Actually it ended out being the organizer's last blunder of 2007 by having the tournament up in Saratoga Springs instead of in New York City. This is a New Years Eve day tournament that was started around 1984-1985. There was a year or two that Steve did not run it, but there have been at least 20 to 22 years of it. He's typically gotten 20 to 40 players every year. This year since he was in Saratoga Springs directing the Empire State Open and NY State Grade K-8 he decided he would have the tournament up there. The only other choices were race back down to NYC bright and early on the 31st or not have it at all. Since it has a long history he did not want to not run it.
Since this was the 16th year I'd be playing in it, I certainly wasn't going to miss it. I think if Steve could have taken back his move, he probably would have not had the tournament. For those of us who did enter, we were happy he had it. After all, how often does one enter a tournament that has six guaranteed prizes and only have six players show up? Also, how often does one enter a one section tournament with half the field being titled players? There was a 1741 point rating difference between the number one seed and the number six seed. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The GM and two IMs decided from the get go they were just going to take draws against each other and have fish for lunch in any round that they weren't paired against each other. I had the "pleasure" of being the top of the bottom half so GM Ronen Har-Zvi got to take me apart in the first round. IM Alex Lenderman and Jay Bonin got to do like wise to their first round opponents. In terms of rating differences I was the one closest to my opponent. A mere 897 points between me and the grandmaster. Lenderman outrated his opponent by 998, and Bonin had an 1138 point advantage. Needless to say there were no upsets in round one! I tried to not be as timid as I was in the US Open when I played GM Shabalov, but it didn't matter. The end result was the same.
The problem with having an odd number in a score group is that someone drops down to the next group. The problem with being the top of that lower score group is being cannon fodder for an IM. In round two Lenderman and Har-Zvi have their draw, Bonin gets white agsint me and totally demolishes me, and the 1474 rated kid beats the 1256 rated kid. Once again no great surprises in that round. Everything has gone according to plan.
As a player who is also a tournament director, I will try to predict the pairings. The first two rounds I had accurately predicted. My predictions were off for round three. I had predicted Lenderman (1.5) vs Bonin (2), Dell'Orto (1) vs Har-Zvi (1.5), Bodek (0)vs Wright (0). The first player listed in each case being white. However those pairings would cause problems in the fourth round with Bonin and Har-Zvi both due white and paired against each other and Lenderman and Bodek both due black and paired against each other. The only pairing and color that would work would be Wright vs Dell'Orto.
Sometimes I've seen Swiss-Sys make some totally stupid pairings to balance out colors. Here's a typical example I've seen. In the last round of a four round tournament not pairing the two 3-0 players against each other because they both have had two blacks and are both due white. I should add that neither player had the two blacks in rounds two and three forcing a three blacks in a row situation for round four. I will always over ride that pairing to have the two perfect scores play each other.
In this particular tournament the pairing program got it right by making the odd looking pairings of a 0 playing a 1, and the other 0 playing a 1.5. Even though two players were playing the same color two rounds in a row it made it possible for everyone to get their due color in round four, and it also allowed for legal pairings. So I had predicted the right pairings, just one round too soon.
Just like the weekend, I found myself paired against a kid from my chess club. The kid always plays tough against me, but I am 3-1 against him. Our game was pretty quiet. Fritz thought I was slightly better in the final position. I'm not Fritz and who knows what would happen in time pressure.
As I made the recapture of 27. Bxg2 he offered me a draw. This is the kid who has a tendency to offer draws to me when there's a lot of play left in the position. The last two times he's offered me draws I've turned him down and he's blundered within a couple of moves. This time I accepted the draw. I had considered offering him a draw a few moves earlier because I just didn't feel like there was much in the position, and I thought he was slightly better. He also had about a two minute time advantage. Even Fritz gave black a 0.44 edge. Given his history of blundering after a draw offer, it was tempting to play on. However given my past weekend history of imploding against kids I decided accepting the draw was the safest thing to do. I think I was too fried mentally at that point to play it out.
Round four would bring about the final grandmaster draw of the tournament between Lenderman and Bonin. Har-Zvi would get his fourth easy game of the tournament, and I will get to play another 10 year old. Sigh. Here I had the chance to be part of the odd ball lore of this event by winning; causing a player to go 0-4 and still win the under 1800 prize. But alas I had another one of those games where the opponent opens with something besides 1. e4, and once again I had problems getting my queen side pieces to useful squares. Usually it's the bishop on c8, but this time it was the knight on b8. I gave up the exchange to free up the position, but later he gave back to trade down to a won ending. I flagged in this position.
The clock did for me what I couldn't bring myself to do; resign to another kid. So the next biggest mismatch after the titled players versus the fish was the only game that yielded an upset. I guess there was a little consolation by winning one of my largest prizes this year. The big walloping $48 for top under 1800. Though how often does one get to see a wallchart that looks like this at the end?
The results on the Chess Center of NY website are a little clearer. Sorry Steve for the bath you took on this mess, but it made great blog material. I guess next year we'll be back at the Marshall Chess Club. Pretty please! I don't need to travel 175 miles and spend an extra night in a hotel room to lose to Jay Bonin for the umpteenth time!