Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting Back to Chess

So I've started playing again. I never really stopped studying or playing online, but I was a bit hesitant about returning to rated play, just because the US Open went so badly. As it turns out, I was over thinking it. I've found that the key for me is to be as relaxed about the result as possible and not to take the game too seriously.

That can be very hard, as we all know. To be good at chess requires commitment, and it's difficult to care about something enough to work hard at it while at the same time being unconcerned about short term results. I certainly haven't mastered that mental skill, but I'm trying. It helps to play in club tournies and avoid the big weekenders. There is so much more stress playing all those games in a row, plus the steep entry fees demand that you take it very seriously if you're playing at all. So I don't know if I'll ever play a big individual event again. Team events still sound like fun, but the major national tournaments are just too much investment, both monetary and mentally. Chess is my hobbie, and while it's a great hobby it's a horrible obsession because it's so unforgiving.

I have been enjoying chess in other ways lately. I've been teaching elementary kids, and that's been fun. Seeing how happy there are when they find the right move or watching the solution to a problem dawn on them is really rewarding. I'm going to have to stop teaching soon however as I'm about to start a job (finally, after all these months). I think getting a (good) job has actually been very beneficial to my attitude about chess as it's reaffirmed that chess is secondary for me, which has helped me to take it less seriously. In any case, I played my first serious game in about a month last night and it was very interesting.

My opponent was a guy I've played once before, and I've looked at his games a lot so I know his style and repertoire well. It's fair to say that he's an attacker to a fault, and I knew that if he got an initiative he could be dangerous despite our rating difference. Our previous game was in the Grand Prix Sicilian, and while that ended in a draw I was under more pressure than I liked. That game actually caused me to change my repertoire versus the Grand Prix, and I was happy to have a chance to play my new line. Joel knew that I had a new system as we're friendly and have discussed the opening several times, so he was a bit worried about playing his normal stuff. As a result he made a mistake and played something very offbeat which I imagine he'd never played before.

Look: when you're playing a higher rated player, you should just play your normal lines. At least you'll understand the position. If you play offbeat junk lines, then neither one of you will be familiar with the position and you're likely to get outplayed. If you put me and anyone 300 points lower than me in a position neither one of us have ever seen before, I'm usually going to win. I'll simply out calculate him, plus since my knowledge is broader than most 1600 players there's a great chance that any random position will be closer to something I know than something he knows. By playing a weird opening, Joel took away a lot his first move advantage because he no longer had the chance to steer the game into familiar (to him) channels. When you look at the game you'll see what I mean.

That said, it was a very sharp and entertaining game in which both sides took risks to try and seize the initiative. I went from winning by a lot to winning by a little as Joel found a series of accurate defensive moves, and eventually he obtained a drawn position. Up until that point he had played very well, way above his level, but then two consecutive endgame blunders left him with no chances to save the game. The finish of this one is also pretty cute as it appears near the end that white may have drawing chances, but instead he loses by one tempo. Here's the game:


Neat game, huh? It was a nice return to playing, and I'm looking forward to playing this Friday as well. Two games a week in club play is plenty for me, and I still feel like I'm improving though I imagine that will slow down now that I'll be working and won't have 2-3 hours a day to devote to chess. Hopefully I'll be able to study positions on my lunch break. I guess we'll see.


CHESSX said...

A very good game,nice attacking play.
Glad you are back,good luck in your club games.
Hope all goes well with your job.

PetrS said...

I like the game and its style. Both of you were fighting for the initiative.
I have to admit I have never seen 3.e5

Caeruleum Canis said...

Thanks for the comments. It was actually a fascinating game to play just because it was a sharp, unusual position. After 3.e5, Fritz 10 says we're equal, which is why you've never seen it. The pawn simply can't be supported and so white will lose his central position. Very easy for black to play as well.

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