This also could be subtitled Gorilla in a Fog. (Apologies to Dian Fossey.) As I mentioned yesterday, Steve Chernick is one of the first players that I designated as beyond being simply a monkey on my back. Since I had written that initial post on our games, the rivalry has become a little more balanced. These days we tend to go back and forth in terms of winning and losing. Our games rarely end in a draw anymore. Regardless of who wins it usually comes down to some time pressure induced craziness or other unexpected nonsense. This game would be no different in that regard. The only difference would be winning would give me an even score, a chance of winning the under 2000 prize, and gain back the rating points I tossed on Monday. Ohhhhh the pressure!
Sometimes I just need to tell the inner pessimist to shut the hell up so that I can concentrate on the game itself. After I won two pawns by move 17 I had to keep reminding myself that one; I'm up two pawns, two; that doesn't mean I can cruise to the end game, and three; stop thinking like that and play the damn game! My brain tends to function at warp speed and I often have scattered thoughts running amok. That's probably why I simply missed the free bishop on e7 after he played 17....Qa5. I wanted to trade queens so that I don't give him any cheap mating shots.
My other problems with the game at this point are the stupid bishop on c1 that's going nowhere fast, and the knight on c2 that is on a pretty useless square. Even though I'm up two pawns, I feel like I'm down two pieces. His knight on e4 is cramping my style, and if I trade it another knight will take its place there. In the mean time he's getting the one cheap mating threat that I feared was lurking somewhere. I had to spend equal amounts of time to find the best defense, and to convince myself that I had nothing to fear. This is where I have to block out memories of past implosions, stifle the urge to panic and come up with a good defense. Be2 would have been a slightly better move to allow me to stop the mate threat with f4 instead of g3. I was too focused on g3 as the only defense, and saw that the knight sac on g3 would be fatal if I didn't have the queen near by to interpose after Qxg3+.
I did finally get rid of the pesky knights, and life should have become simple at this point. However nothing is ever simple in a Wright-Chernick game with less then two minutes between the two of us. Evn though I'm the one with more time, I still manage to come up with one of those time pressure induced miscalculations. I'm up a piece and a pawn, and I want the queens off the board. I want them off now! Hanging pawn on e3 be damned! With that in mind I play Qd2?! Oops! Bxe3+ is rather annoying. Fortunately I have two things working in my favor. I have a bishop, knight and rook for the queen, and he has less then 10 seconds left. Having seen what he does with that little time, I figured I still could win this game.
Now the fun begins, and not just at our board. I've just played 34. Bd4 (Bxa7 would have been better.) He picks up his rook on b8 and starts waving it around as his time is counting down. He puts it back on b8 and presses my clock. I say "you didn't move!" and I press his clock. This gives him back the 5 second delay. He hesitates as he's not sure if he really moved or not. I had the correct position on my Mon Roi so I knew he had not moved. Forget it, if I had been writing my moves instead. I would never have the correct score this deep into a time scramble. The hesitation was enough that as he played Rxb2 he ran out of time.
As Steve and I were having our moment of confusion at our board at the next board there was a dispute over whether somebody had let go of his knight or not. Gabor claimed Ed had let go. Ed claimed he still had his hand on the knight. It sounded like the typical dispute between two kids in a K-1 section. Gabor is indignant over Ed's denial of letting go. He says to Steve Immitt "You've known me for years, why would I lie about this?" Ed is insisting he still had his hand on the knight. Director Steve (too many Steves here) asked player Steve and I if we had seen anything. I look at him and say "I was too busy claiming a win on time over here to see what was happening over there."
It's situations like this where Steve's years of experience directing scholastic tournaments comes in handy. The way the touch move and determined move rules are written, an outright denial of touching or letting go of a piece works in the favor of the one making the denial. In the absence of witnesses a skilled TD has to ask a lot of questions of the two players, gauge the responses and come up with a fair ruling. There are times where the denying layer has touched or let go of the piece, but it happens so quickly he's not even aware that he has done so, hence the vehement denials. There are times where the denying player is outright lying and using the rule to his advantage. I know that was not the case here. Ed sincerely felt he had not let go. It was only by Steve asking him to demonstrate what he had done when he moved the piece that it became apparent what happened.
Ed showed that he had put the knight down on the square in question and was getting ready to let go and realized it was hanging. He felt he still had contact with the piece when he changed his mind about the move. Each time Steve asked him to demonstrate what he did after putting the piece on the square it became apparent that he had briefly let get of it. He probably had his hand less then a 1/16th of an inch away for a fraction of a second. However it was enough to doom him to having to leave the piece there.
Even when I don't have to play Gabor it seems his wiley ways in time pressure has a way of impacting my result. Having the ruling in his favor gives him an easy win. His win in the final round combined with his re-entry after starting 0-2 (Re-entry gets a 1/2 point bye) gave him 2.5 points, thus giving him the under 2000 prize and qualifying for the Saint John's Masters. I hate re-entries out of general principle. I don't feel players should be able to buy a second chance at winning. His re-entry cost me 1/2 the under 2000 prize. He won the same number of games as me, but the bought 1/2 point bye that replaced his 0-2 start gave him the full prize.