Here I conclude my coverage of my first chess tournament, the 1980 Michigan Open (Reserve Section), achieving my first provisional USCF rating of 1546 after scoring 3.5/7.0 points. I also won a trophy for 2nd place Unrated in the Reserve Section (my father, also playing in his first tournament, won the trophy for 1st place Unrated in the Reserve Section). It was a great way to start my chess tournament life!
My goal in analyzing the games of my first tournament has been to begin exploring the development of a new chess tournament competitor (my young self of 1980) and examine common patterns of thoughts and behavior. I will continue further to track the evolution of my skill and style through analysis of further tournaments from 1980 and 1981.
In my round 7 game, as Black I faced the Ruy Lopez (against White rated around USCF 1600), and as in round 3, did not know what I was doing and quickly gave up the center. My opponent did not know what he was doing either and we traded quickly into an endgame. As with many other endgames I played in this tournament, positions that are clearly draws at a higher level of play nevertheless contained imbalances and opportunities for going astray, and I played poorly, deliberately trading into what I should have known was a lost King and Pawn ending.
Summary of tournament
Move numbers after I was out of any theoretical knowledge:
- 1 (Bird’s Opening as Black)
- 5 (Petroff Defense as White)
- 9 (Closed Ruy Lopez as Black)
- 5 (Exchange Ruy Lopez as Black)
- 4 (Open Sicilian as White)
- 6 (Philidor’s Defense as White)
- 9 (Closed Ruy Lopez as Black)
Nobody lost a game straight out of the opening (except for the Open Sicilian where I won quickly as White), although poor positions of course arose. We could have used a better understanding and use of principles (such as development and central control) to improve beyond this 1500 level of play.
- I did not understand the value of the Bishop pair, or that Knight on the rim is dim, and got destroyed on the King side.
- A lot of piece trades. My opponent did not understand the value of the Bishop pair.
- Highlighted the importance of using Pawn breaks.
- My opponent should have opened the position because of my poor opening development, but instead closed it, allowing me to consolidate and in return attack his King with a Pawn storm.
- (I won the game out of the opening because my opponent ignored development and created holes.)
- A lot of piece trades. I did not understand the weakness of my isolated Pawn and lost it.
- A lot of piece trades. I did not understand the weakness of my opponent’s isolated Pawn and dissolved it instead of attacking it.
5 of 7 games went all the way to an endgame. Many errors occurred, so the lesson is that there is much to be gained from studying the endgame. In addition, knowing what endgames are advantageous would have allowed me to make better decisions in the middlegame (regarding Pawn structures and Bishop vs. Knight). I feel that in the absence of clear attacks against the King, middlegame play often tend to be aimless simplification at the 1500 level. At top levels of chess, one plays openings with a goal toward certain kinds of endgames. Club level players who are no longer hanging material all the time and want to improve should also start to think this way.
- (I lost in the middlegame.)
- I had the Bishop pair advantage but squandered it. Comedy of errors resulted in my winning because my opponent did not realize the King and Pawn ending was lost for him.
- Draw: I dawdled and simplified in an endgame I could have won.
- Draw: I simplified too much, then my opponent allowed a won King and Pawn ending but I did not know it was won for me.
- (I won in the opening.)
- Draw: one Pawn down, but Bishop vs. Knight; comedy of errors, but eventually I won a Pawn back and simplified to a draw.
- I mistakenly simplified repeatedly, resulting in a lost and King and Pawn ending.
The complete annotated game