SuperNationals 2017 Experience
So here's yet another blog post about a chess tournament experience! This time, SuperNationals! To keep the prestige of the name, this blog post will also be "super", and will include lots of pictures and all that good stuff. I will write about all my games and my experience because it was a particularly successful tournament and I'm pretty much done with school and exams anyways. Hope you enjoy the <super long> read!
SuperNationals 2017 took place on May 11-14 in Nashville, Tennessee. High school nationals have typically been in the month of April in previous years, but this year, they put it in the middle of May because all the nationals are in the same location I'm guessing. In my opinion, putting SuperNationals at this time wasn't a smart idea because most high school students, including me and my chess team, are taking AP/IB exams, which conflict with the tournament. However, that didn't seem to affect the top players because there were so many master level players. I think I was around seed 30 even! In comparison to last year's High School nationals, I started at around seed 15. Maybe the word "Super" does attract the top players... Anyways, RHS chess team only brought 4 players this year: myself, Samuel He, Noah Yeo, and Anshul Ahluwalia. Because the team score consists of the top 4 scores, all of our scores would count for the team. This is unlike our rival team Lakeside, who brought tons of players. Our goal is top 5 team, a quite reasonable goal seeing that we got 8th place last year.
The blitz and bughouse tournament took place a day before on Thursday, with bughouse being in the morning and the blitz in the afternoon. I knew for sure I wanted to play the blitz because I love blitz. My brother and I had 3 consecutive AP exams on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so we had to take the 7 am flight on Thursday in order to make it in time for the blitz tournament, which started at 5 pm. Unfortunately, we also had an AP exam on Thursday, but there's no way we could've made it then, so we decided to take the make-up the following week. Ok that's enough on school.. let's get back to the tournament. So we woke up as sleepyheads at 5 am and went through all the airplane procedures in time for the flight. This was our first time traveling to a national chess tournament by ourselves, so we were pretty excited about that.
We landed at around 2 pm Nashville time, and we made it to the tournament site safely without any trouble. When we stepped in the hotel, I was in amazed at how big it was! There were trees... inside... I had a feeling we would get lost in the hotel (it did happen many times). We wandered around the tournament hall about an hour before the tournament started, amazed at the size of the tournament. 5000+ players.. Wow! When it was 5pm, I walked to the tournament room with my usual green water bottle in hand and my chess set, ready to play good chess!
The blitz tournament was 6 double rounds (two games vs each opponent) so a total of 12 rounds. From the very first blitz round, I knew I was out of shape. I was playing against a 1400 player and I could’ve allowed him to play a strong move that would force me to give up my queen for a rook, but luckily he missed it. During that game, my clock ran out of battery, and we had to find another clock and reset the times, which we guesstimated. After all that craziness, I won both games and was at 2/2.. My luck ended in round 2 though when I blundered a bishop and then quickly got mated with my king on h4. My chances for first were gone.. at least that’s what I thought. In rounds 3 and 4, I continued playing down, and even though I did win those games, they were very low quality games and not games I felt very proud of. However, my play started to improve for the final 2 rounds, and I managed to win straightforward games. In the very last game, I had a winning position, but we were both down in under 10 seconds, and I ultimately flagged him when I had around 2 seconds. Quite stressful! When all the games were finished and the final standings were posted, I found out that I actually tied for first! Completely unexpected and probably not deserving of my play, but I can’t complain. It’s blitz, anything can happen in blitz.
Ok now that the intense blitz tournament is over, we explored the ginormous hotel. Although it was hard to navigate through the big place, there were maps at frequent locations, which helped us. Anyways, it was around 9 pm when we finished, and we looked around for restaurants that were still open and not too expensive. We ultimately decided on a pizza place, which had an “Express Meal” option with 2 slices of pizza and a drink for only $11, which is quite a good deal compared to the enormous prices at other places in the hotel. We checked out the fitness center, which had a good amount of equipment, but it was nothing compared to last year’s nationals hotel fitness center. That one was like a full gym! Oh well.
The main tournament round 1 started at 1pm on Friday, so we could sleep in, but not too late. We were eating brunch at a sushi place in the hotel when the round 1 pairings were posted. On board 1, 2100s were already playing up. This tournament seems to be quite tough. I may very well play up round 2. Wow… The rounds started right on time, which was good, but maybe not for me because I was late just about every game.
In round 1, I was playing a 2000 rated player as white. The game transposed to a King’s Indian setup, which I do well against in bullet. However, it’s not bullet so I knew I had to lower my aggressiveness level. However, my speed didn’t lower too much and I played too quickly and completely missed an idea from my opponent, and suddenly I was worse. I managed to fight back after some inaccuracies from my opponent, and I found a rook sacrifice that forces the win. Samuel was down an exchange and seemed to be in trouble when I checked on his game after my win. But soon after, he won and told me “Oh no, I wasn’t worse. If he offered a draw, I would decline!” Maybe I was wrong, or Sam didn’t want to admit he was losing. ;) The rest of the team played down and won fairly easily. 4/4 for RHS. Good start!
In round 2, I got paired against a 1910 rated player as black. I played my usual Kan Sicilian and I may have opened the position a bit early, allowing my opponent to create some play. However, I managed to get my pieces together after he didn’t get anything going and the result of my attack was 2 pawns plus a passed d pawn, which I eventually converted to a win. Sam actually lost this one to an underrated 1928 rated player. From my view, he played the English Opening extremely well and I could even learn a thing or two from his play. Anshul lost, while Noah drew a master as black!
So after day 1 of the main tournament, I scored 2/2 while Sam was at 1/2. We decided to go for a midnight snack, looking around for restaurants that were still open, but there weren’t many. There was a sign that showed which restaurants were still open, and there was only one called the “Craft Tavern”. We couldn’t find any signs for it, so we were confused. Eventually we found it, and it was broken down and probably was closed for a long time.. That was weird. We had to go to the nearby café to get some quick food.
Alright time for round 3. I was paired up on board 4 against a 2400+ rated IM as white. I’ve heard of him in the past and I knew he was strong, so I quickly prepared a solid line as white against his Caro-Kann. It turned out he wasn’t very familiar with it because I got an edge out of the opening, and my position was pretty easy to play. The funny thing was he took a LONG time on his moves, even on pretty obvious moves… I wonder why that is, but whatever the reason, it really gave him a disadvantage in the remainder of the game. It eventually got pretty tactical and I tried to get my major pieces on the 7th rank, threatening all kinds of mate threats. Soon, I thought for too long looking for ways to take advantage of his time trouble that I got in time trouble myself! At one point, I just blundered a full pawn, but luckily he missed it! It got really crazy after that and I had a queen and rook vs two rooks and some pawns. It must be winning, but with a time scramble, he found a repetition.
The game ended really late so we had less than an hour to eat and prepare for the next round. Fortunately enough, I was paired down against a 1980 rated player because lots of the higher seeds got upset, including a win by Anthony He over top rated Andrew Tang! Good job Anthony! Anyways, I got black in a Nimzo Indian and soon enough, I got a very passive position because I misplayed the opening. I guess it’s my fault because I’ve been playing too much King’s Indian in speed chess online I haven’t looked at the Nimzo in a long time. I started to fall asleep in the game because my position was so bad. My opponent didn’t find the right plan and he started wasting moves, allowing me to slowly improve my position and reach equality. The rook and queen endgame should be drawn, but he traded pieces too quickly, allowing me to get my king up and ended with a strong rook sacrifice to promote my pawns. A lucky win!
Round 5, I got paired up (no surprise) as black again (surprise…). Darn, I had hoped for white against the higher rated players. I knew he played d4 c4 main lines. I wasn’t sure if I should play the Nimzo again after what happened in the previous round. But I didn’t know any other lines well enough and the King’s Indian is kinda bad for black in tournament games (especially against a 2400+) so I stuck with the Nimzo and hoped for the best. Too bad the best did not happen, and things started to go downhill soon, even before move 10! Like last round, I started to fall asleep at the board and my position was so bad that I even considered for a second resigning so I can just go back to my room and sleep. But I decided to sacrifice a pawn to free my position and hope to complicate things. If I was gonna lose anyways, why not open up some lines and make it complicated? Then, the craziest thing happened. He completely missed my threat, and I won his queen for a rook and knight. But I didn’t worry about material count because his king was stuck in the center, I had a passed pawn on the 6th rank, and my pieces were active. He must’ve still been in shock because he just blundered after a 30 minute think, resigning immediately. Wow, I really am getting lucky this tournament, unbelievable! At this point, Sam won to reach 3.5/5, Noah lost to reach 2/5, and Anshul won to reach 2/5. Not bad for RHS, but we were expected to do well the next round when most of us will be playing down.
So now I’m at 4.5/5 in a big tie for first! This was completely unexpected. When the pairings came out later that night, I saw I got paired against a 2390 rated player as white. I chose the Qxd4 sicilian line, a line which I usually score well in online, but I haven’t played it much in over the board chess, but I guess it’s worth a try. Soon enough, I found that the opening did not work, as I was already worse right out of the opening. Something about my opening play just isn’t working for me this tournament.. Something I better work on for the future. After all the complications, I was down a pretty clean pawn in a rook and minor piece endgame. After some tricky play, I managed to win back the pawn, and we reached a pawn race with two pawns on opposite sides in a rook endgame. I was faster. However, the endgame was drawn with best defense by my opponent, but he misplayed it, allowing my pawns to promote, leading to his resignation. In this round, RHS won 4/4, rising up to 3rd or 4th in the team standings. Looking good!
In the final round, I was at 5.5/6, tied with 3 players, including Roland Feng also from WA. Since I was by far the lowest rated, I got paired down against IM Tang as white, who made his way back up in the standings after his loss in round 3. I decided to prepare my opening lines and give up a few minutes from my clock, which ultimately proved to be a good choice as I was well prepared with my line. He was also well booked in the line and we reached a pretty closed position where I was playing for a break on the kingside and he was trying to get play in the center. After a series of trades, we reached a rook endgame where I sacrificed my bishop for two connected passed pawns, which were pretty strong, until he gave the piece back and resulted in a lost rookk endgame for me. Was quite a close one there! In round 7, Samuel got a draw against a 2500 and Anshul drew a 1900, so we added 1 point to our team score.
Oh well. I placed 10th place individually and Redmond High chess team won 5th place, and top 5 got plaques too! The pretty much sums up my SuperNationals. Hope you enjoyed my reading. I sure enjoyed writing it (it took less than a day). Thanks for reading!