Slugfest in the Chicago Open

Jun 13, 2016, 5:49 AM |

The 2016 Chicago Open wrapped up a few weeks ago and I've finally had some time to decompress and review my games. What a slugfest it was!

Last year was my first Chicago Open where I scored 3.0/7.0 in the U1700 section. I went from 1624 to 1608--not quite what I was hoping for.

This year I have a goal of reaching 1900 USCF--causing me to play up whenever that is an option. So I played in the U1900 section this year and again scored 3.0/7.0 but with a bit of a rating boost from 1650 to 1667. That was with a 1747 performance rating. A decent result though it took till the final rounds to get any wins against this tougher crowd.

Round 1

Taylor (1650) - Ellis, James (1868) 1/2-1/2

My first round game was a rematch against James, an older player who beat me via a middlegame tactic back in December. This time, having white again, I played my new 1. Nf6 repertoire and we didn't go into a KID, fortunately. Ellis had pressure in the middlegame but made some inaccuracies and offer me a draw after the queens were traded off. Not a bad start!

Round 2

de la Colina, Nicolas (1813) - Taylor (1650) 1-0

This was the toughest game of the event for me. Under the tutelage of NM Joel Johnson, I've totally reworked my repertoire against 1. d4 and am now playing the Polish Defense. Unfortunately, I have some work to do.

Round 3

Taylor (1650) - Kyawe, Htay Aun (1806) 0-1

I was feeling pretty good going into the third round with a 1/2 point under my belt and with more confidence in my new Modern Reti white repertoire that NM Joel Johnson has been teaching me the past 8 or so weeks.

I played aggressively and had chances to open black's kingside with advantage but instead played too conservatively and let black consolidate his king's position and start to exploit one of my weak pawns. After playing defense for some time, I broke down and blunder in a much worse (but maybe not losing) position.

Round 4

Garcia, Imtiaz (1764) - Taylor (1650) 1/2-1/2

Imtiaz was my first U1800 opponent of the tournament and I was determined to start racking up points. Playing the Polish, I butchered the opening but then white allowed my an open g file for a rook and a bishop on b7, putting a lot of pressure on white's g2 pawn and king.

But, after back and forth swings in the middle game I was down a piece but set a drawing trap for my opponent who too-quickly took the bait. At least now I had a full point with 1.0/4.0.

Round 5

Boswell, Larry (1825) - Taylor (1650) 1-0

Back up against the 1800 crowd and Larry was a tough opponent who moved very quickly. At the end of the game, I had burned nearly 2 hours to his 20 minutes.

I felt I had a better position (though a pawn down) and had serious drawing or even winning chances until I got fancy, weakened my king, and allowed him to set up an attack where I would have to give up my queen to avoid a force mate-in-6 that I didn't see coming at all.

Round 6

Taylor (1650) - Richards, William (1731) 1-0

In the penultimate round, I was able to secure my first win of the tournament, bringing my score to 2.0/6.0. My opponent played well but used a lot of time in the opening against 1. Nf3 and later lost a piece to an intermezzo check during a sequence of trades.

Round 7

NN (1777) - Taylor (1650) 0-1

With 2.0/6.0 I was determined to fight hard in the final round. Though I only had 1 win and 2 draws so far, a win here would put me in plus rating points for the tournament. Playing up has its advantages!

This was my favorite game of the tournament where I feel my opponent played somewhat rashly and suffered. I set up pins, opened lines when it was beneficial, and took advantage of the opportunities he gave me.

Lessons Learned:

I still have plenty of work to do to become competent playing my new "attacking" repertoire. It is not so much memorizing more lines but learning to favor aggressive moves over safe, passive moves. It is looking for an exploit pins and "invisible defender" moves that allow me to continue to push my attack forward. This is a new way of playing chess (remember I've been playing the Torre Attack, a not very attacking opening, regardless of its name, for the past decade plus) and will take many more months to really feel comfortable.

In the de la Colina game, I had chances to transition into a defendable endgame but I wasn't rigorous in my calculations and missed the opportunity. Endgames are often unforgiving of small mistakes.

In the Boswell game I had all the chances but didn't consider all the reasons why my opponent made a threatening rook move and one of those reasons was a forced mate.

Besides playing chess, I got a chance to catch up with some friends and even watch one of them (fjv672) win some money in the Saturday night blitz tournament! Another (Milliern) got to play a GM in the blitz tournament! Fortunately, I didn't play blitz because it ended up going into the early hours of the morning and I'm sure there were many forfeit or lost games Sunday morning as a result.