Although I got beat up really badly last time I went, I was at the weekly chess club on Saturday afternoon, ready to play some chess! This weekend, I actually won all four games I played! I'd like to discuss them a little bit. Unfortunately, I did not write down the moves this weekend; I'd been getting in time trouble when I wrote down moves (I still am not 100% comfortable identifying squares), so I cannot actually show the games.
There are two games that I won where I believe I should've rightly lost. In one game I was down the exchange (rook for a knight) and in the other game I was down a pawn, but with a bishop that was completely stuck on my back rank. In both cases, I was able to perform a fishing pole on my opponents and checkmate them. I was happy to win, but definitely disappointed with the way I played. I cannot tell for sure since I can't look back at the games, but I believe that one problem I have is when one of my pieces is under attack, I don't spend enough time looking at how I'm going to get it out of its predicament. I like to try and look for bigger threats, so that I can ignore the threat on my piece, but when there's nothing, I don't spend enough time considering where I'm going to put my piece. This is how I lost a rook, I put it right on the square where it could be forked by a tricky knight.
The third game I played, my opponent missed a pawn fork, and didn't react properly to it and I ended up with two knights for two pawns. Afterwards, I tried as hard as I could to trade down, made a small mistake which cost me a piece, but I got to a N+R vs R endgame. I was probably not as precise in my moves as I should've been, and was kind of lucky that my knight was well placed, but I managed to trade the rooks and promote a pawn to a Queen.
My final game was my best one, even though I was pretty tired at that point. I opened d4 and my opponent went for a dutch defence. I know the name "dutch defence", that's it, I have no idea how to continue after 1...f5, but I followed basic opening principles, developed my pieces, took control of the center, etc. I was very happy that I was noticing immediately when my opponent was creating holes in his position; I felt like my positional vision was getting better. I worked to get a knight into one of those holes, there was an exchange of pieces and suddenly there was an open file. And the rest of the game, I worked that open file the best I could and my opponent was pretty helpless. I managed to get a rook on the 7th rank, he threatened it with a rook of his own, instead of exchanging on the 8th rank, I double my rooks on the c-file and when he went Rxc7, I immediately answered with Rxc7 myself. A couple moves later, his Queen was threatening my Rook and I was ready to trade queens (I was a pawn up at that point), but he declined the exchange. I recognized that his Queen was running short on safe squares, so I thought for a good 4-5 minutes and came up with a combination where I was able to get his Queen. A few moves later, I had a rook and my queen versus his King and he resigned with a couple seconds on his clock.
I'm happy to see that with enough repetition of some patterns, some knowledge sticks. I can recognize positions and also implement simple combinations. The next steps for me are going to be:
- Get better and faster at recognizing tactical patterns. I still do a lot of problems on ChessTempo, but there's a big difference between looking at a position knowing full well that you can gain material or win by checkmate versus being in a game and not knowing if there's a mate in three if you'd just sacrifice your queen.
- Recognize the imbalances in the position more quickly, and play on those imbalances more. In my last game, I based my play (you could say "plan" although I didn't really have a plan, more like a general idea of what I should be doing) on the imbalances that were in my favor.
- Take more time to consider what my opponent wants to be doing. The fast time controls (25 minutes) make it hard to spend too much time figuring out their best move and possible plans, but it's important that even at those time controls, I dedicate some time to understanding what it is they are doing. Perhaps I could separate my time where during my moves, I consider my plan and during they time, I consider their plan.
Anyway, it's nice to know that 4 months into my chess journey, I'm able to recognize my weaknesses and recognize when I am doing things right. I think that if I keep practicing, playing, studying and having fun, I'll have some very nice results next summer for my one year anniversary of chess!