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Journey to NM - Georgia State Championship
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Journey to NM - Georgia State Championship

Lightning
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Hello there. Welcome to the Lightning Reports! Today we return to my Journey to NM series. If you are new here, or if you have forgotten, I have set a goal for myself to become a National Master before I graduate highschool on May 21st. If you've been reading my blogs, you know this has been my goal for years.

The last time I played otb, I went from 2104 to 2129, choking in the last round of an invitational and missing out on even more points. Now, with graduation day just around the corner, it would take a miracle to get to NM by the 21st. However, I have done just enough up to this point to at least give myself a chance. All I had to do was win 5 games at the 2022 Phillip O'Neal Taylor Georgia State Championship (shoutout to @danielguel for suggesting this event - go read his blogs!) and I would meet my goal. It's a long shot, but at least I have a chance.


ROUND ONE


I arrived at the tournament the night before and registered. I chose to play the 2-day schedule so I wouldn't have to play a game on Friday night. I thought it would be easier to sleep Friday night if I hadn't just played a long game of chess. This was a solid strategy, as I actually got a stunning 6 hours of sleep. Oh, Saturday morning before the first round was interesting. I talked to people. Like actually talked. Weird, I know. I also warmed up with blitz, cause that's a great way to warm up for sure, yep. Eventually, the round 1 pairings came out. I was nervous, as I always am before a game. I saw I was paired with John Abraham, a 9-year-old from Kentucky who was 2000. I won't lie, I found that scary. How can you be 9 years old and 2000? The heck? That's crazy. I was 900 when I was 9. Imagine being that young and that good. Anyways, let's see how the game went. 

Lol I never thought I would flag someone in a G|90, d/10 game, but here we are. Good stuff. Ok, but for real, I felt very lucky to not lose this game. But, he didn't have an obvious win. I set myself up for a swindle and it worked. He had his chances, but once he slipped up I was fine. Gg, John. I'll be bragging about this win when you're a GM.


ROUND TWO


In round 2 I was paired with James Altucher, a 2030 from Florida. Now, I knew nothing about the guy before the game, I just thought he was your average 2000. Turns out, he's an NM who, before September 2021, hadn't played since like 1998. Oh, and he beat a 2300 in the first round. I'm telling you this now to make the game I played seem better. Hopefully. 

Yeah. So. I suck. I am ashamed to have ever thought I could get to 2200 by winning this tournament. Utterly embarrassing play. Losing in 21 moves to someone who is 100 points lower rated than myself. He played well. I played like trash. Shameful chess for a 2100 trying to get to NM, really. After this loss, I was very discouraged and disappointed that I no longer had any shot to get to NM from this event, meaning I would fail my goal of reaching 2200 by May 21st. But it's fine. There's still plenty of chess to be played. This tournament is not over yet.


ROUND THREE


In round 3, with my pitiful 1/2 score, I am not feeling happy with my performance. Having been paired with Caden Ciao, rated 1956, I was determined to bounce back. I was also determined to play fast and not overthink literally every little thing in the opening. Generally speaking, saying "Screw time, I'm gonna play fast" right after a tough loss in a long G|90+30 game is a bad idea. But it does always seem to work well for me... 

Any game in which you only use 20 minutes total and win rather easily is a good game. I'm not really sure why my opponent basically trapped all his pieces and dared me to attack his king, but hey, I'm not complaining. That was exactly what I needed after that embarrassing round 2 loss. The very little confidence I have in myself was mostly restored. Mostly.


ROUND FOUR


Day 2 of the event. Hopefully this goes better than day 1. It started strangely with me eating foods, which is weird because I don't usually eat breakfast like a normal person. And then I had a seemingly normal conversation with my friend, which is also weird because I rarely have normal conversations like a normal person. I did get 5 hours of sleep though, so at least something about day 2 was normal by my standards. This bodes well.

Heading into round 4 with a decent 2/3 score, I'm feeling ok. Still kicking myself for the dreadful round 2 loss, but I'm fine. There's still chess to be played and rating points on the line. For round 4 I was paired with Carter Peatman, rated 2112. I knew nothing about the guy, at all. He seemed legit tho, being a 2100. I braced myself for a tough game. 

Ok. So. First, I hate playing against the London System. It's just so boring. I did my best to make it interesting but I still never really had winning chances. Second, despite what I just said, I am actually ok with this result. I play a solid 2100 who didn't make any mistakes, and I didn't lose, even though I very easily could have lost that endgame.  Oh, and I also found out after the tournament that this guy is an NM. So. This is acceptable. I was a little bummed that I would now have to win my last game just to not lose rating points, but it's fine. It's a challenge. I like a good challenge. (EDIT: I just realized this dude drew GM Alonso Zapata in the 2nd round. So, yes, I am absolutely thrilled with a draw here lol)


ROUND FIVE


Finally, round 5, the last round of the event. I was nervous. Either win and gain points or lose and lose points. Oh, or draw and do nothing I guess, but that's lame. Anyways. I anxiously waited for the pairings. I probably looked dumb just standing there seemingly doing nothing, and at that point talking to me was like talking to a brick wall, but whatever. After about 10 minutes of just standing around, waiting, the pairings came out. And because the pairings must have been rigged, I was paired with NM Yury Barnakov, also from Alabama. I've played him several times by now and have not yet beaten him. He stopped me from winning the Falcon Invitational a month ago in a game where I was thoroughly outplayed. I was determined to at least put up a fight this time, win or loss. 

Ok, that was stupidly lucky. I should not have survived that. But, as has been the case in so many of my otb games, once my opponent slipped up and gave me a chance, I took it and didn't look back. I don't even care that this was a lucky win. It was a big win for me. Yury has seemingly had my number for a while now. To actually prove to myself that I can beat him is a major breakthrough for me. So this win alone meant that the tournament was a success. This was a good tournament. I gained 13 points, my rating going from 2129 to 2142. Oh, and I somehow ended up in a 5-way tie for 2nd place, so despite not intending to at all, I won moneys. Not bad. Aside from that round 2 loss, this was a really nice event for me. I can't complain. I left the event feeling very happ.


Well, you've made it to the end. Thanks so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. My next post will be sometime next week as I preview the upcoming Candidates tournament, and I'll share my predictions which will probably be wrong. After that, the only other blog I plan to post is a part 3 of my Questioning NCP's series, hopefully sometime in July. Regarding the Journey to NM series, I dunno when I will post again for this. At 2142, I have come up a bit short of my goal. I failed to reach NM before graduating highschool. But it's fine. I have accepted my failure by now. I'm really bummed out that I failed, but it's fine. I'll get NM eventually. It's just gonna be a bit later than planned. And when I get it, I'll post. Anyways, that's all for now. Hope to see you in the comments. Thanks for reading. Cya.