On a 7-Game Unbeaten Streak
Two weeks ago, I returned home to the Steel City to support Pittsburgh Chess. I was hoping to play a tournament at the ailing Pittsburgh Chess Club, but they have converted most of their tournaments to one-day G/30 events, which is my worst time control. I can hardly justify doing something on the order of 1,000 miles of travel for the sake of 3 rounds of G/30, all just to lose some of my standard rating points. Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Pittsburgh Chess League was healthy and thriving. I am very grateful for the work that NM Tom Martinak puts in to run the PSCF and PCC. In fact, I played in a rapid even on the Saturday two weeks ago, a PSCF event (state rapid championship), the rapid tournament on Sunday morning before the PCL, and a PCL, all of which was run by NM Martinak.
Before I get to my lone game in the standard control, I’ll report on my rapid events. Rapid, as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, is easily my worst control. I either move too quickly, move too slowly, or do a that’s-good-enough calculation in a critical position. Saturday was no different. I had a nearly even game, and was possibly better, than a very strong, near-NM Expert, but lost a pawn with a that’s-good-enough calculation. Then I iced a 1200-level player. Was a pawn up against another strong Expert, who was obviously a little stressed, despite usually remaining stoic. We stumbled into a position that gave him two tactical shots, in which I could only defend one or the other –and here I was thinking that I, the lower rated player, needed luck to win, not lose! I defeated another 1200-level player in round 4. In round 5, I played a player who was excessively booked-up for being a 1600-level player. I was told beforehand that the fellow knew a bunch of theory, so I decided to play the Dragondorf, rather than my bread and butter, so that I could just get a middlegame and wipe him off the board. Well, that didn’t work; he knew the Dragondorf, and I was out of my preparation about 3 or 4 moves before he was, which wasn’t good. At the very least, my tournament was over early, and I got to head up to the Pittsburgh Chess Club to visit and play Peter Jansen in some G/2.
Probably due to the fact that it was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home opener, only one other person showed up for the PCL quick quad, the rapid quads held before each round of the PCL. My opponent was a quickly rising rapid specialist, rated 1309. I actually met him in Cincinatti the year before, at the Kings Island Open, so I knew he was decent at blitz, and I saw his rating for rapid was good –but his standard rating is low, probably because he doesn’t have much of a taste or attention span for long games. My rapid rating was 1444 after dropping from 1453 the day before. NM Martinak decided to have us play a 3-round rapid match. I did sweat this a bit, because I knew I needed an excellent match performance. One loss, and I was likely losing points. One draw and I’d probably break even, about. I’m glad to report I won all three games, and in various manners. I won a tactical slugfest, a positional game in which I sac’d an exchange to have a N that dominated a R, and this endgame position, which I carefully constructed from (probably) a drawn position. I was white.
There are two things for me to be excited about in this rapid match. First, my goal for the years is consistency. As my 50-point upward and downward swings on my USCF graph indicate, I have not been consistent, coming into this year. Second, GM Miljkovic and GM Yudasin have been exhorting me, and energetically so, to transition into more endings, because I am stronger than many titled players in the ending. The transition has been the problem for me, but I was able to transition really well in the above position. My rapid rating went to 1478 after going +3 -0 =0 in this match, which I don’t understand, because the USCF calculator says it should have gone over 1500. Still, my rapid rating is no longer in danger of slipping to 300 points behind my blitz (currently -141) and standard rating (currently -194).
The great news, as mentioned into the title, is that I am on a 7-game unbeaten streak, including draws against an 1894, a 1920, and this win against a 1797. My opponent was a player I’ve known for a long time, Jeff Schragin. This was a huge test for me, because he’s a player who is usually rated somewhere between 1850 and 1950. Dual rated events are usually the cause for his downward swings, because he plays in everything. I’ve watch this guy take out many of the best players in the Greater Pittsburgh Area for years, including some amazing wins against NM Franklin Chen. Schragin is incredibly capable on the 64 squares, and he’s no one-trick pony: he’s an excellent positional player, who knows how to let it rip, when a static position calls for dynamic and/or tactical play to press the advantage the rest of the way. In short, he’s an excellent player. Here's the game.