This past Saturday I drove to Skokie, IL and played in a G/60 event. I went 0-3 losing to three players each rated around 70-180 points higher than me.
The first game I miscalculated terribly, the second game I played too passively, and the third game my opponent outplayed me tactically.
Now, on the one hand the result isn't that remarkable since essentially I lose to three higher rated players. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if some of the things that I have always had a tendency to dismiss are actually hurting my performance.
For instance, in order to make it to this tournament I had to wake up at 6am. First round started at 10am and since it was about a two hour drive and I was giving a friend a ride I needed to be up early. So I set the alarm for 6:00, got up at about 6:15 to shower, and then hit the road by 6:30.
This meant that we were to Skokie by 9:00am, which gave me an hour to relax and get my wits about me. But I was tired. Not so tired that I couldn't stay awake, but tired enough that it affected my ability to calculate.
My first game I had White against Bill Smythe. I had played Bill once before back in January at the Tim Just Winter Open and had misplayed the opening terribly. This time I was determined to do better. I had been intending to play 1. e4, but strangely I had had a conversation with some people, Bill included, about an odd sideline in the French that a friend and I had been looking at and Bill had mentioned that this was a line that he plays all the time.
So I decided to play 1. c4 instead. Due to my lack of understanding of the English (I'm still very new at playing it) I allowed Bill to plant a bishop on d3. However, I then came up with what I felt was a clever way to sac the exchange, and then I would have chances to pick up another minor piece and have two pieces for a rook.
It was about this time that I realized that my ability to calculate was not what it normally is. I just couldn't get a clear picture of any of the lines that I wanted to play and I know that I could normally calculate them.
My game then completely fell apart as I dropped another pawn. Rather than waste time fighting on in a hopeless position I resigned.
For round two I had a bye and so would play an extra game against tournament organizer Sevan Muradian. Sevan runs a class act at the North Shore Chess Center. In his events if there are an odd number of people Sevan will act as a house player so that no one goes without a game. In addition, the tournament rates there are extremely reasonable (for example, the entry fee for a four round G/60 was $20, but only $10 if you are a member of the Chess Center), GM lectures on an almost monthly basis, FIDE rated tournaments, and many other enjoyable events as well. My only gripe is that there is no discounted membership offered to players who live more than X miles away.
Sevan had White for our game, and I know that he plays the London. Even though I've been looking at the Slav again lately I knew that in this instance I would be far better off with 1...Nf6 rather than 1...d5 since the KID setup is probably the most robust against the London.
After some protracted maneuvering I offered a draw which Seven correctly refused since he was the one with the winning chances. I then made it rather easy for him by not calculating 46. Qd4 at the end of a line of exchanges. It should have been easy to see, but I didn't see it at the beginning of the line.
Two games, two losses.
I then played the strangest game of my life. I had black against William Blackman. His first four moves were 1. h4 2. a4 3. h5 and 4. a5.
Again my absolute inability to calculate on this day left me dead in the water. I should have played 3...h6 and 4...a6 but I didn't, which allowed my opponent to open attacking lines. I was so out of it by this point that I made not one, but two illegal moves. The only two I have ever made in my entire career that I can recall.
After this, I withdrew. Needless to say, it wasn't my day...
So the rating is back down to 1683, which doesn't concern me too much, although I was hoping to set a new peak at this event.
But what I keep coming back to is this...should I be playing under these conditions? Why wouldn't I just take a half point bye in the first round and then show up for the noon round. That would have given me two extra hours to sleep and more time to be fully awake.
It's becoming clear to me that at this point it's time to start using a lot more logic about my tournament strategy. In a perfect world I'd have headed to Skokie the night before and stayed in a hotel. But that's not practical for a tournament such as this. So I need to take the opposite approach and start taking first round byes.
See the games here.