I didn't remember what year the tournament was, but I found it. I got a draw against soon to be Grandmaster Igor Ivanov and came in second.
This was a time when I felt like studying tactics was really helping me. Just looking at my rating progress, I went from 1800 even to 1927 in just 5 months, but it would take another 9.5 years before I would hit 2000!
"There is an equal position on the board, and the opponent thinks: this is dead drawn. I can play almost anything and there is nothing he can do. But Magnus plays on, seeking complications, setting up threats. He is narrowing the margin required to hold the draw. Soon his opponent is thinking: why is he still playing – I can hold a draw with any of these three moves. Then: I can hold with this move and with this move. And then: I still have one clear way to hold a draw. And under the strain of constantly having to solve deep and complex problems, more often than not the opponent will crack. Magnus wins not because it was in the position, he wins because he is Magnus."
I have been playing chess seriously for 42 years, so in the 2016 Open Chess Championship when I play an 8 year old who plays almost as well as me, I get nervous. I am also amazed. I was playing 8 year old Luke Ye from Missouri.
There are some gaps in my chess opening knowledge, because chess is nearly infinite, and you can't know everything. Earlier in the week I tried to fix one of my gaps in my knowledge by studying a game played by world champion Magnus Carlsen in the French Defense. When I played the kid, he followed the world champion game closely, which by itself made me nervous, but he also started an attack against my kingside sooner than I expected. I was not quite prepared for this. Before the game I had asked Luke's dad if the kid had coaching, which he had, which means that some master or Grandmaster had taught him to play a certain way against the French Defense. I had the sense that the kid was following some sort of script by wrote, where he had been coached that if you put your pieces on specific squares then you can checkmate your opponent. Around move 15 he started an attack against my kingside and I spent over 20 moves defending. The kid was relentless. He just kept pursuing the idea of checkmating me on the kingside, somewhat to his detriment because it allowed me to be stronger on the queenside. I had my own plan, which took a long time to implement, but my plan was to weaken his pawn structure and trade the pieces down to an even king and rook endgame that was technically winning for me, which is what happened. I had figured that no matter how strong this prodigy might be, he wasn't going to be as strong as me in the endgame.
The two of us had spent spent about 75 minutes each on the first 25 moves. This is about the point that I felt that the game was turning in my favor, so I was able to move more quickly after that.
My opponent's 37nth move was a disaster. When I saw him reach for the pawn I thought "Don't do it!". He played such a good game up to that point, I didn't want to see him throw it all away on one bad move. I was winning anyway, but there was still a little bit of fight left in the game that would have been fun to play out. Instead he made a mistake and the game ended very quickly after that.
It is nice to win a game after a couple of tough losses. I now have 4.5 out of 8. At the very least I will finish the tournament with 4.5 out of 9. I don't think that the last round pairings will be kind to me; I will most likely play someone stronger than me, but I will give it my best effort. It would be very nice to get a draw or a win which would put me over 50%.
This is subtle, but I like subtlety. It is not a very hard position, but initially I had a hard time wrapping my head around why one move is better than the other. However, it is all about tempos and weak pawns.
When I played this endgame, I did not understand the subtleties involved. The computer analysis was telling me that 51. Ke3 was much stronger than the move I made, but at first I had no clue as to why it would have been stronger.
After diving deeper into this, it became clear that White needed to prevent 51... g5+ and 52.... Kg7 with tempo. Also, it is easier for White to win this game if he can roll his pawns with f4 and e5, because in some positions the Black king cannot let himself get exposed to Rf8+ and the Black rook is tied down to stopping the b7 pawn.
I don't know if these ideas are common sense or not. I was playing a speed game and I did not pick up on them.
In the analysis I don't show every possible variation nor do I explain every move, but I do show the above mentioned ideas.
In round 6 I had a draw against my old friend Kingsbishop. I have played him many times on both chess.com and ICC USCF Online rated tournaments. Usually I do well against him, so I might have missed something.
Surprise first place finish in the USCF Online rated ICC tournament. I didn't expect to get first because "Tthius" who was tied with me for first beat the guy who beat me, which was "tigeriz." However, I won the tournament on tie breaks.
Anyhow, in the following game I felt like I played in a sophisticated manner against an "Over The Board" 2100+ player. I hope that computer analysis doesn't poke holes in the game, although it probably will. At one point I offered to give up two rooks for a queen because I thought that I could control some important squares afterwards. My opponent didn't go for it, but offered to trade major pieces. Afterwards my plan was to restrict his minor pieces as much as possible. Eventually he won a piece at the expense of a couple of pawns, but this was apparently a mistake because my extra pawns overwhelmed his king.
The bottom line is that I had a plan, and be it good or bad it worked. Few of us can have a perfect plan, especially at these rapid time controls, so it is important just to have a plan period.
I'm not sure how many people would appreciate the subtlety of this position. This is from an online game where I got a draw, but analysis shows that Black can slowly make progress until he wins. It is not possible for me to explore every possible continuation, but I show a couple of lines where Black slowly improves his position until White collapses. It is actually not that difficult, but hard to figure out in a rapid time control.