I broke 1700 in my freshman year at the 2012 Virginia Open. From my experience, I think the difference between 1500 and 1600 rated players and 1700s is that the 1700 rated player takes more chances. In order to reach that next level (1700), you have to be more comfortable with your ability to attack and your tactical knowledge. For me I made that break through in the 2nd round of the 2012 Virginia Open.
Steincamp – Al-Hariri (2012 Virginia Open)
1. c4 Nf6 2. d4
2…e5 My opponent comes out swinging with the Budapest Gambit. I didn’t really know this line at the time, so I pushed with 3. d5. This is not such a good move for me. Main line is 3. exd5 Ng4 for best play.
3. d5 Bc5 4. Nc3 d6
5. g3 If I recall correctly, I realized that my opening was not the best line in this position. Note how I can’t push e2–e4 comfortably, as it would emphasize my weakness on the a7–g1 diagonal.
O-O 6. Bg2 a6
7. e3 This is why white must play 3. exd5 in the Budapest Gambit. This move must be made for me to continue development comfortably in the opening, even though I blocked in the c1 bishop. 7. Bg5?? loses to 7… Bxf2+! 8. Kxf2 Ng4+ 9. Kf1 Qxg5 -+
Bg4 8. f3 Bh5
9. e4 Black’s Bc8–g4–h5 maneuver solved my issues in the opening by allowing me to expand my pawn structure on the kingside and strengthen the center. I give black’s c5 bishop a good diagonal, but in exchange I am more flexible.
Bb4 10. Nge2 Nbd7 11. a3 Bc5 12. b4 Ba7
13. h4!? I think this was an interesting idea for me, but it may have been worth considering Qd3 followed by Be3, trading off Black’s best piece and allowing me to castle. In this position, gaining space is not really a priority, development is.
h6 14. g4 Bxg4 15. fxg4 Nxg4
16. c5 The first real gamble I made this game. By sacking my pawn, I hope to find activity on the kingside.
dxc5 17. Ng3 Ndf6 18. Bh3?! Nf2 19. Kxf2 cxb4+ 20. Kf1
20…bxc3 This is the first critical point in the middle game where I have an opportunity to establish a plan. For the first 20 moves, I have been responding to my opponent, but now I have to find counter play if I want to win. My king is very exposed, so I need to limit black’s queen from active play. I have more pieces than black, but I should not forget the threat of pawn storms on either side of the board. The longer this game goes on, it will favor black.
21. Nf5 h5 22. Bg5 g6
23. Qf3! Taking chances and trusting my tactical senses, if I can open the kingside, I can play for a win, and if I have to, maybe force a draw. The key is to exploit the dark squares f6, g7, and h6.
gxf5 24. Qxf5 Kg7
25. Bh6+ I had already seen this move when I was calculating 23. Qf3, so it wasn’t to hard to find. 25. Rh2 is more accurate, but this is also winning. The key to finding this move was to look for forcing moves on the critical squares f6, g7, and h6 before getting carried away with other variations.
25…Kxh6?? Find the checkmate! 25… Kh8 26. Bxf8 is best play for black.
26. Qg5+ Kh7 27. Bf5+ Kh8 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Rh2 Re8 30. Rg2+ Ng4 31. Bxg4 1-0
31. Rxg4 would have led to the faster mate, but the text works too.
In this game, I was about a 150 point underdog, but I was able to create chances in a complicated position. The key for me was after 20… bxc3 I was able to find an aggressive plan rather than sit back and play passive chess.
Breaking 1700 means being able to seize the initiative in a tight game and trusting your tactical senses when the opportunities are present.
Feel like I missed something? Feel free to leave a comment below.