Sunday, April 28, 2013

"There is No Fate But Which We Make" - Sarah Connor

I've been reflecting on those words both last night and this morning.

Yesterday I entered a two day five round tournament with a time control of 30/90-SD/60.  I figured that this would be a great chance to get some quality chess in.

Instead, after the first two rounds I was 0-2 and withdrew.

Now it's true, seeing as how my rating had me near the bottom of the section starting out 0-2 wasn't altogether unexpected.  My first round loss was to a 1940 and my second was to an 1850.  I didn't withdraw because I was 0-2, I withdrew because I was playing badly.

My play was so poor that I'm not even going to bother to post the games.  Suffice it to say that in my first game my opponent played 1.c4 and after 1...e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5 4. d4 I was essentially positionally lost.  The reason I was lost at this point is because I didn't know the theory at all.  I know the Grand Prix somewhat as White, and so I figured I'd play it against the English.  Of course the issue is that after 3. Nf3 I shouldn't be playing ...f5, I should just play 3...Nf6 and play the Black side of the English Four Knights.  Instead I played without thinking. 

Of course after 4. d4 it turns out that the worst thing in the world Black can do is play 4...exd4.  There is no reason to allow White to get their way.  But I was looking at 4...e4 and realizing that the play would be extremely sharp and that I had no idea of how to navigate those waters.

I spent another 20 or so moves being ground into dust.

My second round game was a Grand Prix.  Once again I was faced with an altered move order and I got into a bind.  I then managed to get some counterplay and thought I might get some winning chances but I then walked right into a sacrificial mate because I wasn't calculating.

I just couldn't focus.  I don't know why but I just didn't have it.

So rather than continue to insult Caissa I decided it was time to pack it up and call it a tournament.

So why the opening quote of "no fate but which we make?"  Because I did this to myself.  The bottom line is that I had a five day weekend last weekend and should have used the time to do some serious intense preparation.  Instead I did some extremely light prep.  I didn't tune up my openings at all.  I did some endgame work and some tactical work, but not nearly enough of either.

While I have a lot of hobbies outside of chess, I don't take any of them nearly as serious.  If I am serious about my desire to become a master I need to act like it.

Poor opening play is just not acceptable any longer.  At the Waukesha Memorial last month I was talking with a local Expert, Scott Haubrich, between rounds.  I had just gotten crushed on the White side of the 9. 0-0-0 line of the Sicilian Dragon.  I said something like "I couldn't remember the theory." to which Scott replied "Some club players just blow my mind.  The time for learning to play new things is not during a tournament.  You should come here with all that stuff ready to go."

At the time I nodded in agreement.  But clearly the lesson was lost on me.

So where do I stand now?  Well, my rating will probably dip 15 points or so as a result of this tournament.  The last round of a local club tournament is Thursday and I drew a 2100 player in Round One then had to take a half point bye in Round Two.  So a win (or draw if I'm paired up) should get me right back to 1700ish.

The question is will I honestly decide that I am sick of just treading water and do the work, or will I let more of the sands of time slip through my fingers as I talk a good game?


  1. That's a harsh self critique. Many strong players discourage serious opening study below the expert level. If you play simple, unambitious defenses and adopt a classical style with white, this more or less works ( It doesn't work on the white side of an English Attack Najdorf--at any rate, it hasn't worked for me. You approach the game in an ambitious way. Be careful. I'd hate to see you burn out.

  2. Perhaps it is somewhat harsh, but I have no interest in adopting unambitious openings.

    I do understand to some degree the wisdom of doing so, but I don't think that would be the answer to my issue.

    The issue isn't poor opening play, per se. It's more the idea that when I'm out of book I'm still playing "automatic" moves quickly. Sometimes you get away with that, and sometimes it costs you the game right out of the opening because there was nothing "automatic" about what I played.

    Saturday was a lesson that you can be lost after only four moves if you're not paying attention. I should have spent a few minutes calculating the results of 3...f5 rather than just playing it without thinking.

    Had I calculated, I would have realized that 4. d4 was very much a playable move and that it would lead to some seriously sharp play that I wasn't prepared to face. Knowing that I would have played 3...Nf6 and dealt with a position that I am more familiar with.

    But my thought process was "who needs to calculate on move three? Can there be that much difference between 3. Nf3 and 3. g3? And the answer of course is that there are worlds of difference.

    That was of thinking is dangerous. It's what also leads you to just play a quick move in an endgame where you don't think that you need to calculate and you miss something.

    It's a thought process that I have to learn to eradicate if I want to be successful.

    Burn out be damned.