Lichess Spring marathon

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Epic Top 100 Finish in Lichess Spring Marathon!

Some hints, tips, observations from the Spring 2024 marathon which was a 5 minute time control

Hi all

I played in the Spring 2024 marathon as I thought the time limit was okay and I could berserk too without too much risk of losing on time. It was a really fun event and congrats to Lichess again for organising it and having no glitches etc. Great platform. Fun games. I have some tips to share like my previous blog for the marathon.

Attacking chess helps shorten the games

Kingscrusher T shirt attacking chess

“Modern Chess is too much concerned with things like Pawn structure. Forget it, Checkmate ends the game.” - Nigel Short

I enjoyed, in general, playing to checkmate quickly with Attacking Style Chess. This helps shorten the games and I feel is ideal if one is about to play more than 100 games. Long positional grinds in the style of Capablanca are nice to have but in general, I preferred Alexander Alekhine's style. Getting relatively quick wins from attacking chess seems an ideal fit for this event in general.

Thinking about energy conservation is important than trying to emulate Capablanca or Karpov with long positional grinds. That stuff is good if it is just one game on a day - not hundreds. Also the quicker you can win, the more points you can accumulate in the given time frame.

Example 1 - Attacking Chess

Example 2 - Attacking Chess

Using Gambits can help get dynamic aggressive positions

Gambits seem ideal to get attacking dangerous positions. A lot of wins of Alexander Alekhine in more casual games often had gambits for dynamic play. The Blackmar Diemer Gambit is one which can occur in various different openings with both White and black. Some gambits are better than others. The Albin Counter Gambit remains a bad habit of mine, and try and resist playing.

Example - Gambit usage

Walking breaks every 2 hours away from the computer

Walking break

I had no regrets about walking breaks around the garden. I did tend to feel more energized on the return to the chess battles. One of the points I mentioned on the previous marathon blog was not having breaks for exercise. I certainly did on this one, and even noted down times on my notepad where I should stop and go for a quick walk. It really helped - no regrets here at all.

Berserk a lot if you can!

My berserk rate was 95% and I managed to get into the top 50 at one point but had to stop 5 hours before the end due to extreme exhaustion and lack of pistachio nuts to consume. At this time limit, i felt quite comfortable with 2.5 minutes against most opponents.


Play with openings one is comfortable with

This tip is largely the same as the previous marathon blog, I did try and stick with comfortable openings and what I am used to. Less energy thinking about unique positions and challenges. Being able to use tactics I have seen before, or attacking plans I have used before is very useful and conserves energy.

As Sun Szu has said:

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

By playing openings I know most of the time, I could conserve energy and less "fighting" in terms of having to calculate too much.

Reduce the need to search and exhaustive calculations

Relaxed calculation

I like to find downsides of opponents positions intuitively - e.g. unprotected pieces, etc. And work "backward" from those clues in the position. Rather than a "Foward-only" search. Of course, hybrid is best to try and balance things with calculation and intuition. Emanuel Lasker said something interesting about the combinational player:

"The combination player thinks forward; he starts from the given position, and tries the forceful moves in his mind.” - Emanuel Lasker

Did Lasker just say this to make sure his opponents were really exhausted? In general, Lasker really did pick up a lot of wins towards the end of tournaments and was really quite knowledgeable about exhaustion being a major factor in general. No, but seriously, I think "Check all checks, captures, and major threats" at every move for me is just too much. I need the clues.

This "lazy approach" might miss some amazing forcing move opportunities, but certainly the idea of checking all checks, captures and major threats each turn would have led to exhaustion a few hours in.

Having more "intuitive calculations" does mean missing stuff, but a lot of the time it seemed to be effective enough. Good pattern recognition for standard mating patterns and tactical patterns really helps reduce the burden of concrete calculation too.

Starting 12 hours in

12 hours in

I started my marathon on the morning of Saturday 11th at around 6 am. I do recommend this because sleep is important and I think it is not too healthy to spend all 24 hours on this tournament. My goal was limited to being in the top 500 initially. But then I discovered I could get into the top 200, and then even into the top 50. But when I reached the top 50, with about 5 hours to go, my level of exhaustion
was just too much.

Also if you start late in, hopefully, a lot of the engine abusers have been caught and removed, so you play more normal opponents in general. I found that throughout the tournament opponents seemed fairly human and it was a great fun experience overall for the 13+ hours I played.

No pistachio nuts this time - preordering them is a good idea days before

I should have ordered them in advance - I only had one packet in the morning which did give me energy with greek yogurt as well. I felt a bit sad about this and thought at the end I had played less than the previous marathon before reaching a state of total exhaustion. However as it turned out from the video length, I had actually played about 13 hours 45 minutes. Compared to the previous marathon of 11 hours 9 minutes.

Was 90% dark chocolate risky?

Dark chocolate risky

I am a fan of 90% dark chocolate. This does technically have some caffeine and sugar. I had warned against caffeine in my previous marathon blog. Maybe I would change this aspect for the next marathon and avoid it altogether in favor of pistachio nuts and Greek yogurt energy food recharges.

Favorite game of the tournament

Favorite game

My game against Ragehunter who came 2nd in the tournament featured an intuitive sacrifice to make the h-file dangerous. To be fair he had berserked me, and I didn't berserk back. This is one of the rare wins I have had against this amazing player.

2nd Favourite game of the tournament - Thorn Pawn power

Not on move 18. Rxh6 there is a nasty Bb4+ with Qxh6 to follow. So had to use the power of the thorn pawn here.

At the point of total exhaustion


I stopped my marathon when technically I could have played on for about 5 hours more to secure a top 50 spot - or at least try to. But I felt quite used up, and there was a great thing on Netflix I wanted to continue watching "Bodkin". I checked my position in the marathon on the phone downstairs and was curious if I could stay in the top 100 without any further games. But I wasn't quite sure if I could truly have more energy for it if there was a risk. I needed to go to sleep though soon after finishing the last episode. I was pleasantly surprised the next day to find out I was indeed in the top 100 :)

Lessons to learn from my breaking point of exhaustion

My last game was a Smith-Morra gambit which went wrong - I lost lots of pawns one by one - which is a bit demotivating. Okay here it is:

But also felt that my move rhythm was far faster than my opponent's. Part of this is that I berserked. But the non-matching rhythm in general is perhaps a demotivator for me which seemed to merge with the demotivator of being totally mentally exhausted, and I felt the need to stop. I think in general a time limit of 3 minutes would be more ideal for me, where non-matching rhythm to the opponent's moves wouldn't be so apparent. It is like I guess being part of a music band where your band members are winding you up by being out of synch to you.

Thoughts on how I could last longer next marathon...

Last longer next time

It turned out that playing 183 games of 5-minute chess from 6 in the morning left me feeling like I had nothing left to give at around 9 pm with 5 hours left in the marathon to technically be able to play in. However, as notes and pointers to myself and others for future marathons, I can summarise key points as:

  • Avoid: Unfortunately, dark chocolate consumption during the day has some sugar that can lead to energy crash downs.
  • Avoid: Lack of pistachio nuts as mentioned above. I should have pre-ordered days before. I feel these would be useful as a constant energy supply.
  • Avoid: Losing pawns one by one is not good psychologically
  • Keep: The walking breaks around the garden every few hours - had no regrets about these. Helped to relax and felt actually kind of energised after returning to the computer.
  • Disregard and don't be put off by: Mismatched rhythm with the opponent in a torture loss game doesn't help.
  • Speculation: It is possible that I could have done a timed rest of say 1 hour and come back instead of watching "Bodkin" to try and secure a top 50 place.
  • Speculation: It is possible I should have played maybe some quieter positional openings with less calculation needed - this is speculative right now but maybe an experiment for the next marathon.
  • Speculation: Don't have anything exciting to continue watching on Netflix as an alternative.

I will need to be more prepared for the next marathon and hope maybe to be able to play from 6 in the morning until 12 pm/ 1am later. It is just a theory, but essentially I think I could have been more energetic with better nutrition during the event - and tried to ignore a game which had a mismatched rhythm with the opponent - not be put off by that. So I missed the chance of getting into the top 50 as I was ranked around 30 at the point of total exhaustion. But was very happy to find out I was in the top 100 later in any case.

Video of the marathon

I did stream the marathon on Twitch, and have uploaded it to YouTube:

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Cheers, K