Tournament Blitz: Openings & Timing
I started playing 3-minute blitz tournaments over at another online site where you pay an entry fee in the form of cubits, hoping to take the top prize of nearly triple your entry fee. This adds intensity and pressure to perform well, actively forcing your brain to really focus. So much in fact that I found I was playing much better in regular single games after being exposed to the intensity of tournament stakes.
In these 5-round tournaments, I began to notice key factors and weaknesses in my pet openings that often allowed weaker opponents more of a chance to get the better of me. I had to address these issues and formulate a new 'blitz' repertoire to increase my attacking chances. The home work paid off, and I began seeing immediate results. So I'd like to share some insight on how my latest tournament went from my perspective. This tournament had the highest ratings average I've seen yet, so I knew I was going to have to be on my 'A' game.
Round 1's game features one of my favorite variations in the Nimzo-Larsen Attack. I learned of it by watching an IM make use of it in a series of blitz games. It doesn't offer white a whole lot of advantage, but the nature of the struggle can seem difficult to grasp for black. This usually gives me a significant time advantage on the clock, which made the difference in the game. My opponent managed to develope a good plan of shutting down my queenside play early on, but eventually he ran short of time and I was able to push him back. For 3-minute blitz, often times you have to win by 'holding the fort' faster than your opponent can break it down:
Round 2's game pitted me as black against a much stronger opponent very close to my own rating. This game is a shining example of how skill can often overcome opening knowledge. How so? Well because my 2nd move was a mouse slip, forcing me to play an opening I had ZERO knowledge of. I had to just 'wing it' as best I could:
Round 3's game consisted of my opponent trying to side-step theory with some rather strange moves. I was able to set up some rather academic tactics and gain a strong material advantage. I got so comfortable with my winning position that I blundered a piece! As luck would have it, I managed to win the piece back when my opponent blundered in time pressure himself. From there, I was able to convert the win rather easily:
Round 4 would feature a rather impressive series of transpositions, which I was especially proud of because my opponent never got to pull me into his preparation no matter how many tricks he tossed at me. Every time he attempted to transpose the opening, I would do the same, knowing I was very confident in my knowledge of each line:
Round 5. I'm now in the final round with a perfect 4 points. I noticed a draw will still secure me sole 1st place, so I decide to pull a GM draw offer early in the opening. Both times I've tried this in tournaments, and both times my opponent rejected the offer... And both times I ended up winning! Here's this one:
And so endeth a perfect 5-0 sweep. There were a lot of phony tactics and cheesy victories involved, but in each game, I always had considerably more time on my clock. Most of time, this was due to my better opening knowledge. The trick is to develope a set of openings that give a risk-reward balance, while still allowing you to feel comfortable. In my case, I found playing too passively with the Caro-Kann was costing me points, whereas playing more risky lines like the Scandinavian has paid off considerably more.