2014 Alabama State Championship
Last weekend was the Alabama State Championship. Even though I knew I couldn't play in the last two games (reducing my winning chances), I still decided to play in it for the experience
Before the tournament I had decided my calculation needed improvement, so I decided to play change from the 2. g3 English to 1. e4, from the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon to the Najdorf, but I kept the Grunfeld.
I'm thinking of keeping two repertoires, one with lots of theory, but is played at top level and fights for an advantage, and one that has less theory and can often surprise opponents, but might have a drawback.
The first two games of the tournament in the two day option had a time control of G/75 with a 5 second delay.
Overall I'm quite happy to have won, but not so happy with my opening play. My opponent played very well in the opening and I deserved to lose, but, as often happens to me, my opponent didn't find the way to finish me off. Maybe that's why chess.com's chess personality quiz labeled me an 'escape artist.'
Next game was against the defending state champion NM Scott Varagona. Last month I had played him for the first time and had a nice draw out of a 2. g3 English. Actually, I should have won, but he offered a draw when I had about two minutes on my clock and to avoid perpetual I had to move my king forward in front of my pawns.
Now I wasn't sure what to play: 1. e4 or 1. c4. My last game against him was one of my best games, but I had planned to play 1. e4 this tournament. I also knew that he knew a lot about the Caro-kann. To make it worse, on the board next to mine the top seed IM Ron Burnett (USCF 2477 - 1st place with 5/5) had just played... you guessed it, an English with 2. g3.
In the end I decided to play 1. e4 since playing 1. c4 would not have been made as a strategic decision, but simply out of fear.
I'm glad of my decision to play 1.e4 even though I lost. First of all, though I had drawn this strong NM before in a very positional struggle, I now played a fairly decent game against him in a tactical battle despite having known that he's good at the Caro-Kann and also very good at attacking (I've seen some of his games at other tournaments).
Also, I used to be nervous of opposite side castling. After studying it, I was no longer afraid of it, but hadn't had it in a game vs a strong player in tournament play. Now I realize that my fear that it would result in each player simply playing forced moves and the winner being almost random is false.
I also had been afraid that in a tactical battle it would have been completely one sided, and I'm quite happy that it wasn't that simple.
So, skill still rules even in opposite side castling and I have some skills. Just kidding. But I still feel this was a good game, and I might be most happy about my play in it, despite it being my only loss.
In the remaining rounds (or for me round) the time control was something that I've not played before, but is similar to popular time controls at higher level tournaments.
For the first 40 moves players had 100 minutes with no delay. Then, after their 41s move they gained 30 minutes per side and had a 10 second dealy for the rest of the game.
A little weird. I think why not have 130 minutes from the start? It seems like this could happen: The game starts and both players play well, a certain result seems likely. Then both players rush to get 40 moves in and the level of play goes way down. Then they get more time and evauluate correctly - only now after playing quickly the position has completely changed, almost as if there had been two games. But whatever.
So it came down to time. I felt sorry for my opponent, but he was cheerful and simply said he should have managed his time better. What can I say? Such is life.
I was happy to win, but not so happy with how I played. Especially missing his Ba5 idea... Oh well, such is life
So that's that! I'm happy to have gained rating points. Not sure how many yet since it's not been rated.
[Edit] I went from 1927 to 1941. IM Burnett won the tourney with 5/5 and pocketed $500 minus the entry fee, but since he's not from AL, Stephen Adams (not me) is the new state champion with 4/5! Second seed NM Varagona went into the last round with 3/4 but was paired against the IM. I was the 11th highest rated out of 24 players in the open section. I finished with 3/5 (two 1/2 point byes) which made me in an 8-way(!) tie for fourth place, or places 4-11. I hope that means I played at or above my rating. Congrats to all the great players!
Conclusion & Analysis of Play
Overall I felt I played okay, but not the greatest. It's not so much because I don't have chess knowledge, but because I'm not applying it. In other words, I'm being a little lazy. I need to apply myself while playing and work on my thinking process. I know how to analyze variations and even come up with plans, but I also need to do so!
Often after a tournament what I do is have nine categories and when I come to a mistake, note which one it falls into. Then I can see what needs the most work.
- Openings: Overall not too terrible, but the first game wasn't so good. I think I need to widen what lines I know about openings, but maybe not get deeper into the lines. Also, I need to especially focus on the middle game plans and transitioning from the opening to the middle game.
- Endings: I didn't really reach any endings, and usually don't. If I do, so far I've been okay, so this will be on the back burner.
- Tactics: Clearly, I do need to work on these.
- Calculation: Ditto for above, and maybe even more. I didn't always calculate tactics, but I also didn't calculate normal moves as much as I should have either.
- Planning: Clearly something to work on.
- Positional Play: Somewhat yes. Especially in the transition from opening to the middle game.
- Evaluation: While I feel my intuition is somewhat strong, but evaluation is often a weak area. I often don't know why a position is good or bad except that it 'feels' like it is. Good, I'm getting experience, but I also need to be able to break a position down when giving evaluations.
- Time: Overall I'm happy with the way I used my time, except that I don't want to waste time staring at the board without calculating.
- Psychology (in other words, how objective was I): Lately I've been much less nervous while playing, and also happy to play in almost any position, so that's good.
- Play correspondence games and in the notes record plans and analysis. Don't move unless I have a clear plan written down! When playing the opening, first note what I'd play OTB and only then study what books/databases recommend. Focus on the opening ideas, not lines. 10 at a time is good.
- Solve tactics on chesstempo.com without a timer. Write lines down before solving them, since this will force me to analyze in a structured way. 2 a day isn't bad since it takes awhile.
- Keep reading Kotov's Think Like A Grandmaster and try to follow his suggestions such as evaluating a position yourself before reading an author's analysis. At least a page or two/day.
- Play as many slow games as possible and always analyze them afterwards. At least 3/week.
- Help in Vote Chess games since when showing my ideas to others I always have to have clear plans/reasons/analysis/evaluations. I do it daily.
- Read Chess.com's articles and news since they cover a wide variety of subjects. When they come out :)
- Play blitz games and solve tactics with a timer to keep sharp. Only take a little time for this; focus on the quality stuff.
Well, that's my tournament and thoughts about it. Hope you enjoyed it!