A Rollercoaster Performance

It’s been a while since I’ve gone over some of my games, so this week I’m going to share some games that I played at the Virginia Open.  The Virginia Open was a 5-round open tournament held from March 23-25.  Since I hadn’t played in a tournament since the VA States a couple weeks prior and I hadn’t played in a long time control tournament since Nationals the previous December, I decided to take up the gauntlet and play in the open section just to see how I would fare.  Safe to say, the tournament overall was rather interesting, as there were some high points but also some low points.  Let’s take a look at some of the games that I played.

Kobla – Mundayat, Round 1

This game was likely rust from not playing in a long time.  Despite having a sizeable positional plus coming out of an early queen trade, in a span of a few moves I essentially threw that away, ending up in an endgame position where I was going to lose a pawn.  Nevertheless, I was able to hold the endgame, a task that was made somewhat easier by my opponent’s rush to trade rooks.  After centralizing my king on d4, I had created a fortress that my opponent wasn’t able to break through, and had the game continued, I would have kept shuffling my bishop.  Although this wasn’t an ideal start to the tournament, at least I was able to salvage a draw in a game that could have ended up much worse.

Knoll – Kobla, Round 2

After spotting that tactic to go up a pawn, I was pretty pleased with my position overall.  My pawns had mobility and I was able to protect them with my pieces while still pushing them.  I eventually gave up my bishop for a knight to go into a good knight-bad bishop endgame where I was also able to infiltrate with my rook.  After the last pair of rooks was traded, I could use my knight and king to nurse my passed pawns down the board, and my opponent resigned just before promotion.  I was much more satisfied with my play in this game, and overall it was smooth-sailing after picking up the pawn in the middlegame.  This win set me up to in the middle of the pack of 1.5 pointers going into round 3, so I could end up playing up or down, depending on how the pairings would work out.

Kobla – Lohr, Round 3

I feel like this game was much more of my style.  Following a weird transposition into a Sicilian-like position, I was able to start my attack before my opponent.  A key takeaway from this game is White’s dark-squared bishop – many players are hesitant to give it up as it’s generally considered White’s most important minor piece.  While this is at many times true, especially in the Dragon Sicilian, there are always exceptions.  Here, after the g and h files became locked, my only pawn break was with the f pawn, and that was only going to happen by allowing Black’s knight to sit on g4.  I decided to push anyway, and after my opponent played Ng4, I had the option of retreating the bishop to g1, but I figured it wasn’t worth it since I would have a bunch of pieces clogged on the back rank at that point.  Instead, I pushed forward with f5, allowing him to capture my dark squared bishop if he wanted.  The light square bishop ended up playing a more important role than what the dark-squared bishop would have, eventually allowing me to win an exchange.  After that, the endgame was fairly straightforward, and with promotion coming, my opponent resigned.

Del Mundo – Kobla, Round 4

This game was probably the most disappointing for me of all the ones I’ve shown.  After going into an endgame, I was able to play fine for the most part.  My opponent was definitely the one pressing, but I was holding, and after the trade of minor pieces, it was somewhat simpler.  His rook was able to infiltrate, but I found a way to keep material from dropping off the board.  However, it was when we reached the dreaded 40th move that I finally made a mistake.  After 40. Rb7, I didn’t want to play 40. … Ke6 again as I was afraid of 41. a4, making havoc of my queenside and likely allowing his king to finally penetrate.  In hindsight, 40. … Re6 was likely best, although it would bring about a change in dynamic after 41. Rd7+ Kc6.  Instead, I played a much worse move and lost a pawn and the game.  Obviously, if I had played Re6, I may have still lost, there is no way to tell.  But, it would have given me a better chance than what I played in the game.

I ended up losing the last game as well to finish at 50% with 2.5/5 despite starting 2.5/3.  What began as a promising start ended on the flip side.  While there was much I wish I could have done differently, there were still good things to take away from this tournament.  I’m not sure what the next tournament I’ll play in as SAT subject tests are on the horizon, but until then, I’ll have to keep in touch.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

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