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Mid-Expert Crisis of Sorts

Aug 6, 2016, 10:33 PM 1

2157 USCF (this as of August) is the closest I've ever been to master, and yet I've never felt so far away from achieving it.

A few days ago, I decided not to check any ratings until after the Cleveland Open (a mini-version of what Isaac Steincamp is doing). My reaction to today's disaster tournament isn't ideal, but I think it's clear that was the right decision. 43 points is not a lot, and it's made me anxious to gain them lately.

So far, so good: I junked the results email when I got it and the USCF site is down (!). (Edit: the site's back up, but results aren't up on MSA)

I'm probably being overly dramatic. As I've shared many times, I came back to regular chess from childhood and went from 1300s to 2100s in 2 years. Regardless of the factors in play, this was a very fortunate progression. Asking to just make master after 2 years is being spoiled, perhaps.

But as I said in my second chess^summit article my main struggle in recent times has been coming to terms with the consistency required at the 2100+ level, particularly increasing it against experts and masters. However, a lot changed in the last few weeks.


The first shock came, and although I came back with a tough win against a master the week after, today (Pennsylvania G/45 Championships) was a disaster.

I'd started with 1/2. Against a young 1874, my opponent had some pawn structure issues but activity, but as he fell to 3 minutes, he had to retreat and I built up a dominating position.

And I had 20 minutes left, but completely missed the Ne5 and played 35...Qf1??. My opponent found the nice 36. Rc2! and won easily after I was forced to give up the queen for the rook.

After that, I was so pissed that in my next game, I didn't really play chess, for lack of a better description. I tried crazy attacks without calculating, and my opponent, rated 1804, ended up 2 pawns for most of the game but royally messed up a rook ending, giving me a draw.


These recent results are particularly rattling because of my historical consistency against <2000 players. 3 consecutive games against Class A players lost by 1) getting wrecked in an hour, 2) blundering when 20 minutes up, and 3) almost just throwing a game. It's not indicative of someone who has any respectable consistency against these guys.

From a ratings standpoint, the issue is that even the occasional lapse is very costly. That's why I am confident those types of losses are not acceptable now, no matter how common.

Also, I was really disgusted at how I handled the last game mentally, given how much I've improved over time. Clearly I already broke these rules. Which is a shame because over the last year or so I got to pull off some great stuff, like almost taking 2nd in the state championship after losing to a 1527 (if I had pulled that off, it would definitely be my best chess story to date).

Overall, this is contributing to my disbelief that I can achieve the kind of consistency/mentality needed for master. However, it was a very rough few hours, provoking some unusual reactions, so obviously I'll have to give it time to settle.

The one possible benefit is I get to go into Cleveland with no real expectations (the consensus seems to be that less is generally better). But I can't just tank tournaments hoping to go into the next with no expectations. Ratings just don't gain that way, hahaha.

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