After nearly slipping out of the expert class last November, my rating now stands at 2069 after I picked up 36 points while tying for 4th-5th in the U2100 section of the Chicago Open with 5.5-1.5.
My tournament began inauspiciously with a first round draw when I responded to 1...e4 with 1...e5 for only the second time in a USCF event and the first time in thirteen years. After watching Bobby Fischer win the World Championship in 1972, I took up the Sicilian Defense and I have stuck with it ever since. However, having looked at so many Open Games (1.e4 e5) while working with high school players over the last few years, I decided it was time to try it for myself. In the second round, I over played an attack and wound up with a dead lost position, but my opponent similarly misplayed his attack allowing me to win.
My wake up call came in the third round. I played the opening terribly, but I fought back to reach a rook and pawn ending where I had decent drawing chances. Unfortunately, I didn't have a clue about the right way to play it and my opponent marched his pawns to victory. After that, I settled down and worked on finding solid moves and I managed to win my last four games.
Here are a couple instructive positions from my games.
In the Endings, Takebacks Are Sometimes Allowed
In the opening and middle game, it is very rare that a player gets to take back a move that didn't achieve the desired result. However, in the ending it sometimes happens. I took advantage of that to find the correct plan in the following position.
Black to move would like to trade off the knights to reach an easily won king and pawn ending without letting the White king penetrate on the queen side. What is the quickest route?
I looked at the position for awhile trying to figure out whether checking the White king accomplished anything useful before it occurred to me that I could always return to my knight to c6 as the White king cannot stray from c4 or d4 without losing the knight. So I figured I would give a couple checks with my knight and see whether things looked any different. As soon as I played 39...Ne5+, I saw that that checks got me exactly what I wanted. After 40. Kd4 Nf3+ 41.Kc4 Nd2+ 42.Kd4 Nb3+ 43.Kc4 b4+!, my opponent resigned. The White king can no longer protect the knight and the king and pawn ending is lost for White after 44.Kxb3 Kxd5.
If You See a Good Move, Look for a Better One
Here's a position where my opponent said he would have resigned immediately if I had found the right move. Unfortunately, I simply played the move that I had decided upon before I played 16.Qxb7.
What move would have caused Black to resign? 17.Bc7! deflects the Black queen from protecting the bishop on b4. Unfortunately, I played 17.Bd6? and after 17...Bxd6 18.Rxd6 Rab8 19.Qxc6 Rb6, my queen is trapped. However, 20.Rxe6 Rxc6 21.Rxc6 gave me adequate compensation and I still wound up winning.