2024 Washington Senior Championship – Game#1 of 5

2024 Washington Senior Championship

The 2024 Washington Senior Championship, held from May 17th to May 19th, marked my first tournament appearance since the previous year’s event, where I scored a modest 3 out of 5 points. Playing competitive chess just once annually is hardly a recipe for improvement, yet I entered with the aim of gauging my current form.

The tournament boasted a formidable field of 24 players, the maximum capacity of the venue. Although several participants would withdraw before the final round, the turnout was one of the largest in recent memory.

2024 Washington Senior Championship - Game#1 of 5
A chess table at the Orlov Chess Academy in Redmond.

My opening encounter pitted me against Phil Long, an underrated 1650-rated player who had defeated me the previous year in a botched King’s Gambit. I had misplayed the opening then, and he had made me pay dearly. This time, we faced a rematch with the same colors. The outcome, however, was nearly identical – I blundered in the opening and found myself lost by the early middlegame. The sole potential compensation lay in my possession of the bishop pair. My hope rested on reaching an open position where my bishops could wreak havoc across the board, potentially salvaging a draw. Here is what transpired…

This was the strangest and most unlikely win of my chess career!

Lessons learned:

  • Never assume your opponent will passively allow you to execute your plans. Qxh4 was a powerful move that deserved thorough analysis on my part. Instead, it never even crossed my mind. Before making a move, analyze all possible options from your opponent’s perspective.
  • If you find yourself in an inferior position, make your opponent think. Despite being down a couple of pawns, resigning the game immediately would have been reasonable. However, I wanted to test whether Phil could convert a win in a position where the path to victory was not obvious.
  • Spend more time on your opponent’s ideas. This advice cannot be overstated. For practice, play games where you dedicate more time to analyzing your opponent’s moves than your own. While it’s impossible to anticipate every possible move, look for thematic ideas that could significantly alter the landscape of the position.

Final thoughts

Maintaining emotional composure is crucial when playing chess. The game demands a high level of concentration, strategic thinking, and the ability to make calculated decisions. Allowing emotions to take over, such as frustration or overconfidence, can lead to impulsive moves and poor decision-making. Yes, I didn’t see Qxh4 and my position was worse but I wasn’t dead lost. It was my failure to focus that cost me additional pawns, which is what almost lost me the game.

By remaining calm and composed, players can objectively evaluate the board position, consider all possible moves, and make rational choices. Emotional stability also helps players maintain focus throughout the game, which can be mentally taxing, especially in longer matches. Ultimately, emotional composure is a key ingredient for success in chess, as it allows players to think clearly, adapt to changing circumstances, and make the most effective moves towards victory.

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