I cleared first place at the Portsmouth open ( U1750 section)!
I think my slump is over. I went to the Portsmouth open with the intent of just playing some decent chess and not like a caveman with my hair on fire. I didn’t want to get caught up in memory games with “prepared openings” and I also didn’t want to underestimate my lower rated opponent. I just wanted to play chess one move at a time… and that I did.
My first round had me paired as White with someone 200 points lower rated than myself. I didn’t take this for granted as he fired off the Chigoran Defense. This is the one line of pawn formations I didn’t prepare for but I decided to just play the position. My opponent made the mistake of launching a premature attack, though I had trouble capitalizing on it, I did have momentum through the middle game. Despite not making the exact best moves, I just played sound moves and looked to an endgame that I could play. I ended up outplaying him in the end game.
Next up was a solid Class C player. We started in on an exchange Caro-kann. He missed a middle game tactic that allowed me to fork his queen and rook. When you win material, it’s a totally different game. I regrouped the forces and systematically put the squeeze on him.
(Round 3: Bye) Round 4:
Next opponent was one underrated Class C player who was slashing through the top players in the section like a Ghinzu knife through paper. He had been taking some serious lessons from Dan Heisman and it was showing. OK, I had a chance to get a free lesson from DH as well earlier in the year so I kind of knew what he was teaching him and decided to not freak out. When my opponent launched into the London System, I was somewhat relieved because I once played this opening quite regularly and knew what I didn’t like about it. I caught an early c5 in and began to hassle his queenside before he could counter with an attack on the King side. I pulled a small tactic that got me a key central pawn and strategically placing my queen in the center of the board versus his uncastled king. I was able to throw a noose around him with a knight and Queen snare.
My last opponent was all jacked up. He was the top seed in the section and needed the win to salvage points. He was prepping 10 minutes before our match, I was meditating in the fresh air and enjoying the sun despite the 32 degree weather. I had white and met his Nimzo-indian with a Rubenstein. He countered with the Fisher variation but I knew about this scheme and just played the position. I made it through the opening and had started an attack on the Kingside while my opponent’s pieces were corralled off to the queenside. At one point I had a nice Queen sacrifice and had he taken it, it was mate. Here’s the game.
The big take away for me was practicing a real basic thought process. During the opening I was making sure my pieces were as active as possible, my king was as safe as possible and made it a point to see what my opponent wanted after each of his moves. I didn’t take any unnecessary chances. Even though I didn’t make the best moves for each game, I made sure I was at least as developed as my opponent and had as much if not more freedom of movement of my pieces. I paid attention to both sides of the board and didn't get stuck thinking I had to play ONLY on the side I made a plan for. I stayed flexible and it worked. Even when I had my hands around my opponent’s neck ( figuratively of course), I regrouped or was prepared to do so in case of counter play. Often, I got up to clear my head when the game got tense and focused on something other than the board. Doing so allowed me to come back refreshed.
As far as skill preparation , all I was doing to prepare for this event was tactics. I won the endgame in the first game because of a tactic I could calculate when the time was right. The second and third game presented tactical opportunities as well and when the fruit was ripe, I was the first to pluck it. My last game was a real sweet deal as my opponent missed a classic CT-ART style Bishop and Rook mate allowing me to clean up and expose his King. I still missed more eloquent ways to finish off the last guy but I played it safer.