Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canadian Open - Look Back

Well the Canadian Open has now been rated and, as I expected, I lost a bunch of points. I had estimated I would lose over 50 but it ended up being only 41. I guess I hadn’t accounted for participation points. You can click on this link to see the cross table. Several people had outstanding tournaments including co-winner IM Proper, Jonaton Tayer, etc. Several others (including myself) were disappointed with their results.

One of the complaints about the tournament that has come up lately was the complete lack of GM and IM Norm possibilities available at the tournament. This opportunity is a major attraction to higher rated players when they are considering whether to enter a tournament. Two decisions by the organizers affected the possibilities of norms being achieved: First the tournament was 9 rounds and not 10 rounds; and secondly they decided not to use accelerated pairings in the first two rounds. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these decisions.

Years ago the Open used to be ten or eleven rounds with two rounds on some days but it has been reduced to 9 rounds lately. The current organizers decided to stick to the 9 round format. With only one round per day it produces a more relaxed schedule and allows for more side activities such as simuls, lectures, blitz and bughouse tournaments.

Accelerated pairings ensure that the high rated players play against other high rated players more often and thus are more likely to have at least 7 opponents who are FIDE rated as is required for norms. They can though cause even more volatility in pairings for middle ranked players in the middle rounds. By not using accelerated pairing it gave more average players, like me, an opportunity to play against one of the star GM’s and IM’s. This might have been an incentive for some average players to sign up but I’m not sure if that small benefit made up for the loss of Norm seekers who were discouraged from participating.

My recommendation would be to go back to having a 10 round tournament and have two rounds on the second day of the tournament. This should allow norm and still give ‘patzers’ their moment of glory. On day two the rating differences are usually still great enough that the top GM shouldn’t have two much of a struggle knocking off their challengers. If future organizers insist on sticking to the 9 round format then I believe accelerated pairings must be used. Otherwise their will be a lot of strong players who might wonder if it is worth their while to play.

I’ve had some time now to reflect back on my play during the tournament and I see that I did play rather well for a good portion of most of the games. The only game where I feel I was completely outclassed was round 1 against IM Quan, and that is to be expected. In the other two games I lost against higher rated opponents I achieved a reasonable position but then missed tactical shots that destroyed my position. In my 6 games against lower rated opponents I always achieved superior positions but then in all but two of the games lost focus and let my advantage slip away. There were times when I became bored and seemed too lazy to bother calculating and assumed that if I just played logical moves that I would turn my advantage into a win. Right now I’m at a loss as to how I can fix this defect in my game.

I had three goals coming to Edmonton. One was to play many different openings and in fact I did play a different opening in every game. This may seem like a foolish goal to have, as one should probably focus on one or two core openings, but I don’t think this strategy hurt me during the tournament as I did not have any really bad opening positions. If I was doing better in the tournament I might not have followed this strategy as much but when I was having poor results I felt I had nothing to lose. My other two goals were to score at least 50% and to perform above 1900. I felt they were modest goals that were achievable but of course I did not come close to achieving either.

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