Saturday, 18 November 2017

Winter 2017 Chess Improvement Update

Back in June I mentioned how tiring it is to be playing regular tournament chess, when so many other life responsibilities seem to be there, waiting for your attention. However, that specific tournament I made a fatal mistake. I refused to take a bye and tried to play all 3 days, despite the Friday game being very challenging, you really have to be local to play a 4 hour game at 7PM as driving either side of that tends to be pretty bad. On the way there it's traffic, on the way back it's diversions, Friday night's party traffic! That night I ended up getting home way past midnight, shattered and that resulted on me trying to play less OTB chess, I even withdrew on Sunday. Ouch. Well, I think I learned my lesson and I am finally ready to get back to OTB classical time congresses. I am playing one next weekend and I am looking forward to it. I'll control my eagerness and take that first round bye... 4 games is enough. Even that is a lot. I got greedy when I tried playing all 5 and was rightly punished by Fortune that night. I think I was simply too eager to replicate my Frome Congress success.

Earlier in the year I also questioned why I hadn't learnt John's Scandinavian repertoire yet. I set this right and have picked up IM John Bartholomew's Scandinavian repertoire. I think I can play 90% of the lines with confidence, and this is an IM level repertoire so these days I really look forward to facing 1.e4. The more I play it, the more I study it, the happier I am that I finally learnt it. Based on this, my opponents would do well to take notice and play anything else really. However, I am also slowly picking up a GM level repertoire for Black against everything else. My goal here is to fully sort out all my openings as Black and really really learn them well. Then I can compare my results as White versus my results as Black where I know the openings. This would finally settle the debate about how important it is to know or not know the opening at our level of chess. Honestly, I might be biased, but whenever I play within the opening I know it's just so much more joyful. I faced an IM in my first ever rapid chess event and he struggled so much because I blitzed out 18 moves of theory that led to a drawish position. Yes, he did win in the end, after 70 moves in my heavy time pressure, but since he was 500 points higher than me I consider this a big result. He even thought he was losing at one point where he went a pawn down. Unfortunately, he had more than enough compensation and in the complications my time pressure was the most telling factor.

Aside from finishing up my Black repertoires, I want to note that I did have a complete repertoire as Black and White before, but it was very shallow, without going into too much detail and this was often telling. I got tired of being outplayed by people who knew a bit more theory, a few more plans, which is why I am putting the work of learning 300+ variation repertoires instead of the 100 lines I used to know. I think 100 lines is useful up to 1,800, but playing at 2,100+, or higher, people just know theory, whether they read it, or figured it out through self study, they are aware of the best moves and if you go off they punish you. My game against Koby Kalavannan in the Bristol Summer Congress, showed that clearly. I played a normal looking move which 4-5 masters have previously played (in the database), and it just turned out to be giving White a seriously big advantage... which my 2300+ rated opponent pounced on.

Once I sort out my Black repertoire, my plan is to focus on tactics and strategy only and see if my results as White catch up too. I might also try various Short & Sweet repertoires as White, maybe the London System, to try and find what openings I actually enjoy playing as White. I do love the Italian Game but most people will play the Sicilian against me, so maybe the London System would be good to avoid those sharp Siclian lines.

Another thing I've done lately which I feel has improved my game is to slow down my blitz time controls. I was playing 3|0, then 3|2 and struggling, getting frustrated, timing out. I had not time to think ever. I switched to 5|5 and really enjoyed it. My Blitz rating went up and the games I lost had clear reasons why, reasons I could work on. I think my rapid has benefited from that too and I am on my all-time high at I honestly think I'll hit a 2,000 rating somewhere. The goal I set myself, but maybe, it will happen sometime next year :)

Of course, I'm also somewhat of an endgame Master and can mate with Bishop & Knight! This is thanks to completing 100 Endgames You Must Know on Chessable. It's awesome, but in my games I don't get to benefit enough, or at least I don't think I do. Not too many endgames yet, but when one happens, my opponents usually pay... I had several games where I rescued them and won in the endgame.

Alright, I just wanted to log some of my progress and plans, so that it's there in writing documenting my chess improvement. See you soon!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Hmm, will have to play less tournament chess.

So this is an entry to log the fact that I plan to play less tournament chess. I entered the Bristol Summer Congress 2017, but I had to withdraw for the last day. It's simply humanely impossible to raise a kid, grow a start up and make time for monthly tournament chess.

Due to my last awesome performance, I really wanted to play. However, each of my games took four hours, and after the second game (4 hours and 30 minutes) I was absolutely knackered. Not to mention I only had 3 hours of sleep that night (driving to the tournaments is quite the extra energy sink, especially due to bloody diversions!). I messed up a won endgame and gave my 2,100 rated opponent the draw. Shame. I think having a won position got to my head; I got over-excited. Good for my opponent though as to be honest, I miscalculated in the early middle game and only got an advantage due to a cheap-shot tactic (due to a mistake by my opponent!). Would have been nice to bring home the win. I also drew with black vs. an opponent rated 1630, again I felt like I messed up the endgame. I had a good knight vs. bad bishop which quickly due to my mistakes turned into a good bishop vs. bad knight. How ironic. Held the draw.

Finally, for my third game, I think I must have had a mating combination somewhere, but honestly, all I wanted is for the game to be over quickly and messed it up along the way. Ironically it still took 3 hours.

So this entry logs my intention of abandoning my 2,000 rating goal this year, seeing as that would take at the very least three more five game tournaments for which I currently do not have the energy. Instead, I will change my goal and aim to improve my online rating and play some online games again. Maybe one serious game once a week recorded and straight away analysed on youtube. Analysis is important, and after playing for 4 hours, I admit I have not analysed any of my last 10-12 tournament games... shame on me. I think it's a good goal and definitely possible. I'll do that instead! Then, if my online rating increases I'll go for some OTB tournaments next year and hopefully finally hit 2,000. The problem with that is I need 10 wins vs 2,100 opposition which is tough; then I'd hit 2,000. The time commitment is just pretty big, 4 hours per game x 10 games (at least...), more like 15-20 games... and you can start to see why I am hanging up the gloves for this year!

Its not like me to withdraw or give up. Hence I will start posting videos on my Youtube channel, and of course, I will continue to study on Chessable where my streak is looking pretty impressive. Fortunately, pretty soon we'll offer some serious endgame study on Chessable so as to broaden our offering, I can really use studying some endgames. :)

Sorry if this post doesn't read well, I'm too knackered to refine it :D Just wanted to log what's happening and my plans so that I can refer to it in the future when I look at my path to chess improvement.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

New accomplishments, winning at 2,000+ level regularly, rating to follow?

So I played the Frome Chess Congress 2017. I took one bye and had four games. I won 2 vs opposition rated nearly 2,100 FIDE and drew one vs a 2,000 FIDE. I lost the last one vs a 2,100 FIDE because I played out of my knowledge, instead of sticking to my chess openings going for an attack completely out of my book. Serves me right, for getting to greedy.
Pretty proud of my other games though:
As white with the Bishop’s Opening at I played a lot of “Excellent” moves. It was a difficult game, to see the full game please scroll down.

My other win seems even more impressive to me considering I was playing an opening I don’t know very well (and hate). However, I had previously lost by pushing d5 so I was keen not to repeat that and came up with a funky imbalance that the PC doesn’t mind too much. I think black does have the advantage at one point but once I get it back I don’t let go. Really happy!

The other two games are not that noteworthy, I am sure I made some mistakes and missed winning chances in the draw. The loss, well, don’t play out of your opening repertoire as much as I did. For some reason i went into a Stonewall Dutch… never played it in my life, misplayed it. Blundered, lost.
All in all my two wins should spice up my ELO but one of the players was only ECF rated. Still, this is my third 2,100 scalp out of the last 4 2,100 players I faced. I need to face some more and my ELO will follow. The 2,000 goal seems closer, i just need to maintain this form.
Will try to play some more OTB chess soon so I can update you all on my progress :)
By the way, the only studying I’ve been doing is Chessable, so something must be going right :)

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Spring 2017 Chess Update

It's been a while since I posted so I thought I'd write a quick update to keep this blog alive and well. The main reason I've been so inconsistent is that I have not been able to make much time for learning chess. Instead, I have been busy raising funding for my start-up, Chessable. We just completed our first round of funding, so even though it took a while, we got there!

Regarding learning, despite not having much learning time, I have kept a 100+ day Chessable streak, so I am very sharp on my openings. I have made some time for some endgame studies and am also pretty sharp on tactical patterns. Lately, I've been trying to pick up an improved French repertoire as White, although I have been questioning the reasons why I never decided to learn the book by Chessable co-founder John Bartholomew on the Scandi!

I am playing a congress next weekend, and hopefully, after that and after a few things post-investment settle down I will be able to dedicate more time for improvement. Nonetheless, I feel that at long time controls I am currently under-rated at 1,817, after all at a tournament I played a few months back, I beat a 2,100 FIDE rated player as black. Except, he was only ECF rated, so I didn't gain any rating for that. I hope to continue such performances, and hence my rating should stabilise around 1,900.

2,000 is still my goal this year, although it does seem somewhat remote.

Stay tuned :)

PS.- Here is a game, just because.