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Road To My Peak #2: Back Over The Hump

Road To My Peak #2: Back Over The Hump

DanielGuel
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23

Hi, and welcome back to my blog! So as I've mentioned a few days ago, we're back over our peak USCF rating, hence the blog title!

On a serious note, as I've mentioned, peaking is great and all, but there is still a lot of work to be done in my chess career. If I want to maintain my strength, and even go beyond, I'll probably need to work even harder, a hard lesson I learned in 2018, as you can see from the graph, did not go so well afterward.

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So let's talk about this tournament. It was in Arlington, Texas (kind of in the DFW area), hosted by the Arlington Chess Club. It was basically the sequel of my ugly tournament performance... same organizers, and mostly, the same players. It would be a chance to redeem myself, and if you've read anything I wrote this week, I think we know how it went!

So in round 1, I was paired with Douglas Schwetke (1550 USCF). I had observed before the tournament that he plays the Grunfeld as Black, so I would finally get to play my pet line (well, credit goes to coach for showing it to me) against the Grunfeld. I'm a little reluctant to do so, as now, everyone is gonna know what I do against the Grunfeld! But... as I've said before, my opening prep will show in my games!

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Key lessons learned:

  • No need to unnecessarily give away material if I can calculate a way to safely keep it.

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Alright, round 1 win in the books! Three more games to go. I was paired up in round 2 against Tim Steiner (1968 USCF, 1927 FIDE). I played him two other times, in 2017 (a draw, which helped me get to 1600 USCF for the first time), and in 2019 (a close loss). As you all know, I was excited about a high pairing, so here we go!

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Key lessons learned:

  • Always good to have a plan in mind, and play for it. In my case, I wanted e4 to break open the center, so I made commitments to make it happen.

  • Be flexible with my pawns ... don't allow your opponents to crack it up (18... a5). 

  • If there is a weak square for my Knight or another piece to go, then formulate a plan to get that piece to that square!

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Alright, so I'm 2-0 going into the second half of the tournament, and in the running to win rating points, and possibly money (the cash prizes were not that big, but hey, every little helps!). My third round, I was assigned Curtis Fukuchi (1833 USCF, 1765 FIDE). I was excited about this pairing, as I defeated Curtis in my last over-the-board tournament win before the pandemic hit. However, boy was this a different game...

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Key lessons learned:

  • Material is not everything!!! If I win a Rook for a Bishop, but my King is weak, and my position is overall bad, I don't need to go into it! 

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That loss was gutting to be completely honest, as it carried over, and I lost a little bit of motivation vs Zachary Haskin (2014 USCF, 1945 FIDE). Why did I lose motivation? I was just frustrated the way I lost to Curtis, and I also knew that even if I lost to Zachary, my USCF would get close to 1800... however, there is more to play for...

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Key lessons learned:

  • Try to stay 100% focused and locked in, despite the result of the last game, put those negative (or positive) to the side!

  • Endgame subtleties were key, for both sides. Me getting my Knight almost trapped cost me a pawn, him getting his Bishop stuck cost him a pawn. Endgame accuracy is key!

Just as a side note, my coach and I didn't have too much time to review the endgame, and I didn't much on my own due to finals (which I just finished, woooot!), I might be reviewing this endgame on my own, and if I find it interesting, I'll be sure to share with you all!

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Rating change: note that "R" is the rating everyone cares about!

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So yeah, I hope you enjoyed the games and the annotations! I want to go ahead and get this posted... so I'll do that, and see you soon! I expect to have a "reflection" post after my two tournaments maybe this weekend... so keep an eye!

Otherwise, have a blessed day, and have fun playing, practicing, and reading about chess!