Friday, August 30, 2013

Another Rating Peak Achieved!

After this year's Southwest Chess Club's championship I managed to achieve another all time peak rating of 1771. 

Things still seem to be going rather well for me.  I feel that my approach at the board has changed a great deal over the past few weeks since I started to seriously analyze my games.  I now make a point to analyze every game after I play it.

I still plan on working on my repertoire until I get it up to par, and I know my endgames need some work, but at this point I feel like things are really continuing to improve and that slowly but surely I am climbing up to where I feel I should be.

Time will tell.

Look for some more games to be posted here soon!

Never Lose Focus

This game is a great illustration of why you should never lose focus.

I played this game against Scott Haubrich last night in the final round of the club championship.  Scott is in the midst of an incredible run having gone 7-2 in the US Open winning the Expert prize outright.

I am crushed out of the opening because I foolishly fail to play ...Qc7 which allows him tactics that get my pieces totally uncoordinated. 

Yet I then fight back to take the initiative and missed a few fighting chances.

The message?  Stay focused!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cultivating the Will to Win

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is the will to win.  What separates the best from the rest?  I think that it's the will to prevail rather than to make any assumptions.

For example, look at Gata Kamsky.  He gets into drawish endings where he has the slightest of advantages and then he just keeps pressing until his opponent cracks.  Sometimes that gets him into trouble, such as yesterday against Tomashevsky in the World Cup, but more often than not he doesn't crack under the pressure and he converts an awful lot of those positions.

Now it's easy to say that Gata is a veteran and that's why he has developed the ability to press on in those positions.

Then yesterday I'm looking at a game from when Magnus Carlsen was a twelve year old IM.  He has the White side of a Berlin and he heads right into the endgame line with the annotators noting that even at that young age Magnus was well content to get into an ending with a slight edge and just grind away.

Sometimes I like to think that I am developing that ability myself.  But then you only need look back a few weeks to this to see that I haven't fully developed this ability.

I think that this will be a rather important next step in my improvement.  It's not enough to say you want to win, you actually need to go fight to make it happen.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

What a difference a year can make when it comes to chess.  Last year on August 16th my rating had fallen to 1560 after having been at 1711 only eight months before.

It seemed like I couldn't so much as sit down at the board without dropping game after game to players rated 1200-1400.  Every time I played I felt like I was going to lose.  It was a terrible outlook to have but I just couldn't help it.  I was wondering if I would make it all the way down to my floor of 1500.

Then, something happened.  I remembered that in the first year of my return to competitive play I had taken my rating from 1500 to 1720.  Yes, I then dropped 160 points, but so what.  I had gotten there, hadn't I?

I had gotten cocky and hubris had bitten me.  It was time to relax and remember how I had made it in the first place.

So that's exactly what I did.  I started working hard again when I would study.  I started to remember that rating differences exist for a reason.

Essentially I remembered that if I just played my game the results would follow.  I lost the fear.

In the past 12 months I have been over 1700 for about half that time, and am currently at my all time ratings peak and I feel like I am still trending up.

Here is the game that I credit for turning my attitude around:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interesting Game

This is a game I played yesterday with an Expert, Troy Zimmerman.  This is the third time I've played Troy (second in a month or so) and was our third draw.

This represents only about two hours or so of analysis, so there are likely some things that I missed.  I would certainly be interested in hearing your comments if you see something I missed.

What I find fascinating about games like this is that it shows that Experts make plenty of mistakes, and it shows that it's possible to make mistakes when playing Experts and survive.

Overall Troy is a far better player than I am now, but for whatever reason I just seem to play him tough.

This was in the fourth (of six) rounds of the Southwest Club Championship.  After this game I have 2.5 points.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Analyzing Your Wins

One of the things that we are all taught is that you should analyze your own games, especially your losses and draws.  After all, the idea is that you will learn from your mistakes.

FM Alex Betaneli recently gave a lecture at the Southwest Chess Club where he said that it's just as important to analyze your wins to see what might have been missed there as well.

This is especially true at the class Thursday I played a game that I won without ever being in serious trouble.  Yet when I looked at it with my coach he showed me that it was a blunder fest which I was lucky to escape from.

Once again, I horribly misplay an opening and then I get lucky when my opponent misses a crushing follow up.

Chess World Cup!!!

I don't know about you, but I am glued to the monitor watching Susan Polgar and Lawrence Trent's commentary on

Also, because sometimes I can be a total juvenile, I found this to be thrilling!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

An Absolute Travesty of a Game

I present to you a game I played a couple of weeks ago that was a complete opening disaster.  I waited too long to play Nge4 and I should have chopped the Black knight on d5 rather than letting it get to f5.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Plan for August

A new month is on us!  Typically new months have brought with them new plans.

But this month I'm trying something a bit different...

This month I'm going back to the well and redoing the plan for July, with some slight modifications.

I present...August!!!

Opening Prep

As always this remains the weakest link in my overall game.  But as I mentioned in a prior post I'm narrowing things down.  I will now focus on one opening at a time.

Currently I am working on the Black side of the Slav.  I started doing so last month and will continue to do so this month.

I am working on some lines in the Chebanenko currently and feel reasonably confident in my abilities.  I don't plan on learning everything perfectly before moving on to the next opening, but rather I want to learn enough to know what I am doing, and then I will continue to work from there until I know the main lines inside, outside, forwards, and backwards.

I will do this the old fashioned way where after playing a game I will look it up in a database to see who varied and how play should have continued.  I will also be doing this with the lines I am not currently studying.

Analytical Ability

On the advice of my coach I will continue to analyze every game until I make master.

So far it is getting a little easier for me to see ideas and variations, but not a lot.  This is something that I intend to continue to work at rather hard because I know it's important.  I'm trying to learn to think more creatively and out of the box than I currently can, but honestly, this has been the hardest chess skill for me to learn so far.  However, since I also know it will be one of the most important skills I learn I'm willing to continue working at this one for as long as it takes.

Calculation Ability

I will continue to work on quick tactics as well as endgame studies for pure calculation ability.  I find myself calculating a little bit better in my games now, but still often wind up with a jumbled mess in my head.

I have been achieving winning positions against Experts lately, but am not converting those points.  However, learning to calculate clearer and better will lead to exactly that.

And so that brings me to the addition for August, which has been on some of these lists in the past...

Work on Endings

I am adding this back to the mix because I know that without a solid foundation in the endgame I will never become a master.  I can think of a few that have gotten away from me lately that solid endgame technique would have saved.

I think my rating would be 100 points higher right now if I played endgames at the 1800 level instead of the 1500 level I seem to.

Also, I think that this will help greatly with my calculation abilities.

So there you have it...the plan for August.

I think it would be great to hear from some of the readers of the blog on this one.

I see that I get a ton of hit each day, but I rarely get comments.  I would love for this to be a dialogue more than a monologue.

Until next time!