Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tournament Report :: Eastern Class 2009

I played in the Eastern Class chess tournament last weekend, Friday 6 March to Sun 8 March. The crosstable is here, and I played in the C section. Out of five games, I played four, leaving early on Sunday to spend the evening with my S.O. Shortly before the tournament, my rating spiked (see earlier posts about coming back to OTB from hiatus), pushing me from the D to C section, so I was low guy on the totem pole. This is a good place to be... if you want good competition...

I am analyzing my games now, and will post analysis shortly. For now, here is a qualitative summary:

Round 1, Friday PM, I played Black, win:
I got to the playing hall in Sturbridge MA with just minutes to spare. I was working all day on analytical products and my brain was cooking, so all I needed to do was chill a bit, and shift gears to chess. My opponent played 1.d4 to which I am starting to learn the 1...d5 response. I was channeling Silman and worked hard to impose my will on the game, and overcome fears of Bd3 and Qc2 battery staring down my hapless h7 pawn, by using fast Queenside action to take my opponent off balance. After that I was channeling Petrosian (*) and spent time thinking mostly about taking away my opponents squares, even at the expense of perhaps a quicker win. Several people commented on my game, some noting how I shut down all my opponents' counterplay, some noting I missed quicker wins. 

I am happy with the game. My heart and soul were in the game the whole time and not wavering. My opponent re-entered, played the fast games Saturday morning, and ended with a respectable 3.0/5.0 result.

(*) Or so I thought. Some people have pointed out that I am not at the level where I can really comprehend Petrosian, so let's say that I focused on his "prevent my opponent's plans" part of his style. I have yet to really understand his subtle maneuvering...

Round 2, Saturday AM, I played White, lose:
I faced a familiar opponent with whom I've played off-beat openings with in the distant past, and this game was no exception. I later learned I experienced the joys of the Budapest Defense and I was on my own wits starting on my opponent's second move. I took the pawn and battened down the hatches, bracing for an attack, giving back the pawn when doing so allowed me an opportunity to consolidate. I went on to defend against a relentless attack on my Kingside, through move 20, and even starting some Queenside counterplay on move 21. We both burned up plenty of time on the clocks, since I was not just defending, but also giving my opponent a few problems to solve. Around move 25 my opponent had about 1 minute left on his analogue clock. I had four minutes. All I had to do was wait him out. My position was fine. But like all the previous twenty-some-odd moves, I needed to be on the lookout for one move mates, cheapos, etc. On move 27, it looked like the Kingside tension was subsiding, and the Queenside was heating up (which it was), but... there was still one more cheapo to defend against. In this transition moment of shifting tension, I took my eye of the ball for just a second, and missed a mate-in-one. Doh!

I am disappointed in the loss, but am pleased with my play prior to move 27... My opponent went on to win the section with a 4.5/5.0 result.

Round 3, Saturday PM, I played Black, draw:
I faced an up and coming, and very well mannered junior, who plays 1.e4, so I played the Caro-Kann, despite still being rusty with it. Of course he enters into a line that I am unfamiliar with 1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5.Be3. Hmmm... I proceed to burn up time, because I knew I needed to push ...c5, but kept thinking I needed to prepare more. Meanwhile he already played c3. Then I think I need to prepare more, and so on. I never end up doing the ...c5 break I wanted to do. In the end, I 'm not sure he had any more clues as to what was going on because I was pressuring him in ways that was not called for in the position. This culminates in a combination which looks favorable to him (win the exchange), but a few moves later I can force the exchange back, and worse for him, now we are in a drawn endgame. He was very gracious, and we agreed to a draw.

I really need to practice being flexible (like Round 1) and when one plan doesn't work out (like waiting too long for the ...c5 push), formulate a new plan and move on. My opponent went on to a very good 3.5/5.0 result.

Round 4, Sunday AM, I played White, lose:
I faced an opponent who is a nice chap, but whose play for some reason, brought out bad habits in me which I thought I had overcome. First bad habit was assuming that Sunday's games are going to be easy. In fact, going into Sunday AM with 1.5 points practically guarantees that your opponent will be gunning extra hard for a win. And they should be. That's the point. The second bad habit is not respecting your opponent's moves. I can't verbalize this precisely, but that's what was going on in my head. Why, I can't tell you. In Round 1 I was busy trying to get into my opponent's head and shutting down his plans. In this game I wasn't respecting his moves, only to get annoyed when his moves start to add up to serious pressure. As early as move six I start to be adventurous in ways that are unwarranted. Followed by an over-reaction on move 10 that led to a permanent and debilitating weakness. My opponent rightfully picked on this weakness until he had a severe cramping effect on my game, snuffing out any/all maneuvering, ultimately forcing severe material loss.

My opponent played well, I certainly didn't. My opponent went on to get a reasonable 2.0/5.0 score.

I will post analysis of my games shortly. All in all, of the four games I played I am pleased with three of them, and my last was a big warning that bad habits never really die, they just lay in wait. My best good-bad habit ratio was Round 1, my worst good-bad habit ratio was Round 4. My job as a chess novice is to keep my bad habits down so my good ones can thrive. 

The good habits I want are:
  • Keep my heart and mind in the game at all times, don't let up even for one move
  • Be flexible. Look for short plans that are doable
  • Respect your opponents moves, figure out his plans, and act to shut them down
  • For goodness sake, I need to learn openings out to at least 5-7 moves (with ideas)!
  • Keep up the analysis routine
The bad habits I need to suppress are:
  • Not paying attention (not respecting) your opponents moves, plans, etc.
  • Being OCD about plans whose time has come and gone
  • Being a slacker regarding opening preparation and analysis
This is going to be a long journey.


  1. I’d like to comment on the hit list of good habits you outlined:

    - Keep my heart and mind in the game at all times, don't let up even for one move
    BP Says: I think this is fundamental and is key to any sports psychology. Mindfulness is important in several ways. For starters it’s a process of focusing on the results. Secondly, in order to learn and keep the plasticity of the brain in a way that is conducive to learning ( like a child) being conscious ( as opposed to rote response) is required in order to transfer a newly learned task into an unconscious procedural processing ( to make it a motor memory).
    - Be flexible. Look for short plans that are doable
    BP says: Again being rigid in your plans is where we go wrong. I’ve made many a blunder focused on a kingside attack that was well defended and failing to find an alternate solution because I wanted to badly to sac my knight or something in what seemed like a good attack. Learning to shift gears is critical in this game. Sometimes I get up and walk away, come back with a new set of eyes.
    - Respect your opponents moves, figure out his plans, and act to shut them down
    BP says: I don’t do this enough. It’s part of Dan Hiesman’s Checks Captures and Threats mantra of what he defines as playing “real” chess versus “hope” Chess. The caveat I would add is to recognize that it’s a real threat. The balance is figuring out if your threat carries more momentum.

    -For goodness sake, I need to learn openings out to at least 5-7 moves (with ideas)!
    BP says: Ok here we go. Stick with the openings you have right now. To “Learn” openings doesn’t mean rote memorization and will go to defeat the flexibility you need. With every game you played, open the book and see where you went out of book. Start small. You should aim to stay “in book” for the first 5-7 moves. Make a list of players who play “your openings” and play over entire games as part of your analysis. Use the analysis technique of trying to figure it out on your own. This will help train you in bullet number 1. Then review your analysis with the annotations or a coach or Fritz.

    - Keep up the analysis routine
    BP Says : make this your #1 priority as it will feed the rest.

  2. BlunderProne,

    Your technique for blending analysis and learning an opening resonates with me. I agree, I am not interested in memorizing an opening tree, but rather stretching out how long I can stay "in book" in games I actually play.

    Analysis sounds like the key, and is one of the new things I'm focusing on in this quest.

  3. Can't wait to see some of your analysis. I'm very interested in your round 2 game against Chang. I was following a little of that game and thought you were holding your own pretty well during the early stages of that match.

  4. Smitty, I started going over my Eastern 2009 games, so analysis is coming. In the meantime I added your chess blog to my list of chess blogs.

  5. Hey thanks for the link! I feel like I'm somebody now...I feel like a contender! ; )