2023 Falcon Invitational

2023 Falcon Invitational

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*Technically posted just before April ended for me, so I still met my one post per month goal....*

Yeah sorry, I just remembered I was supposed to finish this before the month ended, so this is very rushed...

Hello there, welcome to the Lightning Reports! Last weekend I competed in the 2023 Falcon Invitational (one of the few Alabama tournaments I'm happy to play in). This is my 4th time competing here, I believe, and it’s always a brutal and intense tournament. This year - with only 4 players - was even more brutal and tough. Stay tuned, I’ve got some…. interesting games to share. 😁


  • This is a 4 player invitational. The other players are rated 2301, 2091, and 2076. Super tough competition. 
  • This is a 4 round event - meaning I will face all of the other players, and will face one of them twice. Weird, right?
  • Time control is G/70;d5
  • If I win all 4 of my games, my rating goes up to 2192 USCF, according to the USCF rating estimator 🤯


I come into every tournament I play with high goals and expectations, and with a ton of preparation. But this time, while my goals and expectations remained high, my prep was... questionable. I did not have much time to get around to doing prep for this event. Nothing too deep, anyway. I spent most of my time the week leading up to the event just playing training games and doing tactics because I felt rusty. I did, however, stay up late the night before going over some lines that I fully expected to see, so I did have some form of a plan. I knew who I was playing in round 1 and had made sure to be ready...

Well, I thought I did. But the pairings decided to be weird. So I played someone who I expected to play later and hadn't finished preparing for. Oops.... time to wing it. Yep. So I spent a lot of time in the opening, and by move 15 was already in time trouble...

So. I was better for most of the game, and once I made what I assumed was a mistake while already low on time, I panicked, threw away my initiative, quickly blundered everything away, and promptly lost. That isn't usually what happens to me when low on time... this was weird. I don't like this. I'm also not usually *that* low on time. Like, where the heck did that come from? I knew then that something was off... no reason for me to get into that sort of time trouble so quickly. I had to do better in round 2.


After a 30 minute break (a free pizza lunch was provided - thanks so much to those who provided it, appreciated that 🙃), it was already time for round two. This time I was paired with 2076-rated Aaron Decord, who I had thought I would play in round 1. Per the pairings, I had to play black against him for like the 76th time. Fortunately, I did have a certain line in mind that I believed would give me a favorable middlegame. Happy to report that... my belief was not misplaced.

I must say, I'm quite pleased with this game. Usually against Aaron, I need some extreme luck to not lose to him... but this time I was never really worse. This is rare, and probably won't happen again 😅 this time I did not get into time trouble, thankfully. I spent a good amount of the game away from the board, just walking around outside. I was still processing that round 1 loss at first, because I still felt like I had that game and simply threw it away in time trouble (which, in retrospect, I suppose is fairly accurate?), and given that most of the game was going according to plan, I didn't need to spend too much time at the board thinking anyway. I spent hours analyzing it the night before, after all. Of course, I still managed to get down to like 10 minutes in the end... but that's ok. Better than round 1.


Alright, so I had one game where I threw in time pressure and one game where I actually played quite well and got the win. Now for round 3... I wasn't ready for this one, really. I should have spent more time for this. I knew I would have to face NM Scott Varagona's special Caro-Kann line again. I had a different idea in mind after losing in such a slow, painful, boring fashion last time. I found a way that looked more fun... but of course, why not mess up the move order and somehow let him make everything positional anyway? 

Holy crap. Ok, I've pulled off a TON of absolutely ridiculous and utterly unbelievable swindles in my time, but this.... I have no clue how I did that. At least my swindles are usually fully intentional. This one, I just sacrificed a piece out of pure desperation, blitzed out 10 moves, and suddenly it's drawn?! I didn't have much of a clear plan when I played Nxe6... I was just hoping, with the lack of space for his king, that *something* would happen. I sensed a small chance there. And by pure luck, it worked. This is the 3rd draw I've swindled in a lost position against Scott, and honestly... at this point, I'm sorry that it keeps happening to him. Is it just because of how our vastly different playing styles clash so magnificently? 😅


Ok, time for the final round, and I've already played everybody. I have no clue who I'm playing next. I knew deep down that I'd probably have to play Scott again, but I wasn't sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, it means I'm guaranteed not to lose many rating points if I lose. And a win would be very helpful for my rating and allow me to tie for first place. But on the other hand... come on, are you really gonna make me swap colors and rematch with the guy I just swindled like that? I got no shot after that, he's not about to let it happen in back-to-back games lol

But ok, there it is. We're repeating round 3 but swapping colors. I had mixed feelings about it, I figured I was probably doomed anyway, that swindle sealed my fate in round 4. But I'll give it my best shot. I had something different in mind this time.... 

Alright. So. First, the prep worked just fine. I was able to accurately guess what he would play against that move order. Second, uh, I had no clue what I was doing in that middlegame. And that's the problem. I intentionally went for a middlegame that I didn't understand very well simply because I thought it looked fun and would give me chances... which is fair, but I wish I had devoted more time to studying the line beforehand. Oh well. I did what I thought I needed to do to give myself chances... but that probably wasn't the best idea without spending more time studying it. Oh yeah, once again I was massively down on time. I think at one point he had like 44 minutes and I was under 10 minutes. In the end, I was left with 3 seconds and resigned because I refused to lose on time (I've never done that before otb) and because it was hopeless anyway and I wanted to go home lol


Overall, I'm not too disappointed this time. Honestly, after losing round 1, I had already decided that I would be ok even with just winning round 2 and losing the last two. Once I lost that first game I felt that there wasn't really a whole lot on the line, as far as rating goes. I knew winning out wasn't realistic. So playing a near-perfect game in round 2 and getting a swindle draw in round 3, was enough for me to be content with the result here.

I did lose 3 rating points, however, dropping to 2118 USCF. So it sucks that even when I'm playing against strong competition, I still can't get rating. And I got in my own way, too. I didn't show up to that first game prepared well-enough, I got into time trouble, and I threw. I didn't show up to the 3rd and 4th games prepared well-enough either and I probably should have lost both games. I nearly did. I got into ridiculous time trouble, especially in my final two games, and I don't know why. I've been playing so slowly recently and I'm going to work on that by either finding a way to play faster or by just playing in tournaments with long time controls.

I'm not even unhappy with my play in this event - I feel like I played pretty well overall. I'm unhappy with how I managed my time, I'm unhappy that I failed to gain rating, again, and I'm unhappy that my prep, overall, was not very good. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed the event and I'm deeply grateful to have received an invitation. One day Imma win this invitational 😁


Good job, you made it to the end. Thanks so much for reading, I truly hope you enjoyed. See the image below for my future blogs that I have planned...

I've got a couple of really good events coming up and I'll be sure to blog about them. After June I have no idea what I'll blog about soooo we shall see what happens. I'll post again in about a month or so, depending on how things go.

Once again, thank y'all for reading. Truly hope you enjoyed your time here. Ctall in the comments!