May 24 will mark the second anniversary of my dedicated attempts to improve at chess, but I noticed over the holiday season that I have yet to participate in a time-honored tradition enjoyed by countless chess enthusiasts around the world: a tournament. I have passed on several opportunities to play in local tournaments with the San Antonio Chess Club and playing with that group is the closest I have come to developing a 2016 New Year’s Resolution. Earlier this week I was about to play a 15-minute slow game on Chess.com when I noticed that a tournament for the same time control was starting within 10 minutes. I joined the tournament and spent the next 2 and 1/2 hours playing in my first chess tournament! I was skeptical of the online tournament format but was pleasantly surprised by the energy of the players and the fierceness of the competition. I finished 2nd overall with a 4/5 score. The loss was disappointing but it strengthened my resolve to play through.
I was thrilled to see that many of the games played in this little tournament were exceptional. Games where White or Black was winning with an enormous amount of material and excellent positional play were turned upside down with smart tactics and devastating blunders. It was during the first round as I watched a game in progress where Black was steamrolling his opponent until the chess gods intervened…
Suffice to say that all of the kibitzers in the room were excited about this game and I felt a little nervous knowing that a player like tg-13 was in the mix and able to turn the tables on a dime. I copied down the ID number for the game and stored it in a text file called Never Say Die so that I could come back post-tournament and write this entry. Unfortunately the psychological effect of that game caused more harm than good as I faced tg-13 in the second round and was lured into an early trap, lost my Queen, and the game soon afterwards. The next exceptional game came in the second round.
Black was in control of the game but missing a simple tactic cost him bigtime. It was fun to watch magab001 in his other games because he played some very complicated and nailbiting positions. I had planned not to annotate any of my own games from the tournament but the next game was too good to pass up.
I chose to annotate that game mostly because of 26.Nb6 because it was a high-stakes gamble that paid off in dividends. This was in the third round immediately following my earlier defeat so it helped to boost my confidence and carry me on to the end. The final game I want to show was played near the end of the tournament around the time that my eyelids were growing heavy and the fight for the top three positions had come down to the wire. It features magab001 from the one of the earlier annotated games.
So, what’s the verdict on this tournament and the whole of chess tournaments on the site? I found the Chess.com tournament experience to be much more pleasant than I had expected. The kibitzing with other participants was a lot of fun and it took a lot of the emphasis away from ELOs and put all emphasis on individual performance. A 900 ELO player could defeat a 1200 ELO player and vice versa, so tournaments on Chess.com are an excellent way to wade into the world of competitive chess. Besides, it is free to enter these tournaments and there are even some cool trophies to display on your Chess.com profile page.
Final Tournament Standings