Developments, Including My First 2200+ USCF Performance
I’ve had a few people ask me how close I am to hitting USCF 2000. They know how to check the USCF database, so they’re not asking whether my number is close to 2000 or not; they know the answer to that. I give them the answer that an unexpected enemy is holding me back: G/60 tournaments. Time scrambles have really wrecked a ton of results for me lately. Since beginning to work with GM Nigel Davies, which has meant playing more positionally and starting games with the very-foreign-to-me d4 (or playing the ever-more-foreign QGD), I tanked to 1792 and rebounded to 1906, near my 1922 peak. I didn’t mind falling down, because I knew I could always switch back to my more dynamic style and climb back to 1900+. No worries there. With the new positional understanding feeding me endgames, which I’m mopping upping up, left and right, I’m probably able to eclipse 2000 without much of a problem. My projection, before beginning with GM Davies, suggested as much. The hold-up is that I’m surrounded by G/60 tournaments. Not a huge deal, but I was really itching to cross 2000 in December of 2017.
Have a look at how the clock has absolutely killed me. This first one is from Milliern-Wang (2142). White to move.
I made the right move, trading the B for the N, just looking for a draw, since keeping the position wet when so short of time could have blown up in my face. Of course, when seconds are ticking off, nerves take over, and you touch the wrong pawn, and it’s all over. I was angry about this one for days afterward.
Growing short of time in yet another one, I imagined there was no way for me to lose this one. Perl (2149)-Milliern, white to move:
Naturally, I get to a point where I drop the R on the wrong square, allowing a trade that gave white some practical chances, which are cashed in. That's what a few seconds remaining and stinking at bullet will do. I was mad immediately after the game, especially because I had recently defeated Perl in a shorter time control; but I was assuaged by the fact that Joe, a very nice guy, went on to defeat a 2296 and 2297 in rounds 2 and 3, his only loss coming to GM Ivanov.
Here’s probably the most egregious situation the clock put me in. I had to play what would end up being more than 20 move on 30 seconds and 5-second delay. The game went 79 moves, so we are probably looking at nearly 30 moves on the 30 seconds, which is extremely stressful, after playing one of the most solid games I’ve ever played against a guy pushing NM. I’ll just show you how that this one ended, but it was completely won, and I touched my K, thinking his K was in front of my pawn. Sheesh.
It’s not all been bad. I’ve played some excellent blitz at the end of these G/60 tournament games. I think the one game I had bounce my way out of a dozen was against a 2080, where I was in a position that was busted, he pushed for a win, refusing a draw, and I won on an unintuitive, non-obvious move (top engine choice, not taking a sac’d R), and which set up a nasty little tactic. The tactics trainer paid off in short controls for once. Most of the good bullet/blitz playing I do are against lower rated players from even positions. Refusing draws and crushing equal and lower rated players while I’m in time trouble has definitely garnered back some of those points I should have won vs the 2100’s. I’m not complaining. I’ll scalp them all soon enough, bloody hatchet in hand.
On another note, my consistency is reaching all-time highs. I rarely do well in quads at the Boylston CC, even if my rating is higher than my supplement and I get paired with slightly lower rated players. December’s quads went very different.
Not only that, but this occurred a week or two after my first 2200+ performance.
If you haven’t caught the undertone of this blog post, I’m not optimistic about cracking 2000 this month, because I suffered a corneal abrasion. That knocked me out of the only slow-control event I was planning to play in. More than that, I decided to cancel my training trip to NYC, as well as the events I was going to play in. The next long control event I’ll be in is the Boston Congress.
I’ll be sure to let everyone know when 2000 actually falls.