Sunday, August 12, 2007

2007 US Open: Rds. 7 & 8

Extreme Pairings - Part III

Alright so I wasn't playing someone 900+ points higher or lower then me this round. However, one has to be a little concerned when playing a 1099 with 2.5 points. In early rounds when you get paired down it's not a big deal when the player has the same score. But after 6 rounds to be playing someone over 600 points lower rated who has the same -1 score, one has to wonder who she beat. I know she's a kid, because I saw her playing near by in previous rounds. She has 2 wins and a draw two B players. Oh joy, an underrated kid having a good tournament.

When I asked her how old she was before the game she said 8 years, and 2 months. It's funny how kids stress the extra months. It's not enough to be a certain age in years. Need those months to indicate that they're a little older. Kids round their age up, adults over the age of 30 round down. All I know is that I've had my fill of opponents with single digit ages for the week. Even before I arrived in Cherry Hill I had to contend with a killer 9 year old at my chess club who figured out that my rook really wasn't protected. Kids!!!

There is much debate as to whether girls and boys play differently, and whether boys play more aggressively then girls. I certainly have encountered my share of girls who attack a position, but for the most part my games against other females have been rather positional in nature. Part of that may be that I tend to play very positionally and often my games have gone down to an ending where a simple tempo has been the deciding factor. Also I will often trade down when I think there's a good chance the kid doesn't know how to play the ending.

This was one of those games where I was relieved I wasn't playing some slash and bash attacking maniac. Though when she played a reverse Sicilian set up against my English and tossed in 3...f5 I thought to myself "Oh geez, one of these Grand Prix players who's going to try to trash my king side." But as they say, "Sometimes a dog's bark is worse then their bite." This was one of those cases. I was sure she would push her king side pawns, but much to my relief she didn't, so the position stayed very even.

Often age and experience can work in one's favor. Instinct takes the place of long calculations. I reached a position where I could trade off her good knight for my so-so bishop. She'd have a passed pawn, but it would be isolated. If she allows me to trade all the way down to a king and pawn ending, she will run out of moves and I'll win the isolated e-pawn. If she doesn't trade down the pawn is going nowhere, and the worst that will happen is she won't blunder away her rook or queen and we'll draw.

My gut told me it was likely she'd trade down. Too many times the lower rated player trades all the way down when the material is even, thinking she can hold the ending. I know this from experience, because too often I've been that lower rated player making the same mistake against masters and experts. So on move 33 all the pieces are off the board and we're left with 6 pawns each. At move 43 she finally has to let my king in the front door and give up a pawn. I'd like to say that I calculated the entire 10 moves out and knew we would arrive at this exact position, but it was a little more end game experience that led me to this position. Chalk one up to experience.

When your rating falls near the mid point of the field and you're not pulling upsets or being upset a pattern develops. Play up and lose, play down and win, play up and lose, play down and win, ad infinitum. The pattern may play in reverse if you're on the other side of the break. It started that way for me, but got interrupted by the second round draw so I played down twice in a row. After that I settled into the down, up, down, up sequence. Round 8 was no different after winning Round 7. Another 1900. The only difference was I really thought I could win this game. Question: When is being up a pawn and a piece not enough to win? Answer: When your opponent has a pawn on your seventh rank, and completing a rook trade allows the pawn to promote. Truth be told, the free piece was not so free. It was a fleeting advantage that turned into being down the exchange with a very active rook versus a very slow knight. If anyone is old enough to remember Pac Man, his rook was Pac Man to my pawns. So for me it was time to "pac" it in, and call it a knight. In a tournament like this sometimes resigning a little early is not the worst thing one can do.

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