Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rhode Trip: Blackstone Chess Festival Open Rds. 1 & 2

Polly's travelling chess circus landed in Pawtucket, Rhode Island where I played in the Blackstone Chess Festival Open. Earlier this week they had the New England Masters which was won by Sergey Erenberg of Israel with 7.5 out of 9. Timur Gareev of Uzbekistan was 2nd with 7 and Eli Vovsha of Israel was 3rd with 6.5 points. Several of the participants posted blog entries on the tournament blog. There were 45 players in that tournament.

With such a big turnout at that tournament I was expecting a good turnout for the weekend event. I figured I see a bunch of the New England chess circuit players that I’ve known over the years. I should have known things weren’t going as I anticipated when I walked into the Comfort Inn and didn’t see very many players hanging around. Generally when there’s a big weekend tournament going on one sees a lot of players hanging out in the lobby or in the skittles room. There weren’t many players around and I didn’t see any familiar faces except the tournament director Ken Ballou who I had seen last weekend in Dallas.

While waiting around in the lobby I got talking to a father and son. The son was playing in the tournament. The father asked a bunch of questions about how the tournament worked. Would he play players his own age, and level? I gave him the Swiss System “short course”. It was quite apparent that this was their first tournament and had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. The kid’s journey through his first tournament is a story worthy of its own post, so more about him in another post.

I was very surprised that there were only 30 players in the weekend tournament open to mere mortals such as myself. About 8 players stayed from the New England Masters including the Grandmasters Kritz, Gareev, Erenberg and Arkell. Also IM Sarkar stayed for the weekend tournament. I thought with this being the first weekend tournament in Rhode Island in a number of years that it would draw better. I guess the high price of gas is keeping people away. I combined my trip to this tournament with a visit to my best friend who lives in Connecticut. I don’t get up to see her enough and she’s about way between my house and this tournament. I stayed with her on Friday and came back on Sunday night. We got time to catch up with each other and do some swimming, walking and biking. Chess Loser would appreciate a car loaded like this for a “chess” weekend.

I came to this tournament prepared to get a severe butt kicking since I was playing in the Open section that was limited to players rated over 1600. Not that I was assuming the worst, but I’d rather be prepared for the worst and play for the best. I figured I’d be sitting at the bottom of the section, and would just have to hope the numbers were even or that they’d have decent house player hanging out. I suppose I could have opted for the pre-emptive last round bye, but I was here to play four games of chess. I was willing to take my chances with potential byes. I wasn’t going to make myself crazy over the bye issue.

Initially only 4 entered the Under 1900 section so they ended out combining the sections. That wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, and sure wasn’t what I wanted. Despite combining the sections I was still only ranked 27 out 31. There was a 1600, 1500, 1300 and the new kid below me. I was wondering how many rounds it would be before I got paired down to the 1300 or the unrated. The bright side, so I thought would be avoiding the bye, or at worst getting it in the last round.

In the first round I got paired against a 2165 from Calgary, Alberta. He had played in the New England Masters. He couldn’t stay for the weekend, but with a late flight he wanted to play one round if possible. Since there was an odd number they put him in, and paired normally. Treating him as a house player and slotting him against the player assigned a bye was another possibility, but would have been a big mismatch. Then again considering how badly I got crunched it was a mismatch anyway. It was a pretty ugly game. I was half asleep during the game. This position was a wake up call but by then it was too late.

I was concerned by Bxh7+ so I played 14...h6. I totally forgot about the knight going into h7 instead. I had one of those serious DUH moments when he trapped my rook on f8 after playing Nh7. Hello!!! Anyone home?? I didn't like 14...g6 because I was concerned about 15. Qh4. Actually Qh4 isn't that big a deal. The game rapidly fell apart after that. 15. Nh7 Nc5 16. Nxf8 Qxf8 17. Ne4 Nxe4 18. Bxe4 Bxe4 19. Qxe4 Rc8 20. Qb7 Black resigns.

My opponent spent a lot of time with me afterwards going over the game so at least I got a decent lesson out of my thrashing.

The time control was a strange one. It was 40/90 followed by G/45. However if you had a delay clock it was 40/80 G/40 with a 15 second delay. I’ve never played with such a long delay and I’ve never seen time subtracted from the second control. I couldn’t tell whether this was a slow or fast time control. The first game didn’t last long enough to notice whether the time control was long or short.

The second round I got paired against a 1906. It was a long and hard fought game. In this game I thought the time control seemed long and I found myself getting antsy. My opponent would spend a long time on a move and I’d get up and wander around the room looking at other games. At one point I looked at the pairings and the wall chart. I’m thinking to myself “Even if I lose this round I’ll probably get paired up again.” Then I happened to notice that the player ranked right below me got the bye in the second round. “Crap I could get the bye in round three if I lose this round. That would really suck!”

I didn’t want to focus on pairings and byes so I stopped wandering to the back of the room where the pairings were. I needed to just concentrate on the game. The position was very blocked up. I wasn’t sure whether I should just sit on the position or open things up. I wasn’t in the mood to try to grind it out so I gambled by making a few pawn pushes that probably weren’t so sound. I knew he'd get a lot of play once I tried to free up my pieces. What the hell, I was losing patience with closed nature of the position and was willing to take my chances. I think even towards the end he missed opportunities, so we ended out drawing an opposite color bishop ending with even material. Here’s the game.


Fortunately by simplifying to the drawn position we got done at a reasonable hour. That gave me the chance to catch up wih some friends and grab a bite to eat. One of the charming things about playing in a small tournament at a small hotel in a little New England town is the chance to venture from the confines of the hotel and try one of the local establishments. The organizer recommended the East Side Irish Pub to my friends and I. He said they had good food and 40 different beers to choose from. I guess he must really like it because later on the tournament director and him showed up.

It's a good thing that my friend from New York and I are die-hard Mets fans because we were deep into Red Sox Nation. We figured as long as we didn't mention 1986 or Bill Buckner we were safe. Pawtucket is the home of the Red Sox minor league affiliate. This place had lots of televisions including one big projection screen and I think every single one of them had the Red Sox game on until it was over. Then we got the Olympics. Though the Olympics didn't rate the big screen. That got rolled up and put away after the ball game was done.

It's a nice change of scenery to sit in a local pub eating, drinking and watching sports. Not much chess got discussed which was fine with me. There would be more chess on Sunday. The rest of Saturday could be devoted to sports. It was far more interesting talking about some of the amazing performances or stirring up some lively debate on how they do the medal count standings. Despite the fact that China is kicking the USA's butt in terms of number of gold medals, the USA is ahead in the medal standings because they have more total medals. One cynic in our group made the observation that everything might as well be treated as a three way tie since all medals are being weighted equally in the overall count. We ended out staying late enough to watch Phelps squeeze out gold #7. I really thought the other guy just barely beat him. Technology and slow motion replay are wonderful things. Wow, .01 of a second. I guess the chess equivalent would be mating your opponent with .01 seconds left on your clock. Oops there I go talking about chess again.


Dean said...

I think it must be the US Media changing how you view the medal standings. Everyone else has China ahead by ordering it by gold medals, e.g.

chesstiger said...

It's good that you went over the game with that 2100+ player. I hope he learned you heaps about the game and had some other good chess advise for you.

(I am going to begin a chessblog at and was hoping you got some advise on how and what to put on such a blog)

Polly said...

Dean: Yes the US media likes to always put a positive spin on how the "home team" is doing. They are looking at quantity instead of quality.

Tiger: Welcome to the chess blogosphere. There are so many different approaches to what one includes in his/her blog. I think what one includes is a matter of taste and preference. Some blogs just pull together chess news from other sources. Other blogs go into in depth analysis of some aspect of the game. Others talk about their progress using the circles study method.

My blog is more of an online journal of my tournament travels, trials and tribulations. I think including games, and pictures along with the narrative makes it more interesting. However if people are bored by my thoughts and stories then all the pictures and games aren't going to make more people read my blog.

I'm thrilled when I actually meet one of my readers at a tournament and he tells me how helpful my blog has been. That means a lot. However if no one says anything that's also okay. This has become a way for me to express myself through my words and pictures.

es_trick said...

One writer has pointed out that in sports that involve judges, e.g. diving, gymnastics, judo, boxing, taekwondo, and a couple of others, the Chinese seem to be getting all the calls going their way.

In sports where no judges are involved, the American gold medal count is nearly equal to the Chinese.,101537

Polly said...

ES: Dang that post on the medal count has more comments then then a years worth of comments on this blog. LOL Though reading a lot of the comments it seems to be a good old fashioned flame war.

Kin said...

I like your blog.
What about castling on ?

Chris said...

I hope I wasn't the cynic at the table although I do find it humo(u)rous when the table medal is sorted by total count. (Hmmm... maybe it was me??) I also think it was Phelps' 8th and final gold medal that we stayed to watch, not the 7th but hey, like we needed an excuse to stay in the pub! :)

Polly said...

Chris: It may have been you or Keith. But it was a good point. I'm all for rooting for the USA, but I also think type of medal should be weighted too.

It was medal #7. Number 8 was the relay which I got to watch at my friend's house on Sunday night. Sunday night I got to see Dara Torres lose in the same manner that Phillips won #7.

The post game socializing is the best part of an OTB tournament. See you in Philly and or Orlando.