Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Small Chess Club Blues

The Internet sucks! Not really. I love the Internet, but at the same time I hate it what has happened to local chess clubs that have lost players to Internet chess. I belong to two local clubs in Westchester County. The Bob Peretz Chess Club meets on Mondays in White Plains, and the Westchester Chess Club meets on Wednesday in Scarsdale. Both clubs run USCF rated events on a regular basis, but the attendance has been slowly dwindling over the last couple of years. The Westchester Chess Club Championship drew 14 players. There was no announcement in Chess Life. It was simply email, and website traffic. All of the participants were players that drift in and out of the club during the year. 6 to 8 of players come almost every week and the rest come now and then.

The Bob Peretz Chess Club is currently holding its club championship. We have a free space at the White Plains YMCA, so we don't rental expenses anymore. Our Treasurer got the bright idea that we should hold the tournament as a Grand Prix with a Tournament Life Announcement in Chess Life. I figured we guarantee $500, but Alan wanted to do $1000. He figured we only needed 20 players at $50 each to cover the prize fund. Surely $400 first prize would attract some different people to the club, and give us some new blood. There are also some nice class prizes, and an upset prize.

I brought my computer to do the pairings, thinking we'd have a good turnout. Nope. On the first night we got 8 people. First round I'm paired against number 1. I was so bummed by the lousy turnout, and how much money the club was going to lose. I couldn't concentrate and walked into a mate on move 27. We do a "second" first round the following week to give people an option to start a week later without taking a 1/2 point bye for round 1. I sent out more emails. We got one more player the following week. I finally was able to get a 10th player so that I wouldn't have be giving byes.

Maybe I should have let there be an odd number. The 1300 who would have gotten the bye was my second round opponent, and I managed to lose a game where he blundered a bishop on move 13. This is the same kid who I've played twice in the last few months, and offered me a draw in an even middle game with lots of pieces still on the board. Both games I turned down the draw and he blundered away a piece a move or two later. Then he simply imploded after that. I remember after the second game I told him, "Don't simply offer a draw against a higher rated player in the middle game. If there's any play in the position they'll turn you down. Keep looking for play in the position." This also the kid who I "checkmated" when I was in check.

I guess he took my advice this time because he played aggressively as black, and despite blundering his bishop on move 13 just kept attacking. I think he plays better when he's not simply trying to draw against a higher rated player.

Starting on move 19 he just started shoving pawns down the kingside. I was a little concerned but felt that since I was up a piece I shouldn't have any problems. Keep in mind that this was my first game since my weekend meltdown at the Marshall, so my thought processes were still a little off. The other factor was I had found out earlier that day that I won a week's trip to Seville Spain to run in the Seville Marathon in February. (How cool is that?) So I'm thinking about how I'm going have to train to complete this marathon by the 5 hour cutoff, I'm thinking about the game, and I'm telling myself "You're up a piece, forget about the marathon for the moment, and try not blow this game."

I spent about 5 minutes trying to decide what I wanted to do with my rooks. Did I want to double on the f file, move the bishop and double on the g file, or have the rooks on g1 and f1? I decided I would play 24. Rf2 so that I could either double on the f file or eventually double on the g file after moving the bishop. I thought this move would give me a little more flexibility once I saw which way he was going to try to open up my king position. I thought he might play h5, but he pushed 24..f4. After 25. gxf4, gxf4, I had a major brain fart. My plan is to move the bishop off g2, attack the queen by moving my rook to g2, and then sliding the other rook over to g1. If he puts his rook on g8, I still have Rg2. I force the queen away and I can trade off a pair of rooks. (Trade pieces when ahead!) Great plan, except I overlooked 26...Qg3+! Oh crap! I can't play Kg1 to protect the rook. Suddenly I'm down the exchange, my king is exposed, his rook can grab the open g file and his queen is sitting on the seventh rank. Can anyone say "Up the proverbial creek, with no means of propulsion"?

Sigh. Another blown game. The funny thing was, it did not bother me as much as the game I blew on Saturday. I think maybe I had a chess hangover from the weekend, and my mind was too dulled to even care at that point. Perhaps I've mastered SonofPearl's Art of Losing so well that games like this just bring me to a deeper understanding of why I keep playing this damn game. Truth be told, I think I was too pumped up about winning the trip, to give a rat's ass about this particular game. Oh well at least I can rest assured that the upset prize in this tournament will not go to someone simply beating a player 100 points higher. This was good for 400 points.

One of the problems I have as a playing tournament director is after losing a game like that, I can't simply walk out and go home to mope. I have to deal with the rest of the games and getting results. The other problem is dealing with a small tournament spread out over many weeks. People have to reschedule games, people get sick, or have emergencies. The third round of this little 10 player tournament gave me more headaches then the 165 player scholastic tournament I directed on Sunday.

It started last week when one player told me he had play the 3rd round on the makeup date. The straight, by the book pairing would have matched him against the player who already had a game to make up. So I made a slight pairing transposition to avoid that problem. Monday I get an email from Dario's mom saying he's sick, can he play on the makeup date? The problem is he's paired against another player who has a make up game, so I look to see if I can make a reasonable switch. Dario has one point, and he's paired against the highest rated zero. I switch him to play another player from the zero score group. Actually the pairing was better because it got rid of all the ugly color problems. So I make various phone calls and get everybody rescheduled.

Then one of the players who is 2-0 calls. He has a family emergency, and can't come. His opponent has already left for the club. I really don't want to award a forfeit on board 1. I get to the club and have to explain to Isaac that John can't make it. Fortunately he is willing to play next week. Then I had a nervous moment when one of the other players hadn't shown up. I'm thinking to myself, "Did he misunderstand my email and think that he was playing next week, and not this week?" Finally he walks in at 8:30. He's a college student that comes up from NYC. He had missed the train, and had to take a later one. Catastrophe avoided! Despite all the chaos, I managed to win my game.

I felt like he had the better position early on, but I just kept defending. Eventually he wasted time, and then after he traded down I wasn't afraid of his advanced passed pawn. I had the squares covered, and it was weak. Eventually I won two pawns, and then squeezed out the ending. I like these types of games. I'm a tenacious defender, and I hate when the opponent plays boring "squeeze em" chess. Those types of games I end out fiddling around, and getting into time trouble. This one I was behind on the clock, but the time limit was long enough that it did not become an issue. I had lots of interesting things to consider which I think kept me more focused.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Wow I couldn't do it. I get too easily frustrated with people and end up saying stupid things, like where they can go if they don't like something.

Congrats on the marathon thing. That is awesome!!!

Edwin said...

Starting on move 19 he just started shoving pawns down the kingside. I was a little concerned but felt that since I was up a piece I shouldn't have any problems.

I too got burned a couple of times in similar ways. It is easy to underestimate the power of the pawns.

Polly said...

BDK: After dealing with crazed chess parents, one learns to deal with stupidity. You think my posts about playing are interesting, just wait until I go on one my psycho kid/parent rants. :-Þ

Ed: It wasn't so much the pawns themselves, it was how he used them to open things up, and back up his queen to get the fork. I would have been fine if I left the bishop on g2. Then if he gives the check on g3 I can slip back to g1 and hold the rook. Unfortunately brain farts make one miss stuff like that.

Peter said...

That's a shame that the WCC's numbers have dwindled. I actually used to play at the WCC when I was back in high school - when the club met in the Methodist church basement in New Rochelle.

I remember you from back then, so I was happy to stumble across your blog. I enjoy reading about your adventures over the board.

Polly said...

Peter: Wow, small world. That was a long time ago. Welcome back to the chess world. Thanks for stopping by.