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  • James Neal

Reassessing My Chess

Updated: Oct 1

Colorado Springs strengthens James’s resolve to train!

I am coming off a disappointing showing at a dual rated tournament in Denver. I lost two games and one in a time scramble I am usually more effective at handling. I could blame it on poor night of sleep (~2hrs) but I do not think it should have hit me that hard. I have come to the revelation that I have been slacking on my preparation. I have progressively felt mentally slower and I am beginning to realize this is largely due to my lack of practice. I have great intuition, or maybe deductive reasoning, and that carries me through a lot of games but it simply masks my underlying issue (calculation).


I decided this week to sign up for a quick tournament in Colorado Springs with the goal of adjusting my preparation to be more calculation heavy. I figured there would be little chance for any of my opponents to catch me unprepared.


The tournament was held at IHOP and my expectation would be playing against Daniel and Eric but if I were lucky, I would get to play Rhett (~2150) or Sara (~2050). I enjoy playing Rhett and Sara because every game they get closer to beating me. I think my wins frustrate them sometimes because it seems as though I wiggle out of their clutches. My last game against Sara was a good example. She more or less busted my experimental defense and developed a dominant position before overlooking one of her pawns and losing the game. I hope she takes more than disappointment from her performance because I have no plans of taking it lightly on her anymore.


My first round opponent was a kid named Coen (~1470). I did not want play anything experimental against him because it was a short time control and I would likely outplay him in a dull position. Coen played an excellent opening but wasted a tempo and allowed me a tactical shot to begin fighting for the initiative. He played very well for his rating. It took me 20 moves before I knew I was winning the game. Great Job! Here was a position from the game I would have properly calculated had I more than a week of conditioning for the event.

(Black to Move)


The next round would be a tough game against Earle (1833). He mentioned the line he had prepared against my Mighty Ducks Attack was something he had taken a look at from a Simon Williams video. The annoying a5-a4 line gives black good play and the opening gave me nothing but an equal position. The imbalance was my 2 knights versus his 2 bishops.



My brain was in overdrive at that point. I was aware 1 or 2 slips could have resulted in a devastating position for black but luckily Earle made the slips before me. We headed to a scramble but I was ahead a pawn and the exchange and managed to checkmate him before things became dire.


I was thinking about the tough game I would play against Dan (2063) round 3 but it turned out he drew with Mr. Steger (1811) and that had me set to play against Eric Billaux (2066).


I was unaware that he was the highest rated player in the event.

My previous games against Eric were grinds where I lost a game and drew the next. I was looking forward to playing him this time because my conditioning had me calculating like a pro. I was hoping this would be the game I get the dubya and I was correct. I misplayed the opening and he acquired the bishop pair in an open position which was a practical advantage given the short time control.


He developed a dominant position that required precision. I hung on and eventually got my chance to balance the game and to start fighting for the initiative. The game ended on a nasty oversight that saw me forking his king and queen with my knight.


Making an opening mistake in the Rubinstein was nearly a disastrous for me. I was happy with my effort. My improved calculations gave me the resourcefulness to save me from defeat.

The last round was anti-climactic since Eric went on to beat Daniel. I was forced to play against Mr. Steger (1811) and the game was the least challenging of all my games (1400 included). The value of this game was a reinforcement to the weaknesses I was enduring. Mr. Steger played the opening well and hadn’t made any illogical moves until he was forced into urgency. He played slowly and resigned with 30 seconds remaining to my 11 minutes.

I am currently doubling down on my training and will be looking forward to my next encounter with Griffin and Sullivan.



I will be highlighting my progress at another quick event next week.


-Coach James


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