Some time ago a GM Nigel Davies post, Why Sleep Is Important, appeared in my inbox. (http://chessimprover.com/2011/06/18/why-sleep-is-important/)
Later GM Kevin Spraggett, prompted by the earlier post by GM Davies, wrote about sleep on his amazing blog in an entry dated Friday, July 1, 2011. (http://kevinspraggett.blogspot.com/) Quoting from GM Spraggett, "Clearly getting insufficient sleep will noticeably reduce your reasoning power, which is the chess player's most important weapon in his arsenal. No matter how hard you might want to concentrate, it simply doesn't materialize if you don't have enough sleep. Sleep increases mental energy."
"From my own experience, I have learned that the energy required for a 5-hour game is so great that you need to plan ahead and have reserves of energy ready. The only practical way to do this is to get up within 3 or 4 hours of the game: then you will still be wide awake and ready for the entire day ahead."
GM Spraggett supports my contention that the round time at a US Senior should be at ten or eleven in the morning; noon at the latest. It is a sad fact that the US Senior has never considered the exigencies of the Senior players.
I could not help but think about what the greatest chess player to have ever lived, World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, said concerning the importance of sleep. He said something about a good night of sleep being more important than knowing all the theory.
Some years ago there was a picture taken before the last round of all of the participants in the South Carolina Senior who had not left for home except for yours truly. I had fallen asleep in the car after eating lunch. It seems like yesterday I played in the Point Lounge Open after staying up all night. I won my first two games before losing to the future NM Joe Jurjevich in the third round Saturday night. I would not even consider attempting such a thing at my age. Just as well blindfold me and put me in front of the firing squad...
I drove a taxi at night for Buckhead Safety Cab back in the 80's. I was like a vampire, going to sleep when the sun was coming up. I tried taking a few days off to readjust my schedule before playing in the some of the larger tournaments a few times. That did not turn out well because I would feel sleepy while trying to play during the day, then come alive at night when I should be sleeping! My results showed it, too.
Winston Churchill recommended a nap after being awake about eight hours. He advised one to take off his clothes and get in bed for half an hour, and only half an hour. He said it was like having two days, and, during the War, he needed it. I try to do exactly that these days because it often feels like a tsunami wave of fatigue overcoming me in the afternoon. After a nap I have a cuppa java and feel somewhat rejuvenated. The truth is that my energy level is about half of what it was after my first cuppa joe in the morning, but at least I can still function. Once one of those tsuanmi waves rolls over me, I am weak and worthless without a nap.
The way chess tournaments are scheduled is not conducive to obtaining enough sleep. The days of grabbing a biggy burger and cramming it down my gullet between rounds are, thankfully, behind me. Beginning a game a few hours before my sleep period and trying to play while my body is trying to shut down is out of the question. Yet, to play chess, even in Senior tournaments, these are the kind of things one must do in order to play. If you think about it, these kinds of things take the fun right out of chess.
Thinking about this kind of thing, I came to the realization that if one breaks down my day into four equal parts, morning, afternoon, evening, and night, of about four hours each, then one could say that I am, in chess terms, an expert in the morning, class 'A' in the afternoon, class 'C' in the evening, and become a 'beast' at night, dropping into the dreaded triple digits! Knowing that, under those circumstances one would have to be a fool to begin a five hour game of chess at the time one is becoming a 'beast'.