2016 Maryland Open

Jul 13, 2016, 4:10 PM |


I am way behind in my tournament blogging, but it doesn't matter: I don't make news, I make mistakes. The point of amateurs blogging their games is to expose their mistakes to their friends and passers-by and perhaps elicit some constructive comments.

This year's Maryland Open was a pleasant playing experience despite some construction work going on at the Rockville Hilton. My performance was worse than I hoped for, but not entirely bad - I did gain a few rating points, after all.

In round 1, I scored a relatively routine point against a somewhat lower-rated opponent. I was a perennial B-class player until recently and it is a notable improvement for me that I now regularly beat players at the level I used to be.

My round 2 opponent played an unorthodox, but sound, opening, and managed to confuse me enough that I postponed my kingside development for too long and got a bad position. I thought I was in trouble longer than I really was; I actually got some chances for an advantage, but I missed them and, with a few mistakes, gave him a real opportunity to crush me. It was his turn to miss his chances and, eventually, I gained the upper hand with 48...d2! However, I simplified into an endgame I couldn't win. I am not completely sure where I dropped the advantage because engines are bad at evaluating those types of positions. A draw was probably a just outcome of this dynamic game with major errors on both sides.

Round 3 was a replay of the round 2 game from this year's Chesapeake Open - same opponent, same opening. Last time, I misplayed the opening, but got a bit lucky after that. This time, I was in control from the beginning, and I felt I had a large advantage since 10...d5, though Houdini disagrees - it was about equal until 14...Bxe4?

Round 4 was an interesting battle. I took some unnecessary risk in the opening (5.d6!?, 7.dxe7?), got a reasonably good (about equal) position, but misplayed the transition into endgame and was struggling to stay alive. And just when I thought I might have finally gotten some breathing room, I made a terrible blunder. It is not clear that I could have held a draw without it, but it was still a shock.

My young round 5 opponent was the defending Maryland Amateur Champion. I ventured a somewhat different opening than I usually play, but got a good position afer white's suboptimal 10.dxc6 and risky 12.0-0-0. I had the initiative throughout the game and eventually got into a winning endgame, but I messed it up while my opponent defended well in time pressure.

In the end, this was neither very good nor very bad. I got a positive score and my rating went up a bit, but I made too many mistakes and even when I was lucky I didn't fully capitalize on it. Moreover, I seem to have reached a new plateau. I've consumed the low-hanging fruit of self-improvement; now how do I make the next leap?