I came into college believing that I’ll have more free time, more time overall to play tournaments and to study chess, after all, college provides a more flexible time sheet, no?
Boy I could not have been more wrong.
I remember my junior year of high school, I was talking to a friend of mine who played chess who was in college and we were just catching up since I hadn’t seen her in a year or two. One thing that stuck with me that she said after she found out I was already a junior but was hoping to break master before going to college was that I didn’t have that much time left. I remember thinking to myself, “Really? But there’s still two years plus the summer before college.” Yeah, I was wrong then too.
Maybe it’s different for students at schools with chess clubs or chess teams, but I keep finding myself in a repeated cycle where I keep saying I’m going to play a tournament, or study one day, and then by the time I get around to it its already 2 am or something. And I’m not sure if I exponentially aged in college or something, but I most definitely cannot pull all nighters or survive on tiny amounts of sleep like I did in high school (Yay TV, thanks for ruining my sleep schedule!). So logically, I chose to sleep over studying chess or dragging my night out longer to add that into my schedule.
Just remember, whenever someone tells you that you’re not going to have as much time as you think you well as you progress in life – they’re probably right. And speaking from experience. So listen. And take advantage of the time you have now before you graduate and move onto an even busier part of your life.
If one move is traditionally thought to be cursed in chess, it is move 40. Generally, it is the last move before the time control. In the midst of the time scramble, people are supposed to blunder. It has happened many, many times at all levels… The solution? Have more time on your clock? I’m not going to talk about finding a magic cure to the time trouble disease here. That’s near impossible. I am going to talk about a different phenomenon.
A more dangerous psychological trap, however, lies right after the time control. The time control has been reached, and the time scramble is over. You made it. You survived. You can breathe and relax. Now you have a lot of extra time, and it’s time to crunch the position out, right?
Not really. Right after the time control, you may not be so focused, and you can easily miss things. Perhaps it’s because now you have time, and the worst is supposedly over with. Or maybe you’re mad at yourself because of what happened in the time scramble that your mind is stuck at a different position. You could also be thinking mainly about the variations and ideas you found before the time control and don’t consider anything new. There’s no easy explanation, but it just happens.
It’s better to take a little break. Go to the bathroom, walk around, look at the other games… You’ll come back to the board refreshed, and you’ll see things anew and more clearly.
My first big experience with this phenomenon was actually on move 42, because move 41 was essentially forced.
Brodsky, David (2249) – Katz, Alex (2380) Bradley Open 2014
White to play
White has a solid edge with his pawn mass and more active king, but where’s the win? I thought I had messed things up, and now I had nothing! Wrong.
Mentally, I was stuck somewhere before the time control where I thought I had lost my advantage. Where was my mistake?
I played 42.Kb4? Bxd4 43.Nxd4 Nb2 and for some reason accepted Alex’s draw offer. White still has a big advantage over there, but I was busy making excuses to myself to take the draw. “I am tired”, “This is objectively a draw…”, “I don’t want to lose this one…”
Instead, had I looked with a fresh head, I probably would have found the winning move 42.Bg1! after which black loses a piece. The black bishop and knight are quite inconveniently positioned. If 42… Bxa3, after 43.Kb3 Bc5 44.Kxa4, the white knight defends the bishop. That’s why the bishop must go to g1.
More recent examples have been more painful… by a cruel coincidence, this one was at the same location in the same round (round 3) over two years later.
Samadashvili, Martha (2147) – Brodsky, David (2387) Hartford Open 2016
Black to play
We survived the time scramble. Some mistakes were made, but no pieces were blundered! Phew. Now, I for some reason felt optimistic about my winning chances here, which are near nonexistent.
White’s plan is to play Rh1 followed by Rxh5 and mate me. Solution: play 41… h4?? with the idea that after 42.Rh1 black has 42… h3, and if 42.gxh4 Rf2 43.Ke5 g3, black has some noise going with his passed pawn. Where’s the problem?
I discovered it after Martha played 42.Re5! threatening Rh5#. There was nothing I could do about it. After 42… Kh7 43.Kf7 I had to resign.
I was transfixed by the ideas I had discovered in the time scramble, namely the idea that white will go Rh1 and mate me. I was relieved I made it through the time scramble without any blunders that my sense of danger went down, and my optimism went a little too high…
What is more dangerous in this situation: pessimism or optimism? I gave one example of each.
I’d say that optimism is more dangerous. When you are pessimistic, you are most likely mad enough at yourself to look hard for something good. However, when you are optimistic, you are happy enough about your position to not notice some of your opponent’s resources…
Seeing those games, don’t expect me to blunder like that after move 40! I, like everyone, will make some mistakes, but a quick five minute break will help me make better decisions after the time control.
Moral of the story is to take a break after the time control and take a fresh look at the position. Spend a little bit of your extra time to refresh yourself; it’s better than staring at the position with your mind still stuck somewhere around move 30. You won’t always make the perfect decision after the time control; that would simply be impossible. Refreshing your mind, however, will help you make better decisions.
P.S. Before taking a break, make sure you actually reached the time control. There are better ways to join the club of Nakamura (orange juice against Vallejo), Carlsen (thinking there was a second time control after move 60), Ivanchuk (forgetting a move on his scoresheet), and many other top players.
Just a few weeks after returning from my European Expedition, I’m back here in Pittsburgh for the summer. Since I haven’t been to any tournaments since the Reykjavik Open, I thought for today’s post I would compile a bunch of smaller chess anecdotes from the past week for you all. So … let’s see what happens!
For some of our older readers, perhaps you remember the hassle of finding a roommate and an apartment during college (or maybe after, I wouldn’t know about that yet…). All the roommate “interviews”, apartment visits, contracts and paperwork – it’s a lot! Luckily, right before I took off in February, fellow Chess^Summit author Beilin Li offered a room in his apartment, and that was that! I’m curious to see what this does for our chess, if anything at all. Needless to say, I think this is going to be a fun year! In just the first few days, we’ve already completed round 2 of the Chess^Summit Challenge, in which Beilin walloped me in bullet, 30-19… I attached the replay below, but seriously, viewer discretion is advised – the number of blunders was disgusting, and so was my ability to manage the clock…
Being in Pittsburgh for the summer for my internship is going to make things interesting for my tournament opportunities in the coming months. While I now live across the street from the Pittsburgh Chess Club, I can’t say for sure when my next major open will be. I’m hoping to make National Master before the year comes to a close, but a lot of that will depend on how many more rating points I get from the latter half of my Europe tour (still pending, though it could be as much as 60 rating points!), and how much I can play this summer. Either way, my first tournament game back in the US starts tomorrow night, and I’m pretty excited about seeing how far I’ve come.
Speaking of the Pittsburgh Chess Club, I bumped into a former expert, who after 20 years, was looking to get back into tournament play. After playing a practice game with him, my opponent asked for some advice on what to study from home to get back into shape.
Perhaps this is generalizing, but I think for players in this situation, keeping a 2000+ rating after such a hiatus will feel like having to break 2000 once again. Knowing that this is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my chess “career”, I have quite a few suggestions for getting over the edge – and surprisingly, none of them really require a vast knowledge of opening theory.
Looking back at my own games from before I broke 2000, I think the biggest adjustment was shifting the focus from looking for tactics to looking for positional and strategic resources. This is whyI recommend studying pawn structures! Learning how to play with (and against) certain pawn structures can help you dictate various positions, and I would highly recommend Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios. IM John Bartholomew has a glowing review of the book on his Youtube Channel, which you can check here. Of course, this is just the start, but it’s certainly a good one!
Having down time here in Pittsburgh means really trying to understand what worked (and didn’t) in Europe. Of course, my 186 FIDE rating point gain is euphoric, but admiring that alone won’t help me become a stronger player.
As I’m analyzing my games in finer detail, I’m learning a lot about how I lose games. With such a great sample of games, I can go a lot more in depth than I did a year ago when I was preparing for the US Junior Open in New Orleans. While I’m not interested in making my over-the-board weaknesses public, I decided to replicate this process on a game I lost last year at the Carolinas Classic, which coincidentally starts in a few weeks in Charlotte.
In this game, I had White against NM Karthik Ramachandran, a former US Junior Open Champion. Even though I lost, I think still to this date, it was my proudest defeat. I think often times with chess, we get so enamored with the result and computer evaluation that we often forget the quality at which a game was played. I really like this game because despite being lower rated, I kept on finding ways to create problems for my opponent – enough so to reach a complicated – but winning – position.
This game taught me two things: 1) I needed to work on prophylaxis. As we saw, letting my opponent bring his knight to b4 let him back in the game. Even though I outplayed him once again later, this game may have tipped in my favor if I had taken this resource more seriously. Playing 24. Rh3?! proved to be an instructive point, as my opponent’s persistence started to pay off here.
2) Calculation and Endgames! Of course for our long-time readers, you’ll recall that around this time I was working on my Endgame Essentials series here on the site, which would pay off dividends in New Orleans just a few weeks after this game took place. Even though there were moments where I was clearly moving in the right direction by sacrificing pawns to create passers, there were questionable elements later in the game once time trouble became a factor. These are the kinds of things I look for in my losses (and some draws) for improving, and I would highly encourage this practice for our readers.
With only so much time to study, I’ve dedicated the remainder of my study time to looking at classics, particularly Jose Raul Capablanca. I’ve never put such an emphasis on studying classics, but after having made videos with Kostya in Iceland, I realized one of the biggest deficiencies I had compared to him was an ability to compare top level games to those of my own. While I’ve had some success applying my own games and lessons into my play, it’s about time I turn back the clock and learn from some of the greatest chess players who have ever walked the planet.
Blast from the Past
Before last night, I think this article would have ended here – but let’s not forget that there was a pretty not-so-small tournament in Nashville this past weekend called SuperNationals!
While there were some pretty big names in the top section, I was following a much smaller subplot, the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School Class of 2017. Perhaps I’m a bit biased having been coach of many of the players in this graduating class, but upon the completion of this tournament, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this graduating class is the most accomplished high school chess team you’ve never heard of!
Back in 2014, when this class entered MLWGS as freshmen, I had the pleasure of coaching them as a junior, and watching them win the U1200 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, California! In just one year, a school with absolutely no past chess tradition was on the map and a local scholastic superpower was born in Richmond.
Of course, over the next few years, these players all had masive rating jumps – shooting up from sub-1000 ratings to as high as 1750! By the following year, the defending U1200 champs placed 5th in the U1600 section in Columbus, Ohio, another massive triumph for the class of ’17. While I would graduate that spring and leave north for the University of Pittsburgh, the team kept on getting results, as well as giving back to the local scholastic chess community.
When I was coaching the team, we set up various chess camps and tournaments for younger scholastic players in Richmond, even managing to bring GM Sergey Erenburg to come out and run a few simultaneous exhibitions for us. Thanks to the dedicated work of the Class of 2017, these programs kept running after I graduated, and in many ways contributed to a “golden age” in chess in Richmond. For the first time in my chess-playing memory, there was chess culture in Richmond, and various elementary schools created chess clubs in the spirit of MLWGS.
It wasn’t always easy. In the weeks leading up to SuperNationals, there was great uncertainty if the team of seniors would be able allowed to compete, given that the tournament conflicted with the rigorous AP exam schedule, and available hotel rooms were already dwindling in single digits. But thank goodness they made it!
Despite the team being split over several different fields (K-12 U1900, U1600, U1200, etc), the senior class finished with as loud of a statement as they started.
Even with only three players in the K-12 U1900 section, MLWGS flexed their muscles and took fifth – but the most surprising result was that of Matthew Normansell, as the senior notched an unbeaten 6/7 to claim a tie for first as joint- U1900 national champion!
As I called him last night to congratulate him on his biggest accomplishment to date, he was still in some disbelief. I guess sometimes with these things, they have to happen in order for you to believe they can happen. To Matthew and the rest of the MLWGS Chess Team, you guys should all be really proud of the work you’ve put in these last four years, and the accolades you have all received is a testament to the effort you have all put in. It’s been fun watching you all grow, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing where life takes you all, whether it is on the chess board or not! To any school adminstrators out there, let the efforts of this graduating class show you how having chess is an asset to your school. I have never seen as much accomplished in such a short period time, and it goes without saying that MLWGS Class of 2017’s efforts over the board was able to bring the Richmond community closer over just 64 squares. After all, much of my work with MLWGS led to the creation and inspired mission of Chess^Summit 😀
And on that note, that’s all I’ve got for this week! When I’m back, I’ll be sharing some of my games from the Abrams Memorial here in Pittsburgh. Fingers crossed I can keep some positive trajectory!
When this article is published, I will be taking the AP World History test back at school. Fortunately, this is the last of the AP tests I am taking this year, with AP Computer Science being held the week prior. In the midst of all this, Supernationals is this upcoming weekend. With the conflicting timing, I was stripped for preparation time for this tournament. With the little time I had, I decided that playing online blitz was going to at least get me somewhat prepared for this tournament. This led me to think about how beneficial of a preparation strategy that online blitz truly is.
While there are definite merits, there can also be unintended negative effects. We will attempt to examine both sides and come to a conclusion at the end.
We will start by examining the positive effects of playing blitz. To me, there are a few effects that constitute as beneficial to a player’s game:
Improved tactical vision
Explanation: If a player’s tactical vision is slow, or he/she finds it hard to spot tactics in general, blitz may be of help. Blitz requires a player to make fast, accurate moves. In some positions, there may be a move that could work, but immense calculations would be needed to decide for sure. Obviously, that time isn’t available in blitz games. However, the prospects seem decent, so the player makes the move anyway. Whether the move works out in the end is a different story, but the fact that the player actually saw the move and experimented with it makes the difference. Continually experimenting with such tactical moves will help the player spot similar moves in real games. At that point, the time is available to calculate variations and decide whether it is a good move.
Explanation: Playing games online can aid opening play if done correctly. There are two ways to help openings through playing online. One of these ways is to practice already-known openings. Of course, one cannot assume that every game will follow the desired path; but, for those that do, the player can play as far as his/her opening knowledge allows, then play out the rest of the game. Then, the player can load the game into an engine (or whatever tool you use) in order to find an improvement in their own play or how to capitalize on an opponent’s miscue. The other way for a player to improve opening play is to keep playing games until he/she stumbles upon an opening that is relatively unknown. This game can then be analyzed to reinforce the depth of knowledge in these unknown openings. Both of these methods can greatly help to improve opening play for players at any level.
Explanation: This is probably the most obvious benefit, and is also the most important. I know that I play blitz for this benefit myself. As stated before, blitz requires a player to play fairly quickly, and these have to be safe moves. In this way, blitz helps by allowing the player to be more confident in his/her ability to play quick moves that improve the position rather than spending a great deal of time trying to find the one best move in each position. Over the long run, these methods will save a lot of time and put more pressure on the opponent since he/she has the clock on their side for a greater portion of the game, and they may even end up in time trouble. Playing blitz online can help decrease the average time spent on moves as well since calculations have to be parsed at a faster rate.
While these are all great benefits that could be maximized by spending a lot of time playing blitz, there are also possible downsides that one has to be aware of. While these reasons are geared slightly more towards inexperienced players, they can apply to anyone of any strength:
It can cause players to play too fast
Explanation: With playing blitz comes a responsibility, and that responsibility is to make sure that it doesn’t affect your game too Sometimes blitz can make a player too trigger-happy in terms of moves, which can come back to hurt the player if not enough time is spent on a move. It is important to clarify that blitz should be used for playing quicker in slow positions that aren’t rich in tactics and require positional improvement and/or allow a player to see tactics quicker – it should not be used to play faster overall and without care.
Results can be misjudged
Explanation: Despite the practice gained from online play, results are based on very different parameters. For one, moving pieces using a mouse is very different than moving with hands over a board, and “knocking pieces over” isn’t a thing online. In addition, many online interfaces now support “premove,” which allows a player to preload a move on the board before the opponent has made his/her move; obviously, that is not allowed over the board. Lastly, illegal moves aren’t allowed online and waste precious time when the clock is ticking, whereas illegal moves may be played and not spotted in games over the board. So, it is important to take all of these factors, among others, into account when considering online play as practice for real tournament play.
Explanation: Online chess is notorious for becoming very frustrating when a player loses multiple games in a row; this is only due to the sheer number of games being played a time. If this occurs, it can completely undermine any possible benefit coming out of the time spent. In order to avoid this, it is best to only play a few games at a time and focus more time on analyzing the games played rather than binge-playing with no end goal.
So, we’ve examined a few of the pros and cons of playing online to practice for a tournament. However, there are a few things a player can do to maximize the benefits of playing online. One of these things is to play with a time control that reflects the time control of the real tournament. This means playing with the same increment/delay online as the real tournament since all competitive tournaments these days have one or the other. This will allow the player to be better suited making decisions as they would in a real tournament. For example, if a player plays with 30-second increment online, but the real tournament is 5-second delay, then the player would be practicing with 30 seconds per move online when they really only have 5 seconds per move over the board (when in time trouble).
Another follow-up question that some people ask is, “At what point does too much blitz become bad for you?” Well, to give a few examples, too much laughter can cause asphyxiation, too much oxygen can cause hyperventilation, and too much water can make you drown. Basically, too much of anything is bad. As discussed earlier, too much blitz can cause one to speed up their game too much, to the point where moves are actually rushed, and mistakes can result. So, it is best to limit playing online to a few games per session, and spend more time analyzing the played games.
In conclusion, we have examined the pros and cons of blitz, we have discussed the extent to which one should play, and that players should focus on analyzing blitz games in order to receive feedback on the opening phase of the game. And, as always, thanks for reading, and see you next time!
Two weeks ago I traveled to Iceland for the Reykjavik Open for the 2nd year in a row. I repeated this tournament for a few reasons: 1) The tournament was again stacked with grandmasters, including stars like Giri, Andreikin, Jobava, Shirov, Beliavsky, and so on and so forth, making it a great chance to play against amazing players. 2) Iceland is closer to the U.S. than the rest of Europe and is relatively inexpensive to fly to these days. So I had been looking forward to the trip for a little while, this would be my first official tournament as an IM, as FIDE confirmed my title just this past March.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to do all that well. In the past few months I’ve been spending most of my time working, which included teaching after school chess classes, teaching private students, teaching group classes in person, teaching group classes online through Chess University, writing instructional articles for beginners, writing news articles about super-tournaments, recording videos on a variety of topics, and other various projects. What can I say, I’m busy!
The general notion among chess players is that teaching full-time kills your chess, especially if you’re working with beginners. I definitely agree with that perspective to a large extent, it’s very hard to do serious chess work on your own after a day of showing how the knight moves, and saying things like “control the center” over and over again. Apparently it takes more to beat a Grandmaster than just controlling the center.
But I anticipated this problem in advance and had some ideas in mind as to why I might be above the so-called “teaching curse”. For one, a few of my private students are in the 1500-2000 range, which means that in order to prepare lessons for them, I often have to review classic games that I’ve forgotten, or if I’m lucky, discover instructive gems that benefit my own chess. Additionally, I’m often analyzing with my students, and rarely turning on the engine, which (hopefully) keeps my analysis skills sharp. Lastly, I spend a lot of time watching chess commentary–leading up to the tournament I was watching Peter Leko’s commentary of the Grenke Chess Classic, which was filled with absolute chess gold.
And I’m dead serious, Leko’s commentary is worth re-watching in full. In addition to being really good at analysis, obviously, Leko also discusses every opening played in detail, his experience of preparing the lines himself, divulges which novelties he had studied before (that have since been played), and much, much more. He’s also able to more or less read the mind of every player in the hall, and explain exactly which lines they’re calculating, what they’re spending their time on, everything. Since there are lulls in the action, Leko also talks about much more than just the current chess position. Like his experiences of playing against almost every good player of the last 20 years — Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian, Anand, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Morozevich, and I think even Kasparov and Karpov too. Leko talks about all the practical intricacies of what it’s like to be an elite player. How he approaches every part of the game. What it’s like to prepare for a motherf***ng World Championship Match! Sorry but I can’t get over how good it was.
So I wasn’t totally inactive going in, but it felt like it, and my expectations for the tournament were low. I thought that the rust would show and I would bungle a few games, but it wasn’t like that. I kind of crushed it, especially towards the end. I also came up with something interesting to do during the tournament, as the Chess^Summit audience should be fully aware of–I decided to record a post-mortem of every round, win or lose. This was risking to be real embarrassing in case I had a garbage tournament, but I thought it would be a really cool project and fairly unique in the chess YouTube world. Fortunately, Isaac was into the idea and the show was born! But the biggest point of going over each game afterwards was that I felt it would be really good for my chess, I can’t remember the last time I went over my games without Stockfish!
My start was fine, 3/5, three wins against lower rated players (though not without some adventures!) and two ultra-instructive losses to a couple of Grandmasters. In Round 3 I lost to GM Josh Friedel without any chances, and without understanding what I did wrong. That doesn’t happen too often to me! The post-mortem with Josh was invaluable, although as Susan Polgar pointed out on Twitter, it would have been cheaper just to pay him for a private lesson than to fly all the way out to Iceland to learn from him! Fair enough.
In Round 5 I got another lesson, this time against GM Helgi Dam Ziska of the Faroe Islands. We played a very offbeat Open Sicilian (I was Black, unfortunately) where he got the initiative from the opening. I provoked the classic ‘Nd5’ sacrifice and was duly punished.
So halfway through the tournament I hadn’t achieved anything special. But I won my next two games (playing down) with real ease. I mean really clean games. This gave me another crack at a GM, Magesh Panchanathan. This time I was super-solid with White and eventually drew after good defense in a slightly worse endgame.
In Round 9 I played a brilliancy! I defeated IM Gudmundur Kjartansson in a lovely King’s Indian Defense. I had amazing preparation for this game, and luckily my opponent walked right into it. I even had the gall to compare myself to Nakamura, but can you really blame me?
This setup a final round with much on the line, money, rating, and the pride of finishing the tournament strong. Without any pretense of winning, I sought to play a solid game against IM Burak Firat, whose 2503 FIDE rating was nothing to sneeze at. I was doing fine from the opening, maybe slightly uncomfortable, but that quickly turned once I realized that my opponent had pushed beyond the reasonable limits of his position, and was greatly overextending, especially on the clock too. So I seized my chance and converted a fine endgame. I know the sound is quite bad but the content is really instructive!
So to wrap up, as I keep mentioning to everyone willing to listen, I don’t feel like I played so amazing. Yes, I scored 7.5/10 to earn 6th place and take down the Top U2400 prize and gain 43 rating points (which at my level is a ridiculous gain) in one of the biggest open tournaments year-round. True, all that is true. But if you look at my games, my biggest strength was staying objective and making good decisions (perhaps this was due to my low expectations of the tournament?) at the board. I rarely got over-optimistic and didn’t really blunder anything. Moreover, I didn’t blow any wins, as soon as the position was good for me, I was able to convert without blundering. Come to think of it, I must’ve been in a good mindset…
Well, I’ll ponder on how to repeat this success. Until next time!
As many of you all know, I recently returned from my three month trip in Europe. While I was often the only American in many of the tournaments I attended, the Reykjavik Open, my final stop, drew many from the states overseas. My coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, made his first pilgrimage to Iceland, and shares his thoughts on the tournament with us here on Chess^Summit.
Chess^Summit: Iceland is pretty far from the US. What made you decide to play in Iceland?
Eugene Perelshteyn: I wanted to play in a strong tournament where it’s one game a day in a beautiful setting. Given that Iceland is only five-hour flight from Boston, I figured it would be a good idea to play there!
CS: The Reykjavik Open is already prestigious as far as open tournaments go. Have you played in any other famous open tournaments?
EP: I don’t think any of the Open tournaments would match it. I’ve played many US Championships, this would probably be the closest comparison.
CS: What is Reykjavik like? Did you get to explore Iceland before the tournament?
EP: Yes, I rented a car and explored Iceland for a week before the tournament! This is probably the best decision given how much natural beauty there is to see!
CS: You got to play Anish Giri in just round 3 of the tournament. What was that like? Is he the strongest player you’ve ever played?
EP: I would say he’s the highest rated played that I’ve ever faced (rated 2775). I was impressed by his opening knowledge. He showed a completely new plan in a sideline that I felt I knew well. But he’s already well-known for his openings, so it may not be that a big surprise. However, his technique and quick decision-making was duly impressive as he didn’t give me any chances by converting an extra pawn.
CS: You put together a strong 7/10 performance in Reykjavik. What are your thoughts on your play – positives/negatives?
EP: On a positive note, I didn’t expect to have all ten decisive games! I managed to put together 7 wins. However, my loss to a talented Indian girl from a good position was probably the low point of my tournament. I have to say that she played well beyond her 2200+ rating!
My wins vs IM Piasetski and GM-elect Sarkar that both finished in mating attacks was a good recovery!
CS: While you had to play a lot of lower rated players, you also got to play Giri and Kamsky. How does a Grandmaster improve from these experiences? Is this different from how an amateur might respond from a critical game?
I definitely learned a thing or two from playing Giri! My game vs Kamsky was evenly matched until I miscalculated and had to defend a rook and pawn endgame down a pawn. Yet, while we both thought I was lost, I had a feeling there may be a draw. And, indeed giving up the second pawn 52.h5 draws! The lesson: never give up and keep looking for chances!
CS: Would you recommend the Reykjavik Open to American players? Do you think you would play in the event again?
Yes, I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve never been to Iceland. The only thing I didn’t like about the tournament is allowing players U2000 in the open section. While I understand that it gives amateurs a chance to face a titled player, I think it creates a strong rollercoaster-like conditions for everyone else where you play either 200-300 points up or down (end of interview).
One game I was particularly impressed by was Eugene’s triumph over FM Victor Plotkin in the fourth round of the tournament. Looking to bounce back with Black after losing to the eventual tournament winner, Eugene put together an instructive game to crush the Alapin Sicilian. By slowly building the tension and keeping the nature of the position, he exploited White’s lack of a plan. In many of my own posts, I try to show how this is an effective idea against roughly 1800-1900 rated players, but Eugene did it perfectly against a titled player rated nearly 2250! Eugene was nice enough to share a video analysis with us, and if you like his videos, I would recommend you visit ChessOpeningsExplained for more!
Hope you enjoyed this Reykjavik Open tournament wrap-up! We have one more coming later this week by IM Kostya Kavutskiy, who put together an amazing 6th place finish in Iceland with a 7.5/10 finish. If you recall, Kostya and I put together analysis videos for each round, so I’m excited to see what he has to say about one of his best tournament performances to date!
I’ve been to countless tournaments in the past few months, covering everything from the World Chess Championship to Chess in the Schools weekly tournaments. However, I haven’t played a rated tournament game in a long time. I played in the Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge, Massachusetts this past weekend after not playing since Millionaire Chess (October 2016).
As you may or may not know from my bio or previous articles, I am the oddball of the authors because I consider myself to be an amateur chess player. I had been playing in U1400, U1600, and U1700 tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club for a few months and held up alright, usually with 1300s.
My correct class at the Eastern Class Championships would have been the Under 1200 section, but I decided to challenge myself in playing in the 1200-1399 section. At a rating of 1152, I figured the skill level would not vary as much and I wanted to play “up,” as many players do to become stronger.
I scored a whopping 1/5, which would not have made the tournament SO horrible… but the 1 point was from the 1 point free bye I got. I lost the rated house game that did not count for my tournament score.
After this horrific tournament, I was asked to write an article, to which I wondered, “What the heck do people want to know from my new 5 game losing streak?” Then I realized that everyone can probably relate to this experience so I wanted to model those Buzzfeed relatable lists…
7 Thoughts You Have After
(I chose 7 because it is my lucky number)
1) “Wow, I suck at chess.”
Come on. Everyone’s said it many, many, many times to themselves before. It’s often a joke, a dark sort of self-deprecating humor. Even though it is nottrue, losing so many games lowers the morale to that thought first and foremost. I find this deprecating comment is so common, yet most likely extremely detrimental. It connotes giving up or even brushing off lack of prep, sleep, or even just luck as factors in the game.
2) “What if I just change my ____? This ____ is bad luck.”
Fill the blank with “pen,” “shirt,” “drink,” etc.
Ah, the classic blame game! I play it with my pens quite often, thinking if I just changed a miniscule part of my routine that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of my play, I’ll have different luck. Chess player superstition everyone seems to have, I suppose. The only type of chess luck to have only happens OTB (Over The Board).
3) “Is it normal to lose this much?”
The first huge, despairing moment hits with this thought. You try to calculate if it’s statistically possible to lose so much. After all, you couldn’t have lost this many games in a tournament before, right? If Wesley So can go on large winning streaks, surely you can’t go on such large losing streaks…
4) “Why did I come play this tournament?”
This one relates to the luck in the 2nd point. If you hadn’t taken the gamble to play in this tournament, but maybe the next one, you could have done so much better. It is useless to follow this train of thought, as you never could have predicted such a disastrous result. Yet everyone does.
5) “Why did I waste so many years on this game?”
This is the next and perhaps close to the last stage of giving up. It suggests that every effort made to improve was not worth it and was a waste of time, that every game played in history was not necessary. It does not give much hope for the future.
6) “At least the ____ was good. But ______ sucked.”
Fill the blank with “food,” “drinks,” “company,” or “hotel”/”venue” (rare).
This thought is an attempt to stay positive, as there is usually at least one good aspect of a tournament. Often, I find that it is the company due to the “social” aspect I gain from chess, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it is only the food that can be delicious. Maybe it’s none, but it’s always fun to joke!
7) “I have to improve and do better next time.”
The inevitable conclusion: sometimes the only way to cheer up is to vow to improve. That is how you overcome the defeat, how you justify having lost so much. Every game is a lesson and losing is just part of the game. There will be good tournaments and terrible ones. Remember: it cannot get much worse, so it can only get better! 🙂