GM Shankland
Aug 13, 2012, 2:09 AM |

Greetings to all! Hopefully this blog post finds everyone enjoying a lovely summer. I'm currently sitting in seat 32c of a Norwegian Air jet somewhere over Copenhagen, and I think it's totally awesome to have free wifi on board! Hopefully some US based airlines will follow their example. Anyhow, on to the chess content. Since I missed a couple months of blogging, I think I should post a couple extra this month to make up for lost time. This blog will be about the merits of taking risks.

I reached a 41 game non-losing streak that spanned across 7 months, from October 31, 2011 to July 5, 2012. I was quite proud of this streak, it showed that I was really solid and resilient. However, looking back at it now, I think this streak was actually a negative change because it showed that I was not taking as many risks as I should be. While I didn't lose any games, I drew 4 players under 2300 FIDE- in the past couple years I had scored 26.5/27 against this rating range! So while the shortcomings of an occasional loss to a strong grandmaster were gone, the shortcomings of not getting the job done in the first few rounds were really starting to present themselves. For this reason, after quickly gaining 25 points in the first couple months of the streak, I leveled out around 2580 FIDE for half a year, despite the fact that I felt my real strength was well into the 2600s. Upon a close examination of my poor results, I decided the culprit was I just wasn't winning enough games, largely because I was not entering positions that were complicated enough that I could expect my opponents to make mistakes. I made a resolution to change this, and change I did. In the last month I have lost 3 games, including my first upset loss in over 2 years:

However, in spite of all these losses, I won a lot more games than was the recent norm and I managed to gain 18 FIDE points in the last 3 tournaments- certainly a welcome change after leveling out for 6 months! This takes my live rating to 2597, and I feel like I am back on track to reaching higher levels. Lawrence Fishburne says it best:

"You're playing not to lose, Josh, that's nothing to be proud of, play like you used to, from the gut!" 

To finish off, I'll mention that I shared first place in the Riga Technical University Blitz tournament, culminated by one of the crowning achievements of my blitz career in the final round (even if the game was not perfect or computer-proof).

Good luck to all!

GM Sam Shankland