My World Open Follow-Up
There were positives and negatives to take away from this year’s World Open. Even the negative takeaways were positive, because they let me know where I need to go with training and practical adjustments that need to be made. Even though I failed to cross 1800 at the New York International, due to giving up draws to lower rated players late in the tournament, my coaches said that I should move forward with the plan of playing in the U2200 section. Effectively, this meant playing up 2 sections, not 1, but my performance ratings have been in the 1800’s, 1900’s, and 2000’s for the past bunch of months, so it seemed justified. I finished 2.5/9.0 in the main event, but that doesn’t really tell the story. The real story was that I should have finished 4.5/9.0, had just a few very small things gone my way. Here’s the list of bad bounces I got:
I had a drawn game against an Expert, who refused a draw, and, after a game that went more than 80 moves over 6+ hours, I made an inaccuracy in time pressure that cost the game.
I had a drawn game against an Expert, who refused a draw, and I lost the game when time got down to what was essentially a bullet game, played pretty much only on the delay.
I had a winning attack against an Expert, but way too many moves remaining to meet the time control, so I had to agree to a draw.
I was a pawn up with a much better position against an Expert, but I failed to find the winning to continuation, and it ended in a draw.
4.0/9.0 or 4.5/9.0 was my goal, and the minimum acceptable score I had in mind was 2.5/9.0, so I ended up in the range that I hoped. I realize it was the World Open, and that competition at such a big-money tournament is going to be tougher than most competition of the same rating; but I hoped for the best result, and it was actually a great deal closer than it looks numerically. Instead of a 1983 performance rating, it was 1820. Respectable and solid, but still. I feel like I’m being greedy to want another big jump so soon after crossing 1700 and nearly crossing 1800, as 4.5/9.0 would have put me over 1900, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing in chess. One interesting thing about this tournament is that, despite playing so high up, it was the first time I had a positive rating change at a World Open: 2008--> -17, 2009--> -3, 2015--> -3, 2016--> +1.
My score against Experts at the event was right on with what it had been. My score over the past 12 months is 14.7%, and my score against Experts in this tournament was 14.3%. You really can’t get any closer in this tournament than that! A big positive takeaway is that, between the World Open main even and the post-World Open U2100 tournament, I went unbeaten in against players under 2000: Actually, I miniaturized one in 15 moves and nearly did so to a second in about 18 moves, but had the chance to play a nice little Q-sac instead. I scored 87.5% against players under 2000 ( W vs 1746, W vs 1400, W vs 1611, and D vs 1893). I was actually much better against the 1893, but the position was not so clear to me at the time. (It was the Najdorf… what do you expect!)
There were also to situations in which my style and opening choice showed to be a very big issue, now that I’m playing semi-professional competition. In one case, I played a drunkard who it seemed everyone was whipping, and I was itching to get a W against a 2000+, but it didn’t happen. My hopes were high going into a game against a very old player whose mental clarity seems to have long since disappeared, and I was especially hopeful because a close friend in the B-Class beat him just before I played him, but I again could not manage. What happened? Since I play very theoretical openings, both opponents not only knew tons of theory, where as I know almost none; they also had stock GM-constructed attacks that they, no doubt, played hundreds of times before in blitz games. I was probably already lost in both games prior to the point in which they began thinking over the board. Actually, despite having 10 minutes taken off his time for a cell phone violation and sleeping more than 20 minutes at the board, my drunken opponent only used 35 minutes on his clock to my 2 hours. As I recently was given the green light by my coaches to study openings seriously, it is clear to me that the timing is right. I can get by and ice A-Class players without opening knowledge in many cases, but I will be in great need of opening preparation for Experts. If I didn’t play the particular openings I play, like the Lopez and Sicilian, I could probably get by way, way longer without opening prep. At this point, missing out on two wins against 2000’s really hurts, and there’s no doubt in my mind that, in terms of pure skills, I was the better chess player. Their chess knowledge, regarding openings, however, left me without any chance at all.
The side events at faster controls were a mixed bag. The rapid event went well for me. I was way ahead in all four G/10 games I played, but I threw two of them away. It’s my worst control, so I struggle with consistency and pace of moves. Nonetheless, I gained something like 30 points. Blitz is usually a very good control for me, but I was dog tired for the event. It was late at night, and I hadn’t been sleeping well all week. On top of that, having to get up earlier than usual for the last day of main event games, and then playing two very long games, spelled disaster for the blitz event. I ended up dumping 60 points, losing to players I would probably rarely lose to on any other given day. I just took it as an opportunity to practice. I fully expect to jump up over 1800 or 1900 this year in my USCF blitz rating. The bright spot of the tournament was getting some revenge against an opponent from last year’s World Open. A very nice fellow and excellent player, Carlos Torres Ramos, knocked me out of money contention in last year’s U1600 section by drawing against me in round 8. (Actually, we knocked one another out, and I had already began coasting after the second loss in the tournament.) My revenge came in the form of two blitz games that I won in round 5 of the World Open Blitz Championship. He was much improved, but it seemed like my board vision and tactical senses only then (and finally!!!) came alive, and it was a route. He took third place in this year’s U1600 section of the World Open, so I fully expect more exciting, interesting battles against this gentleman.
One of the best things to happen at the World Open was watching my close friend, Kevin Taylor, rally back over 1700 and make a further run at 1800. Very likely, he will peak higher than his previous best of 1753. Kevin and I correspond constantly about what one another is doing in training, the data one another takes to gauge improvement and what is working, and our individual journeys have been as much a single journey; so it was very relieving to see his excellent result. Having defended out rating points against a lower rated field at the Indianapolis State Championship, battling a strong field at UW Madison, and getting into the trenches together at Battle Creek, Michigan, we’ve really developed a sense of brothers-in-arms. In the World Open post-main event U2100 tournament, we were hoping to cross 1800 at the same time, and in the same round, but luck would not have it. The journey continues.
On top of that, I got to catch up with many chess.com friends and watch some of their games. I bumped into chess.com’s famous commentating personality (and my opponent from last year’s World Open), shaun, who burst through 1500 and probably would have ended up in the money, were it not for the abovementioned and quickly-becoming-notorious Carlos. I also ran into my trio of little friends, GM4life, legalizecaruana, and Laskattack. I had to show my little friends what's what in the skittles room with some blitz. Good thing for me that I didn't run into them at the blitz tournament. I also had the chance to meet people face to face who I follow pretty closely in the virtual world of chess, like dpnorman,which was really cool. We even looked over one of my draws against an Expert. A pleasant surprise was running into the author of The Chess Drum, Dr. Daaim Shabazz. A very funny and intelligent man, I found. I overheard him saying he had dumped a large number of points recently, so I said, "I always wonder why I hear this so often, but nobody ever gives me these points!" His witty retort, "You haven't played me yet!" He also has a book coming out on Emory Tate, a famous artist of many beautiful chess combinations, who I was first acqainted with through GM Maurice Ashley's Fritz Trainer on "What Grandmasters Don't See," in which Ashley covers a game he played against Tate.
The tournament was fun. I had a number of little things that may have nibbled at the quality of my overall performance, but I played very well, overall. Playing so many close games with players over 2000 mean that I have a great deal of info about where I need to go with training. Smashing players U2000 was fun and felt good, but it wasn't all that productive, so my coaches definitely think playing in the U2200 was the right move. The World Open main even and post-World Open U2100 tournament also mark the 9th and 10th consecutive tournaments in which my standard rating has moved upward, which is nice, considering that includes a precipitous climb of over 100 points above my previous peak rating.