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The best thing going on at Chess.com at the moment

The best thing going on at Chess.com at the moment

philidor_position
Jun 17, 2017, 7:35 AM 22
No, it's not the Pro Chess League, nor the Speed Chess Championship, as awesome as those big events are. It's the Slow Chess League. 
 

OK, I'll admit that might not be true for everyone, so let me qualify the headline's statement a bit: For the serious club level players working hard to improve their game, especially for those who do not have a lot of opportunities for OTB practice at slow time controls, SCL is the best thing going on at Chess.com at the moment.

Owing to the wisdom of Botvinnik and many other masters and chess educators, I am a true believer in slow chess. I think playing slow games and analyzing them in detail is an essential part of the chess improvement process. I remember the days when I would sit down to play a slow online game at FICS, create an open challenge and wait for half an hour for someone to accept it, but no one seemed to be interested in anything other than blitz and bullet. Then I would start individually challenging people that I randomly picked from the long user list, until finally one person would accept, only to abort the moment they noticed the time controls. I eventually gave up trying due to frustration, which meant that I stopped playing almost entirely. The internet was the only place where I could conveniently find opponents of similar strength, and virtually no one would want to play slow games with me. I fell back to satisfying my appetite for slow time controls with correspondence games at Chess.com, and lost much of my enthusiasm for online play.

And then the Slow Chess League (SCL) happened. SCL is a hub for online slow tournaments where players who sign up for a tournament get paired for games with time controls such as 90+30, 45+45 and 25+10 to be played at Chess.com's live server. Yes, the games are played right here at Chess.com. SCL is absolutely free, very easy to sign up, neatly organized and moderated, has an active, large and friendly community, and most importantly, has a well-functioning interface and mechanisms in place for facilitating negotiations between players who have been paired together. By becoming a regular, you can easily meet Botvinnik's advice of playing 50 slow games a year! Pulling that off with exclusively online chess would be a very difficult challenge a few years ago. 

If you want to learn how to sign up and play, check out the about and help pages (https://slowchessleague.org/about/ and https://slowchessleague.org/tournament-signups/), which include this video guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG4tejPDHqE

Now let's get to some actual chess business. I'll share some analysis of the last game I played at the SCL.

I was paired with an opponent with a slightly higher rating, and I had the black pieces, so I knew it would be a fight. My opponent made a positionally dubious choice to take me out of my opening preparation, and I tried hard to make use of it, but failed to build on my advantage. It felt for a long while that we were both playing quite accurately, but as it happens, computer analysis shows that towards the end we started making one inaccurate move after the other, until one big blunder decided the game. 


Lessons to take away: 

Big blunders, the ones that cause a 1.75+ drop in engine evaluations and get the double question marks in annotations (??) are getting rarer and rarer as the level goes up (and indeed around my level the first big blunder is much more likely to end up being decisive). If I want to reach the next level, I need to start avoiding making smaller inaccuracies, and capitalizing on the ones that my opponent makes, the ones that get the "?" or "?!" symbols in annotations. I definitely need to absorb a lot of ideas on nursing smaller advantages from master games. To that end, I should spend more time on studying game collections.

And another thing, among many, that I need to improve is my time management. I don't consider myself a bad calculator according to my level, but I rarely have time to calculate anything seriously when we reach late middle games, where the real sharp stuff usually happens. 

I hope you enjoyed the game and the annotations. If you are into playing slow chess games over the internet, do check out the Slow Chess League using the links above.

Cheers!

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