A Grinder's Struggle: Technical Issues and Lucky Breaks
Good time of day to you, my dear chess friends!
In my last blog post I showed a few endgame positions from a tournament I played back in December. As part of my plans for improving at chess this year by playing more, I started January off by playing in the Tim Just Winter Open on January 6th and 7th. I was plagued by car-related troubles throughout the weekend, which had a not-insignificant impact on my tournament. On the drive down to Chicago I sustained a huge crack to my windshield (which I managed to get to an auto glass shop Sunday morning, at the cost of missing round 4). I also locked myself out of my car when I arrived on Saturday morning for round 1 (which I realized only after the conclusion of round 1). Luckily, AAA bailed me out of that predicament before the start of round 3 so it didn't cause me to miss out on a game.
As for the chess, it was a very mixed tournament. I am not happy with my focus and concentration during this event (which may have had something to do with external circumstances, but is also rooted in insufficient training and conditioning). I got good positions out of the openings in the four rounds I played, so this is something that inspires confidence. However (and related to poor stamina and focus), after achieving equality or a stable advantage in all games I managed to drift and allow a negative trend in nearly all games at some point. Through playing more and getting back into the rhythm of tournament chess, I think I can fix this chronic weakness in my play. Without further introduction, here are some interesting positions from my games:
Round 1: I have White against a kid rated 1766. The opening goes well and at some point in the middlegame my opponent makes a key positional concession on the kingside and gets an unpleasant position. I then opt to attempt to keep control as time trouble looms instead of going for a pawn sacrifice for the initiative (which I wanted to play but didn't have time to calculate). This allows the opponent enough counterplay to escape to a more or less level endgame, but my young opponent errs and is quickly lost in a good knight vs bad bishop ending.
Round 2: I had the black pieces and was paired against a national master in the second round. I got a very reasonable position out of the opening and my opponent was the first to err, but I reacted incorrectly and got an unpleasant position. I then found counterplay which was based on concrete calculation and missed a key detail which allowed my opponent to solidify the advantage of the two bishops and summarily to crash through.
Round 3: I faced off with another young, talented kid rated 1765. This opponent played far too quickly and got a strategically terrible position by move 20. I was basically winning with straightforward play, but again let me opponent get unnecessary counterplay and had to win the game twice. This was becoming a bit of a pattern. Once again, I had some version of good knight vs bad bishop, which is one of my favorite imbalances.
After this night round, I drove back to my friend's apartment to the eerie sound of a cracking windshield. I knew I had to take care of this before it became a more serious health hazard and so I planned to take the car in the next morning. This meant that I would have to skip round 4. Luckily, I managed to find a place that could fix the windshield and I arrived back at the playing venue refreshed for the fifth and final round.
Round 5: Playing the third kid of the tournament (rated 1818). I really didn't like my play all weekend and wanted to end on a good note, but I again managed to go wrong after equalizing in the opening. I spent way too much time on obvious moments and near the end was in some pretty dire time trouble. This lead to a large blunder after which I was lost. Luckily, my opponent returned the favor and the position became wildly complicated. I managed to swindle in the complications. Not my proudest game by any stretch.
So with that incredibly lucky finish I salvaged what would otherwise be a pretty poor tournament performace. I have a lot to work on, and I look forward to continuing my studies as I prepare for Amateur Team North on February 16-18. Until next time!