Trip report: Lithuanian Chess Championship 2013 PART 1
The Superbowl. The NCAA's Final Four. The NBA Finals. The Lithuanian Chess Championship Final.
Nah, I am kidding - no one apart from Lithuanians really cares about the Lithuanian Chess Championship :) But to me, qualifying for it meant as much as the above mentioned events mean to their participants. I've dreamed about it since I was a boy and tried to qualify many, many, MANY times - yet always unsuccessfuly. I was starting to think that I will never make it. In 2012 I finally managed to break the spell after a crazy last round game (more about it in this blog entry: http://www.chess.com/blog/TVEDAS/never-ease-up-or-a-guide-on-how-to-not-get-swindled) and did fairly well in the actual final - 5th place among 10 strong players and a place in the national squad for the Istambul Chess Olympiad. At the time, realistically speaking, it felt like a pinnacle of my chess "career".
Let me tell you about the Final. Usually it is a 10 or 12 player round-robin tournament, with multiple GMs and IMs playing. Strong opposition, norm opportunities, games broadcasted online, a good deal of attention - to us, Lithuanian chess players (especially younger ones), it truly means a lot. The fact that it is a round-robin tournament suits me pretty well. I really like RRs! After the lots are drawn and pairings are made, you know your opponents for each round of the tournament. No nasty Swiss-style surprises in the pairings! Somehow this knowledge always comforts me. It allows for some preparation and also for some planning ahead as far as the style of play goes.
Anyway, 2013 came rolling in. To my surprise I managed to play well in the National Championship Semifinal (a qualifying tournament for the final) and got in to the final with relative ease. Two years in a row, baby! That felt good :) I was coming off a pretty good showing in the National League (national team championship) in which I beat a couple of GMs and, to everyones surprise, our young team managed to get 2nd place, ahead of some higher rated teams. I was confident, I felt like I can do damage in the final if everything goes according to plan. As you know, though, things rarely go according to plan...
The 2013 Final had 12 players, among them 3 GM's, 3 IMs and an FM. First 3 places would gain a spot in the national team for the European Team Championhip. I set that as my goal prior to the tournament, but since I was the 8th seed, I didn't TRULY believe I can do it. I decided to play extremely aggresively against the lower rated players and try to score 4/4 against them - I figured that that was the only way for me to have some chances for the top 3, as long as I held my ground against the higher rated guys.
After the pairings came in I saw that I was playing one of the lower rated players with black in Round 1. I was very happy about the pairings - after all, that is much better than having to face a 2500+ for the start of the tournament! I felt like if I am able to win this game, it might be a trend setter for the entire tournament - which one of us does not like a 1/1 start? :) With all these happy thoughts in my head it came as no surprise that I played one of my worst games in recent memory. Here it is (with some light commentary) for your viewing pleasure: