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I used to play competitive chess. I gave it up about fifteen years ago; because it just took up too much of my time and energy.

Chess is a very demanding hobby. It takes a lot of resources to prepare: books [instruction], time [read and solve problems], and practice. I’d attend our local chess club every Monday night for four or five hours of constant playing; study ending, middle game, and opening theory every night, work on problems either from these books, my games, or master games, and I’d play in correspondence matches. It was intense, and I logged over twenty hours a week trying to improve my game. I achieved a 1900+ CFC rating and was considered a weak A class or strong B class player. I have a master notch on my gun stock.

Today I met one of my old chess buddies at McDonald’s. It’s the nearest coffee shop [definitely not my idea of a café], and he was there eating a late breakfast. He’s in his 80’s. We chatted about chess and my life and my story writing. I told him sitting down to write was a lot like sitting down to play a tournament chess game, and that’s why it’s been so hard to get this thing edited. It’s difficult to get in the mood every night after working all day, and I have all that preparation I need to work on.

A Tournament chess game was typically 40 moves in two hours, a total of four. Subsequent time controls were 20 in one hour. If your flag fell before you’ve made all your moves, you lost immediately. There was lots of pressure and it was intense. I’ve played several six-hour games, and I think my longest was eight hours. I’ve played about three hundred rated games.

There is a lot of mental preparation for a five-hour match. If you don’t go in ready to play, you get rolled and sent home with a goose egg. You need to be one hundred percent focused on your game. Every move you need to thoroughly understand your position, and if possible, relevant theory. It’s not all calculation; though there certainly is much. Your brain works flat-out for those hours, and you don’t let it take a break. A tournament chess game is one of the most competitive experiences, and your brain uses as much energy as a body does in a set of tennis.

Tonight I begin three weeks of vacation. When I get home this evening, I am going to take a nap. When I wake I will make a nice, small dinner for myself. I will then go out into my vegetable garden and pluck weeds until the skeeters and black flies drive me inside. My story will have been on my mind this whole time. I will have pictured the words I plan to write. I’ll make a half pot of coffee. As the coffee brews, I will sit at my computer and respond to any comments you make, I will read my tweets, and I will fiddle with Facebook. My mind during this time will not be on my story. I will then prepare a cup of coffee with coconut oil and whipping cream, open my story, and go to work. I will work for four hours. Somewhere in there, I will refill my coffee cup and kiss my wife. A bottle of wine might get opened.

Game number two starts about thirty minutes after I wake up tomorrow morning. My alarm is set for 5AM, but that will likely change.

These next two weeks is a 40 game chess tournament.