Sunday, August 18, 2013

Playing Against Higher Rated Opponents

There is something intimidating about sitting across the board from someone who has a rating that is 220 rating points higher than yours.  You think that you have no chance of winning, and that they will easily beat you in a simple 20 move game.  But there is something to keep in mind when you play someone so much higher rated than you.  They are the one that has to prove that they can beat you.  You have no pressure on yourself to win.  All you have to do is play your best, and that is all you can do. Just yesterday, I played in a tournament in which I played some guys who were 150-220 points higher than me. The one that was 220 points higher than me wasn't able to prove that he could beat me. We drew. 
Although playing against people that are higher rated than you will result in less wins than being the higher rated player, it is quite beneficial. Playing tougher opponents will improve your own play.  Try not to play too tough of an opponent though.  If you are 1400, don't play a GM and expect to learn all of their secrets.  Maybe play a 1700, in that case.  Eventually, you can work up to the GM, but it's best to stick to players that are only about 300 points higher, at max. Otherwise, they probably will just beat you too easily to learn from it.
If you are playing in a tournament, and you are within 70 points of a rating cutoff, I suggest playing up in the next section.  Sure, you won't win the money, but you'll learn so much more.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaking Even

After some long battles, I have come home from the Cleveland Open.  In round 1, I played Jay Mitchell, a very kind guy from Georgia. He and I talked for the remainder of the tournament, and I learned a lot from him.  I played black, and squeezed a draw out of a lost position.  I was quite happy, as he was rated 1728, and I was 1581. My second round game ended in defeat as I lost to Raymond Dunsworth, a 1744. I was disappointed to lose a game with the Scotch Gambit, but I had it coming to me for blundering a completely drawn position away.  Of course, he had declined my draw offer, so I just decided to go for the win, since I had the bishop against his knight.  It did not turn out as planned. I took my anger out on Ivan Albrecht, a 1698, and slowly but surely cramped him down to put another point next to my name on the score board. I drove home, and got home around 11, caught some sleep, and headed back in the morning for round 4.  After 1. e4 c5, I spent about 5 minutes on move two. Did I want the Grand Prix or the Rossolimo? I ended up going for the Grand Prix, I beat Michael Thain, a 1672, with a massive kingside attack.  The final round would decide if I would win $500. I got into a winning position, and just had to play carefully for the win.  Of course, that did not happen. I blundered away a piece and tasted bitter defeat against Alexander Yaskolko, a 1720.  So, I ended 2.5/5, breaking even.  My new rating is 1631, a 50 point increase.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Importance of Thinking

I am one of those people that believe in the psychology of chess.  I play very aggressive openings and very sharp tactics in order to make my opponent uncomfortable.  With people like me in mind, I have been teaching my students about the importance of thinking in chess.

Thought patterns are, in my opinion, the most important part of chess to improve at an early stage.  Once you have reinforced your thoughts, then it is time to learn the deep theory and understanding of the game.  One cannot learn the importance of the dark-squared bishop in the Dragon variation if one does not understand how to think about the dark squares it controls.

A great way to start preparing your mind is by playing an opponent that is far more advanced than you are.  Have both you and the opponent say exactly what comes to their mind at all points.  Eventually, you will begin to understand the thought process it takes to advance in play.

With a better thought process, you will be able to formulate plans much more efficiently, and you will not fall prey to psychological strikes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Studying Up on the Scotch

On the list today is opening preparation.  As usual, I plan to use the white pieces in my very aggressive Scotch Gambit.  After looking through my go-to openings book, Chess Openings for White, Explained by Lev Alburt, I decided to look over a few of my quick wins with the opening, as well as play it a few times on Gameknot (Check out my link on the right).

Here is a game from my most recent tournament at the Akron Chess Club:

Tournament: Akron Chess Club July (7/20/13)
Reserve Section (Round 2)
White: Mitchell Fabian (1596)
Black: Eric Fleet (1675)
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
4. Bc4
I opt to give up a pawn in order to get a temp and gather initiative.
4... Nf6
5. e5 Qe7?
Qe7 is a mistake in calculation.  The only true good move was 5... d5
6. 0-0 Qc5
Not 6... Qxe5??, which fails to 7. Re1!
7. Bxf7+
Much better, in hindsight, would have been 7. exf6! because the queen cannot take the bishop due to Re1+, followed by Ng5, and b3, winning the queen that cannot move due to the threat of Nxf7#.
7... Kxf7
8. Ng5+ Kg6??
9. Qd3+
Black resigns, as mate is impossible to escape.

While not every game goes as well as this, I love the sharp tactical play that unfolds when using the Scotch Gambit.

Check back tomorrow for more fun chess as I prepare for the Cleveland Open!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Preparing for the Cleveland Open

Hello, my fellow chess enthusiasts! This is my first chess blog post.  I am getting ready to play in the Cleveland Open in only 1 week!! I am working on my tactics and openings right now, and it is quite fun at the same time. I'm excited, and hoping to do well in the U1800 section.

In order to prepare, I am looking through some of my past games.  Here is round four from the 2013 CSCL Championships:
White: Mitch Fabian (1544)
Black: Ryan Tsai (1581)
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6
Ryan and I have played many games, and the Rossolimo Sicilian comes up quite often.
4. e5
I decide right away to get aggressive and dislodge his knight.
4... Nd5
5. c4
Once more attacking the knight and forcing it to move.
5... Ndb4
6. d3
The point of moving d3 here is to stop the knight from getting into the hole on d3.
6... Qa5
7. 0-0 g6
8. Bd2
Much better is the move 8. a3! followed by a later Bd2, with better timing.
8... Qc7
9. Bc3 a6
10. Ba4 e6?
A mistake that allows for:
11. a3! b5
12. cxb5 axb5
13. Bxb5 Nd5
14. Bxc6 Qxc6
15. Bd2?
Gives up initiative for the sake of keeping the bishop.
15... Ba6
16. Bg5 Be7?
Giving up the dark-squared bishop creates many holes that white will gladly exploit.
17. Bxe7 Nxe7
18. Nc3
Finally finishing development of the minor pieces.
18... Qb7
19. Qd2 Rb8
20. Rab1 Nd5
21. Ne4!
Keeping the knight is very important to exposing black's structural weaknesses. The knight is now eying many holes from its new post.
21... 0-0
22. Nf6+ Kg7
23. Ng4 Kh8
24. Qh6 d6??
The saving moves were either 24... f6 or 24... f5
25. Nf6+!
Black resigns

As I continue to practice, I will continue to make updates. Thank you!