The 2011 USCL season is over, with the NY Knights winning in the finals against the Chicago Blaze (both teams fielded less than optimal lineups because of tournament conflicts).
For me, the 2011 campaign was a return to chess after a full year away from OTB chess and two years away from the USCL. I got off to a great start, beating GM Melik Khachiyan when my main hope was not to embarrass myself, but my play was somewhat uneven. Some weeks I played well (that game and the game against Shulman), while on some weeks I was out of it (like against Amanov). Part of that was probably due to me not working on chess in between matches, so I never got into a groove. The games felt a lot more tiring than I remember then being, and I imagine most of that it because I’m not used to playing long chess games anymore.
One of the interesting things about this year was that in 4 of the 5 games, I played something totally new. In the first game against Khachiyan, I had played a few games from the black side of the Giouco Pianissimo (and many more from the white side). After that, though, I played a totally new line of the French (and was playing it well for a while) followed by the Nimzo a couple times and a Slav/Grunfeld hybrid against the Reti (that didn’t work out so well …).
I have played 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 in a few rated games before, but the “threat” of the Nimzo seemed to be too strong and I never actually faced 3.Nc3. Instead after 3.Nf3 or 3.g3, I played 3…d5. This year, though, both Shulman and Bercys chose 3.Nc3 against me, clearly indicating that the “threat” of the QGD was too much! My score with the Nimzo now is 2.5/3, so I haven’t done too badly there.
Compared to previous years, my USCF performance rating this year of 2588 was subpar, but not horrible. I scored 2.5 out of 5 games (all with the black pieces), which – somewhat amusingly – is what the ratings would predict! Inactive since last August, I underperformed by FIDE rating by 5 points. It was fun to play a little again, but I still don’t have any plans to play a rated event anytime soon.
Here’s a tally of my USCL career statistics:
- Total score across 6 seasons: 22.5/35 (64%)
- USCF performance rating: 2638 (5th best all-time apparently, amongst those who’ve played at least 20 games; I drop out of the top 10 if the cutoff is 10 games)
- FIDE performance rating: 2581
- Total MVP Points: 49 (5th all-time through end of 2011)
- With white: 10.5/15 (70%), FIDE performance rating of 2643
- With black: 12/20 (60%), FIDE performance rating of 2540
With the black pieces, I’ve played above my average rating over the years (my average FIDE was 2470 for this time), but the final performance rating is in line with my rating around 2009/2010. With the white pieces, though, I turn into a beast. I’m not really sure why that is … however, if you take my two wins against GM Hikaru Nakamura and change them into losses (odds were I’d lose both, and based on the positions, I could have lost both), my performance rating drops down to about 2545 – again close to my rating around 2009/2010, so the rating system seems to have worked out reasonably for me. Interestingly, my performance ratings with white and black would be nearly identical in that case (I’ll excerpt from my last post here, which I managed to write without looking at this scenario).
As an aside, with our season over, I think it’s safe to reveal a facet of the team’s strategy this year: maximize the number of whites for GMs Patrick Wolff and Jesse Kraai, and fit me in if needed. Thus, after Week 1 when I was in NY, every time we had black on board 1, I was in the lineup. Whenever we had white on board 1, I didn’t leave work early.
It’s not that I’m so great with the black pieces, but I guess I don’t show as big a differential in results by color as many other GMs. Looking at my database, my performance rating for the past handful of years is only a couple points below my average rating for that time. Given that the standard performance “boost” for white or “penalty” for black is around 35-40 rating points, I guess I have done relatively better than average with the black pieces. If I have to win, it’s not ideal, but otherwise I also don’t really mind playing with the black pieces.
To paraphrase Dennis Green’s immortal rant – I am what they thought I am (but only if you change a couple results).
Also, in 6 of my 8 losses over 6 seasons, the team lost the match overall. A loss to GM Alex Stripunsky in a 3-1 win for SF and an unnecessary rejection of a 3-fold repetition against Kuljasevic were the exceptions. I guess that’s not too surprising given that there are only 4 games in each match, but somehow I was hoping I had lost in slightly less important circumstances!