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.