In an attempt to play more OTB chess leading up to the Virginia Scholastic State Championships, I decided to play in the George Washington Open with my friend Niraj. It was a 5-round event at a local Hyatt, and I played in the Under 2100 section. With an official rating of 1942 I was roughly in the middle of the group. I felt good about my chances going into the event, and I set a goal to score at least 2 points against higher rated players. Here are the games:
Round 1: G60, d10
In Round 1 I played White vs David Hauge, the highest rated player in the section! I had actually thought I would be playing down, but the way onsite registrations turned out set me up with a match against this very tough opponent. Knowing I had played him (and gotten destroyed) once before with the same color, my mindset changed to one thing: Opening prep. I took out my scorebook (I use a Monroi now but keep a scorebook in my bag just in case) in hope that my previous game against him would be there. And it was! Unfortunately, I've changed my repertoire a lot since my last game against him. All I could really deduce was that he played the 2... g6 Sicilian and that I would likely get to play a Maroczy. With this sub-par preparation and the psychological boost he had from our last game, my mood had changed from easygoing to panicky. Here's the game:
Game summary: I made up for my poor middlegame play with very active moves in the endgame. One upset win down, one more to go!
Round 2: G60, d10
In Round 2 I played Black against Lawrence Books, a middle-aged man who looked very familiar. Then someone explained to me: He had changed his name in the USCF database from "Muskee" to "Lawrence" a month or two ago. I immediately had a flashback to last October, when I played him! I guess his name was still Muskee back then, and I didn't recognize the similar last name this time around. Anywho, once I sorted this mess out I went back to my scorebook to see if I could find my previous game against him. This time, I had no such luck. I couldn't find the game, so I went into Round 2 unsure of what opening I was gonna get. Here's the game:
Game summary: I really should have won this game, hands down. Though I was in pretty severe time trouble, the blunders I made were still quite ugly. Not to mention the fact that I should be pretty good at blitz by now considering my unhealthy addiction for it on chess.com
Round 3: 40/110 + SD30, d10
In the third and final round on Saturday, I played a teenager who seemed to be about my age. I didn't know him going into the game, so I couldn't do any opening prep (not that it had helped me in my other rounds lol). It was a regular Sicilian Dragon, and I decided to try an idea I wasn't completely comfortable with. I spent a few moves worried that I was completely botching the idea, but eventually I realized how nice my attack was and begun to feel more confident. I played a tricky sacrifice, and although he had a complicated way to escape he blundered and fell right into my trap. Here's the game:
Game summary: Pretty satisfied with how I played, though it would've been much tougher had my opponent found the tricky 17... Rxc3. It was a very fun win though regardless, and since the win was quite fast I was able to get a good night's sleep.
Round 4: 40/110 + SD30, d10
In the first round on Sunday I was paired with an older man whose rating was in the upper 2000s. Usually a high rating like this would intimidate be somewhat before a round, but after the previous night's win I was feeling 100% confident heading into the round. I had also done some math using USCF's "Rating Estimator," and I learned that if I scored 2/2 in these rounds I would break Expert. This extra motivation along with my tournament goal to upset two players helped me cruise to a win against a pretty tough opponent. Here's the game:
Game summary: I got tripped up a little bit after I won the pawn on e4 but I was happy to have played such a nice game. I don't think I've ever played this well against a 2000+ player before, not to mention I achieved my goal for the tournament
All I needed to do was win round 5, and this would likely be my strongest tournament ever.
Round 5: 40/110 + SD30, d10
In the final round of the tournament I played an older man named Paul Yavari. I've seen him at many tournaments and I knew that he would be a very tough opponent, but at the same time I also knew he had lost to an 1800 in round 2 so he was very beatable. Unfortunately for me, we played the style of chess I never seem to do well with: A slow, positional game. He understood the game better than me, and delivered a deadly sacrifice at the end leaving me wondering what could have been. Here's the game:
Game summary: I don't think I played like someone who wanted to break Expert. I need to work on my effort at the board, because even though this was a super-important game I was calculating lazily and I left my seat to go look at other games very frequently. This is something I believe I can improve on quickly though, maybe I just need to set some ground rules for myself as to when I can leave the board. Many strong players suggest that one should calculate during his/her turn, and think about strategy during the opponent's turn. I'll likely try this out at my next OTB event.
USCF 1944 ----> 1970
In the end I still gained some rating points, and I achieved my goal of two upset wins for the tournament. While I'll always be a bit mad at myself for not winning in Round 5 and boosting my rating over 2000, the game itself gave me some concrete things to work on. I'll blog the tournament that gets me over 2000, hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later Thanks for reading!
PS: Hopefully in the title you noticed that this is the second "Dual Blog" with my friend Niraj. He scored an impressive 4/5, winning $120 and breaking 1500 USCF for the first time! You can read about his tournament here. Thanks!