Friday, March 21, 2008

Oh Rats!!!

I saw this cartoon in the comics a few months ago, and it reminded me a of few chess bloggers I know, me included. When it came out I had thought about posting it and labeling the two characters. I can picture a few of us sitting around at a tournament and having this type of conversation. There are times I feel like the rat, and other times I feel like the pig. Up until last weekend I felt more like the pig. Having picked up nice chunk of rating points, I was feeling more like the rat. Maybe it's appropriate since it's the Year of the Rat.

Monday night six people including myself showed up at the club for the St. Paddy's Day Action. I was hesitant about playing, and if there had been an odd number I probably would been happy to not play. I thought I was just being silly to worry about how I'd do in the tournament. What is this? I win a tournament, and suddenly I'm worried about protecting my rating?

The first round I'm paired down against a kid with a 1200 rating. He plays decently, but I win. The second round I play white against Alan who I beat last week. I've had a good streak against him lately. I've won our last 4 games, but I played like crap and he snapped his little losing streak against me. In the last round I'm paired against a 2050. I lost the toss and ended out with black, but I play a decent game against him. I had excellent drawing chances and then this happened:

My opponent has 4 seconds and I have 3 seconds. Alex just played 48. Be4. As Fritz so nicely points out on the diagram the threat is hxg6. I have one of those time pressure induced brain freezes where I overlook the hanging queen and play Kh8 as my clock hits 00:00. It took me 8 freaking seconds to come up with that pathetically lame king move.

One would think that missing something like that and losing on time would make a person want to swear off any time control under an hour. Not me. I'm a glutton for punishment and keep telling myself my time issues are all in my head. So what are my plans for Thursday evening? "Four Rated Games Tonight!" at the Marshall Chess Club.

When I go to the Marshall I take the # 4, 5, or 6 train to Union Square. I usually make my way over to Fifth Avenue by W 12th St. A lot of times it depends on traffic lights. I cross a street or avenue when the going is good. There's an old expression about walking around New York City. "There are two types of pedestrians, fast ones and dead ones." There's a wonderful Episcopal church on the corner of Fifth and West 10th. They have a wonderful choir and sing beautiful hymns and oratorio pieces. It's almost like being at a concert. I attended Easter services there last year, and intend to do so again tomorrow.

This particular day it's Holy Thursday and the church's service had started at 6:00 pm. As I walked by I saw somebody slip in late. One side of me wants to going to church even though the service had started 20 minutes earlier. The other side said "You're going Sunday. You came down here to play chess." I start walking on 10th Street towards the club. I'm finding myself getting anxious. I stop mid way on the block. Church or chess? The debate rages within, but I felt it's more about avoiding the possibility of having one my typical Thursdays then feeling the need to be in church. I finally tell myself that I'm being silly, and to suck it up. Unless I'm willing to completely stop playing anything faster then game/60, sooner or later I'm going to have to confront the possibility that I may piss away more rating points due to time pressure induced stupidity.

Since Foxwoods is this weekend, many of the higher rated regulars weren't at the Marshall including my usual round one nemesis, Vladimir Polyakin. Instead I played Raven Sturt. He's a junior high school kid who I remember when he played in the Primary section of scholastic tournaments I ran. Back then he seemed like just another kid with a 700 rating. Since that tournament in 2001 he's gained 1300 points. Ahhhh to be young and talented. He's one of those kids I don't mind playing. He's not one of those "in your face mouthy" kids. He's a polite young man who plays a wicked game of chess. I simply got outplayed and eventually overwhelmed by his attack.

Unlike most Thursday nights, I got paired down in round two against some high school kid I'd never seen before with an 1189 rating. What I did not know at the time was that the rating was provisional and his April rating is 1423. I try not to allow the opponent's rating impact how I play against an opponent, but sometimes I can't help myself. I wasn't taking him lightly, but I was getting annoyed that he wasn't falling for my little combinations. I was also getting annoyed by his constant trading down. I'm thinking to myself "He's simply trying to get a draw with me." Finally I decided I'd trade down and see if he could hold his own in the ending. Many kids I've played are great at tactics, but their end game needs work.

We reached this position after his move 40. c4+

I didn't really like the idea of splitting up my queenside pawns with 40...bxc4, so I retreated to e6 immediately. My opponent felt I should have taken first. The game continued 40...Ke6, 41. Ke4 exf4. Better would have been 41...f5+, 42. Kf3 b4. His queen side will be locked up and I still have opportunities to penetrate on the king side. A possible continuation would have been 43. Kf2h6 44. h4 Kf6 45. Kf3 g5 46. hxg5+ hxg5 47. fxg5+ Kxg5 48. Kf2 Kg4.

The game went 42. Kxf4 h543. h4 Kd6 44. g4 hxg4 45. Kxg4 Ke5? It looks natural, but once again splitting the queenside with 45...bxc4 46. dxc4 Ke5 will be better for me. It prevents him from creating the passer. 46. cxb5 axb5 47.a4 Kd4?? This was one another one of those situations of panicking instead of looking carefully at the position. I still had 4-5 minutes. I could have spent 2 of them working out what happens after 47... bxa4 48. bxa4 Kd5. Sheesh! Didn't I learn anything from last weekend?

Instead, I had one of my meltdowns that I can't really blame on the clock. 48. axb5 Kxd3 49. b6 Kc3 50. b7 Kxb3 51. b8=Q+Kc3 52. Qg3+ Kb4 53. Qe1+ Kc4 54. Qe6+ Kb4 55. Qxf6 c4 56. Qxg6 c3 57. Qb6+ Ka358. Qc5+ Kb2 59. Qb5+ Kc2 60. Kf4 Black resigns.

So here I am on another Thursday night 0-2 after two rounds. Unfortunately it's not because I've played up two rounds in a row. Now I'm totally pissed off and take my frustrations out on a 1200 rated high school kid. He keeps blundering, and I keep grabbing everything he leaves for the taking. He won't resign despite the fact that he has a king and a bishop against my king, bishop, knight, rook, and three pawns. Even after I promote he doesn't resign. Yeh, I know what I said last week about premature resignations. But.....

I was kind of irritated at that point. I don't care if someone doesn't want to resign, but he spent more time wandering around the room looking at the other games instead of playing our game. Is it just me being grouchy, or is it disrespectful to be wandering around watching other games while playing out a totally lost position?

After the fourth round pairings went up I heard someone say "Who is Please Wait?" I said "That's my usual fourth round opponent." Instead I had another shot at Schnitzler. This week there was no messing around waiting to run me out of time. The clock was not a factor. Unfortunately for me his bishop pair was deadly, and like so many of our previous 32 encounters I was on the short end again.

Sigh. There went another 31 rating points. C'est la vie. Back to our regularly scheduled programming. :-Þ


Phaedrus said...

Hi Polly,

You really must have a deep passion for chess to overcome setbacks like this.

I carefully looked at the pawn endgame, and, as one chessteacher to another, would like to give you in consideration (with great hesitation, as I do not know you really and have never analysed with you) that you do a series of small exercises on breakthrough and passed pawns.

Not deep stuff, but exercises of max 5 to 7 play untill the passer is through. Even more than after blogging about this game, the theme will be burned into your mind and it will be a skill you will do on auto-pilot in future games.

BTW I have trained very young children, so I know how difficult it can be to do this well. I deeply admire you for this.

I stopped working with young children/beginners after two years, since I lost all interest and it became a real burden.

Polly said...

This is the sort of stuff I tend forget how to do because the kids I teach aren't ready for it. Most of the 5-8 year olds I teach never even get to an end game.

I can do a king and queen checkmate with 2 seconds and a delay on the clock because I've taught it so many times to kids that the pattern is ingrained in my mind.

I love playing. Despite my crappy results on Thursday nights I just enjoy my trip into Manhattan and hanging out at the Marshall. When I have another fantastic result like last weekend, I really should just take a week or two off, and savor the success.

likesforests said...

I feel your pain. At least you're the rat. I'm still the pig!! :)

In the pawn endgame after 40...Ke6?, White should have won with 41.cxb5! axb5 42.a4! bxa4 43.bxa4. That means that 40...bxc4 was necessary.

In fact, after 40...bxc4 I think you're in great shape because consider 41.dxc4+ Ke6 42.a3 a5 (or 41.bxc4+ Ke6) and White no longer has any favorable queenside pawn breakthroughs.

wang said...

I feel like the pig myself. Well I guess not really since I too just enjoy going to the club and chessing it up. I really look forward to the monthly tourneys by my house. Of course now that I don't live in NY anymore I regret like hell not going to the MCC. What a dope. Maybe I'll swing by next time I visit my family.

Polly said...

White missed making that move immediately which would have given me the opportunity to correct my error. Unfortunately not realizing I had made a mistake until it was too late allowed him to make ir a few moves later. Sometimes it's better to split up the pawns. This clearly was a case where the so called pawn weakenesses arent so weak.