It seems like all the Class A guys in New Hampshire have faced GM Alexander Ivanov at one point or another, yet despite all the open sections I’ve played in, it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that it was my turn. What follows is my first game against a grandmaster, albeit in G/25 with 5 second delay.
Technically, I lost on time in the final position, but it was over anyway with that knight dropping. At least I kept moving during time trouble. (In my last round game, I let the final minute or so drain off my clock in search of the best plan.)
I’m fairly pleased with my effort — especially after blundering a pawn in the opening! 22…Kh8 looks like a definite improvement, not allowing the tempo gaining check on e6, and I like to think I could have drawn the ending somehow with more time, but all-in-all a good showing.
Have I got a treat for you! Only one week since the World Open in Philadelphia, I’ve obtained an exclusive interview with newly-titled Grandmaster Joshua Friedel, formerly of New Hampshire and now living in California to pursue Caissa’s rewards. The focus was on how to handle setbacks, both during and after they occur.
Enjoy this very candid peek inside a GM’s mind:
Thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts about the all too familiar subject (for most of us) of poor tournament results. In the recent World Open, you had a rocky start with a draw against an opponent rated almost 300 points below you, followed by a loss where the difference was slightly greater.
The 2nd game garnered the Monroi fan favorite “heart” for your opponent and was splashed on their News page as it was this young 11 year-old’s first win against a GM. Was it strange being on the other side of such an upset when not so long ago it was you who was the scalper? Feel free to say something too about the position at move 29. You were up a pawn and presumably something like …Qe6 would have kept the advantage.
Well, it certainly wasn’t pleasant. I already knew my play was shaky when I failed to win a killing position my first game, but I had no clue it was that bad yet. It turns out that after Rd1 it isn’t so easy to keep my advantage, though I’m certainly not worse. Of course it’s irrelevant, as had I seen Rxd4 worked there I wouldn’t have played my last few moves probably, as Re6 was my planned “antidote” defending my queen. It was an especially odd blunder for me, as I didn’t underestimate my opponent’s play, and in fact took the past several moves to prevent it! I remember being the scalper was always a good feeling, though if I won on a one-move blunder, it certainly dulled the elation a bit. Anyway, that’s a part of chess. Sometimes you accept gifts, and sometimes you give them.
In general, in Opens, is it harder or easier to play people rated much lower?
Playing people far lower-rated is never fun. It rarely helps improve your form, and in fact often makes it worse, as you can get away with a lot more poor thinking. However, I often like playing a warm-up round or two before I start facing stronger opposition. It’s all irrelevant though, of course. Beating lower-rated players is part of the game, and you just have to learn to do it.
You seemed to be working yourself back into the running though. Was there anything you do differently on these occasions? For example, maybe you try to take a mental break and just kick back, or maybe preparation becomes more of a factor since you start to see opponents about whom you know more?
It really varies for me. Often I try to experiment less in the openings, sticking to what I know mostly. This tournament was a bit of an exception though, as I decided to experiment a bit in the opening the next round against Critelli by playing something really out there. I’ve found the biggest danger, however, is the refusal to take risks. After a tough loss it is easy to curl up into a shell, and I really make sure I don’t do this.
In round 8, it looks like you went for the gusto, but the attack came up short. Was this a conscious decision you’d made prior to sitting down at the board in order to get into a money position?
Flip to see from Josh’s perspective.
No, I didn’t go into the rounds with plans of any sort. I find thinking about prizes and such in late rounds is death. You just have to play chess. It was just a very poor game by me, however, as I just failed to calculate things out accurately at all. I didn’t sacrifice to play for the win, though, I did it simply because I thought it was best. It turned out badly, but I still don’t regret having this attitude, I only regret calculating like I was on drugs.
After this game, you withdrew. I probably do this more than I should, but do you think it’s sometimes a good idea (to either save rating points when the writing’s on the wall or to not further hurt your self-confidence)? Or is it better to stick it out and play through it?
It really depends on the situation. I used to be totally against it, but now I’ve changed a bit. My default is always to play, but in certain occassions I’ll withdraw. If I’m sick I’ll withdraw often, or if I know I’m going to play way way down in the last round. In this case, I just was insanely tired that day, and considering the quality of my morning round it was clear to me playing another game would be quite unwise.
How do you recover? Do you tend to analyze your losses or put them out of mind?
For me, analyzing my losses is very important. It isn’t anything psychological really, it’s just I tend to learn so much from them. It would be silly to neglect doing it. Of course, with some losses it is rather painful, but often those are the ones that need it most.
In closing, with your year of support from the Samford Fellowship up, could you speak to your plans for the future, near and long-term? I know a couple years ago, you told your friends you wanted to give it a go and see if you could make a career out of chess. Does it feel possible and do you still want to?
Well, I have the Samford for another year, so I’m going to continue what I’ve been doing so far. My current plans include Edmonton at the end of July, NE Masters in August, and the Mind Game Olympics in China in October. As far as making a career out of chess, I certainly don’t feel like it’s any less possible, in fact I feel it is far more now that I’ve made GM. I’ve played through many bad tournaments, this one certainly will not change things, and considering the results of my previous three tournaments I’m still very optimistic about my future.
Thanks again! I really appreciate it, and I know my readers will too.
I hope he didn’t think I was suggesting he should pack it up over this one result. No way!
I’m happy to hear Josh is finding chess to be a viable career path and is still intent on doing so. We can all look forward to many more exciting games.
Please join me in congratulating him on obtaining the highest title in the Royal Game and thanking him for his honest and open answers. Just leave your comments below.