Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking Anonymous' Advice

My recent post Me and My Big Mouth generated a number of responses including an anonymous commenter who made the following observation: "You pay way too much attention on possible pairings, byes etc. Just play the game!" I admitted that he was probably right even though I'm not quite as obsessive as the higher rated players who constantly try to work out the pairings to see if they're going to avoid certain opponents. So last night I decided I would not spend time in between rounds staring at the wall chart, guessing who I would play in the next round, worrying about whether I make or miss the break, or fussing about whether I would get a bye or not. Though eliminating bye worries would be made a lot simpler if I could just win one of those early round games when I get paired up.

With "Four Rated Games Tonight!" I really don't have look at the wall chart too closely to know that unless the field is unusually small and weak I will get paired up for at least two rounds. It seems that no matter where I am on the wall chart if I lose in the first round my opponent will get paired against an IM or GM. In April I had two weeks in a row where I got Vladimir Polyakin in the first round and after beating me got Jay Bonin in round two. Those same two weeks I got Jay's first round opponents. In most cases it works out much better for Jay since he's most likely going to be 2-0 or maybe 1.5 - .5, more times then not I'm looking at 0-2.

This week Jay got my first round opponent in round two, and he had about as much luck beating him as I did. I didn't get his first round opponent. Unfortunately I got a 2100 player who had been upset in the first round by a 1750. I think he decided to take his frustrations out on me. It wasn't enough to simply beat me, he crushed me. I'd be thinking "Okay he's going to win a pawn here." He ignores the free pawn. A few moves later he sacs the exchange. It wasn't really sound, but passive play on my part made it work for him. Later I'd think "Okay he's going to get the rook back." Why bother grabbing a mere rook? He can threaten mate forcing me to give up my queen to stop it.


Click on + to view game.

Note to self: Don't play Ne4 against the Trompowski if you don't know what you're doing.

It's normally between rounds two and three that I start fretting over possible pairings and bye possibilities. This night I refused to even look at round two results or the wall chart. One of my regular readers who was hanging out while his son played downstairs in the Members Only Thursday Night tournament started talking to me about my possible round three opponent. He tells me "maybe you'll play Steve Chernick or one the 1400 rated kids. It depends on what Schnitzler did. He may play Chernick." I told him it didn't really matter to me, and that I wasn't even going to try to figure it out. I suppose knowing that there was not some kid with a 3 digit rating that I might have to play if I just make the break, or being faced with a round three bye made it easier to tune out thoughts about who I'd play next.

As it turned out just as Anatoliy had predicted, I played one of the kids with a 1487 rating. No fireworks or excitement in the game. I played a boring opening, we traded down and his bishop pair was much more active then my bishop and knight. He won a pawn and then marched his a pawn down the board. End of story. Kind of a "Dog Bites Man" type of story, except here's another kid winning by grinding out a positional yawner, not by going for a slash and bash attack.

So it came down to waiting for the answer to the frequently asked question of "Does Polly get sent home early or not?" The only difference, I wasn't asking the question. I went into the back room and listened to Shernaz Kennedy tell one of her interesting Bobby Fischer stories. I didn't look at the wall chart to try to figure out if there would be an odd or even number, whether or not I was the lowest zero or who I'd play if there was an even number. I decided it didn't matter. Don't sweat the small stuff.

The pairings went up, and I actually had a fourth round game. I was a little surprised by who I ended out playing. My inner-TD is always curious about seemingly odd computer generated pairings. For what ever reason Swiss-Sys did not drop the low 1 pointer who played white in round four to play me. Instead it dropped one of the middle 1 pointers who like me was due black. So not only did I get to play the fourth round, but I got a third white. Not that having another white guaranteed me improved chances. I was 0-2 with white that night, and lately my play as white has been underwhelming. I wasn't complaining. If I had been in my usual "fret about who I'm playing" mode I would have been stressed about having to play a third grader with a 1300 rating. Having not fretted about it, I was thrilled to be playing a 1600 rated high school kid instead.

"Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" - Time Pressure Magic

We reached this position after 38 Qf7+ Kh8. I had 3 seconds and my opponent had almost 3 minutes. In the meantime there's was a dispute on a near by board over an insufficient losing chances claim. The player making the claim is a big loud guy so there is no such thing as a quiet resolution to a dispute involving this game. My opponent and I keeping tell them to quiet down. That may be why I missed the immediate 39. Rxh6+ Kh8 40. Qf6+ Kh7 41. Qxf8. Instead I played 39. Kf2 to break the pin on my knight. He plays 39...Rf8? I spotted the pinned bishop and play 40. Qxf8+. The game continues 40...Kh7 41.Qf7+ Kh8 42.Qf8+ Kh7 I debated briefly on simply repeating the position since my time was so short. Instead I continue 43.Rxh6 Qxh6 44.Qxh6 Kxh6 Now I have only 1 second left and he still has over 2 minutes. I'm up a knight and figure that the worse thing that will happen is I offer a draw if I can't wipe his pawns and promote one of mine. Time delay gives me that option.

45. Nf1 g5 46.Ne3 Kg6 47.Nd5 Kg7 48.Ne7 Kg6?? (illegal move!) After adding the two minutes to my time we play a few more moves, and he resigns. He realizes that in this position two minutes is all the time in the world and I'll have no difficulty winning. Phew! A close call. It was not a steller night of chess, but at least it ended on a good note. Maybe next week I can ignore all the pairing and bye concerns again, and win a couple of games.


RT Solo said...

Hey at least it took a 2100+ almost 30 moves to beat you. Today I was crushed by a 1600+ in under 15 moves. Keep up the great blog! :-)

Polly said...

rt: Ouch! I feel your pain. I've lost games like that. They're ugly, but the best thing to do is learn to laugh over that type of loss, but at the same time figure out why it what went wrong so it won't happen again. This blog is littered with a few of those ugly losses.

Number of moves that one lasts against a higher rated player doesn't necessarily make it a good game. I've had games where I've lost quicker, because I took chances that didn't work. Sometimes those games are more satisfying and of better quality because I tried something instead of just sitting back and taking the punishment.

If you haven't looked at my really old posts, check out if you want more about hanging on against higher rated players.

Matt said...

Don't play Ne4 against the Trompowsky... damn, I wish I'd known that before playing it a couple of weeks ago against Joel Banawa in the Pacific Southwest Open. Actually, to be fair, I played quite well and it wasn't a crush... but it's funny how 2380 rated FM's are able to squeeze out the win! :)