Friday, November 14, 2008

Funky Pairings - Part 1

My return to tournament play didn't exactly get off to a stellar start with Wednesday's loss to an 1100. I was hoping that things would be better on Thursday night down at the Marshall. If I judged how the night would go based on round one, I would have jumped on the next train and gone back home. What can I say about a game that would have ended with a smothered mate on move 26 if I hadn't resigned on move 25? Pretty damn bad. Totally crappy. Sucked big time. Really @#$%! up! Here it is in all it's ugly glory.


In early October I had a bad run of four tournaments where I I didn't win any games. 4 draws and 10 losses. So after the ugly first round loss I'm thinking to myself, "Am I ever going to win another game of chess?" Without even looking at the wallchart I was anticipating playing a 1900 in the second round since I was on the lower half of the zero score group. There had been no serious upsets, but a 1720 drew a 2100 in round one.

If you know anything about how swiss pairings work, you know that top half of a score group is paired against the bottom half. You start with the top score group and work your way down to the bottom. If there's an odd number in the score group he low man drops to play high man in the next score group. In the first round if there's only been one draw and no 1/2 point byes for the round, the 1/2 point score group is only going to have 2 players and they can't play each other again. Since the one score group had an even number there was no one to drop to play the high rated 1/2. What normally happens in that case is those two 1/2 pointers get paired against the highest two players with zero. Then after they've been paired with the top zeros, the remaining players in the zero score group are paired against each other, top half versus bottom half.

Back when I started playing and directing in the early '70s all pairings were done using pairing cards with all the color, score, and opponent information on them. Take the stack of cards in score groups and rating order, divide in half, pair all the players and then write out the pairings on paper. Pairing a section with 200 players was labor intensive and tournament directors would have a bad case of writer's cramp by the end of the tournament.

Now pairings are done using a computer with pairing software. The software does a pretty good job of following the swiss pairing rules, but sometimes the program seems to have a mind of its own. Tournament directors will take the time to double check what the computer does, especially in later rounds when it's very important to make sure the pairings are correct. Normally the second round pairings are very straight forward, and the director doesn't have spend much time checking them. Since the round was running late the director ran the pairings and posted them. He wasn't expecting any hiccups. On this particular night the pairing program must have been feeling sorry for me. It paired the 2100 rated 1/2 pointer with the highest rated zero who was rated 1981. The next zero was rated 1960 and the third zero was rated 1940. The 1722 1/2 pointer should have played one of those 1900s depending on the color. However the program by passed the entire top half of the zero score group, and paired the 1722 against me.

I was sure I was going to play White against Shernaz Kennedy for the fifth time in a row in this tournament. Imagine my surprise when I see that I'm playing the guy right below me on the wall chart. This would be my 39th game against him. 7 wins, 4 draws, and 27 losses. 3 of those wins have been in the last two months and in a row. Lately I've had his number which is a nice change of pace considering my overall record against him. I was perfectly happy to get that pairing. Though when I got to this position I was not too happy. He had just played Nd3 attacking my rook.

31. Rd1 (White's best try may be 31. Qxd3 exd3 32. Rxe8+ Kf7 33.R8e3 d2 34. Nxd2) I'm expecting Nf4+ winning the exchange, but that doesn't happen. 31... Qd6?? Not only does he miss the fork winning the exchange after 31... Nf4+ 32. Kf2 Nxe2 33. Kxe2 f4, he also allows me to win the knight because the pawn is pinned to the rook. The game continues 32. Rxd3! exd3 33. Rxe8+ Kh7 34. Qxd3 Qf6 35. Re6 Qb2+ 36. Qd2 Qxb3 37. Rxg6 Kxg6 38. Qf4Qb2+ 39. Kh3 Qb1 40. Kg2 Qb2+ 41. Kg1 Qc3 42. g4 fxg4 43. Qxg4+ Kh7 44. h5 Black loses on time in a few more moves. I only had 1 second left, and had been giving a bunch of checks. I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do anything with the extra knight in the ending. Fortunately he ran out of time before I had to figure it out.

The next two rounds I got paired way up. I lost in round 3, but pulled out a draw in round 4. I actually gained some points and will have a published rating on the December rating list off my floor. Three months in a row! In some ways it's meaningless, but it's nice to play in tournaments and not be on the wall chart at 1700. Also being higher then 1700 changes my ranking, and reduces my chances of unwanted byes in earlier rounds.


KnightFork said...

Polly, I am glad you hung in there and managed to gain some rating points! One of my biggest problems is when I start losing I get so down in the dumps that I don't want to play again for a while. I would probably have taken a year off with a score of +0 -10 =4. I envy your tenacity!

Kudos to you!

Polly said...

Knight: Sometimes I can't help myself! I can get really down on myself which will impact the rest of my tournament. However sometimes when the loss is of such a spectacular nature (smothered mate) I can't help but to laugh at myself, say "It can't get any worse."

It helps if you can find something useful in your losses. Something you learned from botching the ending, overlooking a tactic, moving too fast, not managing your time, etc. If you can do that, then it's easier to come back for more. If all else fails, post it on your blog and let your readers be entertained. As the expression goes "laugh at yourself, and the world laughs with you."

chesstiger said...

First game you didn't play that bad but like you noticed Qc4 was the right move to play.

Second game you got lucky with black's Qd6 which was indeed a bad move, i think black lost Nf1 out of his analytical window and probably was thinking that he could take the g-pawn. But by second check he saw he couldn't take the g-pawn and went probably totaly ballistic in his mind quoting the wrong narratives like 'i am an idiot', 'why didn't i see that' ...

Polly said...

Tiger: Actually I had been very happy with my game until I played Na5. Somehow after I won the exchange I just couldn't find a move that made sense. Not that Na5 made much sense. I was stunned at how quickly he got counter play after that. I saw that both Qc4 and Qa4 attack that White queen. I didn't think it mattered how I offered the queen trade. I even saw the double check, but missed the smothered mate.

I'm not sure what his intent was with Qd6, but you're probably right that he missed the knight sitting on f1. When he had played the rook to the g file I was expecting him to attack the h3 pawn to take advantage of the pinned g pawn. If he had played Qd8 he has that threat of Qxh3, but I can resolve the pin problems by moving the king off the g file. Fortunately for me he missed the pin all together.

I'm not sure what he was thinking at that point. He's a much older man who shows no emotion over moves, good or bad. He has a good poker face.