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A Deep Self-Reflection: Dr Jekyll vs Mr Hyde!

  • IM DanielRensch
  • | Mar 17, 2012
  • | 8545 views
  • | 34 comments

I know what you're thinking: Here we go again! Another ridiculous, self-deprecating blog/rant by International Master Daniel Rensch... Well, after my performance at the SPICE Cup (North American Masters) in Chicago, I am left with no choice but to come to some terms with myselves.

I scored 2.5 out of 9 in a tournament that, at different moments, showed everything about my play (both the good and the bad). My horrible score clearly suggests that we saw a little more of the "Bad Danny" and not enough of the "Good Danny" Tongue out, but that's besides the point for now. If we take a look at my tournament from the perspective that all chess players feel at times (that a "Dr. Jekyll vs Mr. Hyde struggle" exists inside of all our "chess consciousnesses"), then there is much to expound upon about this event. We will go through the games as I share with you the most important lessons/thing(s) I learned about myself as a chess player and as a person during this tournament.

First, the good and bad things I learned about myself as a chess player:

My play reaffirmed something we've (the "we" being me and the Chess.com Communiy via our work together here in Danny's Corner Tongue out, ie you guys putting up with my ranting, raving and delusions about my chess game, and providing your helpful feedback and words of encouragement when necessary Foot in mouth) already established about my chess game: I need to work harder! Every stage of my game could use some work!! I would say the one area I felt pretty satisfied with after this event were my openings (which comes to me as a surprise since I've never prided myself on being that well prepared).

With a couple exceptions (starting with my first round loss to GM Josh Friedel) I would say I achieved everything I wanted in the first stage of my games. I generally guessed right about the openings my opponents would choose, and I achieved at least a comfortable position with some pull as white (if not more) and equalized pretty easily as black.

That said, it was the rest of my game that was lacking. In many cases, I chose the wrong plans, mis-evaluated the position, and in a couple games I blundered immediately after my preparation ended. My calculation was poor in all aspects; I stopped short and made multiple "Quiessence Errors"; and I lacked focus and discipline (making blunders at times, playing too fast at others, etc) in the critical moments. Blowing a much better/nearly winning position in round 2 vs GM Bykhovsky as black was just the tip of the iceberg. I blundered against IM Milman, IM Aleskerov, and IM Felecan. It was gross!!! So, I have work to do. More puzzles to solve, more exercises to "engage my brain" in a real way to emulate tournament situations, and more work on all the things I tell my students to do Wink...

I will do this! I have already been putting more work into developing a "real plan for improvement" in the last couple days (once my tournament was clearly going down hill) than I have in the last few years. Everyone has their own "tipping point" of frustration, and let's just pray (for my sake) that I have finally reached mine. This is not the time for my "sob story" Cry about my work and family life dominating my time. We have been there, done that. It's time to do this thing the right way! That doesn't mean I will be a Grandmaster in 6 months, but progress is progress, and I need to get some! I must find some level of discipline in my chess game/studies.

Staying on the subject of what I learned about myself as a chess player, I did do some things well (believe it or not Laughing) this tournament. In round 3 for example, I put it all together in a win against IM Darwin Yang:

I had prepared some stuff in this line, but when the youngster misplayed the opening with 13...Qb6, I didn't have to use it. It felt good to get this win (making up momentarilly for my blown loss against Bykohvsky -- this game is haunting me Frown -- the night before) and giving me some hope for the future.

Round 4 was a tough loss to IM Justin Sarkar, and though it stung to lose this game (effectively killing my Norm chances) it didn't hurt that bad because, well, it was fun! The game was exciting, Justin and I played pretty well in a crazy position (even according to Houdini) and though I had multiple chances to take a draw and equalize the game out, I realized afterward that I would have done the same things again (at least in terms of trying to win and not letting the game peter out) next time, but Justin's play was superb, finding the brilliant 38...Nd2! shot with less than 30 seconds on his clock... Enjoy:

My score, 1 out of 4, at this point was upsetting "on paper", and probably looked pretty bad to all of you following the event Surprised, but since I didn't have "Norm expectations" coming in, I simply tried to stay focused on my continued goal at this point in my chess career: Just get better and make progress with each game! So yeah, my loss to Bykhovsky notwithstanding (still haunting me Frown), I felt my games against Yang and Sarkar were pretty good and I remained positive.

I took those good vibes into my 5th round game against IM Niemer, and I played my best game of the tournament! Note, it was my "best game" because it really required drive and determination to grind out the equal Queen and Pawn Ending that arose. I really had to want it and be accurate to win that position, and I felt like a good "Russian School Boy" Wink after earning the full point. Enjoy the game and my detailed analysis:

I really feel that this game represents all the things that have become right and are good about my game: 1) I equalized easily and quickly with black and 2) I didn't try for too much or make anything crazy (that second part is key for me since it's been a pretty bad habit of mine, and one that I "fell off the wagon with" later in this tournament). The whole game was accurately calculated (computer checked Wink) and finally, I showed pretty good endgame technique towards the end. Sure there were "other ways" to play the position for both me and my opponent, but Queen and Pawn endings can be really tricky anyway, let alone when both players are under time pressure! I feel I showed maturity and discipline that I, unfortunately, lacked in my other games.

So, taking that confidence into round 6 against GM Boros, I played my second best game of the tournament. Note that this game has to be considered my "second best" because I played the opening/early middlegame transition so poorly -- BUT in some respects, it could also be considered my best game. Why? I actually played defense! I feel one of the major holes in my game has been my over-the-board determination once things have gone wrong. My opponent missed one "kill shot" to put me away (17...Bxc4!!), but after that, we both played well and I defended a worse position for over 30 moves:

So, I had survived to round 7. At this point, I was still feeling like my play was better than my current 2.5 out of 6 score reflected (which it really was), but this is where the "figurative expletive" hit the fan Tongue out, and my weaknesses -- on all practical, psychological and spiritual levels were exposed...

I had prepared perfectly for IM Lev Milman, guessing exactly what he would choose (the 6.h3 variation of the Najdorf), and I worked out the lines with Houdini to easy equality (with some practical chances to even win) for black. We played the first 20 moves, and the clock showed roughly twenty minutes left for my opponent, while an hour and twenty minutes remained for me. I was feeling comfortbale, sensing that my opponent would likely offer a draw any minute to try and "bail out" of his time pressure (something he confirmed he was thinking about after the game) and suddenly, without warning, My Hyde woke up and I decided to self-destruct...

My "poor bathroom management" aside-- described in detail in the analysis above Tongue out -- I should have slowed down at the end of my preparation to take stock of all the tactics possible in the position. 24.Bxg6 is not hard to see; moreover, if I had had the prophylactic frame of mind to recognize it as a threat, I could have made a simple move and left white with nothing whatsoever to play for in the resulting position. As the analysis shows, the position is completely equal after 23...Ne7, let alone the idea of 22...Na5.

So why did I do this? Why did I put myself in such a stupid position by not getting up for the needed "break". I certainly had the time to spare! Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to ponder these questions before I needed to get ready for my next game against IM Aleskerov. In looking back on this game, I can see the writing was on the wall: I was so frustrated with myself for getting such a great position against Milman and blowing it in one/two moves that I was "hell-bent" on destroying my next opponent. As chess players, I think we sometimes feel the "Chess Gods" owe us one after a tough loss, and we take that attitude into the next game. Why is this a big mistake?

Because my next opponent had nothing to do with me playing like an idiot the round before! Because it wasn't his fault I couldn't hold my bladder Tongue out!! Because it wasn't his fault I screwed up a perfect position (that I prepared for) with one bad decision!!! And it certainly wasn't his fault that my frustration over the Bykohvsky game (yes, still haunting me at this point Yell) had been sub-consciously building up ever since I screwed up the winning endgame in round 2.

You see, my experience here reminds us (for all of you now) that our next opponent is just there to play chess. He hasn't done anything wrong to deserve your hatred. The Mr. Hyde in you doesn't care, he just wants revenge, but you have to keep him under control...

This common mistake of having too much of a "bonzai attitude" has cost me many a losing streak in my day. One bad loss can be forgotten (the Bykohvsky game still haunting Tongue out), but after you do something stupid again in the same tournament, it is much harder to have the discipline to swallow hard, learn your lesson, and take a clear head into the next game... BUT you MUST do this! I am not saying you can't be "pumped up" to avenge yourself, but don't be reckless. You are not "owed" by the Chess Gods! Just play chess, have fun, and continue to focus on the only thing you can control: What's in front of you!!!

Well, I didn't do all of that in my last game against IM Felecan:

Instead, as you learned from my notes to the game, I made the decision to go nuts in the opening. The "psychologist" in me realizes now why I did this: I was still feeling the mixed emotions of needing to avenge myself and at the same time, I was "falling off the wagon" by reverting back to my old ways of being too aggressive when I start feeling insecure about my chess skills (something a lot of people do).

What I learned about myself as a person:

I need to relax a little bit Embarassed. Funny, but true. My wife suggested that perhaps I am playing chess with a sub-conscious starving artist mentality (i.e. the old saying that without great pain there cannot be great creativity). She says I just enjoy writing articles like this... At first I laughed it off, but then I realized I didn't write a long piece like this after my great tournament in Northern California a couple months ago Undecided... so maybe she has a point?

The part of me that is still insecure about my own chess skills is that same part of me that lashes out with overly aggressive opening choices (the losses to Friedel and Felecan). I believe it's the same part of me that always relies on the most active, sometimes reckless approach to a position and often leads to blunders (Milman and Aleskerov). I also think my out of balance need to prove something (to myself before anyone else) makes me over-critical of my own moves and mistakes during games. After a game its OK to critique your play (in fact, self-criticism is a necessary part of becoming good at anything) -- BUT when you find you're beating yourself (too much self going on here Tongue out) over the head during games, you know you have a problem. This takes away from any effort/energy that could be spent on trying to fight back.

Reglardless of me still not overcoming my spiritual deficiencies (the need for negative attention we talked about here) -- The simple truth remains that I just need to work harder. I have a tendency to think of all the deepest reasons/problems that might be causing my mistakes, instead of just focusing on the X's and O's and being honest with myself about the fact that I just haven't done enough chess or worked hard enough to expect the results I want... Those are the cold hard facts, and hopefully acknowledging that truth will set my chess game free. That and a little more studying Tongue out.

Thanks for listening.

Comments


  • 2 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Thanks Shivvy... appreciate the comments. For the record, it's "exclamaviotch" Wink...

    Danny

  • 2 years ago

    Shivvvy

    Your videos are good but your writing is better.  I'm somewhat new to Chess, before a month back I only played a few times.  And I gotta say that your videos have literally taught me the game.  I've learned and have become and okay player.  You've nailed it with this article.  From only having played Chess for less than a month I can say that I feel the same way about my play.  My record is atrocious but I don't care!! (double-exclam a beoutch) The only way to get better is to play more, which means lose more.  And isn't that the truth about life.  We probably lose more than we win and we get better because of those losses.

    I'm sold and totally hooked on Chess.  Thank you for making learning this game easier.  You're a cool guy and a fantastic teacher.

    I would like to say don't be hard on yourself but that's like saying stop playing Chess.   

    No pain, no gain ... and ouch, it hurts, oh it hurts ;-)

  • 2 years ago

    RookPFeynman

    Thanks Danny! What a nice informative article.

  • 2 years ago

    karangtarunasemarang

    nice

  • 2 years ago

    lbtr74aao

     I think that you have a crucial decision to take in few weeks

        If you want to go a superor level , you must do a terrible Sacrifice . 

       I m sorry to say this; but are you ready to work with a top G.M.? and quit your job on Chess .com ?so as to improve your tactic ,Strategy, mental etc and hope to go to the next level

     

  • 2 years ago

    AM37

    thanks, it was amazing

  • 2 years ago

    elindauer

    Humans are really good at seeing patterns, even when none exist.  You should give serious consideration to the possiblity that this streak has nothing to do with you, and is simply bad luck.  Given the ratings of your opponents, 2.5 out of 9 is really not that big a deviation from your expected result, and this is going to happen even if you play to your true rating.  You don't have to play badly to have this kind of thing happen, in fact, you can expect that you will have some tournaments where you play well and still score like this.

     

    Try to find a better balance between letting "luck" explain away all of your bad results, and pulling your hair out trying to find the golden nugget of truth that explains every result you ever have.  From your videos you seem to feel that luck plays no part in the game, and that this is a crutch, but I think you are wrong about that.  Study your games, learn what you can from them, and then let it go.  If you can see the truth in the math here, I think it might help you psychologically and stop you from throwing away fractions of a point by playing games where your mindset is off from the start.

     

    -eric

  • 2 years ago

    OVAIDO

    another game is amaizing like this in petrov

  • 2 years ago

    Mattshears

    how can you be bothered to point out a spelling mistake on a chess site! get a life !!  Dan you seem like a chilled out good for a laugh kind of dude, maybe you are taking this a bit to seriously man. hey its a game your good at it other people are good at it too, you cant win em all and if you do the chances are you would go mad!!!

    Play on man, to quote a not to shabby GM, he who never plays never losses..

  • 2 years ago

    Exchequer

    Thanks Danny. First know your own self. You're on the right road.

  • 2 years ago

    SimpLEthaL64

    This article is very insightful

  • 2 years ago

    diogens

    Yes, IM DR, when "in doubt attack", as asserted by GM Julio Becerra in one of his articles. I(f you don't put your partners in difficulties, they will somehow over rule you. More precise calculation and evaluation is needed, just work for it (easy to say but not such to follow).

  • 2 years ago

    finity

    "The simple truth remains that I just need to work harder."

    You could start by playing stronger players during some of your Big Show events.  Ruthless domination of opponents is good for moral, but I not so much for practicing, I'm thinking.

    Just my 2 cents. :)

  • 2 years ago

    Jzyehoshua

    I really learned from the Monsterpiece article earlier. I think we are both making the same mistake of overconfidence and letting our guard down, in thinking we have a game under control, rather than never assuming an opponent's out of it. 

    http://www.chess.com/article/view/when-a-masterpiece-becomesa-monsterpiece

    To quote Bryan Smith, "Never, ever write off the game before it is finished. In both of these games I basically considered the positions to be completely ridiculous, and expected resignation at any moment. Looking at them with a clear head I see that – while it is true they were completely winning positions – they were still not trivial. Variations had to be calculated, and if they were not, I would lose my advantage.

  • 2 years ago

    g-levenfish

    Well,you play too aggressively and I play too passively.In a couple of my games I am trying your aggressive approach.I may not win,but it seems like a lot of fun!

  • 2 years ago

    ChenGJ

    nice

  • 2 years ago

    boristhecat

    Your self-immolation left me chuckling pretty hard there, Dan.

    Thanks for a great article.  Unfortunately, I think we all slip in to a similar mindset when facing adversity (I know I do).  Thanks for your honesty and transparency as well.

  • 2 years ago

    zirtoc

    We're behind you, Danny.  But when we are, just keep that bladder in check, buddy!  Keep at it, you'll get there.

  • 2 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Tim, You make some excellent points. I completely agree with you actually, and with further time to "reflect", I can say that I definitely feel my "cowboy attitude" in that game and others is an "unnecessary attitude". A bad habit I built up over time I think... I can win in many other ways, and sometimes, you just have to make the smart decision and let the game dwindle down...

    So given the same situation, I should certainly do something differently -- BUT I guess what I meant by saying I would "do the same again" is that the position was extremely complex and my opponent was under time pressure, so even though objectively, trading on e5 to a "draw" was definitely the right decision, practically in the heat of the battle, it is hard to say with %100 certainty that I would do things differently.

    Thanks for the comments everyone,

    Danny

  • 2 years ago

    mobidi

    @IM ACEChess Your problem is VERY SIMPLE.You are TOO OPTIMISTIC!(like mrs.Jekyll).What is main and most typical error in chess (remember Tartakover!-he said about it!).Your style is very BRAVE and ACTIVE.You are chess-artist.but....if You want to play at level 2550-2650 - i think ,You must study Petrosian -profilactic is very important.Good is ,of course,book about Nimzowitsch by Keene and Botvinnik.Such players are Your mrs.HYDE and Your hidden potential.Good Luck1

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