Going for a Title: Chapter 6 "One Week Out"
As the title implies, I'm one week out from my first official tournament. This will be my first event against rated players and my first step towards earning a title. The format is classical, great because it gives you plenty of time to analyze and consider your opponents plans. A caveat to that is the possibility of overanalyzing (blasphemy to some I'm sure.) So this past week I've been doing the homework; studying my openings, going over tactics, and analyzing my previous games to see what I did well or where I went wrong.
The chess.com analysis tool has been an invaluable resource in studying games and discovering opportunities or reinforcing my strategy. This analysis reassured me that the line I was playing was alright and that I was on the right track. I should hang this on my refrigerator!
Many of tools on chess.com have been helpful. I've been hitting the lessons area pretty hard, going over lots of tactics, and reviewing quite a few games. I've mostly been looking over my games and checking out what the engine says, but I've also been looking at some games from the masters. Sometimes I'll look at a move and think "what the hell?! Where did that come from?!" Often times I'll go through a match and put myself in one of the player's shoes. I've greatly enjoyed loading up a match, examining each position, making my guess, and seeing what moves are played. Doing this and playing games through to the end is a blast and can really teach you a lot about positional play and adaptability. Also comparing my conclusions to those made by the engine helps a lot in identifying some logical blocks or reassuring that I'm on the right path.
This match, Carlsen v. Anand from the GCT last year is a very interesting match. The Giuoco Piano, some of the exchanges, and seeing how these two giants of the sport clash makes for great play.
My coach and I have also been working on simplifying endings, an area I feel I need the most development and further understanding. I greatly enjoy openings and feel very comfortable adapting, the middle game I feel is getting slowly better as my tactical vision advances and I experience different playing styles, but my endgame is still leaving a lot to be desired. We have been working on King and minor piece, King and Queen, and other endings. We've also been working on how to get the mate in less moves, staying alert for draws, staying in control, and how to defend in these types of endings. In my mind this is the most difficult part of the game, and certainly the one that needs my most attention and consistency.
Grinding on endings, particularly with few resources ,has become a strong foundation in my daily training.
One trend I'm happy to see is my rising rating on Rapid and Daily. On chess.com I have been playing in quite a few friendly daily matches with my "sparring partners" (Freddy1201, TJW189, PARedbeard, and mercenarypawn take a bow.) These awesome players help me dissect games, talk strategies, keep levity, and truly make a big impact in my development. Even when I lose to these players, which happens often, I learn a lot and don't get frustrated. After a match they will give me constructive criticism, tell me what I did well and poorly, and are always happy to help. They understand where I am and where I want to be, and I can't thank them enough for their assistance and comradery.
Rapid is quickly becoming my absolute favorite. I feel it's the perfect balance of time and what I've been working on most this past week or so. I've only very recently gotten into rapid and only played a few matches, but I'm in love!
So for the next week I'll be working with my coach, playing some longer matches, studying up a bit, and working with my friends (the ChessFam) to reinforce good play and identify the bad. I do understand this is the first of many, many tournaments and that I am very young in my career; a career I've started a fair bit later than most. I have to say I'm ok with that. This game is a lifelong pursuit and every day I feel like I am enriched by the game. As long as I can play and write I will, and I am not going to be discouraged. While I look forward to the day I gain a title and become the player I know I can be, I enjoy every step along the way. I know it's a long road, but I'm willing to put in the work and show anyone of any age can play and love this game for life. I'm very excited to play next weekend and am looking forward to writing the next chapter in my story.
I need to thank chess.com's IM Danny Rensch and NM Sam Copeland for the support, resources, and opportunities they've shared and continue to share. You guys are awesome and do so much for the sport.
I'd also like to thank GM Salomon, GM Lemos, Carsten Hansen, Michael Ciamarra, and Isaac Steincamp for their time, input, and advice.