Saying No: on not playing in the Pittsburgh Chess League this season for the CMU Tartans


Later today, the first round of the 2013-14 season of the Pittsburgh Chess League will start, and I will not be there to play.

Here’s why.

Last season

Last season, I played in the Pittsburgh Chess League as a member of the CMU Tartans and we won. As I mentioned, out of the six rounds our team played in (one round was a bye for each team), I ended up playing only in the first two of those rounds, the October and November. After that, I simply kept running into trouble:

One way or another, I kept on not being up to the prospect of spending up to five hours on a single chess game on a Sunday afternoon from 2 PM to 7 PM. Repeatedly, when asked whether I could play in an upcoming round, I felt guilty about saying that I would play only in case of an emergency.

Saying “No”

This fall, I made the tough decision to leave the Pittsburgh Chess League, telling CMU Tartans team captain Jeff some weeks ago that I preferred not to be on the roster this year at all, even as an alternate.

I’ve had a lifelong difficulty with saying “No”, not only to others but also to myself.

Heck, I even wrote a blog post well over two years ago about saying “No”, but I don’t also optimally apply to myself my own advice!

I’ve had a habit of taking on all kinds of obligations or activities that stretched myself thin, resulting in subpar performance and dependability, and meanwhile, anxiety, guilt, and shame. People deserve better than this from me. I deserve better than this from me.


I love chess, but it can be very time and energy-consuming, so I have to be careful about how much time I spend on it at all. This year, it turns out that I completely stopped playing chess in February, and just came back now in September, along with becoming a new contributor to the Chess Improver blog.

Actually looking at my calendar and my overall plans for the next half year, I decided that if I cannot be a dependable team member for the CMU Tartans (in terms of regularly showing up to play for the team as well as playing well for the team), then it is better not to be on the team at all.

Furthermore, I also decided that after the current Pittsburgh Chess Club Tuesday night tournament concludes in October (I just finished the first two of six rounds in the 15th Fred Sorensen Memorial), I will, unlike last year, not continue on in the following Tuesday night tournament (November-December), because based on how my schedule went in the past two years, those two months are very busy for me, and the last two years I barely stumbled to winter break alive, and performed terribly in the tournament last year, ridiculously losing two won games, and also performed suboptimally in other projects I was doing. I’m not going to let that happen this year. It is not only chess I am cutting out for November-December, but most likely some musical activities as well (yet to be finalized).

It was better for the CMU Tartans to find a reliable replacement for me than for me to be undependable for them. Luka has left town, and I have dropped out, but the team has managed to get Joe Mucerino on board, so I hope all will go well for the team in the new season of the Pittsburgh Chess League with the reduced number of members.


Saying “No” to others and to myself is very difficult. I enjoy new projects and challenges. But if doing too much means not doing everything optimally well, then what’s the point? So I’ve taken a big step toward reclaiming my sanity by choosing not to be a part of the Pittsburgh Chess League this year.

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