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.  


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!

My guess is that you are "playing in spots" instead of more uniform on every move at G/15. That's to be expected if you are mainly playing for enjoyment. IOW, I am describing when I, or someone, spends a lot of time on move, to really study something intriguing, and less time and blunder(s) on another move. It really just means that you are studying while playing instead of just playing.

If you had a luxurious amount of free time to study, then you could also get away with a little more study during the game, as well, without as much adverse results (because you would at least be making strong enough moves then to confuse not only yourself, but your opponent as well) Or at least, this is how it plays out for me when I play blitz online. In slow tournament games, strategy is even more important, because that is also where experience comes in.

Unknown said...

After having played OTB/rated chess, for years and years, I find I my thinking way too "casual" in casual games. I play a few weaker players at my local library (Northborugh, MA), and I get away with murder. It's also hard to focus as well in online chess, where I find myself thinking, "Hmmmmm.. I wonder if this works?"

I'm not sure if "playing for enjoyment," helps you prepare for serious OTB/rated play. (So, does that mean OTB/Rated play is "NOT enjoyable?" I am starting to think that might be true.)

The problem with OTB/rated play, is that as I get older, the stress is getting more unbearable. I think that "blundering" is a way of ending the stress of the game. In fact, the worst periods of stress is when I've played so well at the beginning that I have gotten a "winning position," but one that is not yet won. Since a 1-0 result is now expected, there is not place to go but down! When I was a younger player, the stress dynamic was reversed -- I felt tension when the position was unclear, but the stress was relieved once I had gotten the advantage.

Chess is just a hard game full of joy and misery. Btw, we have similar USCF ratings. If you ever want to play rapid games on, I will be willing to play arranged openings to help you sharpen your opening repertoire. just look for UncleBent.