Tournament Chess - An Amateur's Story III

Mar 17, 2010, 1:50 PM |

I'm living east of San Francisco these days, moved here in September for a job.  So I looked for a place to play and found the gold mine, the Mechanic's Institute in San Francisco.  I must say it truly is a pleasure, and awesome luck that I found myself at such a prestigious club.  It's the longest running chess club in the country and has seen its fair share of World Champs and other legends.

In February, I played in the 10th Annual Henry Gross Memorial Tournament, a 1-day, 5 rounds, G/45 event.  Before I show the games with analysis, I'm going to talk a little about my tournament prep; what I did differently this time around that helped me succeed.

Going into my first tourny in Atlanta, my only study of chess had basically consisted of memorizing openings, and studying master games.  Openings, a common study topic for beginners.  Like many people I imagine, I thought that if I memorized opening moves, it would magically make me an awesome Grandmaster.  What I failed to realize is that memorizing an opening is completely worthless at the beginner level for 2 reasons.  9 times out of 10, your opponent won't know mainlines, so if you have memorized the first 15 moves of the Sicilian Najdorf old mainline with Bg5 and f4, it does you no good if your opponent plays a sideline, knowingly or ignorantly.  Your beginner opponent can 'sophisticatedly' play an off-beat move to take you out of prep, even if it's just a bad move that he doesn't realize is bad.  Which brings me to point 2, if you memorize openings without understanding the ideas behind them, you'll just find yourself lost without a plan.  So try to find a book or some method of study that actually explains the openings, instead of just memorizing moves.  I would highly recommend Chess Openings for Black by GMs Alburt, Dzindzichasvili (a video contributor), and Perelshteyn.  It is excellent, you can probably read the intro and learn things about chess openings you never knew before.  Also, I believe IM Silman has discussed the study of master games here on in his daily column, which brings me to my 2nd book suggestion.  The Amateur's Mind by IM Silman.  Absolutely 100% guaranteed to make you a grandmaster in no time.  Ok I'm exaggerating a bit, but it's an absolutely excellent book that will revolutionize your chess.  These 2 books gave me a foundation that I was sorely missing.  Silman taught me what chess imbalances are and how that framework of thinking can help me analyze a position and determine what the position demands.  Chess Openings for Black taught me what it means to have a solid opening repertoire, ideas behind openings, structures, and how to transition to middle and end games that I'm familiar with.

Now finally time for some games!  I'll post all 5 of my rounds, and provide a few comments, not extensive Rybka analysis per se.


4.0 / 5 was enough to tie for 2nd place overall in the event.  I was absolutely thrilled.  The result improved my provisional rating from 1068 to 1487, over 400 points in 5 games!  I don't think me or my opponents played great chess by any means, but the result was definitely exciting for me.  Finally, I managed to have some semblance of success over the board!