Sunday, April 20, 2008

Two Kids, Two Approaches, Two Different Results

For a little change of pace I played in the Marshall CC Saturday G/60 this past weekend. I like game/60 because it's slow enough that I can actually think more without getting into constant time trouble. At the same time it's fast enough that I'm not bouncing off the walls of the tournament room asking myself "When will the guy making a freaking move??" Though perhaps in round one I should have spent the 5 minutes I used on my last move in a more constructive manner so that I avoid putting my rook on a3 which was being attacked by a bishop on e7. That was one of those serious DUH moments. At least it wasn't against Polyakin. I managed not to get paired against him in this tournament.

In round two I'm Black against a 10 year old kid with a 1400 rating. Like I didn't play enough kids on Friday night at the WCA quads. (No I didn't lose to King Kong. He was playing baseball that evening.) The game starts out 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3. There was no way in hell I was accepting the Smith Morra Gambit, especially against some probably under rated kid. I opted for 3...Nf6 figuring on it transposing to a c3 Sicilian. As much as I don't like the c3 Sicilian it sure beats dealing with the Smith Morra. After his 17th move of Nxb5 which completed the queen trade we reach the following position.

I wasn't particularly happy with my position and I was spending a lot time debating on how I wanted to cover his threat of Nc7. At the same time I'm trying to figure out how I'm ever going to get the c8 Bishop into play. Right in the middle of my analysis he offers me a draw. I'm annoyed that he's made the offer right in the middle of my move. What the hell? He's got a solid position, I'm essentially playing down a piece and he wants a draw? I'm the one who should be begging for a draw. Did I take it? No way! I don't spend a day playing chess in order to take a draw after 17 moves in a position with a lot of life left in it. I could take the half point and feel lucky that I survived, but what do I learn about extracting myself from such a mess? What does the kid learn about finishing off a strong attack? Personally I'd rather lose the game trying to defend and fight back the get a draw.

Besides what's with kids offering early draws against higher rated players? I've never seen an adult offer me a draw in such a position. Are they just interested in the rating points? Given my prior history with kids begging for early draws, I figure now I've got him where I want him. Instead of fearing his attack, I feel much better about my chances. With his draw offer he's telling me "I don't think I can finish you off, so a half a point is better then none."

The game continued 17...Rb8 18. a3 a6 19. Nd6 Rd8 20. b4? This move indicated to me that my draw rejection was correct. Better was 20. Ng5! with lots of threats against my king side. Probably my best continuation is 20...g6 21. Ngxf7 Rf8 22. Be3 Rxf7 23. Bxc5 Rf8 which still leaves me down a pawn and an open king position.

The game actually continued 20... Nd7 21. Re1 h6 22. Rad1 Nb6 to reach the following position. Even though I still haven't moved the c8 Bishop my position is starting to free up a little bit.

He starts thinking about his move, and then offers me another draw before making a move. I immediately shake my head, and he goes back to thinking. I think he was totally rattled at this point, and it was just a matter of time before the wheels were going to fall off the c3 Sicilian Express.

23.Be3 Nd5! This forces him to remove the knight from the d6 outpost if he doesnt want to lose the pawn after Bxd6. 24. Nxc8? Rbxc8 He would have been better off retreating the Knight to e4 then solving all my problems by taking my undeveloped Bishop. The momentum clearly shifted. The game continues, 25. Bc5 Bxc5 26. bxc5 Nce7 27. Rc1 Rc7 28. Bd3 Rdc8 29.Rb1 Nc3 30. Rb3 Ned5 31. Bc4 b5 32. Bd3 Rxc5 33. Rc1 Ne2+ 34. Bxe2 Rxc1+ 35.Bf1 Rd1 36. g3 Rcc1 37. Nd2 Rxd2 38. Kg2 Rc3 39. Rb1 Ne3+ 40. Kg1 Nxf1 41. Kxf1Rxa3 42. Ke1 Raa2 43. Rc1 Re2+ 44. Kf1 Rxf2+ 45. Ke1 Rxh2 46. Rc8+ Kh7 47. Kf1Rh1# 0-1

Afterwards I had a long talk with the kid, and gave him the same advice I've given Dario and Ethan. I told him if he wanted to get better that he needed to keep attacking and not be content to take an early draw against a much higher rated opponent. I explained that by offering a draw in a clearly better position that one is telling the opponent that he lacks confidence in himself. He shouldn't be intimidated by the opponent's higher rating. I said "Did you see that kid who kept coming over to look at our game? That's Kevin. (King Kong) At the age of nine with an 1100 rating he beat me. He was not afraid of me or my rating. I've lost to him about nine times now and he's higher rated then me."

Kevin's mom overheard my conversation with the kid and told me that she thought Kevin's dad had done the right thing by telling him when he was younger that he was not allowed to offer or accept a draw . He wanted Kevin to play every game out to the end. As rigid as that may seem, I think his dad had the right idea. His parents are highly accomplished professional bridge players so they know what it takes to be competitive. Learning early on to play to win made him stronger. The emphasis was on fighting to the end regardless of the outcome, and not to worry about rating points.

After losing a tough king and 6 pawns vs king and 6 pawns ending in round three I got paired down against another kid. This time I'm playing black against an 11 year old girl who's been playing since she was in kindergarten. She is the complete opposite to what I was at her age. There is no way I would have been caught dead carrying a pink tote bag or having pink butterfly stickers with my name on them to identify something belonging to me. I would have been carrying a olive green army knapsack and labeling my stuff with my dad's label maker. I was a major tomboy. My opponent Julie on the other hand is 100% girl.

Julie attends an all girls school in Manhattan that has a big chess program. The school has hosted three all girls tournaments that have drawn over 70 girls each time. Who says girls don't like to play chess? I'm sure a number of the girls at those tournaments aren't quite ready to brave the rugged competition of an open tournament at the Marshall with lots of adults and (ewwww gross!) boys. Julie is not one of those girls. She's an active tournament player who plays in any type of event, open or scholastic.

With her cute and feminine outfits and her pink tote bag with crowns on it she's quite the contrast to the guys in their drab tee-shirts or ill fitting suits. Feminine charm aside, beware of the girl with butterfly stickers on the buttons of her Chronos. She doesn't play quiet and prissy chess. Any thoughts of my having a quiet positional game this round were quickly squashed when the game started 1. e4 c5, 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4! Here we go again. Another kid who likes to play aggressive stuff against the Sicilian Defense.

Julie has all the makings of being a great poker player. Nothing she does at the board gives away what she thinks about the position. There are no fancy wrist flicks, slamming pieces, constant adjusting pieces, or slapping the clock that is so typical of a many kids her age. Unlike me she isn't constantly changing positions in her seat or getting up from the table. She may have left the table once to use the bathroom. She certainly wasn't intimidated by the 400 point rating difference, and she wasn't going to offer me a draw if her attack fizzled.

She would occasionally look my direction if I suddenly changed position in my seat. I try not to be annoying or distracting when I start kneeling on my chair or standing up to look at the position. I'm not sure looking at the board at these different angles really helps me see more of the position, but there are times I can't sit still even on my own move. My body language may or may not have anything to do with what is occuring on the board. The body movement may simply be a release of the twitchiness of my thoughts. "cxb, axb, Nc2, Kg7, ...I wonder which train I'm going to make...what happens if she plays Qh4?...can I play h6 and g5?...How is Kevin doing in his game?" (Stand up and look at the position from behind my chair) "g5 is too dangerous. Her queen doesn't do much on h4. Can I take the b pawn for free?" (Sit down, lean on my elbows and look at the clock and go back to my analysis.

Here is the game.

She played solid and aggressive chess. I probably played a little too passively and let her have more then I should have. The difference was when her attack petered out she just traded queens and went for an ending, up a pawn. No draws for her.


wang said...

Kids at tournaments always surprise me. The last tourney had a kid rated about 1250 playing the board 1 player from the H.S. He offered a draw in an obviously worse position. This made a few people laugh.

Then you have these other kids that will not offer or accept draws at all. It's just funny to see how kids perceptions of the game can be so different than adults.

chessloser said...

i don't know if it's right or not, but i never ever play for a draw. win or lose, those are the only options. i've had kids (and adults) offer me a draw when they are gonna lose. that's just lame and cowardly. what gets me are the kids who have no chance except if suddenly you die of a heart attack but won't resign...

Polly said...

Wang: I've had numerous kids offer me a draw right before I'm either going to win a piece or have a forced mate in a few moves. I politely decline it. After the game is over I will explain to the player that offering a draw when clearly lost is rather insulting to the opponent.

Kids tend to resort to some gamemanship while playing. Even Josh Waitzkin refers to it in his book "The Art of Learning". They'll try the stuff that they do against other kids when playing adults in the hopes that the adult will fall for it too. I've told kids on more than one occaision to cut the crap.

I'm not sure it so much the kid's perception of the position itself. Often they're looking at the rating difference and figuring a draw will gain them a good number of points. Sometimes they lack the confidence to hold onto their edge.

Chessloser: In the past few years I've found myself offering far fewer draws, and rarely accept if there's any life left in a position.

The kids who won't resign don't bother me that much. Most kids are told from the very beginning to play the game all the way out. I think there are some benefits to playing to mate. It gives the player a chance to see how the opponent wins a won game. I believe a player can learn from being on the receiving end of a well executed mate.

I have actually played out some positions where I'm being crushed just see how my opponent is going to finish the job. I generally won't wait to get mated, but when there are a number of different ways for the opponent to win material I will play it out to see what sort of combination he uses.

Anonymous said...

Hey Polly why do you touture yourself so?

Are you trying to gt better, or do you just like to play?

If you would like to improve:

STOP playing all this chess, especially against lower rated players.

Collect your last 20 losses, go over them with a fine tooth comb.

Determine why you lose. Try to improve in these areas.

Study tactics / endgames.

Study time aprox twice playing time.

USCF Master

BlunderProne said...

"beware of the girl with butterfly stickers on the buttons of her Chronos."

Yeah... that's my nemesis.

As for fearing S&M. Really, its quite simple once you figure it out. A stronger player can easily neutralize and play to quick endgame with a pawn up. Its all about e5 and trying to get there. There were some good videos on ICC, not sure they are still there.

Once upon a time it was considered unsportsmanly to decline a gambit. Ah the romantic period of chess, my recent obsession.

likesforests said...

"i never ever play for a draw. win or lose, those are the only options."

A draw offer makes me take a closer look at the board to see if I missed a tactic.

I'm open to middlegame draws in equal positions if my opponent has a higher-rating, and I'll even offer a draw in equal or slightly better positions against lower-rated players if it guarantees me a tournament or match win. But usually I duke it out. If we reache a "drawish endgame", so much the better! ;)

Polly said...

Anon: I like to play. I realize I should study more, and play less if I want to get better. I don't feel as though I'm torturing myself despite what my posts may say.

I prefer playing higher rated players which is why I play on Thursday nights at the Marshall. I usually get paired up 3 out of 4 rounds. In terms of the weekends, I can't control who shows up or who I'm going to play.

I do feel I should be able to beat these players that are much lower rated then me, however sometimes my head gets in the way. I can think there is more in the position for my opponent then there really is. Some days I'm better then others in terms of dealing with the inner demons.

At some point I will take the time to really work on my game, and get back to the level I was back in the late 80s. In the meantime I enjoy the social and psychological interaction of the tournaments I play in.

Blue Devil Knight said...

A great tournament log.

Declining the Smith-Morra? Come on, that's just cruel. I started playing it to avoid playing the c3 as white.

A good strategy you have I think :)

Polly said...

I've been declining it because the last few times I've accepted it, I've gotten crushed horribly because I walked into a book trap. Sometime I'll get out my "Beating the Anti-Sicilians" book and learn how to accept it. At the moment it's not high on my list of priorities so this strategy will do in the meantime.