Sunday, September 23, 2007

Final Round Blues

I've noticed a really worrying trend in the tournaments I've played this year:

I never win in the final round.

This year's tournament record for my final games looks something like this:
  • Jan - Lost in 19 moves

  • Feb - Lost in 60 moves

  • June - Draw in 48 moves

  • July - Lost in 30 moves

  • Sep - Lost in 26 moves

  • With the Swiss paring system, by the last round or two you should be playing people that are fairly close to your ability. To lose so many late round games has two effects:

    Firstly, it indicates I probably need to work on my endurance and ability to recover in between games. Given many of the games barely last 30 moves - my September last round game was decided by a tactic on move 9 - I probably need to make a special effort to continue to concentrate in the later rounds.

    Secondly, it's terrible for my rating. To lose to someone rated 2000 in round one is no big deal. (In fact, it's entirely to be expected.) But in the final rounds of a Swiss tournament, when your oppenent has a rating pretty close to your own, it is devastating.

    Any ideas on how to train for this situation?

    How do you stay alert during the final rounds of a long tournament? What are you tricks? Care to share any advice?

    Are there ways to improve your "staying power"? Perhaps a bit of chess viagra might be in order. ;)


    Chess Relearner said...

    My problem isn't the last round unless it's a one day tournament. It's either the third round of a two day tournament, when that third round is the last game of the first day, having already played two. I also have trouble with a game immediately following a long and hard prior game, when there is very little time between games.

    I have not solved these problems yet. I am trying different things, though. One is to try to enter a state of complete relaxation between rounds, even if that is only for ten minutes. (This is not easy, though, if you have under 15 minutes to run to the restroom and find your next pairing as sometimes happens.)

    What I read, though, is that the answer lies in physical conditioning, and I have a lot of faith in that answer. So I am embarking on a winter training program ... I don't mean tactics or a new opening repertoire ... I mean cardio-vascular exercise and weight training!

    This is something that Fischer and others insisted was key to their success.

    Blue Devil Knight said...

    I go for a light run before the last round to get the endorphins etc going.

    SamuraiPawn said...

    I also agree with that physical training would increase your endurance. Jacob Aagaard also has some advice about this problem in his book Excelling at Chess in the chapter Attitude at the Board and other tips.

    Glenn Wilson said...

    I agree that physical conditioning can improve your results. But, unless you are in poor physical shape and are physically very tired there may be something else to consider: your mental state in the last round.

    Are you mentally exhausted? Are you approaching the last round with your full attention? As you point out, the last round of a short swiss tournament is likely to be the most important game for your rating.

    Also consider your pacing. In the earlier rounds when you lose to much higher rated players or win against much lower rated players how much effort do you put into those games? Once a game is lost give it up and save your energy for the later rounds (I am not saying you should resign early).

    I used to have a similar problem playing 4 action games on Friday night. The last two rounds would be after my normal bedtime (I am quite the early riser). I would be sleepy. I never really found a solution for that situation...

    The chess nut said...

    Sometimes when i'm tired at the board i'll close my eyes and do a sort of meditation to conserve energy. what I do is when it is my opponents turn i'll close my eyes and listen to the clicks of the clocks around you and sure enough after a while you can determine the frequency of the sound of your clock so you know when to open your eyes.

    Also Caffeine helps me quite a bit. :D