Active Learning > Passive Learning, Play in the Center 1 Recap
On Saturday I visited the recently-opened Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta to play in a 3-round (G/90, D/5) tournament. It was my first time playing rated chess out of Alabama. I also met a Grandmaster for the first time in real life. GM Ben Finegold was friendly and very funny, and I'm glad he opened the club. It's neat that they'll be having tournaments almost every Saturday. I'm excited about the club and hope it grows to have some big events eventually.
Before the Tournament:
About a month before this event I had reviewed my games from a recent tournament and thought about some trends in my play from the previous months and years. I had not lost an OTB game since January and was usually finishing well in tournaments, but was not gaining many points and also was not satisfied with my play. I was simply drawing too many games. Also, tournaments no longer really excited me.
I concluded that in the past I used to be very active in both my training and games, but more recently had been training and playing on auto-pilot. I used to possess very little chess knowledge compared to recent times, but worked hard to learn more and apply what I learned (frequently using most of my time during games). More recently I had simply been passive in study (focusing too much on openings, not visualizing variations when studying GM games, relying on computers to analyze my finished games, etc) and only putting in real effort if I was in trouble.
My plan was to focus on being extremely active in my study. No more analyzing finished games with the computer, less clicking through opening databases, etc. I made a plan to solve a lot of tactics (without a timer), play and then analyze my games on a real board, study GM games and visualize every variation, and so on.
For most of the month I did well, although in the week before the tournament I was busy with life and really slacked off my training plan. Still, I was very excited before the tournament and hoping I might face some new, high rated players. As it turns out I was the only 2000+ rated player, but I couldn't control that; I just have to play my best whoever I'm playing.
In round one I faced a young player I had never faced before. By the way, I am not using a computer to analyze anything, so if you see a line I missed or a different opinion about plans or evaluations I would love to hear from you!
My opponent's main problem was playing to fast, in my opinion. I wasn't certain of my evaluations in the opening or early middle game, but overall am happy with my play.
Maybe I was simply overconfident after winning one game or perhaps I ate too much lunch instead of having snacks/smaller meals throughout the day, but in any case, my next game is not one I'm proud of:
That definitely shows me I need to play slower in the opening and have a clear plan. I need to calculate better, especially when considering non-forcing moves. My evaluations could also use some work. Time management (and being calm with low time) could be improved too. I need to see ahead accurately so that I don't start playing with one idea only to have to switch to another. In short, I need to work on everything.
Before sharing my next game, here's a puzzle from it. What do you think is the best move for White? Pretend you were in a serious tournament game, so don't just drag pieces and guess.
And here's the game:
That game gave me a good feeling. I'm happy with my calculation in it. I do think being more prophylactic would be beneficial to me, though.
After the tournament I initially liked that I was calculating a lot, but felt perhaps I had shifted too much from playing intuitively to trying to use brute force for everything. Now I don't think that's correct. I think I just need to improve both my general knowledge of the game and my calculation.
I'm definitely going to keep training very actively. Earlier this year I kind of had the mentality that I really couldn't improve my rating without playing stronger players, and thus wouldn't try. It will be beneficial to play stronger players for certain, but now I'm motivated to try to play... well, perfect, no matter who I play.
I won $80 for sharing 2nd/3rd place. Many thanks to GM Ben Finegold and his wife Karen for opening the club! I hope to return soon.