What it is like to join the Champion League of Chess

In June 2022, in the midst of the busiest time of the year both professionally and academically, I joined the Champion League on Chess.com on a whim. Here is the journey of how I got there.

How it all started

When I was about seven or so, my dad used to bring me to one of a few youth facilities in town and participate in chess class (We called them “Nhà Thiếu Nhi” in Vietnamese). We did not have much access to entertainment back then, and PC games were not allowed in our household, so chess ultimately became the only few things that I played during my childhood.

I started to get better at it, and somehow, ended up in third place in a local chess competition. Finishing the final game in the late afternoon when my dad would pick me up before heading home, was possibly one of the proudest moments from primary school that I could still remember until today. Although I never join competitive tournaments again, chess has been one of the games that I continued playing, especially with anyone who has an interest. Most of the time it’s mainly for fun, but sometimes, it was a way to get through times when I was bullied as a kid.

On the way to being a Chess Queen

Fast forward to the recent years, when Netflix becomes a thing that everybody uses and talks about as part of our cultural norms, the excitement for chess grew in me again. Although I didn’t finish watching the Queen’s Gambit, I felt a sense of fulfillment that a series about my favorite game became so popular and highly regarded.

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth in The Queen’s Gambit. By Elle.com

Thus, somehow, I got back to chess. In a brief few weeks at the summer school that I was in as a counselor, I got sometimes to play against 13-14-year-olds that I almost lose to. My high school friend was still playing every day, and I had never won against him in any match. So I really took that to heart and put my time into getting better.

Putting in the effort

The platform that I use to practice chess is Chess.com, one of the biggest online chess communities in the world. I started anonymously, and then with a user ID named impulsively as “MachoMagician”.

The challenge was that for every week, you have to become among the top players of your division, by acquiring as many points (trophies) as possible through winning matches. The division consisted of around 50 different players, trying to compete for the top. The wrecked twist is that after each week, the points are reset if you do not progress to the next level. Therefore, many ended up playing hours just to get wasted.

Courtesy of Chess.com’s League Advancement Rubric

The journey to the top took quite a slow start when I would only recognize that I was in the Crystal league a while ago. The jump from Crystal to Elite League was the hardest, as you have to keep playing to stay at the top 3 in your division to advance. And from the Elite League to the Champion League, I felt like I had to put aside so many of my real-life responsibilities to accomplish it. Beyond the Champion League, there is still another level where you have to be in the top 1 of all divisions, called the Legend League. The Legend League is the toughest one to join and to battle in because you would have to undergo through the fastest, smartest players in all Leagues.

Eventually, I ended up ranking among the top players and finally joined the Champion League.

Chess.com: Champion League Celebration 😀

The games that got me there

Chess has always been fun, but being in the Champion League felt even more marvelous. It’s a mind game, but more than that, it’s a way I could release stress. The focus needed to checkmate, and the visualization of steps that each piece could potentially move in was what makes me feel excited and engaged, to say the least. I did not do much book learning, but you can always ask me what color the tile e6 is. I could also tell you how to get your White Pawn to upgrade, or when might be the best time to swap the Rook and the King. The Queen is a badass, as she could move anywhere on the table as she likes, while the Bishop is the loyal buddy running herself diagonally across the tiles ready to checkmate. The King is always threatened, but during the end game, he is not only the most crucial one but also the most powerful one in combination with other pieces. Throughout the games, I have felt the gut pain when experiencing a heavy defeat, and the euphoric happiness when winning over a split of time.

The above games were some that I have won with different setups. Before reaching Champion League, I have played about 825 matches with people whom I have never met, people who have come from all different countries of the planet that I have not traveled to. I chose Japan simply just because I was residing in the country, and that geography matters less in an informal setting like online chess. Regardless, I was amazed at how diverse the communities were. I wish that I could meet them in person somehow, or organize a real-life tournament that they often do in a leveled chess championship. Below is a graphic for all the “passports” of opponents that I have played against on Chess.com.

A number of nationalities are represented on Chess.com that I have played against.

Practice facing defeat

Besides the celebration of victory, Chess really taught me to be patient with failure, and learn how to improve with every mistake. It is not about defeating others, it is about working on your own reflection. At the end of the day, chess for me is another skill that I could use to interact with others and exchange a little bit of my knowledge on strategy or tactics. The complexity of the game and how deeply rooted history and world political dynamics are also intriguing parts of why I spend time playing chess. Perhaps instead of going to war, people can just sit down and play chess. The outcome of a deal does not have to be relying on a flip of a coin or getting bloody with all the unnecessary weapons as such.

In a recent game, I lost due to Queen checkmate protected by a Rook. Our time was squarely tied but lacking a Queen as well as a defending Knight to keep opponents at bay was difficult. This type of defeat happened way more often than you think there is. You just have to learn from your past mistakes, move on, and focus on the next game. Courtesy of Chess.com
This was the best game that I’ve played, having +24 points acquired and a well-ahead-of-time checkmate with Qh5#. Courtesy of Chess.com.

Keep moving forwards

Unlocking this new challenge of being in the Champion League really made me feel much accomplished. There are about 197544 Champion players worldwide as of June 25th, 2022, and I ranked about 163,190 among them. Given that there are more than 88 million players on Chess.com, joining this highly selective group was unreal for me. It’s still a long way to go to beat the best of the bests, but I guess the journey of skilling up is always fun.

It is all about practice

Although being a Grandmaster has never been my life aspiration, I don’t mind taking the challenge and maybe one day, I could sit down with one of the world’s Grandmasters, shake her hands, and take a moment to appreciate her greatness. Or even better, I could tell my dad how I met up with Anya Taylor-Joy and have her finally play the Queen’s Gambit. My hope for the future would be that Chess could be played forever, by anyone from any walk of life. If I eventually have a grandkid, I hope she said “I’m proud of grandmom for being in the virtual Champion League.”

Are you spending too much time by yourself?

It’s ok if you feel not enough sometimes. You don’t have to feel 100% all the time, and sometimes, feeling like 20% is good enough. You should allow yourself to feel empty, and motionless. However, it is good to note that having your mind wander too much during the day sometimes would inevitably lead to extreme boredom, self-sabotaging thoughts, and disillusion.

Here’s a little bit of awkwardness when you started spending too much time observing your mind
A therapeutic artistic video on nothing whatsoever. Really speaks to me as something meaningful and chaotic.
An attractive, relaxing commentary on a football match, and a great transition to Under Amour.

All the above three were made by Case Jernigan.

A trippy yet oddly-satisfying video of zooming into 3D model of Mandelbrot Fractal

Thank you and I hope you have had a great day

Those who could manage their own time could manage their whole life

I don’t believe much in anything these days, except the fact that I know I found the source of leisure that makes my life meaningful. Possibly, skydiving.

I skipped reading many of the profound verses of self-help because they were useless beyond their means since I barely use any of the practice they suggest. Knowledge is only useful when it empowered an action. Perhaps it’s not really my interest in learning. Now it’s time for practicing only a few key things and to see how it goes. if I fail, then I will revise my practice in principles.

Although I still desire a rich and wealthy lifestyle, I’m still battling with the value of money. Time, to me, is crystal clear. You can measure all it could, but time, although within our own capacity of walking the Earth, is possibly finite within its most believable uncertainty. Therefore, time is the most valuable asset that a human being could have within her/his lifetime.

But for money, I am yet to be able to understand it. Shall it be for the construction of the financial system, or monetary transactions shall be the blood of the society for it to stay healthy, then perhaps I was not wrong. I wish I have the mathematical ability of a genius to be able to comprehend the immense importance of finance in our lives. Why are some desperate for the money and others sit around leisurely with it? Why is the flow of money goes into someone while it doesn’t for others? Perhaps, if I could imagine a river, maybe the cash flow could be counted as such. How about Bitcoin, Etherium, and a myriad of other new arising currencies? I found that my knowledge in Internationa Finance and Foreign Exchange Market was inadequate, not to mention the several newly created blockchain platforms. What would be essential for humanities to stay alive and afloat shouldn’t be fully dependent on these transactions, yet, it is clear to me that it will become even more prominent in the future to come.

I think that we are walking a fine line between dystopia and utopia, but again, why is one of the others, but not both? Social media collectively highlight the positive parts and leave out all the ugly and nasty stuff of this world, because we choose to do so. But what if we question everything, and start to not tolerate, but endure hardship that fundamentally lies as a foundation for wealth and success, maybe we can start appreciating that hardship endurance is a success story within itself, and we don’t have to glorify it as such.

One thing that I would probably regret later, or something I could imagine regretting, is to say this stuff without giving it a second read, or basically, have someone give it a review. I definitely sometimes feel lonely in the journey of exploring my own thoughts. But maybe this could be prominent evidence of what someone in the future could read my thinking out loud, and examine a side of an individual who has existed, besides haring the cost of having their brain a little bit twisted since I gave no regards to whoever would be reading. I don’t know how long this article would last, but somehow, I suspected it could last beyond a black hole. The information these days are not rare. But how important those pieces of information are, we could only tell by counting how many lives it has impacted, perhaps in a couple of hundred years.

I was aspired to be a founder, a business owner, an entrepreneur. I wanted to follow the step of my father. I wanted to be like my grandfather, who found joy in fixing up little things and bringing life into wasted stuff. I wanted to help people. I wanted to bring value to the world and perhaps give them a solution to their miseries and hardship. Yet after my dive, I feel the urge of rearranging my life priorities. I feel like I wanted to pursue a life in the air rather than working on saving the Earth. But then I was reminded that I need to work on things that are necessary, than something you wanted. The priorities, thus remain the same: I should learn how to bring joy to others again, even if they betray us in the process. Today, I was told by the Internet, that it’s not about whether you could trust a person now to betray you, but whether you could deal with that betrayal yourself or not. Betrayal perhaps works only within the abstraction of our own expectations imposing on others. Whether or not they understand and see value in meeting those expectations, we have no control over it. Yet, we spend majority of our time expecting from others and felt pressure on our own. It’s a funny world, and a funny game.

What’s more blissing?

I’ve just had a call with my parents. And my brother. And my dog – Leo. I complained to my brother about how Leo never let me hug him. And he shared his tips. Basically you just have to go to school and come back.

My mom shared some of her reflections on life, and to me they were precious advices. She had some hard moments dealing with things at home around the COVID situations, so I tried to cheer her up and listened to her. She gave me some really good advices on relationship, and though I hope it wasn’t true for some people to be that way, I believe that she was right about spending time for the right things, and having priorities setting straight. Save brain powers and inner peace not for those who don’t care about you, not for those that bother you, but for the ones that bring you happiness and bliss in life.

I wish I could kiss her on the cheek before we said goodbye.

My family has given me so much support that I couldn’t be grateful enough.

And I’m playing this Youtube golden rec, with Childish Gambino playing chill, while the rain is pouring outside on Tokyo street.

My friend just replied to me, and I’m thankful for her being in my life. I felt like sometimes I’m super insecure about my friendships, but sometimes I feel like it’s important to be patient and give time for your loved one. To deal with their own issues, and to come to you when they are ready.

I don’t want to rush people, as myself I often don’t enjoy being rushed either.

But now, I feel like I have better view of what I want to do, at least in the next few months, I feel like I could handle this and come out on a better position. Slowly, gradually, I will do it well.

It’s 15:21

And my blog is becoming like a macro Tweeter page where there isn’t much traffic, interaction, or public recognition. It’s like a scream into a void without knowing much about my own audience, but literally, I would often time just keep my future me in mind. Hey wise B, it’s the younger B’s talking. How has you been?

It’s 15:24 now and I’m just typing down my thought, as I’m thinking about it.

The life of the mono-audience blog page isn’t that exciting. I wish I could have thought for others better than for myself. I’m too Westernized, if that’s a way to describe it. “I’m doing this, I’m doing that”. My sincerely apologies. I wish I know better than whatever I’m having to deal with right now – Myself.

So Marie Kondo released another Netflix series for “Spark Joy” with cleaning up our own mess. Personally, I felt a sense of envy, that she could produce a massive influential show by just cleaning up people’s home. The big screen appearance isn’t what makes me felt envious, but because of her simple concept and methodology that she promoted. It’s a success of personal branding, business execution, marketing, and more than that, a philosophy and system of decluttering that works. Personally, I haven’t tried out hers, just because I haven’t watched her show, or read her book (which was a silly part of me, I know). But I personally feel it wouldn’t worth my time. The whole idolizing and worshipping around her cultural phenomena made me a little bit uneasy. I genuinely avoid obsession at all cost, knowing that I could be obsessed at anytime into anything myself.

But truly, it could possibly be a work of art, that made an impact on so many people’s life. I wouldn’t know better. I feel like I should learn from her’s strategy instead of staying envious, but then at least I know there’s part of me wanting the world to know about my way of living, and that way of living makes the world a better place. Or so? What is it better? Who am I to tell. Regardless, writing about this helps reassessing what I have been lack of, in term of strategic discipline, and work ethics. Maybe Kondo was right after all, and I might just buy/borrow her book just once.

I’ve scrolled through a few articles written by people who have tried Konmari method of decluttering. You can read it here (honest review).

I did know why I would end up on a Marie Kondo’s post – that I followed her on Instagram, and that I was spending time on it instead of figuring out my class schedule. I wasn’t really happy with the options that I had at hands, and to me, it felt a bit underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time, trying to choose courses. But then I remembered about my decision to sign up for skydiving: Whatever it would happen, I should learn how to be content with it, given the time and limited resources that I have access to at hands.

Would I be regretting taking one course over another, or not taking any particular courses at all? Turn out, regretting is an emotional behaviors that we could potentially be aware of. The fear of regret creeped in when I reflected on my not-so-good performance that I had last semester, but soon I remembered that I passed game-Theory class (somehow, that was magical). So for now, regret isn’t much of a problem for me. Perhaps I would continue trying to be my best, do my best, utilize time to the furthest that I can, and somehow, magically, I might be able to make it.

A reflection, again

I often regret not to go to the park before 4:45pm, just because it’s such a serene place to be, with the water body lying on top of a running river, and so much natural green that I felt healing and at peace.

I think I should go.

Today I have been sitting around and trying to finish exactly two tasks: schedule my dental meetup, and send exactly one email to the waste management office in Kamakura that I have been putting off since the beginning of summer. And the rest of time, I spent on Instagram, posting irrelevant positive vibes stuff, and looking at people’s living their life in excitement. I don’t really know what that does to me, but I felt fatigue. I just felt like I need to go out and enjoy the sun and the water. But at the same times, I realize how much leisure I am enduring. To an extent, it is not getting to good.

I want to spend sometimes jogging with friends, and maybe working on some projects with my team. I feel like out of place and lost sometimes. I felt like there has been no leadership whatsoever.

I felt like there were goals I was able to achieve, but once acquired, there is no meaning to it anymore.

And I felt like a drop on the roller coaster that now I’m even scared of stepping on.

“If you got to eliminate all fear that you have at the moment, what is the visualization of matter that you wish you would be in?”

I felt like, we’re all terrified of what other people think of us. We’re scared of wearing our wounds and show that we’re bleeding. Then we become numb and indifferent to the pain and suffering of others. And we don’t really go anywhere because we’re scared of the disappointment that it might have.

I’m scared of disappointment.

Truth is, I have lost in having self-discipline. I’ve lost in doing my best. I’ve lost the sight of why I am here, and where I was heading to. I felt into the boring trap of comfort, and was unable to risk myself to make new connections. I’m scared of the uncertainty.

Truth is, I didn’t pass my tests. My classes. My education is falling apart, I feel. I don’t know why, but I’m missing the support.

Am I judging myself so much?

I need to buy a tree maybe, something I can take care of. Something I can pay attention to instead of myself. Something that I wish I could be doing different.

I feel like nobody really told me what it felt like for someone to have a goal and able to achieve it. The question of “Now What?” truly haunted me. I felt like the drop afterward was just as exhausting as the climb, and I felt like it wasn’t that big of a deal to work on.

Look, one thought that I had from having my panic attack, was “Oh GOSH, I have to bear all of the burden living again?”. The funny thing when I thought of, when I had my panic attack was: “Ok, this wasn’t too bad. It’s scary, yes, but it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought of it to be. And if this is the way I would die, then I’m totally up for it.”

Jeez.

Then I feel like living is so much harder than dying.

Like, for real. Surviving is so much harder than dying. You can die so easily, yet to have the chance to live, and also take the most out of it, is like, TIRING. But then I think that’s so important to live the most out of it. Even if taking a break would mean that you’re living the best of your life.

There are a few problems that I have at the moments:

  1. My positive energy is currently on deplete. I totally forgot how to stay energize. My parents said I need to do meditation, but it’s not helping.
  2. Tiredness is possibly be part of our life.
  3. I’m most happy when I could spend time with others and learn, and also, improving my teamwork. Maybe I will write a little bit about teamwork and what has the pandemic changed the way we collaborate with each others.
  4. I’m not being accountable, and not being reliable.
  5. I’m not advancing.
  6. I’m not building community.
  7. I’m not following a healthy eating habits.
  8. My habits are not the most healthy and productive as I wish it could be.
  9. I’m not defining my comfort zone and actively stepping out of it.
  10. I’m not taking actions that I should to achieve my goals, because I haven’t seen the immediate rewards of having the goals

I found this article be very interesting: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/life-after-success-what-happens-when-you-reach-big-goal-steve-strick

Another one that talks about having a good life from World Economic Forum

Somehow, I learned that my energy level improved after 6pm. It’s kinda peaked around that time. The morning is perhaps the worst for me, but I’m not really sure why. There’s something about my sleeping schedule and body circulation that doesn’t really serve me well in the morning.

Anyway, today wasn’t a really great day, but at least I got to talk and share stuff to you all.

Maybe I will try to be more helpful.

Do I feel like going to the book club today?

Maybe. Lol.

I want to give some gifts to my professors.

And write him a response in Japanese.

So I will do it before the meeting tonight.

Good night everyone!

Today I learned (there’re just so many)

For now, I’m trying to take advantages of digital overload. What if we can do something about the information we have received and turn them into something good? What if we can utilize those information for a better collective learning?

I’ve been procrastinating on so many things important in my life, like finishing my classes’ report just because that I’ve been very unmotivated about it (seeing no-end result except grading on a piece of paper? But I guess that piece of paper could be powerful).

I’ve been learning more about how to be a better Marketing manager. I’ve been so inspired by so many people during the past few weeks. I just think that there’re just so many things to do, yet no time to do them all.

Found another building made by Von Jour Caux in Tokyo

Finding out a billionaire who got rich thanks to recycling paper – His name is Anthony Pratt.

50 Waste-Recycling ideas

Found out about the study of Social Entrepreneurship and Innovations system in South East and East Asian Countries Research done by IDB, author Tamako Watanabe.

The Social Entrepreneur Dilemma

Are you running a charity or a business? – Cool but confused: Social Entrepreneurs find it harder to explain their work

5 Reasons why Now is the time for Social Entrepreneurship

The Startup Growth Framework for building scalable growth engine

The Ultimate list of marketing tool – 14 Editable Templates

Top 10 Quality of Good Marketing Manager

How to be a Content Marketing manager

Skill you needs as a marketing manager and other successful tips on how to be a Marketing manager

Interesting questions were asked on Quora about the Pros and Cons of being a Marketing Manager and an article about the Advantage of being a marketing manager

The things that I learned today, is that result could be delivered quickly.

Just making sure that you don’t burn out. That’s all.

I think Anthony Pratt could be the lucky one of the third generation to run a huge business empire like Visy, but that’s something to take notes from, and to have a vision for the future. I started to learn how not to be emotional with news and reports, and look at them from an objective point of views, to see whether there could potentially be any actions taken from it. Simply, because he was able to lift off an empire from his grandfather and his father.

That’s perhaps the expectations. I’m pretty free in a sense, but I’d like to build my own empire too. Soon, cus I might die someday in a few decades.

What can we do that’s fun?

I just came home from two weeks offline, away from Instagram and many other social media, and it felt like a storm rather than a peaceful transition back to reality. Is this my reality? Cuddle up with no single soul around, just me and my sofa-bed. It feels surreal. It felt like I’m back to the surviving mode again. How can the people I used to be surrounded by could be out of my life so quick? I know that they’re around somewhere in the city, but not sharing the same space at the same time with them just felt strange.

I don’t remember if he remembered, but I told him about the drop in emotions after you left the school. People care, and gave you so much attention, yet once they leave, they completely out of your life. Or so, you thought.

Is this the defensive mechanism you have built? If it is so I don’t want to be in this stage forever, even though I know this is the discomfort that we were all taught to face. Eventually, clinging on something so dear and meaningful is not sinful or bad. Accepting problems without doing anything about it however is not acceptable for me.

One thing though, I found astounding, is that there’s a growing number of followers on my blog. My intention with Qbooz has always been following the ideal of Expressionism, meaning that I would prioritize expressing my own thought over impressing anyone, but gosh you guys came to support! It’s something I would like to reflect and improve on continuously. I am learning how to ask for and take more feedbacks from others. I think that I am ready to grow again.

Self-love is great, until it grow into self-obsession. Being surrounded by others help me to understand that we all have our set of strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to work with others to compliment those set of skills. I realized that I could potentially help more people and therefore learn more about my own capacities and uniqueness. That’s something I’m super excited about during the upcoming feel months.

There are just so many things that I CAN do, so I really need helps prioritizing everything. Until then, please let me know what you are wanting out of life. Best regards, and cheer to a happy weekend everyone!

Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoy my thoughts, feel free to send me an email to quynhtrang99bb@gmail.com or connect with me on Instagram @bq.trang as well as follow my art account @bbb_qt!

Reading about time-wasting habits

Interesting read: 5 Time-wasting habits that hold entrepreneurs back

  1. The Fixed workweek mentality 
  2. Don’t say yes to unpaid work disguised as an opportunity – “Ask them what their budget is, and whether they’re willing to pay you to do what they want you to do”
  3. Edu-crastination: Procrastinate by pretending you’re busy learning
  4. The ”I’ll just do that real quick” fallacy – this one, is to minimize unnecessary time waste on unimportant, accumulative tasks. Like house chore, and stuff.
  5. Unncessarily long meetings: – If you’re good enough communicator, most meeting are meaningless and weirdly long

What I’ve learned from this list, and will try to implement some of them: The first team, second item, and third item can be implemented. However for the second item it’s very dependent on scenarios, as for me I could find a lot of value in volunteering works. Just so letting you know, I could learn and understand the hardship of people who I’m trying to help. I think what I would like to add to the list would be the following common mistakes that I often do, so do you:

6. Switching between tasks without a proper order and intention: The more you switch the more energy that’s needed to refocus on whatever that you are doing. Simply if you cut your attention span into millions, it will obviously less valuable than the whole chunk. Saying so, I would think that it’s not simply just the matter of self-discipline, but anything circumstantial could have an impact on our focus.