Trying Too Hard: Washington President's Cup 2018
Iva Zimova

Trying Too Hard: Washington President's Cup 2018

Feb 19, 2018, 5:14 PM |

Going into the President's Cup at the Seattle Chess Club this past weekend I was feeling good. My last two tournament performance ratings were 100+ points over my OTB rating, in my last two open section tournaments I scored 2/5 and 3/7, and my rating was going up. I try to alternate entering open and reserve sections (the reserve here is usually around U1800), and I was due for an open section in the President's. Plus many of the better players were at the state championship, so the open would probably have a more level playing field. 

This was borne out by my first opponent, a mid-1800 player I hadn't faced before. I was white in a sideline of the French I've been trying lately, and I thought I was doing fairly well up to this position. 

Here I saw the locked pawns and said to myself, "all of his pieces are on the queenside. My queen and knight can attack on the kingside!", and moved Nf3, missing the wide open a7-g1 diagonal this gave his queen, which he promptly moved to e3. If I had recognized that his rooks were much more active and effective than mine, I might have done something about it, but I think I was trying too hard. 
In my second game I was black against another C player, and I won a pawn early. We reached this position: 
White attempts an ambitious rook lift, headed for h4. I saw the developing threat on h7, but not seeing the double threat on f7, I moved Nf6 (just noticed the odd coincidence with the first game!). He moved Rh4, and I thought it was the right time for e5, except when he dropped his knight on g5 I guess I forgot about that bishop. When I won the extra pawn I did think for a moment about his compensation in the form of two bishops and open lines, but I thought with active knights in the center I could control enough squares. Actually this was a hard position to play. 
My third game was something of a positional disaster in the Benoni, and my opponent as White gamely exploited it, outplaying me for most of the game until I blundered a piece. Perhaps not so strangely, I really started to go down hill with another pawn pushed two squares. 
Here I had pushed f5, thinking that plus my two bishops would help fend off the inevitable f4. While I had seen that pushing b4 would allow a knight into c6, for some reason I didn't also see that pushing f4 would allow a knight into e6 -- not to mention the eventual blunder-causing open line of g8-a2. 
With 0 points after three games I had a forced bye in the 4th round. I luckily still got a game with a reserve section player whose opponent was home sick. He played well but too passively, and even though I won I managed in the final moves to make the embarrassing mistake of promoting a pawn to a knight (thinking it was checkmate), offering my hand, and then playing several more moves to actually checkmate him when he quietly noted his king had an escape square from the knight check. 
In my last game I was, I admit, out for blood. I was paired with a young junior who I was sure I had played in a recent tournament, but I hadn't synced my phone game database so I wasn't sure what we had played. Maybe a closed Sicilian?



I think Black could have forced a queen trade by attacking f2, and then with the rook behind the a pawn I don't see how White could defend without sacrificing the bishop. 


I don't think I've had a worse tournament result since my second event, the 2016 Fall Open where I scored 1 point only because I was paired with a reserve player who didn't have an opponent in his section. Even though my blitz rating on is improving, that doesn't necessarily translate to OTB chess, where your opponent usually won't be blundering in time trouble. I think working on my evaluation of positions will help me make smarter choices in future games.