Journey to NM - One Point at a Time...
Yeah yeah yeah lazy thumbnail, sorry bout that

Journey to NM - One Point at a Time...

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Hello there, welcome to the Lightning Reports! Surprise, surprise, I got to play otb chess again. Last weekend there was a local tournament on the schedule, and when I saw the list of pre-registered players, featuring a GM, two NMs, two 2100s, and an expert... how could I say no? It's not gonna get much better than that in Alabama. So suddenly, I decided I was playing. Sure, it was two days before the event, with very little time to feel prepared to play good chess, and I had already ruined my sleep schedule all week, and this particular tournament is one that I've seemingly been cursed in... yes, of course, this is the perfect chance to play chess! πŸ˜… Heh, anywho, let's see what happened...


  • There are 18 players in my section (1600+), including 1 GM, 2 NMs, 2 other 2100s, and 1 expert. Lots of potential to gain rating...
  • 4 rounds, time control is G/60 with 5 second delay.
  • My goal is to gain at least 10 rating points, but I'd be happy to just not lose rating...


Ah, the Vulcan... a tournament I've played in 7 times so far. And 7 times... it wasn't too good. Let's go all the way back to 2014... 3 losses and a bye.

2015? Lost to someone 200 points lower than me.

2016 I lost to someone 300 points lower than me.

2017 was ok, I gained one whole rating point on a sad 2/4 score.

2018 it was a 1.5/4 score that ended with a loss to someone lower than me (Although I gained 14 points off a fluke win).

2019... two losses to players 200 points below me.

Skip ahead to 2022 where I was at my peak and earned a sad 2/4 score and lost 11 points.

Thought maybe the lotr fans reading this would appreciate a lotr meme lol

So. That's my Vulcan experience. I have never left this tournament feeling satisfied. 2018 was probably the best I've done, and I left that tournament annoyed by a last round loss. So it's safe to say... my expectations are fairly low for this tournament. But my hopes are high.

Now finally, that brings us to 2024. In the first round, I was paired with Michael Guthrie (1828). Here's some more history for y'all... I have played him otb only once... September 2015, the last round of the Alabama state championship that year. Why I remember that, I don't know. My opponent sure didn't remember it, but here I am knowing I played this dude 9 years ago πŸ˜† anywho, based on my past experiences, I absolutely knew better than to take anyone lightly here. Time to break the Vulcan curse...

Heh. Well. It wasn't pretty but that works. Without a doubt, I am not happy with my play in this game. My tactics were certainly off and my time management was absolutely horrid. My opponent did play quite well, certainly well enough to draw. I felt a little bad winning on time, but alas, time is part of this cruel game. I'll take what I can get. Let's hope for better chess the rest of my way...


Alright, well, round one was shaky but I survived. In previous years, I would have found a way to lose that. So hey, I can't complain. But I'll need to play better in this next game against Michael Porcelli (2049), who I have indeed lost to in the past. He's not exactly someone I'm excited to play in the sense that I'm in real danger of a loss here. In terms of what happens on the board... oh for sure I'm excited, our games seem to always be a thrill. I'm looking forward to this one... but I sure wasn't expecting a surprise on move two. 

Good grief. 1. e4 e6 2. c4. He played a line against the French Defense that caused me to transpose from a French... into an English Defense. You'll scarcely see me flee from a French Defense, but in this case... it felt like the right choice. That was a tough game to figure out, I was fortunate when he gave me a way to play to win... and even more fortunate I didn't throw it away in time trouble. After that game, I went for what I described to my dad as an "old man walk" because "I'm too old for these time scrambles." Oh my goodness, my heart was beating faster than it should. Please, no more time scrambles today, I've had enough thrills haha.


2/2 so far. And I've told many people there I felt very lucky to have made it halfway through this event unscathed. But somehow, I'm 2/2, and starting to daydream. "Oh hey if I beat this NM and then beat the GM I would gain about 50 points, it's possible!" But of course, I very well knew my luck would run out eventually. With NM Mitch Fishbein (2262) up next, this was the game that would make or break my tournament. If I just manage my time well, play sensibly throughout the middlegame, and be tactically sharp... I have a good chance.

So. I did not manage my time well. I did not play so sensibly in the middlegame, and I was not tactically sharp. Inexplicably, I had chances late into the game. I still had a chance. And I blew it. It's kinda crazy, when I played 17.c5 I was thinking.. wow if this works this is one of the nicer moves I've played. But then I was losing immediately. And yet... fast forward, if I had found 20. Rxe5 maybe I can hold a draw. Ah well, that's chess for ya. I played poorly and I was punished. Another one to learn from, gg.

Oh funny story, by the way, my clock totally died in the middle of the game. Completely random. I had no idea the battery was almost dead. And then there goes the clock... becoming dimmer and dimmer with each passing minute. Until it was so dim my opponent and I were both making faces at it trying to tell what it says. In the end, we replaced the clock and it was fine. And... I need to find some batteries lol


Oh well, tough loss. But I can finish strong. I'm 2/3 and I figure, hey, get a reasonable pairing in the last round and win, and maybe I still get 10 rating points.

Anywho I was paired with a 1580 in the last round... yeah.

Neither Johnny Hicks (1585) nor I could possibly be that pleased by this pairing. He started his tournament with a bye, and then pulled a nice upset over an 1800... and then got paired with 2100s in back-to-back rounds. As for me... hey, pair me with anyone else and I have something (rating) to play for. Pair me with the 1580... I'm playing to not lose. That's it. I can't gain rating from this. I'm sure any of y'all tournament players reading this would agree... it's not fun having to play someone nearly 600 points below you πŸ˜… in any case, after making many odd faces at the pairings that would make Ian Nepomniachtchi proud, I went over to the board and awaited the start of the game. Let's see how it went...

Alrighty, I'll take it. Quite thankful for that tactic out of the opening. After that we both played fairly quickly... we finished the game in around 30 minutes total. Considering I finished each of my first three games with under a minute left... that was a huge relief. After the game, my opponent and I conversed a little bit and he took it well, he seemed like a chill guy. I hung around for another 30 minutes or so interacting with others, quite thankful to have not suffered any bad losses. When all was said and done. GM Alex Fishbein drew his son, Mitch Fishbein, in about 10 moves or so I would guess, ensuring they would tie for first place and take home the first and second place prize money, so congratulations to them.


Well. It didn't go as well as I had hoped. And it didn't go as poorly as I expected. It was just... a meh tournament? I mean, based on the ratings, I won the games I should win and lost the game I should lose. This is the Vulcan though, I'm calling it a win that I didn't give away free rating to anyone 200+ points below me. However, it wasn't great, and I did leave the 2024 Vulcan not feeling satisfied... but I couldn't complain. I played poor chess, I was weak. My tactical vision vanished, my opening play was somewhat suspect, my time management was practically putrid, and I made positional and technical errors that I should not have made... I was due for a bad tournament, and I played like it. But I didn't lose rating as I went from 2154 to 2157 - my new, new peak.

All in all... I can't complain, and I'm thankful I got to play some chess and not lose rating. Lord willing, I'm gonna play again this summer in a big event... hoping that can be my breakthrough. And as always... I'll keep y'all updated here. Stay tuned, the journey to NM continues... one point at a time. Just 43 points to go...


Good job, you made it to the end. If you read the whole thing, skipped here, or skipped to the comments to post a generic comment saying "first" or "nice blog" without reading the blog, then good job. You exerted a certain amount of effort which I'm sure was quite difficult. Anywho, thank you for reading, I truly hope you enjoyed your time here. 

As for what's next... hopefully I'll have a couple of otb recaps in July. I am really really hoping to play in the world open in July (after finishing this post I was told they won't let me get a hotel room since I'm not 21, which is really dumb... we'll see what happens). But I don't think that alone will get me to NM (unless I have the tournament of my life and, ya know, win my section), so I'm looking for other tournaments as well. I can't say with certainty what will happen yet, but you'll get at least one blog in July - cause you best believe, even if I can't play in the big events... I'll find myself playing locally. That's how this tends to go. 

Anywho, thanks again for reading, truly I hope you enjoyed your time here, and I will see y'all in the comments πŸ™ƒ