It's always fun watching masters on Thursday night staring at the wall chart and trying to figure out who gonna have to play the grandmaster next round. The plotting often starts before the first round is even done. Somebody will see that they're going to miss the break and have to play the GM so they take the strategic round two bye in the hopes that come round three they will have avoided the GM and will get an easier pairing because they only have 1.5 and the other contenders have 2.
I stare at the wall chart and try to figure out whether I can avoid getting a 1 point bye in round two or three. One tournament I tried the preemptive requested last round bye and it blew up in my face. So for the most part I roll with the punches and hope for the best. So after losing the first two rounds on Thursday I was facing a round three bye, however Steve was willing to give me a way out. The way out was to take the preemptive last round 1/2 point bye. I wasn't thrilled with either choice. I was getting tired of only playing 3 games. When I saw that I'd end out playing an unrated who was also 0-2 I decided I would take the full point bye in round three. I figured I'd get a better game in round four being paired as a one pointer.
A third round bye normally sucks because I have to wait around for the fourth round. A last round bye gets me home earlier. However I just wasn't in the mood to play an unrated again. I lost to one in the third round last week. I took my bye and went for a walk during round three. I thought a little fresh air, and a chance to clear out my head after two losses might help me out. Then I'd come back and hopefully get to play someone rated 1800-1900 in round four. Maybe the worst that would happen is I'd be the low 1 and drop down to the 1/2 which would probably be Steve Chernick. If nothing else Steve and I would have another one of our crazy time scrambles that would make for good blog material.
But this was Hell Week, so even my bye strategy failed miserably. What happened? The unrated won in round three against a 1759. So now the one score group had a bunch of people due the same color. Swiss pairing rules state that unrateds don't get dropped to the next score group. The one score group consisted of a 2157, 1965, 1784, 1700, 1694, unr. The 2157 got paired against the low 1.5. That now left an odd number in the score group. The 1694 should have been the one to drop down to the .5 point score group which would have left 1965 vs 1700 and 1784 vs unr. But the pairing program will do some odd things to make colors work. Color shouldn't matter for the two of us that who gotten byes in rounds two or three. We had one of each color so it doesn't matter. We can play anyone who needs whatever color to give them 2 of each. So what does the pairing program do? It drops the 1965 (high) to the 1/2 pointer leaving me in the top half of the one point score group. I end out playing the damn unrated that I carefully was avoiding by accepting the assigned third round bye.
The full point bye might have been worth it if I had any chance of winning the under 2000 prize, but a kid with two points had taken a 1/2 point bye for round four so he already had 2.5. I ended out waiting an hour to play the same person I could have played an hour earlier and been on the 11:14 train. Was it worth waiting around for? Hell no. He had no clue how to play the opening, hung a rook and put up little resistance. I go into a tournament like the St. John's Masters in order to avoid games like that.
Edit: Here is the game in question.
You gotta love his bishop on b3 totally blocked in by pawns after 9 moves. Typically when I play against a c3 Sicilian the light square bishop is tormenting my king along the b1-h7 diagonal. At move 20 he finally gets rid of the crappy bishop, but in doing so allows my light squared bishop to get pressure along the h1-a8 diagonal. That light squared bishop was going to cause him lots of problems before the game was over. Normally I have lots of problems with finding good squares for it when I'm black. Instead it became very active. At least he defended the mate threat after 21...Qg6. However the the killer bishop would take advantage of the light square weaknesses caused by the mate defense. He finally gave up after 32 moves.
And as for me, I give up! I'm not playing at the Marshall until next year. Enough of trying avoid byes and to out guess the pairing program.
MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!!
Next tournament will be the Empire State Open in Saratoga Springs, NY.