Baltimore Open, Part 2
Part 1 is here. So my undefeated streak stopped at 7, but I got through 3 rounds with an even score against opponents with an average rating of 2020. Can I keep up with that?
Sunday started with a bummer: my opponent failed to show up. It's never fun to win by forfeit - a point is feeble compensation for wasted time - and it is even worse when you play up a section and your primary goal is not to win prizes but to play interesting games you can learn from. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one; there was a kid in the under 1900 section whose opponent was also a no-show, so after an hour of twiddling our thumbs we got paired in an extra-tournament rated game.
I think the kid was not really in it this weekend. His pre-tournament rating was higher than mine, but he had a terrible tournament, losing all his games. He appeared to have a cold; that probably explains some of what happened in this game. His unorthodox opening left huge dark-square holes in his kingside. He must have realized he was in big trouble when he played the desperate 16...g5, but that just accelerated his demise.
BTW, my designated opponent showed up a few minutes after Bryant and I started playing. Apparently, he thought the round started at 10 (it started at 9), and was a bit late even under his assumptions.
In the last round, I got to play another expert. Again I got a good position out of the opening. Unfortunatley, I missed a tactical shot after 13.Rb1 (and again on the next move); I only became aware of it when my opponent pointed it out in the post mortem. Interestingly, I was on the lookout for similar possibilities just a move earlier, while the rook was on a1 (12...Nxe4 doesn't work: 13.Nxe4 f5 14.Nd6), but then I didn't notice that the rook was even more exposed on b1. It probably didn't help that Qc7 and Ne6 were part of my plan anyway, so I was psychologically less motivated to look for better moves. Even so, my position after 16...Nd4 was very promising, but then I made several inaccurate decisions. The worst was probably opening the b-file, instead of eventually fortifying the Bc4 with a pawn on b5. My opponent was very kind after the game and praised my play, but the truth is probably that he is a nice guy much more than I am a good player.
A strange coincidence: In both games I lost, I underestimated the pin on the a2-g7 diagonal. Or maybe it isn't a coincidence, but a personal weakness?
So far, I haven't consulted computer engines, so I am sure I will soon discover holes in the analysis. But I prefer to post the games as soon as I have something to say about them.
My rating is now 1878, a 24-point gain, so I can't be unhappy with my performance, but of course I see how full of errors my game still is. Maybe that's good - if I can perform at about 2000 level and see obvious areas that need improvement, maybe it means there is still low-hanging fruit for improvement!?
For the next week or so, I am left with a puzzle about USCF rules regarding category norms. Namely, if my 5 games are considered a single event, then I should have earned another Category 1 norm. But my 4th game, though rated, was outside the tournament (we both got wins by forfeit for the tournament 4th round), and my rating change was reported as coming from 2 events, so based on that, I suspect I will not earn a norm. That will be a bit irksome; so remember: always show up for your scheduled game!