Analyzing what went wrong in a game, whether for you (if you lose or draw whilst possessing an advantage) or your opponent (if they lose or draw whilst possessing an advantage), is a good way to better recognize importance of an idea that was crucial in that game; or a great way to learn no ideas that might not be familiar. Examining collections of one’s OTB tournament games is another way to improve, drawing generalizations about what many games have in common, and correcting more general mistakes (e.g., thought processes). In analyzing my games against USCF B-Class players (1600-1799), I’ve found two major differences between my games against B-Class players’ games against A-Class players: 1) losing control and 2) not going for the kill when the kill is potentially imminent. By “losing control,” I mean having slowly and methodically developing a massive advantage, and then throwing it away in a single move that is a non-tactical sort of blunder. In almost all cases, that means the opponent was given counterplay.
I think #1 is more characteristic of the difference between B-Class players and A-Class players, because I see plenty of games in which A-Class players maintain control and eventually find the winning idea, despite missing the immediate winning idea. In B-Class play, both players are crafty enough to continue seeking chances, despite being in an objectively lost position. I’ve seen this so much in my own USCF tournament games this year that I think taking some games from my most recent tournament provides the best example. This last tournament, the 2015 King’s Island Open, held in Cincinnati, Ohio, serves as a great example, because the difference between a 1990 performance and a performance in the 1700’s was one tempo in an ending against an A-Class player (i.e., a minor miscalculation turned a draw into a loss, thanks to a tempo-gaining resource) and allowing counter play against a B-Class player —actually, a near A-Class player, who jumped into the A-Class a week later—, in the second of the two featured games below.
In the first game, any number of ideas would have either immediately won the game for my opponent, while a host of other would have forced simplification (e.g., forced Q trade) and an unexciting victory for him.
In the second game, the opposite happens: I play a great game that is capped off by allowing the opponent counterplay and the full point. There is only slightly more justification for the outcome, as this was a 7-hour game at the end of a 5-round Swiss in which I played exceptionally long games in three of the four preceding contests.
In the end, these games, featuring B-Class players, illustrate games played by players who have a very similar degree of knowledge and ability. Each featured a player solidly outplaying the other, before allowing crucial counter play in one move, leading to the loss of the full point of the player who deserved it. From this meta-analysis, I’ve come to a conclusion: In making the jump to A-Class, I need to remain resourceful when losing, always looking for counterplay, while ensuring that I don’t lose control of fantastic positions. Other B-Class players might do well to assess whether this is what is also happening to them.