10 July 2012

Eleven Consecutive Wins!

The streak is over. My streak of wins in USCF tournament play ended yesterday with a draw. The run of wins was beginning to defy belief and I felt a sense of relief when my opponent offered a draw in the only remaining game in the 2012 Spokane City Championship Contenders tournament. I do not play enough tournaments, and so my run of wins extends back to November 2011.

In October 2011, I played in the Eastern Washington Open, scoring 3.5/5. I took a draw in round three, and then lost in round five to the second place finisher, Mark J. Erickson, who was rated 2189. That was my last loss in tournament play. Moreover, that loss was the last game that I did not win until yesterday.

In November, I participated in the annual Turkey Quads at the Spokane Chess Club. I should have played in Quad A as the fourth highest rated player in the event, but due to a schedule conflict the first night, I was placed in a quad made up of late registrants. I was rated 1850, while my opponents averaged 1705. My play was less than stellar, but it was enough better than that of my opponents that I won all three games. Perhaps my best game in that event was my win against Kevin Korsmo, who had beaten me during the Taxing Quads in April 2011. I posted a key position from my Turkey Quad game with him in "Press the Attack".

My streak of wins that ended after eleven includes only standard rated games. In December I played in a quick event. If I counted that event, which I won with a perfect 3-0, then my runs of wins extends to fourteen games, including a win against the player whom I drew yesterday.

Black to move
My next event at standard time controls was the 20th Annual Dave Collyer Memorial Tournament at the end of February. Placing second in that event by winning against Expert Tim Moroney in the last round gave me arguably my best tournament result ever. I went in to that event at 1879. My opponents averaged 1774, ranging from my 1420 first round opponent to Tim's 2069. Chess Skills has entries regarding my progress in that tournament in "Goals," "Pawn Wars," "Breaking Through 1900," and "Playing for a Draw." Probably my worst position in the event came in round two. After twelve moves with White, my opponent already had a better position and the initiative (see diagram). He misplayed it, and I went on to finish Saturday with two wins and my one-half point bye.

I woke up at 3:00 am the next morning due to some back pain, and told everyone at the tournament that I had my excuses lined up if I collapsed and played awful. In round four, I defended the French against Michael Cambareri's onslaught. After refusing my draw offer in a complex position, where postgame computer analysis reveals that I was better, my opponent stepped into a checkmate in three. I found the mate. In the final round, I played to simplify. My higher rated opponent succeeded in complicating matters, but it turned out that the resulting pawn endgame was winning for my side despite initial assessments as we attempted to look ahead with other pieces on the board. My rating jumped to 1933.

After missing the next few club tournaments, it became clear that I would be able to play in the Spokane Falls Open this coming weekend. Then, I found that my SCC Grand Prix standings had me a fraction of a point above another player, and I was seeded into the Spokane Contenders tournament. The average rating of the six players in this round robin tournament was 1893, but only one player was below that figure. Dave Griffin, the organizer of the Contenders, the City Championship, and many other Spokane chess events was rated 1611. Tim Moroney was 2075, and the rest of us were in the low 1900s.

I like events such as the Contenders where there are no easy games. It is possible to play reasonable chess and lose every game. Even the lowest rated player this year was not scoreless, as he drew the highest rated player. Winning the event is a great feeling!

Some of the games in this event are mentioned in "The Good, the Bad, the Ugly," "A Better Novelty," and "Staunton Gambit." Yesterday, I again found myself defending the French against Michael. After he lost an exchange, but was about to gain a pawn, he offered a draw in a position where I may have been slightly better. The draw gave me victory in the event with 4.5/5. Michael placed second with 4.0/5. It also ended a string of wins going back more than eight months. Through these three events, my rating rose a bit over 100 points (135 according to the USCF Rating Estimator).

Because I won the event, I will not be playing in the Spokane Falls Open. Rather, I have a four game match with current Spokane City Champion, Expert John Julian.


  1. Dang James sounds like you're on one hell of a roll! Congratulations on winning the event, I can't wait to have an experience like that. Have you been doing anything different over the last 8 months to have such a hot streak? Are the games few and far between maybe an advantage for you as you concentrate more on each game? Botvinnik was a fan of playing 2-3 big tournaments every year to keep his hunger up for each game and it worked for him, maybe you too? It sounds to me like your ready to move up to expert class once you get more games in... G'luck in the match!

    1. Good question. My tactics training is more regular, and my blitz and bullet binges may be less so. My personal life has reached a place of middle-age comfort as my wife and I enjoy one another's company, and share a growing enthusiasm for exploring the wonders of Washington state wine.

      I work hard to maintain focus in each and every game. Although I often obsess over rating improvement between games. During play, it is the board itself that matters. Not rating. Not my standing in the tournament. Sometimes such focus is difficult to achieve.

  2. Congratulations, James!

    1. Thanks David. Any secrets to beating John? I'd like to take the trophy from him before he leaves town.