The London Chess Classic begins on Saturday and the Open being run alongside the main event has got quite a field. A quarter of the 200 entrants are titled players. 13 Grandmasters, 22 International Masters and 16 FIDE Masters! Your correspondent expects to be employing Jonathan Rowson's line - "Today I learned" - fairly often.
In twenty-five years chessing I'd never played in an Open tournament until this June, but The Classic will already be my fifth. I'd been doing OK without achieving anything special, but the fourth, at Imperial College a few weeks ago, didn't go well at all:-
White against FM 2341 – lost.
My opponent didn’t turn up so I was re-paired Black against a 197 who happened to be loafing around the tournament hall – lost.
Black against a 179 – lost.
White against an unrated player (but who finished on 2.5/5 with a TPR 178 ECF) – draw.
Obviously the last thing that you want when you’ve scored +0 =1 -3 is to be paired with a 190-graded thirteen-year-old, but Isaac Sanders is who I got – lost.
My haul for the weekend was a solitary half-point and a TPR of 144 or 151 if Round4Guy plays at the same level for a whole season. Fun it most definitely was not.
Enjoyable, no, but at least the beating I took at Imperial College seems to have done me some good. I played another six games over the following two and a half weeks and, even though I had Black in all of them, I scored +3 =2 -1 at 189 – seventeen points above my published grade.
My first game after the IC Open was a club match at Guildford the very next day. It reminded me of the Simon Williams' Play Like Tal DVD which I’ve been watching recently . Not that I was playing like Tal, of course. It's just that I seemed to have become temporarily infected by the old Latvian’s taste for creating chaos on the chessboard. It makes a change from Berlin Endgames, I suppose
The DVD is structured around Tal’s most interesting games. You follow the action and every so often you get to choose from three candidate moves. If you get it right the game continues. If you get it wrong Williams tells you why and the DVD takes you back for another go.
It’s an interesting concept and I suspect ‘thinking practice’ like this is one of the most effective training methods you can adopt if you’re trying to improve. Anyhoo, I’m going to steal the format today for the position at the head of today's blog which is taken from my Guildford game. It’s Black to play and I’m going to offer you three choices:-
Not so much Play Like Tal as Play Like an S&BC Blogger. If you want a clue, the game appears below and although I think I might have made the right choice I suspect it was for the wrong reasons.