This past weekend I competed in the US Amateur Team North tournament in Schaumburg, IL. For me it was really two tournaments rolled in to one.
Part of the reason was that since I was playing the two day schedule my first two rounds were G/60 rather than G/90+30 seconds a move.
Round one saw me face an opening I had never faced before. I have a rule when it comes to trappy openings, which is that I never bother to study them at all until and unless I wind up falling in to a trap. The way I see it, the time I didn’t spend learning that opening was spent on other things. So I’m OK with that. In this case I fell in to the trap and was quickly dispatched by my 1800 opponent.
Round two saw me facing my first master of the event. I was in a bit of trouble, but then in time pressure I managed to both improve my position, and then throw it all away within the span of a few moves. The plus was that this would be the last sudden death game of the event for me since the schedules were merging and this would give me the thirty second increment.
Heading in to round three I was 0-2 and learned that I would face Chicago NM Ken Wallach who was sporting a 2270 rating. Nevertheless I dug myself in and got ready for the game. I would up getting an OK position out of the opening but quickly found myself drifting and losing some ground.
Then Ken blundered allowing me to win the exchange for a pawn and I dug in and managed to convert a nice ending although my opponent did miss a draw.
So at the end of day one I was 1-2 but things were looking up. 2270 is by far the strongest rating I have ever scored against although it was my third win over a master.
Round four started out OK, but I very quickly found myself drifting lifelessly into a bad position (more on this later) and soon wound up having to dig in for some grim defense. I found a beautiful sacrificial idea and almost saved the game, but the kid I was playing ground me down perfectly in an endgame. As his rating was 1680 I realized I stood to lose rating points even though I had beaten someone who severely outrated me.
When I saw that I would once again face a master in round five I resolved to do my best. I actually felt like I played OK for a while, but the issue was that I was exhausted. Five games in two days is a lot of chess.
So at the end of the event my score was only 1-4 and I lost 14 rating points. But none of that mattered much to me for two reasons.
The first of course is that I got the best win of my life. But more importantly I figured out some things that I need to work on as much as anything to do my best to win the Book Challenge.
One thing is creativity. For a long time now my games have been rather lifeless when it comes to creative play. Sure, if I get an advantage I can convert it more often than not, but in level positions I tend to not find interesting ideas.
The one exception to that is when I’m defending. When I am defending I find as many creative ideas as anyone I know. So I started trying to figure out why I can only play creatively when defending and it occurred to me that the answer is that those are situations in which I have no choice. It’s not that creativity is called for, it’s that it’s mandatory.
So why would I not be able to play that same way in positions where I am level or slightly better? As near as I can figure out it must be some sort of fear of blundering. I don’t feel on the surface like that is a fear that I possess, but it would appear that perhaps deep down I do.
Another thing that I need to work on is fitness level. I was exhausted during the final round of this tournament. I was also so tired in my game with Ken that I considered offering him a draw (he had offered me one a few moves earlier which I had declined) in what I felt had to be a winning position.
In fact, I missed easier wins in that game because I was too tired to calculate even some basic things correctly.
So that’s the plan. Continue to work on fitness and work on mental toughness.
I’m going to formulate a plan to work on that second one. As soon as I do I will post it.
In the meantime I received the first Yusupov books and have started it. In fact, I’ve bought several QC books since this began a few days ago. I’ve bought Nikos’ book on 1.e4 e5, Kotronias’s fourth book on the KID, Tactimania by Glenn Flear, and the first Yusupov.
So all and all I’m ready to go!
I have a game tomorrow night which will be the final game in a quad I am playing in. A win and I will gain rating. Otherwise I will lose a bit.
Starting Sunday I will be out of the country in the Caribbean for a week. So I will have only a few minutes in the morning to work on chess. But I’ll come back refreshed and ready to go.
I’ll post some of the games from this past weekend as I get them analyzed.
Til Next Time,