It’s been over a year…

That’s right.  My last blog post on here was over a year ago, and during that time I have only been to four rated tournaments:

Millionaire Chess #2: 1513-1454

U.S. Amateur Team South 2016 – 1454-1463

Space Coast Open 2016: 1463-1494

Southern Class Championship 2016: 1494-1471

In this particular time frame, I may not have improved my rating a whole lot, but I have made some significant achievements.  I won my very first trophy at the team tournament back in February 2016.  In addition, when I went to the SCO in Cocoa Beach, I played up in Class B and won two major upsets against two 1600 rated players.  MC2; which I played in back in 2015,  put a big sting in my rating and dropped me down by 59 points.  Regardless, I did not let that discourage me in preparation for future tournaments.

My current life situation has also changed drastically.  I moved out back in January of this year and it has helped me grow a lot, both mentally and emotionally.  For financial reasons, I can only play in rated tournaments about once every six months (a.k.a. twice a year.)  Therefore, my rating is going to be very stagnant for most of my chess career.

April through August

Once again, there’s been some major fireworks in some of my tournament games this year.  At the Space Coast Open in April, I earned my very first level 3 norm, which is another step towards becoming a 3rd Category player.  But that’s not all!  When I played in the Southern Open back in July, my first round victory was an upset against a 1700 rated player!  Wow!  But not to worry, I know not to let it get to my head lol.  I’ve been the victim of upsets before and it’s part of the chess journey to win some and lose some.  Yes, I am still focused on going the Millionaire Chess Open #2 this year, and this time the stakes will be even higher, mostly for my section.

A small recap on January through March

So far I would have to say that I’m doing alright with chess this year. On January 23 – 25, I competed in the Central Florida Class Championship in Orlando, Florida. I played up in the Class C section, and it really paid off. My total score was 2 wins, 1 draw, and 2 losses; which gave my rating a 30 point boost. I went from being 1388 to 1418, which finally makes me a legit C player.

Another interesting thing that has occurred this month is that my dad’s colleague has been interested in me giving his son a few private lessons. From what I’ve experienced, most chess coaches/private instructors are usually at least 1700 elo, regardless if it’s USCF or FIDE. However, because Deepak’s son is 12 years old and he currently under 1000 USCF, I truly believe that I can get him to at least 1200 with knowledge alone. If I can also make him battle tested, he can definitely become a Class C player as well. Hopefully if Tanmei has the interest in the motivation, he can become even stronger than me.

Additionally, this also brings up a very intriguing point that not every chess coach has done in the past. In my humble opinion, I believe that a true chess mentor should not only shares his/her full knowledge of chess to their students, but they should have the desire to see their pupils surpass them in the long run. Another thing, anything that a teacher vouches and advocates should be correlated with their actions; not just their words alone.

Millionaire Chess Open 2014 (and everything else since June…)

Yes, I already know, I’ve been very lazy about updated my blog and I apologize for that. The last tournament I talked about on here wasn’t exactly the greatest turnout for me. At that time I got an established rating of 1264, but fortunately for me I have made drastic improvement to both my rating and my skill. Listed below are the tournaments I’ve been to since May of this year and the new ratings that I received:

May: Robert Froemke Memorial 2014 – 1328
June – Sunshine Summer Open 2014 – 1325
September – Arnold Denker State Championship – 1351
October – Millionaire Chess Open 1 – 1389

Even though the most points I gained was at the Memorial tournament, the MCO was without the doubt the most memorable one of all! I got to explore Las Vegas for the first time in my life and it has made a big impression on me! I made some new friends, did some gambling in the casino, and got to see the Hoover Dam! On top of that, I scored 3 wins, 3 draws, and only 1 loss which put me at 4.5/7 in the tournament. This earned me $1000 to take back home!

The thing that I honestly believe has helped me play better chess in both tournaments and in regular games is the fact that I have learned to stop stressing out over ratings. Another thing is that in Vegas, I was playing against people from all over the country that had different strategies, and not a single one was a kid. They were all adult players that were at least 23 years of age. In Florida, I play a lot of the same opponents and by now they all know my openings, play-style, strengths, weaknesses, etc. It really upsets me that so many Florida players are all caught up in rating points that they forget to appreciate the game for what it really is. Even my former coach sends me emails like “I see you went up in rating, 1400 might not be too far away, blah blah blah…” I appreciate the compliments and all but it really irritated me that my old coach didn’t even acknowledge my prize winnings, he was instead looking only at a 4 digit number on my USCF profile.

In conclusion, this has been a very successful year for my chess career and I am glad that I’ve had very supportive friends such as Keith Dunbar, Ashik Uzzaman, Don Conner, and Kai that that have been with me throughout this journey. Even though not everyone is perfect, they are the ones that keep me motivated to be the best that I can be.

Space Coast Open (April 25 – 27, 2014)

Hey everyone! I apologize for this late post which talks about my most recent tournament. I had a really good time in Cocoa Beach during the tournament and even when I wasn’t playing. Not only did I play strong opposition but I got to explore and relax at the hotel which has a beach and other activities to do when you want to kill time. I didn’t exactly do as well as I hoped to do, but at least I learned from my mistakes against my opponents.

Round 1

Ayush Maddikonda(1168) vs Brendan Savage(1304): Sicilian Defense/Nadjorf – Black Resigned

This kid… he didn’t just beat the Sicilian, he KILLED IT. He managed to pull off the Fried Liver attack against me, which I did not expect him to do in this kind of opening. Because my king pawn was on e5 instead of e6, he zoned in on f7 and I had to sacrifice my queen pawn to stop the knight fork. I should have either played h6 to protect g5 or play Be7 and castle short, which would sucker him into trading a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. For the rest of the game, he stayed on the attack and he eventually knocked down the wall of Jerico. After the game, I told his father how much genius and raw talent Ayush possesses at his age.

Round 1 (Re-entry)

Nathan Foo(1140) vs Brendan Savage(1304): D4 – Draw by Agreement

I got SOOOOOO lucky in the end game. He had a big attack on my kingside with his queen and rook that in this game I also did not get to attack. I had to keep responding to his threats, which gives him so much tempo on me. We got into bishops of opposite color, and then he blundered away some pawns which turned the game into a draw.

Round 2

Brendan Savage(1304) vs Jancarlo Cruz(1369): French Defense/Advanced Variation(Transposed) – Draw by Agreement

I opened up with the Smith-Morra Gambit, but instead of going in to the main lines, my opponent forced a transposition which I was contempt with. In the late middlegame I pulled off a tactic which won me a pawn. In the endgame I sacrificed my extra pawn to get the opposition. When my opponent offered a draw, I did not answer right away, and instead I calculated what would happen. I would get a Queen before him but he would have two pawns on the queenside. Because I did not and still do not know how to win that position, I accepted the draw.

Round 3

William Leinthall vs Brendan Savage(1304): Sicilian Defense/Closed – Draw by Agreement

This was the only game where I played more actively than my opponent. He kept forcing exchanges with minor and heavy pieces, which then made our pawns get locked up in front of each other. When I offered a draw, he declined and said “Nuh uh! You got no where to run!” I just shrugged, played it out, and then he finally agreed to a good old handshake. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not happy with the result.

Round 4

Brendan Savage(1304) vs Stephen Barrick: Ruy Lopez – White Resigned

My mistake in this game was not going for a d4 push soon enough to bust open the center and get into my comfort zone. I played d3 instead to protect my e pawn, and he took advantage of that by playing Bg4. I kept trying to babysit my knight on f3, which was not the correct strategy. My moves were too passive, and then I blundered my g and h pawns when I tried to kick his bishop. I resigned when his queen and knight got into my kingside.

I withdrew before Round 5 started

The thing that I did not expect was for the majority of my opponents to be age 10 and under. Only one opponent was an adult, that being William Leinthall. As strange as this may sound, he was the only person that never made me feel threatened by his moves. The kids on the other hand played very active and had very good understanding of the positions we got in to. In the end, my total score was 1.5 out of 5, and my rating decreased by 40 points, putting me at 1264. The good news though is that I am officially an established rated player, which means that I am going to update my statistics page and remove my highest provisional rating. Based on the results I’ve been getting, I would say that I am a solid D player that knows how not to lose, but still needs major improvement on winning.

Playing up: to do or not to do

I talked to Ashik Uzzaman about this a few months ago when I was getting ready for a tournament. I have also seen this topic get brought up on so many occasions because we are all have different views about it. Some players think it’s better to play your designated section to win more games, more money, and qualify for norms. Others say it’s better to play up a section in order to learn from stronger players, work harder in complicated positions, and boost your rating up for beating higher opponents. From my experience, it is a good idea to play up a section just to see how you do, but ONLY if you know deep down inside you can handle the competition. I also think that age plays a big role in determining if playing up is a better idea or not. Scholastic players benefit from it more because they genuinely work hard, and their coaches are training them at levels above their actual rating. On the other hand, adult players tend to play up for their own personal reasons. So far I have only played up once in my whole life, and I do not regret it at all. Matter of fact, I actually did better in the U1700 section back in October 2013 versus the U1400 section in January 2014.

When you play your own section, sometimes you will find yourself playing dull and mechanical games that could lead to a dead draw. You might wonder why you’re not improving, and that your rating is stagnated in Class D, C, B, etc. For this reason, a good number of players have the fire to challenge themselves hoping that they will get stronger in the long run. Honestly, an underdog player has nothing to lose against opponents that are at least 200 points higher in rating. Even if you lose, your rating does not drop that many points, and you will gain a ton of learning experience from a single game. Stronger players will coerce you to think harder, stay focused, and player smarter.

Do keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to playing up a section. If you make it a habit to play up in several tournaments and lose consistently, it is very easy for your confidence to deteriorate if the rating is not catching up your actual strength. It can even make you paranoid about losing to low rated players, including the ones that are in your same class level. On the same token, there are times when a player might get overconfident against there equal competition because they think their experience against stronger players makes them better than those in their section or lower.

In conclusion, only play up if you are dominating your section and you are driven to get stronger. DO NOT PLAY UP JUST TO SAFEGUARD YOUR RATING OR AVOID LOSING UPSETS!!!

The Road to Vegas

By now, a lot of chess players are probably aware of the Millionaire Chess Open that’s taking place October 9 in Vegas, Nevada. It will be hosted by GM Maurice Ashley and his business partner Amy Lee, while also hiring TDs and security to monitor the tournament hall. The reason it’s called Millionaire Chess is because the total prize distribution is worth $1,000,000. Like any other sport, this is going to draw out the competitive spirits of serious chess players of all strength levels, especially since the entry fee is $1000. Let’s not forget the plane tickets, the hotel nights, food, and extra money for booze and gambling.

As far as the actual tournament goes, players will be allowed to get up to 4 half-point byes. There will be six sections divided by player ratings so that there are equal chances for players to win a prize. Obviously, since this is Vegas we’re talking about, there is going to be high-tech security measures to detect foul play, and also weed out sandbaggers. Players will NOT be allowed to choose the section they want to play in. Instead, one of the following two scenarios will determine the section I play in:

-If I reach 1400 BEFORE October 1 of this year, I will be forced to play in the U1600 section, even if my rating falls back down. This is an anti-sandbagging method that I respect dearly.

-If I do NOT reach 1400, then I will get stuck in the U1400 section.

The road to Vegas is going to be a difficult journey. I have played a variety of experienced tournament players of different levels, and none of them have been easy opponents. I will have to play strong opposition to better prepare myself for what I believe is going to be the tournament of the century.

My breakthrough moments in life

Do you ever have a moment where you’re struggling with something, and all the sudden everything just makes sense in the blink of an eye? I’m sure everyone has had this happen at least once in their life, but for some people it makes an even bigger impression. You can probably guess that I am about to talk about the breakthroughs that I’ve had since I was a child. The reason I bring this up is because I believe that sooner or later, I am going to experience a breakthrough in chess. To back up my claim, I will discuss all of the ones I’ve had since childhood.

1. The first one I remember was in 5th grade. During the 3rd nine weeks of school, I struggled with fractions, decimals, and percents. I did not know how to add different denominators and I also did not know how to add mixed numbers. But one day when I was doing homework, my mind just snapped. From that moment on, I never missed a single fraction problem in 5th grade.

2. My second breakthrough occurred my 9th grade year of high school. In my English class, we had a substitute teacher for the day and we were talking about how the pen is mightier than the sword. In the most unexpected manner, I went on a 5 sentence monologue on power of the pen and the power of actions and words.

3. My next one also happened in that same class except my teacher Mrs. Chancy was there to witness. In less than 10 seconds, I wrote a limerick poem that was painted in my imagination.

4. During my 10th grade year, I impressed my World History teacher Dr. LeValley on how Sir Thomas Aquinas had a major flaw in this theory on the infinite power of God. In fact, I spotted the flaw before we even went over it in class. Ironically, I was not able to communicate in class the same way I did with him before the period started. LeValley even summoned me after class and asked “If you’re so smart and perspective, how are you getting these bad grades?”

5. Now for the final one I remember. It was against a 1900 player named Richard Kennedy at the Robert Froemke Memorial. In our game, I saw the moves that would actively threaten to create a mating net and I was spot on with anticipating the moves that Richard would play to defend himself. As soon as he made a move that threw me off psychologically, my breakthrough fizzled out and then I made a tactical blunder. It was all over for me.

So here’s the real question. How is this relevant to chess? I have a very simple answer for my response. We are constantly cloaked by mental static that makes it very difficult for the human mind to calculate at full potential. To me, a breakthrough is when the mind is so clear that the only thing a person will focus on is the immediate subject presented to them. Psychology plays a big role in chess, but many players including masters underestimate the power of mental flow. From my experience against strong players, if a Class D player experiences a breakthrough in a tournament game, he/she will make moves so accurate their performance rating will be at least 1800. As we get older, the amount of breakthroughs we have significantly decreases because adults have more distractions going on in their minds. Children; and even teenagers, are able to focus much easier because they have the time and luxury to excel at anything they want. Once their parents kick them out, it’s a whole new story. Regardless, they will still have a big advantage over young adults that are just starting to play in rated tournaments.

Correspondence chess

So far it’s been a good week since I’ve turned 25 years old. Obviously that’s over with, but lately I’ve been playing a lot of correspondence chess on because of the all the free time to study the board. The only thing that I do not agree with in correspondence is the ratings. As most of you know, I am a 1300 USCF player. However, I am almost 1800 in correspondence, and apparently this is very common amongst other players. I know of two FSU students that are under 1400 OTB but that are over 1800 on the internet. Nevertheless, it is still a very good way to improve analytical and systematic skills that are needed to do good in live tournaments.

Central Florida Class Championship (January 17 – 19, 2014)

Before we go any further, I would like to make one thing clear.  No matter what section you play in a rated tournament, there is NO SUCH THING as easy competition.  This time I played in Class D so that I can see how I currently stand against players in my same rating division.  I swear on so many levels, these opponents felt just as strong as 1400 – 1600 players that I have encountered in previous rated games.  What I have also come to believe(In my humble opinion) is that no matter how much knowledge you possess about the game, the mental qualities such as composure, calculation, and strategic planning are more efficient than practicing openings and tactics when it comes to winning  tournament games.  For example, I actually know people in my local community who have USCF ratings under 1400 and somehow they have internet and correspondence ratings over 1700.  It is completely normal to perform better online and at the coffee house than at a face to face tournament.  Now that I’ve said all that, here comes the best part!

G/120 d5

Round 1
Stewart Bishop(1299) vs Brendan Savage(1366): Stonewall Attack – White Resigned

My opponent missed a mate threat in the endgame. This made it to where he lost the exchange, and I had a Rook over a Knight. In reality, I didn’t truly win that game. If my opponent hadn’t been so pressured, I would’ve been the one laying on the canvas.

Round 2
Brendan Savage(1366) vs James Sauceman(Unr): Ruy Lopez/Bird Defense – White Resigned

We got into a pure heavy-piece endgame where my opponent knew how to coordinate his Queen and Rooks. I was pressured by his threat to back-rank mate me that I made my Rooks too passive and my Queen was too distracted on the kingside. He got a passed pawn, which made me resign.

Round 3
Ryan Hamley(1205) vs Brendan Savage(1366): Bogo Indian Defense – Black Resigned

I got too greedy to skewer a Rook, which got my Queen trapped on his back rank. I should have taken the other Rook, making a Queen for two Rooks exchange. Instead, I played a dynamic Knight move which was the right idea but the wrong solution. My tactical blunder costed me the game.

Round 4
Daniel Gonzales(1124) vs Brendan Savage(1366): London System – Draw by Agreement

I threw the win away. I came ahead by a pawn in the opening which is nice. However, I didn’t look deeply enough into the position where I could have won a Knight and Queen in exchange for just a Queen. Then in the endgame, I sacrificed a pawn to gain King activity, but this proved to be the wrong solution. A dead draw was made due to my weak endgame understanding.

Round 5
Brendan Savage(1366) vs Alan Smith(1392): French Defense – White Resigned

Just great! I get paired up against another friend, who I know is a stronger player than me. He knew how to keep my King out of his territory, and he also had a kingside pawn majority. This also shows just how much my endgame knowledge sucks!

As you can clearly see, this was not a good turnout for me. I placed 22 out of 27 people in Class D, and my rating fell down to 1304! The only that makes me happy is that I now have an established rating, but I am still shocked that I did so poorly.