Learn From Your Mistakes, Come Back Stronger

Jul 18, 2014, 12:14 PM |

A few months ago, I played in a big open tournament and played horribly. The format was a swiss with 5 rounds, 90 min. time limit for the first two rooms, and 120 min. for the last 3 rounds. I showed up to the tournament with high hopes and a goal of a score of 3.5/5 in a field that included over several players rated over 2000+.

The night before the tournament I went to an awesome bowling party that lasted past midnight. I only got a 60 my first game - my worst score ever- but then I started playing like a monster opening my next game up with a strike. The next two games after the horrible one I got 103 and 113, beating the two friends I was competing against. In last game I was able to manage three strikes near the end, however that when one of my friends decided to go crazy and rattle off three strikes in a row, beating my 117 by 9 points. All right, I assume those who are reading this aren't reading this article just because they really, really enjoy bowling. I just wanted to share this story because... perhaps it is a prophecy? Some would scoff at this but I did recieve a prophecy before my last tourney (the I'm on fire tourney) that told me what I would score overall. Perhaps this a prophecy of the rest of my tournaments of the year? Actually I am only planning on going to three more tournaments this year, so this actually seems possible. Who knows?

Game One - Pawns Can Roll

The first game I faced a 1990-rated player. For some reason, I opened with 1.d4 and got a good position out of the opening, playing the interesting 9.Be3 against his Tarrasch Defense. After 10...Be6 I was going to play 11.Nxc4 but for some reason I did not play it trusting my intuition over my caculation yet again. I played 11.b3 instead and ater 11...Qa5 he got a good position. When he played Nxe5 I thought this was bad as I get a pawn roller on the kingside and his knight would be bad but I did not initially see that he was getting a pawn roller on the queenside with b5. We both got low on time and then I blundered with 22.g5? and my opponent played extremely well in time pressure to pull out the victory.

I still don't understand how black can be better with such a bad knight, but I guess you live and learn.
Simple and Easy or, to be more precise, Simply Easy
I really wanted to win my second round after that game. I had the black pieces against a 1600 rated player. It turned out to be a kid who looked like he was a six year old; he had to be in at least third grade - this kid was young. I told myself that there is no way I was gonna to lose to a little kid. It turns out he played more like a six year old than a 1600. He first gave me a pawn in the opening and then gave up the bishop pair. It felt like I was playing a 1200 and I started to think about checkmating him, but he forced an exchange of queens. I then converted the pawn with perfect technique. I expecially like my move 18...Bxa2!, which at the time I wasn't sure about. It forces a trade of rooks but the remaining rook gets active on a7. The b7-pawn is solid as a rock however, and the bishop on d5 is a virtual monster which can't be attacked.

I was happy I didn't lose to such a young kid, but surprised how easy it was to win.

A Horrible Player is Always Lucky

I have no words to deescribe my third game other than horrible, throw-up, disgusting, insanity supreme, gut-wrenching, and finally miracle. After my easy win in Round 2 I had the white pieces and was paired against a 1950. My opponent played the Caro-Kann and I reacted with the advance. He met that opening choice with 3...c5 (which is less popular than 3...Bf5). I thought I played the opening pretty well during the game but realized after the game that, like so many times during the tourney, I underestimated black's resources. His big mistake was 9...b6? when I simply gave the pawn back to get a dominating position. A series of powerful moves later he was "completely" lost. However than I made the mistake of playing 18.Bg5? without really thinking and after 18...h6 felt compelled to sacrifice material. I had it calculated all out and thought I was just winning crushingly. At this point when I played 19.Rxb4 I was shaking. However then the most intense, strange, and horrible drama appeared on the board:

After my blunders ruined an easily winning position, I was left a piece down. I spent over an hour on move 24 and 25 trying to salvage my position; pain and agony written all over my face. I was absolutely upset at myself. I tried to resist but my opponent played carefully and slowly and picked off my pawns one by one. I was seriously considering resigning, but at that moment I heard a voice tell me to play on. So I kept playing. Then I played one last trap with 34.Rxd5. I was absolutely stunned when he reached out and touched my queen! Instantly he realized his mistake (after the game he told me he meant to start with Rc1+ and then Qxg3+ but accidentally mixed up his moves), however it was too late (touch-capture rule) and he just took my queen. Astounded, I just threw down 35.Rd8# and it was game over! I was relieved I had won but was furious at myself for blowing such a great position. This game shows that truely anything can happen in chess.

Day Two

After the crazy game the day before, I was sitting pretty at 2/3 - enough points to move me to Board 7 and a contest against a strong 2100.

Just Not Enough

I had the black pieces in Round 4 and was determined to beat my talented opponent. I thought about playing the Nimzo - an opening I had studied recently - but couldn't pass up my golden opportunity to play the Gruenfeld Defense. The game quickly went into a very sharp queenless middlegame. My first questionable decision came on move 15 when I played h6? - a weakening move which soon told later in the game. However my opponent did not play well 16.Rbc1?) and I seized the initiative. The critical moment was on move 21 when I could have set the board ablaze with f5!. After the game I highly disappointed with myself because I did not even consider f5. My opponent and I both missed good chances after that but eventually the game fizzled to a drawing radius. However I refused to believe I was still not better and low on the clock, kept pressing for the win. I completely lost thread of the position and lost:

I was disappointed that I did not win, though it always seemed like the win was just a couple centimeters out of reach. Move ? was the critical move. I am still shocked that I didn't even consider 21...f5 during the game. I would feel a lot better if I had looked at it and had simply dismissed it as too dangerous. Instead I didn't even consider it! Simply inexcusable.

Game Five Not Even a Game

In my last game my opponent made a positional blunder (14.Bd3) which should have led to his having great difficulties defending d4. I probably would have eventually picked up the pawn and won had I played logically. Instead I played abstractely and after up and downs I lost. In this game I was the one who commited a atrocious positional blunder out of the opening. I had the white pieces against a 1900 rated player. He played the Scandinavian and I blitzed out the opening. Then he played a weird move (14...Bg7) which led to this position.



The standard idea is to put the bishop on d6, so this placement had to be bad. I started looking for the best plan and came up with the worst one. I chose 15.f4?????????. Almost any other move is better: 15.Ng2, 15.Bf4, 15.Nxg6, or 15.Kb1. My opponent then played f5:

 I thought I simply would play Ng2 and then h4-h5 turning his bishop into a tall-pawn. However, I simply forgot that he could escape with Nd7-f6 and Bh5 and my light-squares are not only horribly weak but my dark-square bishop is the one that is a tall pawn! I was positionally lost. I tried to put up some resistance but eventually lost.


What I Learned

It is always important to analyse every single one of your tournament games (most especially your losses) in order to glean valuable gems from them. You should not only figure out what moves were good and which moves were horrible but also figure out the psychological root behind each wrong decision. Here is some valuable things I learned from these games:

Game One

  • Only trust your intuition as far as you can throw it
  • A bad piece can be compenstated for by a dominant center
  • Always be wary that a pawn roller on the Kingside, though scary looking, can be neutralized like this for instance:
  • Don't play a move just because it "looks" good

Game Two

  • Just because your opponent has a decent rating, doesn't mean he will play well
  • This is a model game for converting a pawn up out of the opening

Game Three

  • Play the opening more slowly
  • You shouldn't always be a "pawn grubber"
  • Accuracy is very important in the cashing in of the advantage
  • Always look out for your opponent's resources before you execute a foolhardy move
  • Bring all your pieces to the party
  • It is easy to get caught up in the rush of combat when you sac for a wild attack - take a deep breath, clear your head, and play more slowly with purpose.
  • Never give up, miracles do happen


Game Four

  • Play naturally against your opponents weaknesses instead of getting caught up by a fancy, abstract idea
  • Always be aware of the potential drawbacks of a move before you execute it
  • The best move is often the one you never even consider
  • Know when you should tap the brakes and accept the coming draw, instead of foolhardly playing for a win that is not there any more                                                                                                                                                                   Game Five
  •  Beware of making elementary positional blunders