My games from the American Open

I’ll post them as I get time. Here is my best game from the tournament:

Round 6

I like it because it shows what I am capable of when I am actually feeling normal and up for a good game.

After the game, Ryan told me that he could have saved a pawn with Qg3 instead of playing it all the way back to h2. I could have told him that the moment he played it because I am a #2 type player, positional more than tactical. So why did he play it? He probably saw the pin and the chance to throw in an f4 (winning a piece), should I defend the bishop with the knight. Also, after my …Qf6 he correctly saw that he needed to move the rook to defend his knight (which I didn’t even tactically notice). Most of this game became rather forced for both sides after he dithered on the queenside for a move or so right before my attack.

I don’t think any of my opponents “man-handled” me like Neal has done against me in some games. He made me a stronger player. Here, in this section, I mostly realized that people had done their homework with their openings and after that were looking for tactical swindles. I felt that no one was kicking my butt positionally, except for the round 2 loss, where I couldn’t calculate well, and played timid chess, and even then Crafty seemed to really like my position.

Round 3
Round 4
Round 5
Round 7

Round 8
I am losing this pawn ending, but neither of us knew it.

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American Open Day 4

I won against a 1722 kid, surprise, he blundered in the endgame. I almost accepted a draw, but then remembered to say “make a move first” and I really didn’t see any danger by that point in playing it out since it looked drawish but he was the one being forced by that point. He missed b4 supporting his knight, and if I take his pawn, his knight recaptures. I still could have won his pawn then, but he could then sac his knight for the final pawn. I told him after the game that b4 would have been a draw, but I guess I got lucky that he didn’t “grok” the idea of one pawn remaining means you can sac your knight for it.

Game 2, I played an 1800 player as White, Scandinavian. I thought I need to play d4 on move 2 because by move 3, he could play Ne4 and then NxBd2. He said that he wouldn’t have done that, and would have played Bg4 and then Bf5 only if I play h3. So I played the drawish d3 against him, and was really playing just to hold on and finish the tournament on a good note. I was fortunate to get the draw as this guy killed me with his Scandinavian last time we played a couple years back. ah, nice.

I believe I finished with 2 draws and 2 wins, 3 out of 8. I would guess I am still barely an A player, perhaps like right on the line 1805 or something like that, dunno, but it keeps my streak of like 12 tournaments now in a row where I’ve maintained an A level rating. I survived! Funny thing is I feel normal, like I could just keep doing that as if it were my day job or something. You get used to it. My strategy was to play my way into the tournament and I believe that worked.

Here’s my take on most players, well, there are two types of players, Ill list them:

1. The MDLM type player. This player predominates, and it is the most practical style to be. They know the ideas of the openings quite well, but to me it seems like they are mostly about finding the cheap shots or tactics. Chess is basically a tactical smoke-break for them or something like that. Their tactics are much more advanced than their “sense of the game”, where it’s going, unless by going you mean tactical opportunities/possibilities scorecard. Virtually all kids that I play fall into the category. To attain this category, you probably need to follow the MDLM advice of spotting simple tactics until smoke comes out of your ears and these patterns are burned into your brain, never to be missed in a blitzing moment, all 2 move tactics.

2. The strategic player. They like slow, methodical, closed games that build up over time. These players are usually older. I’m thinking anyone who has taken the time to study a book like Zurich ’53 qualifies for this camp, probably Blunderprone fits well under this category (he’s a hybrid like me, plays some sharp openings) This style fits people who have studied lots of master games, but have not necessarily played thousands of blitz games like I’m guessing many of these kids have.

I consider myself to be a hybrid, basically falling into the number 2 camp, but I don’t intentionally try to play slow safe openings in order to minimize risk and maximize strategic chances, but I can play this way if the situation calls for it.
I think my strengths and weakness are much more evident to me now in light of this. I need to drill on “dumb tactics” until I get to where I never miss one. I should probably camp out at a chess-tactics server type site, but really I’m not going to bother (getting addicted to that sort of thing). I’ll keep studying tactics from regular books until I see all of the themes right away.

For me, I find it strange that so many opponents want to blitz the game out, even at this time control, although stronger players I think usually do take their time. If you are like me, you have to take your time, slow the game down in the opening, take those 10-20 minute thinks. If nothing else, it lets them know that you aren’t there to make their “blitz tournament” complete, no, they are playing at “your” time-controls, ie slow. I suck at blitz, if I wanted to play a blitz tournament I would have signed up the “D” level section. I’d love to accommodate these fast-playing kids by playing quickly, but I simply lose that way, and I lose my way.

Openings theory is important, it is the “idea” you want to get in to give you and advantage. I’d say it’s the rule that people who play these tournaments are “booked” in the lines that they play. My feeling is that the journeyman player, after a while, learns some lines down cold, but more and more seeks to “leave the opening” and yet somehow still retain some initiative and dynamic chances. I don’t think this is “the” path for growth, but it probably does help to keep a rating progress steady (yet slow).

Personally, I would rather go into a game “booked up” than have some flaccid opening as White. To learn theory, I think a player has to sit down and ponder deeply each move of opening theory, why the move had to be played now and not a move from now, that is my take. If it is not learned slowly and patiently then how will it be remembered/recalled in such a way?

American Open – day 2

Another day, another screw-up.

Game 1, a 1788 player. Hard-fought draw as Black. I finally drew an ending that I meant to draw, imagine that after all my lost drawn games! I felt fortunate that I was able to craft a draw and that he played right into it, almost a thing of beauty.

Game 2, I had a win gift-wrapped against an older player, 70’s I’d say – I think he was 1936 rated, who doesn’t know openings much but knows tactics – by his own admission. I felt like MDLM personally kicked my butt because I simply made some bone-headed tactical miscues. After the game he asked me how to play that variation as Black and I showed him as he was very impressed with the advantage that I got.

Okay, so I had a HUGE, Ginormous advantage and then played Nb3. As soon as I played it (How does this happen where as soon as you play, you realize a mistake, but not before?) All I had to do was play BxN and I have Nd5 like ++- advantage. I played BxN 2 moves to late, and by then was so miffed that I was not looking at his counterplay seriously and missed Bh3 winning the exchange (I figured he might play Bf5). It should have been totally obvious, but will be going forward.

I played this game quickly. Long story I was going to try and win on time, a confidence-builder to know that I could play quickly. Ironically, technically I did win on time, by move 40 he was about 7 minutes over, but it said 53 minutes on his clock (I didn’t mention it to him). The problem was my old clock sticks badly, was acting up, so I had to press it a bunch of times at one point during the game to get it to unstick, and so it said we had made the time-control on like move 25. haha.

My board manners are getting better. I do need to cut down on taking so many breaks because it chews up clock time, but I don’t seem to get nervous anymore. My calculation has been abysmal during this tournament; If I got that squared-away efficient, that alone would be worth a couple hundred rating points, I have little doubt. I will probably be back to B level by the end of this tournament, but I could quickly make that back up as I feel I am actually improving when it comes to some of the intangibles, just need to maintain my focus better, more of a discipline problem than a skill problem. Calculation is more of a skill problem.

My Nb3 move was part of a rough-draft of getting in f4, but I realized he would get in …e5 first. I failed GM Melikset’s rule. If you see a plan doesn’t work out, get rid of it sooner than later. The quicker you dump it, the less it will hurt you. I sensed I was not scrutinizing it tactically, was not being my normal thorough self, but played it largely for the sake of the clock.

I think I let my emotions mar that game. Once went I left the board, I lost like 7 minutes, it was still his move and the clock had been pressed (or so I assume, perhaps he didn’t understand if the clock was working or perhaps I really didn’t press the clock) while I was gone – my clock was ticking, but before I left he had already spend like 12-15 minutes on this move, so I felt positive that I hadn’t forgot to press the clock. Anyway, I had to remind him to press the clock, he forgot a couple times, so I was totally on it, particularly when I left the board, even explained that we needed to subtract 60 minutes from our time because the clock thought we had made time-control. Long story short, when he left the board, that is when I got sort of ticked to myself, and made Nb3 right away. Heck, I even had all day to cheat and move it back if these things really crossed my mind and if I did that sort of thing, but I do think emotions affected me at that moment. He spent a long time on his last few moves for no apparent reason, he should have easily been able to make time-control.

Right after I resigned I was going to tell him that he missed time-control and should watch out in the future, but at that moment his wife stepped forward, and I felt too embarrassed for him at that moment to say anything negative. I said yes, he took too long in the opening, so it already seemed like I had made a semi-negative comment, and didn’t want to spoil the mood/victory for him. He was about 10+ minutes late for the game, and perhaps that irked me a little bit, too (especially being as it was the 2nd game of the day). I like when the other person has a digital clock that is easy to press. I should buy another clock, but I’m putting it off for now.

Ah, now I know what happened. I must have bumped the table as I left and that started my clock running, sad as that sounds. We got the tiny table and were shoved to one side of it. The table is two buttressed together (unevenly) and so half of the board (and clock) was raised like half an inch higher than the other side. I didn’t fix it because I figured it would disturb the people next to us, fixed it a little bit.

Gotta catch some z’s or I would give your game a close-look, RollingPawns. I liked how you came up with so many creative sacs. The turning point of that original attack, that stood out to me, is when you traded your bishop, put it back on e3 and he went NxB. I would have tried to hold onto that piece. You came up with some amazing attacks. I’ll post the two games later as tomorrow is an earlier start by 2 hours.

Polly’s cookie are delicious! She is an interesting person to meet. I’ll let the cat out of the bag and say she drew her first three games. Strong result! I dunno about ADD, she seemed to be fully concentrated and blitzing her moves out like the pro she is. She has a really nice wooden-piece set, BTW.

The American Open

0-2 start

Game 1, 1988 guy, had a serious demeanor. It went to an opposite-colored bishop ending where he still had some tricks, and it looked like I merely needed to shuffle around my queenside rook. But I decided to move my queen instead, as I was marking time. It was an instant blunder, but the interesting thing was that he suddenly played a 3-4 move combo in less than a minute. This took me by surprise since it was move 38 and I thought he would wait until time after reaching time-control. I had 4 minutes left and he had 6 minutes, but I was way too focused on his clock and thinking he wouldn’t suddenly blitz anything like he did.

Game 2, I was going to play a super-safe, solid CK line from the Zurich ’53 tournament and try and grind this 1719 kid for a positional win. But then we sat there and had to wait for the official start of the round, and I began to feel sorry for him as we talked before the game, and didn’t want to beat him. So I tried my pet-line CK Advanced var. instead, figuring he could trot out his opening theory at least, and we would have a fun game. Things went bad quickly and I was starting to think “I’m not actually going to lose the whole game due to his superior opening preparation, am I?” The answer to that question would be yes. It was not safe to play a risky variation merely because he is 100 points lower rating.

Even the guy I wanted to play that had won the B section at the Pac SW tournament, he sat next to me and lost his round 1 game, and I was already feeling sorry for him too, older guy, talked with him for a moment.

Naturally, Crafty says in round 2 I should have gone for what I figured I should have gone for – you get a good sense once you lose doing the other thing. I didn’t visualize the attack correctly, though, the number of Black pawn weaknesses. Also, I didn’t handle the branching correctly “If he does this, then he can’t do that” particularly in regards to his queen attacking and yet also coming back to defense. It’s harder to do this in the second game of the day than it is in the first, in my experience so far. At the beginning of the game, I felt shaky mentally, like I was seeing things too subjectively.

The other thing I learned, didn’t do though, when all fails – attack. Good or bad, and it’s often better than we expected, at least it forces your opponent to respond to your attack instead you to his, especially when you don’t particularly like your position either way. I almost went for that too, seemed right just couldn’t calculate it correctly. There was a brilliant finish, if I only I had played the other way I had been considering, with pressure on c6. The problem I ran into during this game, besides the 2 large Starbuck’s coffees seemingly having no effect, is that I was seeing 3 moves ahead, but not 4-5 or more moves ahead. That is what I have to do, see 4-5 moves ahead, that is what is holding me back. It’s like I see the 3 moves ahead and notice the ideas, but am simply not calculating that deeply/far ahead enough.

The strange part is that if this I had been a blitz game, my natural reaction was to make the right moves on ‘general principle’, but OTB I felt like I should use all my time and try to calculate, but that is where I went wrong, I wasn’t able to calculate well at all. I let the opening beat me instead of letting my opponent beat me. He played accurately, but none of his moves were that shocking, same thing in game 1.

After I played Bd2, and he played hxg, that is where I knew it was lost because I realized right away, if I recapture the pawn, he willl play Be4, then I will have to move rook on h1 and then his queen takes h2. Oddly, Crafty preferred that line for White than what I did (which was also losing), sure anything was better.

He thought I was losing the opening by not playing h4, which is theory. I looked at it but actually felt more relieved the queen went to h4 than to the other side of the board. It probably would have caught him by surprise if had played Nb3-d4, not recaptured the pawn right away, and play Bb5 and get the queen out on the light diagonal. That is what I wanted to do but didn’t calculate it well. Even then I would have been alright, gave so much time looking at what I didn’t do that I didn’t spend much time on what I did do.

Even round 1, I was not calculating deeply. I could have won a pawn on d4. I saw Nxd4 QxQ+, but then saw KxQ instead of NxQ, then Rd1, so I thought the knight on d4 would be pinned to the king and was feeling proud that I didn’t “waste” too much time on this move, but I simply did not consider the NxQ recapture. I’m amazed that I miss something so simple! He spent a lot of time there, but I didn’t. No wonder why we are both no more than A players. That is simply a dropped pawn on d4.

Round 1

Round 2

My normal bedtime, pre-tournament, was 8 pm and round 2 was 7:30 pm. At my best, good chance I win both of those games. I am not physically in good shape for this tournament, athletically speaking, couldn’t even jog a little this morning as I just got over a sinus infection before the tournament. But, there is a fair chance that I may go for broke, write this tournament off and play all of the oddball variations that I don’t think I will do well at, but haven’t really tried OTB in a slow tournament. Not sure yet, as even that takes some charged energy really.

Most beautiful chess game

This one gets my vote

Geller-Najdorf Zurich 1953

He could have won it quicker in a couple places, as Bronstein points out, but this game is a tour de-force on why Geller was one the greatest players of all time. This is like another dimension of chess that the titled players mostly know about.

Early in the opening, Bronstein points out that Black should have played …d5 instead of …Be7. After …Be7, it is all White.

Solid as Black

I figure this is how I should play with players of equal or better rating, don’t try some nutso attack as Black.

After going over Polly’s last game, I realized how quickly that Black can lose, so the pressure is more on Black to be solid.

Here is a game I just played on FICS. I ran out of time G/20, he had 4 minutes left, but I was looking at either …Rc7 or …Kg7, the same alternatives that Crafty was looking at. White can perhaps improve a little somewhere, but I can take heart that I did not crack under positional pressure or boredom as I was quite prone to doing until perhaps after reading this Zurich ’53 book. 😉

Solid as Black

Crafty gives White a .29 advantage, which isn’t winning, and likes …Kg7

ACIS

Otherwise known as Adult Chess Improvement Seekers.

My take on this now is to learn tactics primarily, learn endgames, otherwise forget everything you thought you’ve learned and calculate it out at the board. Openings are useful to know because it saves on time, energy, and the chance of blundering at the board.

Trying to rely too much on knowledge is a mistake because you may sense that something doesn’t seem right, like …Be6 by my opponent in my last game in the Center-counter. But calculation proved at odds with my original suspicion. In fact, this is becoming the norm as my calculation and game has improved. I can use my intution to blitz out an endgame or come up with an attack, but I used to rely on the “look” more, as in “Oh, that doesn’t look right”. It has to be calculated, you don’t know, and may be simply wishing. Play with intuition, but rely on calculation. The reason I say this is because when I get home I realize, via Crafty, that the calculation part of me was correct, and the other parts of my game are based much more on emotion and thus not as reliable.

I am going through Zurich ’53 book a little here and there. I notice that Bronstein will often throw out an idea, but not always back it with a variation. Sometimes this is helpful to know regardless, and sometimes it makes one waste time for a variation that doesn’t seem to be present. When in doubt, I will trust the players who played at perhaps a combined 6hr time control over an author that isn’t providing a variation. That seems the safe bet by far.

The other thing to keep in mind is to play a whole game. Don’t do like my post below where the game was marred by my time-pressure on both sides of the board. Play the opening to make sure you at least get to the middlegame, to make sure you at least get to the ending, to make sure you at least don’t lose on time. You never know what move your opponent will make (not the same thing as the best move), and the supposition of an accurate rating is largely based on the graciousness of you allowing your opponent to make his/her mistakes.