02 May 2013

Cup Play

Even though my online play these days is centered on chess960, I always like to have a few active games of traditional chess. My favorite type of chess tournament is the cup format, which suits any number of participants of any strength.

In cup play, the players are first assigned arbitrarily to a number of preliminary round robins ('all play all'), where the highest scoring players in each section qualify for the next stage. Each round uses the same format until a single winner emerges from the final round. Most players take the event seriously, there are few dropouts, and the competition gets stiffer at each round.

Since 2002, I've played every two years in the IECG/LSS Cup (the IECG eventually became LSS), which uses a four stage format. For the first five tournaments -- 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 -- I always managed to qualify from the preliminary round to the quarterfinal round, and I should qualify for 2012 as well, barring a last minute accident.

In each of the first three tournaments, I was eliminated in the quarterfinal round. In 2006 (quarterfinal start January 2008), I finished 6th out of seven with a score of +1-4=1, and decided that I had to improve my approach. The steps that I took are documented elsewhere on this blog.

In the 2008 tournament, I qualified for the first time from the quarterfinal to the semifinal round with a score of +3-1=2. There was some luck involved here, because I should have lost a key game: A Few Careless Seconds. I was eliminated in the semifinal round with a respectable score of +2-0=6, a half point away from qualifying for the final.

In the 2010 tournament, I again qualified from the quarterfinal to the semifinal round: this time with a score of +3-0=3, and no luck involved. After five years of playing chess960, I'm finding the opening phase of traditional chess considerably less interesting. It's always based on the same initial moves following the same set of limited ideas. I documented this a few years ago in Differences Between Chess and Chess960. Eventually the opening phase exits theory and the game starts for real -- that's when things really get interesting and that's what keeps me coming back.

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