My Chicago Open 2017!
I played in the 4 day schedule of the 2017 Chicago Open in the U1900 division. I knew that I would have an uphill battle in this event for a few reasons: 1.) I'm rated in the lower half of the field at 1767; 2.) I have not prepared as much as I would have liked to for the event because...; 3.) This is the first large tournament I've participated in as a father (of who I hope is a future participant himself!)
8 months old at the time of the picture and he's already taking queens!
Back to my chess (there will be plenty of his chess in a handful of years!), I scored 3.5 out of 7. In my 10 consecutive appearances in the Chicago Open, I have scored 2.5/7 twice, 5.0/7 once, and 3.5/7 every other time. It seems to be my self-fulfilling goal. I suppose the method to surpass that is simple: win at least 4 games!
The first round did not start off well for me. I dropped a pawn very early on thinking that my 8th move (as Black) was the right move. I did not consider any positional ramifications. It's an inexcusable thought process for a 40/2, SD/30, d/10 time control! I did my best to ascertain piece play for the pawn but I would then miscalculate a tactic. I had thought I was able to win a pawn back OR have material gain, but instead I ended up simplifying into an inferior endgame.
In the second round, I was paired with an opponent who had a posted rating of 1633 (which I later found out is 1778! Nice improvement in a short time span!). By move THREE, I was out of book - had never seen the position before! I'm assuming he may be a Latvian Gambit player if I had played 2.Nf3 (good thing I didn't - I'm not properly prepared for that gambit).
It was a wild king's gambit gone awry for White, where Black had a space advantage in the middlegame. White's pieces were awkward. Fortunately, I was able to eek out a draw at the end but I had to be accurate!
In the third round, I see an opening variation that an Expert played against me back at the USAT-North event in February. My analysis of the game was still fairly fresh and even though my pieces were again somewhat awkward, I was confident that I wouldn't lose. As the game progressed, I saw that I was able to clean up his d-pawn and take the position into a better rook & pawns ending.
I was disappointed with my play in the 4th round. I enjoyed my position after move 23 but I'm fairly sure I ruined it. I haven't analyzed it in detail but I feel that I miscalculated a sacrifice. In all honesty, I thought I was going UP material but just had a massive brain fart. I played on for a while until all of my activity was gone.
The 5th round is my favorite game of the event simply for the way I found to finish it. The opening 9 moves are the exact same as the previous round (and in all honesty, I accidentally played Qg3 instead of g4 first. Oops.). Before I knew it, I was down two pawns after the opening! After move 20 though, I thought I was OK because two of Black's pawns were weak and therefore, it's still a game for both sides. At move 25, I felt that I was winning!
After having two Whites in a row, I knew I would have Black in round 6. It's my 3rd round as Black and my opponent selected a 3rd option for move one, opposed to 1.c4 and 1.d4. Fortunately, I'm happiest to see 1.e4 most of the time! My youthful opponent played the opening quickly (which was reminiscent of my loss with the Dragon in round 6 against a youthful opponent the previous year!). Unlike last year, I'm not sure how much this game was a theoretical battle. He wanted all of the perks of the Yugoslav Attack WITHOUT castling queenside (so I couldn't attack him there!). I sacrificed an exchange so I could have better control over the dark squares - something that I've never done before but it worked well in this game!
I feel that I made a mental/psychological error before the 7th and final round began. Most of my Chicago Open results are 3.5/7. This is my 10th time participating and only 3 other times did I score differently: twice at 2.5 out of 7 and once I scored 5/7 (and I won some of my entry fee back!). My error was that I recognized my current score at 3.5 out of 6 and that I just needed a draw to achieve my 2nd best result.
I played subpar and my opponent did not. I tried a plan that I hadn't worked with in the Sicilian Kan before and I failed to consider his attacking options (I erred by quickly evaluating his possibilities by thinking they are easily defended - an easy mindset to have when fatigued but it's still wrong!)
I had a great time playing (I always do!) and saw a lot of good chess friends at the event. It also means a great deal to me to see my fiancé playing in the U1000 for her 2nd year in a row (and doubling her win total from last year!) Our son was with his aunt while we played. I can't wait for him to look over my games in a decade or so and say... "Dad, you were terrible!" (Should he have an interest, that is!)
My chess goal for next year is to play in the U2100 division, even if I still qualify for the U1900. I feel that most chess players play higher quality games against stronger opponents. I will at least learn more from stronger opponents! I have yet to enter the U2100 and scoring 3.5 there will be quite an accomplishment for me! My son will be over 1.5 years old by then so I HOPE I will be mentally prepared (experienced parents are probably laughing at that line).
Thank you for the read! Feel free to comment constructive criticisms if you wish (although I may not see it right away! I don't check daily for comments). Have a good day!