Last week Blunder Prone posted a butt ugly loss of his. We've all had them. Those horrendous games that we lose very quickly, or the agonizing hard fought game that implodes late due to some stupid idea we came up with. In the comments LEP suggested we have an ugly loss week in the blogs. With over 3200 rated games played over the course of 36 years I wouldn't be able to narrow it down to a few games to show in one week. So I've decided that hump day would become Wacky Wednesday where I'd share an amusing game from the Polly archives. Some of the games will have a story, and some of the games won't. Sometimes they'll be ridiculously short, and other times painfully long. In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I will even show some games where I was the recipient of gift from my opponent. Contrary to popular belief, I do actually win short games sometimes due to opponent incompetence.
Since this is February and I'm getting ready to play in my 28th US Amateur Team I thought I'd start with a game from my very first US Team tournament back in 1978. I played fourth board on a stacked team. Bill Goichberg put together a team with Ken Regan on one (2363), himself on two (2327), Mark Ginsburg on three (2247) and me on four (1444) to bring the average down to 2095. Ginsburg was supposed to be our secret weapon on three. In November of 1977 he had surprised everyone by winning the National Chess Congress as an expert. So his rating on the annual list was only 2247, though in reality he was actually closer to 2400. Goichberg felt we had an excellent chance to go 6-0 since Ginsburg's real rating would have put him on board one. How many teams had a board one player on three?
Sometimes things don't work quite as planned. Having someone on your team getting sick sucks. Having two players including your ringer on board three get sick, really sucks. Having a fourth board who is playing sucky chess all weekend is a disaster. Ken and Mark took turns having raging fevers and losing or drawing against much lower rated players. I found creative ways to toss away draws or wins. Bill was our one constant. He went 6-0 on board two. Unfortunately back then they only gave one prize per board for top score, and his tie-breaks weren't good enough, so he didn't even get the clock prize for his effort.
In round four we got paired down against the Collins Men. These were fathers of some of the Collins Kids. It should have been an easy 3-1 win for us since we outrated the top three boards by a significant margin. I can't remember whether it was Regan or Ginsburg that fell victim to the upset in that round. It didn't matter. It cases like this where a stacked team needs helps from the give away fourth board. So what did I do? I played this "fine" (italics for the sarcasm impaired.) game where I decided to avoid perpetual check and walk into a forced mate.
This is one those classic cases of forgetting to put your team's interests above your own. If I had simply settled for the draw we win the match 2.5 -1.5. If I recall there were still games going on in our match, so it wasn't clear that the 1/2 point would be so crucial. I don't remember if we had been 3-0 or 2.5 - 0.5 going into that round, but drawing the match changed the entire tournament for us. I think we ended out scoring 4.5 which wasn't good for anything. It just goes to show you that the stacked team theory doesn't always work as planned. There's no guarantee that they can score 3-1 every round.
There has been talk about a 3 grandmaster team with an 800 on fourth board playing in this year's USATE. It does seem to go against the idea of being an amateur team tournament. For a few years they had a rule that capped the rating difference between boards three and four at 1000. If you wanted a 2400 on board three it meant you had to have a 1400 on board four. For what ever reason the rule went by the boards.
There is no guarantee that the stacked team formula works. All it takes is a balanced team with an up and coming kid with a 2100 rating on board three to pull an upset of the 2400 on the stacked team. Chances are the 900 rated sacrificial lamb is going to get crushed on board four, so that means boards one and two just have scrape up a 1/2 point to win the match against the GM team.
I'm not worried about it since I'm playing board two on a team of friends from my chess club. We come to play chess and eat nice meals in between. My USATE blog may be part chess and part food critic.