December is upon us. The time of giving, the time for family, the time to summerize the year.
Or, if you are completely unrealistic patzer like me, the last chance to achieve that mythical "SUCCESS AGAINST ALL ODDS!" for this year. Hey, I need something to keep my optimism alive through all the defeats that I need to go through in order to learn, improve and finaly earn the oportunity to get my ass kicked by even better players (gotta love that Swiss system :).
In October, I came very close to achieving my first "SAAO!". I had the good fortune of meeting a very tired 2000 player in the first round, who played the game well bellow his objective strenght. Combination of daring, shameless bluffing and a precise calculation in the endgame earned me a win in the first round, something I never managed to do before. In Round 2 my opponent didn't show up for the match. The win didn't earn me any rating points, but it led to a funny situation where I became the sole leader after round 2, followed by 2 FMs and 2 MKs sharing 2nd-5th place. :) In Round 3 I played against a FM for the first time in my life. He crushed me in the opening, but then blundered in an attempt to trick me, so I ended up with a better position. Which I managed to ruin in 2 dumb moves. Round 4 paired me up with a NM. I prepared well, but my opponent's choice of opening led to a purely positional struggle in which he totaly crushed me. In Round 5 I had a chance for vengence against the MK who "stood me up" for round 2. Unfortunatly, my laziness led to sloppy preparation of for the game (Shirov Gambit, which I have been preparing for over a week, since I started after Round 2 pairing have been announced), which in turn led to a good game, but not good enough to beat an opponent who was almost 500 rating points ahead of me. In the round 6, I once again won meerly by showing up. In round 7 came, for me, the best moment of the tournament. I met a fellow attacker, who saced a piece and had complete control right until the suprising ending of the game.
In round 8, I had the good luck of my opponent switching his choice of defense from Sicilian to French. He made a few mistakes in the opening and one big mistake in the middle game, so my Rook and Bishop managed to beat his Bishop and Knight in the endgame. And so came Round 9 and my first chance to qualify for a prize. Instead I recieved a lesson on Larsen opening from MK Ivan Kalajzic which might prove even more valuable in the long run. I ended up with 5/9, (but only 3/7 in the games where my opponent's bothered to show up) and a rating performance of 2100 (not bad for 1641 player). This brings me to my point from the title.
I have spent this year playing people most of whom were at least 300 rating points above me. Before this year had begun, I have never managed to win against a 1900 opponent, but after I won against the first one, I beat 2 others in the same tournament. After I beat my first 2000+, I also ended up beating 2 others in the same tournament. I started this year with rating of 1548 FIDE (by losing left and right during my first competitive year) and I am ending it with 1684 FIDE. When I look back on this year and the games played, I find that three reasons for this (moderate) success are:
1. Confidance. You have to have it and it must not depend on your wins or loses. The phrase that got me through this year's matches was: "Ok, this guy has x hundred rating points on me, but Magnus Carlsen would smash him as swiftly as he would smash me, so we are basicly equals."
2. Hard work on and off the board. Unless your name is Jose Raul and you're dead, you have to study chess to get better. Especially endgames. I started this year sucking in endgames and I'm ending it sucking slightly less. I still hate them and they hate me back, but I hate it even more when I get a winning position and I don't know how to win it.
3. Preparing for opponents. Internet is a wonderful invention that allows you to see your opponent's recorded games (there may be some other uses for it, but those are not as important). I have heard people say: "You should keep your opening repertoir narrow, but study those openings thourghly." and I would like to thank these people. Couldn't have done it without you guys! Of course, I never even considered taking your advice, but some people have and it makes prepairing for games against them much easier. Seriously, deliberatly playing your opponent's pet variation (as opposed to keeping your own kennel of openings) is awesome because: a) you get to practice this variation against someone who knows it well, b) you can find the point where your opponent consistently chooses a bad continution and punish him or at least improve your chances in the match and c) it feels soooo cool to sit across the board against a guy who is much better then you, watch him as he ponders his next move and think to yourself: "if you want, I can tell you your next four moves. " Also, this method of opening preparation gives you a chance to learn many differnet openings and play through many completely different positions which arise from them, thus furthering your understanding of chess. (for example I learned that Knight can move in the shape of the letter L, but also in the shape of greek letter Gamma :o).
And above all, if you are not having fun, then you're playing it wrong.
Good Knight and Bishop bless you.