August was a month of anticipation. Several major projects at work were due at the end of August and they created a great deal of stress and anxiety for me and for my family. Additionally, the Sinquefield Cup began at the end of the month and was a source of anticipation throughout the month. I went into following the tournament with the intention of publishing daily tournament recaps but life’s demands eventually took priority and I was unable to publish the final recaps leading up to Levon Aronian’s victory.

Now that September is here and August is a distant memory, reflecting on it has really shown me what an incredible roller coaster ride it was. The life challenges, victories, and losses were physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausting. Unfortunately, this is reflected prevalently in the quality of my chess games and the results of my online play throughout the month. Throughout the month of August I played 27 games on and only won 9 of them. The other 18 losses were incredibly frustrating because they were not hard fought victories like some of my previous games. Instead, these were games that suffered from basic tactical blunders and obviously reflect the fact that something was distracting me during gameplay.

The game above is a perfect example of the struggles I have experienced on the board this month. I knew that 5…Nxf3+?? was a terrible move and after the Knight was captured by 6.Qxf3!, my reactionary move 6…e5?? was made almost immediately. If I had taken a moment to consider the position and identify the absurdly simple defense 6…e6!, there is no promise that I would have won the game, but could have definitely given myself a better chance than losing in an 8-move checkmate.

In this game, 8.Qxf7+! is the move that caused me the most pain. As with the previous example, I once again find myself guilty of ignoring basic tactical principles and reacting to my opponent’s moves before developing and executing a clear plan of my own. The response is a forced move, but 12.Qxe5 is not. Yet, I became so frustrated with the quick loss of material and decided to give up. As August entered into its 3rd week especially, right before the Sinquefield Cup, I struggled the most. Games like this became the norm and it became increasingly difficult to play games or to focus on my regular studies. But alas, not all was lost…

After working through the month’s many challenges I started to see results like the one above. This particular game was a lot of fun to play and I will probably annotate it at length in Campfire Magazine or in a separate post in the future. Those basic tactical principles that were seemingly lost on me in the previous examples seemed to come roaring back as the pressures of the month subsided.

Time to Change Focus?

One thing I have been considering is my recent focus on tournaments and tournament results. It is always nice to follow tournaments because the expertise of the great players is inspirational for me and countless other chess players. However, Campfire Chess is primarily concerned with learning about chess and experiencing the chess culture through more of an educational lens. So I am going to try to focus more in the coming months on my studies and sharing some of the harder lessons learned as I work to improve my skill set.

As a final example, this was a fun one that ended suddenly for reasons I still don’t know. It could have been that his dinner was ready and he needed to go set the table, but I might never know. In any case, it was a welcome victory that helped me to springboard back to a balanced win-loss ratio heading into the Fall and Winter months.