Thursday, March 13, 2008

1 Year Of Chess

So what have I learned or observed after one year of chess. On the general side, I see over the past 15 years there has been a drop in number of tournament chess players especially in the lower to average skill level. Originally I thought it might be that the Edmonton chess club was too elitist, but I now see that it is a common problem across the country. When I played in the late 80’s early 90’s the median player in a tournament was a 1500 player. When I’ve played in Edmonton in the last year it was more like 1800. Part of this might be due to a rating inflation over the years (the CFC has thrown rating points into the system every now and then) and part of it might be that I’m comparing to 15 years ago when I played within a small pool of player on PEI, but I think mostly it is that the lower rated players are not getting as much out of playing in a tournament as they used to. They can get all the chess satisfaction they need playing online. If tournament chess is to flourish it must find some way to cater to the average chess player and provide them with something they can’t get online.

On the personal side, when I compare myself to one year ago I think I’m a stronger player now. When compared to 15 years ago I don’t think so, mostly due to a loss of tactical strength. Even though my opening knowledge is one of the weakest parts of my game I believe it is better than it was years ago. Back then all I had was my “Penguin Pocket Book of Chess Openings” (200 pages) and my BCO that I never looked at much because there were no explanations, just lists of moves. Now I can study openings with Fritz, plus I’ve borrowed books from the Edmonton chess club’s vast library. My only problem is remembering the openings that I have studied. Another thing I’ve noticed is that I do much better with longer time controls now, mainly because shorter time controls require quicker tactical solutions and better opening knowledge.

As an engineer by profession, I can’t help but to analyze my results and track my progress (with graphs even). When I look back on my chess experiences this year there are some things that were good,
- My record with white was 10 wins, 2 losses, 4 draws
- My record against players rated lower than me is 12 wins, 0 losses, 3 draws
some things that were bad,
- My record with black was only 2 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw
- My record against players rated higher than me was 0 wins, 11 losses, 2 draws
- My tendency to fall behind on the clock and blunder as soon as I hit time trouble
And some things that were ugly.
- Witnessing a violent confrontation between chess “parents” at a chess event.

Will I continue to play tournament chess? Yes, I think so, because I enjoy it, and it is a stimulating intellectual challenge that is an outlet for my competitive spirit. I can also set goals for my self (which I won’t reveal here) and work toward achieving them. When I played years ago I had two main goals. One was to become provincial champ, which I achieved, and one was to reach a rating of 2000, which I did not. I don’t think I reached my potential as a player back then, mainly due do living in an isolated area and rarely having an opportunity to play strong players. Now, when I play in Edmonton there are always numerous strong players, and with the internet, isolation is not as much of a problem. I can go online anytime and find any number of players who can easily trounce me.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my observations about my games against them. I welcome any comments. My next tournament may not be until the 2nd annual Battle at the Border in June. It should be a great event.

Terry Chaisson

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