Opening Experiments, Tactics and a Rating Breakthrough
As a relatively young chess player, I've spent most of my playing days in the process of improving. In middle school I gained 800 rating points (they were easier to come by at that level). In high school I gained another 300, and even when busy with school work in college, I found time to pick up another 100+ and reach the master level. After college I spent my next couple of years as a full time chess instructor, which left plenty of time for study and I gained another 100 points.
Finally, in 2013, I ran into my first extended chess plateau. After reaching a new high, I hit a rough patch, lost multiple games, and dropped about 30 rating points. Since then I spent two years having ups and downs. Finally, going into this Friday night I was riding a three game winning streak and had a chance for my first new rating peak in two years.
During this rough patch I've expanded my openings which hopefully is teaching me new ideas, but also leaves me clueless pretty early in games. This was my first time playing a long game in the English-Gruenfeld and I gave my opponent some chances. I'm going to present the game as a series of puzzles in the critical positions and then the whole game at the end.
I hope that you enjoy the game and feel free to comment with questions or advice.
Position one: White's big center threatens to take over the game. How can black find counterplay?