36th Snowstorm Special in Charleston

Feb 10, 2010, 9:59 AM |

Here are the games from my third chess tournament. I came in with a rating of 1225 and played 4 higher-rated players (and an unrated who beat a 1400). These were tough games, and I only managed two wins, but I was pretty happy with that. I think it's good to play tougher competition like this.

Game one was against a player rated 1831. I thought I might get destroyed, but I think I made a good game out of it. I've been burned several times by letting too many pieces get close to my castled king, and so I gave up my queen and ruined my pawns just to relieve that pressure. I need to work on learning when those pieces are a real threat and when it's not a big concern. I also need to work on developing my bishops; I tend to leave them sitting too long, which was a problem in this game, but was even worse in game 4.

Saturday morning, I had nothing to do so I drove out to Folly Beach and saw the Morris Island lighthouse. Unfortunately all I had was my lousy cell phone camera.

For game two I faced a ten-year-old boy complete with a 1496 rating and a Mon-roi device for taking notation. I knew he was serious about chess. I'm glad nobody told me that he had beaten a 1900+ player a week before. He played 1. e4 and I gave what has become my standard reply in tournament games, the Scandinavian Defense with 3. Qd6. Many thanks to my friend Joerg for showing it to me. I like it because there's not a lot of theory behind it and I don't have time to memorize the Ruy Lopez or the Sicilian...I've been playing those in correspondence games so maybe someday I'll be more comfortable with them. This game was even for a long time and I offered a draw on move 33, which my opponent declined. We had a knight vs. a bishop late in the game, and I felt his knight was stronger. So when he offered to trade it for the bishop, I happily accepted. The game ended up as just pawns and kings, and there were some interesting moments where we had to be careful of the tempo and eventual zugzwang for white. Finally I saw a way to win, and even though it could have been done more elegantly, and one queen was enough, I grabbed two to make it easy; I didn't want to give the game away to a stalemate! I was excited about my biggest win!

Fueled by my previous win, crab cakes and beer, I felt great going into game three. I knew I was capable of beating near-1500 players now, and was less phased by my 1485 opponent. I still expected a tough game, and it was. My opponent opened with the "King's Indian Attack," which I wasn't familiar with. It seemed logical to me to play Queen's Gambit-style moves as black. This game also ended up in a kings and pawns endgame, but this time I couldn't find the win. It was a very long game that many people were watching. My friend told me "if you're going to lose, lose early; the bar is closed!" (The hotel restaurant and bar closed way too early for Friday and Saturday nights.)

For game four I was slated to play a 1479 player, which I felt pretty good about. I had played competitively against the previous two. Here again I took too long to develop a bishop, and paid for it dearly. By move 13 I had conceded the exchange. Then I dropped a bishop at move 16. It was ugly.

At move 22 I took my friend's advice and decided to "lose early." I went back to the beach, sat on a fallen tree and read my chess openings book.

Game four had been a tough game in my previous tournaments as well, but I had come back and won game five both times. I was hoping to get one of the few players with a low rating just in case. Instead I was up against an unrated player who had previous beaten a 1400. So I wasn't expecting an easy game. For this one I played the Scandinavian as well. I don't always win with that opening, but I like how you can see the opponent start thinking early in the game and not making memorized moves. This game turned out a little easier than expected when my opponent pushed d5 before his pieces could support it. I also thought trapping his rook was neat; I've never done that before. I had a pretty good material advantage, but again I saw the easiest way for me to win was to queen one of the pawns.

All in all, I'd say it was a good tournament for me, and it's nice to know I can compete with the higher rated players, sometimes anyway! And I know I have a few key areas to work on improving, so I'll be studying those.

Thanks to the Charleston Chess Club for holding the tournament.