Journey to NM - Am I stuck?
Apologies for a low-effort thumbnail, I ran out of time to put effort into the thumbnail so I hope this is good enough

Journey to NM - Am I stuck?

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Hello there. Welcome to the Lightning reports! This post is my latest update on my journey to NM, which will cover 2 tournaments, 8 games, and 6 French Defenses. Good stuff, right? Right. If that sounds good to you, read on.


The first 4 games I will cover took place on July 16th. Time control is G|60 D5, fairly fast to me. My strategy in this event for this time control was to speed through the opening and then take my time. For round 1 against the very underrated @SToThe2ndLetter (should probably be like 1900), this was a sound strategy. 

Poor kid. I prepared that move order just for him, knowing it would transpose to a French. I figured I'd be far more comfortable with that and could just outplay him. Shockingly, game 1 goes exactly as planned. Which doesn't happen often enough for me.

In round 2 I was paired with someone I had never played before, which doesn't happen all that often when I play in Alabama. I had no specific prep for the guy, so my strategy was to just play chess. I'd say that worked pretty well. 

Clean win over an expert? Not bad. Did I make some suspect moves? Meh. Did I still win? Luckily, yep. I’m not complaining. It was a fun and enjoyable game for me, and it was the 2nd French defense of the day. Surely this is the last French defense you’ll see here today… right?

For round 3 I got what I wanted. A matchup with an NM. This tournament has played out perfectly for me so far, with 2 wins and an opportunity to earn points against an NM. So, will I play my best game today and get the dub? Or will I blitz out 17 moves of French defense theory, forget move 18, and get wrecked? Spoiler alert: I blitzed out 17 moves of French defense theory, forgot move 18, and got wrecked. 

Yikes. Ok. So I don’t feel that bad about it. Bitter that I never had much of a chance in that game? Absolutely. Am I depressed and annoyed at myself like normal? Nah. I only did one thing wrong in this game, and I don’t mean playing the French defense. My 18th move was a mistake. I simply forgot the theory in the game, and in this particular line, you lose if you do that. The line is too sharp to be forgetting moves. I'm honestly just happy I got to move 17. And got to play my 3rd French defense of the day. 

For round 4 I was given a not-so-ideal pairing against an 1850. The guy can play much better than 1850. Heck, he was just 1950 a month ago. He has beaten me before as well. Why would I want to play an 1850 who can beat me? So of course I don’t love this, but I do like one thing: he plays the French defense. This will be fun. 

Ok, wow. Rg3, dang. If he finds Na5 in that game, I don’t like my position at all. But he had different plans and I was fortunate for that. I'm not sure what I do if he plays Na5. Lucky me. Gg. Oh, and that was the 4th French defense of the day. All of my games from this tournament, regardless of the line, ended up being a French defense. Never seen that happen before. I thought that was pretty cool lol


After the first tournament, I gained 5 rating points and jumped to 2136. Decent. But I want more points, so a week later, here I am once again playing otb in Alabama, hoping for another chance to take down an NM. I blew it the previous two times I had a chance, so maybe this time I'll get it right?

For round 1 I am paired with an 1850 Georgia. Never played him before. Never heard of him before. No way of knowing what to expect. Oh no, whatever shall I do? Oh. Wait. Heh, he played into the French Defense. 

Hehe, 5 straight otb games in which the French defense was played. How? I have absolutely no idea, but I’m not complaining. Anyways, the last time I played this as black, I messed up the 18th move of a messy line. This line was slightly different, but even still, it was my opponent who messed up the 18th move this time around. Messy game, I was fortunate to win. I felt at the time that I very easily could have lost that game. He gave me a fight. Did he play better than his rating? Or did I simply play worse than mine? I'm guessing it was both. Regardless, I won it by simply outplaying him. Good start. Surely I’ll get a good pairing in round 2… right?

Round 2. Oh no. No no no no no. Anybody but him. Why? What did I do to deserve this? Confused? Lemme explain. So in round 2, I was paired with a 1750. Now, this guy and I are old friends/rivals. He used to absolutely own me, despite us being close in rating. Everyone always thought he just had a natural talent at the game. After taking a 4-year break and returning to otb chess, he’s still got it. Well, his opening is pretty rough, but otherwise, he’s still got it. 

Yeah. I was fairly embarrassed for not winning after getting that position in the opening. And I'm fairly embarrassed for not being able to beat a 1750, no matter how underrated he is. That's a game I should win every time, not stoop to my opponent's level and then beg for a draw. I had a nice advantage in the opening. But somehow it was messy enough to where one mistake gave him the advantage? And I had to fight for a draw? Good grief. In case you are wondering if he’s actually underrated or if I just suck, the guy beat a 2050 in round 1, drew a 2070 in round 3 while in a messy but winning position, and nearly drew another 2100 in the last round. Yeah. He’s good.

Ok so I’m pretty disappointed by round 2, but I kept my head up. I knew I’d play a 2100 next and then, if I win, a 2270 next. I would be really happy with this game. That is if I hadn’t given away free pawns and my advantage for no reason.

Yeah so, as a 2130, I overlooked my back rank weaknesses and threw a winning position away. And let's not forget those incredible pawn blunders. Embarrassing. That’s a game I should always win. But I have this amazing ability to draw or lose the most winnable positions out there. I guess my opponent gave me a free pawn in the opening, and I just had to return the favor and some. But it’s fine. I'm still supposed to play a 2270 next… but of course, why would that happen when an unfavorable pairing is sitting there waiting for me?

Round 4. Somehow I got paired with a 1770. Who beat a 2100 in round 1. And is 2300+ in all his online ratings. Great. Just great. Nothing to gain, and everything to lose. Exactly what I want. But it’s ok, he played into a French defense, my 6th such game over the last 2 tournaments and 8 games.

Lol wow, ok. I got fairly lucky there. Not sure how I pulled that off, but I’ll take it. Thank goodness. He definitely had his chances, but somehow things worked themselves out for me. Now, I wouldn’t have felt bad for losing to him, as he’s clearly 2000+ strength by now. But my rating? My rating would have died. Just thankful I didn’t lose that. Of course, in the end, I still lost 3 rating points, dropping me down to 2133, so that sucks. But it's fine. I managed to luck my way into clear 2nd place, so that was cool. Yeah. I'm totally fine. I mean, sure, I was 2136 in March, and have been around 2100 for a year now. And sure, I'm not really making progress as my rating has mostly stayed the same for a year. But it's fine. I have hope at least. Am I stuck? I sort of feel like it but I'm not sure. Maybe? Maybe not? What do you think? For a year I've been bouncing around the 2100-2140 range. As of now, I'm leaning towards yes, yes I am stuck. But who knows, maybe I'm overthinking it. And maybe, just maybe, my big breakthrough tournament could be just a weekend or two away.

And yeah, that's it for this post. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the games. My next blog will come out within 2 weeks and I'll let you guys know how the Denker goes for me (I'll be giving daily updates in my club). Then a week later I'll post about how the US Open goes. I got 15 games coming up. Can I gain 67 points and get to NM? I mean, that won't be easy. But I can try. And trying is half the battle. Anyways, thanks for your support, it's truly appreciated. Cyall around!