On my search for the holy grail of chess improvement one important point was to join the local chess club. It’s a great opportunity to meet strong players, to play against them and have them point out your mistakes. Last saturday I got the chance to play my first game in the Carinthian Lower league (Unterliga) and I was very excited. Time controls are very long (2h for 40 moves, 1h to finish the game). I had black against a 16yr old boy (ELO 1360) who plays regularely and obviously gets training sessions. I calculated that his opening can only be 1. e4 but I was wrong, he surprised me with 1. Nf3 and I ended up in a Queen’s Gambit Declined instead of the Benko Gambit that I wanted to play. It was a tense game and after 26 moves and 3:20h, a miscalculated capture and a blunder decided the game in my favour!
An amazing experience. It’s one thing to study books but another to apply the knowledge to a game. I understood the main plans for Black quite well and the whole time my thinking was about how and when to play the breakthrough moves. This didn’t prevent me from playing 2 rather poor moves though but now they are burnt into my brain. In addition I have started to create my "hall of shame" to avoid making the same positional blunders again. The funny thing is that the computer chess engine don’t think that the moves were that bad; they are simply unable to acknowledge a longterm weakness. The games are by no means immediately lost but life will be more difficult and a master would come up with a good plan to exploit the weakness.
These long games are really good for my chess and I will try to avoid playing Blitz for a while. If you put everything into a game, you will get good results and at least you will be able to learn from your mistakes. Maybe I can play another game in 2 weeks (the last round in the league), if not I try to play more long games on ICC. The STtourney will become a permanent part of my schedule and if possible I will join a team in the team 4545 league.