For me, an adult with a full life outside of chess, there never seems to be enough time to prepare for a tournament, let alone any rust that forms after any long hiatus. I set aside the “poverty mind” , and signed up to play in a section higher than a comfort zone. This placed me 2nd from the bottom of the list. I knew I was going to take some lumps but I approached it as a learning experience for the following:
1. See what I recall from my past training
2. Test the recent training with the Chess Notes methods
3. Walk away with new directions to study
4. Have fun
Before I get into each of the games, I thought I’d summarize the experience. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for the tournament directors, Chris Bird and Bob Messenger. They kept the pace and their cool with the largest turn out to date for this annual event. I won my first two rounds against players 200 points higher than I was. I was saying to myself “ when is the rust going to start showing?” but alas, it showed in the third round of the day as the time limit converged with the rest of the 3 day players as I entered into the 2-day schedule. My morning round 4 the following day allowed me a great position in the KID but I couldn’t put a plan together if my life depended on it and gave the initiative away. By round 5 my stamina was failing and I settled for a draw.
I had done a tremendous amount of recent work on the Slav defense in preparation for this event. This was my weakest area and thus I spent the most time bringing it up. The chess notes seemed to actually help as I felt a sense of comfort and familiarity with the position through to move 9. I had some clear plans and ideas. I was granted a great outpost for my knight and I pounced on a tactic winning me material in the middle game.
( I'm having trouble getting the embedded code from chess.com to display the games here at blogspot. You may be better just going to my chess.com blog for these: http://www.chess.com/blog/Blunderprone/the-games-i-played--boston-chess-congress-2015 )
This was bit more of a straightforward QGD with a Carlsbad pawn structure. There was nothing recent in my studies that I covered on this. I was able to conjure up from my long term memory the ideas around this pawn structure. I think the reason why this was an easier recall, was that a while back I studied these pawn structures quite regularly, went over games that had this pawn structure, and encountered them quite regularly and successfully. This felt like putting on an old glove. I knew about minority attacks, IQPs and center pawn pushes for these structures.
I played the black pieces against an Advanced Caro-Kann. I’ve struggled with this variation in the past. I simply hadn’t prepared well for this. I managed to hang on against a queen side attack I could have easily prevented had I played it correctly. But being the third game of the day and getting bleary eyed, after the attack I castled because I was more anxious about leaving my king in the center than looking at the piece mobility of my opponent. It allowed the attack to shift to the kingside. White having more mobility I couldn’t swing my pieces over in time. Then I blundered a piece and resigned immediately after. This is where the rust of an old dog started to show.
Oddly enough, I realized the loss in round 3 broke my momentum. I had the white pieces as I walked into a King’s Indian defense. I got an advanced pawn center, one I used to be familiar with but struggled in the past to have solid results ( unlike the QGD). Part of my timid play could be partially a result of my “fighting spirit” partially broken from the round 3 loss. However, I’ve struggled with fully understanding this pawn structure, it’s nuances and proper plans for white and what to watch out for from Black. In this game, I found myself playing more passive, not knowing what to do with the space advantage. Is this because I am too “at home” in the cocoon of a cramped position as black?
I was familiar with the first few stumps of the Rubinstein variation of the Nimzo-Indian to get to a playable middle game. But I struggled again with coming up with a plan. I could see my opponent was having the same issues. So when he offered a draw, I didn’t want to blow it. With tired eyes, I accepted and shook his hand.
Every single one of my opponents was higher rated. That meant finishing with a 2.5 score gained me almost 60 rating points. Not bad for a getting back into the game. I think there is some merit doing the chess notes for securing chunks in early positional understanding BUT… and this is a big BUT… I really need to be more disciplined on following up with the drilling with these notes in order for them to be effective. I am giving myself until February to see whether the hand written notes is going to continue or if I go back to making my drills in a database. On one hand I feel like I get a deeper understanding of the subject I am studying if I do this by hand and not assisted with the computer. However, I am more likely to do drills (which reinforces the ideas) using a computer. I may compromise and do initial studies with the “Cornell” chess notes methods with the intent of creating drill diagrams in a database I can take with me on my tablet.
Another thing that came out is how I really need to improve my ability or, more so, my comfort level with playing the White pieces of an Indian defense where I can get more space. It’s back to reviewing Zurich 1953.
Did I even get to any endgames that required special attention? No, I was already lost in one N+R vs N+R ending. I will prioritize my next round of studies on game studies mentioned above.