2015 Alabama Dual-Rated Championships
Last Saturday I participated in the Alabama Dual-Rated Championships. The tournament is so named because with the time control of 45|10, both classical and quick USCF ratings are affected.
Recently I had become an Expert after having won a match 4-0 against someone who has a rating close to mine. However, my performance in tournaments was shaky: in the two tournaments (with long time controls) I had played this year, I had first lost 13 rating points and then 10 more points. Therefore, I was a bit unsure of myself.
I decided to look at how I had trained before a successful tournament, and found that when I really put my heart into it, read chess books, and practiced with a real board, I did well.
Another change I made was to commit to a White opening. For awhile I've been playing the Caro-Kann and Slav as Black, but would change back and forth with White. After awhile I actually prefered to play Black! I also realized that many of my loses were due to not knowing common plans in the opening/early middle game. I decided to play 1. c4 because with 1. e4 and 1. d4 Black decides the opening, but with 1. c4 White decides the opening, the English. Anyway, I studied a lot of middle game ideas that arise from my openings.
In the first round I played an opponent who I've played 5+ times before, with a perfect score. However, she is a very talented and very young player, so I was not careless.
After the game I felt quite content. Even though I no longer had a perfect score against my opponent, I felt she had played quite well. Also, it was my first time playing the English in a tournament in awhile and I thought my play was decent.
In my next game I encountered another young opponent who I've never played before. His play was rather passive and I simply played the position, got an advantage, and won:
I felt that game went smoothly except for when I was surprised by White's Ne3 idea. (Of course, now know that Ne3 was a blunder.) In any case, I felt quite pleased with the win.
Generally all rounds of a 4-round tournament are vital, and I usually face a very hard opponent in round 3. This is the round when some of the top players face each other, and it is decided who will be playing for prizes in the final round.
I faced an expert who I've not played before. He played an odd opening but played very well in the middle game and deserved to win; somehow I held out and even won during the time scramble.
Whew! I felt that I'd played a horrible game and yet won. So now I have 2.5/3 and was actually tied for first with two other people who win most of the tournament in Alabama.
My next opponent is one who I had a score of 0.5/3 against, but now I was determined to do better! In my previous games with him I'd always had White (draw with 1. c4, two losses with 1. e4) so it was interesting to play Black against him.
After the game I was very happy; I felt my play wasn't so great, but was of course delighted with the outcome of the game and the tournament.
Stephen Adams (who had 2.5/3 going into the round) won his fourth round game and so won the tournament with 3.5/4. I was in a three-way tie for second, and gained 21 rating points and $85.
Where I need to improve:
I think I really need to get better at planning, calculation, and evaluation. I often didn't have a plan during the games. I also didn't calculate very much, and when I did, it I didn't do it very well. I also evaluated incorrectly, especially in my third and fourth games I assumed my position to be worse than it was, probably in part because I didn't have clear plans.
I think I'll finish up with a quote from Mark Dvoretsky's Attack and Defense:
Grandmasters of an intuitive bent -- Capablanca, Tal, Petrosian, Karpov are examples -- have a delicate feel for the slightest nuances of a position, while possessing a keen eye for combination. They are relatively weaker when it comes to planning and strategy; they are none to fond of working out variations, and commit errors in their calculations.
At the oopposite pole there are players like Rubinstein, Botvinnik, and Kasparov. They conceive profound plans in the opening and ensuing phases; they think in a disciplined manner and calculate variations precisely. Yet now and again they miss unexpected tactical ideas; they sometimes prove too single-minded and insufficiently alert to the critical moments of the struggle.
When I first read this quote I didn't understand this way of categorizing players; tactical vs positional made more sense to me. However, after looking at my games I feel these the intuitive vs. logical categories make a lot of sense, and find that the description of the intuitive player fits me to a T (at least the weaknesses part). Therefore I'm going to study in the way Dvoretsky recommended. Buy his book to know what that is