Amateur Team North 2018: Rather Lucky than Good?

Amateur Team North 2018: Rather Lucky than Good?

Mar 4, 2018, 6:18 PM |

Hello, chess friends!


     As promised, here's the write-up on my 2018 US Amateur Team North. I was on a team with three of my students and the team finished 2.0/5 after a very bumpy start of 0/2. I played pretty terribly all weekend, but somehow managed to not have it properly reflected in my final result of 3.5/5. There were two notable factors beyond the 64 squares that influenced my play: awful sleep and playing down.  I'll show some of the more interesting moments from each of my games, as is customary by now. 


    Friday night we played the first round against a team of all juniors. My opponent was rated in the 1800's and played very solidly, not giving me many chances to complicate the play or to play for a win. That didn't stop me from taking ridiculous amounts of poorly-judged risk, and at some point near the time scramble I was completely lost but got lucky that my opponent allowed me to bail out into a drawn rook ending. I should mention that it was evident within an hour of play that our bottom two boards were almost sure to lose, although the position on board 2 looked like a win or draw (this meant I had to play for a win). We lost round 1 with a score of 0.5-3.5.



I ended up not being able to fall asleep until almost 5 am Friday night and woke up before 8 due to the sunlight coming through the hotel window.  We were paired against an unrated team for round 2, which we lost to thanks to some very unfortunate blunders on boards 2-4. Luckily for me, the round 2 game was pretty straightforward as my opponent didn't really put up a fight and I won in about 2 hours.  We ended up losing this match 1-3, which really put a damper on the tournament. 



Round 3 was Saturday evening and we were paired with a team in possession of an average rating under 1000. All of my teammates finished within 30 minutes and we were up 3-0. I was playing with the assumption that my elderly opponent was probably some class player and so I didn't want to take an easy draw, and instead took crazy risks that go way outside my normal comfort zone. It turns out the opponent was rated over 2000 and was a strong and experienced player. I should have been lost at least twice throughout the game, and the final fair result would have been a draw, but the opponent flagged in a king and pawn ending. It was grueling 4 hour game, which really hurt given my lack of sleep the night before. It was a very painful game for me. We ended up winning the match 4-0 but I felt fairly disgusted with myself after the game. 



Sunday morning we played round 4 against a team of all kids from Iowa. I was paired against an opponent with a rating in the 1100's. We played a sharp line in the Advance Caro and my opponent went wrong quite early, getting a very poor position with much less time. See if you can find the tactical finish in this 16 move win. The team won this match 3-1 which put us at 2-2 for the weekend.



Sunday afternoon we played round 5 against a fairly strong team. I had assumed that we were completely doomed about an hour into the match, as board two was in trouble, board three had drawn quickly and board 4 was already lost. I had the white pieces against a strong national master, and we got an interesting position from what began as a Sicilian. After I self-destructed in this game, we ended up losing 1.5-2.5 (board 2 was dead lost but made a miracle comeback thanks to a blunder from the opponent). I think my pessimism about my position lead to me playing too desperately. You can judge for yourself:



Considering I should have probably lost in round 1 and round 3, the result was much higher than deserved. I want to take more risks in the future, but I need to do it without overreacting. It's a difficult balance, but by playing more training games I'm sure I'll develop a feel for it. I'll probably make another post just before my next tournament in March (not quite sure which that will be yet).  Thanks for reading!


Until next time