Thursday, January 31, 2008

Learning From My Mistakes

Last week I had put up this diagram from my first round draw in the WCA Friday Action. I had played 40. a6 Kb6 41. Bb7? instead of 41. Bb5 trying to draw the black king outside the box. With the bishop on b7 I never could get the pawns going and it ended out a draw.

Last night I reached this position after White played 54. Kd4. I eventually arrived at this position after my opponent missed a totally killer move and a few moves later hung a bishop. So instead of being down a piece and a pawn, I was up a piece.

There are similarities between this position and the one from last Friday. I have a passed pawn that the opponent's king is within striking distance of, and the opponent has a pawn majority on the king side. My king can't go wandering too far away unless I get the bishop on the a3-f8 diagonal at the right time. Remembering last week's position I came up with the plan to either promote the a pawn or get the bishop on the crucial diagonal to free up my king. There are a number of different ways to win this position. I could have simply put the bishop back on b4 but I didnt want it where white could harass it and still be within the box. I decided I wanted to utilize what I had learned from last week's game.
54... a4 55. Kc4 a3 56. Kb3 Bb4! This time I remembered that he can not take the bishop and now I'm covering f8. Now White's king is tied down to the a pawn and my king is free to have white pawns for supper. 57.Ka2 Ke5 58. Kb3 Bf8 59. Ka2 Kf4 60. f6 Kg3 61. f7 Kxh3 62. Kb3 Kxg4 63. Ka2 h5 64. Kb3 h4 65. Ka2 h3 66. Kb3 h2 67. Ka2 h1=Q 68. Kb3 Qf3+ 69. Ka2 Qb7 70. Ka1 Qb2# I had 59 seconds when I mated.
Since these two games occurred within a five day period I was able to remember the pattern from the previous game. Had the games been several months apart it's possible I may have forgotten about using the bishop to try to draw the king out of the box. I probably would have found a way to win even without that idea. However I liked my marauding king coming in to munch on the king side pawns, and the promotion coming on h1 instead of a1.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chessdom Blogger Profiles had sent out a call via the Boylston Chess Club blog looking for chess bloggers to profile. A number of bloggers including myself responded. They have put together a very nice post with the various profiles of bloggers who responded. Along with a number of the people on my link list there are some other blogs that I'm not familar with. I look forward to checking out some new blogs.

To any new readers who have made their way over here from there; welcome to my wacky world of chess.

Family Knight At WCA Friday Action

One of the wonderful things about chess is that it's something the family can do together. Often siblings will both be interested in chess, particularly if they've learned in a school chess club. Sometimes a parent gets tired of sitting around at chess tournaments waiting for his/her child to finish, so mom/dad gets in on the action. Also a parent who is already a tournament player will introduce his/her child to chess.

Last night there were two brothers and a sister from one family, a brother and sister from another family, and mother and son from a third family playing in the tournament last night. In December there had been three sets of siblings playing, and a father and son. Two of those sets did not play last night. If they showed up along with the father and son we would have had 6 families playing. That's over half the field of 20 players.

How does the tournament director keep siblings and parents from having to play each other? In most cases it's fairly easy because there are significant rating differences between family members so they'll naturally end out in different quads based on rating. However in one case two brothers are within 30 points of each other so it gets a little more difficult. If it's a swiss one can set up a team for the brothers and not allow teammates to play each other. In a quad there is no getting around it. Last night the problem was resolved by having a six player swiss at the top with one brother in that section. The other other brother ended out in the next section which was a regular quad.

Depending on how I want to look at it, the swiss format was good or bad for me. I didn't get to play King Kong which may have been good since I had some stupid moments. (ie. Blowing a won ending to a draw and getting my queen trapped in 10 moves.) On the other hand King Kong wasn't having a very good evening either and was more like Curious George. However in the last round I avoided disaster when my opponent fiddled around too much in a clearly better position. I would not have played this kid if the top section had been a quad.

Here is the crucial position from the first round. I'm ahead on the clock and I'm up by two pawns.

40. a6 Kb6 41. Bb7? This ended out not being the best move for me. Better is 41. Bb5! Black can't take on b5 because the king is then too far away from the pawn. If black doesn't take on b5, this is a possible continuation. 41...g5 42. d6 h4 43. gxh4 gxh4 44. d7 Bxd7 45. Bxd7 Kxa6 46. Ke4 Kb6 47. Bg4 Kc5 48. Kf5 Kd4 49. Kxf6 Kd5 50. f5 Kd6 51. Kg6 Ke5 52. f6 Kf4 53. Bc8 Kg3 54. f7 h3 55. f8=Q h2 56. Bb7)

Unfortunately I had not considered Bb5. Sometimes when there are other pieces on the board, I tend not to think outside the box. If that had been a pawn I was pushing to b5, I probably would have found the move because it would have been one of those recognizable endgame patterns. The game continued 41... g5 42. fxg5 fxg5 43. Kd4 h4 44. gxh4 gxh4 45. d6 Bd7 46. Ke5 h3 47. Bh1 Kxa6 48. Kf6 h2 1/2-1/2 I burned up my time advantage, and offered a draw when we got down to one pawn each.

In a recent post, I talked about psychology and body language. My opponent and the player sitting next to him were a study in contrasts. My opponent's face never changed expression and he almost never changed body position. He would sometimes have one hand shading his eyes or both hands on the table. When both hands were on the table they were perfectly still. On the other hand, the kid next to my opponent was non-stop motion. He'd stand, he'd sit, he'd kneel in the chair, he'd be tapping the piece he captured, twirling his pencil around, etc. Even without looking at the board it was obvious that he had an overwhelming attack. It wasn't that he was slamming the pieces down, but you could sense the energy as he made each move. The opponent looked like he was in shock. I wasn't even playing him, and he was driving me a little crazy. Now I know how my opponents feel when I get hyper and start doing that sort of stuff in my chair.

I'm not even going waste space on my next game. I had a massive brain fart and gave up my queen on move 11. After hanging a pawn on move 13 I resigned. There was no point wasting energy on that game. That was just one of those "deal with it, laugh about it, and move on" games.

In the last round I'd play one of the kids from a team I travel with. This was only the third time we've played in tournament. I had won the other two games, but in blitz and bughouse he has my number. When I play blitz and bughouse with kids I tend to act like a kid. There always a little bit of trash talking going on. So when I do something stupid like hang my king or lose on time I might hear "You suck." My response is, "You're right. I suck at blitz. I suck at bughouse." If I want to change the subject I can always ask "So what's our record in real chess?

A close call there. I can still keep the trash talk down, but one day I might not be so lucky.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Pretty Time Pressure Combination

The Westchester Chess Club started a new tournament last night. I played one of the regulars. Regardless of the time control our games always come down to the last second. Last night was no different. The time limit had been G/75 with a 5 second delay. When the game ended in this position, White's clock read 00:00, Black's 00:05.

Earlier Black had won the exchange, but neither of us remember quite how White got it back. In this position White had just played Qe4+ and Black replied with f5. White flagged trying to find the non-existant defense to ....Qh2# The obvious Qh1 doesn't work because of Bf1+. White's best defense puts off mate for 4 moves. I haven't had a chance to try to reconstruct what happened between the final written move and Qe4+ to see if White had a better move then that.

Before you give me a big round of applause for such a pretty little mating attack, I need to tell you something. I was White. :-( That little detail not withstanding, it still was a cool ending. If I had come up with the moves that put off mate for 4 moves, he might have flagged instead of me. This is a prime example of why I tell my students it's important to be able to force a mate in as few moves as possible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chess Psychology 101

I already gave away the ending with my previous post, but now it's time to talk about the two battles going on during this game. In any chess game there is the battle that occurs on the board with the pieces, and then there's the battle with the mind. As much as one wants to start each game with a clean slate and only think about the moves on the board, often there are other issues at hand. Sometimes it's about what happened in the previous round. Sometimes it's about who you're playing, or how he is acting. Sometimes it has nothing to do with chess itself.

For me I was fighting the battle of what had happened to me from the fourth round onwards. I should note that my fourth round opponent who received the gift of my rook went on to win the section with a score of 6-1. *Sigh* If only I hadn't hung the rook...... I'm playing a kid from New York City who attends one of the major chess power house schools. That's not exactly who I want to be paired against when I'm in one these foul funks, but I can't dwell on it. I knew before the pairings went up that I was going to play him. So it wasn't a big surprise. Yes I too sometimes succumb to the pairing game and try to figure out who I'm playing next.

This is the game, and I have added some annotations to it. However the analysis only tells about what I saw on the chess board. It was what I saw off the board that was crucial to how this game went.

As I have stated on this blog and in the comments of other people's blogs I much prefer the human element of live chess that one does not get when playing on the Internet. Seeing my opponent let's me know more about him or her. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes it's not so good. It's interesting to watch how certain players sit at the board, how they handle the pieces and clock, how they react to what's going on around them, etc.

Some players sit very still, while others are in constant motion with bouncing legs, tapping feet, or changing positions in their chair. Some players move the pieces in a very deliberate and precise manner. Others casually flick the pieces out and if you're lucky they land on the center of the square. Then there are the slammers. Those are the ones who on every single move slam the piece down like they just played the killer move. Some players show a calm confidence in their move as they deliberately place their piece on the square. Others are showing a "in your face" cockiness as slam their pieces.

Most of the time one needs to tune out their opponent's "board side manner" and not read anything into how they physically move the pieces or how they're sitting in their chair. In this particular case I couldn't help but to notice my opponent's demeanor during the game. He has been trained in the Kotov "write first, move after" school of thought. There's been much debate about how useful it is, and whether it should be allowed at all. In my pre-Mon Roi days I had tried it off and on, but didn't find it overly helpful for me. I think it's helpful for some players to follow that routine, and I when I'm playing I don't care whether my opponent is writing before or after he makes his move.

The only reason I paid much attention to it this time was because what he did after going through his analysis. Most of time when a player uses this method he will think about the move, write it down, think about it some more and then play the move. If they don't like what they've seen, they'll erase it and repeat the process again. My opponent would go through the first three steps, but then when he went to make the move there was often significant hesitation. It seemed like he was spending an awful lot of time on the opening moves. If one plays e4 as White one should have his set lines for openings like the Sicilian. The c3 line gives White the opportunity to steer the opening into something that he knows, so spending 5 minutes on his fifth move of h3 indicated to me early on that perhaps he wasn't going to be the next King Kong of my chess career.

He spent 14 minutes on his twelfth move, Ke2. He had written it down, had looked at it for quite awhile and then when he went to make the move he kept hesitating. He'd reach towards the king and then pull his hand away, then he'd reach for the king again and pull it away again. Then he picked up the king, hovered over e2 and then pulled it back to e1. He's still holding onto the king, but now he has three plausible choices for connecting the rooks; 12. Ke2, 12. O-O or 12. O-O-O. He finally did play 12. Ke2. His reasoning was that I had already pushed a6 and b5 so he was concerned my queen side attack would be faster then his king side attack.

The funny thing was when he played this move I was actually nervous about the potential onslaught of pawns backed up by his rooks on the g and h files. I was even more nervous after he played 13. Rag1. I've fallen victim to many of these types of attacks while not being able to get at the opponent's king on the other side. Given my mental state going into this game I was having one of those "Here we go again" moments. However what I was forgetting about was that this position had not come from a typical Accelerated Dragon so I had actually gotten in a few extra moves on the queen side while he pulled the bishop back to c2 and pushed d4. So even though he had the center, my king side was solid, and I had nice possibilities on the queen side.

I figured I'd try to distract him with 13...Na5 with the idea of 14...Nc4. I thought he might just ignore it and play 14. Bh6. This was the point where his hesitations over making moves became more pronounced. I sensed that he was scared of the play I was getting on the queen side. I still didn't think my moves were such a big deal, but he did and I could tell that was his thinking. He actually was correct in his assessment of the position after Na5. He can't simply ignore 14...Nc4. Though b3 was probably too passive on his part.

When he played 14. b3 that changed my entire attitude about the position. I think if he had confidently played Bh6, I may have been intimidated by the move. Given my recent record against kids playing intimidating looking moves it might have totally psyched me out during the game. However looking at the game afterwards with no pressure and the aid of Fritz I can see that 14 Bh6 is an illusion. It's actually not so good any more since if he plays it, 14... Nc4 allows black to pick up the b pawn after 15. Qg5 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Nxb2. Even with White's queen on h6 his attack is too slow. Black will get a lot of play with White's king in the center. However I wasn't seeing any of this at the time so when he played the defensive move of b3 I felt tremendous relief and I went on the offensive with 14...Rc8.

He could have played 15. Rc1 to shore up his weak c file, but he was overly concerned about 15...b4. At first glance it appears I win the pawn on e4, but after 16. Nb1 Bxe4 17. Bxe4 Nxe4 18. Qxb4 it's equal. At that point anything could have happened. Instead he play the very passive a3 weakening the queen side even more. That move totally energized me. Now I was feeling like a shark who smelled blood and was going for the kill. I was seeing lots of possibilities in the position for me. The game kind of played itself after that.

This game clearly showed me why it's important to play with confidence and not give anything away with body language. Poker faces are important in chess too. Even my third round opponent who was totally busted and had very little time kept playing his pieces as if he had some crushing blow. I think he was waiting for me to blunder in the time scramble. So by playing quickly and decisively he certainly made me nervous, but I kept telling myself I had time and not to be hasty in my responses.

There is a fine line in reading too much into an opponent's actions, but I think an experienced player has a feel for what is real, and what may be for show. Even though I've never played this particular kid before, I've played enough kids to have a feel for their perceptions of the game in progress. Kids can be intimidating and scary to play at times, but I think they're easier to read. Kids are more real in their emotions. I think adults are better at BS-ing their way through stuff so they're harder to read.

Phine Phinish In Philly!

If you read my previous post I discussed whether I could rebound mentally from playing three horrible games in a row. As you can probably guess from the title, I did indeed rebound. So how did I do it?

I decided I needed to just get away from the chess scene, so I was going to take my trashy murder mystery and go sit in the hotel restaurant and have lunch by myself. As much as I like this hotel their dining hours are rather limited. They seem to want force you into the fancy seafood place or the lobby bar. I was not in the mood for either. I spent enough time in that bar last night. (Go Giants!!) So I ran into Lilia's and Maddie's parents and they were planning to walk over to the Reading Market. Anyone who's been to Philly is probably familiar with it, and those from Boston can think Faniuel Hall (sans trendy stores) or Seattle's Pike St. Market. There's nothing like a brisk 10 block walk in freezing weather to wake up the brain! The food choices are rather overwhelming and then there's the chocolate shop. I ended out at the chocolate shop before I decided on lunch. Priorities!

Now as much as playing kids makes me crazy, I love hanging out with them, especially the girls. Maddie and Lilia were regaling us withs stories about their friends (Boys! I don't think girls do that stuff.) standing behind their friends' opponents, making faces or doing bunny ears with the opponent being clueless about what is occurring behind him. Dam I had an overwhelmimg urge to do that to Lilia's seventh round opponent, but decided it would not look good.

It was funny because walking over to the market we passed a art gallery with a like size gorrilla in the window. Damn! I wished I had my camera with me, because it was make a great visual to my next King Kong post. You know they'll be a another King Kong post in the near future. I have to keep up with Tempo with all his wonderful pictures that accompnay his well written material. King Kong will have to wait another day.

When we got back to the hotel there was still 45 minutes until the round, so I went up the the next level away from the chess players and tried to find a quiet spot to listen to something very mellow. A good piece is Ralph Vaugh William's Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. The piece lasts about 15 minutes. It's worth a listen from the You tube link I provided. It's soothing and also being a bit on the mournful side it helps bring the hyper brain back down.

Once again I'm facing a NYC kid from a school that I direct tournaments at. Just what I need at this point. I wasn't surprised by the pairing. I too can stare at the wallchart and figure out pairings. My only hope was if there was an odd nimber in 2.5 score group that dropped down to play me. No such luck. Tomorrow I will post the game with commentary, not just the moves of game itself, but also the psychological aspects. Physchology played a big part in my vctory. Stayed tuned tomorrow for the game itself.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is This Philadelphia or Green Bay??

It's absolutely frigid in the playing room, and this morning there was no hot water. There was no way I was taking a shower in ice cold water. I guess it was good that I didn't work out before the round. I stayed in bed until 9:00 AM.

I think my brain has frost bite. Once again it's absolutely freezing in the playing room. I'm wearing a long sleeve shirt, a fleece warm up jacket, and a heavy leather bomber jacket.
If it weren't for all the chess players in the background and me sitting at the board, one might think I was at yesterday's football game.

So last night I had the stoic old gentleman who played slowly and only left the board once. Today I played a little kid with a 1514 rating. (Geez! Can I ever play in a tournament without dealing playing little kids who are playing up??? Yes, If I had plus score.) The game was going just fine until some of his friends came by to watch the game. One kid said something to my opponent. I don't know what he said, but his clock was running on my move and I don't know if the kid said something about it. Then the two kids are having a conversation with each other behind my opponent. I'm trying to work out what I wanted to do because I made a slight mistake which allowed him to put his knight in the center. I chase them away and go back my analysis. (My opponent did finally punch his clock.) I finally decided to trade my dark squared bishop for the knight. The position was even, and not much was happening. After I opened things up a bit with 24. f4 it started getting interesting. (Note to self: Don't open up position against little kids! )

On move 26 we reach this position.

When I made the series of moves that lead to this position my intention was to play 27 Rg4. I decided not to play it, because I was concerned that the rook my gets trapped there since there aren't many squares to go to once his queen moves away. I had several different possibilities. I wanted to double the rooks on the file so I did not consider Rff1. That left Rf3 or Rf5. I didn't really like Rf3 since it blocks my bishop. I knew that after Rf5 he might sac on g3, but I miscalculated the strength of the sac. I thought he'd play 27...Bxg3 28. hxg3, Qxg3. I wasn't afraid of the passed pawns since the board would be wide open on the kingside.

I played 27. Rf5, Bxg3! I instantly took 28. hxg3?? Qh6+! I missed that move completely. 29. Rh5 Qxc1+ 30. Kh2 Qxa3. I'm totally toast. I'm down the exchange and two pawns. Now I'm really pissed and frustrated. The next series of moves I play in a rage. I guess it didn't matter at that point. I can play on and lose painfully slow or I can just go into meltdown mode and have it end quickly. 31. Qd2 Rbe8 32. Bh3 Re5 33. Rh4 a5 34. d4 Re7 Now here's where I have a major implosion. I'm looking at playing 35. Qg5 Ree8 36. Qh5 (Crude cheapo and totally stoppable with h6.) But before I play Qg6 I decide to trade off the b pawn since it's hanging. 35. bxa5 Qxa5 36. Qg5?? Qxg5! White resigns. If I ever wanted to sweep the peices off the board in a rage this would have been the time. I suppose it was not as bad as hanging the rook yesterday in a better position. At least this game I was already lost, and hanging the queen just put me out of my misery earlier. But it's just the principle of not being able to control my anger and stay focused on trying to make good moves.

It was tempting tell the tournament director to take me out and go home. However I just can't leave on that note. So here I am the computer center at the hotel blogging this mess, and waiting for round seven in a few hours. I will either redeem myself in the last round or be even more pissed off if I lose again. What are the chances that I can forget about rounds 4-6 and play a decent last round? Leave your bets in the comments section. I promise I won't look at them until after the round is done. I start playing again at 4:30 pm eastern time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Major Phaux-Pas in Philly

I'm in Philadelphia for the Liberty Bell Open. I'm playing in the 2 day schedule of the Under 1900 section. I've gotten off to a good start with two draws against high 1800s and a win against another high 1800. In round four I play my lowest rated opponent so far, a 1776. I have a great game going, and we reach this position on move 41.

I had a really nice attack earlier, and was sure I was going to win a pawn or a piece, but he defended very nicely. I probably should have offered a draw after the queens and one pair of rooks went off, but I felt I was better and I was ahead on the clock by a bit. I had played 41. f4 and he played 41...e5. At this point I go into a deep think about whether I want to check on d6 with the rook. I was afraid of the interposition after 42. Rd6 Re6. I thought his king would get very active after 43. Rxe6. What I didn't consider was instead of taking, pushing f5+. That actually is very strong for white so Re6 is a mistake. Kf7 is probably best for black, but Fritz rates it + over minus 0.72 for white. I only had considered 43. Rxe6 Kxe6. I decided I didn't want to give the check until I moved my king up to f3. So in that position I played 43. Kf3??? I didn't even notice exd4 until he made the move. Unbelievable!!

Sometimes this damn game gets me so pissed off. I have a great position, and I'm off to a great start in the tournament and I totally screw up up the game with the dumbest move possible. I over analyzed the check, and forgot that the pawn is attacking the rook. Duh! Sometimes I just feel like I just can't deal with success over the chess board. I wasn't in time pressure. I was actually ahead on the clock for most of the game. I had almost 5 minutes left after I made that horrible move. That was just one of my classic ADD moments where I had a serious brain fart.

My fifth round was the first game for me at the slow time control. I played an old guy who spent lots of time on every move, and notated in English Descriptive. I was so freaking antsy that game. I was more twitchy then the little kids playing in the lower sections. I wasn't even thinking about how stupid I played the previous round. I just wanted to go watch the Giants game. The hotel has a bar in the lobby, and you could hear all the shouting every time something happened. I had toyed around with taking a bye for round 5 so I could watch the football game. Being the pessimist I am at times, knowing my luck the Packers would be winning 28-0 by the half and I be super pissed off that I skipped the round to watch a sucky football game. Instead I played a marginally sucky game of chess for three hours and got to watch the last quarter and overtime.

The funny thing was a lot of chess people got to see Polly the crazy sports fan for the first time. Chess people are used to watching me play or direct. I'm usually pretty intense, and not loud. Tonight they got to watch me yell at the TV and curse out the Giants kicker during the fourth quarter. Then they got to watch me run around the bar giving high fives to strangers wearing Giants jerseys. Damn! I can't believe the Giants are playing in the Super Bowl! Can they beat New England? Probably not, but who knows? Nobody thought they could beat Dallas or Green Bay.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What's Right vs What One Wants

Sometimes something happens that is just fundamentally wrong. One can see that it's wrong and should not be occurring. However since the system allow for it, one just keeps exercising his right to do it. So what happens when you're on a committee that is to decide on how to change the system? Not only that, you're one the beneficiaries of the old system and the new system will leave you out in the cold. Do you bitch, moan, and complain about how unfair it is, or do you recognize the fact it was nice while it lasted, but that the standards need to be changed?

That was the quandary I found myself in this week. I've been able to "qualify" for the St. John's Masters at The Marshall Chess Club by paying the $5.00 qualifier fee at the Four Rated Games Tonight tournament on Thursday nights. The St. John's Masters is held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month. One has to be rated over 2100 or qualify from the Thursday tournament. Under the old system one would pay the fee, and if he scored the most points of those who had paid the qualifier fee then he could play in the Masters tournament that month.

However there is clearly something wrong with the system when sometimes only one person pays the fee in a week, and qualifies by virtue of simply paying the fee. I knew the first time I did it back in September that is was a totally screwed up way to allow lower rated players an opportunity to play in a strong event. I lost all four games on Thursday, but because I was the only one who paid that week I got to play in the Masters tournament where I also lost all four games. How dumb is that?

Pretty dumb, but I wasn't complaining because it gave me a way into a tournament that I otherwise could not play in. However some of the masters and grandmasters were complaining that too many qualifiers degraded the tournament. The funny thing was, very few people were trying to qualify so there weren't that many players rated under 2100 playing. I'm not sure why a grandmaster cared whether or not a patzer like me was in the tournament. The highest rated player I faced in the first round was rated 2260. Actually I played this particular player both in November and December. I guess I scared him too much when I missed drawing chances in December. He was one of the people who complained.

So here I am, a beneficiary of a seriously flawed qualification system and a member of the Marshall Chess Club Tournament Committee. This committee would be making a decision on changing the qualification system. Instead of having a qualifier fee with top scorer getting in, qualification would be based a player's Thursday night score. Any player under 2100 could play in the St. John's Masters if they scored 2.5 or better. When I saw the email suggesting a score of 2.5 I thought I was going to puke.

I have played in the Thursday night tournament 158 times since 2001. I have scored 2.5 ONCE! I have gotten an even score around 6 times and one those included a full point bye. My typical score on Thursday night is 1-3. Some night when I'm really bored I'll take my spreadsheet and figure out exactly how many times I went 2-2, 1.5-2.5, 1-3, .5-3.5, 0-3 (bye nights) and 0-4. I'm not sure I really want to know about the 0-fer nights. A cursory glance of the results as I was counting up the number of times I played in the damn tournament each year revealed way too many of those crappy nights.

My first reaction to the email was "Whadda ya mean too many qualifiers degrading the tournament? There's been 1-2 qualifiers playing each month. How does that degrade the tournament?" Then I went to the USCF MSA and researched how many players under 2100 played in the tournament for the last 5 months, and fired off an email with my findings. Somehow deep inside I knew my research was not going to carry much weight, but I could hope that it might be the basis of good pre-tournament dinner talk before my Tuesday swan song at the St. John's Masters.

The happy ending of this story would be that I pulled a stunning upset of an IM on Tuesday night and that on Thursday night I convinced the tournament committee to leave things as they are. However, the stories I blog here are not fiction. So here is what really happened. On Tuesday night I got crushed by the house player in round one, and a 2170 in round two. To add insult to injury I played miserably against the other qualifier Aigboje Aregbeyen (rated 1768) in round three, and lost to Vladimir Polyakin for the umpteenth time in round four. So once again I finished 0-4, but it was probably my worst 0-4. Is there such a thing as a "good" 0-4? Yes, when one puts up a good fight every round and almost holds a FM to a draw.

Thursday? DDSOS (Different Day Same Old "Stuff") The only nice thing I can say about it was that I got to make the 11:14 train without having to spring for a taxi, and that my 4th round opponent from last week did have a senior moment and made no mention of last week's screw up. Otherwise Thursday really sucked. Let me count the ways:

1. I felt like crap during my long run that I shortened because I was hurting so bad.

2. It was sneeting out. (Snow, rain and sleet.) Yuck!

3. 2.5 score qualifying standard was adopted. Nothing to discuss.

4. Blundered a piece on the 10th move with white against a master. The only reason I didn't resign immediately was because we had only been playing for about 5 minutes.

5. Lost another butt ugly game against Eric Hecht and his damn Smith-Morra Gambit. Though I managed to make it to move 23 this time.

6. Lost to Aigboje Aregbeyen again. Damn! I had to input that name twice this week. Don't even ask me how to pronounce it. I didn't type it twice here. I copied and pasted from above.

Though after everything was said and done, IM Jay Bonin helped me put it all in perspective. I told him I probably wouldn't be joining him for dinner before the St. John's Masters anymore because of the new scoring requirement. He told me it was better to earn the right to play by scoring well. Being able to buy one's way into a tournament was not right. He is glad that they got rid of patronage entry fees for the US Championship. Having gone that route last year he said it was awkward and he didn't like the crap he got last year over it. He would rather not play under those circumstances. He said that this year he's considering going to the qualifying tournament that's being held in March, so that he can try to earn a spot based on performance, not money.

After hearing that, how can I moan and groan about being kept out of a tournament that I really had no business being in in the first place? The best I scored on my qualification nights was 2-2, and it was a fake 2 wins. One point was a bye and the other point was beating the unrated I was trying to avoid by taking the 3rd round bye. Do I regret sneaking in the back door of the St. John's Masters Tournament? Not really, with possibly the exception of this past Tuesday when I played like the patzer I really am. I guess a noble goal for this year will be to score the 2.5 points I need so I can come in the front door. Either that, or get my rating over 2100 so I wouldn't have to worry about my score on Thursday. I think it's more like likely I'll score 2.5 points on a Thursday or beat King Kong then my making 2100.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer - RIP

Those of us who were playing chess in 1972 will always be able to remember something from Fischer-Spassky that had some impact on their chess game. Though my timing was such that I played in my first rated tournament in 1972, I don't consider myself a Fischer Boomer. However what I do remember about 1972-1973 was the excitement about chess, and the overwhelmed organizers who had more players then they had space for.

Bobby got totally weird on us, but we'll remember his brilliant chess. These pictures are from November 12, 1971 LIFE magazine. The article was written by Brad Darrach who would go onto writing a book called "Bobby Fischer VS The Rest of the World" about the Fischer-Spassky match. The LIFE article is a very interesting look at Fischer in Buenos Aires after his match with Tigran Petrosian. Some of the photographs that accompanied the article showed another side of Bobby that most people would never have seen.

Not ready for the PBA Tour, but I don't think I would have bet against him to win at bowling.

Bobby with man's best friend. What's not to love about this picture?

I won't forget the horrible things he said after 9-11, but I'd like to remember him more for what he did in 1972. I'd like to think that these pictures show the real Bobby, and that what he became later was an aberration. Thanks for the brilliant games.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Woo Hoo! I Already Have 6 Wins in January This Year!

Last year, I won 5 games for the entire month of January. This year I'm only half way through the month, and I've matched my total for last year. I've played less this month then I did for the 1st two weeks of January 2007. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

I actually tied for first in our January G/40 event. I won my first two games last week. In round 3 I played up and sucked with the black pieces. This was one the instances where one doesn't want to be the higher ranked player and get her due color. We were both due black but because I had 2 points and Lonnie had 1.5 I got my black. I'm getting tired of getting crushed horribly when the opponent plays d4, but doesn't allow me to play my regular Nimzo-Indian. I'm sure that's one of the reasons why I beat Silvio last week, because he didn't play his usual garbage opening as white.

There was actually a silver lining to getting Black against Lonnie. The chances were I was going to lose to him regardless of what color I had. He's rated 2225, and my record against him is 2 wins, 1 draw and 30 losses. My win against him with the black pieces was at time when he played e4 as white. So by having black against Lonnie it put me in line to play White against Isaac Sherman, rated 1811.

Isaac is an older Russian player who did not start playing in rated tournaments until August of 2006. He has never played outside the two chess clubs in Scarsdale and White Plains so it's hard to say what his true strength is. It's small pool of players that he's played against. I ran the MSA History program on him. He has a very solid record, albeit against a small circle of players.

Current Official rating is 1811 Current UnOfficial rating is 1853
Best Unofficial rating = 1853 Best Official rating = 1851
Lowest rating on record = 1687

19 Opponents
Total Rated Games = 59 ---> 35 Wins 7 Draws 17 Losses

Best Upset = 279 points -- JOHN KELLY -- 2098 BOB PERETZ CC CHAMPIONSHIP 12-10-2007
Best Draw = 372 points -- LONNIE S KWARTLER -- 2223 BPCC JANUARY G40 01-14-2008
Worst Loss = -238 points -- SCOTT SHEFF -- 1588 WCC SEPTEMBER QUADS 10-03-2007

Highest Rated Opponent Win = JOHN KELLY -- 2098 BOB PERETZ CC CHAMPIONSHIP 12-10-2007
Highest Rated Opponent Draw = LONNIE S KWARTLER -- 2223 BPCC JANUARY G40 01-14-2008
Lowest Rated Opponent Loss to = JOHN KANG -- 1517 WCC QUADS 12-28-2006

Most Recent Wins in a row = 5 ending on 11-14-2007 at WCC AUTUMN SWISS
Most Recent Draws in a row = 1 ending on 01-14-2008 at BPCC JANUARY G40
Most Recent Losses in a row = 3 ending on 05-30-2007 at WESTCHESTER CHESS CLUB CHAMP

Results against 18 higher rated players: Wins = 10 Draws = 3 Losses = 5
Results against 0 equally rated players: Wins = 0 Draws = 0 Losses = 0
Results against 41 lower rated players: Wins = 25 Draws = 4 Losses = 12

Results against 9 players rated + 100 : Wins = 3 Draws = 2 Losses = 4
Results against 29 players rated +/-100: Wins = 17 Draws = 5 Losses = 7
Results against 21 players rated - 100 : Wins = 15 Draws = 0 Losses = 6

This would be my seventh game against him. Up to this point I had 1 win, 1 draw and 4 losses. We tend to have these positional grinders with long pawn chains. However I've been caught unaware at time when suddenly out of a very closed position he comes up with a shot. This game was very typical of our past games, except this time I was the one with the shot. For a good part of the game I'd been looking for ways to open up the h1-a8 diagonal. Earlier I had looked at sac-ing my b pawn, but after 22...Bd7 he made it easy for me.

23. Nxb5 Qa6 (He opted not to play cxb5 allowing me to win the exchange.) 24. Nxd4 Ree8 25. Bf4 Rac8 26. Nf3 Nxf3+ 27. Bxf3 Be6 28. a4 Bd529. Bxd5+ cxd5 30. b5 Qe6 31. d4 h6 32. c6 g5 33. Bc1 g4 34. Bf4 a6 35. Qd2axb5 36. axb5 Re7 37. Re1 Qf6 38. Rxe7 Qxe7 39. Re1 Qa7 40. Be5 Bf8 41. Rb1 Qb642. Qd3 Be7 43. Qxf5 Rxc6?? (I think he forgot that after Qxf5 I'm still protecting the rook on b1.) 44. bxc6 1-0

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Score Another One For King Kong

It's another Friday night in Rye doing battle with the killer kidz. However unlike some recent battles with the under 13 crowd, I came out with a plus score. Polly 2 Kidz 1. In round 1 I continued my tight rivalry with Mike from my Thursday chess class. He was ahead with 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses. However I evened out our series with a nice queen skewer late in the game. In the second round I beat Ethan in the game I posted yesterday. This set up another 3rd round encounter with King Kong. So now we have the battle of 1 vs 2 in the top quad. Both of us are 2-0.

Going into the tournament I made peace with myself regarding my crappy record against him. He's recently broken 1800, so I no longer feel the pressure of losing to some kid lower rated then me. I'm at the stage that I can look at him as another A player who's on his way up. I can beat A players sometimes, but there's a chance I'll also lose. Even though on paper it's only a 100 point difference, I've been performing below 1700. The rating floor is the only between me and Class C. You've heard of the glass ceiling? I'm sitting on the glass floor. I'd rather not break through that.

Since it's the last round we toss for color. I flip and he calls heads. Heads it is. Damn! Where's that two tailed quarter when I need it? The last time I played him, I played a different opening in the hopes of getting an early queen trade. This time I decided to stick with my Accelerated Dragon and see what he threw at me. It was a wild one with some crappy moves on both sides.

Towards the end I think I let my head get in the way. I was annoyed at myself for allowing Ba4+ and Bh6+, and couldn't get past the idea that I was totally boxed in by the bishop pair. I don't know if I just gave up because I was playing King Kong. I'm not sure if against another player I would have played g5. It's not like I didn't see the move at all. I considered it, but for what ever reason I chickened out since I was sac-ing a pawn. Maybe after defending so well in the previous round, I thought I could defend again. Coulda, woulda, shoulda....

Of my 11 games against King Kong this was the only one where I've had good winning chances. I just couldn't quite pull the trigger. Unfortunately the next time I have Black against him the element of surprise will be gone, and he won't walk into that line again. I may have to come up with something new and interesting just in case I play him again in a few weeks.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Draw Offer Psychology

In playing a lot of kids who are 100 to 200 points lower rated then me I've noticed an interesting trend if their attack fizzles out. Some kids will attack the living day lights out my king position. However if I survive the attack and the position is even the kid will switch from attack mode to draw mode. It happened again last night in my second round game.


Ethan was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at my king, but I beat back the attack. After 19. Bxg7 he offered me a draw. I thought about it, but I just felt there was too much play left in the position and the clock was no factor. I sensed he simply wanted a draw because of the rating difference. In the first round he kept offering draws to his higher rated opponent, and eventually lost. I wanted to see where this position was going so I played on. After he played 24. Nxf4 he offered another draw. I liked the play I was getting on the kingside so once again I declined his draw offer. I didn't say anything, I just played 24...exf4. Also the clock was becoming an issue for him.

He played 28. Qa1 trying to get me to trade queens. Again he offers I draw. At this point I'm getting irritated with the draw offers so I tell him that if I want a draw I will offer it so stop asking. I retreat my queen to e8. I was aiming to double the queen and rook on the open h file. I wasn't afraid of his queen on the diagonal. He tried to penetrate with Qf6, but my rook and queen hold the position. After I played Rg6 he should have retreated the queen, but he probably thought he'd get pressure on my g pawn by playing Nf3. At first I was concerned about that but 30... Bc8 trapped the white queen. Oopsies. Still think it's a draw? On move 37 with 29 seconds left he resigned.

I think when a player changes his goal from trying to beat his higher rated opponent, to simply drawing the opponent his play changes. Turning down the draw seems to unsettle the player. Perhaps that's what may have caused my implosion in last week's time scramble. I think when he turned down the draw despite my having the better position I think I just lost focus. I guess well timed draw rejections can be a good weapon in chess psychological warfare.

Thursday Fun and Follies

I finally managed to play all four rounds on Thursday night with no unrequested byes. Winning in the third round helps tremendously in that regard. It's usually a given that I'm going to get paired up the first two rounds, and unless I pull an upset I'm going to be 0-2. It's the third round that can go either way. Sometimes I get paired up again, but more often I'll get paired down. But being paired down in this tournament is no bargain either. Often it's another B player or one of those "box of chocolates" unrateds. (You never know what you're going to get. - Forest Gump) This week I played a rusty 1500 in the third round. We reached the following position after 15. f4, Bxh6, 16. Qxh6, Nxf4

Usually I'm not fond of taking on h6 and letting the opponent's queen sit on h6, but winning the f pawn is was too tempting to pass up. Outside of the sac for perpetual I didn't think he had much in the way of an attack. I was wondering whether he'd try to sacrifice for perpetual check. Sure enough he plays 17. Rxf4, exf4 18. Bxg6. I know I have a draw if I play hxg6, but I decided I'd didn't want a draw so I played 18...Qe7. The game proceeded 19.Bd3 f3 20.Qh4 fxg2 21.Qg3 Qg7 22.Qd6 Bd5 23.c4 f5 24.cxd5 Qxa1 25.Qe6+ Kh8 26.dxc6 Qd4+ 27.Kxg2 Rg8+ White lost on time. His position was pretty grim at that point so whether he flagged or not didn't really matter.

Round 4 was an exercise in aggravation. I got paired against one the "usual suspects". He's an elderly gentleman from Eastern Europe who is very "old world" in his attitudes towards female and youthful chessplayers. He's extremely old fashioned and addresses me as Miss Polly, but it makes me me nuts when he talks down to me or gives me some sort of lecture at the end of our games. On those rare occasions when I do beat him he usually has some excuse about why he lost. This particular game I played really well against him, and won a pawn. I was also up on the clock. I had over 2 minutes and he had less then a minute. This I feel was the crucial point in the game where I got sloppy.

I think I should have left the rooks where the were, and tried to bring my king into f4. He can't move his rooks without losing the h pawn. Instead I tried doubling on the f file, and let him get play on the h file. The game went like this. 53. Rh2 R8h7 54. Rhf2? h4 55. Rh2 hxg3 56. Rxh6+ Rxh6 57. Rg5 Rh4 I managed to allow him to get the pawn back, albeit very weak. I had stopped keeping score at this point. I know that 58. Kg2 Rh2+ 59. Kxg3 Rxa2 60. Kxg4 occurred. The rest of the moves are roughly what happened as I managed to find a losing plan. 60...Ra3 61. Rg6+ Kf7 62. Kf5 Rxb3 63. e5?? Rf3+ 64. Kg5? (64. Kg4 allows for a rook trade, but I'm still outside the box, and the a pawn will promote just before I get there.) Rg3+ 65. Kh5 Rxg6 66. Kh4 Rg1 67. Kh5 a4 0-1

I resigned at this point. He starts to move pieces around, and wants to give his "lecture" on where I went wrong. I told him to leave the pieces because I want to note the final position. He tells me "there's nothing to see." I told him I don't care, just leave the pieces where they are. Getting the final position allows me to reconstruct missing moves to some degree. He goes to post the result. I just wanted to get the position and get the hell out of there. It was midnight and if I didn't leave soon and jump in a taxi I would miss the 12:30 train. That would have totally pissed me off to miss the damn 12:30 and have to wait for the 1:30 train.

My hasty escape avoided having to hear his little lecture. I value feedback from strong players, but I knew what I did wrong, and I don't like being talked down to by a player whose rating is only a 100 points higher then me. Spare me the platitudes and lectures. Argh!!! I'm sure I'll hear about it next week, though if I'm lucky he'll have a senior moment and won't remember that we played.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

View From The Rear

Given all the hot looking bike analogies at dk-transformation and temposchlucker I figured I'd make my contribution with the following.

You may have a $5,000 bike frame built up with another $5,000 worth of top shelf components but if you don't go out and ride it, you're going to be dusted by these hot babes, or maybe even this not so hot babe.
You can have all the the latest and greatest things in technology, books, beautiful chess sets, great study area and good intentions, but if you don't use them you will get left in the dust, or even worse......

I plead guilty on this count as AJ so pointed out in his comment regarding my playing too much. I have the components for a good chess study plan, I just need to make the time to put it all together.

The aftermath of some of my time pressure implosions look much like this:

PS. That is not my bike that met an untimely ending. It belongs to a friend, who made out much better then his bike did.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tuesday Teaser

White to move, and get mated. What was Black's last move?
This position occurred in my game last night. I was Black. :-)
My shortest post ever!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

I played my first tournament of 2008 on Thursday. Unfortunately it was eerily similar to my first tournament of 2007. The only difference was this year I managed to avoid the bye until round 4. Should I take that as sign that 2008 will be better because I put off the bye until round 4? Or should I take it as an omen that 2008 is going to be a lot like 2007 because I'm getting unrequested byes?

Now I could have avoided the entire issue if I could have won a game in one of the earlier rounds. Easier said then done. My best chance was in round three when I finally got paired "down". Down is relative when paired against a 1653 when your own rating is 1700. Down is also relative when the opponent has a 5-1 record against you. In my New Years Day post I made some non-binding New Years resolutions. I certainly did not stick to them very well in this game, especially the one about managing my time better. Here is the position when I stopped inputting moves on my Mon Roi. Neither of us had much time.

This position occurred after 48. axb6 Qxb6+, 49. Qxb6 axb6. I didn't really want the queen trade, but it was check so I had no choice. I felt I was slightly better with the advanced and protected pass pawn, but that knight was making it impossible for my king to penetrate. I don't remember what really occurred after that. Both of us were moving very quickly, and several pawns got traded off. I offered a draw which he declined. Both of us had under three seconds each. Pieces were flying all over the place. Neither one of us seemed capable of putting a piece down on a square without something getting knocked over. The minor pieces eventually were traded off so it came down to king and pawns. We had quite the audience because we were the last game. According to the spectators one or both of us made illegal moves, but neither of us saw the moves. We both could have used an extra two minutes. Unfortunately in the time scramble I managed to lose a couple of pawns and my opponent promoted. 1 second with a 5 second delay is more then enough time to mate with a king and queen against a lone king.

When I saw that I had the bye for the last round I remarked "At least I can go home early." One of the players who also teaches chess to kids said to me, "Go home early, and when you get there count to five so that you know how long five seconds is. You didn't need to move immediately." He had been watching the game, and observed that I missed my chances because I been moving instantaneously. Some days I handle time scrambles better then other days. This was not one of the better days.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"Your Last Blunder of 2007 - In The Adirondacks!"

Actually it ended out being the organizer's last blunder of 2007 by having the tournament up in Saratoga Springs instead of in New York City. This is a New Years Eve day tournament that was started around 1984-1985. There was a year or two that Steve did not run it, but there have been at least 20 to 22 years of it. He's typically gotten 20 to 40 players every year. This year since he was in Saratoga Springs directing the Empire State Open and NY State Grade K-8 he decided he would have the tournament up there. The only other choices were race back down to NYC bright and early on the 31st or not have it at all. Since it has a long history he did not want to not run it.

Since this was the 16th year I'd be playing in it, I certainly wasn't going to miss it. I think if Steve could have taken back his move, he probably would have not had the tournament. For those of us who did enter, we were happy he had it. After all, how often does one enter a tournament that has six guaranteed prizes and only have six players show up? Also, how often does one enter a one section tournament with half the field being titled players? There was a 1741 point rating difference between the number one seed and the number six seed. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The GM and two IMs decided from the get go they were just going to take draws against each other and have fish for lunch in any round that they weren't paired against each other. I had the "pleasure" of being the top of the bottom half so GM Ronen Har-Zvi got to take me apart in the first round. IM Alex Lenderman and Jay Bonin got to do like wise to their first round opponents. In terms of rating differences I was the one closest to my opponent. A mere 897 points between me and the grandmaster. Lenderman outrated his opponent by 998, and Bonin had an 1138 point advantage. Needless to say there were no upsets in round one! I tried to not be as timid as I was in the US Open when I played GM Shabalov, but it didn't matter. The end result was the same.

The problem with having an odd number in a score group is that someone drops down to the next group. The problem with being the top of that lower score group is being cannon fodder for an IM. In round two Lenderman and Har-Zvi have their draw, Bonin gets white agsint me and totally demolishes me, and the 1474 rated kid beats the 1256 rated kid. Once again no great surprises in that round. Everything has gone according to plan.

As a player who is also a tournament director, I will try to predict the pairings. The first two rounds I had accurately predicted. My predictions were off for round three. I had predicted Lenderman (1.5) vs Bonin (2), Dell'Orto (1) vs Har-Zvi (1.5), Bodek (0)vs Wright (0). The first player listed in each case being white. However those pairings would cause problems in the fourth round with Bonin and Har-Zvi both due white and paired against each other and Lenderman and Bodek both due black and paired against each other. The only pairing and color that would work would be Wright vs Dell'Orto.

Sometimes I've seen Swiss-Sys make some totally stupid pairings to balance out colors. Here's a typical example I've seen. In the last round of a four round tournament not pairing the two 3-0 players against each other because they both have had two blacks and are both due white. I should add that neither player had the two blacks in rounds two and three forcing a three blacks in a row situation for round four. I will always over ride that pairing to have the two perfect scores play each other.

In this particular tournament the pairing program got it right by making the odd looking pairings of a 0 playing a 1, and the other 0 playing a 1.5. Even though two players were playing the same color two rounds in a row it made it possible for everyone to get their due color in round four, and it also allowed for legal pairings. So I had predicted the right pairings, just one round too soon.

Just like the weekend, I found myself paired against a kid from my chess club. The kid always plays tough against me, but I am 3-1 against him. Our game was pretty quiet. Fritz thought I was slightly better in the final position. I'm not Fritz and who knows what would happen in time pressure.


As I made the recapture of 27. Bxg2 he offered me a draw. This is the kid who has a tendency to offer draws to me when there's a lot of play left in the position. The last two times he's offered me draws I've turned him down and he's blundered within a couple of moves. This time I accepted the draw. I had considered offering him a draw a few moves earlier because I just didn't feel like there was much in the position, and I thought he was slightly better. He also had about a two minute time advantage. Even Fritz gave black a 0.44 edge. Given his history of blundering after a draw offer, it was tempting to play on. However given my past weekend history of imploding against kids I decided accepting the draw was the safest thing to do. I think I was too fried mentally at that point to play it out.

Round four would bring about the final grandmaster draw of the tournament between Lenderman and Bonin. Har-Zvi would get his fourth easy game of the tournament, and I will get to play another 10 year old. Sigh. Here I had the chance to be part of the odd ball lore of this event by winning; causing a player to go 0-4 and still win the under 1800 prize. But alas I had another one of those games where the opponent opens with something besides 1. e4, and once again I had problems getting my queen side pieces to useful squares. Usually it's the bishop on c8, but this time it was the knight on b8. I gave up the exchange to free up the position, but later he gave back to trade down to a won ending. I flagged in this position.

The clock did for me what I couldn't bring myself to do; resign to another kid. So the next biggest mismatch after the titled players versus the fish was the only game that yielded an upset. I guess there was a little consolation by winning one of my largest prizes this year. The big walloping $48 for top under 1800. Though how often does one get to see a wallchart that looks like this at the end?

The results on the Chess Center of NY website are a little clearer. Sorry Steve for the bath you took on this mess, but it made great blog material. I guess next year we'll be back at the Marshall Chess Club. Pretty please! I don't need to travel 175 miles and spend an extra night in a hotel room to lose to Jay Bonin for the umpteenth time!

Attn: Ending Experts! Is this a draw?

In my 9+10+9+12=40 post I made reference to my third round loss, but wanted to deal with the position in a separate post. The crucial position is rich with possibilities, and I didn't want it to get buried amongst my long winded journey through the mind fields of pint sized chess monsters. Here is the game in it's entirety.


The way I played it out I thought I was dealing with a rook pawn ending. Unfortunately with pawns on the other side I don't have stalemate possibilities. On move 58 we reach a typical rook pawn stalemate position, except I have pawn moves on the king side.

At move 50 for black we reached the position below. My oppenent felt I could have drawn if I had played 50...g5. I had done a count and knew he was promoting before me, but pawn is advanced enought that it doesn't seem like he can stop me from promoting even though he promotes 2 moves earlier then I possibly could.

Here is some of the analysis I looked at with the aid of Fritz. After this little exercise I'm convinced Fritz knows jack shit about endings. From the moment I examined 50...g5, Fritz rated the position +- 7.41. At that point I didn't feel so bad about playing the line I did. A loss is a loss. But look what happens.

50... g5 51. hxg5+ hxg5 52. fxg5+ Kxg5 53. Kb5 Kf4 54. Kxa5 Kf3 55. Kb5 Kxf2 56. a5 f4 57. a6 f3 58. a7 Ke2 59. a8=Q f2 60. Qe4+ Kd1 61. Qf3+ Ke1 62. Qe3+ Kf1 63. Kc4 Kg2 64. Qe4+Kh2 65. Qh4+ Kg2 66. Qg4+ Kh1 67. Qf5 After this move Fritz gives White+- 4.62 But look at the evaluation one move later after 67...Kg2 = 0.25 .

I looked at a few different variations, and all of them would give White a huge advantage at first and as long as Black guarded the pawn without going Kf1 Fritz would then rate the position equal.

Here's the million dollar question: Can black hold after 50...g5?

Gentleman, start your engines.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


After spending Christmas with my family I hung out a few extra days with my sister in the Albany area. From there I headed to Saratoga Springs for the Empire State Open. There were three sections. Open, Under 1900, Under 1500. Then there's also the NY State Grade Championships for K-8. I opted to do the two day schedule. That means the first three games played at G/60 , and then in the fourth round we merge with the three day schedule and play 40/2 followed by G/60. I played in the Under 1900 section. At least I thought I was in that section. Considering the average age of my first four opponents was 10, I feel like I was playing in the 4th grade section of the scholastic tournament. It turns out a lot the kids after seeing the weak competition in their respective grades opted to play in the Empire State Open instead. In case you haven't figured it out the title consists of the ages of my opponents. Unfortunately if you take that last number, stick a hyphen in between the 4 and 0, and reverse them you get my score against said same competition.

I thought about playing up, but there's nothing between Open and Under 1900. When the sections are at 200 point intervals such as under 2000, under 1800, under 1600 then I will play up a section to avoid the under 1600 rated kids who decide to play up. For this tournament only one player under 1900 played up in the Open section, so it would have been a weekend of getting crushed. In hindsight I should have played up. I couldn't have done much worse.

In the first round I get paired against a nine year old kid with a 1500 rating. He comes in with his dad. His dad helps him get settled in, and quietly gives him some words of encouragement before we start. Though for all I know he was telling him "Don't let this lady old enough to be your grandmother beat you." The scene was reminiscent of the many scholastic events I've directed where the parents get their kids seated and set up, and then are hustled out of the playing room by the directors.

This isn't a scholastic event so the parents can stay and watch. For the first hour I didn't really notice whether his dad was watching or not, but later I could tell dad was near by because the kid would look at dad instead of at the board. I think having a parent near by can be distracting for the kid. If I'm watching one of my students play I try to watch from a spot where he can't see me so that he doesn't become distracted by my presence. I almost felt like telling the dad "You're not doing your son any favors by watching. He's looking at you instead of the board."

Then again maybe I should not have been worrying about my opponent being distracted. Sometimes I think it's better not to make checkmate threats that are easily stopped. Especially when the stopping move of f3 followed by e4 allows the opponent to totally dominate the center. Eventually he won a pawn. I don't know where my brain was when we reached this position.

He had just played Qc5. Being down a pawn I didn't really want to simplify, and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to get my attack going again. Like I said before, I have no idea where my brain was, but it sure wasn't looking at the same position that was on the board. I played 37...Qa6??? Oops! Can anyone find mate in two for white? I did after he played his move. That was not how I wanted to start my tournament!

I like traveling to other places so that I can play different people. I get tired of playing the usual suspects. So what happens in round 2? I get paired against Mike the 1600 rated 5th grader who takes my lunch time chess class at his school. Yeh, the same Mike that I beat in a simul at school, but lost to that same evening in the WCA Friday Quads. At least King Kong had the decency to stay in the 5th Grade section so I didn't have to face the possibility of playing him in this tournament.

This particular round really made me feel like I was playing in a scholastic tournament. Mike was not the only kid from my area playing in the "adult" tournament. There were about 8 kids from my neck of the woods playing in my section and the under 1500 section. Since we were all playing the two day schedule we were in a small meeting room away from the scholastic event and the three day schedule of the Empire State Open. When kids are playing in "adult" events they have a tendency to wander around the room and watch their friends play, or if their friend is playing on the adjoining board they'll keep peering over at the other game. Most scholastic events are pretty strict about the kids staying in their seats, and leaving the playing room when they're done. In an event like this one there are no such limitations, so kids take advantage of this freedom to get up and watch other games.

I don't mind people watching as long as they don't stand too close or have a conversation. Since I was playing a kid, I had an audience of kids. Also one of the other kids that I play a lot was playing next to me. He was playing another kid. It seemed like I was surrounded by kids. The game next to us finished before us. The player sitting next to Mike was putting his equipment away. As he picked up his chess board he knocked over Mike's glass of water all over our board. It was Mike's move and the position was getting rather complicated. I had won a pawn early in the game, but now it was getting to the point where I was going to have to give it back.

So here we are in this complex position and there's a big puddle of water on Mike's king side. He looks at the board, and looks at me as if to say "Now what?". I stopped the clock, and we get paper towels to clean up the mess. As we're mopping up the water, pieces are getting knocked over so we take some of the pieces off the board to make sure we get all the water cleaned up. Thank goodness it was only water, and not soda. Also I'm glad we were using Mike's plastic set, not my wood set.

It's times like this that I love my Mon Roi. I was able to set the position back up using the diagram on the unit. I then reversed the view to the black side so that Mike could double check the position and make sure we had set up correctly. When I had first reset the position I had accidentally put a black pawn on f5. Mike noticed the extra pawn. Once we was sure the position was right we continued.

It's a little disconcerting to have something like that happen in the middle of a complicated position. Also in 2007 I had a very poor track record when it comes to inappropriate dispersal of liquids. This year alone I ruined a digital camera and a laptop computer. So I guess given my record versus liquids it should have been no surprise that water all over the chess board would wreck havoc on my focus. We both had to refocus on the game itself. I think I was having more difficulty getting back into the flow of the game. After the flood was when I started falling way behind on time. Here was where it got interesting:

He had just won his pawn back with 33...Bxe3. After 34. Re2 I figured I would regain my pawn advantage when he moved the bishop. He opted to sac the bishop by playing 34...Bxf4. This is how it went from that point. 35. gxf4 Rxc4 36. Rd1 Rxa4 37. Rxd6 Rxf4 38. Ng6 Rf7 39. Ne5?? This was a serious mistake on my part as I missed mate in 4. (39. Rd8+ Kh7 40. Rg2 Rf8 41. Rxf8 e3 42. Rh8#) This stuff happens when one has 10 seconds left!

39... Rc7 40. Re6 Rb4 41. b6 Rc5 42. Nd7 Rd5 43. Ne5 a4 44. Ng4 a3 45. Ne3 Ra5 46. Nc2 Rb2 47. R6xe4 a2 48. Na1 Rxb6 49. Re8+ Kh7 50. R8e3 Rb1 51. Re1 Rxe1 52. Rxe1 b5 53. Kg2 b4 54. Kf2 Ra3 55. h4 Kg6 56. Ke2 b3 57. Kd2 b2 0-1 (White loses on time)

As I was having my time pressure meltdown I had to deal with a kid who must have flunked "spectator etiquette". This kid who I don't even know comes and stands right next to me to watch the game. I tell the kid to step back. So what does he do? He sits down right next to me on the table itself. WTF?? Hello! Since when does one sit on a table where people are playing chess?? At this point I'm ready to snap. I tell the kid to get the hell off the table and stay away. Give me a freaking break! This is not a little second grader. I'd guess he was probably in eighth grade or so. By that age they should know better then to be sitting on tables in the playing room.

So can this tournament get any worse for me? Yes. I get paired against another 9 year old. I tossed away a pawn early, but he allowed me to trade off the queens and double his pawns on the kingside. After the first round disaster of leaving the queens on the board, I decided I'd take my chances in the ending, down a pawn. For a change I was the one who had the time advantage. However I found another way to mess up, and lose a game that probably should have been a draw. I'm going to put the diagram and analysis in separate post.

Now we're into the slow time control of 40/2 G/60. In round 4 I played another kid from my area. He's 12, so he's my oldest opponent so far. This is a kid that I taught back in kindergarten, and knew way back then that he had talent. How many kindergartners can explain why his opponent is making certain moves and be correct in his analysis. This isn't the first time I've played Jacob. We've played 13 times before this game. My record against him is 7 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws. Here's a kid that I actually have a winning record against. He and I have had some interesting games over the years. I've gotten lucky a few times where he's let me off the hook and I gotten a draw or a win out of a seemingly lost position. Sometimes he will appear to be off in another world, or just appear to be bored with what's going on and that has cost him at times.

He had gotten off to a worse start then me. He went 0-2 on Friday in the three day schedule, so he reentered for the two day schedule on Saturday. Like me, he also started out 0-3 on Saturday. I felt kind of bad for him since he was 0-5 for two days of playing. Some kids are pretty resilient and can bounce back from a string of losses. Others don't handle it so well. Jacob is pretty laid back, so I don't think it was bothering him too much. I don't think I've ever seen him have one of those major emotional meltdowns where someone just totally loses it and starts crying over a horrible loss. He and I were joking around with some of the other kids before the pairings went up about how lousy we were playing. Being a TD and understanding the pairing system I had a feeling we were going to be playing. I'm not sure he knew or not.

Playing an accelerated schedule at a faster time limit for 3 games can be pretty draining particularly if every game goes almost the full two hours. It's also tough when you're playing like total crap and losing to 9 and 10 year olds. I kind of wished I had taken a 1/2 point bye for round 4 and hung out with a couple of the parents who were waiting for their kids to finish their 4th round. What would have been better?


Unfortunately B was the first stop, followed by A. Sigh. This was just one of those games where I just couldn't think straight. I'm not sure if I was feeling sorry for Jacob because he was having a worse tournament then me, or whether I was just psyched out by the prospect of losing to another kid. All I know was I felt like I was just going through the motions. It almost seemed like Jacob was also going through the motions. At times he'd be staring at the game next to ours, wandering around looking at other games, playing with his pencil or just staring off into space. I almost felt like offering him a draw after we traded queens on move 12, but I don't like quick draws so I decided to suck it up and play. 10 moves later I'd end out making a move that brings a different meaning to the phrase, suck it up.

Sometimes we can over focus on one idea, and totally overlook the obvious. We reached the following position after 21...Ne5.

Black's pieces are more active despite my having the bishop pair. I was very concerned with his playing 22...Nc4 attacking the b pawn and the bishop. I got it stuck in my mind that the only way I could save both was to put the bishop on c3. I didn't even consider 23 Rc2 which holds everything. Putting the bishop on c3 is a blunder since he can play d4 and trap it. I figured the only way I could safely put the bishop on c3 was to play e3 first. This way after 23...Nc4, 24. Bc3 he couldn't play 23...d4 because of exd. What I totally missed was after 22. e3 he simply plays ...Nd3 forking the two rooks. I had spent almost four minutes analyzing e3 before playing it. He spent all of about 20 seconds coming up with Nd3. When he picked up the knight I was so sure it was going to c4. When he dropped the knight on d3 I thought I was going to choke on the sour ball I was sucking.

It was tempting to simply resign on the spot, but we had not even been playing for an hour at that point. I really didn't want be one of the first ones out of the room at that point. There was also the possibility that maybe he'd might implode and mess it up, allowing me to escape. Given some of our previous games there was that possibility. Unfortunately after he won the exchange he became more focused on our game, and wasn't spending so much time looking at other games or fiddling with his pencil. My blunder gave him hope that he'd finally stop his losing streak. All it did for me was leave a pit in my stomach, and this sickly feeling that I was getting blown out by opponents averaging age 10. 22 moves later we ended out with the position in picture B. At that point I decided I had enough.

All I could hope for on Sunday was that the number would remain odd and that I'd get a bye and avoid playing the pain in the ass kid who I had to chew out for sitting on the table while watching my game. I did not want to play him after the little lecture I gave him on proper spectator etiquette. It would be just my luck to have him crush me.

As it turned out, I did get a bye and played a house player rated around 2000. I played better against him even though I still lost. In the last round I played another player from my chess club. I finally won a game. This was our 13th game. I guess for once 13 was my lucky number, since up this point my record against him was a pathetic 1 win, 9 losses and 2 draws. I'm just so glad I traveled 175 miles and spent 2 nights in a hotel to play three players from my local clubs. We could have all stayed home and played a quad in my living room.

The craziness would continue on Monday with Steve's "Your Last Blunder of 2007" tournament. That deserves its own post. Stay tuned for further details. This was long enough.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!!!!

Hello 2008!

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions. So I'm not going to say things I like I resolve to do the following:
  1. Not play any time controls under G/60. (I'll break that one this Thursday night.)
  2. Manage my time better.
  3. Learn new openings.
  4. Study tactics.
  5. Study endings.
  6. Get off, and stay off my floor.

These are all worthy goals, and I will endeavor to do these things. I make no promises to anyone, including myself.

2007 was a wild year of chess. It ended with three days of craziness in Saratoga Springs, NY. (Details at 11!)

I played the most number of USCF rated games in a year that I've done. 432 games rated under the regular system. I may have also played some games rated under the quick chess system, but I consider that fluff so I don't keep track of it. The good news is I won over 100 games this year. (First time ever!) The bad news is I lost over 270 games. Ouch! "Stuff" happens.

I started in on the chess blog scene fairly late into 2007 so you didn't get to follow all of 2007. Hopefully the parts you did follow were educational, insightful, amusing, etc. I don't claim to have the wit and wisdom of some of my fellow bloggers, but if nothing else you got a feel for what it's like for a 50 something female to play chess amongst mostly males.