Wednesday, January 2, 2008


After spending Christmas with my family I hung out a few extra days with my sister in the Albany area. From there I headed to Saratoga Springs for the Empire State Open. There were three sections. Open, Under 1900, Under 1500. Then there's also the NY State Grade Championships for K-8. I opted to do the two day schedule. That means the first three games played at G/60 , and then in the fourth round we merge with the three day schedule and play 40/2 followed by G/60. I played in the Under 1900 section. At least I thought I was in that section. Considering the average age of my first four opponents was 10, I feel like I was playing in the 4th grade section of the scholastic tournament. It turns out a lot the kids after seeing the weak competition in their respective grades opted to play in the Empire State Open instead. In case you haven't figured it out the title consists of the ages of my opponents. Unfortunately if you take that last number, stick a hyphen in between the 4 and 0, and reverse them you get my score against said same competition.

I thought about playing up, but there's nothing between Open and Under 1900. When the sections are at 200 point intervals such as under 2000, under 1800, under 1600 then I will play up a section to avoid the under 1600 rated kids who decide to play up. For this tournament only one player under 1900 played up in the Open section, so it would have been a weekend of getting crushed. In hindsight I should have played up. I couldn't have done much worse.

In the first round I get paired against a nine year old kid with a 1500 rating. He comes in with his dad. His dad helps him get settled in, and quietly gives him some words of encouragement before we start. Though for all I know he was telling him "Don't let this lady old enough to be your grandmother beat you." The scene was reminiscent of the many scholastic events I've directed where the parents get their kids seated and set up, and then are hustled out of the playing room by the directors.

This isn't a scholastic event so the parents can stay and watch. For the first hour I didn't really notice whether his dad was watching or not, but later I could tell dad was near by because the kid would look at dad instead of at the board. I think having a parent near by can be distracting for the kid. If I'm watching one of my students play I try to watch from a spot where he can't see me so that he doesn't become distracted by my presence. I almost felt like telling the dad "You're not doing your son any favors by watching. He's looking at you instead of the board."

Then again maybe I should not have been worrying about my opponent being distracted. Sometimes I think it's better not to make checkmate threats that are easily stopped. Especially when the stopping move of f3 followed by e4 allows the opponent to totally dominate the center. Eventually he won a pawn. I don't know where my brain was when we reached this position.

He had just played Qc5. Being down a pawn I didn't really want to simplify, and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to get my attack going again. Like I said before, I have no idea where my brain was, but it sure wasn't looking at the same position that was on the board. I played 37...Qa6??? Oops! Can anyone find mate in two for white? I did after he played his move. That was not how I wanted to start my tournament!

I like traveling to other places so that I can play different people. I get tired of playing the usual suspects. So what happens in round 2? I get paired against Mike the 1600 rated 5th grader who takes my lunch time chess class at his school. Yeh, the same Mike that I beat in a simul at school, but lost to that same evening in the WCA Friday Quads. At least King Kong had the decency to stay in the 5th Grade section so I didn't have to face the possibility of playing him in this tournament.

This particular round really made me feel like I was playing in a scholastic tournament. Mike was not the only kid from my area playing in the "adult" tournament. There were about 8 kids from my neck of the woods playing in my section and the under 1500 section. Since we were all playing the two day schedule we were in a small meeting room away from the scholastic event and the three day schedule of the Empire State Open. When kids are playing in "adult" events they have a tendency to wander around the room and watch their friends play, or if their friend is playing on the adjoining board they'll keep peering over at the other game. Most scholastic events are pretty strict about the kids staying in their seats, and leaving the playing room when they're done. In an event like this one there are no such limitations, so kids take advantage of this freedom to get up and watch other games.

I don't mind people watching as long as they don't stand too close or have a conversation. Since I was playing a kid, I had an audience of kids. Also one of the other kids that I play a lot was playing next to me. He was playing another kid. It seemed like I was surrounded by kids. The game next to us finished before us. The player sitting next to Mike was putting his equipment away. As he picked up his chess board he knocked over Mike's glass of water all over our board. It was Mike's move and the position was getting rather complicated. I had won a pawn early in the game, but now it was getting to the point where I was going to have to give it back.

So here we are in this complex position and there's a big puddle of water on Mike's king side. He looks at the board, and looks at me as if to say "Now what?". I stopped the clock, and we get paper towels to clean up the mess. As we're mopping up the water, pieces are getting knocked over so we take some of the pieces off the board to make sure we get all the water cleaned up. Thank goodness it was only water, and not soda. Also I'm glad we were using Mike's plastic set, not my wood set.

It's times like this that I love my Mon Roi. I was able to set the position back up using the diagram on the unit. I then reversed the view to the black side so that Mike could double check the position and make sure we had set up correctly. When I had first reset the position I had accidentally put a black pawn on f5. Mike noticed the extra pawn. Once we was sure the position was right we continued.

It's a little disconcerting to have something like that happen in the middle of a complicated position. Also in 2007 I had a very poor track record when it comes to inappropriate dispersal of liquids. This year alone I ruined a digital camera and a laptop computer. So I guess given my record versus liquids it should have been no surprise that water all over the chess board would wreck havoc on my focus. We both had to refocus on the game itself. I think I was having more difficulty getting back into the flow of the game. After the flood was when I started falling way behind on time. Here was where it got interesting:

He had just won his pawn back with 33...Bxe3. After 34. Re2 I figured I would regain my pawn advantage when he moved the bishop. He opted to sac the bishop by playing 34...Bxf4. This is how it went from that point. 35. gxf4 Rxc4 36. Rd1 Rxa4 37. Rxd6 Rxf4 38. Ng6 Rf7 39. Ne5?? This was a serious mistake on my part as I missed mate in 4. (39. Rd8+ Kh7 40. Rg2 Rf8 41. Rxf8 e3 42. Rh8#) This stuff happens when one has 10 seconds left!

39... Rc7 40. Re6 Rb4 41. b6 Rc5 42. Nd7 Rd5 43. Ne5 a4 44. Ng4 a3 45. Ne3 Ra5 46. Nc2 Rb2 47. R6xe4 a2 48. Na1 Rxb6 49. Re8+ Kh7 50. R8e3 Rb1 51. Re1 Rxe1 52. Rxe1 b5 53. Kg2 b4 54. Kf2 Ra3 55. h4 Kg6 56. Ke2 b3 57. Kd2 b2 0-1 (White loses on time)

As I was having my time pressure meltdown I had to deal with a kid who must have flunked "spectator etiquette". This kid who I don't even know comes and stands right next to me to watch the game. I tell the kid to step back. So what does he do? He sits down right next to me on the table itself. WTF?? Hello! Since when does one sit on a table where people are playing chess?? At this point I'm ready to snap. I tell the kid to get the hell off the table and stay away. Give me a freaking break! This is not a little second grader. I'd guess he was probably in eighth grade or so. By that age they should know better then to be sitting on tables in the playing room.

So can this tournament get any worse for me? Yes. I get paired against another 9 year old. I tossed away a pawn early, but he allowed me to trade off the queens and double his pawns on the kingside. After the first round disaster of leaving the queens on the board, I decided I'd take my chances in the ending, down a pawn. For a change I was the one who had the time advantage. However I found another way to mess up, and lose a game that probably should have been a draw. I'm going to put the diagram and analysis in separate post.

Now we're into the slow time control of 40/2 G/60. In round 4 I played another kid from my area. He's 12, so he's my oldest opponent so far. This is a kid that I taught back in kindergarten, and knew way back then that he had talent. How many kindergartners can explain why his opponent is making certain moves and be correct in his analysis. This isn't the first time I've played Jacob. We've played 13 times before this game. My record against him is 7 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws. Here's a kid that I actually have a winning record against. He and I have had some interesting games over the years. I've gotten lucky a few times where he's let me off the hook and I gotten a draw or a win out of a seemingly lost position. Sometimes he will appear to be off in another world, or just appear to be bored with what's going on and that has cost him at times.

He had gotten off to a worse start then me. He went 0-2 on Friday in the three day schedule, so he reentered for the two day schedule on Saturday. Like me, he also started out 0-3 on Saturday. I felt kind of bad for him since he was 0-5 for two days of playing. Some kids are pretty resilient and can bounce back from a string of losses. Others don't handle it so well. Jacob is pretty laid back, so I don't think it was bothering him too much. I don't think I've ever seen him have one of those major emotional meltdowns where someone just totally loses it and starts crying over a horrible loss. He and I were joking around with some of the other kids before the pairings went up about how lousy we were playing. Being a TD and understanding the pairing system I had a feeling we were going to be playing. I'm not sure he knew or not.

Playing an accelerated schedule at a faster time limit for 3 games can be pretty draining particularly if every game goes almost the full two hours. It's also tough when you're playing like total crap and losing to 9 and 10 year olds. I kind of wished I had taken a 1/2 point bye for round 4 and hung out with a couple of the parents who were waiting for their kids to finish their 4th round. What would have been better?


Unfortunately B was the first stop, followed by A. Sigh. This was just one of those games where I just couldn't think straight. I'm not sure if I was feeling sorry for Jacob because he was having a worse tournament then me, or whether I was just psyched out by the prospect of losing to another kid. All I know was I felt like I was just going through the motions. It almost seemed like Jacob was also going through the motions. At times he'd be staring at the game next to ours, wandering around looking at other games, playing with his pencil or just staring off into space. I almost felt like offering him a draw after we traded queens on move 12, but I don't like quick draws so I decided to suck it up and play. 10 moves later I'd end out making a move that brings a different meaning to the phrase, suck it up.

Sometimes we can over focus on one idea, and totally overlook the obvious. We reached the following position after 21...Ne5.

Black's pieces are more active despite my having the bishop pair. I was very concerned with his playing 22...Nc4 attacking the b pawn and the bishop. I got it stuck in my mind that the only way I could save both was to put the bishop on c3. I didn't even consider 23 Rc2 which holds everything. Putting the bishop on c3 is a blunder since he can play d4 and trap it. I figured the only way I could safely put the bishop on c3 was to play e3 first. This way after 23...Nc4, 24. Bc3 he couldn't play 23...d4 because of exd. What I totally missed was after 22. e3 he simply plays ...Nd3 forking the two rooks. I had spent almost four minutes analyzing e3 before playing it. He spent all of about 20 seconds coming up with Nd3. When he picked up the knight I was so sure it was going to c4. When he dropped the knight on d3 I thought I was going to choke on the sour ball I was sucking.

It was tempting to simply resign on the spot, but we had not even been playing for an hour at that point. I really didn't want be one of the first ones out of the room at that point. There was also the possibility that maybe he'd might implode and mess it up, allowing me to escape. Given some of our previous games there was that possibility. Unfortunately after he won the exchange he became more focused on our game, and wasn't spending so much time looking at other games or fiddling with his pencil. My blunder gave him hope that he'd finally stop his losing streak. All it did for me was leave a pit in my stomach, and this sickly feeling that I was getting blown out by opponents averaging age 10. 22 moves later we ended out with the position in picture B. At that point I decided I had enough.

All I could hope for on Sunday was that the number would remain odd and that I'd get a bye and avoid playing the pain in the ass kid who I had to chew out for sitting on the table while watching my game. I did not want to play him after the little lecture I gave him on proper spectator etiquette. It would be just my luck to have him crush me.

As it turned out, I did get a bye and played a house player rated around 2000. I played better against him even though I still lost. In the last round I played another player from my chess club. I finally won a game. This was our 13th game. I guess for once 13 was my lucky number, since up this point my record against him was a pathetic 1 win, 9 losses and 2 draws. I'm just so glad I traveled 175 miles and spent 2 nights in a hotel to play three players from my local clubs. We could have all stayed home and played a quad in my living room.

The craziness would continue on Monday with Steve's "Your Last Blunder of 2007" tournament. That deserves its own post. Stay tuned for further details. This was long enough.


Anonymous said...

Also in 2007 I had a very poor track record when it comes to inappropriate dispersal of liquids.

Kramnik also had some controversy regarding dispersal of liquids in his famous match with Topalov. In some sense, you're in good company there.

likesforests said...

Poor Polly! In that last position I kept thinking at you, "Don't move the e-pawn, don't move the e-pawn, don't move the e-pawn"... but I guess Thought Power (tm) only works when you send the thought before the move is actually played. Oh well, we all have our bad days.

chessloser said...

damn kids, i hate em...

talking about the various dispersal of liquids, all i could think about was the scene in "the jerk" with steve martin running around the gas station yelling "more defective cans!"

you should have gone with option C, taken that glass of win TO the game and drank it while you played... makes the game more fun,and you don't care so much if you lose...

chessloser said...

glass of wine, with an E...which may have resulted in a glass of win, who knows...

Polly said...

LEP: LMAO! Maybe I shoulda stashed a pocket Fritz in the ladies room.

Like: Yep, way too late to not play e3.

Loser: I've played some people who have brought a beer to the table with them. Also I played some tournaments at somebody's home where wine and beer at the table was pretty normal.

I've played having had a glass a wine before hand. It's actually helped take the edge off. In this tournament I think I needed something a little stronger like Prozac.