Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Playing Down

Because of the busy schedule, I committed to chess by starting a club at work during lunch time. There are a lot of folks who “” and were eager to playing someone who played “seriously” or at least, used to. What this means is that there is a mixed bag of competition who’s playing strength is marginally on par with my most rusty capabilities… but I welcome it.
It’s like playing as the top seed in the lowest section of tournament. The expectation is that you’d win EVERY TIME… but reality is I don’t and it’s more embarrassing for me who can “talk a good game” but following through is much different story.  I also know playing up a section in a tournament is always better for improving performance than playing in the top percentile of the lower section.
But I need to take some rust off. So this once a week lunch time chess club is what I have to work with. The “” are also learning to play with real opponents, slowing down, playing with a real clock, and not just blitz and mouse clicks. So, I think I am also providing a service and spreading the enthusiast chess bug around. We play G15 time controls which is quick ( for an old timer like myself), have a club rating system and monthly matches for friendly bragging rights. The time control allows us to get a game in during a lunch break as the corporate world often bookends meetings around lunch breaks.

I use this as a sparring practice. G15 time control forces me to really not dwell to much in the opening and have a plan for the middle game so I can try to capitalize for the point. Problem is that, if I  get thrown a doozy of an opening variant… and I know I should be able to punish my opponent if I had the time, the quick and dirty “” are used to such shenanigans that they once in a while are able to squeak in a point.  I find going back to the database following a defeat sooths the bruised ego and I move on. Tactical training helps me in some of these games as I can see knight forks, discovered attacks and mating nets a little better than this group though that’s changing. As I am learning to adapt to their style of play, they are getting better as well.  So, it’s all good.

One other thing I will mention is how board blindness seems to be a big thing in G15 games for me and a couple of other players.  For myself, it happens when I am short on time and I hyper-focus on a small part of the board.  Others talk about how the clock is a huge distraction… talking about increasing time limits for the game. I’m reluctant, as I think this is good training for us and levels the playing field.  I’m older and rusty. Short time controls give my younger novice players a little more of an advantage as well as forces them to work within the constraints.

Sparring is good practice no matter at what level. I am using this opportunity to find ways to improve my quick chess skills as this has always been a hindrance for me. I also think if I can improve my ability at these time controls, my abilities at “normal time” will improve especially where I have run into time trouble. Learning how to be flexible with odd openings and players who play “out of the book” on move 2 or 3 is also good practice for me to better understand my repertoire and when mainlines are not played… how to capitalize on them…eventually. Tactics is still my middle name and I practice these as a baseline foundation almost daily. Learning  how to efficiently and consistently defeat players of developing strengths at my “rusty-yet-barely-above-novice-playing-level” is good to keeping my ego at check. I am blunderprone after all.

Who knows, maybe I’ll play in an OTB tournament later in 2018.  See you on the other side of the board.