Houston Lone Star Open 2017: U1600
I just played in the Houston Lone Star Open 2017 this past weekend, run by Cajun Chess, in the U1600 section. With a good result and a few lessons learned, I thought it was worth a blog post. Saturday was April 1st, so I posted the picture above on the local chess club Facebook group.
My chess rating has plateaued in the 1500s these past two years (see image below), and I was hoping to break 1600 going into the tourney. I was 4.0/4 going into the last round but lost, in a 5-way tie for 2nd place with 4.0/5 and saw a rating increase from 1519 to 1590 (crosstable). Not sure what to do in the next Cajun Chess tournament. Should I play U1600 again to prove that I can win the section? Or should I play up to U1800 for stronger opponents?
The game comments below cover my thoughts during each game, without computer analysis, because thought process is where I need to be more consistent when playing chess. This lichess study has my games with computer evaluation to analyze the accuracy of the moves.
The opening was awkward in this game (I've never played against the Bird). The middle game was comfortable, but he built some pressure that made me want to trade pieces (usually I want to keep pieces for attacking). He allowed a skewer that gave me a big advantage, then he didn't find a good defense against my counterattack.
Before the game Dennis basically predicted he would lose, which I was okay with. I was happy to play the King's Gambit with white. He castled queen-side but played passively. I won a piece, then blundered it back in a slightly worse endgame. Dennis did not play accurately and gave me the win, as predicted. Thanks, Dennis. Lessons Learned: Keep my guard up even when winning.
This was my 2nd time playing Jay Serice, again as black. I played the dutch, and he gambited a pawn on e4. I accepted, then regretted the capture as his active pieces dominated my cramped position. It didn't feel like I was accurately defending, but my moves were good enough to make him think, draining his clock. I also remember outplaying him last encounter in the endgame, so I traded queens when he offered and hoped for the best. Low on time, he allowed a tactic that won me a piece and the game. Lessons Learned: Free pawns are risky. I can beat Jay in the endgame.
Saran appeared very confident before the game, so I was bracing myself for a tough struggle against a young opponent. I had white in the Grand Prix Attack, and I was able to try the Bb5 line, on which I had just watched a YouTube lecture by Warren Harper. I played more positionally than normal, simply attacking the weak c5 pawn. I stuck to simple, solid moves to keep improving my pieces. Before I had developed a plan of attack, he allowed a double attack, winning a piece. Then he allowed another double attack, winning an exchange. On move 29 I found and made a mate-in-3 threat, which he didn't realize was unstoppable until it was mate-in-2. This was my best game of the tourney. Lessons Learned: Bb5 is good. Attacking weak pawns can induce larger weaknesses. Play solid, piece-improving moves, and let my opponent make the mistakes.
Fred and I were the only 4.0/4 players going into the last round. I really wanted this win, and I was black. 1 e4 appeared, and I played the Black Lion for the first time in a tourney. I think the Black Lion caught Fred off guard, and I got a good position out of the opening. My attack created sharp complications that drained his clock, giving me a big time advantage. I had good pressure, but I didn't see a way to break through, and I didn't have a plan. This is when I should have reevaluated the position to create a new plan. But instead, I tried to play the clock against my opponent and made a careless move, hoping that it would induce a blunder. The only blunder was my move was a blunder, losing the exchange. And because the position was already sharp, I was not able to mount a defense before he could counterattack. And I lost. Lessons Learned: Study the Black Lion more. Always have a plan. DO NOT play the clock against my opponent.