Going for a Title: Chapter 4 "Preparing for my First Tournament"
I was in the middle of going over my notes from a lesson when my brother in law sent me a text about a tournament near him next month. One of my notes was my coach recommending I find a tournament in the next month or so, so it seemed like the planets aligned and this was going to be go time. I mean I've been doing all this training, studying, and playing for a reason, to perform well in tournaments and, someday, gain a title. This will be my first step and a chance to gauge my progress.
I mated in two moves once in this position, but as my coach and a few Twitter followers pointed out, I could have done it in one (thanks Freddy1201 and the Dayton Chess Club). Not wasting tempo and seeing the mate opportunities are two things I need work on.
Since beginning lessons I've felt much more confident in my playing and, equally important, I've been enjoying the game we all love even more. Indeed my rating has gone up a little bit since starting, 983 to 1021 in Blitz and 996 to 1099 in Rapid. I've also had the opportunity to play some great players who have shared their insights and analysis with me. Quite a few friends and several masters on Twitter have also been very willing to help or point out opportunities, give insight, or offer advice (thank you Carsten Hansen, Michael Ciamarra, and Isaac Steincamp) . I've also had the moral support of friends, family, my coach, and the team at chess.com (Dan Rensch and Sam Copeland, you guys rock!) Between the people in my corner and my growing board awareness, I am confident I will grow. Maybe slowly at first, but I WILL get there.
My coach and I spend the majority of our classes analyzing my games. He will often show alternate moves I could have made or opportunities my opponent is presenting. He also shows me some common lines or themes I may be unfamiliar with or overlooking. I'm a very visual learner, so utilizing tools like this make the greatest impact for me.
Diagrams like the one above are starting to be how I see the board. Instead of seeing a piece I want or a square to occupy, I'm seeing routes and lanes to get where I want to go.
Playing in front of a computer or on my phone is fine and helps, but playing in person is a different vibe all together. Recently I was able to play a match with brother in law as well as one with my niece. I was happy to find I still enjoyed it just as much as I've been enjoying my online battles. As important, I was able to see the board and moves just the same. I feel like the game is starting to "click", and I'm enjoying this game more every day no matter how much time I spend in the books, on the site, or reviewing matches. The next step will be to learn more trap recognition, something I need some help with.
Playing aside, I also need to make sure I am mentally and physically prepared for tournament play. I won't be on a couch or at my coffee table and I will need to wear pants. I am a little anxious, but I'm very excited and happy to play! Staying well and making sure I have enough rest are key. My coach pointed out that I need to make sure I am rested and relaxing as well. With some time away from chess so my mind can rest, I can come back to the game stronger and with fresh eyes. That being said, it's time to stuff my face with fair food and regret my dietary decisions later.
What do you remember most about your first tournament? Any advice you'd care to share? Please share in the comments below.