My first ever chess tournament By Armin Mušović
Montenegro is a very small country located in southeast Europe with a population of only 600,000. For chess players around the world, however, this is not an unknown country – the first major tournament that Garry Kasparov won was held in Montenegro in 1983. Montenegro also saw Bobby Fischer play here in 1992 against Boris Spassky, where he won the title of world champion, in addition to playing host to many other famous tournaments and players.
When one country has a small number of people, you might think that it is easy to win some chess tournament, or championship. However, if you only have one opponent who can parry you, everything becomes different, and the number of people (competitors) becomes less important.
I started to play chess more seriously when I was 13 years old. Before that, I knew what my father taught me – a rook is stronger than a bishop, it is good to conquer center of board with pawns to e4 or d4, and knight can attack the whole ”family” of your opponent (king, queen and rook at the same time). Suddenly, I heard that my school has a chess coach, ready to teach everyone who really wants to master chess. I started with lessons, along with about 30 other kids. I played very well for my level at that time, but I realised that I didn’t know anything about chess principles. After only half a year, I beat my coach in a two game match. It was 2:0 for me. He said that he is happy for my progress, and if I continue playing, I can create good results. I was very motivated to read books and learn new things in chess after this.
When I was 14 (only a year and a half after my first serious chess lesson) I went to the junior festival of Montenegro to play in the category for 14 to 16 year olds. That was my first experience with different chess players from different cities. I felt like every one of them were stronger than me. Also, somehow at the same time, I believed that I could win at least some of the games and that maybe I can create some exciting results. I started winning from the very beginning. I made a great score with zero losses, and my coach was very happy with me! At last, there were two rounds left in the tournament, and my next opponent was the strongest player in my category. I heard that he was already champion of Montenegro, and he was one year older than me – so I was a little bit afraid. How could I play against someone who is older than me, who has read many more books than me, and who already has medals and trophies?
When we started playing, I realised one thing – he played so relaxed against me. He didn’t underestimate my play, but somehow he played without any fear. He knew that I was the only one with the same number of points as him, and I saw that he was respecting the way I played. But he believed in himself, and that was obvious. In one moment of the game, I was preparing one trap, and I calculated so long. He probably thought that I was confused, or that I didn’t know what to play next. After a long time thinking, I played my move. He started thinking a little bit, calculating all the variations. Then, after one or two minutes, he took my unprotected pawn! In that moment, I realised that I must play stronger, even with the pawn down. He was even more relaxed after this. However, only a couple of moves after this, he also blundered a pawn! We were equal with material, but I had a better position with my pieces. He offered me a draw. I was confused at the moment… and then I accepted a draw. I still don’t know if that was a good or bad choice!
All of my friends at that time told me that I had done excellent . All I needed to do was hold my last game, and then for sure I would be first or second in the festival! That wasn’t so easy for me to believe, though. In my last game, I was White, and I was better after opening. I had a great position and many possibilities with my pieces. But my opponent was still playing very well. When I played the move, I got up to walk a little bit and to see what was happening in other games. Suddenly, I saw that my rival of the festival drew his game — with a win, I would surely end in first place! With a draw, I would be first or second I went back to my game. After some time my opponent played his move, and he blundered! Everything was so perfect for me. But that was the moment I will never forget – I hurried with one idea, so convinced that I was winning the game, but after just a few seconds, my opponent replied, and I had blundered my knight. All of my beliefs disappeared… I tried with a couple more moves, but my opponent was playing even better than before. He no longer made any mistakes. After a brief struggle, I lost the most important game of the festival.
At the end, I finished in second place. I was so close to be the first, but then I remembered what I was thinking at the very beginning of the championship. I was happy and sad at the same time. My coach told me something when we traveled back to my hometown: ”It could be better, but you played awesome in this festival! You just started with competitions, better days are coming!”
I believed my coach. Only when everything ended, I realized that I drew with Montenegrin champion and that I had first place in my hands. I decided to prepare better for the national championship, which was coming just a couple of months after the festival…