2018 was a wild ride for me. There were ups and downs, highlights and lowlights, victories and failures, and more. Since the year is almost over, it’s time to reflect on what happened in 2018. Instead of giving a monologue about what happened, how about some statistics…?
Shortest game: 9 moves. It was (shockingly) a draw.
Longest game: 79 moves. That was the 5th round of the U16 Olympiad, the day after we beat the top seed Uzbekistan, where my game lasted “only” 77 moves. Chess is tough :(.
Highest scalp: GM Sergey Erenburg (2656 USCF) at the last round of the East Coast Open in May.
Lowest-rated loss: William Graif (2293 USCF). Considering that this is my worst lost over an entire year, this isn’t that bad.
Longest winning streak: 5 games. After beating GM Erenburg, I won my next four games at the Stamford Open before taking a draw in round 5 to win the tournament.
Longest losing streak: 3 games at the U16 Olympiad, which was a really awful time to pull something like that off…
Longest undefeated streak: 13 games. This was a streak from July-August that unfortunately ended in round 8 of the Washington International (more on that later).
Highlights: I had my fair share of successes winning a few tournaments. My most memorable victory was tying for first at the NY International. The fact that I lost my first round in that tournament made it special.
Lowlights: Two awful fails stand out: the first was at the Washington International, where I lost my last two game when 1.0/2 would’ve gotten me a GM Norm. The second was at the U16 Olympiad, where I lost three games in a row in rounds 5-7.
Funniest moment: That was for sure when the lights went off for the third (!) time during round 5 of the Washington Chess Congress.
Favorite move: Somehow, I haven’t had the opportunity to play any eye-popping brilliant moves this year. Instead, I’ll make a strange choice for this one:
This was the 8th round of the Philadelphia Open. On the previous move, white could have played 26.Re1 g6 27.Qf3 dxc3 28.bxc3, but the game is headed towards a draw. Instead of going for that, I spiced things up with 26.c4!?. This relatively sound pawn sacrifice bore fruit: the game went 26… g6 (26… g5 was possible as well) 27.Qf3 Bxc4 28.Re1 Ne3? 29.Bc2!, after which white magically wins a piece. While what happened in this game is far from brilliant, I’m glad that this kind of educated risk-taking worked out. If only that could be said about uneducated/irresponsible risk-taking…
Worst blunder: I’ve had a few, but this one is by far the worst and the most painful:
In this position, I playepd 35.bxa5???? and had to resign on the spot after 35… Bc8+. The worst part about this was that I would’ve gotten a GM Norm had I won this game.
New Year’s Resolutions: Uh oh, now is the time to make intelligent, realistic New Year’s resolutions. Well, that’ll be hard…
As the year 2018 comes to a close, one image has been at the forefront of my mind:
The following image of my rating progress this past year presents the following blunt, yet essential question: what went wrong? After all, I finished the year lower rated than when I started, dropping below the 2000 mark for the first time in quite a while. Moreover, I did work on my chess quite a bit, finishing the first book in Yusupov’s improvement series. As I reflect on my chess development this past year, two fundamental problems in my approach to improvement have suddenly become quite clear to me:
I forgot about calculation. I don’t mean that I forgot how to calculate (in which case I probably wouldn’t even be a 1400 player), but rather that I forgot to work on and develop my calculation abilities. During my last few tournaments of the year, I suffered quite a few blunders and managed to lose multiple winning positions. The majority of these conversion slips were linked to sloppy calculation at critical moments.
Lacking Theoretical Knowledge. This applies both to the endgame and the opening: most of the time I don’t really know what I’m doing by move five or so, with the occasional exception, and I often don’t manage to achieve the correct theoretical result (whether it be a win or a draw) in a given endgame position.
In order to address the two problems above, I will be focusing much more on tactics training with a board and pieces in 2019, as well as powering through Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual to develop my endgame knowledge. As for opening study, I will start reviewing my lines for at least thirty minutes every day rather than waiting until a tournament comes along and frantically preparing in the final minutes before each game. With consistent effort, and perhaps a bit of luck, I am confident that these changes in my training will reintroduce a positive trend to my rating graph this coming year.
Blitz is played everywhere. Whether it be just for fun between friends in the skittles room or in tournaments, blitz is arguably one of the most common forms of chess played. However, blitz chess sometimes has the reputation of “ruining” your chess or being bad for general improvement. While blitz chess can arguably have some negative implications, I believe, with moderation, there are benefits and things you can learn from playing chess.
Firstly, Blitz can be a wonderful way of improving your intuition. In contrast with classical chess, blitz is very fast paced. With not a lot of time to think per move, you often have to trust your gut and just move it. This causes blitz to be a big test on how well your intuition and your understanding is of the type of position you’re in when you’re making these high-speed decisions. Playing blitz can be good practice and a good check for how well you understand unique positions that often result from chess, and studying these positions post-game can be a great way to learning and discovering how to play in different types of positions.
Secondly, blitz can be used to improve your overall chess ability is by testing how well you know an opening. Learning move orders and opening nuances is an integral part of understanding and learning how to play an opening. Luckily, blitz chess is perfect practice for learning these things. In blitz, move order slip-ups, while common, can prove disastrous during games. As a result, it’s very important that you know your stuff when going into a game. As such, playing blitz can show you how well you really understand and know opening theory. Blitz can also serve as a testing ground for any opening ideas you might have and their practical usages.
Another use of blitz can be used to positively benefit you is by making your tactical awareness stronger. Blitz chess is far from perfect. Often, especially in time scrambles, blunders are followed by blunders and blunders and blunders. Because of this, blitz can be a great way of testing how well you are at catching these blunders in a fast time frame and taking advantage of them and punishing your opponent. Blitz chess is essentially a practical tactics trainer.
Finally, blitz chess is a great way of checking how well your time management is and how well you operate when you’re low in time in time scrambles. As previously stated in the beginning of the article, blitz is generally fast-paced and it’s very common to end games with seconds on the clock. This characteristic of blitz means that not only is blitz great practice for how you act when you’re behind on the clock, blitz can also help your ability to think when you’re low in time in classical chess. Blitz can also teach you how to be pragmatic with how you use your time per move in classical chess and when to spend low amounts of time and when to really invest in your clock when making key decisions.
Clearly, blitz chess is not deserving of the bad reputation it often gets. Hopefully, this article has helped you see how blitz is not so bad, and how it can actually help you as a chess player get better and faster.
The K-12 Grade levels tournament is concluding as I type these words. Kids from all over the country flew to Orlando for the festival.
Many of the players prepared days, weeks or even months for the tournament, and as the popularity of chess increases, the number of local events has also increased.
In this post, I will discuss my views on tournament experimentation.
In major chess hubs like New York and California, there are multiple scholastic tournaments per week.
For the causal players, I’d suggest participate once per month, and as the student’s interest increases or decreases, the number of tournaments should be adjusted accordingly.
For the more ambitious group who are trying to reach USCF 1000 within 3-6 months and then 2000 before end of the elementary school, playing in 1 or even 2 tournaments a week to prepare for national events is not unheard of.
How should we use the local tournaments to prepare for the big events (nationals, or big open tourneys such as World Open)?
Chess improvement is a marathon, and every strong player has gone thru periods of ups and downs. However, the stronger players knows how to use small tournaments effectively to prepare for bigger ones.
They have their eyes on the prize.
At local tournaments, it’d be good to test out playing up a section, or at another to try out new openings. Since the goal is to make adjustments and getting ready for the big events.
Thru the experiments, they will find what they are comfortable with, and prepare further arsenals both from chess as well as psychological point of view.
The experiments in low-stake environment (local tourneys) does not have to be successful all the time, it is more important to learn more about oneself.
Once the big event comes along, they will be ready to use the tools they’ve crafted from prior training instead of improvise on the go.
Now the grade level is wrapping up, the next scholastic tournament season will be in the spring.
Start plan out what experiments you’d like to try out in local tournaments to help you get the maximum energy for the big tourney!
After more than holding his own during the classical portion of the World Championship match against Carlsen, Caruana suffered a beatdown in the rapid tiebreaks. He lost three in a row, thereby allowing Carlsen to secure the World Champion title yet again. Going into the match, many people believed that if Caruana was to win the match, he’d have to do it in the classical portion as he’s never been one of the top players in rapid and blitz time controls. This was proven when Carlsen, one of the best rapid and blitz players in the world, convincingly beat Caruana.
However, other than the title of World Champion, the main focus of the match was on the classical ratings of Carlsen and Caruana. Prior to the match, only three points separated the two – Carlsen was at 2835.0 and Caruana was 2832.0. But, after drawing all twelve games of the classical section, neither player’s rating changed. Caruana had the chance to change that narrative at the London Chess Classic, the tiebreaker tournament for the Grand Chess Tour between Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian, and MVL. Yet, through his first three classical games – two against Nakamura and one against Aronian – he’s drawn all of them, actually losing 3.3 points according to 2700chess.com. Meanwhile, he’s continued to struggle in rapid and blitz games, going 0.5/2 in rapid games and 1/4 in blitz games.
More likely than not, Caruana is frustrated with his recent performance in quicker time controls, so we’ll have to see how he fares the rest of this tournament. He still has two more rapid and four more blitz games to potentially right the ship. But, Caruana only has one more classical game left in this tournament in Aronian, and even if he wins, he’ll still be a couple points short of Carlsen’s mark. This means that we’ll have to wait until at least the next major tournament, likely the Tata Steel Masters in late January of 2019, for more action on that rating front. Until then, Carlsen remains at the top of the rating lists.
Before the rest day, everything was good. We had miraculously defeated the top seed Uzbekistan and were tied for first with 9/10 match points. The day after the rest day, however, was absolutely brutal. I mean really brutal.
In the morning, we played Ukraine. After some adventures on the lower boards, the score was 1.5-1.5. Yours truly, after being marginally better for the entire game, lost control over the position and overreacted by blundering in an endgame that was, in reality, a fairly easy draw.
It was a setback, but we were still tied for 4th. Then we got to play Iran. I lost perhaps the worst game I’ve played this year. Pretty quickly after my defeat, things went downhill on the other boards too. Long story short, we got crushed 3.5-0.5.
We had lost 2 matches in one day. To top it off, I personally had lost 3 games in a row, which is rare and never fun. Looking at the standings at the evening team meeting, we thought we’d get an easy pairing next round. Instead, we got Armenia, which was the 6th seed. Talk about a bad end of a horrible day.
That was the final nail in our coffin when it came to our medal chances. I managed not to lose a 4th game in a row (yay!)—I actually had very good winning chances, but I didn’t play it the best way, and it ended in a draw. Board 2 was also a draw (after some wild adventures), but we unfortunately lost on both boards 3 and 4 and lost the match 3-1.
In the last round, we got to play Hungary. We won the match 3-1. I finally won a game, despite blowing a very large advantage and even getting worse in the process.
Overall, we finished 10th. Uzbekistan didn’t let their loss to us stop them from winning the rest of their matches and deservedly winning gold. India won silver, and the massively underrated Chinese team won bronze. Our board 2 IM Hans Niemann finished with 7.5/9 and won a bronze medal for board 2—a medal which he forgot in his hotel room 12 hours later. Looking back at the final crosstable, we ended up playing 5 out of the 7 top teams, beating the overall winners, drawing the 4th place team, and losing to the 5th, 6th, and 7th teams.
Despite not playing as well as I had hoped to, I believe I still contributed to the team by facing tough opposition on the first board and helping with my teammates’ preparation. It’s hard to put in words what this tournament meant to me. Just spending a week doing chess, chess, and more chess (with a little bit of schoolwork spiced in) was fun. I got to meet so many people from around the globe, some of them the very best in my age group. Sorry American tournaments, but this is really hard to beat this experience. I really wish I could go next year, but unfortunately I’ll be too old.
Big thanks to my teammates and team coach GM Kudrin!
Now I’m back home and have settled back down to boring normal life (yeah, I had too much fun there for my own good). It’s time to relax and enjoy the upcoming holiday season—and study some chess of course. Time to regroup!