Some people need no introduction. Jack Rudd is one of those people.
If you've had even a passing acquaintance with English chess at any point over the last I don't know how many years you know who Jack is. If you haven't, well it's enough to say that we're very happy that he agreed to join us here at the S&BCB.
Here's his first post ....
Cast your mind back to April 2007. I was feeling on top of the world; I was about to wrap up my first IM norm in the 4NCL, my FIDE rating had reached its new peak of 2385, and I managed to delight the crowds with this little gem:
Six and a half years later, it has all gone horribly wrong. That rating of 2385 was as good as it got (although I did sneak over 2400 for just long enough for me to gain the IM title), and I have now tumbled to 2230, my worst rating in over a decade. I'm still producing the occasional gem like the above, but I'm also producing a lot of stuff like this, where I struggle to beat a 1500-strength player with white:
So what explains this collapse? Well, I can think of three factors. One is the lack of a target: while I was trying to become an IM, that was an important goal to focus on; now that I've got it, there is no logical next step - I'm far too far away from GM strength for that to be a remotely serious goal at the moment. Another is chronic deflation in the FIDE rating system over that time period, which is probably a subject worthy of a blog post in itself. And the third, which I'm focusing on in this post, is my general health.
Anyone who talks to me for any length of time will soon discover that I have Asperger's Syndrome. This is no doubt also something worthy of a blog post in itself, but as it's a lifelong condition, I don't think I can attribute my decline to it - indeed, it's arguable that it may help as much as it hinders. Nevertheless, it's important to mention it, as I believe studies have shown people on the autistic spectrum have higher than average rates of the other two conditions I shall talk about.
I have also, since my late teens, suffered on and off with clinical depression. I would expand more on this, but Phil Makepeace's earlier blog post did it so well, I don't feel I can add much to it. Suffice to say, that would be plenty to be going on with on its own.
It's not on its own.
Some time in 2007, I contracted epilepsy. I do not know how, and I do not know what form. But I do know that it's a really annoying thing to have as a chess player. Every so often, while thinking about a critical move, I'll suddenly get a huge electrical impulse surging through my brain and disrupting my concentration, and I'm left all shaken up. It's like trying to play chess and fight a blue dragon at the same time.
Sometimes, the dragon hits to such an extent that I'm missing simple ideas: take the game against Dow. I don't know how I could have missed 18...d5; that's such a thematically obvious move for black in that position, and if he plays 22...f5 at the end of the line, I'm a pawn down for very little. Not always, and not to that extent, but I am noticing myself miss things I should easily spot more and more.
So where do I go from here? Well, keep taking the tablets, I guess. But apart from that? What do I do if my condition doesn't get better? I can carry on as I am, doing whatever the chess equivalent is of spoiling the memory and ending up at a Conference club. Or I can move the other side of the desk to a greater extent than I already do; turning up to big tournaments as an arbiter, rather than as a player.
It's a choice I'm glad I have. But it's not a choice I want to have to be making, nor is it one I would have envisaged, back in April 2007, having to make now.