Friday, February 27, 2009

Groundhog Round-Up!

As my quest for chess perfection continues forward; OK, as my quest for improved play moves forward, this month's Groundhog Day Swiss tournament had its share of ups and downs.

To start with some basic facts; the section I signed into was the U1600 with a field of 13 players ranging from low 1200 ratings to upper 1500's. On the wall chart, I was the 5th highest ranked player in our section with a rating of 1471. Overall, the turnout for this tournament was on the low end and I'd say that the field competition was moderate in our section.

Round 1: Smith(1471) vs. Cermak(1297)
This game was a rather convincing win for me. I played a gambit opening that my opponent had never seen before. Needless to say, he spent the entire game on the defensive and quickly fell short on material. We went over the game afterwards and I'm sure he'll feel a little more comfortable in the future against the sort of gambit I played.

I didn't annotate this game publicly. However, I was quite pleased with Fritz's analysis of my play -- I played quite accurate.

Round 2: Thompson(1477) vs. Smith(1471)
It would appear that Doug Thompson and myself have been joined at the hip in recent tournaments. In this game I played the Sicilian Defense in response to Doug's 1.e4 - 3.c3 opening. Because I had already just blog-annotated a game played between us in an earlier match, I decided not to blog another game between us.

Our game was interesting for a while, but things turned pretty bad for Doug later in the game. He was feeling a whole lot of heat coming down on his Monarch and his pieces were just not properly aligned to meet the onslaught. This was another solid win in my column.

So, after two rounds I scored two solid victories in comfortable fashion and according to Fritz, my play was pretty accurate in both those games. From an improvement perspective, I've been very happy with recent tournament play. My positional awareness and understanding has dramatically improved; strategic and tactical comprehension greatly increased as well. But, most importantly, I had ridden myself of some very nasty habits. Especially the one habit where I use to "exchange for the sake of exchanging".

I was looking forward to round three to test my skill against a stronger player.

Round 3: Smith(1471) vs. Harrington(1539)
In this game I played the same gambit opening I played in round 1 with succinct success. Again, my opponent was unfamiliar with the opening I sprung on him and by move 9 he was down a piece and on a fast track to being mated.

After the game, I was left with a funny thought. Since my return to tournament chess after a 3 month hiatus, my last 5 wins were downright convincing...not a lot of sweat and no end games to knuckle out. Had my play improved that much as a result of professional instruction, time and study? I would like to think so, and rested my thoughts on the idea that I had a chance to sweep the section with 4 wins by the end of the final round.

But alas, as life's funny ironies come into play, I am stricken with the flu and was bacterially forced to call in for a bye on the final round! As it turns out, I still placed 1st, just had to share it with two other people.

Rating Watch: 1553