At last, the payoff

Okay. As noted, this weekend was the Greater Boston Open chess tournament. In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, I won my first three games, beating players rated 2100, 2250 and 2330. Unfortunately, playing for first place in the fourth and final round, I got drubbed by Esther Epstein (2165) so I wind up either second or tied for second.

Well, final round aside, that’s still a fantastic tournament for me. Here are my chess improvement takeaways.

1. Being lucky doesn’t hurt. Chris Chase was slowly strangling me and then made an oversight leading to instant CML. (Catastrophic Material Loss.)

2. As a general rule, you’re going to score well in familiar positions and poorly in unfamilar positions. Nothing magic there. So learn new positions. If you’re old and you have a day job, this learning process will be slow, but that’s okay. I am way more familiar with my Black openings these days, and whaddya know, I’m winning with Black.

3. Hard work pays off, eventually. You just don’t know when it’ll be. Might take years. Gotta keep plugging. My rating could plummet next time I play – doesn’t matter, I’ve proven to myself that I’ve still got some upside left.


19 thoughts on “At last, the payoff

  1. Interesting, I used to win more with black (OTB). In my correspondence games, I’ve been doing well with both colors. Since CCLA started their webserver series (using ICCF webserver), I have the following record (one game per opponent):

    1st series: complete, 6 opponents, 4 wins, 2 drawa, 0 losses
    2nd series: in progress, 6 opponents, 3 wins, 0 draws, 1 loss, 2 in play
    3rd series: in progress, 4 opponents
    4th series: just started, 6 opponents

    In the 1st series, my draws were with Black where I got into very unfamiliar territory in a Semi-Slav. This supports your “unfamiliar territory” theory.

    In the second series, my only loss was with Black where I made a tactical blunder, and I could see a long tortuous game ahead, so I resigned “early”. My remaining games are one with Black, one with White, good position in both.

    In the others, things are progressing well.

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  2. most impressive. it must feel good not only winning, but against such ++ elo! bravo! warmly, dk

  3. Nice job D-Slay!!

    I’ll be back at the board soon to tune up for USATE! Hopefully I can enjoy some success after all those “free lessons” sitting across from Larry Christiansen trying to figure out what he’ll play next. I’m getting pretty good at anticipating some of his “surprising” moves; hopefully that will translate to my own games.

    Yes, enlighten us with games please.


  4. Thanks all.

    Addenda to post:

    4. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve had an IM stone-cold drop a piece against me. This means you always have a chance, even when your opponent is a much better player. It also means there’s no sense kicking yourself when YOU make a mistake.

    5. Don’t play kids. I lucked out & played no kids this weekend. Little piranhas.

    Games – um, frankly torn. Not wild about putting my more theoretical openings out in view, at least until I’ve replaced them so future opponents will be researching the wrong things. :) Might post some selected positions later.

  5. Derek, you killer.

    1. Korchnoi was quoted in an interview (I think it was with Sosonko in one of Genna’s three books) that he never minds revealing his novelties. Such altruism forced him to constantly reinvent, remain fresh.

    2. Well, duh. You mean there’s a theory out there that says you will NOT get better of you learn new positions? :)

    3. Yes, little underrated piranhas. There is a much better chance, statistically, of that 12 y/o being underrated than your average adult.

  6. Hey Howard –

    1. Yeah. Kortchnoi HAD NO OTHER JOB.

    2. Fair point, but chess learning starts off general (tactical themes, positional themes) and I guess that I am finding less value now studying general things. As opposed to really digging into a particular kind of position out of a particular opening.

    3. Of course. If you must play them, do it very late at night & try to run them way past their bedtimes. It’s the only hope.

  7. I’m not sure what 12-year olds you are playing, but the ones I have seen around here seem no more or less dangerous than similarly-rated adults. The kids have a much higher ceiling than the adults, of course, but I think the USCF rating system is generally pretty good at capturing a player’s ability/performance regardless of age. This is especially true nowadays when there aren’t 2 months between published rating reports. My recent experience has pretty been what you see rating-wise is pretty much what you get OTB.

  8. Greg – interesting point about the more frequent rating updates.

    I still see some lag, though — take the Bennet Pellows Tour of Destruction through MCC some months back, tearing up masters — that you’ll get with youngsters and only very rarely with oldsters.

    As I sat down to play my last GBO game Kevin Ma (a kid with whom I’ve never spoken before) suddenly said “Good luck!” and then asked me the question that tells you his frame of reference: “What’s your UNOFFICIAL rating?!” Presumably meaning he’s accustomed to some gap between rating and actual strength.

  9. Derek — You mean, kind of like the Derek Slater Tour of Destruction through the GBO? ;) I’ve seen it happen with kids and adults alike….

    I think Kevin’s comment could be interpreted as you put it, but my take was that he understands that there’s typically a gap between one’s official rating (which is stuck in that same two-month cycle as in the old days) and one’s unofficial rating (which is updated close to real-time on the internet). A player who is improving rapidly tends to be one who is also playing fairly regularly — that improvement should be captured in the “unofficial” rating available on the internet if not in the “official” rating.

  10. Kids….meh… little rating sap sucking buggers.

    I get the pleasure of humility often with a 10 year old ( my nemisis … who i call Little Cindy Lou Who) She’s also in the top 10 for her age group.

    The other trick is I blunder almost on purpose and give them that false confidence and never resign unitl they say check mate at midnight…. occasionally i get a draw by repetition or offer one as they yawn.

  11. This topic holds special interest to me because I am operating under the delusion that I can actually become a better player now, at age 36, than I was when I was age 16 and 100 points higher rated than I am today. Having played both kids and adults when I myself was a kid and now as an adult, I can say that I have noticed little, if any, difference in the playing strength of kids and similarly-rated adults. I do agree with Derek that kids are more likely than adults to show a sudden and dramatic upward surge in playing strength. But unless you happen to catch such a player right at the start of the surge (i.e. before the USCF internet-posted ratings can catch up), I think that a 2050 player is a 2050 player regardless of age.

  12. Greg – A better player! Give it up man! You’re hosed!

    Kidding. I’ve got the same delusion and I’m 12% older than you are. Your BCC results obviously offer hope.

    George – Yah. I sacrificed a piece against your friend there and for several moves I kept thinking of myself as the victim in the next Chess Horizons headline….

  13. Thanks, Derek. There is definitely hope. I played my first four games at BCC at what I would estimate is about 2300 strength. I played my most recent four games there at about 1900 strength. That averages out to right around my current rating. To improve, I will obviously need to become much more consistent. The only way I will become more consistent is by riding through the down stretches. I am willing to do that now, which itself gives me hope. In the old days, I had neither the dedication nor the interest in chess to ride through the rough spots — back then, just one bad tournament was enough to send me on an extended hiatus from the game.

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