My games from the 2013 North Carolina Open (Pt. 1) -

Sep 3, 2013, 1:35 PM |

I haven't really had a chance to pour over these games, but I'll give a quick overview with some basic commentary. I had three goals in mind for this tournament:

1) To try and gain 41 USCF rating points in order to become an expert. 2) To get a FIDE rating, which would require me to score at least one point in at least three games against previously FIDE-rated competition. 3) To gain my last "1st Category (a.k.a Class A) norm" to earn that lifetime achievement.

Of course the expert rating was just a recent obsession of mine after having a my first master performance rating at the Statesville Open. The other two goals had proven extremely elusive.

With regards to the FIDE rating, I have had trouble getting enough games in against FIDE rated competition to qualify for the rating norm. Even in tournaments where I performed well, I couldn't find the right opponents. The 2012 Virginia Open is a great example. I went 2+0=1- on day one, but only the loss was to a previously rated opponent. Even worse, my fourth round opponent did not have a FIDE rating (his USCF was over 2100) either so I would not have gotten the required three games in. Given that I had to take a bye in round five, I could only afford one game without a FIDE rated opponent.

The "1st category title" is even more frustrating, since I have four of the required five norms and I should have two more norms, but two of my opponents were misregistered and I only got credit for games against much lower rated competition. In one case I defeated an expert and the tournament got rated under his son's name. In the other I drew a 1600 in round one of an event where I beat two A players and drew an expert, but the 1600 somehow because a 900 rated player from Texas.

Rd. 1 White vs NM Patrick Sciacca (2137): This game started very promising for me as I managed to win a pawn with my unusally placed bishop. However when the critical moment came on move 18, I went into my longest think of the game and had to decide between two ideas: 1) Breaking the pin on my knight on f3 by playing Ne2 followed by Nfd3 and f3. This would fortify my extra (not to mention passed) pawn....  or 2) Doubling my rooks on the d-file. I chose option two, and placed my rook on a horrible square in the process.

While not the end of the world, and certainly not shameful (Patrick went undefeated for the event including a round three draw with IM Jonathan Schroer), the loss compromised each of my goals quite a bit, but there would still have been room to recover. The only problem was that with my rating being nearly in the middle of the players with no points, I could not count on getting a higher-rated or FIDE rated opponent. Still, there was only one player whose rating indicated he had no business being in the section. The odds were good that I could avoid playing him and could work toward my goals still. 

Unfortunately, I had to square off with him in round two. The good news was that it was a leisurely win. The bad news, I burned my one "non-FIDE round" and now the "1st category" and expert rating chances would have to be contingent on winning both of my next two games.

What made this even worse was his insistance that he still had chances in this game before he dropped the pawn. His knights were pretty abysmal and his backward e-pawn was an easy target. Fritz had me up more than a pawn before his blunder (material count being even.) I don't think he had a clue what was going on in this game. Yet he kept approaching me between rounds for the rest of the tournament talking about his chances. It took all I had in me not to shout him down.

I'm going to do some venting now.

Now understand that not all "playing up" is bad. In fact, I myself was playing up (There was an under 2000 section available). If you're close to the line or have shown that you can be competitive at a certain level, and you feel like the experience is important, you should play up. (For the record I have 4 wins and a draw in 11 games against players over 2000 this year.) There's alot to be gained win, lose, or draw. However, playing up too much accomplishes practically nothing. Even worse, it costs players in the higher sections a shot at competitive games and even in wins hampers their goals. Noone in the Open section was within two classes of my round two opponent. I don't know how his other games went, although I was told he lost a long grinder in round one to an expert. But based on his play in our game, there was nothing to indicate that he was capable of playing at an expert level. If he wanted to play up he should have played the under 1700 section.

I've seen too many times before were someone who just wants the thrill of playing in a FIDE section jumps in way over their head. It's just a waste of their money. He had no chance at a FIDE rating himself, but made it harder for up to four people (he got a round five bye) to achieves what can often be an elusive FIDE rating norm. He didn't understand the concepts that make the differences between a D player and an expert. He likely would have understood some of the concepts that make a difference between a ckass D and a class C or even weak B player. Those differences are subtle with lower differences in class, but pretty vast as the rating chasm widens.

Just be realistic about your goals. Most of us play chess to compete