One year of chess
Next friday I'll start to play at a new tournament: the XXVIII Internacional Vila de Sant Boi. What makes it special is that there I played my first over-the-board game just one year ago!
One year of chess is a good (thought arbitrary) point to strike a balance of what happened and look for new goals.
First of all I've to say I'm very happy with it. I've enjoyed a lot every tournament and game I played, which is the main goal of playing any game. Also, although I'm a bit too old I think I've improved my game during this year, and reached a higher rating than I expected when I started playing (I thought I could be at high 1800s or maybe low 1900s)
This year I played 8 tournaments: 4 standard (90+30) tournaments, 3 rapid (10+2 or 15+5) tournaments and finally the catalan team league (90+30), which I could not play at 2015 because I joined just after the league was ended. Rapid tournaments were valid for catalan rating with 1/2 K.
At april I started with a catalan rating of 1700 and no fide rating because a conflict between catalan and spanish federations 1-2 years before. I played the Sant Boi open and two rapid tournaments with the following results.
- Sant Boi Open, U-1950 (catalan), 9 rounds at 90+30
- Starting rank: 43/49 (1700)
- Points: 5.5/9. Rank: 9/49. 1st U-1800 prize
- Average opponents: 1886. Performance: 1934
- Tres Peons actiu open, 8 rounds at 10+2
- Starting rank: 79/81 (1700)
- Points 3/8. Rank 55/81
- Average opponents: 2030. Performance: 1943
- Jake actiu open, 8 rounds at 10+2
- Starting rank: 36/39 (1700)
- Points 3.5/8. Rank 24/39
- Average opponents: 1967. Performance 1865
These tournaments I performed really better than expected, mainly the first one. The rapid ones were too strong for me and most games I was simply overplayed by my opponents and it was a matter of luck doing a bad or good tournament. After these tournaments I increased my rating by +112 points to 1812.
Badalona and changes in study plans
At august I joined the Badalona Open U-1900 group. I enjoyed a lot this tournament as I was playing all rounds at first tables and fighting for the win until nearly the last round. Sadly I played very badly the last two rounds and fell to the 11th position.
- Badalona Open, U-1900 (catalan), 9 rounds at 90+30
- Starting rank: 21/71 (1812)
- Points: 5.5/9. Rank: 11/71
- Average opponents: 1822. Performance: 1894
After this tournament my rating increased +32 points to 1844.
Up to this point I was neglecting opening preparation. I had read lots of times that openings were not important at low levels so, appart from analyzing my own games (my main learning method this year) I was looking for books that could help me to improve my middlegame and ending understanding. I read The Amateur Mind and 100 Endgames you must know (I strongly recommend you this book; I'm still working it).
But after this tournament I changed my mind (a bit, not too much actually) and decided to build a small repertory. As I wanted to keep my opening studies to the minimum I choose to play the London with white (Play the London System, by Lakdawala), and the French and Stonewall with black (Imperio Ajedrez videos by Damian Lemos and Fernando Peralta respectively). By using videos instead of books I saved lot of time and was able to build a repertorie with few hours of study. Meanwhile I restarted 100 Endgames you must know, this time building an SCID database of ending positions to train the endgames against the computer to understand them better.
Last 2015 tournaments
With such preparation I joined the Martorell Open in september, the first one I played with my (small) opening repertoire. It was also the first tournament I could not play the last group (it was U-1825 and my rating was 1844) so I had to play the B group, an U-2000 group. I lost the first two games, but then I started a serie of 15 consecutives slow games without a defeat (13 wins and 2 draws) which lasted to february.
Once I had build my repertoire I stopped again studying openings and discovered a wonderful serie of books by Artur Yusupov: the Artur Yusupov training course. I have the orange ones: although they target 1600 rating audience I thought that I would have several holes in my chess understanding, and it turned to be true. I've finished the first one and I'm devouring the second one. Another strong recommendation.
The last tournament was a rapid tournament in which, although I lost some games, I performed very well and confirmed the good shape I had in Martorell.
- Martorell Open, U-2000 (catalan), 8 rounds at 90+30
- Starting rank: 56/67 (1844)
- Points: 5.5/8. Rank: 8/67. 8th place prize
- Average opponents: 1917. Performance: 1965
- Catalunya actiu open, 9 rounds at 15+5
- Starting rank: 47/89 (1891)
- Points: 5.5/9. Rank: 23/89. 1st U-1900 prize
- Average opponents: 2002. Performance: 2050
Start of 2016: Sant Martí, FIDE rating and Catalan League
I could not play the 2015 League because I joined just after the League ended, but this year I was in time. Meanwhile I had raised my rating from 1700 to 1915, the 5th stronger player in the club, so I played with the A team usually at the 4th board and a few times at the 3th one.
Also catalan and spanish federations had reached an agreement so I could had my FIDE rating and because of that I joined Sant Martí tournament, an U-2100 tournament in which I could get my starting FIDE rating.
Both tournaments were played simultaneously and I performed similarly. First half I continued with the good serie I started in Martorell, and I was the leader in Sant Martí with 4.5/5 points, and had a 100% record (4/4) in Catalan League, but then I began to lose games in both tournaments and finished them with not so good results.
Anyway I performed well I achieved a FIDE starting rating of 1860. And our team was able to mantain the category (we finished 6th from 10 teams) and, who knows? maybe we can fight to win next season.
- Sant Martí open, U-2100 (catalan), 9 rounds at 90+30
- Starting rank: 26/58 (1915)
- Points: 6/9. Rank: 5/58. 1st U-2000 prize
- Average opponents: 1972. Performance: 2044
- Average opponents (FIDE): 1822. Performance: 1917
- Lliga Catalana, 1st Categoria, 9 rounds at 90+30
- Points: 5.5/9
- Average opponents: 1956. Performance: 2004
And now what?
Last year I improved my game a lot. Of course I did not improve +292 rating points in my playing strength. Most of this rating change was due to rating acommodation to my actual strength. From tournaments performances listed above I guess my actual strength should be at low 1900s when I started playing, so let's say +200 points come from acommodation and +100 from actual improvement.
My goal for the next year is to continue improving my game. I guess the method will be the same (analyzing my own games and continue with Artur Yusupov training course, and de la Riva endgame book). Also I promised myself that, if I ever reached a 2000 rating (catalan, we had no fide rating at that time) I'd hire some private lessons. I'm currently at 1992 rating and it's likely I'll go beyond the 2000 line sooner than later... let's see.
Also I guess my rating is still below my actual playing strength. I've have some hints pointing that: I've performed above my rating in every tournament I've played, and I have a 100% record (12/12) when playing opponents having a lower rating.
So let's say that my current rating should be around low 2000s catalan rating. That would be around 1850 fide rating, so I think my starting fide rating (1860) is rather accurated. As rating points are harder to gain the higher they are, I think reaching a 2050/1900 rating (catalan/fide) is a hard but reasonable goal for the next year. It may seem conservative compared to the previous year, but I've played several 2050+ players lately and I think their strength is a lot above mine. I'll tell you next year