Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Monday Knight Blahs

Back to the live chess grind after an 18 day lay off. My last live games were at the USATE at the leisurely 40/2, G/60 time limit. Now it was back sudden death "cracktion" chess. It was another one of our small turnouts. Originally I had scheduled a G/45 tournament to play over the next two Mondays. One player particularly wanted play G/30 and have three games in the one night. Since it was a rather small field for four rounds, we changed the format. What we lacked in quantity, we made up in quality. The ratings of our five player field were 2210, 2104, 2089, 1700 and 1589. The astute reader and/or tournament director can see which way this is heading for me as the 1700. Ms. "I hate getting byes" is going to end out having to give herself a bye in the second round unless she can draw or beat the 2104 in round 1. I already know what the pairings will be for every round based on no upsets.

Round one I'm black against John Kelly. We've played 10 times before. I have one win, one draw and 8 losses. The game had no redeeming qualities to it. Between the lingering effects of my cold, and not having played live chess in 18 days my head was just not there. I had my usual problem getting my bishop off of c8, the h1-a8 diagonal was open and he had a knight and bishop lurking around there giving me fits. The position went all to hell from there after I lost my h7 pawn. The position isn't wacky enough to post on Wednesday, so I'm not going to waste time or space on posting it.

Round two I get the bye. I can't even go for the preemptive requested last round bye since I'm the TD. Sigh. I spend a little time looking at the last game and trying to find the so called play that John thought I had. There was nothing. My session with Fritz today confirmed that. I watch the other games for awhile, and then in a fit of utter boredom I start putting together a children's jig saw puzzle. Our chess club meets in the YMCA's after school program room so there are lots of children's books and toys. I guess I know why I'm not into jig saw puzzles. This was a 20 piece puzzle with large pieces. The picture was very simple, and should not have been hard to put together. The damn thing took me about 25 minutes to put together. As I'm struggling with this damn puzzle I'm thinking to myself "No wonder you played like crap in the first game. How hell are you going to have any chance against Lonnie in the last round?" Also as I'm messing around with the puzzle I'm hoping none of the guys will come over and see what I'm doing.

After I finish the puzzle I start flipping through a "find the animals" picture book. It's actually a beautifully illustrated book with lots of different animal drawings in it. Trying to find 20 little parakeets in the rain forest page was beyond what my brain was capable of processing at that point. Then again it's hard to find little things on page when one's reading glasses are sitting on another table.

Finally we're ready to play the last round. I'm white against Lonnie, John's white against Silvio, and Alex the guy who wanted to play three rounds in one night gets the bye. John asks me why Alex gets the bye. I think he wanted it so he could go home. I told him because Alex is lower rated, and I thought I couldn't make a legal pairing otherwise. Actually I could have, but at the time I didn't think there was one.

This was game #34 against Lonnie. (2 wins, 1 draw, 30 losses). A typical game with Lonnie tends to be a positional grinder with either one or both of us in time pressure. On a good day I'll end up in a crazy time scramble with dead even material only to find myself either down a rook, on the verge of being mated, or flagged when it's over. I'll end out shaking my head and muttering to myself. On a bad day I'll be down on the clock, down in material and getting slowly crushed to death.

This game had all the makings of being one of those bad day games. I dropped a pawn on move 18, and he had a 10 minute edge on the clock. Considering how the first round and the stupid jig saw puzzle went, I thought it was going to be another one of those painful and butt ugly losses that I've been having against Lonnie lately. Maybe losing the pawn woke me up, but I started defending well, and countering his cheap shots. On move 50 I won my pawn back and we reached this position.

I had about 3 seconds left, and he had over a minute. I think he was so stunned over giving the pawn pack that he went into a deep think. I'm looking at the board trying to figure out what he's thinking about, but I also have one eye on the clock hoping that maybe he's forgotten about the time. He suddenly looks at the clock as it gets down to 11 seconds, and quickly plays 50...Nb3?

I see that my queen is under attack, but almost ever square it can go to is covered by a black piece. Before the 5 second delay counts down, I pick up the queen. I'm waving it around the board looking for a safe square in the exact manner that I tell my students NOT to do. (Look with your eyes, not with your hands!) As the clock hits 00:00 I put the queen on g5. He doesn't notice the clock, but immediately picks up the knight and puts it back on d4 before I notice the blunder he made with Nb3. What was wrong with 50...Nb3?

With more time I probably would have found such a simple two move combination, but having immediately picked up the queen I limited my options to queen moves. Many of the squares were covered by his minor pieces and the rook, or would lead to ugly pawn structure after a queen trade. We rattled off a few more moves that neither of recorded, and then he noticed I was out of time. It didn't really matter at that point because I had hung some pawns, and he had an attack going.

I guess getting more rating points on CTS for solving the problem in 3 seconds has its merits. However CTS is not touch move, and I don't feel the same sort of pressure that I feel in a live tournament game. Considering how the evening started I'll chalk this one up as a moral victory of mind over matter.


tanc(happyhippo) said...

50... Nb3 of course doesn't work because of 51. Nxf5+ followed by 52. Rxb3 losing a piece. :)

Rocky said...

I need to read your posts more often. I really enjoyed this one for a couple of reasons.

What impressed me most was that you seem to always be willing to play the tough players who have beaten you multiple times.

I also liked the position you posted. I too saw what happyhippo saw and the only reason I saw it was because I, almost always, try to simply point out every "check" move and at least consider it before looking at other moves. Having done this, I spotted the little tactic.

Polly said...

Rocky: Maybe I have to follow the axium, "always check it might be mate". Then I might have found that.

Anonymous said...

Have much work, so just have to leave this note real quick. 9:30 sounds good for tonight.

Polly said...

LEP: See you then!