A Tournament Story: An all-over-the-place depiction. Part 1.
Warning: The posts will be written in quite a self-involved, overly long, self-indulging and detailed manner, with plenty off-topic, biographical and quirky excursions, so if you're looking for strictly concise chess content, these upcoming posts might be a of waste your time.
I have been planning to do this for a long time, but somehow laziness and my love story with procrastination always got in the way of actually reviewing my tournament games, seeing where I went wrong and what I can build upon. Having a lot of free time on my hands at work these days, I thought I might as well give it a go. And what better occasion than on my employer's time and money ?
The main reason why I wanted share my experiences and lay out the games from the last tournament in a chess.com blog format is that this would create an incentive for me to actually analyse the games that I played and not just do what I've always done after a tournament, which is : look over a game with the computer for 5 minutes - see where I blundered - get frustrated - close the engine and play online blitz, trying to prove to myself that I'm not that bad after all.
This series of posts will feature each of my games (with commentary) from the latest OTB tournament I played, between 27.12.2015 and 04.01.2016, namely the Group C (Under 1800 rating) of the Cracovia International Chess Festival 2015. I finished with a 5/8 score, and a new Fide rating of ~1510, which I still think leaves me severely underrated, but that's another matter on which I might touch upon with another occasion.
This was my fourth classical time control OTB tournament since I started playing chess, back in 2012. In the months leading to the tournament I have played a lot less chess than usual, my schedule got tighter and left me with almost no time for preparation. The rustiness was duly felt in online blitz, where I was blundering to a worrying degree, just days before starting. Even though my expectations a few months before the tournament, when I thought I would have enough time to prepare properly, were to fight for a prize in the C section (no pun intended) of the tourney, I was going into it thoroughly unprepared, hoping to just not-entirely-bomb and maybe come out of it with a few lessons and pointers regarding my strengths and weaknesses as a chess player.
I am a 1.d4 player, that goes for the calmer, strategic waters of a QGD and the like, while avoiding the sharper terrains of the Sicilian, the Grunfeld and the Benko, when possible. If you were to ask me before the tournament where my pluses and minuses lay in my game, I would have probably told you that I have a decent understanding of pawn structures and positional assessment, with an average knowledge of opening theory (for my rating), while I lack behind in tactical vision and theoretical endgame knowledge.
In this type of tournaments (U-1800), there are broadly four typologies of players:
a) The sharp improving kid
A very young boy or girl that is actually passionate about chess and has a solid chess training at his/her club. Usually plays way better than his/her rating suggests. Almost universally plays 1.e4 / 1.c5 , excels in the middlegame and likes sharp play.
b) The impatient, forced-into-chess-by-parents kid or "The prepubescent yawn"
You can tell by the facial expression, one of total disregard for the board, that this kid doesn't want to be there, but the fact that at least one of his parents is towering authoritatively behind him when he's playing allows him no escape. Moves almost instantly, on a whim, doesn't like to double check his moves, relies solely on intuition. If he somehow wins: good, if he loses in 15 minutes, even better. He just wants to get back home and play League of Legends.
c) The over-confident, overly-attacking, 50+ park-player
You might recognize him from the local park benches, where he plays double-fianchetto with his buddies, covered in beer bottles and sunflower seeds, while simultaneously engaged in a two-way trashtalking contest with his opponent. Makes his opening moves instantly, with complete disregard for theory, developing his pieces mindlessly so as to be the first to play f4-f5, or h4-h5, depending on his current mood. Even though his attacks are usually unsound, it still takes precise play and decent defensive skills to handle it properly, as it might prove overwhelming for the inexperienced player (it sure did for me in one game which I will showcase in a future post).
d) The used-to-play-well-30-years-ago Grandpa
I don't want to sound like an ageist a-hole, but the steady decline of mental faculty with age is a biological given. That same fact applies to chess abilities as well. I have played countless older players that used to be good chess players, but have been on a steady decline path for years. I've played a 80+ y.o. Candidate Master with a current rating of 1500, for example. They usually do well in the opening phase, but after a few hours of play, when the game takes a turn for the tactical waters, they almost unmistakably become affected by fatigue and are prone to blunders (aren't we all, to be fair).
The fact that I didn't include myself in any of the categories above might seem a tad pretentious and unfair. Typecasting individual, unique human beings from an outside, moral high-ground might come about as a d!ck-move on my part. That's correct. It is a d!ck-move. That's why if I were forced to categorize myself and my real life chess-buddies, it would probably go as follows:
"20-somethings that started playing chess in college, got hooked and then tried to make up for the lost time by developing an unhealthy and inappropriate-for-their-age obsession with the game, while neglecting the statistically-backed fact that it's probably too late to actually get good at the game, given the amount of adult-responsibilities that interfere with the training requirements necessary to achieve those belated goals."
There you go.
As far as introductory posts go, I think this is more than enough. In the next entry I will post my first game of the tournament, annotated and thoroughly dipped in more deluded nonsense.