Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Turning Point Towards 1800

It was no April Fools joke about my 1800 rating.  I left with one of my typical time pressure train wreck positions.  I'm wondering to myself, will people think I do nothing on this blog except show butt ass ugly losses?  Are there any wins out there that are worth sharing?  The answer is yes.

As I mentioned in the previous post, losing that 2nd round game was pretty disheartening.  I have been continually frustrated with my inability to put such games behind me and move on.  Somehow on that particular Monday I moved on.  On any given Monday I go to the Bob Peretz Chess Club to run our Monday action tournament(3 rounds, game/25; 5 second delay), not knowing whether or not I'll need to play.  If an even number of players show up, I'll sit it out so no one gets a bye.  If an odd number of players show up, I'll play.  There are some Mondays where I'm hoping like crazy that we have an even number so I don't have to play.  I think it was one of those Mondays where I would have been just as happy playing Scrabble on my iPad or reading Facebook posts then playing chess. 

Sometimes it's best to be pushed into something that one would rather not do.  So here I am on a night where I'd rather not be playing, and I've just lost my 28th game to Guy.  Now I have to play another kid who is currently ranked #5 amongst 8 year olds in the United States.  Long time readers know my stories about playing little kids.  However this post is not one of my "kid encounters of the third kind".  No annoying quirks or other silly nonsense.  In fact my young opponent score 10 out of 10 on the politeness scale.  Here's a kid before the game who looks me in the eye, confidently says "good luck" and gives a good firm handshake.  No "dead fish" handshake that I often get from kids.  At the end of the game another firm handshake and "good game."

Here's the game.

My even score for that Monday night would bump my rating from 1700 to 1706. A very modest gain, but it was the start of something more to come.

Rating: 1859! April Fools!.....Not!

Today is April 1st, and the April rating list is now in affect.  For the first time since February 1997 I have a published rating over 1800.  I don't even want to count that month because I was at my floor of 1800. They lowered the floor by 100 points and by April of 1997 I was sitting at 1702.  To save you the trouble of going to the USCF website and checking on me, I offer the following:

If you're wondering whether or not I've been doing loads of hardcore studying and brushing up on tactics, the answer is no.  Despite the miserable ending of 2013 where I scored a miserable 1/2 point (a 1/2 pointed that I lucked into in a hopelessly lost position) out of the last 5 games I played that year, I did not make any bold New Years resolutions such as "I'm going to study chess everyday for an hour."  Even a little resolution such as "I will work on 5 tactics problems a day" was not promised.  I don't make New Year's resolutions because all I would do is not keep them and then beat up on myself for not sticking to them. I'm not even sticking so well to promise to myself to write more often. 

My first tournament of 2014 had the potential of being special.  I drew with an 1800 in round 1 and beat another 1800 in round 3.  Unfortunately sandwiched between those games was one of my usual time pressure induced implosions again Guy Colas.  He's beaten me more times then his son Josh has.  His son is rated 2350 or so.  Admittedly Guy and I have played each other more often then Josh and I have.  However I've lost to Guy 28 times and to Josh 23 times.  It seemed like I could win the game.  But with a second left on my clock I had this position:

He just played 57. Rb7.  I replied 57...Kf6.  The game continued 58. Ne3, Nd4?? 59. Nd5+! The clock resigned for me.  Usually a game like that would leave me totally discouraged for the last round.  However somehow I had some fight left in me and won the last round against a young kid who out rated me by a good 100 points.

Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2013 2nd quarter - The road not taken

The highlight of my second quarter chess travels was the decision to not send in an advance entry for the Memorial Day weekend tournament that I had played in the last two years. My plan was to combine my Memorial Day weekend chess trip with my Team in Training trip to Lake Tahoe for America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride. I figured I play in the tournament, and then take in a side trip to wine country on my way to Lake Tahoe. I got a super cheap airfare to San Francisco way back in February. I think I bought my ticket to San Francisco before my ticket for my earlier trip to Colorado and Seattle. Getting a round trip ticket to San Francisco for $230 was too good a deal to pass up. It was case of buying the cheap ticket first and figuring out the details later.

The previous year I totally winged it. I had entered the 3 day schedule of Best of the West, and then decided to stay an extra day so that I could go on a ride with a West Coast friend's bike club. I switched to the 2 day schedule. The bike ride was beautiful, and the chess was ugly. Thinking back on that, combined with my miserable performance in Victoria I decided I would not commit to the tournament until it got closer to the trip. If I really wanted to play, I could suck it up and pay at the door. If I didn't want to play then I didn't have to worry about getting a refund.

Here is a picture essay of my Memorial Day weekend "chess" trip.

After last year's ride across the Golden Gate Bridge I had vowed I would never ride a bike across the bridge ever again.  It is truly a scary thing, even for an experienced cyclist such as myself.  Between the tourists on the beach cruiser bikes that can't ride a straight line and the tourists who insist on walking or stopping in the bike lane it's an accident waiting to happen.  Throw in the maniac racer types trying to weave through that mess going 20 mph it's downright frightening.  Despite all of that, I couldn't resist another ride across the bridge to Sausalito. 

20 odd miles and a ferry ride later, I'm back at San Francisco's biggest tourist trap, Fisherman's Wharf.  Although I have to confess. No matter how many times I come to San Francisco, I can't resist the sea lions.  They're the cheapest entertainment in the city.  I can spend hours laughing at their antics, and taking a bazillion pictures.  Thank goodness for digital cameras.  I think on one trip (pre-digital camera) I went through about 5 - 10 rolls of film taking pictures of them.  Really now, how many sea lion prints did I need?

When one rides a bike in San Francisco there are going to be hills.  It doesn't matter if one stays off the streets with the crazy big ass hills, it's hard to get anywhere in San Francisco without encountering some hills.  Fleeing to the other side of the bay doesn't help.  One of my cycling buddies who lives in Oakland asked me to come on her club ride.  Boy was I in for a surprise.

This is the top of Mount Diablo.  10 miles of uphill!  However the good thing about climbing up 10 miles of road on a bike is afterward you get to go down 10 miles of road. That last little stretch to the very top in the picture above is about a 19% grade. Pure evil!

Did I say something about chess?  Nope.  The only game I saw played over the weekend was a great baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies.  The Giants were getting their butts kicked, but came back to win with a walk off inside the ball park home run in the bottom of the 10th. 

Cap Day!!

The solution to whining about playing lousy chess, is not to play lousy chess.  Easier said then done.  The easiest way to do it is to skip the chess and go for the wine instead.  So instead of getting on a train and going to Santa Clara I got in a car and drove to Santa Rosa to visit the Charles Schultz Museum. I've always loved Peanuts, so I wanted to visit the museum on my way to Healdsburg where I would be staying for a few days to sample the local produce.

This is a close up of what makes up the gigantic mural pictured below.  Thousands of Peanuts strips put together to make the picture of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.  I can relate to Charlie Brown's frustration.  At times my inability to finish off a "won" game is like Charlie Brown's inability to kick the football.  Though instead Lucy pulling away the ball, it's my brain pulling away my focus or whatever that ends out costing me a game. Example below.

I wasn't originally putting a game in this post, but after making the Charlie Brown analogy I thought it was only fitting to post this game from the last round of the 2013 Westchester CC club championship.

The only frustration I may have felt on this trip was not having enough time visit all the places I wanted to see.  However I can't complain too much.  I enjoyed tasting a lot of good wine and food.

 Food and wine tasting at Vino Velo, St. Helena, CA

Appetizer, dinner and dessert to die for in Lake Tahoe at Edgewood Golf Club.

It's good thing I cycled 100 miles around Lake Tahoe! I had burn off off the calories I consumed on this trip.  I'll end this post with one of the incredible views I got during the event.

My next post will include a game that relates to this trip, but was not played on this trip.  This was truly a chess free road trip.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 2nd Quarter April Fools!

As promised or perhaps threatened is a better choice of word, a game from the first quarter of 2013.  Technically the game is from the start of the 2nd quarter.  It was played on April 1st, but since it was from the Grand Pacific Open that started on March 29th I'm including as part of the first quarter.

Spoiler alert!  Skip to the game if you don't want to know how it ended before the end.  Otherwise feel free to read on. 

I can't blame this train wreck on time pressure.  For the most part Game/90 with a 30 second increment does not lead to insane time scrambles I've experienced in Thursday Night "Cracktion".  Perhaps if I had 10 seconds left then maybe my move could be excused.  I had over 10 minutes left, and I spent almost two minutes on the final move.  My opponent on the other hand used less then a minute to respond.  I suppose losing a game in this manner was very fitting for April 1st.  My last move certainly had all the makings of a great April Fools joke.  Unfortunately getting mated is no joke.

End of spoiler. Let the game begin.

I can't even begin the explain what the heck happened there.  I totally outplayed my opponent the entire game, but couldn't quite finish him off.  I can't even blame it on being over confident because I had a crushing position.  I've done that many times in the past and did it a few times in 2013.  Some things just never change.  In this game I think I became fixated on Black's pinned rook and forgot about his queen.

No USCF rating points were harmed in the making of this disastrous tournament.  I think my Canadian rating took such a hit that I don't even show up on the CFC website.  I'm not sure why that is since I've played in the tournament 4 times which means I should have a Canadian rating based on 24 games.  When I do a cross table search on the event nothing comes up.  Maybe all these chess trips to Victoria have been a figment of my imagination.  Silly me.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Random Thoughts on the 1st Quarter of 2013.

A belated Happy New Year. Merry 11th day of Christmas. 

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love brought to me......

11 mates in one.  Nope that's not right.

I kept telling myself I would write more in 2013, but some how it did not happen.  Then again maybe it was because my chess wasn't all that interesting.  I started the year at 1747 and finished the year sitting on my floor of 1700.  Hitting more floor is nothing new, I've done it a ton of times.  In 2013 I lost, gained and lost those 47 points a number of times.  It’s kind of like yo-yo dieting. Lose weight, gain it back.  Lose it again, gain it back again.  Most yo-yo dieters spend many months losing the weight, and then bam! Go back to normal eating and gain the weight and then some in half the time.  I do rating points the opposite way.   I’m doing the rating point diet.  It takes me forever to gain rating points, and takes me no time at all to have a crappy tournament and chuck them all away.

Actually it took awhile to lose the 36 rating points I gained on 2012 New Years Eve.  That's because my 1st rated event after that was the US Amateur Team East where I tossed 15 of them by going 2-4 on Board 2.  Our team went 3-3.  Some how we never seem to mange to win that last round to get the plus score.  BTW, I've come to the conclusion that playing in the main ballroom is over rated.  It's crowded and noisy.  

You're probably thinking, "Wow! She didn't play the entire month of January."  I did play one game but it was part of the club championship that's played over the course of several months.  I got my butt kicked by Joshua Colas.  Then again he was rated 2335 at the time.  Directing a club championship over the course of several months is harder then running a 300 player scholastic tournament.  The scholastic tournament and all the headaches are done in a day or two.  The club championship is the headache that keeps coming back.  I directed the club championship at both my clubs and both were a headache.  Guess what? I'll be doing it again very soon.

No Liberty Bell Open in 2013.  Although my 2012 strategy of taking 2 1/2 point byes in the 3-day schedule and not coining until Sunday worked out fairly well, I didn't feel like making the drive to Philly.  Instead I rode my bike 51 miles that Sunday.  Some people may think riding a bike outside in New York during January is pretty stupid.  They may be right, but I find freezing my ass off while riding is more fun then freezing my ass off in a cold tournament hall, especially if I'm playing like an idiot.

I did make my 4th annual trip to the Grand Pacific Open in Victoria, BC.  I had my worst tournament ever for that event.  One draw and 5 losses.  Maybe I should suck it up and play in Under 1800 section if I go back this year.  That's a dilemma I still have to decide on.  (I digress)  

Maybe I can blame my bad performance on the little detour I took on the way out there.

 Yes I skied down that.

Yes that's me on the left.

For a change I took advantage of the fact that I had the entire week off before Easter.  So instead of simply flying out to Seattle on Thursday and jumping on the ferry the next day, I spent 4 days in Colorado and then went to Seattle.  Skied for the first time in 7 years.  My ski muscle memory is much better then my chess muscle memory.  It all came back very quickly.  In hind sight I should have just spent the whole week in Colorado.

If I remember how to upload games I'll include one in my next post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Draw Drama: Oscar for "best touch move sob story"

This past weekend I directed at the state scholastic championships.  I worked on the floor as opposed to my normal computer duties that I perform at our local events.  When I'm the computer tournament director my main responsibilities are input the scores, do the pairings and post the results.  For the most part I'm fairly immune to the dramatics that sometimes occur on the playing floor.  There are times I can end out contributing to the dramatics because a result was reported incorrectly (players' or floor TD's error) or I had a case of dyslexia and put in the wrong result. (my error).  Fortunately it doesn't happen often and it's usually pretty easy to fix. 

Working on the floor at tournaments can be far more challenging when faced with difficult situations.  Touch move disputes tend to be the bane of every tournament director's existence.  It takes a patient tournament director to be able to ask the right questions and come up with a fair decision based on the answers given by the players involved.  One has to be very diplomatic in handling a situation of one player's word versus the other.  As I explained in this post a few years ago there are a number of things the TD can do to try to resolve the back and forth of "He touched the bishop." "No I didn't!".  Most of the touch move disputes I dealt with over the weekend were pretty straight forward and the final decision didn't impact what was going on in the position.  However my luck ran out on Sunday in the K-1 section. 

I was called over to this position by the player with White. He claimed Black touched the pawn.

Before looking closely at the position I'm thinking to myself, "What's the big deal about touching the pawn?"  I asked Black if he touched the pawn.  He said "Yes, but I don't want to move it."  I tell the player he has to move it.  At this point he bursts into tears and says something to the effect of "It was an accident.  I didn't mean to move it."

At this point I realize that moving the pawn to e3 is going to turn this totally won game for Black into stalemate allowing White to get out with a draw.  I tell Black that it's touch move and that he has to move the pawn.  He then proceeds to tell me that he doesn't know the touch move rule and that because of that he should be able to make a different move.  I tell him that it doesn't work that way.   The rule is the rule.  He continues telling me that it's not fair because he didn't know the rule.  I look at the pairing sheet and notice that he has a rating in the high 900s.  A first grader with that rating clearly has some idea of what he's doing and certainly knows about touch move. He keeps insisting that since he didn't know the rule or that he forgot the rule that he should not have to move the pawn. 

I have to come up with a simple explanation of ignorance of the law doesn't excuse one from breaking the law.  Quick! How do you explain that to a 6 year old?  I used an analogy of my going through a red light. I told him that even if I tell the cop that I didn't know I couldn't go through the red light, I still was going to get a ticket.  Same thing applies here.  "Move the pawn."  The tears didn't stop, but he did finally make the pawn move.  I try to be patient and kind in these situations, but at the same time I want to just tear my hair out and tell the kid "Cut the crap. I know you know the rule. Stop giving me this sob story, and just move the #$& pawn!" However what I may be thinking can't be said out loud. Instead I have to make a fair ruling and try to help the kid learn from the experience.

That was only one of the draw dramas I dealt with over the weekend.  Stay tuned for part 2.

Monday, February 18, 2013

USATE - Kid story

It's been a pretty mellow event for me.  Having gotten over the flu I've been laying pretty low.  My results have been rather average.  I've lost to 2 experts, drew an 1800 and a 1500.  I beat a 1345.  The 1345 is the one little kid I've played this weekend.  Be still my heart, I've played 4 adults.  I don't remember the last time that happened.  No game against a lower rated kid would be complete without some story behind the game itself.  We were paired against a team of 4 little kids.  Our 3rd and 4th boards won pretty quickly.  Our 1st board and I were having to work a little harder on our games.  I had won a pawn in the opening, but I didn't exactly take full advantage of my material edge.  We reach the following position after I played 30. Qb3 pinning his knight on d5.

I have the threat of 31. e4, but I figured he breaks the pin either by moving his king or put his rook on e6.  I'm simply looking to buy some time while I figure out what I want to do about his threat of Nxc3, with a discovered attack on Nf3.  The truth be told I didn't really have any great plan up my sleeve.  I'm going to have to either move my knight or play my king to g2.

The kid reaches for the knight and then pulls his hand away.  He reaches for it again, and pulls his hand back again.  I keep thinking to myself "He's got to see the pin which is why he's hesitating."  The reality is he's totally missed the pin and is probably trying to figure out where the trap is after 30...Nxc3, 31. bxc3 Qxf3.  Finally he plays the move 30...Nxc3??  I stop the clock and tell him he's made an illegal move.  I know the rules about illegal moves and touching opponent's pieces.  However I decided I would let the tournament director explain the rule to him.  I get the tournament director and point out what happened.  He asked me if my opponent touched my bishop.  I said "Yes.  He took the bishop with his knight and pressed the clock."  The director informed him that he would have to capture my bishop.  The problem is the only legal capture is with the queen.  The kid was rather upset and immediately resigned.  I'll give him credit for that.  At least he didn't make me play the position out to mate.

Afterward I saw the director in the hallway, and he said in all the years he's directed that's the first time he's had a situation like that.  Most of the time there's been no legal capture or if there has been it hasn't been so devastating.  It wasn't the prettiest way to win, but a win is a win.

Here are a few pictures from the gimmick contest.

Alice in Wonderland theme with the red king and queen.  
Along with the white queen and the Mad hatter. (2nd place)

Knights of the Roman Forum (1st place)

One match left to go.  We're 3-2.  We'll probably get paired up again.  I have no idea what's happening at the other end of the ballroom where the serious games are happening.  I'm don't know how many perfect scores there are.  I'm a little too tired to care.  That's the problem when recovering from the flu.  I'm preserving what strength I have for my games, such as they are.