Saturday, May 13, 2017

TPS Report #20

A friend I hadn't seen in a while showed up at the club and congratulated me on my recent successes. I confessed that despite the success, my relationship with chess had been languishing toward ennui again. Having finished the tournament and rated the results, I have to remind myself of the good things.

After the year of no rated tournament games, I jumped into club games with the 2016 Holiday Swiss starting after Halloween. After a good 10.0/12 run in the Club Championship Qualifier, I now have the highest rating of my career at 2135. The statistics seem to be stacking up to say that I have made a quantum leap, but I worry that crowing about good things calls the attention of the karma-balancing forces. Here is one version of the cherry-picked statistics:

Opponent ClassPre-2004 (N=206)
Performance Rating
2004-2013 (N=240)
Performance Rating
2014-2015 (N=89)
Performance Rating
2016-2017 (N=17)
Performance Rating
Class B1877196320841949
Class A1885207820732200

In 2004, I volunteered to do the games bulletin for the master tournament in Reno. I had to annotate somewhere around 60-100 games between players in the rating range of 2000-2600. I think the two things that struck me most were how efficiently the masters moved their pieces in pursuit of their plans and how relentlessly their technique converted advantages into points. 2004 was the year I gave up the Sicilian in favor of the Modern Defense and I think 2004 was also the year that I fell in love with the endgame. In retrospect, my technique improved at beating the players in Class B and in Class A. However, playing against fellow Experts was a misery since I was only an Expert by virtue of a prize rating floor and I often felt outclassed.

In 2014, I gave up the English Opening and the Modern Defense in favor of more open, tactical games. I also started systematically studying and reviewing my opening repertoire with Chess Position Trainer, developing my own opening theory, and familiarizing myself with key positions and themes. I think that was the year that I began to fear Experts less and turn a losing percentage against them (37%) into a winning one (58%).

I don't have an explanation for what happened in the past 7 months, but I seem to more consistently avoid the emotional attitude of "I'll just make this move, see what happens, and hope it turns out right." My job is to know as well as possible what will happen and in as much as I had chances to avoid worse and losing variations, I seem to be capitalizing on a reduction in my mistakes. I'd like to say that some of my recent work with endgame studies has improved my kinetic linking to see further and clearer. Conversely, my opponents seem to be making disastrous mistakes more frequently. Or maybe I have improved at spotting opportunities.

Of course, there is still room for a regression to the mean since the N-number is small for the 17 recently picked cherries. Still, with my tendency to accentuate the negative, it's therapeutic to highlight the positive.

Going forward, I will try to mentally rest for a few weeks until the championship matches. Perhaps I will blog about more interesting and practical endgames that have come up in my games and in those of the masters.