A Wrong Attitude
*Warning* day 5 at the Copper State International was pretty long, and so is this post!
In the past, I would say my chess could be characterized as highly optimistic. My mental approach during a game almost always included the following expectations:
-if I had a better position: "I'm going to win."
- if I had an equal position: "I'm going to win."
- if I had a worse position: "I need to get to equality-- but also preserve winning chances."
Whatever my position and opponent, I hoped to outplay them, and particularly to outcalculate them. My desire to win when in worse positions definitely cost me some points. The rest of my optimistic mindset-- I'm not sure how good or bad it was.
I also had a particular approach to the Opening: a good number of "pet" lines, many of them originating from deep in my past. While I encourage anyone to try to develop their own opening ideas as a way to develop as a chess player, some of the opening lines which I still fall back on in tournaments were developed when I was 1700-- or lower. For example in 2006, in the last round of the American Open, I was playing for first place, and a spot in the U.S. Championship, and what did I trot out? A home-analysis variation of the giucco piano, which I had worked on as a 1400 with a 1400 friend of mine. By move 8 or 9 I was dead lost as white. Overall, I think it would be fair to say that I score somewhat better with my more "updated" pet lines, rather than my ancient ancient ones. In fact, some of those ancient lines, I have figured out antidotes to; I know they are bad. But yet, if I have not developed a new variation against, say, the Caro-Kann, I will just play it in a tournament game, for lack of a better idea.
For day 5 of the Copper State International, I notably did not employ my old attitude; but I did employ my old approach to opening selection.
On the evening of day 4, I predicted that my pairing would be black against the very strong Georgian GM, Giorgi Kacheishvili. 5 minutes later, pairings were posted (TD Jon Haskell was very prompt about this throughout the event). As soon as I considered this possible pairing, I felt that I would probably lose. I held out some vague hope that I could come up with a tricky opening selection and catch him in something that would suit me, but I had an assumption of despair. "I hope I'll recover in time from that loss to win the evening game," I thought to myself-- for I considered myself to be in good form, and really hoped to win a couple more good games.
Several people who heard my prediction for the morning game were very disapproving. "It's a wrong attitude." "If you believe it, then it will happen." I thought I was just being realistic: Giorgi's quite a bit stronger than I am, and I've been having trouble lately as black vs d4-- my two Slav games from this event notwithstanding. I assured them that I still intended to try my hardest and do everything possible to steal half a point or a full point from Giorgi. But apparently this was still a bad attitude.
I considered repeating the Slav for the third game in a row. However, I was sure that by now Giorgi would have seen those games, and I was also pretty sure that it was a position he had worked on and analyzed himself already. Magesh is certainly a strong player, but my good result in that game was largely due to the fact that he had never analyzed the position before. Against Giorgi I was unlikely to get so lucky. I looked through his games that night, and found only one defense to d4 against which I thought he was weak. Unfortunately, it's also the defense to d4 that I am personally worst at playing as black. I decided instead to go for something that I knew better, and would hopefully play well, and at least, if I lost, learn a valuable lesson. I went for the Benoni, and Giorgi obliged with an excellent lesson:
I really have to thank Giorgi for being very friendly and helpful in the post-game analysis. After he left the analysis room at least one other person there said to me: "wow, he's really good!" Self-fulfilling prophecy, or actually tough pairing against a great player? I'd be glad to hear what you think about the impact of my "Wrong Attitude" on this game.
I actually felt somewhat fortunate that Giorgi had beaten me so quickly: there was plenty of time to recover (in terms of mental stability and energy level) before the second game.
As this is already immensely long, I'm going to split this day into two posts. Next up: "A Wrong Approach"