Looking to 2017: Quality over Quantity

It wasn’t the smoothest ride ever, but I ended 2016 at a respectable 2136 USCF rating, 100 points closer to master. Of course, it’s perhaps the most popular goal in the chess world, so it won’t surprise anyone that I’m aiming for master in 2017 (conceptually, I think it’s roughly as difficult as going from 1900 to 2100, but that’s a discussion for another day). And after reflecting on the wild ups and downs of 2016, it’s clear that I’ll be focusing on making the most out of each tournament I play.

I didn’t realize how much I’d been playing until I actually went through my USCF history. I was known as a chess fanatic in elementary school, and I played more in 2016 alone than I’d played before entering college. For that reason alone, I can probably expect to be less active in 2017!

First, I’m rather keen on avoiding another wave of the aforementioned “ups and downs” largely due to my dabbling in quick time controls. My best performances came in October and December against experts in four shady quick games (in the way of chess, not ethics) that honestly should have gone in other directions. If you’re on the final push for master, that kind of uncertainty is not your friend.

Additionally, 2016 has shown me the importance of staying alert during all stages of a game. While the mental aspect of my play has steadily improved over the last few years, I faced quite a few disappointing results in the last few months of 2016 due to lapsing in critical stages of games. It’s entirely possible that I was a little burned out from playing too much, in which case it will help to be more deliberate about my tournament choices.

The final reason has more to do with logistics than chess itself; 2017 is poised for a number of changes in dates and formats to tournaments I’ve gone to in the last two years.

  • US Amateur Team East: Certainly a fun event, albeit one that requires missing a day of class. I’ve been lucky to avoid conflicts so far, but with CMU planning to spend an extra night in Parsippany to avoid late-night hassles, this could change.
  • Pittsburgh Open: For the first time in a few years, the Open will take place a week before CMU’s spring break. A weekend at a remote Pittsburgh Airport area inn may not be out of the question, but is far from certain!
  • Pennsylvania State Championship: Suffice to say that it moved from October to March, and to Lancaster in Eastern Pennsylvania. It’s during spring break, but travel possibilities are questionable.
  • Pittsburgh Chess Club events: The PCC’s move toward faster time controls, along with my newfound stint as one of the tournament directors, may well lead to me directing more and playing less.
  • Summer: I’ll be working in Seattle this summer, and will certainly be a busier than last year. How much chess I can fit in remains to be seen!

It’s still possible that everything falls into place despite the new changes. However, academic and professional commitments are heavier in the later years of college, so prioritizing will be different than in the past. That’s why it will be important for me to make the most of my playing opportunities this year!

That said, I have a few exciting events lined up for 2017, starting with the Liberty Bell Open in Philadelphia over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend (January 13-15), where Isaac, Grant, and I will be playing in the FIDE Open section. Shortly after that, the Pittsburgh Chess League resumes, with the top four teams (by rating and score) battling out a round robin. CMU, just a half point behind Pitt, is still in it to win.

However, for Pittsburgh, the big news of the new year is our new PRO Chess League team, the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers, featuring Isaac and myself as managers. With GM Alexander Shabalov (no introduction needed), GM Eugene Perelshteyn (as a free agent), Grant (approaching 2400 USCF), and the return of masters Gabriel PeteschTom Riccardi, and Alex Heimann (all over 2300 USCF) to Pittsburgh, we’re looking to have a great season in the league. Finally, as a sponsor of the Pawngrabbers, Chess^Summit will be piloting a blitz livestream featuring myself and Alice, so feel free to drop by (more details to come very soon).

Stay tuned for games from the Liberty Bell Open, along with more news from the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers. Thanks to Isaac for getting our team off the ground, and of course, all of our players. If you’re in Pittsburgh (or not!), we’d love to have your support as well!


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