Last night was the the Chess Center of New York's 21st Annual Thursday Night Action Championship. This tournament is different from the regular Thursday night tournament in that there are two sections instead of the normal one section. The sections are Open and Under 2200. Not counting the re-entries and house players there were 57 players. The Open section had 23 players alone, including 6 Grandmasters. There are many Thursdays where the one section doesn't even have 23 players. This is one of those tournaments where playing up is an invitation to a first or second round bye to a patzer like me. Can anyone say "Shark bait"?
Since it's such a large tournament for a Thursday night Steve always has someone assist him. This time Andre Harding was helping him. Andre often subs for Steve when he's directing another tournament or inputting 300 kids' names into his computer for the Greater NY Scholastics. Andre sees me come in and he asks "Under 2200"? I tell him yes. I should have stopped at yes, but instead I go on to say "I don't want to deal with bye issues. In this section I shouldn't get the bye. If I'm getting a bye in this section, then I deserve it."
"You figuring 2-2 or maybe 2.5?" Andre asks.
"Yes. 2-2 is about right." The last two years I've had two wins and two losses, so that seemed like a reasonable score to reach.
The typical pairing sequence in this tournament for me has been I get paired up in the first round, and then make the break and get paired down in the second round. In 2006 I lost round 1, won in round 2, pulled an upset in round 3 and then lost in round 4. I actually gained a few rating points. Last year I got paired up in round 1 and lost, but in round two had the misfortune of getting paired down against Robert Hess' brother Peter who was rated 1450 at the time. It was one of those games where I was actually up a pawn but an insipid knight retreat on my part lead to serious ugliness. Being 0-2 lead to getting paired down the next two rounds against lower rated kids. I managed to beat the two kids and maintain a bit of dignity though I did toss ratings points since I was not sitting on my floor for a change.
So back to 2008's event. The top half seemed a little stronger this year. Last year the break was around 1750. This year a 1900 got paired up in round one. In the first round I'm paired against Nagib Gebran rated 2042. Despite my 0-5 record against him I usually give him a fight. Not this night. My game was just butt ass ugly. I got crushed with White. Ouch! I hate when that happens. We were one of the first games done. That gave me plenty of time to stare at the pairings and wall chart and try to figure out whether I was going to make the break or not. I fell smack into the middle so it was possible to go either way depending on number of draws, round 1/2 point byes and upsets. I decided I wasn't even going to try to figure it out. I didn't want to know. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of just making the break and getting paired against a kid with a published rating of 960 who was actually high 1100s.
I had nothing to worry about. I got paired up against Moshe Uminer, rated 2039. He's another one of those players on my usual suspects list who clearly has my number. I have 1 win, 1 draw and 13 losses against the guy. We have pretty close games that often result in a time scramble, however this was not the night I'd double my number of wins or draws against him. Chalk up loss number 14. At least it lasted longer then the first round, and wasn't so ugly.
Okay, so I've started off the same way as last year, 0-2. No need to panic. Also I knew I won't play the 900 since I was the top of the score group and he was the bottom. There was a possibility I would end out with the lowest 1/2 pointer, but no I ended out with a fellow no pointer, Eric Hecht.
There are times when it does not pay to be the higher ranked player. When you and your opponent are both due the same color and all other things being equal, the higher ranked gets the due color. This is great when you're due white. It sucks when you're due black and you have a crappy record with the black pieces against your lower rated opponent. I knew what was in store for me. I'd see him offer up his c3 pawn. At the moment I'm refusing the gambit. I'm not overly happy with the positions I'm getting, but sure beats getting crushed out of the opening. This game was more like the games we used to have when it would come down to somebody being short on time. I was one the one fighting the clock, and a difficult position.
Note: When I first published this article I seemed to have had some technical issues with Chess Flash. On my Explorer browser I was getting nothing showing, and all my Mac Safari browser I was getting a game of LikeForests. I think I got it fixed so there should be my round three game. Sorry for the confusion. If anyone came across this post after I wrote that note they'd find no game at all. It seemed to have gone into a black hole. Here it is almost a year later, and I notice. Here is the game. Really!
After the game was over I saw Andre and he asked how I was doing in the tournament. I held up my hand in the shape of a zero. He asked "What happened?" I told him about getting paired up twice and then getting paired down against Eric. His reaction was "Oh no! He's the worst possible player to get paired down against. I hate having to play him." Andre has also been victimized by his wild attacking style, and also feels he's under rated.
So then I'm looking at the wall chart to see whether my words of bravado at the beginning would come back to haunt me. Any other zeros lower rated then me? Yes, but taking requested last round 1/2 point bye. Odd or even number of drop outs and last round 1/2 point byes? At the same time the quirky 1100 player who always arrives around this time looking to be a house player comes in and asks if he'll be needed as a filler. I told him if there was going to be a bye needing an opponent, it was going to be me, and no he would not be needed because I was not waiting around, but was going to make the 11:14 train instead.
I have my Thursday night routine worked out precisely. I know exactly what time I need to leave the Marshall in order to make to Union Square in time to catch the subway back to Grand Central. I know what time the subway is pulling into Union Square. I even know whether it's an express or a local. Whether I'm going to catch the 12:30 train (Yessss! No byes!) or the the 11:14 train (Oh crap, I sucked!) I've got the timing down to a science.
With the rounds running a few minutes late I had to be ready to race out the door if I had the dreaded "Please Wait". It would suck to get the bye, miss the 11:14, and have to wait for the 11:45. Knock on wood, I've never missed the train at 11:14 or 12:30. I try not to hover over tournament directors when they're doing the pairings. I hate it when players do it to me when I'm directing. However once Steve started printing the pairings I asked "odd or even?" He knew what I meant by the question and said "please wait." I said good night to him and told Andre "It says please wait, but I'm not waiting. Oh and by the way. I guess I was right when I said if i get the bye in this section then I deserved it!" Note to self: Next year keep your mouth shut about projected score.
If being a NYC pedestrian ever became an Olympic sport, I'd probably win a medal. The object of a NYC pedestrian is to make it from point A to point B without getting hit by a car or bike messenger going the wrong way on a one way street, and being able to cross a street or avenue without having to wait for a light. It's this precise timing at intersections that makes it possible for me to walk from W 10th St and Fifth Avenue to 14th St. and Broadway in five minutes. It also helps that I can walk fast. That's a good thing because the express was pulling into Union Square just as I walked down the stairs to the subway platform. For the first time that night I wasn't in time trouble.