After reflection on my recent tournament results, I’ve noticed a very positive trend. For the first time, I feel like I have been regularly competitive with much higher rated players. By “much higher rated,” I mean 200-250+ rating points higher than my own. In my last two tournaments especially, I’ve scored 1.5/3 against these players. Although it’s a very small sample size, I’ve still been able to notice a clear improvement in my play against them, against slightly higher rated players, against pretty much everyone.
It used to be that I would be able to “hang in there” until the point where my opponent would finally see something that I miss and capitalize, or that would not happen and I would be rewarded. Very rarely would I have the chance to be ahead in the game and capitalize on their mistakes. Recently, I’ve been able to consistently been able to compete at the same level as my higher rated opponents, and that success has been crucial to my overall tournament success; consequently, my rating has been steadily increasing for the last few months. Albeit, I’ve still found myself making mistakes in time pressure, but I’m confident that these are fixable. After my most recent tournament, the Chesapeake Open, I found myself at 2197, a mere three points away from reaching my goal from the beginning. I will share some of my games from this tournament in the hope that you will be able to get something out of my recent success and possibly apply it to your own games.
That game was short and real sweet. Although I was quite satisfied with that result after the game, I knew that luck contributed a decent portion of it. This wasn’t the first time I was paired against my opponent. I had played him approximately a year ago, with the same colors. As seen in the variation from 12, it was the exact same opening and played out in almost the exact same way. In the first game, I had missed a win, but the game must have been traumatizing to play as Black. With that logic, I assumed that I would be faced with a different opening on this occasion. Yet, the game notation says otherwise; either he decided to give it a shot once more, or just completely forgot about our previous encounter. In either case, I was lucky to have the game play out in the fashion that it did. I was still able to create these threats and play perfect or near-perfect moves from beginning to end against a much higher rated player.
My success hasn’t been solely based on opening knowledge. My improvement in endgame play has also been a key factor in some of my games.
The inaccurate play early in the game let to an endgame fairly quickly. After Black’s Bf4 on move 12, I entertained the idea of sacrificing the bishop with hxg6, but in the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and I felt fairly confident in my ability to create some weaknesses in a position with so many pieces still left on the board. In the end, that’s what happened.
Although these two games were not the only ones in which I had significant chances, there are still things I have to fix that will help me improve to be an even better player. Disregarding that, however, I’ve found myself playing well recently and I hope that I can continue this success until I cross the sacred 2200 barrier. Who knows, perhaps I will be able to accomplish this feat before I return for my next article! But, until then, see you and good luck in your games!