Fall Open 2014

Fall Open 2014

WCM mkkuhner
Jul 4, 2015, 9:49 PM |

Two months later I was back for more, despite a punishing first tournament.  By a quirk of USCF I was now rated 1815.  As I'd feared, I had to explain to several kids why I'd been rated 2100 just a tournament ago.  "The last time I played competitively was before your mom was born."  "No, it wasn't."  They were fast with math, too....

In the first round I played an Expert, which at least reduced the pressure.  The game became violent very quickly.

If I thought that my piece sacrifice would lead to perpetual check, that was a pretty bad miscalculation, though a very typical one.  I'm good at finding attacking options but not as good at rejecting them.  Piece sacks against the castled king, in particular, attract me like a moth to a candle.

I lost the next game to a Derek Zhang, a young player who has since become a strong Expert, but at the time was rated 1895.  His queenside attack netted him a pawn and he was able to win the pawn-up queen endgame elegantly.  I've since seen him deliver the same treatment to masters, but at the time it was discouraging.

I beat a 1400 player, not convincingly, and was then paired with an intense Indian teen.  He has also turned out to be a dangerous up-and-coming player--he upset a master in the Washington Open.  In this game I had bad problems in the opening, a Dutch Defense, but to my surprise found some queenside counterplay.  I'd always tended to play the Dutch as a source of kingside attacks and nothing else, an approach which McDonald, in his book on the Dutch, calls "naive."  I was somewhat pleased that I managed to break the pattern, though quite frustrated that I couldn't win the resulting endgame.

The following game was almost eerily similar:  also a Dutch in which I got into bad trouble, scraped up some queenside counterplay, and then could not win the endgame despite feeling that I should.  Brendan tells me that he's not related to Derek.  In fact the Washington State chess scene has an incredible number of strong young players named Zhang--I've played three and there are several more to meet.


Despite opening misadventures, in the last two games, particularly, I felt like I'd begun to play chess.  Middlegames, that is.  Openings?  Endgames?  Not so much....

These were the same weaknesses I'd had as an Expert.  Around 1985 I studied briefly with IM Nicolay Minev, who tore his hair over my opening play.  (Probably greatly to my detriment, I was too stubborn to listen to him.)  I began to consider that, as I'm unlikely to regain my youthful quickness and energy, I'd better try to develop new strengths instead.

I made a resolution to do every endgame-related Chess Mentor exercise on the site.  I also considered doing the computer-assisted endgame exercises, but gave that up quickly after I managed to beat the computer in a dead-drawn theoretical endgame--something is not right with its endgame play.  I'd made similar book-study resolutions in the past, but maybe the tools of a new millennium would help.