Open Ciutat de Badalona (dummies group, not the good one)

Sep 5, 2015, 8:44 AM |

Recently I played my second slow OTB tournament.

Instead of having a post for every game, I'll put them all in a single post. This is more for my own reference than to publish them, as there's few interesting in them. You're warned, if you continue reading it's under your responsability.

The analysis

This time I'm doing a very different analysis. When analyzing games at Sant Boi tournament I spend a lot less time in the analysis than in the game: I made Stockfish to annotate the game, and then reviewed it, passing through the moves and occasionally stopping at some of them to make a further analysis, but I never spent more than a couple of minutes on them.

Then this PaulEChess article changed my mind, and so do Axel Smith with his words in the Introduction of "Pump Up Your Rating". In fact, as Axel says, when you are short of time to analyze the game is when you're playing OTB. When you analyze the game again at home... You have as much time as you want! Why not use it? So I analyzed them myself on a board (a couple of them with a colleage), took notes and only at the end used Stockfish to check for tactical blunders.

Now, the games.

This was an U1900 tournament with 71 players in which I was the 21th of the startink ranking.

First round (0/0), table 21 as black vs 1700

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I did several one-move-attacks when I didn't find a concrete plan. See moves 9th, 23th and 27th.
  • I overestimate the value of the bishop pair. Most games I put this goal over any other positional one. See moves 10th to 12th.
  • I have a tendency to overlook the open diagonals when looking into the position. As happens after 13th white move.
  • When opponent plays an unexpected move I play somewhat "blind" the following ones, even missing obvious tactics. See moves 13th to 15th
  • I have a tendency to miss rook moves outside the back rank. See moves 13th to 15th (Ra7) or comments to 18th black move.
  • Good things are the initial decission of gaining space at queenside, and the mating net that ended the game.

Second round (1/1), table 16 as white vs 1692

Second round still at a low table. If I got to win I'd start to play at the first ones.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I did severe calculation mistakes. How the hell I thought at 5th move that h3-g4-Ne5 was not possible because my knight was pinned?
  • I overestimate the value of the bishop pair. Most games I put this goal over any other positional one. See move 10th.
  • I played several moves without a concrete analysis.
  • Too many times I miss really obvious tactics of my opponents (luckily, I use to see my own :D). See moves 12th and 29th. I miss also in-between moves and threats.
  • When opponent plays an unexpected move I play somewhat "blind" the following ones, even missing obvious tactics. In this game I blunder a pawn (14th move).
  • I'm too lazy/dispersed when calculating beyond a couple of moves. See comments on 21th move (the line Qd3-Qxf2??-Bxf6!) or 28th move (the comments about Bxa7)

Third round (2/2), table 3 as black vs 1879

Finally I went to the first tables. This was the first game I had to play against one of the first players in the starting ranking.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I played some moves without a concrete analysis. See 17th moves and the following ones.
  • I missed an easy tactic. See 13th move.
  • I'm too lazy when calculating beyond a couple of moves or the effects of any move. For example I didn't take into account the manouver Nb1-d2-c4, and at least I should think on which holes my pawn moves leave behind, and their effect.
  • I play too passive, and as a consecuence I only evaluate passive moves from my opponent. I didn't properly evaluate the actual chances of my opponent in the kingside.

Fourth round (3/3), table 1 as white vs 1890

First position and first table :). Sadly I was too exhausted: this tournament was played a round per day, I had to go to work, then eat a sandwich quickly, play until late, go back to home (40 kms away), ... I played it extremely badly, but here it is.

Mistakes & Lessons learned

  • Not to join daily tournaments unless I'm on holidays.
  • If two expressos don't ginger you up, a Coke won't do.
  • I overestimate the value of the bishop pair. One of the reasons I moved from my plan to play Nd5 (8th move) was to capture the dark bishop.
  • I played several moves without a concrete analysis. Playing 2 moves with no analysis at all in a 9-moves game (and first 6 of them were played by memory, so only 3 real moves were played) would not be enought to win even if a stone was sitting on the other side of the board.
  • You should ALWAYS analyze, from the opening. If you wait until the middlegame to do so maybe there won't be middlegame at all.

Fifth round (3/4), table 4 as black vs 1874

I came to this game in a better shape than the previous day, having sleep more than 12 hours. On the other hand I was somewhat psychologically affected by the defeat and lost some of my confidence.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I play too passive. With a more active play I had had better chances in the endgame.
  • I fear too many imaginary threats. When playing sicilian games others than open ones I always fear e5 with no reason.
  • I'm too lazy when calculating beyond a couple of moves or the effects of any move. See comments at moves 10th and 16th.
  • I should play the board, not the rules. Although it maybe thematic to fight against an isolated pawn exchanging minor pieces and keeping the queens, the concrete position may advice just the opposite.
  • I should be able to change my mind when position changes. When I moved from a lost middlegame to an equal endgame I continued played as if I was worse and had to fight for a draw.
  • It's a great thing to analyze your games with a colleage, even if you can spend just half an hour with him.

Sixth round (3.5/5), table 7 as white vs 1808

Friday! Last day at work! Next two games I'll play without having to go at work before. But before that I have to play this game and get something positive from it. Tournament leader was 5/5, one other player with 4.5/5 and then a bunch of players with 4/5. Finally I won with a bit of luck.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I'm too lazy when calculating beyond a couple of moves or the effects of any move. This game was very sharp and there're several moves where I should have spend more time.
  • I should look further towards key squares and outposts in the game. The f5 outpost for black knight was really evident, and I did nothing to avoid his knight to reach it.
  • I did some one-move-attacks, like 15th move in the game.
  • Sometimes I start a plan and not continue it for no reason. That's the case of h4 (14th move) when h5 was not moved until 20th move and because other reasons.
  • When chasing an enemy piece, make sure that you're not chasing it into a better square. See again 15th move comments.

Seventh round (4.5/6), table 5 as black vs 1873

We start the weekend. I had time to sleep, take a shower, prepare a bit the game... and commit several mistakes in the game, as usual. Tournament leader continues with full stats (6/6), but after him just two players with 5/6 (half point away) and six players with 4.5, including me.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • Too many times I miss really obvious tactics of my opponents (luckily, I use to see my own :D). See move 20th.
  • I miss also in-between moves and threats, as in move 19th.
  • My opening knowledge and preparation sucks. I'm not happy with myself for not having played a sicilian, as usual, because I didn't know the line he played, and moving into a completely unknown opening instead.

Eight round (5.5/7), table 2 as white vs 1875

Sunday. The previous round the leader lost his first game and even the first place was possible. Two players had 6 points, next three players had 5.5 points and then five with 5.0 points. The two leaders had yet played a game, so I played one of them and Guillermo (a boy I played against at Sant Boi) the other, we both playing white. If we both win our games we'd face at the last round for the 1st place :).

However my opponent was a fearsome one. With a very aggresive play, usually playing gambits, he had crushed most players. Last round he killed his opponent in just 9 moves playing a Blackmar-Diemer gambit.

With black he had played to the date the Sicilian Dragon, an opening I know and I'm comfortable with it, so I was confident with my chances. However when we didn't play the Dragon but a gambit these previous games set me in a frame of mind that made me loss the game.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • Never look at your opponent and think: "it's stronger than me". I lost this game before the first move, when I was too feared of him.
  • I play too passive and in reactionary way, just replying to my opponent (real or imaginary) threats.
  • Gambits not only/not always give the gambiteer a development/initiative advantage (of dynamical nature). They can give also permanent advantages: better squares for the pieces, control of open files and diagonals or just an scenario that fits better into player style. Thus, just waiting until the advantage vanishes won't work.
  • Mindless development doesn't work, neither. And if your plan doesn't include to spot the best squares for your pieces, then it's not a plan.
  • When chasing an enemy piece look where the chasen piece will have to go. Maybe you're returning a favor to your opponent.
  • Sometimes I'm not consistent with my plans. For example, I planned to defend the queening square (a1, see moves 28th to 30th) with my bishop from the long diagonal, and two moves later I did play d4, blocking the diagonal.
  • You should ALWAYS analyze, from the opening. See 3rd move.
  • Too many times I miss really obvious tactics of my opponents. See move 40th.
  • I'm too lazy when calculating beyond a couple of moves or the effects of any move. This game was very sharp and there're several moves where I should have spend more time. That's the case of the "trap" I had prepared at move 15th.

Ninth round (5.5/8), table 6 as black vs 1863

And the last game, another bad game not played properly that I lost with more chances than I deserved. Psychologically it was like the tournament was finished when I lost the previous game.

Mistakes & Lessons learned:

  • I have a tendency to overlook the open diagonals when looking into the position. That also contributed to the terrible 19th move.
  • I played several moves without a concrete analysis.
  • This one is common to all my games, but this one was more evident. It is usually difficult to me to begin to start playing chess "seriously". I mean, to leave the auto-pilot mode.
  • I did some one-move-attacks, like 20th move in the game.
  • I'm too lazy when calculating beyond a couple of moves or the effects of any move. See moves 8th, 44th or 47th.
  • I missed obvious tactics, like at moves 8th or 10th.

And at the end...

Well, I didn't win the tournament, but I didn't expect to do so. My rating was more or less in the middle of the tournament players and I finished 11th after having played at the first tables the whole tournament. My ELO rating increased 32 more points (to 1844) and I enjoyed the games, which is the ultimate goal of playing chess.

Also both the tournament games and their analysis revealed holes in my play, so I have field to improve it for the next tournaments. If we put together the mistakes of all my games we find that most of them repeat along all the games:

The bishop pair: I had just read The Amateur's Mind, with its emphasis on minor pieces imbalances, and I somewhat misleaded myself to overestimate this concrete imbalance. In fact Silman doesn't says/writes that, but he says that bishops or knights are not better than the other "per se", but you must work to make your minor pieces better than your opponent's.

Thinking about it, I believe that this misunderstanded is caused by my laziness: the bishop pair is the only advantage that doesn't require any work, if you have the bishop pair and your opponent don't, you have it. Sadly, having the bishop pair by itself is not an advantage if the position doesn't favour them or they're poorly placed but the first (and easy, and lazy) analysis is done: you have it.

The diagonals: It's a fact that diagonals are harder to see than files and ranks. So maybe I'll have to force myself to do an extra check for diagonals.

Laziness: I'm not actually lazy, but what happens is the following: when I look into a position some moves and replies come quickly to my mind. But after these few seconds I cannot see other moves or options than the first ones, my mind is a mess of moves, get frustrated and do my move. Sometimes I can calculate longer variants when they're made of forced moves but, if there's any, I usually miss the in-between moves.

Missing easy tactics: In a real game you won't have a voice that warns you that in the current position there's a tactical problem, "tactical trainer" style, and it's not realistic to try to solve a problem at every move, but at least a minimal check has to be done. Most common tactics are related to double attacks, compulsory moves (ie, in-between moves) and pins, so checking these few patterns would allow me to find most of these missed tactics.

Susprise moves, missed opponent tactics, and so on: All of them can be summarized in one: I don't look the game from my opponent point of view. Which can be their goals, plans and moves (others than those replying to my own threats, of course).

One-move-attacks: I don't know why I do them, I just know that I do them. I think the matter is that these moves are the first ones that come to your mind and, instead of asking myself "what does this move for my position?" I just check "Is there something wrong with this move?".

My theory knowledge sucks: I cannot say too much about it. I've never studied theory.

Playing passive: it is always easier to play reactively or just auto-pilot "natural" moves than look forward to get the initiative or improve your pieces position. Or sometimes I'm too worried about my opponent threats (real or not). But I should always look forward to improve my own position and achieve an active play.

Auto-pilot mode: the good thing is that I realize when I'm in auto-pilot mode and I try to solve that. The bad thing is that I nearly never succeed.

It usually happens just after my opening knowledge has run out (that may be as soon as the second move) and I'm on my own by first time. The first few moves after that I'm not able to concentrate in the game. Strangely, the more moves I do from opening theory, the more it costs to me entering the game; on the other hand when I have to think since 2nd move I focus more quickly into the game.

My usual method to get rid of the auto-pilot mode is leaving the board a few minutes, walk around, look at other games, and then try to get into my board in a different frame of mind, but it doesn't work.

A long list, isn't it?

Filling the holes: homework

Now it's time to make a work plan to fill the holes. As far as I see I have to:

Study chess: particularly chess endings technique, and chess openings. To this goal I'm studying a great book by de la Villa, "100 finales que hay que conocer" (100 endings you must know) and I've to say I'm greatly impressed by this little book.

On openings, I want to build my first opening repertoire: as white the London System (as Luis Fernandez Siles says, it is easier to learn a system than an opening) because it is easy to learn, works against most black set-ups and after a few tests I feel myself confortable with the positions that arise.

As black I plan to learn the basics of the dutch stonewall and the french, and I've found two books by Moskalensko that seems very interesting. But these two openings will come after the endings and the London System.

Train chess: there're other holes that is not a matter of knowledge, but of chess practice. As I cannot solve them reasing books I'll do series of thematic analysis of my own games. For example: select the key positions of these games and do a session just looking for ways to improve my minor pieces; other day, a session of looking for plans for my opponent; other day, a session of ways to do a more active play, etc. If possible I'll check these ones with other player.

Mental strength: actually this was the one that made me lose most points. Being unable to focus in the game made me lose games 4th and 9th, while an excessive fear of my opponent played a major role in the outcome of 8th game. I must find a way to somehow sistematize the way I think to force myself to spend more time and effort thinking in the position, at least the first ones after theory has gone, until I focus myself in the game and it happens in a more natural way.

Sure, a list of steps (look at the imbalances, look for key squares, how to improve minor pieces, make a plan, check for obvious tactics) could help to make the brain to start working. I'll give it a try.