An up and down tournament

At a recent tournament, I played in two sections; U140 (1750) and U160 (1900). There were five rounds in each section. In one I scored 1.5/5 and in the other 2.5/5. With my rating of 121 (1608) you might think you know which score came from which section…

But no, I played mediocre to outright poor chess in the U140 section (including the worst game I have played OTB to date), and okay, but not great chess in the U160 section. My performance rating for the two sections differed by 500 points!

There were many lessons from this experience, the key ones being:

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  • Players in the 1700-1850 range are better than me, but not much better. With (much) better consistency and more skills, I am fairly confident I can get to that rating range.
  • Players in the 1300-1500 range are worse than me, but not much worse. I need to play against them using the same approach I use against higher rated players. And I need to be much more consistent in the quality of my play.
  • There were themes across the ten games which made me rethink my study plan. I have not changed it drastically, but have made tweaks aimed at addressing my weakest points. More on this in the next post…

5 thoughts on “An up and down tournament

  • 14th August 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve been wondering whether you’ve considered Michael de la Maza’s method that he explains in “Rapid Chess Improvement”, which is the only book I know of designed specifically for old guys like you and me who wake up one day with the crazy idea of mastering chess. His method is all tactics all the time for four months. He allegedly used the method himself to gain “400 [elo] points in 400 days”. He then gained 300 points the next year after that. So in less than two years he went from roughly 1300 to 2000+ (this fact, at least, can be verified by looking up his tournament history on the USCF website–clearly something happened to the guy!)

    I’ve been following your study plan–tactics (mostly “Predator” + puzzles), endgames (various books), and openings/strategy (through Tiger Chess), along with regular but not frequent play–for a while now. It’s leading to slow but steady improvement. But I notice that when I plow through a ton of tactics puzzles in a short time, my online play improves quite a bit (I don’t have access like you to a weekly OTB game, so I rely on slow online games), and when I do tactics at a leisurely pace, my play weakens. This little bit of anecdotal experience makes me wonder whether a tactics kickstart of the sort de la Maza explains might have some merit.

    The internet is full of skeptics and haters of de la Maza’s method. But in the end, it seems to me he is just implementing something that every chess guru has always said: “chess is 99% tactics”.
    Curious what you think… I’m considering giving my next few months over to his method to see what happens at my next OTB tournament…

    • 14th August 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Hi Peter

      Tactics are important (although I don’t believe it is 99% of chess) and that is why I study it every day. I agree it is a good idea to repeat basic tactical patterns to get them ingrained into your mind to ensure near instant recognition of the tactic, or the potential to set up the tactic, OTB. That is why I use Chessimo. I believe there should be a stretch challenge too. That is why I do standard tactics on ChessTempo.

      But chess just is not so simple that it can be conquered with one simple method. If this method worked, it would have been far more widely publicised, with far more overt, verifiable success stories. Try and find other adults who went from around 1150 to around 2050 in three years; it will be a long and difficult search.

      I don’t plan to get into a debate about this (I’d rather study tactics!), but some food for thought:
      – Would you stop playing chess if you reached 2050 after only 3 years?
      A review by Silman
      – An article by blogger empricalrabbit
      A review and a follow up review on
      – And as they say on the News: “And finally, …” did you ever see White Men Can’t Jump?

      • 15th August 2017 at 6:18 pm

        Wow! I had read the Silman review, but I had never read the empiricalrabbit piece and I had never thought of de la Maza as a chess hustler! Funny! I guess I still think his method could work, but it might just work for him and a few other privileged people. A fitting subtitle to “Rapid Chess Improvement” would be: “How I Easily Gained Chess Expertise with Nothing More than a PhD in Computer Science from MIT, 2000 Hours of Intense Chess Study, and 50 Weekend Tournaments!!!”

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