How I Broke 1900 at the Baltimore Open
It took me two years and over 200 rated tournament games (since I first got to 1800 in January 2015), but this month, after a streak of good (lucky) tournaments, I finally broke 1900 USCF. In this blog I'll show you the tournament that got me over my plateau for the first time.
Since I was playing the Two-Day, my first two rounds were G45 with a 30 second increment. In the first round I was paired against a Canadian NM with an unpublished USCF rating one point beneath 2100. Right before the game I was informed by a friend that this guy had recently won the U2100 section of the Cardinal Open in Ohio. Normally this wouldn't be the most pleasant thing to hear, but I responded that therefore he was well overdue for a loss (although I'm not sure how much I really believed that). In recent tournaments I've had a habit of playing very poorly in the first round, but I'd say this was one of my favorite wins in a long time.
Round 1: White vs Erwin Casareno
I think apart from missing Qb5 the first time and not playing Re7 at the end, I played quite well in this game (and my opponent helped me out a lot). Therefore, of course, I had to make up for it by playing poorly in my next game.
Round 2: Black vs Darrin Berkley
In the third round, I was paired against Naman Kumar, the younger brother of FM Nikhil Kumar. There is much I could say about this game, but I'll start by mentioning something I've noticed after playing in a couple Baltimore Opens: if you walk outside just before the Saturday 6PM round, you can often see a beautiful sunset from behind the hotel.
I took this one before the third round of the 2015 Baltimore Open, which I also blogged.
And this is from just before the third round of this tournament, in 2017.
Anyhow, my third game was the longest chess game I have played yet, lasting six hours. I didn't get back to Hopkins until well past midnight, and I was exhausted when I did. My opponent, ten years old, missed one major chance to get a winning rook ending and tried to do everything in his power to get another one. In the end, I had just enough to hold a draw, despite playing very inaccurately at certain moments.
Round 3: White vs Naman Kumar
My fourth game was against a well-known tournament director for CCA, although obviously he wasn't directing this one. The game was funny because I didn't know the opening very well, and, being the doofus that I am, I ended up getting a theoretical position a whole tempo down from a mainline as white. Thankfully, the position wasn't very critical or sharp, and I managed to make the right exchanges to ensure that I would never be worse, although neither of us was ever particularly close to winning.
Round 4: White vs NM Andrew Rea
In the last round I got an amusing pairing: black vs Wilbert Brown. This is funny for a number of reasons: 1) I've played him six times now, and all six have been with black. 2) I've played in three Baltimore Opens now, and in all three, I've been paired against him. 3) I had played him just the week before in Rockville, and that game had ended in a very peaceful draw.
In this game, both sides made some important mistakes, but the ping-pong of errors on move 29/30 decided the game. Wilbert told me after the game that his move 30. Ne6?? was the worst move he's made in a long time, and since I know him to be a pretty consistent player who almost never makes blunders, I'm willing to believe him.
Round 5: Black vs Wilbert Brown
In the end, I gained 56 rating points, going from 1872 to 1928! Since then, I've gained an additional four rating points in a local tournament in Baltimore. The 2017 Baltimore Open was one of the best tournaments I've ever had, and it's good to know that with all the work I've put into improving at this game, I'm finally making progress.
Thank you for reading and hopefully you'll have a tournament like this soon! Feel free to leave any comments or analysis.