Manhattan Open: Part II

IM Fins0905

In my last entry I posted my games from the Manhattan Open (Aug. 17-21) with a few quick remarks.  I'm not going to analyze these games here, but I did want to discuss my preparation and thoughts about the event.  Warnings: lots of introspection ahead!

After the US Open I had about a week and a half to get ready for Manhattan. It's very important to take a day or two to recover from a grueling tournament, so when I got back to NY I just rested for a couple days and got back to my normal routine.  Sleeping well, Starbucks in the morning, working with a few students, going to the gym/running in the park, eating healthy, socializing a bit, etc.  It's imperative not to jump into heavy analysis of your recently-completed games - your mind/body need a break. In this respect I'm lucky to be boss expecting me in the office early Monday morning!

By Wednesday I was feeling refreshed and ready to get down to business.  I reviewed my games from Orlando and paid particular attention to the later rounds when big mistakes were creeping in.  I outlined the things I needed to work on here, but in a nut shell: 1) calculation in concrete positions, 2) conversion of a clear advantage, and 3) opening preparation.  Obviously this is far from an exhaustive list, but I wanted to target a few things.

To tone up my calculation, I worked through Imagination in Chess.  This is an excellent puzzle book that I've used with many of my students.  The exercises are very challenging - ranging in difficulty from "zero stars" to "four stars" - and the book is broken up by theme (i.e. "Progressive Thinking", "Logical Thinking," etc.).  I brought this book with me to Starbucks each morning and solved pages randomly from each chapter (1 page = 6 problems).  Doing this early in the day forces me to think concretely right from the get-go, just as if I'm playing an early-morning round.

Converting an advantage is more of an "inactivity" problem that is broken through regular tournament play.  I wasn't overly concerned with this, as I'm going to be playing a lot over the next several months and my form will improve.

Much of my time went towards opening preparation.  My repertoire is in a state of flux at the moment, and I'm really excited to be employing a number of new schemes.  I made it to IM with a very, very narrow set of openings (especially with Black), but to maximize my potential I know I have to keep things fresh.  "A rolling stone gathers no moss" - this is especially true for modern chess!  Serious tournament players have to have at least 2-3 playable defenses prepared for 1.e4/1.d4, and must be willing to play critical lines with White.  Otherwise, you're a sitting duck.  One thing I recommend is to "prepare" against yourself: go into ChessBase, use the "prepare against" feature for both colors, and look at  your preferences through the eyes of your future opponents.  Anticipate the holes they will find in your repertoire, and devise a plan to repair them.

Despite losing my last two games (against GMs Lenderman and Safarli, respectively), I was happy with my performance.  I played dynamic chess.  I went 1-4 against the GMs, but in each game I was competitive and capable of producing a positive result.  Even against Kacheishvili - a game in which I felt outplayed - analysis shows I had plenty of chances along the way.  My performance against the lower-rateds was smooth and I felt very confident during these contests.

So, nine more games under my belt.  Clearly, I got killed against the GMs.  I lost to Stripunsky, Kacheishvili, and Safarli with White, though none of these losses can be attributed to the opening.  I did manage to beat de Firmian in a nice game.  Lenderman chose an unusual English line against me, and I reacted somewhat dubiously (this is probably the only game in which I was appreciably worse from the opening).  My wins were interesting, but I did not encounter any genuinely difficult moments in these games.  Broadly, I believe my losses can be attributed to time pressure (a chronic problem for me) and incorrect evaluations at critical moments.  Fatigue was also a big factor; I slept poorly during the event and was commuting to/from the playing site.

Ok, I'm gonna wrap this up!  A few others things I want to mention:

  • The USCL season has begun.  So far I've played two draws (vs. Bonin and Esserman) for my team, the Manhattan Applesauce.  Go Sauce, go!
  • I'm going to do some videos for I'm excited about the tentative first topic: "Sensing the Critical Moment!"
  • I'm accepting new students.  Please check out my coach profile and send me an email if you're interested.
  • I returned home from the North Carolina Open on Monday.  Expect a post about that tournament soon.

Finally, if you know of any good tournaments coming up (preferably 9 rounds or longer), please let me know.  I'm extremely motivated to improve my game and would welcome future challenges.