It doesn't quite have the same ominous ring as Friday the 13th, but I had a bad feeling about tonight's tournament. It was a small field to start with. Only 12 players for the first round. I was number 11 out of 12, and actually that was a mistake since #12 has a FIDE rating of 1974. The first round got paired with me as #11. Almost every Thursday night this year I've played either Vladimir Polyakin or Yevgeni Margulis in the first round. If I haven't gotten one of them in the first round I've gotten one of them in third round when they're having a crappy night. Tonight it was Margulis.
I am really getting frustrated playing Black against random queen pawn openings. I just find myself full of dread after 1. d4 Nf6, 2. Nf3. I keep getting really crappy positions where it takes me 15 moves or more to get the bishop off of c8. This game was no different. We reach this position after he plays the questionable 20. Nd5.
This is where one needs to step back from the negative thoughts that abound in situations like this. My mindset was "My position sucks. White's pieces are active, and mine are all sitting on my first-third ranks doing nothing." With this mindset when the opponent plays a crazy move like Nd5, one assumes the worst. I'm looking at the pins on the h3-c8 diagonal and c file, and I'm looking at my queen being attacked. All I can see is I'm losing material. What I don't see is my counter play with 20...Nxe4. If he plays 21. Nxc7 Nf2+, 22. Kg1 Nh3#. I didn't find this on my own either. Fritz showed me. Instead I played 20...Bxd5. The game continued 21. cxd5 Qd7?, 22. dxe6 Qe8?? 23. exf7. At that point I was totally disgusted and resigned.
In the meantime 5 more people have entered bring the total up to 17. I'm no longer at the bottom of the wall chart, but the people below me have 1/2 point byes, and the former #12 now has his FIDE rating on the wall chart. So do I take the preemptive last round bye to avoid a second round bye or look for a decent house player? Had Steve been running the tournament I would have ended out doing the preemptive bye because there were no house players and it looked like we were only going to have 17 players. Fortunately Steve's substitute isn't quite as speedy as Steve, and he was running a little late. He also delayed pairing while I looked around for a house player. In the meantime an 18th player showed up. I was saved from having to make that decision.
Round two wasn't much better then round one. I lasted a few more moves, but the game ended when I hung my queen. I never even saw that his knight was attacking my queen, so I made some defensive bishop move. After I made the move, my opponent shakes his head and points at my queen. It's then I notice that his knight can take her. He didn't actually make the move. It was almost as though he wanted me take the bishop move back, and play the queen to a safe square. I wasn't going to try to figure out what he wanted. I had made the bishop move, and as far I was concerned that was it. I stopped the clock and shook hands.
In round three I played another one of the usual suspects. He asked me if I minded playing at a different table. He didn't want to play at the table were assigned to because it's close to the window. It didn't matter to me. He wanted to use his clock even though he was white. We both have Chronos clocks. He has the one with the regular buttons, I have the touch sensor one. If I was feeling snarky I could have insisted on my clock even though I know he doesn't like the touch sensor buttons. At that point I didn't give a crap, and didn't feel like getting into a pissing match over which clock to use. I've seen him fuss over other people's Chronos that rocked on the table. I didn't feel like dealing with his fussing if I opted to use mine.
I'm not sure what was going on in my head tonight. I didn't have much fight in me after the first two games. The problem is when I get in that mindset, it's almost impossible to find good moves. The inner pessimist thinks there are no good moves and plays accordingly.
The problem with playing somebody a lot of times is they know a lot about how you play and think. He knows I'm prone to time trouble. The last time we played I tossed away a winning position in the throes of a time scramble. Though in that game I had a big time advantage that I pissed away, and then imploded. In tonight's game he was playing some rather cautious moves instead of playing a few brutal attacking moves. When I asked him why he had not played f5 and gone for the attack he admitted that he figured he'd run me out of time.
That strategy could have blown up in his face. Unfortunately with the inner pessimist working overtime I missed trapping his queen. Later we simplified, and the ending was drawish. I didn't offer a draw. I knew he wouldn't take it anyway. Besides given my luck with draw offers lately I decided not to even bother. Being short of time I let his knight in and dropped two pawns. At this point any fight I had to hold on as long as I did went with the second lost pawn.
Mercifully somebody had dropped out. Why take a preemptive last round 1/2 point bye when you can wait around and get a full point bye for the same round? Though the difference between a 1/2 and 1 point doesn't really matter except for a place or two on the final standings.
So off to Saratoga Springs for the NY State Scholastics this weekend. Hopefully the kids on our team won't catch whatever seems to be going on in my head right now. Maybe I should have stopped with Monday when I went 2-1.