This weekend I played in the Minnesota Class Championships in the Class D section (USCF ratings from 1200-1399). We had a solid 14 people compete in our class, with a total of 70 people for the entire tournament.
As it states in the link, we played at the Radisson Hotel Conference Center in Plymouth. I did not play in the Northern Open, so this was my first tournament here, but it was my second time in the Minnesota Class Championship. I played last year with an anemic 2-3-0 finish. I enjoyed the games I played last year, but I could tell that I have grown much in my chess since last December.
The pacing for the class C, D, and E players is fairly brisk on the first day. We play three games, each with a 90 minute time control. I don't think that is a bad time control, but it is still fast. (Chess at my level can be a bit like two people scrapping. The chess is far from perfect, but there is a lot of energy in our games. Few draws!)
So Saturday was definitely that kind of chess. I summarized it as this:
Game 1) I won a losing game. My opponent played a solidly good game; I felt he had the tempo going in his favor most of the time, and I had to play defensively as White. However, he made a blunder that gave me the win.
Game 2) I lost a winning game with an excellent opening, mostly good middle game, but left the one weakness in my position unminded in the late middle game, and I overextended my attack and my opponent got in the necessary counterpunches for the win in the endgame.
Game 3) My opponent and I had a good even opening coming out of the Scotch. I was White, and by early middle game a pair of Pawns and both pairs of Knights were off the board. I created a weakness in my opponent's position that later that cost him a Rook, or else mate.
So, by the end of Saturday evening, I felt okay, happy with my 2-1 start, but didn't feel like I played my best chess. I didn't play badly, but three rounds in a day can be quite exhausting. I need to balance my level of energy and eat well without eating too much, I need to keep my nervous energy to a moderate level, despite how intense the games are, and I most of all need to keep focused. If I played in a tournament like this every month, I would have no problem with the regimen here, but I only play two or three of these events per year, so I forget those mental lessons.
Anyhow, Sunday morning was interesting. I didn't have to get up early and get to the site for registration like I did on Saturday, so I had time to eat a good breakfast and think through the last day and what was to come today. I haven't had this good a start in any tournament, so I was in unfamiliar emotional territory. "I actually have a chance to win this, if I'm paired up on the higher boards," I thought on my drive in. Also, on Sunday we have only two games, each with a time control of two hours.
When the tournament director posted the round four pairings, I was delighted! I was on board 2, playing an opponent who had two wins and a bye for the third round. Of course I was a bit nervous, but it felt great playing!
I played Black against my opponent's 1. e4. I played my Caro-Kann and had a good opening rich with many interesting variations. I gave up a Pawn in the early middle game, but I earned that Pawn back with an exchange sacrifice of my Rook for his strong Knight and a Pawn. I had two good Knights and a powerfully-placed Queen that more than compensated for the Rook. It was a delicious attack that eventually led to my opponent's resignation.
Lunch in between rounds was nice. I went out with one of my friends who was also on the top board for his section. We talked chess over a good lunch at the Tea House Chinese Restaurant. I got back about fifteen minutes before the last round, and I was so excited to be sitting at the first board for my section! This was a first for me, and I felt honored just to make it so far!
I was now the top player with three points, 3-1-0, ready to play the top overall player with a perfect score of 4-0-0. I'll call this student, "Ironman" for playing such great chess. I didn't get to watch him play very much, since I was concentrating on my own games, but I took notice during my fourth round game in case I would have to play him. He played a solid game and had great focus.
I sat down a couple of minutes before 2:30 to set up the set and the clock. Once I had myself set with scoresheet, iPod ready to play the Hydra show I went to last year, I shook my opponent's hand and wished for us both to play a good game.
I had Black for the second time in a row. I played the Caro-Kann again, but this time we didn't play the advanced, but instead it was the classical 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6. This was the start of a very exciting game...
Tags: chess, chess tournament, Minnesota