My return to tournament chess was a bit of last minute decision – the tournament was less than two weeks away. Normally, I prefer a minimum of four weeks to prepare for such an event, but it was a small tournament so I decided to jump in.
The road to chess improvement begins with playing more classical chess. How many times have I said that in this blog? After a four-year hiatus, I decided to register for a five-round swiss tournament in Redmond, WA. The time controls are G90 + 30 sec increment.
My first game was with FM John Readey. If the name sounds familiar, it should. I play him weekly in the Crossroads Open tournament series I run on Lichess. My overall blitz score against him is -85 (40 points out of 125 games). Classical chess is different though. Can I adjust my style to play slower and more accurately? Let’s see.
Time management. A return to tournament chess means knowing how to budget your time during a tournament game is difficult. This is something I have to get used to. Looking back, I needed to spend more time in key moments. But what are those moments? They are the handful of moves that give us the most pause. For example, calculating 11…h6 was important enough to have invested at least ten to fifteen minutes. Had I done that, the position would have remained roughly equal.
Opening thematic. When a move is said to be thematic, it means that it is critical to the spirit of the opening. For example, in the Closed Sicilian, the moves Nc3 and Bb5 are thematic because the represent the overall plan of the opening.
in this game, the move d4 is thematic. Every book on the Tarrasch explains that Black must always be ready to play this move to gain space and prevent counterplay. Whatever opening you play, always remember what the critical moves are!
Conclusion to my return to tournament chess
Round one was a cold shower for me. I had trouble calculating and visualizing the board. In 2018, I played in the Washington Open and got 4 out of 6 with only a single loss. In that tournament I had a lot of lead to prepare – I reviewed games, studied tactics, endgames and anything else I could get my hands on.
For my return to tournament chess, I relied on my general chess study habits that were simply not enough to prepare me for this event. Playing in tournaments requires a commitment to study and prepare. That means lots of time reviewing your openings, calculating tactics and planning for a lot of stubborn resistance from your opponent.