Peaking and Extending My USCF Unbeaten Streak
If I was picking up steam in St. Louis a few weeks back, then I don’t know how to continue the metaphor, other than to say I am feeling like a runaway freight train. This last weekend at the ISCA Memorial in Indianapolis, I had my first Expert performance rating (2026), I cracked 1700, and I extended my unbeaten streak to 10 games. Probably the best part of that streak is that I have only been worse in one game, which I posted in my last blog post (against Jeff Schragin).
I drew an 1871 and a 2023, and I defeated a floored 1800, but he wasn’t floored after the tournament, that’s for sure. He was a strong, capable vet of the game, and had a heart for attack and sharp play –which actually played into my violent, deeply calculating tactical style. Thinking that my opponent might not be playing his best chess, I went into the later rounds thinking I had simply played a strong game against a player not playing his best; but the reality revealed two rounds later, when I walked by his board as he just defeated the Indiana state champion, Andy S Porter (2163).
I offered a draw after winning the pawn and calculating pretty deeply that my opponent should be able to get the pawn back. He refused, thinking that he would be able to outplay me in the ending. The only problem is that, not only did he probably miss his chance to get the pawn back, but he didn’t know that I am a very good endgame player. (My coaches give me very high praise in this area of the game.) Time may have been an issue for my opponent, as I am not sure how accustomed he is to the rapid control, but I am becoming seasoned in the control, even if very slowly –pathetically slow, even. For example, he walked into an endgame tactic that secured another pawn, which allowed me to give it back in order to take the last minors off.
The tournament ended okay for me. I’ll tell you, I dealt with a huge psychological pressure that I didn’t expect. After winning in round one, I knew my rating would go up, and so there was not pressure, or so I thought. I’d just need to play chess. Improvement would be evident, regardless. However, what happened after thoroughly outplaying an Expert in round 2 was the incredible burden of some kind of anxiety induced by out-performing what I had envisioned for myself. In round 3, against an 1871 (whose rating also went up this tournament, I was a clear pawn up after 15 moves. The pressure was immense, and I offered a draw. I think my opponent was playing well, but, almost assuredly, happy to have the opportunity to hit the reset button, which is why I think he accepted the draw. I haven’t analyzed it yet, since I am preparing for Battle Creek next weekend. I’ll be more mentally prepared for my next 2000+ performance, should it come next week, even.