At the end of this year, I will retire from competitive Chess. I’m not only stopping to earn money by playing chess. I am also stopping to compete in chess tournaments.
This means I will not be part of the Swiss National Team anymore.
I’m not planning to compete in any tournament from 2022 onwards. If I will sit down at a chessboard again, it will most likely be at a beach sipping a refreshing drink.
If you are worried about the future of this blog, then I have good news for you: By stepping down as a professional Chess player I am actually creating more time for the blog.
More to this later.
In this article, I explain my motives and look back on my last 6 years as a professional Chess player. In the end, I will look into the future to what is ahead of me now.
Retiring as a sportsman is no small decision. In a way, you give up part of your identity. But after lots of thought during the pandemic, I came to the conclusion that it is the right and necessary step for me.
Since I played my first European Youth Championship 13 years ago, much of my life was filled up with competitive chess. I played chess, trained chess, and thought about chess.
In the last 6 years, chess was not only my hobby but also my profession. These years went by so fast, yet they were extremely intense. I am truly grateful for all the things I was able to do thanks to my abilities in chess.
I always knew there will be a moment of goodbye.
The moment of goodbye just came earlier than expected for me, and probably also for many of you reading these lines.
It all came down to a question I asked myself over and over again:
What Do I Want To Do With My Life?
Back in 2015 when I chose the path of a professional chess player, I knew what I did not want to do: studying.
The normal way of studying, getting a good job, working your ass off until you are 65 (if you survive that long…), and then hoping to still be fit enough to enjoy some years of freedom did not appeal to me at all.
I have seen enough very rich but unhappy people in my life, to understand that money doesn’t make you happy.
If you want to know why this career path is pretty dangerous, then I can recommend the fantastic book stumbling on happiness by Daniel Gilbert.
Thus it came in handy to use my talent in chess to earn myself a living on my own terms.
Over the past 6 years, I then had dozens of other ideas that appealed to me. But no matter what it was, I put the idea on a paper and stowed it away. Later I told myself.
Because I felt any of these ideas would hinder my own chess development. And I still believe it to be true.
Focusing on one thing at a time is still very dear to my heart.
It just never occurred to me that this one thing does not HAVE to be playing chess professionally.
What I realized in the past months is that these ideas all had one thing in common: they were about connecting to and helping other people.
As much as you can inspire other people as an athlete, directly sharing knowledge is not very common.
Sadly, the life of a professional athlete can be very lonely and disconnected from other people.
Whenever you find a new idea or training routine that works, you need to keep it for yourself to keep the edge over your competitors.
Sharing your knowledge, insights, and weaknesses, like I do on this blog, is generally not a great idea as an Athlete. But I simply could not stop myself from doing so anymore.
And by doing it I realized two things:
- Sharing is so much more pleasing than keeping things to yourself.
- The longer I keep playing Chess professionally, the fewer I can share.
Up to now, I was driven to learn and improve myself, so I can deliver better results.
From now on, I am driven to learn and improve myself, so I can share it with others.
I have never talked much about it publicly. But the last 4 years have been a struggle healthwise for me.
Back in Summer 2017, I hit my head pretty hard. I suffered a severe concussion with long-term effects.
The muscles around my neck and shoulder area are still full of tension. These tensions can then result in unexpected headaches and loss of concentration.
As you can imagine, that is not the best injury for a chess player…
I have tried many things, from physiotherapy to acupuncture, yoga, stretching, dry needling, and much more. While it was hard to focus for 10 minutes straight in 2017, I feel much better now.
But I am by no means back to 100%. In my daily life, it is only a small inconvenience. But in a high concentration sport like chess, it still costs me many points. Especially in time trouble or Blitz & Rapid Chess.
I have the hope that with less stress due to chess tournaments, I will be able to fully recover. Let’s hope this holds true.
What People, Organizations Do I Want To Be Around?
I have been quite vocal on Twitter in the past about some serious problems the professional chess community faces. While this was not the Number one reason for my retirement, I would lie if I would say it didn’t play a role at all.
I want to keep this article on a positive note and I am not ready to provide all the in-depth behind-the-scenes knowledge yet, so I won’t start listing things.
When the time is right, I will try to explain certain things to you guys. Promised.
My main point, for now, is that we can not change everybody around us.
What we can do, is to decide whether we want to be around these people/organizations we would so much like to change.
Remember that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose them wisely!
Looking Back On 6 Very Intense Years
I’m not going to list a bunch of results here. You can go check them out on Wikipedia or anywhere else. A Career is much more than results.
It has been an ecstatic ride with a lot of ups and downs.
I started playing professionally at the tender age of 18 years. Back then I was an unsure teenager, not really knowing what to expect from my future.
Now I am an adult sure of his values and worth to the world. Ready to leave what has been his home for so long. Starting a new adventure, to help as many people as possible to live a worthwhile life.
Instead of having a fixed structure by going to high school, I suddenly had all the freedom some people dream of. But soon I had to learn that just living into the day was not getting me anywhere.
Besides planning my training and tournaments, I needed to market myself and learn to talk to the media.
I am still convinced that thanks to all of these activities, I learned much more than I could ever learn inside a university building.
I might even call these 6-years a sort of Master’s study in “life is fucking hard but beautiful”.
Convincing strangers to support me financially, feeling the reality of burnout, and handling great disappointments are only three things that cannot be learned in theory.
Also because of my special standing in Switzerland as the youngest ever Grandmaster, I got the chance to meet up with some truly amazing human beings. Such as:
- Several current and future Olympic Champions
- One of the most wanted nutritionists in the World, whom I have the pleasure to work with also in the future
- CEO’s of companies ranging from value-driven family businesses to Multi-billion dollar powerhouses
- Friends with great values and a golden heart
All of these learnings would have been impossible without the help of many more special people and organizations.
I would like to thank my parents, friends, sponsors, private supporters, and the foundations that supported and believed in me.
Thanks to my competitors for driving me to get the best out of myself.
And thanks to my amazing team consisting of Chess Coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, Fitness Coaches, physiotherapists & doctors for making me a better chess player, but above all a better human being.
Thank you to my girlfriend for enduring all the ups and downs with me for almost 5 years now. For standing behind me no matter what and for countless talks that led to this difficult but important decision.
Whenever one door closes, another one opens up.
But before fully closing the door on professional chess, I will enjoy my last European Championship that takes place in Reykjavik from 26.08-04.09.
I will also play one season in the Swiss Team Championship for my childhood Club SK Bern. Any other participation will be decided spontaneously.
As you might guess, I am freeing up a lot of time with this decision. I trained around 30 hours/week, not counting marketing myself, responding to emails, etc.
So what am I going to do with that time?
First of all, I will take a big breather. And then
I will invest the time in this blog.
When I started this blog in March I wanted to share some of my knowledge before I say goodbye. The plan was to share all I knew, so I could feel free to take a new direction in life.
I since started to enjoy writing this blog so much, that I decided to make it a long-term thing.
Obviously, this is also thanks to all of you reading these lines. I never imagined reaching tens of thousands of people each month basically from the get-go.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and for all the amazing feedback. That really made it easier to take this decision.
Being able to help you guys reach your real potential in chess feels like the right thing to do at this stage of my life.
It is certainly no coincidence that I said I wanted to be an author if I were not a chess player in an interview during the Biel Chess Festival 2020.
Back then I had no intentions whatsoever to end my career that early nor to open a blog. But it seems my unconscious mind was already several steps ahead of me…
Now that I have no worries about giving too much away, you can expect much more content in the coming months and years. I hope to be able to make a difference in your chess journey, but also in how you think about living a worthwhile life.
For me, that means from now on writing about chess and not playing competitive chess anymore. It is still the game I was so fascinated by as a small kid.
Simply another role. Helping people instead of helping myself.
PS: For all of you thinking “Why doesn’t he just train a bit less but still play some tournaments”, the answer lies in this article. I’m not the guy to do too many things at a time. Either I whole-ass one thing, or then another.
¡Qué más se puede agregar! Emocionado por encontrar personas como vos, Noel. Solo me resta desearte éxitos, éxitos y más éxitos en todo lo que emprendas! Buena salud te deseo, porque lo demas depende de vos!.
Muchas gracias, Raul!
Best wishes, Noël.
So sad to discover your article today… I hope you all the best in your life and I am eager to read your future articles and books. Best widhes
Bi dini karriere immr chli am vrfouge gsi 🙂 abr fröit mi hesch di itz zu däm schritt trout wo sichr nid eifach isch gsi abr wode fingsch es isch ds richtige für di! Aues guete o ir zuekunft emu!
So schön vo dir z läse Linus 🙂 Hätti iz gar nid erwartet die Nachricht, sehr cool. LG Noël
I wish you the best of luck, will certainly follow your future blogs too.
thx for your taking your time to share your thoughts. I wish you nothing but the best on your way to new frontiers.
Your articles articulate all the ideas so clearly so I shared your blog with fellow chess players on lichess a lot, because I think you talk about stuff that isn’t discussed a lot in the community.
Anybody can learn what a fork it, but dealing with pressure, fear, difficult situations, doubts is at least equally important.
Thx for everything so far, really looking forward to hear from you again. All the best for the upcoming tournaments and enjoy your break.
Thank you so much, Brendan! Means a lot that you take the time to read my articles and share them with fellow players. I believe that dealing with all those emotions will not only help you over the board but also in daily life.
At least that is what happened to me.
Congratulations on your retirement Noel!
I’m a new follower and have really enjoyed your blogs. I’ve only recently taken up this amazing sport (Feb 2021) as a determined and passionate player and am having a blast as I am immersing myself in it!
I played a number of sports and realized that other than the love of the sport itself, the connection I had with those I dealt with (admins, team mates +) wasn’t the same anymore. And I stepped away.
At this stage in life, a ‘bit’ past 50, I believe that time is precious and what we do with it is important as it defines who we are. Who we spend it with is even more important. If we’re not enjoying ourselves and growing and contributing (in the right way), it’s not worth the time, effort, money, passion and the heart ache to keep doing it. So as you figured: ‘Bugger it’, I’m going to do what makes me and my loved ones happy”. And I have too.
This edition of your blog resonated with me as you verbalized my thoughts very well.
Walk in balance and blaze happy trails!
PS. If ever in Colorado do let me know!
Thank you so much for your nice comment, Dan! Really appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs and write a comment.
Good luck and tons of fun on your Chess journey. I’m happy you turned your back on things that did not fulfill you and found chess in that way.
Keep improving and having fun 🙂
When I started reading your blog 3 months ago, I began to feel more interested on pursuing my career in chess.. You inspire people, Noel! When you wrote “Sadly, the life of a professional athlete can be very lonely and disconnected from other people.” I felt it to the core. This is very true.. But I’m fighting this to still be in shape when competition starts. I am looking forward for the 2022 Chess Olympiad and I hope to do well for my country Philippines. You inspire me to get better as a player Noel. Hopefully, by 2022 I will achieve the rating that I need to fulfill my IM title. Only then I can realistically dream of being a GM like you. Keep on posting your thoughts here in this blog. Thank you, Noel.
Thank you so much for your nice words, Jane! I wish you all the best on your journey. May you have a lot of victories, but more important, lots of fun moments with great people. Keep going!
From my vantage point I would recommend Rolfing or Structural Integration manual therapy for your ailments.
Thank you so much for your imputs!
I totally agree.
If I held my arms in a certain position I my finger tips and arms would get numb (like “pins and needles” due to pinched nerves in my c-5 and c-6). While physical therapy and chiropractic care did help, I found that Rolfing and structural integration (cranial and neck) did wonders to where I am about 80% free of it and extremely happy!
Win hof breathing exercises will help heal.
Thank you for the tip. Heard about it from Tim Ferriss, it definitely sounds interesting.
un message d’un abonné de TerraK qui est tombé sur ce blog via sa dernière vidéo.
Juste pour vous dire que j’ai été touché par ce que j’ai lu et vous souhaite tout le meilleur ! 🙂
Une excellente continuation et un rétablissement le plus prompt et complet possible !
I was shocked to read this – but given the health concerns, I get it. I had seen that you had a loss to Gata Kamsky. Yikes! In any case, you have written some really interesting stuff in a short time, so I’m excited to see where you go with your blog!
For instance, as a runner I’m very familiar with the concept of periodization in training – but I have *never* seen it in the context of chess training. That kind of blew my mind and makes so much sense!
Best of luck
You can be a very well respected coach/author if you decide to stay in chess
Let us know when will you be taking students or opening your online academy , many will follow you
Thank you, Nino. You’ll be notified via Blog or Newsletter about all my new endeavors. Stay tuned!
Congrats on reaching clarity on what you seek for the next chapter of your life. I wish you all the best!
Thank you Phil!
Like a true Grandmaster, you have carefully considered this decision, and all the reasons for doing so. You have deliberated and weighed your options, and reached a sound and solid choice.
All the best in your future endeavors. I will be watching and waiting for more!
Thank you so much, Jason. 🙂
“The normal way of studying, getting a good job, working your ass off until you are 65 (if you survive that long…)” … i just turned 55 and let me tell you that you are making the absolute correct decision …
if i could do it all over again … oh well
best of luck
Thank you, Allen. Even without knowing your situation, I wanna tell you it is never too late to start over again. Certainly not getting easier, but also not impossible.
Good luck on your journey!
Je découvre cet article aujourd’hui. Sentiment de tristesse tout d’abord, mais je suis heureuse de savoir qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un départ définitif du monde des échecs. J’ai hâte de lire vos futurs livres et chroniques !
Tous mes vœux de bonheur dans votre nouvelle vie, Noël !
Merci beaucoup, Lucie! 🙂
Thank you, sir.
Can’t wait to see the timely results of your massive investment in this blog in the nearest future! Ciao.
THank you so much Samuel, looking forward to it as well!
All the best, Noel!
Thank you Jagadish!
Noel noel, clap clap clap.
Noel noel, clap clap clap.
Thanks for the support Okaytested 🙂
j’étais derrière la caméra l’année passée à Bienne lorsque Dina Belenkaya t’a demandé -Si tu n’étais pas un joueur d’échecs…et comme mon anglais n’est pas super (et mon allemand non plus !) je n’avais pas compris ta réponse – Author !
et maintenant grâce à ton blog, une année plus tard presque jour pour jour, j’ai ma réponse 🙂
Bonne continuation surtout et bravo pour ton parcours !
je me souviens! Merci pour le message et à bientôt!
Good luck. Now, you might have time for customized lessons.
I will certainly provide some cool stuff on this blog in the future!
Herzlichen Dank für dein Schreiben. Es ist ein eindrücklicher Text und sehr bewundernswert.
Wir bewunderten dich als Schachspieler und du warst immer ein Vorbild für viele junge Menschen, Schachspieler *innen.
Eigentlich können wir zu deinem Mut nur gratulieren. Du hattest Mut mit 18 Profi Schachspieler zu werden und nun den Mut auch wieder etwas anderes anzupacken.
Nicht viele Menschen folgen ihrem Herzen, sondern dem Verstand. Dabei zeigst du, dass man Herz und Verstand gut vereinbaren kann.
Wir wünschen dir von ganzem Herzen alles alles Gute, weiterhin viel Freude am Tun, egal was es ist. Aber vor allem wünschen wir dir gute Gesundheit. Denn, wenn die Gesundheit eingeschränkt ist, ist vieles im Leben schwieriger.
Wir werden gerne in deinem Blog lesen.
Für die EM wünschen wir dir noch viel Erfolg und geniesse ihn in vollen Zügen.
Herzliche Grüsse Gül und Familie
Herzlichen Dank liebe Gül für deine netten Worte. Deine Nachricht schätze ich sehr!
Grüss die ganze Familie ganz herzlich von mir.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and all the best for your future endeavors.
Very few people have the courage to follow what their heart says, and I think you are certainly one of them.
thank you so much for your nice words. A book called “the courage to be disliked” has opened my eyes quite a bit. It is especially amazing in audio version, can only recommend it.
Good Luck on your future Noel. You helped me a lot through this blog and I am happy you will continue the blog but also disappointed that you left competetive chess. Anyway, Best of Luck and write some instructive chess books maybe.
Thank you Sheersonno. I am happy that I can help you through my blog and look forward to continuing to do so. One day, I might also write a book 🙂
Hello Noel, Very nice thought. I’m also been through many hard situation especially mentally and then I started journey knowing myself and life read dozen of books and what I felt that life is like finding the balance between everything, just like a perfect recipe balnce of everything spices salt quantity quality etc. Same with life if anything exceed it would be dangerous whether through mental level or physical, understanding you limit is more important and it’s only happen when you aware of your thought, wherever you give more attention you mind follows the energy follows and it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. Even good things exceed limit can results in bad. I recommend you a book call ikigai. Thank you
Dear Noel,this is the first blog of you that I have read.You have excellent writing skills.I am a father of chess prodigy,who lost interest in training by the age of 8.Didn’t Help that he was pretty good at a few physical sports as well.I love chess and continue to play online and read for fun.I wish u all the very best.
Thank you Noël for taking the time to write this article in (what I suppose) is an extremely challenging moment in your life. I wish you the best in your future plans and the outmost success in your blog! Certainly you have helped me, and, there lies no doubt, you will generously help others, in what is your field of expertise. And you were one of the only amazingly talented and committed people to chess that kindly chose to share your path towards mastery with your fans and admirers of your quality blog.
P.S: Good luck in the European championship!
Thank you, Aleksander for your nice words. It is certainly not an easy moment, but all the more important. I am excited about what is ahead. Thanks for reading my blog, I appreciate you taking the time to do so!
Congratulations, enjoy reading your blog and I think you will do greater things beyond chess
Thank you for your kind words, Michael! Much appreciated 🙂
I really like reading your blogs. I gave up chess for focus on education 20 years back. Few months back, I participated in local community tournament and since then all past chess memories have come back. Today at 37, I still aspire to improve as a player. Reading your blogs is very refreshing. You have skills of being a really good writer.
If at all you decide to publish a book in the future about chess or anything else, I will surely want to read it.
Thanx for the blogs. I m sure you can achieve a GM norm in writing as well.
Thank you so much for your nice words Imtiyaz. They mean a lot to me!
I’m looking forward to my journey as a writer. And to improve my skills with every article I write. Enjoy your chess improvement journey and have tons of fun!
I wish you the best in this new goal, keep sharing your experiences, both personal and chess related!
Greetings from Bogotá.
Thank you, Juan!
Greetings from Bern.
All the best for your next phase of your life.
This is the first blog I am reading of yours and frankly, I am deeply impressed with your clarity of thought and plans. I have just one question for you: Have you thought about coaching young talents in chess?
Thanks and Regards,
Congratulations for your words. You are an example for many people, including myself.
I’m sure that you will find your next road to the next steps in your interesting life.
Wish you all the best.
Thank you so much, Juan. It was a pleasure meeting you in Biel! We will surely stay in contact.
Yeah. Saw your game against Nihal. ????
Was an interesting fight!
Are you planning on coaching / creating a chess club or something like that after your retirement
I’m planning on expanding this blog and helping even more people. Whatever will be created, you’ll find it on this blog or in my newsletter!
Hey Noel, All the best for all your future endeavours as well as for good health.
InGood decision. But you should have not left chess…
Write a book ,friend
I can resonate with you Noel,as though I am 1862 rated,but it seems like we are on same boat and riding together.
I am 100% agree with you that we are alone in a sense we prepare everyday,but life is beautiful when we can explore it and for that we need time and freedom…
A very brave decision you took Noel,and thanks for writing this beautiful blog,it will inspire many players as well!!
I am now Part of your this Next Level Journey and looking forward to learn something amazing from you …
Also Wish You a Good health and Peaceful life ahead Noel!!
thanks for your nice words! Indeed we are all in this together. I hope I can help you make your chess journey more fun & enjoyable. Keep at it :-).