Saturday, January 26, 2008

Family Knight At WCA Friday Action

One of the wonderful things about chess is that it's something the family can do together. Often siblings will both be interested in chess, particularly if they've learned in a school chess club. Sometimes a parent gets tired of sitting around at chess tournaments waiting for his/her child to finish, so mom/dad gets in on the action. Also a parent who is already a tournament player will introduce his/her child to chess.

Last night there were two brothers and a sister from one family, a brother and sister from another family, and mother and son from a third family playing in the tournament last night. In December there had been three sets of siblings playing, and a father and son. Two of those sets did not play last night. If they showed up along with the father and son we would have had 6 families playing. That's over half the field of 20 players.

How does the tournament director keep siblings and parents from having to play each other? In most cases it's fairly easy because there are significant rating differences between family members so they'll naturally end out in different quads based on rating. However in one case two brothers are within 30 points of each other so it gets a little more difficult. If it's a swiss one can set up a team for the brothers and not allow teammates to play each other. In a quad there is no getting around it. Last night the problem was resolved by having a six player swiss at the top with one brother in that section. The other other brother ended out in the next section which was a regular quad.

Depending on how I want to look at it, the swiss format was good or bad for me. I didn't get to play King Kong which may have been good since I had some stupid moments. (ie. Blowing a won ending to a draw and getting my queen trapped in 10 moves.) On the other hand King Kong wasn't having a very good evening either and was more like Curious George. However in the last round I avoided disaster when my opponent fiddled around too much in a clearly better position. I would not have played this kid if the top section had been a quad.

Here is the crucial position from the first round. I'm ahead on the clock and I'm up by two pawns.

40. a6 Kb6 41. Bb7? This ended out not being the best move for me. Better is 41. Bb5! Black can't take on b5 because the king is then too far away from the pawn. If black doesn't take on b5, this is a possible continuation. 41...g5 42. d6 h4 43. gxh4 gxh4 44. d7 Bxd7 45. Bxd7 Kxa6 46. Ke4 Kb6 47. Bg4 Kc5 48. Kf5 Kd4 49. Kxf6 Kd5 50. f5 Kd6 51. Kg6 Ke5 52. f6 Kf4 53. Bc8 Kg3 54. f7 h3 55. f8=Q h2 56. Bb7)

Unfortunately I had not considered Bb5. Sometimes when there are other pieces on the board, I tend not to think outside the box. If that had been a pawn I was pushing to b5, I probably would have found the move because it would have been one of those recognizable endgame patterns. The game continued 41... g5 42. fxg5 fxg5 43. Kd4 h4 44. gxh4 gxh4 45. d6 Bd7 46. Ke5 h3 47. Bh1 Kxa6 48. Kf6 h2 1/2-1/2 I burned up my time advantage, and offered a draw when we got down to one pawn each.

In a recent post, I talked about psychology and body language. My opponent and the player sitting next to him were a study in contrasts. My opponent's face never changed expression and he almost never changed body position. He would sometimes have one hand shading his eyes or both hands on the table. When both hands were on the table they were perfectly still. On the other hand, the kid next to my opponent was non-stop motion. He'd stand, he'd sit, he'd kneel in the chair, he'd be tapping the piece he captured, twirling his pencil around, etc. Even without looking at the board it was obvious that he had an overwhelming attack. It wasn't that he was slamming the pieces down, but you could sense the energy as he made each move. The opponent looked like he was in shock. I wasn't even playing him, and he was driving me a little crazy. Now I know how my opponents feel when I get hyper and start doing that sort of stuff in my chair.

I'm not even going waste space on my next game. I had a massive brain fart and gave up my queen on move 11. After hanging a pawn on move 13 I resigned. There was no point wasting energy on that game. That was just one of those "deal with it, laugh about it, and move on" games.

In the last round I'd play one of the kids from a team I travel with. This was only the third time we've played in tournament. I had won the other two games, but in blitz and bughouse he has my number. When I play blitz and bughouse with kids I tend to act like a kid. There always a little bit of trash talking going on. So when I do something stupid like hang my king or lose on time I might hear "You suck." My response is, "You're right. I suck at blitz. I suck at bughouse." If I want to change the subject I can always ask "So what's our record in real chess?

A close call there. I can still keep the trash talk down, but one day I might not be so lucky.

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