If you ever had the moment in your life when you were like: “ah, I wish I had done that differently,” we already have a thing in common. Bet you do not like losing either. No matter degree of carelessness, losing never stops to suck. With this short letter, I want to address the importance of having an intent,a goal, direction and the vision to move towards. I do not think this is a success story and people should be inspired, but I do think that many chess players and athletes can relate.
My name is Zura Javakhadze and this is my story.
I grew up in Georgia, the small Eastern European, emotionally rich but economically poor country.
I started playing chess when I was 7 years old. I was lucky in a way that neighbor next door in my city was 5 times Women World Champion, Maia Chiburdanidze. So, chess was pretty popular in my Country, city, and the street. Her sister got me into the game when I was 7. I got passionate about the game because I realized I could outsmart people. This feeling of breaking someone’s ego without any interaction attracted me. I remember having a severe fever and the only thing I would keep within reach of my hand was the chess set.
I didn't participate in many tournaments from the beginning because I didn't want to lose. So, when I played my first tournament after 6 months, I won all seven games. The fact that I was better than most my peers in something else felt great and I decided that I wanted to do it again.
When I was 9 years old, I won the national championship under 10. Winner of national championships would be sent to World Championships. So, I played my first World Championship in 2003, in Greece. That was the first time when I traveled alone without my parents. After that, I won the national championship for 6 times.
First crucial period arrived in 2009, at around the age of 15. I shared the second place in a strong “Tbilisi Open” tournament in Georgia, only behind Baadur Jobava, who was approaching 2700 at a time.(For the reference, there are only about 30 players with the rating 2700 and above in the World.) That was the first moment that had me believe that I could actually compete among professionals.
What happened after is the classic story of talented athletes gone astray. I played another tournament right after aforementioned. Top 2 places would be sent to Spain for about 6 months, to play the league and train the local team.
It was a rough time in Georgia for 15 years old, so, this was a good chance to break through. Little did I think about the consequences. My natural talent and intellect got me to the point of International Master, which is the second highest title that exists. However, I never established a goal of becoming a Grandmaster. It has always been somewhere out there but I never committed.
So, at 15 years old, I moved to Barcelona with a good friend of mine, who was one year older than me. We had a reasonable amount of money from the standpoint of a teenager. That was the time I got introduced to life. I did not think about my goals. I was enjoying life. I started playing at local clubs, where I would collect pocket money for living. I was close to 2350 rating bar around that time. I think a little bit that I gained since then is mostly the result of general intelligence and life experiences. My learning process had stopped. That is why I think having a clear goal is crucial.
I got back after 7 months, familiar with a lot of goods of life. I decided to pause playing chess in order to pursue academics and to prepare for national exams. I got accepted at Caucasus University in Tbilisi. While studying diplomacy for a year, I gave a try to one last national championships in the youth category, U18. I won the tournament which resulted in me being sent to the European Championship.
That tournament changed a lot of things. It is indeed interesting how random occasions may result in changing the trajectory of your life. That was the tournament where I met my future girlfriend, who happened to win the championship U18. Top 2 boards of female and male sections would play on stage. That’s how it all started. We would stare at each other during our games.
First love. She lived and went to school in Germany, so, I moved to Dusseldorf after closing my first academic year in Georgia. Truth to be told, after one year at the institution, I realized I was at a wrong place, so the decision was not difficult, I just had to find the way to make it happen. I somehow managed to deal with bureaucracy and made a move. Taught kids, played for clubs, played individual tournaments. It was not enough. Hardships ruin feelings. That’s what living with another person has taught me.
At this hassle stage of my life, suddenly, my father was diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is a terrible thing that can happen to anyone. We take things for granted, especially at a young age, and do not realize how fast things can change. We only realize how much that love means, once it is taken away.
I was faced with a tough decision, to stay in Germany and fight for a better life or go back to home . I left Germany. That was 2014. I went back to Georgia and started looking up for ways to navigate the chaos. This was the first time when the sense of family responsibilities became palpable in my conscious. I have a brother that is 11years younger than me and a sister who is 2years older. While the distribution of love has never been a question in our family, it’s only fair to say that my parents put most of their little economic resources in me. The timer rang sooner than I expected.
That was around the time when I heard about U.S Collegiate chess through my friends Giorgi and Mariam, who were going to school to Texas at that time. I am now a Senior student at the University of Texas at Dallas.
The decision of moving away again is the one thing I may regret (I don’t believe in the concept of regret but maybe look at it like another: Maybe, what if? ) till the rest of my life. Although my father himself convinced me that this was part of our family progression, I was not there at times of his unbearable pain. It happened on November 24th, 2015, a day before his birthday. I did not expect things to happen so fast after starting my first semester in the U.S.
Back to the message, Performance does not only happen over the board, on the field, or at the carpet, it's about being more than an athlete. Performance is in family relationships, how you manage the direction of your development, how you handle your social life and how you handle distractions. It's all part of the performance. A clear goal, that's the essential starting point.