Back on Track

GM Shankland

I remember not so long ago, going into a slump made me feel like the world was going to end. This displayed a lack of maturity on my part- any chess player knows that they will have swings, days and tournaments when they play great and days and tournaments where they think they should take up checkers instead. With this in mind, I was ready to combat my recent slump with a more appropriate response. After a terrible US Championship, mediocre New York International, and terrible World Open, I lost 21 FIDE points and it was very clear that things were not going too well. But, I managed to keep my head on straight, and my last 2 events have been big improvements. I broke even in the match against China and really shined in the rapid games, and now more recently, yesterday I finished first at the ZMDI Open in Dresden with a performance rating over 2700, picking up 2000 Euros for my efforts:


I think the biggest recipe for success I had was a combination of three things:

1. Play sharp and aggressive, look for fights.

2. When given a chance, take it!

3. Defend resiliently when aggressive play backfires.


My games were a true testament to this strategy. After going 3-0 in my first 3 games, I only needed 2 more wins from my next 6 to win the tournament, and both of them came from vicious attacks in sharp positions:


But just as important as these two swashbuckling victories was nitty gritty defense. Winning is very nice, but to win you have to take risks, and risks can easily backfire. I got 2 sharp positions against GMs Oleksienko and Sengupta with the black pieces, and they both outplayed and outcalculated me in the complications, and ended up in much better endgames. Defending as fiercely as I could, I managed to save both of these highly unpleasant positions, and I attribute a large part of my tournament victory to these efforts.

When all was said and done, I finished with 7.0/9, narrowly taking first on tiebreak over Oleksienko and Meier by half a Buchholz point. After this event my live rating is 2605- it is very nice to have you back, 26! And I feel very, very back on track for reaching higher levels.

Best of Luck to All,

GM Sam Shankland