Newcastle U100 tournament 2018

Apr 15, 2018, 3:00 PM |
Overall in this tournament, I went in feeling that I had a reasonable chance of winning, given the amount of preparation and development that I've done over the last six months. I won the first two games outright, but only thanks to blunders by my opponents having manoevered myself into losing positions in both of the first two matches. In the third match, I played well, but blundered at move 28, throwing the match against the 14 year old who would go on to win the U100 section. The next day I was tired and lost both games, converting a promising 2/2 start into a disappointing 2/5 finish. However there's probably something to learn from the matches, which are highlighted below. In order to record them quickly, I have recorded them with my own thoughts, without the aid of computer analysis. That might or might not come later, but recording the matches allows me to share with those who very kindly mentor me and offer me advice.
I have to do most of the lesson learning from this tournament. While others can make suggestions, it is down to me whether I take these on or not. So I will make a list of the things that I will do differently and another list of the things that I'd do differently if I had time, but which might not happen in the immediate future. Some things I can start doing immediately. For example the tournament showed up that my preparation is letting me down. Two examples spring immediately to mind. Firstly, when playing correspondence chess, I make heavy use of the ability to move pieces around on the board in trial mode to see what could happen. I kind of feel a duty to do that given that I play for the England team against other countries. However, this is robbing of the practise that I need to visualise variations in my minds eye, and my allegiance to my local club team is higher than that to the online England team. Secondly, I have let my tactics training on chess . com slip and frequently guess the correct answer rather than calculating variations. On the Saturday, I did an hours drive there and back and had three games, several of which were long and emotionally draining. There was the potential to play upwards of nine hours chess, travel time and then putting the children to bed when I get home. On Sunday morning, I resembled a zombie and had less energy than a three day old salad. The guy who came second in the competition requested a half point bye in the third round, thereby limiting his exposure to 6 hours of chess on each day.
Immediate list
1) Don't use the in built ability to move pieces around on the board when playing correspondence chess. Visualize the moves in my mind only.
2) Practice calculation in tactics trainer: keep going with that. Take time to calculate my opponents best plans and responses, not just my own.
3) Hesitate before snaffling pawns in the opening. Ask myself whether I am stepping into a dangerously behind position by pawn stealing (King safety), or whether the position is recoverable. 
4) In a competition, ask for a half point bye in advance if there is a day where there is potentially so much chess playing time in a day that I will be too tired to play properly that day or the next.
Longer term list
A) Learn how to play the French Advance from Black's side and practice it. (Or learn to play another opening.)
Round 2 David Ashby with white vs Robert West with black: 1-0 to me
I made a serious miscalculation at move 14. I had spotted the knight fork coming, but was over confident and had somehow miscalculated that by ignoring it, I would win Black's Bishop and Queen for a Queen and a pawn, missing that I would in truth be losing a Queen, pawn and a rook in exchange for Black's Queen and bishop. This blunder from a position that I believed to be winning made me angry, and my poor opponent had to put up with my cross face and rather heavy piece moves for the rest of the match. I apologised to him afterwards and assured him that the anger was directed at my own daft move and not at him. 
I managed to gain some tempos with King moves, so as to gain a very active King, trap Black's Knight in the corner and eventually win it and the game. This was my favourite game of the tournament.
This is the first game of the tournament. I win lots of pawns early doors due to a blunder by White and then greedily snaffle even more. White then put me under pressure, and at move 13, I thought a very long time before playing Bd6, which turned out not to be the most accurate move because two moves later, White plays Nb5, which attacks my Bishop at d6 and threatens to jump into c7 with a fork on King and Rook. The only escape route that I could find was  17... B*h2+, swapping the doomed Bishop for a pawn and check, gaining me a tempo to escape the fork on the Rook and King. This leaves a position with my opponent up a piece, and me up by quite a few pawns. As the pawns are not advanced, it is probably a winning position for my opponent. Only my opponent's blunder at move 18 then allowed me to go on and win the game.
This is my third match of the tournament, against the 14 year old lad who would go on to win the U100 section with 4.5 out of 5. Up to move 28, his pieces are better co-ordinated, but I think that my pawn structure is better, in particular my 3:1 pawn majority on the Queen side. If I can trade off and survive to an end game, I feel that I have good winning chances. At move 29, he reveals a discovered attack on my Bishop from his Queen, which I fail to spot, losing the Bishop very rapidly snowballs. At this point I comment to a friend that the only way that I am going to win the game is if I am permitted somehow to drug my opponent. When in the next breath, I kindly offered to make him a cup of tea, he declined. Youth of today: hrumph. 
I completely missed the opportunities that my opponent had to pin my Knight to the King and eventually win it. My plan in games is to win pawns early doors given half an opportunity, then consolidate my position before my opponent swarms all over me. However this requires a sharpness of thought and foreseeing opponents tactics that I didn't have at this tournament, in any of the games. My friends sometimes tell me not to be greedy for pawns and to ensure King safety before pawn grabbing. I don't want to listen, but I could easily have lost all of the games in this tournament by grabbing pawns, permitting my opponent to develop and then being caught by a tactic that I hadn't foreseen.


Frequently when I play the French defence, it phases my opponents. As it's not frequently played, players who have prepared certain openings are left on the hop, without their opening preparation. My opponent was completely unphased because he also plays d6 as Black, has never studied openings and just played naturally, and quickly. Most players play the exchange version of the French or allow me to attack the pawn chain that supports their advanced pawn. This player didn't permit that, and my position was effectively cut in half with poor communication between the two as a result. I wasted a lot of moves manouevering trying to improve my position in cramped quarters when what I needed to have done having castled Queen-side was to nerve myself up to charge my pawns down the King-side. As White had several pieces down on that side, there was the potential to have advanced pawns with gain of tempo if the pawns ever got that far. This game is different to the others in that it was not decided by any major blunders on either side. If the game was lost by anything, it was lost by a lack of aggressive charging down the King-side and tempo wasting moves on my part.