This week’s round saw me pitted against an opponent c400 points lower rated – but being a Swiss, he had scored the same points as me so far – nothing could be taken for granted.
A smooth game overall: I obtained a favorable position on the White side of a Tarrasch out of the opening and at a critical juncture, not only did my opponent miss the critical continuation, he miscalculated the tactics and emerged a piece down.
There followed a brief hoovering of a few pawns by our Rooks, before I proceeded to encircle his King – and whilst he embarked on his retreat, I managed to advance a pawn sufficiently down the board that it’s prospects of becoming a Queen drew a resignation.
Following my disaster in last week’s round, where I let slip an overwhelming advantage of both time and position, I was extra focused for this game, knowing it was a must win already to keep in contention with the R1 winners, some of whom are unlikely to drop points.
My opponent played 1.e4 allowing me to come out swinging with the French, that most cowardly of openings. Unbeknown to him, it’s one of the very few openings I know fairly well and despite it not being the only thing I’ve been known to offer against the King’s pawn, I must have at least a few hundred correspondence games in the French structures, from both sides.
Thankfully, my opponent didn’t wimp out with an exchange variation, like so many club players and indeed LiChess members do against me in blitz!
We had an Advance variation with 6.Be2 and I followed the 7…Nh6 line given by Berg in his GM Repertoire series published by Quality Chess. I remember a few details about the main options for White and how to deal with them, but the one thing I could recall clearly, is that my opponent’s plan of Na3 – c2 is actually dubious in this line, despite being good in many other French systems. 
Following the opening inaccuracy my opponent, perhaps a little out of book, made another couple of errors, allowing me to pick up a few pawns. The rest, as the cliche goes, was a matter of technique.
Having plucked the only book I really need to study from my collection of nearly 600 (yes, I have a problem!) to get to FM strength, namely Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, I elected to start at the beginning.
The first section covers pawn endgames – I like these as they are great for calculation training. Fairly simple “counting” exercises on the face of it that become monstrously complex very quickly.
Key squares is the first topic of the chapter and despite thinking I understood this concept very well, the following example was rather instructive.
My first competitive game in over a year seemed a good place to start the JourneytoFM project. A comfortable game where I was better throughout yet blundered by moving too quickly when trying to keep my opponent on his clock when he dropped to his last couple of minutes.
We ended up in a …Nbd7 variation of the Fianchetto King’s Indian, where my opponent chose a sub-optimal plan, allowing me to neutralise both his KID Bishop and one of his Rooks, in addition to him spending tempi trading off my “Bad Bishop” for his “Good” one.
However, late in the day, playing too fast despite having 18 or so minutes on the clock, I blundered into a draw. I was moving too fast. My opponent had dropped to under 2 remaining minutes and I was trying to keep the pressure on him. Rookie mistake.
To his credit, when it mattered and his chance appeared, he took full advantage and found the correct continuation to force the draw.
Due to Covid restrictions currently in place in the UK, the game was played on the Lichess server and can also be found here…
After more than 10 years of competitive chess, some taken more seriously than others, I found myself having spent the last year or so not having played a game, picked up a book, studied any literature or solved any tactics problems.
On a couple of occasions, having picked up a couple of new hobbies whilst stuck at home for eternity, I even contemplated whether I should just give up chess entirely.
But then how do you explain to your better half, having spent the best part of a house deposit on books, various training materials and coaching that this is the case?
Thankfully, the last couple of months have seen my enthusiasm and commitment return and a project I’ve been contemplating in the back of my mind for at least the last 5 years, JourneytoFM, has taken shape.
I have set myself a target of achieving the FM title in the next 5 years. I have it on good authority I’m capable.
This blog, along with the associated social media feeds – will document the training progress and the games I play on that Journey, amongst other things.