Don’t Mock The Mockingbird

Don’t Mock The Mockingbird

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This week we’re going to look at the games of the member Mockingbird2, who is majoring in chemical engineering but thinks he can become a chess master in another two years. At the moment he’s 1900 USCF, 2143 in blitz, and 2191 at bullet. All his games in this article are from over-the-board tournament play.

I’ve asked many people who want me to look at their games to send a photo since it makes the whole article more “human” and personal. Mockingbird2 is one of the few who has done that. 


Let’s see what Mockingbird2 has to say about himself:

A little more about my play-style: up until probably February of this year I played nothing but tactical chess — no strategy whatsoever except for, “I can’t get doubled pawns!” I even gave my opponents the most obvious knight outposts yet I somehow got to 1700. 

My brother invited me to watch a GingerGM (Simon Williams) video and I was very confused when he repeatedly used his chess jargon, controlling the dark squares, and the like. I watched a bunch of his blitz games and ran into one of Carlsen’s d3 Ruy Lopez games. I thought that was a very elegant way to play, so that kind of make-no-mistakes gameplay rubbed off on me. Later on I realized that I can avoid all of my opening struggles by playing random but fundamentally sound moves. Also, you’ve probably already guessed this, but when I say I’m tactically poor, I mean failing to see tactical justifications to moves more than blundering pieces outright — though that happens sometimes too.”

Mockingbird is a rare player that doesn’t have much tournament experience, doesn’t know much about openings, often doubts himself, claims that he doesn’t know anything about positional play but consistently demonstrates good positional chess, and plays excellent dynamic chess that leads to positional gains! In many ways he plays a kind of effortless chess, though his notes makes it seem that he’s agonizing over every move. But agonizing or not, most of his moves are very good, and his overall solid play is proved by the fact that he rarely loses.

Mockingbird has a great sense of humour, and at times his notes make me laugh as he grumbles about his poor play, his habitual time pressure (due to his lack of opening knowledge), and his tactical blunders, only to effortlessly push his opponent off the board!

After looking at quite a few of his games, I can say that he is a very talented player who can get much better simply by patching up his weaknesses:

1) Create a sound opening repertoire = goodbye time pressure.

2) Push aside his emotions during a game, which sometimes lead to him tossing out some fanciful (poor) moves that he knew were bad but did anyway.

3) Though he plays good positional chess, it wouldn’t hurt if he made a deeper study of that part of the game. A study of Capablanca’s, Fischer’s, Karpov’s, Kramnik’s, Petrosian’s, and Magnus’ games would be a big help.

4) Continue to play in strong tournaments since it will give him the experience he needs.

5) The more confidence he has in his skills, the stronger he’ll get. Yes, it’s important to be honest with yourself when it comes to one’s chess shortcomings, but it’s also important to believe in yourself.

Though most of the games he sent me were wins, I decided to post a few of his recent draws since they highlight his good and bad chess moments. The last game, from an earlier event, shows just how good he is.

Please note that both Mockingbird and I (JS) are giving annotations. His comments are honest and interesting, sometimes funny, and well worth reading.


Nightmare on Chess Street

Mockingbird: Despite needing to shake off some tourney rust, I had expected a 1600 pairing to be easy. I did expect a struggle, but nowhere near as much as what happened.

A poorly played game by Mockingbird, but very few players can handle a complex endgame, and if you don't know openings then, at times, you'll get gutted right away.


A Well-Played Game

Mockingbird: My opponent told my last-round opponent that drawing a 1900 is really good. Surely that subconsciously made me think “Come on, I’m better than that.”

This was a remarkably complex game and many masters would lose their way in the complications. Both players can be proud of their play.


Great Exchange Sacrifice, Psychological Weaknesses

Mockingbird: It has been said before by many an individual that I am the original drawmaster, even before Anish Giri. When I was in 3rd grade I drew 8/8 games at a major event, which is atypical for a 1200-rated player. I’ve never been a stranger to draws — after all, draws are the reason I don’t lose very much, but they’re also the reason I don’t win either. I really wanted to win this game, but spoiler alert — it ended in a draw.

If you make a miscalculation early in the game (but get away with it) you have to toss the horror out the window and concentrate on the position in front of you. Giving up the monster knight was a clear case of a lack of confidence, and the last couple moves were a clear sign of frustration. You need to calm down and learn to toss everything in the world away until the game is over.   


Smooth as Butter

Mockingbird: This game was played against one of the more recognized coaches in my area. He’s coached several high schools to great success and probably offered private lessons on the side. We’ve known of each other for a very long time (when I was a kid we always were at the same events), but we never had the opportunity to play each other. I was the underdog, so I can only assume some of the moves he made reflected that.

Thanks for sharing your games, your trials and tribulations, and your chess hopes. Though I recommended things at the beginning of this article that will help you get better, it all comes down to hard work. You have talent (and for you, 2200 is a doable goal), but talent only blossoms if you make the effort to cure your chessic ills.

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