Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Reign of Inconsistency

The story of every class players life, right? You play a great game, then you blunder a piece on move 12. You concentrate hard and get an overwhelming position, then one careless move and you're drawing or worse, losing. I've been told I play at 21oo strength. If you looked at some games I've lost recently, you'd conclude I played at 1400 strength. Not surprisingly, my rating splits the difference.

I don't really know how to become more consistent. Practice, I guess. I notice that mood makes a big difference for me: if I don't feel much like playing, I may as well not because I'm probably going to blunder. If I could wave a magic wand and improve anything about my game, it would be consistency. Not least because it's the only part of my game I don't know how to fix through hard work.

As you're probably guessed, I have some up and down games to show. The first is a very nice effort against an expert (the first one I've beaten) played in Boca Raton. The game is an f3 Nimzo-Indian. It's funny that with since I moved up to the premiere division at Boca I've played 3 Nimzo-Indians out of 4 white games. I have always read that the higher your rating goes the more Nimzos you play, but it's funny to find it so true. It seems that after about 1800 there's a big move away from the QGD and the King's Indian to Nimzo/Queen's Indian and Slav systems. While that's not so surprising given the greater complexity involved in playing the latter systems, it's also enjoyable to start seeing a broader range of defenses. It certainly validates all the time I put in studying them when I was ~1600. In any case, here's the game:


Not a perfect game, but I saw a lot and played with energy. I was very happy after this one. Not so much the next game. In this one my opponent also played the opening passively, but I got way too eager to punish him and over-reached. I blame studying tactics. I've spent so much time lately on tactical puzzles that I've started seeing almost every position as a tactical puzzle. While this might help me find some resources that I'd otherwise miss, it also makes it hard to step back and look at the larger picture. Sometimes you have to play with restraint. In this game I saw what looked like a good sac (it wasn't) and once I realized it wasn't good the only option I saw was to sacrifice more material (also incorrectly). When I analyzed the game, I found that a quieter continuation leading to space gains would have given me an overwhelming advantage. I didn't even look at it.

To my opponent's credit, I didn't just lose because I played badly. I set him some hard problems, and he found excellent solutions to all of them. I thought he played extremely well after the opening. Take a look:


That one really hurt. I also blundered a game in Margate last week that I'm not going to show here, because I literally lost a piece to a one move tactic around move 20 (and to a guy I don't like too, which made it even worse).

Moving to study, I'm finding it harder to study openings. They simply aren't as interesting as they used to be. I suppose that's not such a big deal since my opening repertoire is already much better than most players at my rating, but it's odd since the opening has traditionally been my favorite thing to work on. I don't have an explanation, though the pleasure I'm getting studying advanced tactics and endings may have something to do with it. Or it might just be a case of diminishing returns. I mention this because I've been toying with the notion of playing some 1.e4 again, though to do so means a lot of opening work. I'd just rather keep working my way through Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and Forcing Chess Moves. It'll be interesting to see what helps my game more. I certainly do get some significant advantages in the opening. I hope I don't lose that during the process of improving other parts of my game.

One last note: I will be at the US Open in August. 6 day schedule. I'm super pumped. If anyone reading this is going to be there, leave me a comment and we can play some blitz. Peace out.


CHESSX said...

Both games are interesting form a neutrals view point.

Game 1 65...Kd3? not that it made much difference to the outcome.

In game 2 would you ever consider playing 10.d5 to lock the centre?

You almost got back into game 2 but the extra pawns made the difference.
May i show your games to my primary school chess club as your games have good tactics in them.

I wish i could play flowing attacking chess like this.
It never seems to work for me.

Good luck at the US open August
6th is my birthday.

Caeruleum Canis said...

Well, the move I should have played is f5 early in the game to kick the knight, that would have given me the initiative with no risk. If you want to show my games, feel free. They're interesting I think because both sides make many mistakes.

As to playing attacking chess, if you work on solving problems then eventually you just start to see each move as a problem, which helps you look for such continuations. At least, that's how it worked for me. But I did have to solve a lot of problems. Thanks for the comments.