Monday, 26 October 2015

Second Tournament Report & Actionable Points

So I returned from my 2nd FIDE rated tournament yesterday, which means I have completed my 10th game. I have heard it takes about 25 games to get an accurate FIDE rating but based on my own analysis I think my rating of around 1850 FIDE is pretty accurate.

This rating is based on my performance vs similarly rated players, a recent victory in a ECF game vs someone rated approximately 2000 FIDE and the relative ease with which I can handle players rated around 1600 FIDE (not that they aren't dangerous players!).

A quick summary of the tournament would be that I should have scored 2.5/5 points but after refusing a draw in my last game against an opponent rated 1915 FIDE I only secured 2/5 points, giving him a performance rating of 2000 and lowering mine to about 1770, instead of maybe keeping us both at an even 1900! Lesson? Take time left on the clock extremely seriously when considering a draw and forget 'what should have happened if time was infinite!'. I knew I had winning chances at a few points of the game and computer analysis agrees and could obviously not let this go. When I was under 10 minutes and my opponent still had 30, I started making questionable moves giving black an advantage!

See the position below, I did seriously consider Bf1 and was going to play it, but after considering his rook gets quick access to a2 and I didn't have enough time to calculate the ramifications of that, I decided to just 'push the pawn'. It was all downhill from here really, keeping my bishop out of the game and even so the draw offer came about 5 moves later, with my opponent missing a blunder the computer did see.

Sad state of affairs towards the end-game but I can be somewhat proud of my overall opening and mid-game play, aside from the time it took I guess!

So what did I learn, what are my actionable points to improve? What are my next goals?

Actionable points:

  1. Continue studying the end game (I must have done about 6 hours of end game study the last month, not good enough. Recalling the principles now, I know i should have pulled my bishop back to provide the support from long range, horrible move, b5!
  2. Close the holes in my opening repertoire so I can remain competitive longer against players who know opening lines I don't and thus save time. The way I will achieve this is by playing more 20 minute games again (have hardly had any in the last month!) and perhaps even Blitz could help, and every time I am not happy with my opening performance, study the line using the tool I've developed. Eg, I got destroyed by not knowing some fundamental differences between a Dragon setup and an Accelerated Dragon, ouch! I want to get to a stage where no matter what reasonable opening my opponent choose I can feel comfortable for at least 10-15 moves. I am not sure  correspondence chess can help patch up my opening repertoire as the flow of games isn't anywhere near as fast to find the gaps that exist. The correspondence games mainly help with middle game positions, finding plans.
The positives of my actionable points are that they are fully in line with the Russian school of chess which often backs the study of chess from the opening and the end game first, leading towards key middle game positions later.


I am not sure I will play the next FIDE chess event in London, as I feel I have some improving to do before I can go there and seriously challenge the players on the 2000-2100 band. However, I think I can really kick their ass next year, perhaps by April, so let's make that the goal. 2000 FIDE by April 2016. Here i come!

Friday, 16 October 2015

The reason I memorise opening lines. Does it make us robots?

Is memorising opening lines worth it?

So yesterday I played my second league game for the University of Bristol. I was slightly familiar with the position my opponent, rated ECF 176 (about FIDE 2020) chose with the white pieces. Perhaps a better description is, it's not like I have never seen it before; however, I haven't played it all that much at all, moreover, I definitely haven't studied any opening lines for it.

This quickly lead to a big time advantage for my opponent who obviously plays this line all the time as white. Unfortunately I did not know who I was playing beforehand so preparation was out of the question. So despite having about 40 minutes left once we got into the middle game, playing against someone with half an hour more than you and no time increment is pretty challenging.

"memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have"

I kept going, I managed to finally get a good position and perhaps at some point a good advantage (with equal material), however, time became more and more of a factor leaving me with 7 minutes vs. my opponents 15-20 (I managed recover some time!). Eventually, I was forced to make my moves in under 30 seconds (since there was no time increment!) and this led to an unfortunate move giving my opponent easy targets. The extra pressure resulted in an eventual blunder by me. So what are the lessons to take home from this game?

Basically, any rated league/tournament game I play where I am familiar with the opening lines, I manage to go out of the opening with a time advantage and put all the pressure on my opponent. Making moves so confidently definitely gives you a psychological edge, so, I need to make sure my repertoire has no gaps. It almost doesn't, there are only a few lines where I need to brush up. Soon, I should have a good idea of what to do regardless of my opponent's first moves.

So despite anything negative anyone might say about memorising opponents, claiming its all about understanding the position, well, it's all fine to go about it that way when you are already a master or have limitless time available to you, or a great teacher perhaps. However, if you don't, surely it is a lot quicker to memorise the lines and get good positions out of the opening so you can play on an even ground where both players need to think! Eventually, by memorising you will also build an understanding of the positions.

So I will go on memorising more variations, it's pretty quick I find, and very very useful thanks to a software tool I developed (name to be revealed very soon!). Time to learn some Catalan lines. If anyone is interested in memorising lines with me, contact me and perhaps you can gain some early BETA access! Oh, and no, memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have!

Friday, 9 October 2015

My first tournament and more!

In my last post I talked about moving to Europe, having less chess study time and my goal of getting above 1850 FIDE in my first chess tournament. Well time has passed, I am in Europe, I have played my first tournament and was slightly disappointed with my result, although, I am probably being harsh on myself as my current FIDE rating is 1873!!!

I played in the
Hampstead Chess Congress on the 26-27 September 2015, and for my first game I got white vs. Jake Hung (1708). I made a point of not looking at my opponent's ratings, so when I played Jake I did not know what his rating was. I knew the player pool was mostly above 1900 and 2000 so I assumed Jake to be the same. I was pleasantly surprised after the first few opening moves when my opponent played 8..e4, which seemed overly aggressive to me and dangerous for him considering his king side was so underdeveloped.

You can see from the analysis that after this move my advantage in the game rose steadily without much difficulty and the game was finished pretty soon. I doubt I played a splendid game and some inaccuracies got me in slight trouble later on giving my opponent counter-chances, but I managed to finish with a nice mating pattern. Here is the full game.

Having started on the right foot, I knew my opponent would be better in the second game as he also, had won his first game. I played Zoltan Kovacs (2009) as white and neither one of us managed to get a large advantage as we both missed good chances. In the end, we agreed a draw as the position was overly complicated and neither one of us wanted to take many more risks than necessary. I had a good time advantage takes to my opening preparation as I caught my opponent in lines he was unfamiliar with while I executed the first 12 moves very quickly, I should have slowed down for the 14th move though...!

In this position after 13..gxf6 white has a considerable advantage, but I go on to mess it up and give black a decent yet complicated game. You can find the full game here. 

I will be brief about the last three games, which you can find on the same lichess page, but I went on to win the third game in spectacular fashion after over 60 moves, I clinged to a draw for a while as black and eventually got my chance to go for the kill. This allowed me to go into the second day as one of the tourney leaders with 2.5/3 points. I was in dreamland!

On the final two games of the tournament, first I played Koby Kalavannan (1989). In this game I had the pressure of being one of the tourney leaders, I was in contention of the prize money and moreover, Koby decided to reveal to me that he was rated 2170 just a month ago. This probably influenced my game at some points. I did compose myself and gave Koby an extremely good game, he ended up in time trouble first but I quickly joined him as we both lived off 30 second increments. I managed to get a good advantage with a winning position just to eventually leave my knight hanging in the most obvious of fashions! This brain dysfunction (let's call it that) destroyed me emotionally and I never recovered for the next game where I just wasn't myself. Of course, the game against Koby also lasted a full 3 hours so I did not have more than half an hour to recover for my game with James Golding. I probably need a full night's sleep!!

The picture above shows the position after move 38 against Koby, black has enough of an advantage to play for a win but I completely forget my knight is hanging (although I was aware of it) and give Koby the game.

So that was my first tourney, a great first day and a terrible second day for a total score of 2.5/5 and a performance good enough for a FIDE rating of 1873! Above the target I set myself nonetheless. However, after this tournament I left with the strong feeling I can definitely play at a 2000 FIDE level and hence my disappointment to not have scored at least one more point.

I took this confidence into my on-line correspondence games and managed to climb to 1906 rating on chess [dot] com, still not good enough for the 99th percentile, leaving me at 98.2%! I also played confidently an English Chess Federation league game representing the University of Bristol, taking down an opponent rated approximately 2100 FIDE with the black pieces!!! I imagine my ECF (BCF) rating is going up!!! For more details on that victory check out my opponent's match report here 'The luck of the draw'.

Oh, to conclude, if you noticed the University of Bristol mentioned, it's because I am now studying a taught Msc there, it's really time consuming!!! Hence, the lack of blog posts, the lack of chess study and youtube chess videos. Nonetheless, my game is improving with the limited study I do and especially so thanks to my opening preparation, which is done via a web site I will soon release to the world!