800 Games: A Brief Look Back

A few months ago I managed to complete my 800th over the board chess game. We can say a lot about playing 800 games over the board. First of all; think of all the time I’ve wasted! Consider that each game is roughly 120 minutes long. Based on that calculation, I’ve spent 1600 hours playing chess. That’s ~67 days of my life; sitting across from people; pushing wood/plastic. That’s just playing over the board. 1600 hours is just the tip of the chess iceberg.

Today, I want to look through some old score sheets and share them with you. Hopefully, we’ll see a bit of an evolution; but I’m not going to make any promises. In Mikhail Tal’s autobiography he looked back on his games with a “certain fondness”. I always found this amusing. When I look at my old score sheets I can’t help but feel sorry for my previous self. How could I have played so poorly? What was I thinking? Fondness is the last emotion I have. Back then chess was so mysterious to me. I won’t claim to know much now but I know more now than I did then. I would curse the gods after a bad beat or swindle; it couldn’t have been my fault!

After playing that many games you tend to mature a bit. Things aren’t so mysterious anymore, chess things that is. I remember certain anecdotes about most of the games below. I’ve found that I’ll remember one of three things. Usually, I’ll remember an annoying opponent. I’ll usually remember a terrible blunder. The final thing I sometimes remember is difficult for me to articulate. It’s the feeling you have when you find a brilliant move. Or the relief after a long struggle.

Game 100

My first achievement, 100 rated games! At the time I didn’t realize it because I didn’t care much about those sorts of things. I recall that during this game my opponent started giggling. It was the sort of giggling that he was trying to stifle but I could still see it. It was somewhat infectious as I recall; I cracked a smile. I recall he was drinking his soda and then began to choke on it on account of his nervous giggling.

I know; a weird thing to remember. That’s what you’ve all signed up for; strange anecdotes and bad games. At this point in my career I was playing the Kings Indian Defense for some stupid reason. All you sub 1800 players out there heed this warning:  do not play this opening. The ideas are too complex and it just doesn’t give you a good foundation. This is an “advanced” opening. My rating during this game was ~1358.

As you can see; not a stellar game. I recall feeling at the end of the game that I was lucky to escape after I lost the exchange on move 19.

Game 200

Fast forward here a bit and we find version of myself sporting a fancy new 1700 rating. When I was first starting out I felt that 1800 players were real “tough guys”. If I could make it to that level, I too would be a tough player. Needless to say my aspirations weren’t all that high when I was first starting out.

I don’t remember much about this game. From the little I recall, I remember that he beat me soundly. He understood the ideas better than I did. At this point in my career I was still playing the Caro-Kann. The Caro-Kann is a great opening for beginners. The ideas are quite solid and leave a lot of room for creativity. Instead of memorizing lines you play chess.

Game 300

One hundred games later and I’m still a sub-1800 player. You can’t expect to continue to have 400 point jumps every 100 games; it would be too easy. In this game I drew a higher rated opponent in a big tournament.

In retrospect I should have played in my own section during this tournament. I’ve thought a lot about this and I don’t see value in losing your way up the rating scale. I’m under the impression that unless you’re right on the bubble (ie. 1899 in an U1900 section) then you shouldn’t be worrying about playing up a section. There are lessons in every game regardless of rating. If you were that good you’d have a higher rating already. I don’t buy into the idea that you gain more experience by losing to strong players. You can gain experience by losing to players your own rating. Experience has taught me that chess is a struggle at every level.

Long gone are the days of my Kings Indian as black; I was on to bigger and better things. Like the Winawer counter-gambit for example *facepalm*. I remember that during the game my opponent kept walking behind me. At the time I found this quite annoying. Now I don’t mind this as much. I also recall that I offered him a draw and was a bit crestfallen when he declined it. He later offered me a draw in a position that I felt he had an advantage. I happily accepted his offer.

As I recall I was quite happy with this draw after losing the first two games of the tournament.

Game 400

This next game was painful for me. I was playing in my first (and only to date) team event. The event was a college chess tournament at Princeton University. I was on board two and I hadn’t been playing well. This game typifies my poor form. My teammates handled a lot of the “grunt” work and we won the U2000 section in the tournament. At this point I had already broken through 1800.

Going through this game now it’s strange to see some of these moves. At the time I my opponent’s plans confused me. The fact that what my opponent played come up as the first choice by the computer is peculiar. Specifically, 14. c3 and 25.Bf1 are apparently best although I’m still not sure why. His play was strange but somehow he was making the best moves in the position. Perhaps I just don’t understand these positions.

Game 500

This next game is one that I have some vivid memories of. I managed to pick up about 100 points between these last 100 points. I completely outplayed my opponent only to lose in a Rook and Bishop vs Rook ending. These endings are notoriously difficult to defend. Even elite GM’s have lost this position. Many of the poor moves I made were in time pressure. He was a gentleman but it’s hard not to be disappointed after such a display. He tried to console me afterwards. “…Even GM’s lose that ending.” I was more concerned about my spoiling of the earlier position.  EDIT: The line above references a game between the same opponents from a different tournament. In this game he outplayed me and after some pressure I blundered my rook. A nice example of someone who knows the ideas outplaying someone who doesn’t.

Game 600

I don’t really remember this game. I apologize to my opponent; but as I recall it wasn’t a difficult affair for me. I was rated roughly 400 points higher than my opponent and I had just lost to a master. I do recall that she didn’t want to resign; and I remember the game that I played before and after this round. Somehow this game just didn’t leave any sort of lasting impression.

Game 700

I’ve written about this game before. This is the most recent game on the list. I played the opening poorly and transposed into a Grunfeld line I know nothing about. I blundered a pawn and was feeling pretty lousy about myself.  I was able to complicate the position. I felt that with his time situation and the murkiness of the position he would accept a draw. The first game on the list with me having a rating >2000.

This is going to be the last game that I show. I think you’ve all had quite the sampling of my games for now. I look forward to writing a companion piece after I complete my 900th game. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this brief look back.


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