ChessIQ November Plus Score
On Saturday I played in the open section of the ChessIQ November Plus Score. This was the first time I qualified for the open section of a tournament, and it meant that the competition was tough. However, I thought I proved myself equal to the task, even though I only ended up scoring 1.5/4. I drew a player in the 1900s while down a pawn for pretty much the entire game, and I had a nice win over a 1750 with the black pieces. My new rating is 1565, a cool 47 point jump, though I found out if I had done the sensible thing and taken a bye for my last game, I would have probably been more like 1580 Sunday morning.
Game One: I had the white pieces in a classical French. I misplayed the opening somewhat, and black got some good pressure (and got rid of my d4 pawn). I did manage to claw my way back to equality, but I also misevaluated the position and black's threats, and soon collapsed.
Opening: Bb5 is not very strong in the French, because it allows black two chances to go after the d4 pawn with a pawn.
Evaluation/Planning: I think I need a more methodical way to evaluation positions. Thinking I was better was a mistake that led me to look for dynamic moves in positions where I still needed to be playing defense. I also ignored black's threats at critical moments--a big no-no. Finally, I didn't trade rooks because I believed that it would only benefit black to do so, when in reality I would be getting rid of material and trading a bad piece (my b8 rook) for a better piece (his e8 rook)
Game Two: I had the black pieces in another closed Sicillian, or at least I thought that's what was happening. Instead, he used a move order to play the Grand Prix that didn't let me play the Tal gambit (1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5!). I played solid chess, and though I had better options in a few instances, I quickly got equality, and used his poor development and his overextension on the kingside to my advantage. I nearly let him draw the endgame, but I eventually I found my way through
Opening: In this line, 5...Nd4!? is strong.
Endgame: Unless I can calculate a forcing line with 100% certainty, I need to just play moves that are agressive and limit counterplay. Also, long calculation is wrong calculation--I should remember that when I find myself 6 moves into a mating line calculation!
Endgame: In endgames where I am winning, I should have three primary goals. 1) Centralize/activate pieces, preferably by making threats and increasing pressure 2) Limit opponent's counterplay, again by making threats and increasing pressure, and 3) create passed pawns. I will be more effective, and win easier if I can do these things.
Game Three: I had the white pieces in a e6 Sicilian/Najdorf thing. The move order made me uncertain, and I ended up letting black get a lot of pressure for nothing. I soon dropped a pawn, and found myself in what was a lost position. However, I made bluffs and complications, and eventually traded into an opposite colored bishops endgame which I drew without too much trouble.
Opening: Don't play a3! The open sicilian requires vigor, and you can't afford to be wasting moves defending against ghosts. When in doubt, I'm just going to default to an English/Yugoslav setup from now on.
Middlegame: Don't miss tatics. Also remember that Black's #1 goal in the Sicilian is to get in d5. If there exists a move that will prevent that, even if it looks weird (Bf3), it needs to be considered with much more respect.
Psychology: I went into this game expecting to get killed, and drawing it despite a losing position was a big confidence booster. I need to remember that rating points ultimately mean nothing--I'm at a point where everyone is going to play solid chess, and I need to just play my best and not worry about how many games they've won in the past.
Game Four: At this point, it was 7:30 at night, and I had had nothing to eat all day, as well as being cold and having a splitting headache. I should have just taken a bye and headed home--even if I had won, I would have gotten $15--not even enough to recoup my expenses. As it was, I was just asking to get killed, and I did.
Middlegame: I'm not sure that allowing white the center he got was a solid plan--it turned out to be too easy for him to trade off his bad LSB for my good one. Also, don't make weaknesses for nothing. Duh.
Tournament: Whenever I'm guarenteed time for food, I need to take it. I also need to start bringing snacks in the case of all my games going long (like they did this time). Finally, I need to make better decisions regarding games I play. Taking a bye in the last round would have been a perfectly reasonable and rational thing to do, and would have made my rating much better as a result. I had nothing to gain and everything to lose by agreeing to play, and sure enough, I lost.
All in all, it was a good tournament. I drew someone practically at the expert mark while down material, won a solid closed Sicilian game (my best wins seem to always be in those positions), got my strongest scalp yet (1744), and picked up ~50 rating points. Not too shabby, I think.