January and February Training Recap

Mar 5, 2016, 4:39 PM |

USCF Rating: 1682

Year to date: +3

January and February are behind us, but I was already able to compete in three fantastic weekend tournaments during that time and face some tough competition, which is one of my goals for the year. (Specifically, the goal is to play 20% of OTB games in the open section, 60% up one section, and 20% in my own section.)

To that end, in the fifteen games I've played this year, I've faced three Experts and two Masters (drawing one of them!). In addition, I've faced off against four Class A players. In other words, well over half my opponents have been significantly stronger. Contrast this with the end of 2015, where I was in tournament sections facing mostly 1400-1700 level players. Strong opponents will eventually make you stronger.

I'm reading several books as per my 2016 train plan. I was able to complete the first two chapters of Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess, learning some hard-to-remember nomenclature for different pawn formations. Though most of Kmoch's terminology has never gone mainstream, some of it has been helpful for me in that I can now label or categorize many pawn ideas. And the best way for me to remember a concept is to apply a label to it.

I also completed the Sacrifice! chapter of How to Attack in Chess and the first eight endgames in 100 Endgames You Must Know. Unfortunately the blew the first nine exercises in 100 Endgames, missing every single one! The next nine, though, I scored seven of nine, regaining some feelings of self-worth. Many of the exercises in this section of 100 Endgames aren't even addressed in the book--they are endgame ideas that are considered prerequisites to tackling the book--so I feel I have my work cut out for me to take the ones I failed and research them in Silman's Complete Engame Course and Pandolfini's Endgame Course, which between the two, cover most basic endgame ideas. 

A group of my online chess friends have started another Skype study session, this time covering the annotated master games in New York 1924. We're meeting most every Thursday on Skype, where we discuss a game from the book. Previous to each meeting, though, we  independently go through the game for the week and take notes for the discussion. We also refrain from looking at an engine or the book's annotations until after our Skype session. So, in effect, we are going through each game in the book at least three times! What better way could there be to spend time on master games? 

Lessons Learned/Challenges to Overcome
I've decided to not play any weekend tournaments in March because of some work obligations. This is a blessing in that I have some time to continue to train my new white repertoire and other things and go in strong into my next tournament in April.

The long time control weekend swiss chess opportunities in the Chicago area seem to be continuing to dwindle. There are some G/60 and G/45 opportunities but fewer and fewer G/90 or longer events. So, that means I need to travel even more frequently to Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, etc to make sure I can hit my goal of 100 games this year.

I'm coming along with my new white repertoire, which is the Catalan and Exchange Slav but still need to move from studying ideas and master games in these openings to putting together an actual move tree. My last tournament I was fully prepared (psychologically, if not theoretically) to play it as white but in my only two white games my opponents played a Chigorin and then a Gruenfeld. So, I'm still waiting to unleash my new lines in OTB play.