Chaos In Space City
Oh, the titles you can come up with when you Wikipedia "Nicknames of Houston". And why did I chose a random picture of the Milky Way? ...

Chaos In Space City


Hi guys. Welcome back to my blog!

I made a commitment last month to post my tournament games on my blog again. Even though the one post I made was on a tournament game, I'm committed to showing all of my tournament games, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And this tournament in Houston was chaos. What do I mean?

  • Being up a pawn in round 1 in the endgame against a higher rated player and losing (sorry for the spoiler lol)
  • Messing up the opening in round 2 for a, quite embarrassing reason (we will get to that later).
  • Being squashed with no mercy by a 2100 player.
  • Calculating one move further than my opponent to win my final game (pretty instructive actually).

Yup, all of those happened... but I guess when you really think about it, what tournament experience is not somewhat chaotic?

Image result for houston

Storytime! I saw a reasonable opportunity to play this tournament in Houston held by the Chess Refinery, so I paid the $75 (I think) entry fee and got a spot, as they fill their spots at 50. The sections ended up being Championship and Amateur (Under 1700), and at 1748, I was the second-lowest rated player in my section, which as all dedicated players know, is a good thing, because I get shot at higher rated players. And, as a bonus, I had a theoretical (equals not great) chance at being the 2020 Houston Winter Chess Champion. LET'S GOOO!!! I was scheduled for 1 game Friday night, 2 games Saturday, and 1 game Sunday (took a bye in the final round, will get to that later), so everything goes smooth, right?

Yup, there was a BIG thunderstorm that weekend traveling across Texas. Was God angry? Perhaps, but it did not happen at a great time for my convenience. My first game (Friday) would start at 7:00 PM (end approximately 11:00 PM), and my first game Saturday would not start until 2:30 PM (#sleepingin). Driving to the first game would not have been a big deal (for context, I was staying with my grandparents, who live in Houston, around 20-30 min drive from the tournament site). Although, the weather was going to get bad at about that sweet spot, 11:00 to 12:00 in the middle of the night, and I'm not used to big-city driving, so it would have been a bad idea in the rain. So I had no choice but to change my schedule. 

Instead of starting Friday night, and Saturday at 2:30 PM, I had to wake up early to start round 1 at 9:30 AM on Saturday morning and go from there. Kind of a bummer, but my safety was more important than my ideal schedule. But whatever, enough storytime, time to get to the games!  

My first game was against Harvey Zhu (2049 USCF). Would my last-minute change in schedule affect my play? Let's find out... (for context btw, the time control is G/120, delay 5.

Key improvement points:

  • Always calculate one step further (11. Bxf6?)
  • Just because you are up a pawn in an endgame does not mean the game is guaranteed to be a win or even a draw. 2000s are so good because they are resourceful.
  • Never make automatic decisions (37. exf6?). If you have two options, analyze each resulting position for what it is and play the best continuation.

Not ideal, but whatever. I needed to use my lunch break to take a deep breath and recover for round 2, and this is where the "embarrassment" of round 2 takes place. I had a big lunch at McDonald's (I wanna say it was like 10 piece tenders or something). Kids, don't fill your stomach with junk food right before a chess game. Wait until the day is over! So feeling kinda drowsy after my loss and lunch, I'm sitting across the table from Alan Rodenstein (1806), and my drowsiness really showed in the opening.

Key improvement points:

  • Be wise about your mid-tournament meals!
  • Trading a center pawn for a flank pawn is a thing, so do so wisely and be on the correct side of things!

Well, I "stop the bleeding", and being pitted against Joshua Brannon (2130 USCF) in round 3, the final game of Saturday. I think Joshua was having a rough tournament (for his lofty standards)... but in this game, he showed no signs of so.

Key improvement points:

  • Don't play an opening if you're not sure about it. My opponent got an improved Grunfeld, and I had never played the Grunfeld (with Black) in my life!
  • When you're down in space, try to look for every slither of an opportunity to come back. Even if it seems to give your opponent some tangible advantage, playing on like it is might be even more miserable.

So there. Somehow, 0.5/3 even when all of my opposition were higher rated is still extremely disappointing. I mean, 10 or so hours of grinding over the chessboard in one game, to get this, is kind of disappointing. So I go to Torchy's (a taco restaurant), to weep my losses (lol just joking I didn't cry about a game!). 

But one thing was certain. I was showing up for my final game Sunday to WIN. I had an opportunity to do so against a young player, Travis Feng, the only player lower rated than me in my section. However, the tactics training I had done recenty really showed here.

Improvement points:

  • Again, always calculate one step further! Doing so consistently will seriously increase your rating!

Well, that's it. I gained 6 rating points (1748 to 1754), not too shabby, given some of the mistakes I made. I do have one more set of tournament games I do need to analyze, look for that this coming week.

As always, leave a comment (especially about the games!), send me a friend request, and I will see you very soon for another blog!

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