2204

At long last….it’s finally happened.  This past weekend at the Baltimore Open, I performed well enough to cross the ever-so-difficult 2200 barrier and achieve my goal.  My rating jumped from 2189 to 2204, a good 15 points.  And, surprisingly enough, I was able to accomplish this feat with only playing three games in the tournament.  Before I share the game that propelled me over the barrier, some background.  I was first exposed to chess at 10 years old, which was extremely late when taking into account the ages at which people start playing now.  After the long climb, I finally crossed 2000 in October of 2014.  Although it was almost two and a half years ago, it seems just like yesterday.  After crossing 2000, I was stuck the mid-2000s for a long time until I had one very good World Open in July of 2015, where I scored an undefeated 6/9 in the U2200 section. This performance skyrocketed me from 2058 to 2128.  Since that tournament, tournaments have been a constant up and down for me.  I would piece together a few good performances before losing that progress in a single tournament and/or an NVA or DCCL match.  However, recently, I was able to catch some momentum and was able to ride the wind to the very top.  And, believe it or not, I haven’t even been playing much; with the amount of school work I have, I’ve only been able to play in approximately two events per month, with one or sometimes even both being the one-game NVA or DCCL matches.  Following that pattern, I haven’t been able to study much at home either.  However, as Jennifer Yu mentioned in her recent article here, playing chess is the most helpful way to improve at the game, and for me, that’s proved to be enormously relevant.

The whole thing has been a bit ironic since Beilin’s recently wrote (here) about our chances of crossing 2200 at USATE this upcoming weekend!  Well, Beilin, now that I’ve crossed the NM roadblock, you can, too!  Hopefully, this development can act as extra motivation for the rest of the Chess^Summit team to reach their goals as well.

The Baltimore Open was a five-round, three-day tournament that lasted from Friday, Feb 10th to Sunday, Feb 12th.  Due to a prior commitment that I had for Friday night, I took the half-point bye for the first round.  Although at that time I wished I could have played all five rounds, I knew that going into the second round with a half point would allow me the chance to play a fairly challenging opponent next round.  For the second round the following morning, I was paired against Aravind Kumar, a strong 2300 player from NJ that frequently travels for open tournaments in the Northern Virginia area.  He, too, had taken a first-round bye, although the reason was most likely for travel.  Despite putting up a valiant effort that morning, I came out with a loss.  With two rounds already in the books and having lost a game already, I knew the rest of the tournament would have to play out almost perfectly, if not perfectly, in order to keep the goal of reaching 2200 in the tournament within reason.  For the third round, I was paired against a mid-2000 rated girl by the name of Evelyn Zhu.  I remembered that I had played her before in the past year or two, so I was able to prepare a line and win that game without many problems.  The two ratings from that day happened to be approximately equidistant from my rating at the time, so the two results basically canceled out.  As a result, the outcomes of the next game(s) would play a very significant role in the final rating after the tournament.  On Sunday morning, after eating a breakfast of danishes and bagels (standard complimentary breakfast), I was paired against Nikhil Kumar, a 2399 middle schooler who had recently shot up to his current rating after stringing together several outstanding performances.  I knew I had to prepare and play well to have a chance at this game.

Kumar – Kobla, Baltimore Open 2017

Of course, every game that I have played in my chess career has led me to this point, but I will forever remember this game as the game that propelled me over 2200.  The fact that I was able to accomplish this feat with so many different variables proves how just about anyone can accomplish the same if they work hard and are motivated.  This especially goes for the rest of the Chess^Summit team.  Now that I have crossed the threshold, I am hoping that the others follow suit very soon!  And, as always, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Advertisements

Free Game Analysis: Taming the Benko Gambit

With Isaac still slugging it out in Austria, I’ll be doing the Free Game Analysis for the first time. As always, if you’d like your game(s) covered, drop us an email at chess.summit@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to cover your game in one of our future posts!

Today’s game is from Adam Collier, a 9th grader from Western Pennsylvania who just picked up an impressive 100 rating points from the Pennsylvania G/75 U1600 Championship to reach 1254, losing just one game. Overall, he played well against a much higher-rated opponent, focusing on a lot of the right things, but his opponent did well to create complications a pawn-down and turn the tables in some critical moments. Consolidating a material advantage is a very underemphasized part of chess, so there’s a lot for any player to learn from games like these.

Adam provided annotations, so I’ve included some of those below with my own comments. Enjoy!

Adam Collier (1153) – Evan Unmann (1498)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-3-49-57-pm

Adam: I’ve never played against this before, but I know the ideas.

4. cxb5 a6

Adam: I don’t think taking the pawn here is that good.

Beilin: Taking the pawn is actually the main line of the Benko. Of course, Black has some open lines and development, but it’s not clear that it’s worth a pawn (for what it’s worth, the Benko is probably viewed somewhat skeptically at high level). If White is not that comfortable with the open Benko stuff, 4. Nf3 (instead of 4. cxb5) is a solid way to decline.

5. Nc3 d6

Beilin: After 5. Nc3?! axb5 6. Nxb5, White’s basically down a tempo on many of the 5. bxa6 positions, since Black can kick the knight with tempo with 6…Ba6 or 6…Qa5+; note White can’t play e4. Instead, the game move 5…d6? just allows 6. e4 with a big advantage for White.

6. e4

Adam: I thought about Qb3 or Qa4 here but when I play b6 after Qb3 my pawn is pretty weak, and after Qa4, Bd7 is really good, so I decided to play normal.

Beilin: “Normal” is a good mindset when up a pawn, e.g. play naturally, develop normally, cover weak points, etc. 6. e4 is simple and strong; Qb3 and Qa4 are risky and unnecessary.

6…g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O axb5 10. Bxb5

Adam: considered Nxb5, but I think my Bishop is better there

Beilin: Even more importantly, Nxb5 just hangs the e4 pawn. Fortunately, White played the right move here, but a lot can change in one move – so it’s always important to pay attention to these basic things.

10…Ba6 11. Bxa6 Nxa6

Adam: considered a3, but the Knight on b4 doesn’t really have any good squares after that (good point -Beilin)

12. Bf4 Nh5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-18-26-pm

Adam: he thought about that move for a pretty long time

13. Bg5 Qd7 14. Qd2 Rab8

Adam: completing development and wanting to play Bh6

15. Rab1

Adam: time situation here is 1:02-1:02

15…Rb7

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-25-35-pm

16. Nd1

Adam: considered Ne2, but the Knight on d1 has both more and better squares to go to than the Knight placed on e2, AND it protects the pawn again, however it disconnects the rooks, but it’s a small price to pay in my opinion

Beilin: I think White is starting to go wrong here. A lot of players have a tendency to overreact to threats with overly passive moves, without considering the actual benefits and consequences. Here, 16. Nd1 doesn’t actually help White, since it allows the Bg7 to attack b2, cancelling out the knight’s “defense” of b2. And if the knight is tied down, disconnecting the rooks could become a more permanent problem.

So White would have done well to ask himself why (or why not) he had to move the knight and what Black was truly threatening. Note that Black is not actually going to win b2 in the near future; even if White plays 16. h3 and Black plays 16…Rfb8, he’s still safe (and something like b2-b3 is probably on the cards; a2 is a little weak, but Black has to shuffle around quite a bit to attack it.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-41-37-pm

after the hypothetical 16. h3 Rab8

16…Rab8 17. Bh6 Bh8 18. Ng5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-43-46-pm

Adam: aggression is key: also I considered b3 here, but it’s kinda passive.

Beilin: Here, we’re seeing a bit of the opposite problem (playing aggressive for the sake of playing aggressive). White’s clearly intending f4, but this runs into …Bd4+ ideas (typical of many Benko/Benoni games) and more importantly, leaves the bishop stranded on h6.

18…Nc7

Adam: didn’t realize this move had a duel-purpose, I thought that he wanted to bring his Knight to e8-f6 or something, but it actually allows f6 here if he wants because he’s now defending the hole on e6 twice.

Beilin: Or (spoiler) …f5!

19. f4

Adam: again: aggression (time situation is 53-53)

19…f5

Adam: good move I think

Beilin: Major problems await White after …fxe4 (e.g. d5 is falling). This line could have used some calculation!

20. Re1 fxe4 21. Rxe4

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-5-12-17-pm

Adam: I considered Nxe4, but that seems kind of passive.

Beilin: Rxe4 is a big mistake, as 21…Nf6! threatens 22…Ng4 winning the trapped bishop on h6. Thus, White will have to cough up at least an Exchange (note 22. Re3 runs into 22…Bd4). After the (much) better 21. Nxe4, 21…Bd4+ followed by 22…Nxd5 wins a clear pawn with a dominating position.

21…Qf5

Adam: I missed this move, but somehow this move only truly attacks the d5 pawn (which I actually overlooked in game), I actually thought I could move the rook, but it’s pinned to the other rook (kinda funny, you don’t see that often)

Beilin: Missing 21…Nf6 as mentioned above, and White now gets out of the jam with a nice tactic.

22. Ne3 (! – Beilin) Bd4 23. Qxd4 exd4 24. Nxf5 gxf5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-8-53-34-pm

25. Rxe7

Beilin: White is temporarily up two pawns – emphasis on “temporarily”, since almost every pawn on the board is on the verge of falling. 25. Rxe7 is the more ambitious of the two reasonable options (the other being 25. Rxd4) and as speed-checked with Stockfish, should work out – as long as White keeps the passed d-pawn under control. 25. Rxd4 peters out more simply, though both options should be calculated out in a real game (assuming reasonable time).

25…Nxd5 26. Rxb7 Rxb7

Adam: I considered a plethora of moves here including a4, Ne6, g3, and Rd1, but I went with [Re1].

Beilin: All 5 seem okay (for now), and would probably draw (assuming reasonable play by both sides).

27. Re1 Rb8 28. Nf3

Adam: This is too passive I think (I offered a draw here and he instantly declined).

Beilin: Remember it’s much more important to be correct than active/passive/etc. That said, going after the d-pawn is fine (as are several other moves).

28…d3

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-22-25-pm

29. g3

Adam: I don’t want him to take my f4 pawn (time situation is now 20-33)

Beilin: So I think White got a bit worried here because of the passed pawn, and because the a2, b2, and f4 pawns are falling. However, White is already up a pawn and is also on the way to winning the d-pawn(s).

The other possibility is that Black just takes on f4, but White will be able to round up the d-pawn (e.g. kick whichever knight defends d3 and possibly bring the king in) before Black is done taking his pawns. Specifically, after 29. Rd1, 29…Nhxf4 is at least met by 30. Bxf4 Nxf4 31. g3 (31. b3 might be even better) 31…Ne2+ 32. Kf2 Rxb2 33. Ke3 Rxa2 34. Rxd3 followed by picking up the d6 pawn.

29…Rxb2 30. Ng5

Adam: Threatening mate.

Beilin: Again, that shouldn’t be the primary concern here. Adam mentioned that he overlooked Black’s easy defenses of the mate threats, which of course mean White has basically wasted some tempi just to threaten mate while Black is carrying on his original threats. 30. Rd1 was probably best, but 30…Ne3 31. Rxd3 Rb1+ 32. Kf2 falls to 32…Ng4+ picking up a piece.

30…Nhf6 31. Rc1 Rc2 32. Rb1

 

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-41-30-pm

32…Nd7

Beilin: Given White’s upcoming tactical resource, one might wonder whether Black can stop the mate some other way and just promote the d-pawn. Indeed, after 32…Nc7! (blocking on e8 if necessary) White has to drop at least a piece (e.g. 33. Nf3 d2) to stop the d-pawn from queening.

33. Re1 N5f6 34. Re7 (!)

Adam: my last hope (also the time situation is now 9-27)

34…d2 35. Rg7+ Kf8 36. Rxd7+ Ke8 37. Rxd6 Rc1+ 38. Kg2 d1=Q 39. Rxd1 Rxd1

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-45-57-pm

Beilin: The last few moves have all been forced, and White basically did all he could to get a playable endgame. However, in a 2 vs. 3 situation on the kingside (or even 1 vs. 2) Black should be able to win with the extra Exchange, especially given White’s misplaced pieces.

40. Bg7 Ng4 41. a4

Beilin: I think the last chance for White to put up resistance was 41. Nf3; with the game move Black should pick up the h2 and g3 (and a4) pawns.

41…Rd2+ 42. Kf3 (?? – Beilin)

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-56-04-pm

Beilin: Hopefully White and Black have seen it by now, but 42…Rf2 is mate!

42…Nxh2+ 43. Ke3 Ra2

White stopped notating here and lost in time trouble, but as I mentioned earlier, Black should also pick up the g3 pawn, likely via …Nf1+ and …Ra3 if necessary.


In this game, White started well with solid plans to punish some questionable opening choices by his opponent, and was resourceful to the end of the game. However, in diagnosing White’s problems during the game, one aspect stands out in both the moves and Adam’s commentary – the focus on playing aggressive or passive moves. This brings me back to a point I made earlier that is much easier to state than to apply – one should focus on playing good moves, regardless of how active or defensive they look. Most of us would like to play more active moves, but if you play an “active” move when the position doesn’t demand it, you may be disappointed!

Some of the more “aggressive” moves White played created long-term problems (e.g. misplaced pieces) or met strong responses from the opponent that he didn’t see. So before considering the aesthetics of a particular move, it is more important to realize how the basic tactics work out and what your opponent can do. Having the right priorities when looking for moves will create a stronger framework for game decisions, and make you a better player.

Trying too hard: The need for objectivity

Here’s a scenario: You have been pushing for a win all game with a good (or even equal) position, and then suddenly a wrench gets thrown into the position and the tables turn. The objective evaluation drops to a drawn position or even a lost position, but you find it impossible to change course and mindset to fit the new needs of the position, and disaster ensues. If both you and your opponent were reseated at the same board with the same position, with all memory of what had previously happened in the game erased, then surely you would think and play differently.

This is just one example of how often perceptions and expectations don’t match up with the realities of the position we are playing, especially when there has been a dramatic shift from the overall tenor of the game up to that point. This doesn’t just happen when one is better or winning for much of the game, but in my experience often happens against lower rated players. Against these players, I always like to preserve some type of winning chances on the board, which often leads to some rash and risky decisions. Of course, taking risks is not something to be looked down upon, but the risks have to be smart risks (it’s late and I’m not sure if that makes much sense, but it does in my mind). If the result of the game seems to be headed towards a result you were not expecting or don’t want, it’s important to evaluate the position correctly and adjust play accordingly.

In my first two tournaments of 2017, I dropped a total whopping 40 rating points, putting up incredibly weak performances against similarly rated or higher rated players, and struggling mightily against significantly lower rated players. While it has been a problem nearly my entire chess career, my failure to maintain objectivity and trying too hard in positions that didn’t warrant trying so hard hit me hard game after game. And in suffering these upsets and losses, I felt with every passing game I had to win and redeem myself, leading to a horrible cycle. Here are two examples:

chess.PNG

Nakada, A – Xu, G, Liberty Bell Open 2017, Position after Bf5

It’s clear to any observer that White holds a nice advantage here, with nicer pawn structure, possible attacking opportunities with f4, and the fact that Black still has a hemmed-in bishop on c8 on move 22. But I outrated my young opponent by nearly two hundred points, and my (quite illogical) thinking was “I’m not losing, so I should still try to somehow win this”. The logical continuation for Black is d5, finally freeing the bishop. But I instantly rejected this obvious move for the dumbest reason: I saw White could play Bxh7 Qxh7 Qf6+, forcing a perpetual. But there was no objective reason to shy away from a draw, especially since it’s not likely my opponent even considered playing it (he had rejected the same continuation a move earlier), and the alternatives are quite a bit worse. I ended up playing Qg7, and White kept my bishop entombed with Qh3. The game eventually resulted in a draw after the time control, at a position in which I (deservedly) remained worse. At least my poor decision making didn’t lead to a loss, but I can’t say the same for the next game…

chess2

Xu,G – Lapan, D, Liberty Bell Open 2017, Position after Kg7

In the final round of the tournament, I desperately wanted to win in order to restore some confidence. I took quite a bit of risks in an equal endgame to try to push the issue, and arrived at this position. Here, I saw the natural Kc6 leads to a draw, as both rooks end up being sacrificed for a passed pawn. Yet it was in this situation that my brain totally shut off, and made a nightmare tournament even worse. I played the horrible Ra3??, intending to play Kc6 on the next move, but missed Black’s strong reply Rg6!, which cuts my king off completely and gets the rook behind his passed pawn. Here, Ra7+ still holds the balance, but I continued stubbornly with Rh3, and after Rh6 suddenly realized the position had flipped 180 degrees and I was likely lost. What happened here was a stubborn, irrational ability refusal to accept the objective evaluation of the current position, and I ended up playing inferior moves out of frustration as a result.

I definitely hope to improve on this shortcoming in my psychological approach to the game, and not letting external factors or what happened in the game earlier to cloud my judgement or calculation. Hopefully you all will judge positions in a smarter way than I did, or at least for the right reasons!

The Secret(!?) Ingredient to Chess Improvement (This is not clickbait)

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Yu and I am excited to be joining the writers at Chess^Summit! To introduce myself in a quick snippet: I’ve been playing chess for eight years now, as my first tournament was in February of 2009. Right now, my rating is currently floating around the 2300 range. I have had my chess ups, downs, and times where my rating just seemed to get stuck at a wall and not get anywhere at all. I currently reside in the Northern Virginia area and compete in many of the tournaments on the East Coast. I also have had the opportunity to compete nationally and internationally. I think my most notable achievement is probably winning the gold medal in the 2014 World Youth Chess Championships U12 Girls. I am also in the process of preparing for my third US Women’s Chess Championship this year. Along the years I’ve gathered some helpful tidbits that I would like to share with you all. However before I start, I would like to thank Isaac for giving me this opportunity to write on Chess^Summit and share my ideas with all of you. Now to the article!

There is one question that I am often asked about chess; whether by a fellow chess player comparing notes, a younger player seeking advice, or most often, friends at school who have not yet entered the complicated realm of chess. It is, “How do you practice chess?”. It is a simple question, really, and one that I’m sure all tournament players were asked at one point in time. Now this would be different for everyone as the levels, time commitment, and aspirations of every player vary. If one wants to improve the most they possibly can in a specific amount of time, there would have to be a specific routine set in place that takes into account all variables. This would lead to perhaps one player committing to solve as many tactical problems as they can while another reads and memorizes entire endgame books over and over again. It would be impossible to create a practice routine that applies for all players that will guarantee improvement. So… what is the point of this article? I believe there is one factor that will lead to steady improvement over time for all players. This magic ingredient, simply put, is to play more.

I know this topic has been mulled about and been described time after time again, but I cannot over stress the importance of it. I have heard it before said here and there, but to me I just always kind of put the advice away into my pocket and sarcastically scoff, “Yeah, because that would somehow magically make me play better.” But now, I truly believe in the importance of increasing play as I have seen the improvement it gave to other players, and the evidence of this in my own chess history. I originally learned chess in California where my rating rose to about 1400. After I moved to Virginia in the summer of 2011, I increased the number of tournaments I played in, especially larger opens (I previously attended mostly scholastics). By the end of 2012, I was a solid 1900. That is quite a leap! I’ve also observed the dramatic rise of young talented players correlated with the amount of games they play. An amazing example is a fellow Gold Medalist Rochelle Wu. Rochelle is the current reigning World Champion for U10 Girls and is already at a high 2100! She plays a tournament nearly every week sometimes driving hundreds of miles to get there. This also shows an extreme amount of dedication and hard work.

I have compiled three simple reasons why increasing the amount of games played, will increase skill level.

  1. Experience

Usually when a child plays an adult of the same level, it will almost always be an interesting battle. The issue of the difference of age will become a factor in the game somehow. Some people may say the child has the sharper mind, and therefore the upper hand. Many others say that many more years of experience that the adult has garnered easily triumphs the child. This is a hypothetical situation, as in a real game, it will be rarely as simple as this. However, the gist of this example is that experience cannot be overlooked. It can only be a good thing, as it slowly adds new knowledge each move you play. It can definitely help improve one’s play because if you lose to a trap in one game, you will be wary of it in the next. The only real way you can get more experience, is to play more games.

2. Intuition

You may have once seen a blitz game between high level players, maybe Grandmasters. As the clock winds down, each second becomes more precious, each move entering faster on the board then the last. Before long, a frenzy of clock banging and the whizzing of moves will occur. How is it possible for them to play that fast?  How is it possible for them to think that fast? Most likely, the players are using their intuitions. They have a subconscious feeling that tells them where to go during the game.  A solid intuition is the basis for every good player. It can help conserve valuable time during a game and sort through jumbles of variations to direct a clear way to go. Intuition can be developed by solving problems like the ones in Positional Play by Jacob Aagard (a great book!), an excellent technique I learned at the US Chess School. However, I found that by actually physically playing a game, it will develop an unique “chess sense”.

3. Focus

Have you ever just gone to a chess tournament and felt like you learned more about chess in those few measly hours between games than weeks of ‘practicing’ at home? This happens to me all the time. It’s really absurd but I find that just being in the environment of playing an entire day of chess makes me focus on chess more in my down time after games.  It is extremely easy to get distracted at home, but at a tournament, I am only thinking about chess. For example, I may explore opening lines I have never seen before when preparing for an opponent. Also, when analyzing a game with an opponent, I could be provided by valuable insight from the ‘enemy’ that could not be given by an engine or a coach.

In a nutshell, these are three relatively simple reasons of why playing more chess will improve chess skill. I think that increasing play at larger tournaments will be most beneficial. However, if you are restricted by time, finances,or etc., playing online can also be great. (It does have to noted that there is a real difference between playing games over the board and over a computer screen.) And also, if your rating suffers at the beginning don’t be alarmed! It is completely natural and occurs to me often. Just realize that rating is only showing something that is temporary and if you experience true improvement over time, your rating will realize that too. As I said in the beginning of the article, I am preparing for the US Women’s Championship and I know how I will be practicing! My calendar’s lined jam packed full of tournaments! I hope this article helped all of you in some way and I wish you all good luck on your journey to play more games!

“Resetting” After a Blunder

We’ve all had that sinking feeling, the adrenaline suddenly rushes through your body and you freeze – you have just blundered. Everyone who plays chess blunders; we’re only human. However, a GM friend once told me that “mistakes never travel alone — they always come in twos.” What he meant was that after you blunder once, it is much more likely that you blunder again, making what could have been a recoverable position get worse and worse.

While I had experienced this many times, something didn’t make sense to me. In a stressful situation, shouldn’t we be motivated to be more focused, not less? Wouldn’t the adrenaline help us to get super focused, and come up with clever ways of making up for the mistake?

But I think in this situation, this doesn’t happen very often. Blunders do tend to come in pairs. All of this is familiar to me. I can think of many times where my response to a blunder was a not well thought out move, which resulted from being demoralized. To combat this problem, I needed to develop a way to fight my instincts. I call my approach resetting.

To illustrate the point, here is my third round game in the Marshall Chess Club Championship against Nasir Akylbekov.

akylbekov

 

Click here for game pgn.

In this game after my bad blunder f4,  I completely underestimated my position. If I had looked at the position with a fresh mind after 19.f4 (which actually doesn’t turn out to be that bad) I would have noticed that on bh6, white has a decent attack and black’s pieces are all over the place resulting in equality. Instead I played kh1, a move which leads to a worse position for white.

Grandmasters and even the World Champions are also susceptible to this typical psychological mistake. During the second tiebreaker game between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, Carlsen would have won by about move 35 and in my opinion was much better with the trade of the two pieces for the rook. Nevertheless, they made it to this endgame position.

carlesen-karjakin

 

Click here for game pgn.

Here Carlsen missed a complicated win with 62. Kf7 Rc2 63. G4, and played the horrible bg4 which allowed black to consolidate after re8 (he was trying for Bf7 then Bf8, but it doesn’t work).

After this blunder, he was faced with another winning position, but he couldn’t refresh himself, he couldn’t bring himself back into that objective mindset and missed the win.

After 73. Be6 Kh8 74. Bf8 (Threatening Bf7) f5 75. Gxf5 Ra7 76. F6 Gxf6 77. Bf7, White is winning.

It is very easy to fall into this never ending downward spiral during your game. In order to keep my objective mindset after a blunder, I use a few simple processes to reset.

  1. Go to the bathroom and wash off your face. This may not seem like much to you, but it provides a break from the board and you come back with a new perspective on the board.
  2. Similar to number one, just taking a walk around the tournament hall or outside can also provide you with a break from the board.
  3. Resetting and getting your objective mindset back can be different for everyone, and sometimes has to be done without leaving the board — adjusting my glasses reminds me to reset — or stopping all thought about the game and taking three deep breaths.

The key is that these processes have to be automatic. These rituals can trick the brain into forgetting about the stressful thing that just happened and moving back into thinking mode.

There have been times that I have used the idea of resetting, which has resulted in winning losing games. I have been told by coaches and GMs that there is no such thing as “lucky” over the chessboard. I have felt very unlucky at times — and lucky at others — but the truth is when I was unlucky, I simply wasn’t resetting and remaining calm throughout the game. More recently, I have found ways to come out on the other side of that equation with some resetting that gave me the confidence and demeanor to continue fighting for what seemed like an impossible win. As we all know, chess is more than tactics alone.

In this game I made a pretty big blunder out of the opening and found myself in a worse position. However, throughout the game I played without a loss of motivation, just as I normally would, and tried my hardest not to crack under pressure. In the end, after many mistakes from both sides, we reached this position and I found the drawing tactic (he blundered in the end and lost). This just goes to show you how difficult you make it for your opponent to win when you play as you normally would in any position. they are expecting no resistance and can be surprised by strong play from their opponent when they are relaxed and have an obviously winning advantage.

nakada-garcia

Click here for game pgn.

After 33.Rxd5! I equalized and later won the game (due to consecutive mistakes made by my opponent as well as my ability to reset throughout).

These concepts might seem simple, but they have been very effective for me, although not always easy to implement. Chess is a constant reflection on life and what I learn over the board, I try to apply to my life in general. Chess is a gift that feels like it will take you down. However, if you step out of your comfort zone and work like crazy to understand your strengths and weaknesses, you don’t even realize that it is building you up. Dealing with blunders and losses and resetting in a short time span is a life skill that I am grateful to be learning.

Clearing the Path

After reading Vanessa Sun’s article a couple days back, it struck me how many of the things she addressed that I took for granted. I never realized how blessed I was to have been able to learn chess at a relatively early age, to fully appreciating the people I’ve met, and again – to just how much of a vital role my parents have played in my success.

As much as I relate to everything she mentioned, I feel as though it is also necessary to think of the cons of starting chess at a very young age. Now, I’m not saying anything she said was wrong – I most definitely believe in and benefit from basically everything she says, but as a parent or child is trying to decide whether or not to devote much of someone’s childhood to chess, I believe that it is necessary to also understand the problems and unhappiness that it could create in a child’s life.

Time. Like all things, there are two sides to this. Sure, you have more time for chess, more time to improve, more time to learn, more time to meet people. But on the other hand, weekends don’t exist in your life anymore. Hanging out with your school friends becomes a rare occurrence. After all, your weekends will be you sitting in a chair at a chess board for more than ten hours of the day at a time. Depending on how serious you are, there will also be chunks of your week being devoted to personal study or private lessons. All of this, plus the way the society around you (your town, your state, maybe even your country) will view the fact that you play – either it comes off as a “great! You’re the coolest!” or a “What are you? You play chess….competitively?” All of this unfortunately creates an imbalance in the child’s life. While happy with the game (crossing my fingers that this is true, or at least will be in the future), they also feel as though they are missing out on a lot of school events or really anything non-chess related.

Something that needs to be addressed, before any of us can really talk about chess promotion to the extent that we want to and before we can create as large of a participating population as we can, is how to take away these negative factors.

GirlsClosed.jpg
At the time of the Girls Closed tournament, I had also been invited to a week long beach trip with my friends – but as much as I wanted to participate in that, I knew that participating in the Girls Closed tournament was not something I could allow myself to miss. 

Personally, I think chess gets a bit of a bad rep when you’re young – it’s a “nerdy” thing to be doing (not saying that’s bad, in fact I pride myself in being a complete nerd nowadays – but childhood me wanted to be “cool”). It takes up your time. Losing, let’s be honest, is never fun – but especially as a child.

So how do we do it? How do we go about making chess a more accessible and yet a not overly dominating factor in our lives? How do we make chess something that can be regarded as an asset to a young child wanting to fit in?

For me, finding that balance was accepting that if I want to be able maintain both friends at school and at chess – I have to work. Never let any single thing take over. It’s not necessary to do a complete chess training ritual everyday – sometimes a single tactic can go a long way. And in terms of making it more of an asset, the only thing we can do right now is slowly introduce it to as many people as we can and be humble and normal about it – if we make chess out to be an odd or special thing to be doing, then that’s how those around us will take it.