Friday, April 11, 2008

Beware of Unrated Chess Dads

As I mentioned in this week's Wacky Wednesday post I played in the Parents and Friends event in Dallas this past weekend. There were no psychotic chess parents or crazy disputes. At least I didn't have any close encounters with psychotic chess parents in this event or get into any crazy disputes. In fact I actually played a kid in this event. My first round opponent was an 8th grader who was also playing in the the K-8 under 1000. I was surprised when he told me he was playing in both. He had a quick win in the 9 AM round so he didn't have to run back and forth between rooms. Technically he wasn't supposed to be doing that, but some how he slipped through. He made a lot of mistakes and I was able to beat him fairly easily. So I managed not to fall victim to a first round upset which has been the norm the last two times I've played in this event.

In the next round I get the one pairing I did not want. I did not want to play the unrated who won in the first round. He had been forced to play in the rated section since he had a USCF membership even though he had never played in a tournament before. I guess since the prizes in the unrated section are USCF memberships they make current members play in the rated section even if they're unrated. This unrated had beaten a 1253 in the first round. In this tournament that doesn't necessarily mean anything. In this particular case the the 1253 had just shot up to 1440 from an outstanding result at the end of March. At the time I did not have this information so I didn't know what to make of the unrated winning his first round.

When I play unrateds at the Marshall Chess Club they tend to be solid players. Weak unrateds don't usually play in the Four Rated Games Tonight! event since it's so strong. Often the unrateds I play on Thursdays are fairly new to the United States. I'm always leary of unrateds with Eastern European names and accents. I just assume they're at least 2000 strength.

So how do I treat an unrated from Colorado who won his first round game in his first tournament? Not lightly. However there is a fine line between taking someone too lightly or being scared of him. I'm not so sure I was afraid of him per se, but I wasn't thrilled to be facing the Grand Prix Attack. I managed to trade queens early, and unbeknownest me I probably was slightly better. However in my mind I thought White was better and started playing afraid. I had numerous oppourtunities to play d5 starting at move 17. Fritz gives it = over + .66 edge for Black. Fritz confirmed what our team coach told me when we went over the game Saturday night.

Unfortunately I was having trouble looking at this particular position objectively. I kept thinking about other games I've had against the Grand Prix where I've gotten crushed by White shoving pawns to e5 and f6. Once again perception versus reality was clouding my vision. I perceived that White had a crushing position. In reality the moves that I was so afraid of would weaken White's position and give me an overwhelming advantage. I was replaying memories of horrible losses against this opening, forgetting that I had managed to trade off queens early. I needed to replay memories of games such as those in Saratoga Springs where I beat back the opponent's attack and took advantage of the weaknesses caused by that attack.

Here's the game. The last 20 moves were played as the kids were coming back into the room for their 2 PM round. All I can do is put on the iPod and try to block out the noise while trying to cope with immense time pressure.

In the next game the unrated got crushed by a 2100. He said our game wiped him out mentally. I did come back next round and beat an 1100. In the last round two of the top 3 scorers had taken byes so I ended out on board 1 against a 2100 with a 3-0 score. I had bemoaned the fact that getting upset in the first or second round causes me to play low rated players the rest of the tournament. I guess this was a case of be careful what you wish for. The lucky red hat from Saratoga Springs seemed to have lost its luck. I had my chances against him, but I think I was mentally tired and beat at that point. Once again I finished the tournament with an even score. Maybe the next time I'll take a 1/2 point bye in round two.


Anonymous said...

Nice read. The psychology of playing unrateds is rather interesting; my experience is that paying them tends to be like taking cattle to the slaughterhouse. Maybe with an occasional 1400 thrown in for good measure. So I tend to be too relaxed, even though, technically, they should be treated as capable.

Being scared of the unrated European guys, like Edwin, is probably a good idea. (And in pick-up basketball, they're probably deadly from 3 pt range as well.)

FYI, the mystical Texas aura prevents any hats other than cowboy or 10-gallon hats from being lucky.

wang said...

Yeah unrated European dudes I would definitely be wary of, you would run into quite a few of them in NYC...

It's funny alot of Tournament Sicilian Players are scared of the Grand Prix Attack. I used it for a short time but it sucked for me. That is probably more a testament to my suckiness than the opening though.

Polly said...

LEP: You must have really weak unrateds where you're from, either that or we have weak unrateds too and I just suck at chess and I've been fooling myself all these years thinking I'm a B player.

I don't know about that cowboy hat thing, especially being a Giants fan. Maybe I shoulda worn my lucky Giants cap....

Oh wait, it only works when I'm watching football.

Wang: I find that one has to be very precise in playing either side of the Sicilian. It's easy to go wrong. Sometimes I think I just want to scrap the whole damn thing.

Wahrheit said...

Interesting mental stuff about past games getting into your head. I worked on and pretty much eliminated that problem. Unfortunately, that left a number of other problems still in place...