The Atlantic Open has a special significance to me in that it's the only Open tournament that I've played in more than twice (I've played in it four times now, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015). In addition, it was the tournament that signaled my return to chess after a year-long hiatus in 2013, when I played in the U1000 section and, despite narrowly missing out on a money prize, I gained 40 points to barely get over 1000. Now, two years after playing U1000, I played U2100 this past weekend, and scored 2/5 against 1900s and 2000s. I am still not sure if this was a good tournament for me- you guys can be the judge of that looking at the games below- but I think it might have been one of the most memorable of my recent tournament career. Everything happened in this tournament: I had a terrible loss in Round 1, an exhausting five-hour marathon win in Round 2, a quick draw in Round 3, a somewhat more fighting draw in Round 4, and a spectacularly interesting but ultimately disappointing loss in Round 5.
In Round 1, I got completely blown off the board almost right out of the opening. My opponent was a strong player, but my loss was mainly due to my own self-destruction. It didn't help that I played an opening that I was not fully comfortable with in this game, either. Once I got a worse position, I also repeatedly refused to seek active counterplay, instead preferring to take back the wrong way on d7, create gaping dark-square holes, and also not develop my queen's knight or rook for the entire game. Additionally, my time management was terrible! Even though I was playing bad moves such as Qxd7 and Kh8, I was taking so much time to play them that in the final position my time was already down to twenty minutes, even though I started with almost two hours. This was one of the worst games I have played in a long time. Thankfully, and unlike in many of my other tournaments, I managed to avoid letting it get to me and I rebounded in my later games.
So after that disaster, I wasn't so optimistic about my chances in the tournament, and the next morning I also had some doubts, as I played a skittles game against a player in the U1500 section about an hour before the round and got beaten in that game also. When I saw my pairing against Shelev Oberoi, I immediately received word that my opponent was a very small and talented kid who has gained a lot of points lately. This is never something I enjoy hearing.
However, the game turned into one of the most memorable I have played. It was my 199th tournament game ever, and possibly the longest of all of them, lasting from 11:00 AM to about 4:15 PM. It was the last game going in any section, and the endgame drew a crowd. I played, in my opinion, very well, making no significant errors on the board. In fact, the only major error I made in the whole game was an erroneous draw offer in time trouble when I failed to see my winning maneuver in a bishop ending with two minutes on my clock. However, perhaps thinking he could flag me, my tiny opponent inexplicably declined my draw! There was no way he could have won the game in the position, and flagging me with a ten-second delay in an otherwise dead-looking bishop ending would have been hard also, so I have no idea what he could have been thinking. But I am extremely grateful that he did decline my offer, because after refusing the draw, Shelev promptly played the disastrous move g5-g4, which changed a complicated and hard-to-see win into a trivial one.
After one of the most exhausting games I had ever played in my life, I wasn't really ready for the third round. I only had about forty minutes of rest, and in that time I also had to eat my lunch (at 4:30) and prepare for the next match. It was an interesting state: I felt an adrenaline rush due to the final time scramble and craziness at the end, but also great fatigue. In all this, I did forget (I knew it would be beforehand, but it slipped my mind) that the next game was to be my 200th game ever. Maybe if I had remembered that at the time of the game I would have put more effort into it. But in the game itself, after playing on autopilot for a while and getting some bizarre moves by my opponent, I achieved what I thought was a considerably better but not winning position and I decided to give my mind a break. I offered a draw, my 1900 opponent immediately accepted, and that was that. Not much in the way of fireworks for game number 200, but it was what I wanted, and probably needed, at the time.
The next morning, I awoke to see myself finally playing black again after two consecutive whites, this time against a 1972. I did a little bit of prep, ate a delicious muffin, and then played another very good game in my opinion. I played a very solid system against the Maroczy Bind and then my opponent gave me easy equality by trading the dark bishops, always good for black in the Maroczy. From there, I found the active 21...f5! but my opponent liquidated everything and drew.
With one round to go, it seemed as if I was having a decent tournament. I had completely thrown away my first game, and then made up for it with three solid performances and two points. Then, in the last round, I got matched up against William Gallagher, an expert player whose name I was familiar with because he had won a large prize at the Baltimore Open in February. Perhaps I have some issue whenever I see a rating over 2000. Somehow my career score against 1900s is about 45%, but my career score against 2000s is 10%. I feel that whenever I play against experts, I hardly ever notice mistakes from their side, while playing against 1900s I see a lot of noticeable errors. Well, anyhow, I wasn't thrilled about being paired against a 2034, but I decided I had nothing to lose and I went ahead and played 1. e4 anyhow.
After my opponent played the French Defense, I wasn't sure what to play. I had planned 3. Nc3 for this tournament, and I played it in Round 3 against Alfonso Rulloda, but when the position after 2...d5 occurred over the board I stopped completely. This was a 2000-rated player. Did I really want to allow the Winawer? I barely knew any Winawer theory, and he was likely to know tons of theory and out-book me. And if he played 3...Nf6, we could also get the MacCutcheon and numerous other annoying lines. So instead of playing a move I wasn't sure I was prepared to play (3. Nc3), I made an even worse decision and played a move I haven't played in months (3. Nd2) and quickly my opponent took me out of my comfort zone with an early ...g5 in the Universal System. I hadn't studied the opening in months! When my opponent played 8...g5 I could almost see myself losing already, as I didn't have any idea what to play as white and it was clear my opponent knew exactly what he was doing. But then I dove deep into thought and remembered something I had seen in an old Lawrence Trent video on the Tarrasch- that sometimes white can sacrifice a piece for a crazy attack by playing Nb3 in these setups. I thought for a while and decided it was my best practical chance. And in the end, I still lost, although for a moment I had a chance to win the game, but I at least tried to go down with a fight, and the game was interesting enough that the players on the board next to me (Darrin Berkely and Aasa Dommalapati, Abhinay's sister) could not stop watching it, even sometimes when it was their turn to make a move.
In conclusion, I gained a bunch of points to get back to 1775. It was neither a bad tournament nor a great one. I got totally massacred in one game but played decently in most of the others. For playing up, 2/5 isn't bad, but I have a lot more work to do. For starters, I really, really need a chess coach.
One thing this tournament taught me for sure is that playing up is the way to go. I played much better in this tournament than I did at the Potomac Open, and at Potomac I played much easier competition (on average about 250 points lower). I enjoy playing up and there's a lot less pressure to get results every round. Just like the Baltimore Open, I lost to an expert in the last round, continuing the problems I seem to have whenever I play someone above 2000; but this time, he gave me a chance, and I missed it. As stated above, my record against experts in my career is extremely embarrassing and I don't know what to do about it. I also still somehow have never achieved a First Category norm.
Thanks for reading my blog and I implore you to comment on whatever you found interesting, any improvements in the games, or any advice for me.
(capitol image credit: theodysseyonline.com)