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We decided just last week to play in the Chicago Open, and I think it was a good last-minute decision. There are so many good players here, including 21 grandmasters. Luckily we're not in the same section as them. Ana is playing in U1300, and my recent slump is allowing me to play in U1100. Since my OTB rating is 1095, I was the second seed in the section (which has a $1,000 top prize).
I sat down for my first game this afternoon looking forward to a good game of chess. Apparently my opponent didn't feel the same way, though, because he never showed up. So I got a win, but not in a fun way.
Round 2 was against a dreaded unrated player. It's much scarier to play an unrated player than a rated one, particularly in a tournament with big money prizes. That ups the likelihood that they're GOOD unrated players, hoping to take everyone by surprise. Sure enough, in the first round, all three unrated players in our section won their games. So I faced one of them, and I was terrified. It turned out to be a really fun game, though! It was a Sicilian, which I don't like...I need to learn more about all the myriad variations; I'm really only familiar with the Dragon and to a certain extent the Najdorf. We kept it fairly even, though, until a pin allowed me to fork his queen and rook with 11...Nd4, and I was able to trade the knight for his rook. A tactics two-for-one - score! Then I got stupid. Before the trade, I'd thought about bringing my queen to the g-file, then taking the h-pawn with my bishop, threatening mate and winning the rook, but the knight fork was more appetizing. So I got it in my head that I could still do it, when it's a very different situation having a queen on f8 than a rook. 15. Qg3 was not just a wasted move, though. It also set me up for 15...Nxe4. I thought, wow, he just hung his knight! Uh, no, he was setting me up for a Royal Fork, and I fell right into the trap. Losing my queen was okay, though, as I got compensation in the form of two knights and a pawn. Then I got another pawn when he played 20...Be6. After that I got into such a rock-solid position (just look at the board on move 35!) that I knew there was no way he could break through. The problem was, I didn't see a definite path to mate, either, and I was scared of taking a risk to try to queen a pawn. So I offered a draw. It was a game worthy of a draw. He gladly accepted.
I headed down to play round 3 this morning, and my opponent wasn't there. So I started the clock, hoping she'd show up and it wouldn't be a replay of round 1. She DID show up, but it was only to tell me that she had a bye that round, but the TDs accidentally paired her anyway. It's a good thing she showed up to check; otherwise she'd have been booted from the tournament and I'd have had to sit there for an hour doing nothing. So after 3 rounds, I have 2-1/2 points, and have only played 1 game. And my fears about unrated players have been confirmed...of the three unrated players in our section, two were playing on board 1, and the third (who I drew yesterday) thoroughly trounced the highest rated player in the section in this round.
On to round 4 - and I get to play this time! Unfortunately, it's against the guy who's been beating everyone, and who was listed as unrated, but who actually isn't. I played the Italian opening and he played 3. Nf6, so I debated with myself about whether I should play the Fried Liver. In the end, I thought what the heck; it's risky, but at least it will be a fun game. He played the dreaded 5...Na5, which I'm not as familiar with as the classic response, so I figured I might be in trouble at that point. I think I would have been fine if I'd played 8. Be2 instead of 8. Ba4. I'd have been down in development, but up a pawn, and in a fairly solid position. My underdeveloped position allowed him to chase my knight all over the board, though; I should have just undeveloped it back to g1 on 10 instead of letting him end up taking it. After that I was on the run for a long time. The big idiot move I made was missing that his knight was hanging after 22...g5! If I'd taken it, I would have been just fine. I didn't even see it. So I chalked up my first loss of the tournament.
It wouldn't be my last loss of the tournament. In round 5, I played another unrated player. I made a mistake early on that cost me dearly. I play four knights all the time with Ana, but neither one of us ever play 4. d4, so I was not used to it. I didn't see 7. e5 coming. I should have just undeveloped the knight, but I didn't want to go backwards...I just got myself in deeper by playing 7...Nh5. I ended up with a terrible position after the trade, even though material was even. Then I made Ana's favorite mistake, meeting a threat with a threat, when I played 14...c5. He got my rook and the rest was just a nightmare.
In round 6, I faced Thomas Hodo. He came into our section seeded first, and I was seeded second. After round 5 we both had 2-1/2 points. We'd been chatting between rounds, and I'd grown fond of him, so it was like a match between friends when we finally played. I was pretty proud of my play in the opening. Then...well, all I can say is...25...Rfc8. One stupid move. I lost a pawn, then lost my focus and lost the game. Sigh...
My final game was against a very nice man whose rating wasn't very high. If you're wondering why I didn't play 15. Qxe7, it's because his queen was actually on d7; he made an illegal move and I didn't catch it.
So overall, I'm pretty unsatisfied with my performance at the Chicago Open. Of my four competitive games, I drew one and lost three. My OTB chess has been slipping so much lately. I think I'm so much better online because of two things: the explorer and the analysis board. So maybe I need to work on openings and visualization. I have no idea how to work on visualization. But I think it's going to take some work just to get my rating back to where it used to be.