The Perfect Tournament Mindset

  • IM TigerLilov
  • | Jul 10, 2012

Earlier this year, I decided to take part in one of the strongest chess competitions in my country, the 34th International Open Bulgarian Chess Championship “Georgi Tringov Memorial.” This was a tough tournament which happened to attract more than 260 participants despite the severe cold-- -20°F temperatures that were battering the winter landscape of the southern Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

Some of the most prominent Grandmasters taking part in the championship included the two Bulgarian top players, GM Ivan Cheparinov (2659) and GM Kiril Georgiev (2658). In addition, the tournament enjoyed the presence of many foreign players representing quite a few chess federations, including Greece, Italy, Georgia, Serbia, Moldova, Croatia, and The United States, to name a few. 

Being my first tournament in the last six months, I was eager to play, though I hadn’t had the chance to practice a lot, being a full time chess coach known to many of you here at Nevertheless, my determination to give the best of me and succeed was stronger than any feelings of insecurity and lack of sufficient practical experience, which can often prove crucial to one’s tournament performance.

The tournament was a classical FIDE “marathon” event with nine rounds spread over more than a week's time, giving participants plenty of time to relax and prepare for their upcoming games both physically and spiritually. In the first three rounds, I was paired with lower-rated opponents and easily managed to score 3 out of 3 while sparing my energy for the tougher games that were to follow. In the next 6 rounds, I played 5 Grandmasters and one International Master, scoring 3 out 5 against the GMs and beating the International Master, which was more than enough to earn my third IM norm. What is even more remarkable was that before the 6th round I got a severe flu, but still managed to win 2.5 out of 3 against two GMs and an IM over the last two days of the tourney. Overall, with 7 out of 9, I managed to tie for 5th place and formally got the 7th place after the tie-breaks, placing only after the two top Bulgarian GMs and a few other foreign masters.

Certainly, it was a great tournament and I noticed that my positional vision was a bit different, a bit more rational, and I saw and evaluated positions in a better way than before. Still, what helped me the most against my strongest opponents was my ability to consistently improve my positions without leaving any weaknesses in it. My style was neither too passive, nor too active and thus, I was able to really hold some solid positions against the strongest GMs I met. I neither tried too hard to win, nor was too afraid of losing. Throughout the tournament, I made good use of my favorite opening systems, including the Torre, The Stonewall for black, and the Botvinnik System which all contributed to some exciting games, one of which I would like to share with you today.

Probably the most interesting and instructive game of mine in this competition was that against GM Vladimir Petkov, rated 2519 FIDE. In this game, I played white and managed to gradually outplay my opponent by maintaining harmonious position and perfect coordination between my pieces, which happened to be my opponent’s worst nightmare! Below, are my annotations of this game, the lessons of which can help many of you when playing against stronger opponents:

Authors: FM Valeri Lilov and Alex Karaivanov


  • 4 years ago


    very nice

  • 4 years ago


    TQ SIR...

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    I know this may sound odd, I have gone through this game 2-3 times and what really has happened here are blunders by black(no offense meant to anybody)

    Black should have realized that after 10 Bf4 their queen is in a pin and should have got out of that pin, h6 is a strategical blunder- an impulsive move, not a one deeply thought about. I dont know if the GM got overconfident and was only thinking of counterattacking or what.

    After 17 O-O-O, Bf5 is again a blunder, the attack on white's castle pawn loses black  an exchange directly after Rd4. Moreover the way in which the queens were exchanged(which was black's decision) lost black another pawn/created a weakness on a7.

    After that, black's position is already crumbling and then voila 23...g5 another blunder, losing one more pawn.

    In my humble opinion, this was real bad play by black, not taking any credits away from white who held his own till the end and capatalized on all of black's mistakes. at least the queen pin was an obvious position to be spotted, maybe white was just having a bad day or something.

  • 4 years ago


    nice game!

  • 4 years ago


    Nice game!  This really shows that if you keep creating problems for your opponent, and if you are careful when you reap any benefits derived, then even the best opponents will struggle to show any strength they have against you.  

    Really well done, and congrats on last IM norm!

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks.  Good game with good annotation to learn from.

  • 4 years ago


    Very instructive. Still wondering about your 12th move. The other pawn looked ripe with possibilities !!!

  • 4 years ago


    So, not practising is best preparation? :P

  • 4 years ago


    Well, so mindset is a strong element that could bring victory when used wisely.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice game of consistently improving position like you said.

  • 4 years ago


    activity and spacal advantage are useful however There are some instance like in gambits when you give up to much material like in the Danish gambit becuase he can trade the knights for bishops and black is up two pawns

  • 4 years ago

    NM gbidari

    Great practical advice in the article and in your comments to the game. Thank you and congratulations on a fantastic tournament result!

  • 4 years ago


    GG and thanks for the annotations! 

  • 4 years ago


    Congratulations on earning the IM title!

  • 4 years ago


    Great play!

    We can't wait to see the Stonewall and Botvinnik games. Please share :-p

  • 4 years ago


    What a positional game!

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago

    NM FLchessplayer

    Nice game ...

  • 4 years ago


    How can your opponent get a rate above 2000...He had played badly ...Isn't it?

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