This past Saturday I attended the Birmingham Challenge, a 4-round Swiss style tournament. The games were 70 minutes per side with a 5-second delay.
Shortly before this tournament I looked to see how I had done in last year's tournament. Last year I had been co-champion and my rating has risen from 2018 to 2040. Then I realized a sobering fact: In October 2015 I played a tournament and my rating rose to 2075, just two points lower than my current 2077. Two points in almost a whole year?! Yikes! In early 2016 my rating rose to 2087, but then changed little even thought I went to several tournaments.
I decided to look at what I was doing when I was steadily improving compared to what I had been doing the past few months. The main difference seems to be the quality of my training and study. I wrote a bit about this earlier this year, so why was I falling into the same bad habits? I think one of the main reasons was because I hadn't been blogging here. Perhaps it sounds strange, but I've noticed that because I've not been blogging here (1) I've not analyzed my games as well, and so (2) I've not addressed my weaknesses as much, and (3) I've lost some of the drive to perform well that comes from knowing that I'm later going to publish my games and the reasons for my decisions. Thus, this post.
Before the tournament I did manage to get some serious study in, thankfully, and at the start of the tournament I was feeling very well.
After that game I was feeling very well. I started with a calm opening where I might have a tiny advantage and exploited Black's mistakes well. The only two moves I was critical of were Rc2 and h4.
Another game, another smooth win. I wasn't completely happy with how I played the opening too quickly, but overall so far I was very happy with my play. Even though I had 2/2, I knew the last two rounds would be critical as I'd likely play experts.
Going into the last round I had 2.5/3. My previous opponent also had the same score, as did my next opponent. Everyone else had less than 2.5. I was a bit tired and slightly nervous before game 4 because although I have a decent record against my opponent, as of late he has been playing very well, and has won some critical games against me.
That was a crazy game. I had only 8 seconds on my clock when White resigned!
It is hard to describe how my emotions felt after that. First I play a crazy sacrifice that turns out incorrect, and during most of the game I was sure I'd lose. There is all that adrenaline during a time scramble in which I have no idea who will win. Then suddenly my opponent resigns and it turns out I've won clear first.
I thought my rating would reach the 2090's, but it actually turned out that it went to 2100 exactly! This is the first tournament I've won outright this year, so I'm very happy with the result.
My play could certainly use some work, though. I really, really need to improve my calculation and visualization. That is what I'll be working on next!
To 2200 and beyond! (D.V.)