K-12 Nationals - My Experience
Can you spot the Washington Monument in the distance?

K-12 Nationals - My Experience

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As some of you may know, I recently played in the K-12 Nationals, where I scored a mediocre 5/7. I feel that although this definitely wasn't my best tournament, the experience was too good not to share. Plus, I can certainly learn something from my games. Anyways, without further ado, here was my experience at the Nationals. Enjoy!

Before the Tournament

The Nationals are usually held in Orlando, Florida, so when me and my dad heard that it was being held in Maryland this year, we decided to jump at the chance. Because I live in Massachusetts, it wasn't convenient to take a flight, so we decided to drive the entire way. So on Thursday after school, we were on the road. The drive was very nice, as we passed many beautiful landmarks and major cities. Finally, after an 8-hour drive, we arrived at the resort.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Forest Heights, Maryland.
National Harbor.

The hotel was much better than I expected, and the scenic boardwalk really added to the atmosphere. It was already 1:00 AM when we arrived, so I hurried to sleep awaiting tomorrows round. 

Round 1

I woke up at around 9:00 AM, surprisingly feeling well rested. Because the round only started at 1, I had time to eat a good breakfast and go on a morning walk. I already knew from the beginning that the first game would be pretty easy. I was in the top-half of the bracket, so I would most likely get someone rated 1100 or less. As expected, I was right.

Not much can be said about this game, my opponent was only 1000 so I can't blame him for his blunders. I made a few inaccuracies early into the game, so if he capitalized on all of them he might've had a chance. Anyways, a win's a win and I was ready to play a more difficult opponent in the following round.

K-12 Nationals Playing Hall.

Round 2

After playing some blitz and taking a quick break, I was back on the go for my second game. A fun fact about this tournament, it was nearly twice as big as last years with over 2500 people! Still, everything was extremely organized, but I still somehow had trouble finding my board. I expected a more difficult opponent for this round, so I was ready for a harder match.

I think that most of the game I played well, but I probably could've been more solid in the opening. For example, 7...a5?! could've easily been replaced by a better move. Overall though, I'm pretty proud of how I won this game with a simple and smooth conversion.

Round 3

After an unsuccessful nights sleep, I woke up to an immediate round at 9:00 AM. Maybe staying up playing bullet for 2 hours wasn't the best idea. Anyways, after a quick shower and a look at the pairings, I sprinted towards the playing hall and found my board. 

I haven't been this frustrated in a while, I completely threw away my chances of ever doing good in this tournament. However, there are some takeaways that I can make. First off, you should never underestimate your opponent. When I looked at this player's rating, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that I would be able to get another simple win under my belt. And second, it's important to not give up even after blundering a piece. After I analyzed the game, I realized that I still had many chances to equalize even being down a pawn, but the negative aura clouded my judgement.

Round 4

After a disappointing loss, I had the motivation to push through and (hopefully) do good in the following rounds. Because this round was in the middle of the day, I didn't really have time to do much, so I quickly prepped and got ready for a tough match. As I walked towards the playing hall, I randomly stumbled upon Daniel Naroditsky and got to take a picture with him, so that was pretty cool.

Man, what a roller coaster! A bunch of blunders made by both players. I'm definitely not happy with the way that I played here, if my opponent did something about the mistakes that I made, I would've certainly lost. Something I could take away from this game is to make sure not to lose space early in the opening, after my solid but not very careful play, I ended up with barely any breathing room like 13 moves into the game. This made it very difficult to compete with my opponent's active pieces later in the game.

Round 5

After a trip to the local Starbucks, and a fast check on the World Cup scores, I checked out the pairings and solved some puzzles. It was the last round of the day and I wanted to finish off on a high note. I was kind of tired since the previous rounds were pretty exhausting, but I tried to put that aside and focused on the upcoming game. Thankfully, it seemed to work out well.

I could tell my opponent was a good player, it was unfortunate that he blundered so early into the game. Happens to the best of us, I guess. After 12...Ne6, I was dominating for almost the entire game, but still managed to screw the position up. I think that if I was less scared and went for the attack earlier on, I would've gotten a quicker win, and an overall more interesting game.

Round 6

The last day of the tournament had finally arrived. I woke up, took a cold shower, and went to check my pairings. Same thing as always. I decided to get to my board 15 minutes earlier, so I had time to fill out the game-form and go to the bathroom. I was hoping for a fluent win, but I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. After all, my opponent had 4/5 as well.

Unfortunately, this was probably one of the worst losses that I've ever had but let's make some takeaways. A big mistake that I made was playing video games the night before. I didn't think it would have that big of an impact on my play, but as you can see, it did. I was also pretty sleep deprived for most of the day, so that was a reason too. But overall, I have to credit my opponent for his excellent play, and I can't really make any excuses, I played terribly. I'll try to learn something from this round, and hopefully this never repeats again.

Round 7

Although I wouldn't be playing someone too strong, the pressure was still on me. If I lost this round, I definitely wouldn't have published this blog, plus my rating would've fell by about 50. This is why I made sure to not repeat the same mistakes, and fully focus on the game. 

This is obviously much better than my previous game, but still very unstable. I definitely could've had a cleaner win, plus I was lucky that my opponent didn't fully know the opening theory. Nevertheless, I was happy to take home this victory.

After the Tournament

After taking an old trophy that my friend gave to me, it was time for the dreaded 9-hour drive home. Surprisingly, the road was pretty fun, since we got to visit downtown Baltimore, NYC, and Newark. We also had lunch in Philly, so that was neat. Also, I wrote most of this blog on the car ride home, so that's an interesting fact, I guess. Once I got back to MA, it was snowing for the first time too. Just felt like I needed to add that in for some reason.

Times Square, NYC.

Final Thoughts

Overall, although this was a pretty bad tournament for me and I lost some rating, there was without a doubt a lot to be learned from my games. Also, meeting a lot of new people was definitely worth it. If you wish to check out the final standings, feel free to do so here. Before you leave, if you want to get extensive updates on my writing, (sometimes) sneak previews for future posts, or simply enjoy my content, feel free to join my club. Anyways, that's it for now, I hope you learned something new today. As always, I'll see you next time. See ya!