How I Won My Last Tournament Of The Year

How I Won My Last Tournament Of The Year


Hi everyone. I'm going to start posting my tournament games on this blog!

Wait, you might be asking, what(?!) all of a sudden inspired you to post your tournament games after so long of doing so. I will answer your curiosities in three ways. 1) Readers have suggested it. 2) I feel it is instructive to post my games publicly, as people can critique it, and 3) Sam Copeland completed his top games of the decade post, and also included roughly 50 "honorable mentions", and two of them were played by fellow blogger, rising prodigy, and friend Aditya Mittal, @vinniethepooh on

Aditya acknowledged this in the Blogger's club on, and Sam replied, implying that Aditya got those spots because he posted those games for viewers to enjoy, so that other viewers can see.

That's why more people should blog about their games! I'm sure more people played amazing games I never saw, but I'm really grateful to you (@Vinniethepooh) for blogging so that I had the pleasure of seeing these games. -Sam Copeland

And I kind of got a "Eureka" moment -- "Hey, I sometimes run out of content to post, people want see my tournament games... why not start posting those?! So I begin.

The race is on!

For context, this is one of our local tournaments in Waco, Texas, so nothing too special. The upside to these local tournaments is that it's right in town (Dallas is almost 100 miles away), so it's convenient to be able to play rated chess in my hometown, rather than traveling to Dallas, Austin, or Houston. The downsides to these local tournaments are A) We, unfortunately, don't produce super-strong players (the median rating for players who actually study and want to improve is about 1400-1600), so being (oftentimes) the #2 seed in these tournaments, it's hard to gain rating if I don't have a stellar performance. And B) When you play in these tournaments a lot, you play the same people over and over (AND over), so while the games may still be interesting, the competition is not always fresh. 

So if you live in Texas, we'd love to have you over for one of our tournaments... give you and us some fresh competition!  I'm pretty sure I had played every player in the open section (10 players) in tournaments except for one. Regardless, this post is about the games, not (so much) the players. 

My first foe is a relatively new member of the club, Jon Cromartie (1270). He may not be the strongest player in the club, though talking to him, hearing how he studies, practices, and wants to improve is impressive and inspiring to me. 

Lessons learned:

  • Always think critically about your recaptures (13... Qxd7)
  • ALWAYS be 100% focused, even if your opponent is lower rated, and/or your opponent is in time trouble!
  • To win tournaments, you may have to get lucky

My next game was against Carmen Chairez (1600). We have a little history over the board. He won our first meeting, then I defeated him in a critical game for the Waco City Championship Qualifier, then I beat him again a couple of months before this game. Could Mr. Chairez even our lifetime score?

Lessons learned:

  • Don't be quick to play Bh6 against the g6-Bg7 structure every single time. Oftentimes, it means exchanging your good Bishop for their bad (like in a King's Indian Defense structure with the pawns on e5/d6), and your remaining Bishop is a bad Bishop
  • Be sure to include all of your pieces into the attack! (the deed is done by move 24)
  • When you're pressuring your opponent, you don't always need that "tactical blow". Keep applying the pressure, and either, your pressure will increase overwhelmingly, and/or your opponent will crack under the pressure and blunder.

Alright, 2/2, great start halfway! The only other player also at 2/2, was Raymon McElhaney (1552), so, naturally, we were paired. This will have been my third clash with him over the tournament board, and (sorry for the spoiler) I am 3/3 against him, but every game we have played was very exciting. I analyzed one of my games against him here (MAN those good ole 1800 days!). Also, in fact, I analyzed a fragment of this game here. Without further ado, let's see how I handle controlling my own destiny with 2 rounds to spare. 

Lessons learned:

  • If you have two ways to go about a plan (19... Nd7 or 19... Ne4), always evaluate each one carefully, generally go for the more active one.
  • The game is not over until it is over. Even if you are up an exchange, play as accurately as you can.
  • Not all pawn endgames when your up a pawn are winning for you

OK, it's the final round. I was on 3/3 points. Jason Howell (2042) was on 2.5/3 points. If I defeat him, I win the tournament. If I draw, I win or share first place. If I lose, then there goes my winning chances. The formula is simple! (unlike the game) 

Lessons learned:
  • Try to keep up your emotions, sense of danger, etc, no matter how high the stakes.
  • The win may be there. Constantly be looking for it (32. Qc7)
  • Again, you CAN get lucky to win tournaments

Whew! I ended up winning clear first with 3.5/4 points! 

I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Please feel free to critique my game in the comments, or give any general comments you'd like.

I'm in Houston right now getting ready for the 2020 Houston Winter Championships, where I will be the 2nd lowest rated player in my section. That will be lots of fun. Please give me a shoutout if you will be there!  As always, thank you, and I will see you soon in another post. Signing off!