Part 4 “Rude Awakening”


The summer of 2003 had the chess board calling to me again. With today’s internet, I searched for events in the area and set my sites on a Fall Getaway in Lowell MA. Not having played in a tournament in 7 years, the last of which was a wash, I knew I was rusty.


I attempted to prepare for this event in a vacuum. I had the latest Chess Master CD and played these virtual faces to warm up. I first set the computer to the rating I thought I was at ( 1500’s)and lost. Then I set it back to what my rating was according to USCF (1450) and still lost. Then I set it back 100 points more and finally won my first confidence builder.


The chess master had a “classroom” section that took you through beginner modes to intermediate modes. I walked through these as a goal prior to the event in the fall of 2003. I went through the opening trainer created by Yasser Sierrawan. I was beating the computer at my 1450  rating fairly consistently, occasionally beating it at the rating I thought I ahould have been at ( 1550) and had one break on a setting that was out of reach typically for me (1650). At one point in the late 1980’s I peaked into the 1600’s and had a 1632 “Class B” rating. I was hoping to regain that at some point after deflating my rating down to the 1400’s.


I also invested in Lev Albert’s 7 volume set on the “russian” school of Chess. I made it through the first couple of books and part way through the third. These seemed to focus on combinational motifs. It was a little different from the positional study of Aaron Nimzovitch’s My System I had studied 20 years earlier.The focus was on looking for and recognizing attacking potentials. It was an aggressive approach to the game.


The 2003 Fall Getaway was the first event I attended that had over 100 players in over 4 sections. In Maine, the most players seen at these events was on the order of 60 with 2 sections. My eyes were wide open like a little kid. I had never seen so many grandmasters in one place. I felt like I had to whisper in their presence. I was not worthy.


I played in the under 1700 section that had a prize for under 1500 that looked within reach. The first round had me knocking heads with a 1630 rated player who definitely outplayed me. Come to find out, he was playing in Europe for several years and had an FIDE rating of 1900. I didn’t feel so bad. Instead I asked for advice going over the game.


He spoke of the concept of themes in the opening. Certain openings seem to have a struggle around one of the key central squares. The first player who deviates from the theme seem to be the one with the disadvantage. It kind of made sense.  So I spent the rest of the weekend looking for these themes in the hodge podge repertoire of openings I huddled to over the years.  Unfortunately, I was looking at the wrong themes and lost all but one game.


I asked my first round adversary about his thoughts on the Lev Alburt series. He suggested I work on the themes first rather than looking for combinations. I found my entire weekend blundering pieces left and right in search of the combination that never was there. Not having practiced all that much on tactics in the first place, I would end up with a piece down after the dust settled.