90 minutes! If it can happen to a GM, it can certainly happen to your opponents, if you adopt the right, stress-free approach.

Steve Giddins