Summertime and Rating Goals

Jul 1, 2008, 11:53 AM |

The upcoming Independence Day in the United States (July 4th) means only one thing to non-history buffs -- that we are officially entering the dog days of summer.  As for me and my goals, it means I need to get a handle on what chess tournaments I'm going to play at in upcoming months.

Between now and Labor Day (the first weekend in September), I've settled on three tournaments, 1) 2nd Summer Solstice Open, 2) Southern Open, and 3) Florida State Championship.  While hardly New York or California, it's great being in the Sunshine State with its vibrant chess scene.

Because of commitments, I haven't had nearly as much time to study (or blog) as I would've liked to, so there are still both learning holes and repertoire holes.  The fact that I am working on the last 99 points to NM doesn't help either, as I'm expecting the slogging to get much more difficult.

As a function of that ratings goal, I've given some thought to what I'm going to do in a tournament when I've won rating points, but playing a lower-rated player gives me the potential to lose them all back.  For instance, suppose it's a 5-round tournament, it's the last round where I have a score going in of 2 1/2 and a win against a lower rated opponent will put me in the money.  However a loss against that opponent will not only knock me out of the money, but turn an event that was moving me towards my goal into a rating-points loser as well.  

Do you

  1. Play sharp, giving yourself a maximum chance to beat your opponent while also giving him the opportunity to beat you.
  2. Play conservative, keeping the draw in hand but waiting (hoping) your lower-rated opposition makes a mistake.
  3. Forfeit the game by not showing up (unplayed games are not rated), protecting your rating point gain and letting whatever little money may have been on the table go to your opponent.

I had a similar circumstance recently against talented junior Dalton Perrine (2031) in the last tournament.  I chose a combination of 1 and 2, using the London System (but playing aggressively).  I was able to play a classic Bishop sacrifice (Bxh7+), gain a pawn, and go on to win.  But what if I had been black?!

The third option is interesting, though, in that it begs the question as to whether one's goal is a rating number -- or the strength associated with that number.  If just the former, then such "protection" steps might be logically considered.  If the latter, than one should never have a problem playing anyone, anytime.

Given that my short-term goal is National Master strength (which one certainly has to be to achieve the long-term goal of FM) it makes no sense to protect rating gains.  Rating rises will be a function of strength, and strength rises will be function of study and application.  In fact, there is a counter-productive element to such protections in my case, as they mask whether I am truly getting stronger  and in what areas more work may be needed.  Each game has to be embraced as an opportunity to determine whether study elements have been successfully absorbed and applied.

But things change a little when actually tracking down the FM title.  The FM title is awarded automatically when a FIDE rating of 2300 is reached (there is also a Candidate Master -- CM Title -- available at FIDE 2200).  Would it matter to me if I achieved the FM title without actually being FM strength?  LOL, the answer is hell no...I wouldn't care if I were the weakest FM on the planet, since the title is the goal -- in stark contrast to my NM aspirations. 

And there has to be an FM that's the weakest of all.  Why CAN'T I be that guy?  Cool