2015 Slow Chess League Championship
I recently became a 2015 Slow Chess League Co-Champion along with Der-Schachspieler.
Before showing my games from the tournament, I'd like to invite you to check out the Slow Chess League. For years I've been playing in the tournaments SirIvanhoe (the Slow Chess League TD) has hosted, and they have been of great benefit to my chess. Usually one 45|45 or 90|30 game is played each week. There are many players of many different skill levels who have been a pleasure to play with. Playing a slow game with a real board (I do this) is a lot like playing OTB, and has really helped me improve and also stay sharp between OTB tournaments.
Recently the Slow Chess League hosted the 2015 championship. I qualified to participate. There were 16 players divided into 4 quads. Each player played two games with another player in the quad per week. The winner of each quad advanced to a final quad. I managed to make it through my preliminary quad on tie breaks, and so I made it to the finals.
In the first round I faced Der-Schachspieler, who would become a Co-Champion.
Last year I think my positional understanding and my planning skills improved a lot. During the past few months my opening repertoire has also improved. But in this game my opening play was somewhat superficial and I completely underestimated White's queenside expansion. Although I think I might have reacted correctly to White's queenside play and achieved equality at some point, I messed up when I played a check that stopped White from castling but basically just caused me to lose time because White didn't want to castle anyway. Then I played quite passively and was mercilessly ground down. (In the future I might annotate these games.)
A tough start. I'm now 0/1.
In this game my play was a lot better. I've recently started playing for a quick d2-d4 break against the Symmetrical variation of the English opening. We played a variation where White gets an IQP but Black has an isolated c-pawn. I felt that I had clear plans and maybe a small edge, and the battle was getting enjoyable, but then suddenly my opponent's queen became trapped!
Perhaps Black's resignation was a bit premature, but in any case this game was certainly nice for me after my first game. I now had 1/2.
In the second week of the finals I faced Kasparov57349, an opponent I've played several times before. He's always been a tough opponent.
Around the beginning of the tournament I had borrowed a book on the Caro-Kann. In the Classical variation it covered variations where Black plays Ngf6, Be7, and 0-0. I was quite amazed by the play that Black could generate even in the variations where queens are traded.
Although my play was probably not perfect, I soon reached a position where I was the only one with winning chances. I might have been winning at some point, but messed up and we reached a position that seemed drawn (two pawns per side with a knight vs bishop). My opponent offered a draw, but I thought that I couldn't lose, and maybe could figure out some way to put a little pressure on my opponent, so I played on. I quickly moved my knight this way and that, but couldn't get anything. Then I had an idea: Maybe I could somehow lose a move with my knight if I checked my opponent's king. I did so, but then realized I had left my knight en prise! Ouch! And then something more amazing happened: My opponent said he was still willing to draw the game because it was late and under any other circumstance I wouldn't have blundered.
Wow. Quite a turn of events. I'm very pleased with the opening and middle game and some of the ending, but I'm still not sure what to think about the very end. I certainly need to be work on being careful even when it seems I cannot lose. Anyway, I had 1.5/3.
If my opponent had not drawn the game, and if all the other games' results were the same, Kasparov57349 would be Co-Champion instead of me. I guess I'm an undeserving but happy co-champion.
This game was played on Thursday evening. First thing Friday morning my family would be traveling out of state for my grandma's birthday party. I do handyman work for real estate investors, and a bunch of them wanted me to do a bunch of work before I left for a trip. So after working all day I got home 15 minutes before the game, quickly showered, got some food, and then set up the chess board. (I still had to pack and do a few things before the trip).
Anyway, I think I let my tiredness and other obligations distract me and although I played the opening well and was the only one with winning chances, I didn't try very hard and any advantage I had fizzled away and I actually had to be careful not to give my opponent winning chances.
Well, not a bad result. In both games I was the one trying to play for the win. Now I have 2/4.
This week I faced onurbruno, an opponent I hadn't faced before.
The game started out as a Caro-Kann Exchange variation. It was quite quiet and I felt that I had a decent position out of the opening, and could start a nice minority attack. But then I suddenly won a knight and then actually a queen (my opponent said he was distracted).
Although not extremely satisfied with how I won that game, I was still certainly happy to win it, and now I had 3/5.
This game was quite an instructive game I think. In the opening my opponent had an IQP which I restrained and pressured. Then I was able to force the win of a pawn with a timely e2-e4. I was a bit careless (I was surprised by my opponent's 17...Bg4, and then my 22. d6+ was also careless because I hadn't calculated much) but thankfully I was able to find ways to keep my advantage and then converted it nicely by pushing my passed pawn.
So I finished the tournament on 4/6. (2.5/3 with White, 1.5/3 with Black).
Overall I was pleased with my play. There are definitely areas to improve in (especially keeping focused), but I see a lot of improvement in areas I have been working on.
Thanks to my opponents and to SirIvanhoe for making the tournament such a nice event!
Thanks for reading. If you haven't done so, check out the Slow Chess League (here's the website; note that they also host tournaments on ICC and FICS). It would be awesome if next year there could be some titled players playing!