Saturday, August 30, 2008

Darn It! I'm Not Perfect.

Temposchlucker had posted his cuss-o-meter rating on his blog. He's squeaky clean. I guess that's what happens when English isn't your first language and you don't even know what the word cuss means. I figured since I don't use the s-word or f-word on my blog that m score would be comparable. I was wrong.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites

I guess hell, crap, damn, and suck count as cussing. Anyone wanna take bets on how high Chess Loser would score? Actually I put his URL in. Only 56.8% There must be some really raunchy sites that have taken the test. I guess chess bloggers are a pretty tame bunch in comparison to the rest of internet world.

Speaking of Road Trips....

Later to today I head off to Albany for the 109th Annual New York State Championship. Hopefully Murphy will stay home this time, and let me play in peace. Also hopefully I don't get into another game of tug of war with my sister's big yellow lab.

I will try to take the positive vibe from Monday and Wednesday's games, and carry that through the weekend. We'll just skip over Thursday's time pressure meltdown. That was mere blip on the chess horizon. The only game I didn't flag came to its' own ugly ending. It's too bad I didn't have that little arrow pointing the way during the game.

I picked up my c5 rook to play Rxd5. As I reached for black's d5 rook I suddenly noticed I had this problem with Qh2 that could not be resolved with a rook move. I think he might have said something if I put the rook down, said "J'adoube" and tried to play g3 instead. I played Rxd5. Hey maybe he'd make the recapture and miss the mate. Maybe I'll go 6-0 in the Open Section this weekend. Maybe pigs will fly......

31 rating points forward, 29 backwards. C'est la vie!

The Rhode Less Traveled

David Harris
Blackstone Chess Festival Organizer

Yesterday I received an unusual letter from a chess organizer. How often does this happen?

Polly, Thanks for attending the Blackstone Chess Festival. I apologize for the mix-up in the prize distribution. I noticed you paid the full entry fee, but I believe you should get the advance rate. While the postmark was technically a day past the cut off, you did email me your info, which makes my job easier! I hope you will come to another of our events.

David Harris

Blackstone Chess

A check for $10 was enclosed. How cool is that? He certainly didn't have to refund the difference. I hadn't even asked about it. If he had the whole late fee I wouldn't have even noticed. I knew I was a day late, so I paid the late fee. I didn't want to send the early fee and then have them come track me down to get the extra $10.

Yes David, I will be back. I've finally played in Rhode Island, but now I have come win a game or two. Besides I got to check out a few more brewskis on the East Side Irish Pub menu. Excellent recommendation for dinner. The British contingent and I had a delightful time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Organized Bedlam Update

The 12 player round robin is progressing slowly through the summer months. It hasn't been helped by vacations or unexpected delays trying to get back from vacation. I had gotten off to a rough start when I lost Dario in my first match. Since that time I've only lost one other game to the number one player, Isaac Sherman. Isaac is an older (70s I think?) Eastern European emigre who didn't start playing in rated tournaments until August of 2006.

Isaac is an interesting example of a player who has what some refer to as an incestuous rating. All of his games are amongst players who attend 2 small chess clubs. All of his games have been at the Westchester Chess Club or the Bob Peretz Chess Club. A few of his opponents including me play at both clubs. His published rating is 1799. Up this tournament he's only played 79 rated games, against 20 different opponents. His record is 45 wins, 11 draws and 23 losses. 8 of those games have been against me (4 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses), 9 against Andre rated 1420(9 wins!) 12 against Karl rated 1620 (8 wins, 1 draws and 3 losses) and 14 games against Dan rated 1740 (4 wins, 2 draws, 8 losses.) Dan seems to be the only one who can beat him on a consistent basis. Isaac seems to totally have Andre's number.

One has to ask is he stronger or weaker then that rating indicates? The ratings of his opponents during this time has ranged from 1420 to 2200. He's 9-0-0 against a player who never plays anywhere except the Westchester Chess Club. He's got a losing record against a player who has played outside our club and also in North Carolina. He's got a winning record against me who plays.....Never mind, you know where I play.

Some people tend to be under rated when they play a small group of players, and others tend to be over rated. Here is a summary of his overall history, not counting this tournament. All this cool data can be gathered by using the program from this site.

18 higher rated players: Wins = 10 Draws = 3 Losses = 5
0 equally rated players: Wins = 0 Draws = 0 Losses = 0
61 lower rated players: Wins = 35 Draws = 8 Losses = 18

9 players rated + 100 : Wins = 3 Draws = 2 Losses = 4
32 players rated +/-100: Wins = 18 Draws = 6 Losses = 8
38 players rated - 100 : Wins = 24 Draws = 3 Losses = 11

Personally I think he's probably solid 1800 strength. Whether he's under rated or over rated it doesn't matter, he's kicking butt in this tournament. He's is 7-1 so far. Dario is the only one who has nicked him for a win. Last Wednesday he chalked up win #5 against me. He plays very unorthodox moves in the opening. He pushes pawns like crazy, and attacks hard. However after he attacks like crazy and gets small material edge he knows when to take it to the ending. We reached this position after 44. R1h3. He was content to keep the pressure up and not trade pawns with 44. Rxa3 Rxe5.

I made the mistake of playing 44...f4? with the idea of playing Rgxe5. Bad plan because he played 45. Be4! After 45...Rgg7 White has a very easy win. No crushing attacks needed, just simple endgame technique. The game continued 46. Rxh7+ Rxh7, 47. Rxh7+ Rxh7 48. Bxh7 Kxh7 49. c6! Black resigns. No stopping the c pawn from its' destiny as a queen.

This week I managed to redeem myself with a tough win against Dan. A typical game for us goes down to the wire with one or both of us in severe time trouble. This game was no different though for a change I wasn't the one having a time pressure meltdown.

Polly - Dan 082708.pgn

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Winning Ugly!

I had a wonderful weekend at my nephew's wedding out in Long Island. Unlike Elizabeth Vicary, I did not try to combine any chess with my wedding weekend. Contrary to popular belief I did not wear any of my chess clothes to any of the functions. Here I am in one of those rare moments wearing something on the formal side.

Weddings have become a major production these days. Gone are the days where one goes to the ceremony, followed by a simple reception and perhaps an after party at some body's house afterwards. Now there are all sorts of functions tied in with the big day, and one is usually pretty wiped out by the end of the weekend. All I can say is I'm glad I didn't have to pay for all of this. The hotel, hubby's tux, my dresses, shower present, and wedding present was enough. Thank goodness for end of summer sales! I could have played in the World Open instead.

After the weekend I figured I was going to be totally wiped out, and have no grey matter left to play chess. I'm glad I didn't judge how I was going to do at chess based on how my Tae Kwon Do class before hand went. I was a total zombie during class, and was having trouble focusing on what was going on during the warm up. During the part of class where we work on our forms, Master Kim had me do nothing but practice my back stance and knife hand block. Talk about boring! It would be like practicing two moves of an opening over and over again. However it really is more beneficial then that. Muscle memory is an important aspect of the training.

It looked like it was going to be a tough night. Along with the usual suspects Silvio and Ben we had the killer kids, King Kong, Michael and Joshua. Joshua is the kid who has been a royal thorn in my side having beaten me 6 times in a row since April.

In the first round I play Ben. This is a kid with time management issues. He can't seem to get through the first 10 moves without burning over half his time. I've talked to him and his Dad about learning a system against specific openings and getting through those 10 moves without wiping out a significant chunk of time.

Like many kids, he's been trained to write his move first and then make it on the board. The idea being that writing it down first gives the player a chance to reevaluate the move before making it on the board. Also the act of writing first gets the impulsive player to slow down. I think in general that writing first can be a useful tool, but for a kid like Ben I think it hurts him too much. In our games I've watched him write. He doesn't write quickly, so typically it takes him around 5 seconds to write a move down. Multiply that by 12, and there's a minute gone just for writing his own move. Then you add in the time it takes to write the opponent's move and more time is lost.

We had one of our typical games where I have a huge time edge, and then burn the time trying to figure out how to exploit the time advantage. We reached this position with me having about 20 seconds and he has 1 second.

I was looking at 60. Bf8. It's a very interesting move if for no other reason that in 6 seconds he has to determine that he can't take the bishop and find the correct response. If he plays 60...Kxf8 then 61. Kd7 g6 62.e7+ Kg7 63. e8=Q and mate to follow. His best chance is 60...Ne4 61. Bxg7 Nxg3 62. Bxf6 Nxf5. However in 20 seconds I couldn't work it all out, and so with about 6 seconds left I played the wussy king move, 60. Kc6. We both hung pawns and agreed to a draw with me having 3 seconds, and him still having 1 second.

I won round two against Michael. He too was having time issues and flagged in a position where the material was even, but he had more attacking chances. Winning this game put me in the position of playing the winner of Joshua versus King Kong. I guess maybe it was more like Joshua and the wall of Jericho, because Kevin came tumbling down after he overlooked a mate in two that he had.

The big question for me was, could I stop my losing streak against Joshua? I had started out with 8 wins, 5 draws and 1 loss against him before going on this 6 game losing streak that brought him to within 1 game of evening our score against each other. Fortunately I did not let losing the toss for color (again!) dampen my spirits. Winning the game would put an end to the proverbial monkey on my back, and give me first place in the tournament. Was I up to the task?

My recent games with Joshua are not only fought over the board, but also in the mind. He has added the psychological aspect to his repertoire. Sometimes it works in his favor sometimes it doesn't. I was determined not to let my six game losing streak against him get under my skin. I was also trying to ignore the fact that I was black against him, and that lately he's blown me away with attacks on my castled position. Mentally I was prepared for his pawn storm, but he left the door open for me he let me take the center, and he had not castled.

We reached this position after 20 moves. I'm threatening to pin the knight with Rfe8.

I'm feeling really good about my position. I almost felt as though he thought he could get away with leaving his king in the center against me. I was ready to show him that he couldn't take me so lightly and was prepared to punish him for not castling. Sometimes I have this bad habit of thinking about what post mortem "words of wisdom" I'm going to share with the opponent afterwards, while the game is still going on. I'm thinking to myself "He can't play Ke2 because I have the fork on g3 after Bxe4. I need to tell him he should have castled on move 15."

He plays 21. Ke2. I immediately play 21...Bxe4. He plays 22. Bxe4. Without even looking at how the capture has changed the position I instantly play 22...Ng3. Not only do I play the move right away, I slap the piece down with a little more emphasis then normal. I admit it, I was being a hot dog. I was acting like one of the kids. Needless to say I was mortified when he took my knight with his queen. It wasn't quite as bad as when "Mr. White" announced mate with a queen that was hanging. However it was another example of an adult acting like a child playing against a child.

It was tempting to resign on the spot and curse myself for being so unfocused and overconfident, but I was too embarrassed at that point since a number of people had witnessed my faux pas. Even though my body language gave away my feelings about what had just happened, I decided I would try to keep my cool. I wasn't ready for my losing streak to go to seven. I figured with his king still sitting in the center I might get some counter play. Here is the actual game.


I was rather stunned when he put his rook on on d7. I hesitated before taking it. I did not slam the queen down when I made the capture. I had been given a chance to get back into the game. I didn't want to blow it by acting like a knucklehead again. He was down an exchange for a pawn. That's not an automatic win, especially when playing a kid who has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Hopefully both of us learned something about staying focused and not getting overconfident when the opponent hands you a gift. It was an ugly win, but I'll take the gift along with the $35 first prize and 31 rating points.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rhode Trip: Winning the Battle. Losing the War.

Having lost round three I was even more aggravated by the Under 1900 prize structure. No one under 1900 had more then 1 point, so I was certainly still in contention. Hard to believe that with .5 I would be playing a money game if they reversed themselves on the prize fund. If there were an even number I would play the new kid. I’m not so arrogant to say that it would have been a piece of cake. As soon as I act like that I’m bound to have something bad happen like hanging my queen or losing on time. I try not to take anything or anyone for granted. However I probably would have contributed to his chess education like his previous three opponents.

I did find an ally in my beef with the prize structure. During one of my third round opponent’s deep thinks I was wandering around near the wall charts. Howard Goldowsky was standing there looking at the sign with the prizes. Howard was one of the under 1900s who had also entered the Open Section. I asked him what he thought of this prize structure. He didn't like it either. He probably had a bigger beef then me since he already had gotten paired way down and had one point. He had come to play up against higher rated players. Like me, he was disappointed that the sections got combined.

When the round was over the two of us made our case to the tournament director and organizer. Now it wasn't just about me. I was able to speak for both us, and even for the third under 1900 “Open” player who was not around at the time. I’m afraid when I first spoke to them I didn't exactly choose my words well. I’m afraid I may have come across as condescending or arrogant. What I first said came out totally wrong. I won’t repeat that part. It was not meant as a slight to anyone, I just was just trying to make my point regarding what I wanted out of the weekend. The gist of my comments were something to the effect of “I came to play strong competition knowing that I’d possibly lose most of my games, and possibly get a bye. I wasn't there for the money. I understand why they merged the sections. I don’t have a problem with it. Now I’m may going get paired way down, and you’re telling me I can’t win money even if I win that game. Howard has already been paired way down, he can’t win money either with this set up. It’s just not fair.”

The organizer and tournament director said they would consider our complaint and let us know what they would do. At that point there was nothing else that we could say or do.

Howard and I got talking to Jeffrey Hall and then the three of us decided to have lunch. I spoken to Jeffrey earlier when he had asked my about the settings on my Chronos. He had noticed that when the 40th move was reached that the clock automatically added the time for the second time control. He was curious about the setting since he just sets two controls with no move counter. I like the automatic reset at the end of the control. That way it’s clear if someone flags before 40 moves. Also it’s clear how much time is left in the sudden death control. It does have its flaws. If someone forgets to press the clock or presses it accidentally then the move counter is off and the clock will go to the next time control either too early or too late. Also I haven't figured out how to have the delay count down 5,4,3,2,1 visibly. Instead a cursor blinks for the 5 seconds. That normally doesn't bother me, but with 15 second delay I got myself confused during round 4.

Doing lunch in between rounds with Jeffrey and Howard.

It turns out Jeffrey was the third under 1900 who had signed up for the Open. He had taken a bye in round one so he was very surprised when he had to play Grandmaster Erenburg in round two. Some 1900 had clipped Erenburg for a draw in round one. It was an ugly get crushed in less then 20 moves type game. In round three he played a 1966 player, so he was getting the strong opponents he was looking to play. Little did we know as we sat across from each other sharing a pleasant meal, that in a little while we'd be sitting across from each again with a chess board in between.

It was interesting meeting and spending time with Howard Goldowsky. Though he doesn't have his own blog, his presence in the chess blogosphere is felt. He frequently comments on various chess blogs. His comments are almost aways very lengthy and are very well written. My mental picture of him was an older geek type. I got the geek part right. He does some sort engineering involving satellites, but he's younger then I imagined. He said the only reason he doesn't have his own blog is that he'd never get any work done. He reads blogs when he needs a break and makes comments. Then suddenly he realizes he's killed an hour just writing comments.

After lunch it was back to the business at hand. Let's play some chess. They posted a new prize list with no restrictions on which players under 1900 could win them. Now we B players with our sad scores of .5 to 1 point were all in the running for money. My third round opponent had the tough task facing a 2100. That's what he gets for beating me in round three. (Wicked Evil Grin) It was sort of ironic that he was one of the players who had entered the Under 1900 probably with the hope of scoring points and money, yet got paired up against three players rated well over 1900. I had been his only opponent rated lower then him.

Howard got paired against another 1700, and Jeffrey and I were paired against each other. Before I finish reporting on the goings on at the bottom of the wall chart let me give you the news concerning the top. There was a three way tie for first with GM Keith Arkell, GM Timur Geerav and IM Justin Sarkar all scoring 3.5 points. Geerav and Sarkar took a draw in round 4 while Arkell had to beat Master Luis Belliard. Geerav and Sarkar had the best tie breaks so they played a blitz game to determine the winner of the $50 bonus. Geerav won the blitz game.

There were some disagreements on the tie break system and whether it was clearly stated anywhere. That was one argument I was going to stay out of. I figured I'd done enough bitching and moaning for the weekend. I'd let someone else take up that fight if they wanted to.

Grandmaster Keith Arkell 3.5 - 0.5

IM Justin Sarkar and GM Timur Geerav
Blitz playoff for 1st place bonus won by Geerav.

Meanwhile in the back of the room on the bottom boards.......

As stated in a previous post, I technically would have been in line for the bye despite having a half point more then the unrated due to rule 28L5. But the bye would have given me at least 3rd place by default, and possibly clear second. I guess if I had gotten the bye at that point it wouldn't have been so terrible. Last round bye, and guaranteed money. What more could I want? I could have said "Thanks! Mail me my check I'm going back to the beach in Connecticut." However really what I wanted was to win the last round and earn money the old fashioned way

Sometimes things don't work as planned. It was kind of ironic that I got paired against the guy who was asking me about my clock settings. Now he had the opportunity to see the settings in action. Unfortunately he didn't get to see the automatic add on for the second control because I had a brain fart on move 28. It's colossal brain fart when one forgets how her own clock works.

I'm seeing seconds tick away and I'm thinking those seconds are part of the delay. Noooo, those seconds were real time, so I was a little shocked when the clocked beeped and starting flashing. Brain fart or no brain fart it wasn't going to make a difference. 15 seconds to make 12 moves in the position was going to be challenging. Even if I survived the clock I'm going to start hemorrhaging pawns. Look at the final position and you be the judge. Perhaps the clock was resigning on my behalf.


So after everything was said and done the picture of the bottom portion of the wall chart summarizes what happened with the under 1900 group.

My fellow Open Section under 1900s got in the money. All the players originally entered in the under 1900 made a little something. And as for me, well....

I got another story for my blog. Next time Howard and Jeffrey can buy me lunch. Ruth Cris Steak House at the 2009 USATE in Parsippany?

Now I can check off Rhode Island as my 21st state I've played in. I've completed my knight's tour of the New England states. It's only taken me 36 years. Though I'm afraid I need to return there, because I haven't won a game in Rhode Island yet. I have at least one win in the other 20 states.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rhode Block! Blackstone Chess Festival Open: Round 3

Okay so I got through the first day with out having castled short on the wall chart. My second round draw took care of a potential string of zeros. It also postponed the whole bye issue for at least a round. So what possibly could go wrong now? Questions like that should not be asked in the first place, but being a disciple of Murphy I can't help myself.

The picture is not of the best quality, but lacking Photo Shop and the skills to improve it I guess I will have to explain. That is a fire engine from the Pawtucket FD at the front door of our hotel. That begs two questions.

1. Why is it there?

2. Why is it so dark?

Answer: Because the damn fire alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am. At this time of year it's dark at that time.

That was not my idea of a wake up call. I can drag my sorry butt out of bed for a 10:30 am round without outside assistance. Besides I thought outside assistance was not allowed at a chess tournament. I suppose the amusing part of the whole incident was seeing several of the grandmasters clutch their laptops as they waited to return to their rooms. We can't let our precious databases go up in smoke. I didn't have such presence of mind to take my computer with me. In fact the only reason I have the fire engine picture is because after they let us go back in I went to the room grabbed the camera and took a picture before they left.

After such a rude awaking why do I look so perky before the start of round three? Perhaps the free breakfast with the two cups of tea had something to do with it. Maybe the loud shirt awoke me from from my sleep deprived state. Too bad the shirt didn't distract my opponent from the goings on over the board. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. There was another battle to be fought besides the one over the chessboard.

When they posted the round three pairings they had put up signs with the prize fund listed. For the since merged under 1900 they stated that only the six players who had initially entered that section would be eligible for those prizes. Whoa! Time out! Let me get this straight. Since I opted to play up, I'm not eligible for the Under 1900 prizes even though the sections have been combined and I'm rated under 1900? Is this the add insult to injury clause for the three of us rated under 1900 who had wanted to play stronger competition, but instead ended out in a larger section with the possibility of playing lower rated competition?

Even before I got into my game I expressed my displeasure with this decision. The rationale though good intentioned was flawed. The TD and organizer seemed to think that these six players entered the Under 1900 Section in good faith expecting these prizes to be rewarded to the players in that section. The tournament director explained that to me. I wasn't happy with it, but for the time being I wasn't going to argue the point.

Sometimes tournament directors/organizers playing in other people events can be a pain in the ass. I try not to butt into how a tournament is being run. I know I don't like it when others tell me how to run my tournament. The last time I had butted in at someone else's tournament the TD yelled at me, even though I was right and he reversed his decision regarding prizes. That prior incident didn't even have anything to do with me, but I felt it needed to be addressed. This time it had a lot to do with me so before round 4 I was going to make my point.

It wasn't like they were changing the prizes to include 2000 players or changing the Under 1700 prize to an under 1800 prize. They were the same prizes albeit reduced since there was only a partial guarantee. The would still be 1st through 4th under 1900, 1st under 1700, 1st under 1500 and first youth under 16 years old. The only difference was there were three more players to contend for the top 4 place prizes. So there were 9 players contending for 7 prizes. In theory all 9 could have picked up a piece of the pie. A draw in my last round would have caused this unlikely scenario, but more about that later.

I got paired against a 1735 who was one of the players who had signed up for the ill fated Under 1900 section. He had lost both his games on the first day. He might have been 2-0 if there had been an Under 1900 section. Instead he was getting pounded on by Experts and A players. He was also on the list of players that would be eligible for the Under 1900 prizes. I'm sure he was happy with the announced prizes since he could go 0-4 and still win something under that prize structure. However I don't think 0-4 was what he had mind when he signed up for the Under 1900 section. Leave it to me to take care of that problem for him. Sigh.

On the comments from my last post somebody asked me what I thought of the time control and the 15 second delay. It would have been okay if they didn't deduct 10 minutes off the first time control. 40/90 is deceptive enough. That's 2:15 per move. It seems like plenty of time, but often moves 25-40 are during a complex part of the game, and the time sneaks away. 80 minutes is even worse. That's two minutes a move. The delay makes it 2:15 per move but it doesn't seem the same as 40/90 with no delay. The 15 second delay doesn't compensate for the 10 minutes. Even though in theory it's the same amount of time, I feel as though having 10 minutes chopped off my time from the get go is like wasting 10 minutes in an opening I know. For the first 5 to 10 moves a 5 second delay is plenty. There have a number of games where I've made the first 10 moves without my time moving.

I'm sure this sounds very strange coming from someone who plays "cracktion" chess almost weekly. "The queen of cracktion is worrying about the difference between 80 and 90 minutes when she normally has 25 to 30 minutes for a whole game?" I think there is a different mind set when one is playing a single sudden death time control versus x moves in x time followed by sudden death. In a single sudden death time control if there is time pressure it comes and then it's over. Either one survives it and wins, or implodes and loses. With two time controls one can go through time pressure twice. How the first time control is handled can play a big part in what happens during the second time control. Often when I'm playing a control longer then game/30 I have to remind myself that I have more time and make use of it. However sometimes I lose track of the time and have to hustle to make the 40 moves in time.

The organizer was the one who came up with this particular time limit, but it was ironic that his TD is against subtracting time from players using delay clocks. Ken had put up a motion before the delegates at the US Open regarding the subtracting of time. He feels it penalizes players who are using the prefered clock with time delay. His motion would have abolished that practice. I always would like to have the extra time, but I realize in tournaments with a tight schedule one has to take the time off of delay clocks to compensate for the extra delay time.

End of the time control rant. I guess the answer is "No I didn't like the 15 second delay." I can't blame the clock for all of my problems in this game. However bad decision making in time pressure did bring the game to a sudden end.

In the past week I've had three games as black that have opened d4 and transposed into the French. I don't even like the French. Note to self: Stop playing 2...e6 after 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3. The first one last Thursday I walked into a book trap from 5. Qg4 and got my queen trapped on move 9. This time I was better prepared for Qg4 and did not walk into that line again.

Richard-Polly 081708.pgn

It would have been a struggle even if I had played the right move. The problem was getting into that mess in the first place. The trade off was I didn't have to deal with two bouts of time pressure, and it gave me time to line up an ally in my battle over the prize fund.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Kid on The Block

Before I launch into the sad saga of my second day at the Blackstone Festival Open, I wanted to share Dean's story. As I mentioned in my previous post I had met Dean and his dad while sitting in the lobby waiting for the tournament to begin. Before meeting them I had seen Dean speaking to Ken Ballou, the tournament director and asking him some questions about notation. I over heard Ken explaining how to notate a pawn promotion. I didn't think about the encounter too much. I figured it's just some kid hanging out asking some questions, or that maybe there was a scholastic section being held in conjunction with the main event. I was confused enough about the tournament itself since some of the Chess Life information was different then the website, so for all I knew there was scholastic event too.

When I was speaking to them in the lobby his dad asked me whether it would okay for him to come into the playing room and watch his son play. I told them it wasn't a problem since it was a regular tournament. I mention that in most scholastic tournaments parents have to stay outside the tournament room during play. When he asked what a scholastic tournament is I was thinking to myself "Oh boy. They haven't a clue what's going on. The poor kid is going to get destroyed every round."

Having dealt with many chess parents who range from totally clueless to "too damn savvy for their own good" I knew it was important to give father and son as much useful information as possible. After describing how the Swiss System works his dad said "So he could end out playing you." I said "Oh that won't happen because I'm playing in a different section." This was before I knew about the section merge. I tried to emphasize the chess education aspect of losing and importance of going over the game afterwards with the opponent. I had no idea what his expectations were regarding his chances in the tournament, but I wanted to gently explain that he might lose all his games.

He had participated in chess club at school, and over the summer attended a chess camp. He thought he'd get a chance to earn a rating at chess camp, but there wasn't a tournament at camp. He was told he had to play in a tournament in order to get a rating. Without someone to explain what would be an appropriate first tournament he landed at the Blackstone Chess Festival Open. Those of us that are involved with large scholastic tournaments can be prone to taking it for granted that parents and children are given the right information regarding appropriate tournaments. Playing in this tournament would truly be baptism by fire.

In the first round he got paired against a 2100. It was over very quickly. I told his dad to make sure he asked his opponent to go over the game with him. He had made many of the typical beginner mistakes of bringing his queen out too early and overlooking hanging pieces. It's something we all did in the early stages of our chess development. He'll learn even the grizzled veterans of the chess wars still do things like leave pieces en prise. It goes with the territory.

Kids have a non-stop appetite for playing. It isn't enough to simply play the round, go over the game and rest before the next round. Kids want to play in between games too. Dean was no different. I came into the skittles room and he was playing with various players who had dropped by the tournament. He was playing 3 minute chess with people like Ilya Krasik who is rated 2100. His opponents and kibitzers would remind him not to bring the queen out so soon, and to watch out for hanging pieces. He was get lots of pointers along the way.

In the second round he was paired with Howard Goldowski who was rated 1795 for the tournament but actually over 1800. Howard was another one of the under 1900 players who had signed up for the Open Section instead of the Under 1900. They were seated next to me. I would steal a peek at their game when I wasn't looking at my own game or wandering around the room. Hanging pieces would do him in again, but he stuck it out.

I was curious as to whether he'd be discouraged by the first day, and not want to return on Sunday. He came back on Sunday with mom this time, and was ready to give it another shot. In the third round he got paired against a kid from New York with a 1300 rating. His young opponent has been playing in tournaments since 2003. He's also had the advantage of easing his way in gently through numerous scholastic tournaments before taking on adult competition. I didn't see much of the game, but Dean seemed to be putting up more of a fight, and being more careful with his pieces.

Going into the last round there was a possibility he'd play me, or if there was an odd number there would be a bye. Since I'm the queen of byes I thought knew all the rules about how they're assigned. I assumed with my 1/2 point I'd be safe from the bye. However there is rule 28L5: New players in four-round events. The short version is: Since one doesn't get an official rating until he has played 4 games the TD should avoid giving a new player a bye. A TD can go up to the next score group (yours truly) and assign the bye to the lowest player in that score group. However don't do that if the player getting the bye then has good chance of winning a prize.

Since there were 8 prizes for 9 players at the bottom of the wall chart a bye was going to give the recipient (moi) automatic money. To avoid this the tournament director played Dean so that there would be no bye.

They were seated next to me. He hung a piece early against Ken, and then everything got traded off to a king, knight and five pawns versus a king. Ken opted to promote one pawn to a bishop and work on his bishop and knight checkmate technique. Ken executed the mate quite nicely. He never had to bail out and make a pawn move to reset the count. It's funny because despite having played over 3900 games of tournament chess I've never encountered that ending. It's one of the few times I've seen it done in tournament play. Here is the game starting from the pawn promotion.

Dean-Ken ending.pgn

I probably would have just taken a queen and gotten the game over with, but Ken's approach was a good exercise for both of them. He got to practice the bishop and knight mate in a tournament game, and Dean got a chance to see a rare checkmate. After the game was done he wanted Ken to show him how to do it. Dean's perseverance paid off for him as he won $75 and a book for top youth under 16. The other kid under 16 won the under 1500 prize.

I tip my hat to Dean for displaying excellent sportsmanship and handling himself so well under difficult circumstances. Mom and Dad should be very proud of their son. When he plays in his first scholastic tournament the other kids better watch out. I'm sure he's going to kick some butt.

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.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Making Milestones. One Good, One Bad

When you've played over 3900 games somewhere along the way there are win and loss milestones that you'll hit. Going into the US Open I was sitting at 1197 wins and 2097 losses. I figured I'd hit 1200 wins and 2100 losses during the US Open. I was half right. I did hit the 2100 mark in loss department with my 4th round loss to the under rated 1284. However I got stuck at 1199 in the win department. So I had to come home to make that milestone which I did by winning my first round game against Silvio. I think it was fitting that such a milestone came against the guy that I've played over 80 times in tournament play.

However that wasn't the win I found so satisfying. Before left on my two week tour of Canada and Texas , I'd had drawn with Kapil in the last round of the Monday July Action. I had been very happy to nick him for a 1/2 point since my record up to that point had been 0-5, and I was starting to think I had King Kong II in the making. Upon my return from Texas I got to play Kapil again in the third round.

I was really proud of how I played this game. I thought I played really well until Fritz burst my bubble. We both missed stuff, but that's what happens in "cracktion chess". I was very fortunate that he missed winning the exchange late in the game. Wow, another lucky break for the "If it weren't for bad luck...." girl.

Go ahead tell me what else we missed.

polly - kapil081108.pgn

On The Road Rants

In the spirit of my fellow bloggers like Liquid Egg Product and Chess Loser here is one of those non-chess rambling rants. Maybe I should subtitle this "Planes, Buses and Hotels".

In the past 6 weeks I've spent almost 4 of them not in my own bed. I've been in 5 different airports, 1 bus station, 3 hotels, 1 college dorm, and 1 summer house. I've been to three countries. Oops make that two countries. Texas is not a country. I got two new stamps in my passport. Yes! I actually got a Canadian stamp in my passport. All I can say as much as I like to travel, I'm glad I don't have to get on another damn airplane until October when I go to California to walk the marathon. (Shameless plug. Not too late to contribute!) If if throw in the two trips to the JHS and Elementary Championships there are two more airports and three train stations.

So what have I learned from all this travel? Thank goodness I travel for fun, not for business. I don't think I could do this every month.

Hotels are a rip off. They get you on the food and drink if you eat and drink there. Hotels in California love to nail you on their home grown vintages. I can get a decent bottle of cheap California wine at the grocery store for the same price as a glass at the LAX Hilton. They get you on the Internet if you want to have it in your room and not come down to the lobby every time you want to check your email or post to your blog. Don't even open the mini-bar door if you don't want to risk getting hit for a $5.00 can of soda. If you're at a large tournament like the JHS Nationals don't expect room service to deliver your food when you want it. Room service? Another huge rip off. The only time I have room service is if someone else is paying for it.

Hotels like to think they're being green by leaving little signs saying to hang your towels up if you don't need new ones, or leave a card on the bed if you want your sheets changed. However how green is it when every day they take out the once used cake of soap and bottle of shampoo and replace them with new ones? How green is it when they come in to clean your room, and leave every single freaking light on in the room? Come on now. I'm a big girl I can come into a dark hotel room by myself after my evening round is done. I don't need Tom Bodette of Motel 6 leaving the light on for me.

Airports! Another rip off. You can't bring liquids through security so you're at the mercy of the newsstand operators and food vendors who charge $2.00 for a little bottle of water. I can buy a case of water at Costco for the price I would end out paying for enough water to get me to Korea. Fortunately I don't have to worry about that because Korean Air doesn't nickle and dime you to death like the US carriers do. I'm getting ahead of myself on the airline rant. It's a good thing Korean Air doesn't charge you for water because in Seoul they check your carry on luggage and take away liquids at the gate even after you've gone through security. They don't mess around over there.

Oh yes I was talking about airports. How is it that a gigantic airport like DFW can have security check points with 4 tiny tables for two lines that merge to a single scanner? After you've been standing in a line that hasn't moved for 15 minutes somebody comes up and says to people in the back of the line "go to gate so and so and there's another security check point with only a two minute wait." Then there's LAX with the security double whammy. You check a bag and you got to take the bag yourself over to the scanner for checked luggage. You can't simply drop the bag there, you have to wait in line. Then after you stand in that line you have to go to the regular security check point to get to your gate.

La Guardia Airport in New York is a farce. There are too many planes flying in and out of there and not enough gates. I suppose after all the airlines get through cutting their flight schedules in half that won't be an issue. I guess American Airlines will be cutting out the 6:59 AM flight to Montreal. There were 11 passengers on the American Eagle plane that seats 80. I've been on a private plane with more people. Coming back from Dallas we landed on time, but then it took another 15 minutes to find a gate. The pilot was referring to La Guardia as a postage stamp of an airport in NYC. He's probably from Dallas.

Thank goodness I have Gold status in American Airlines frequent flier program. I don't have to pay for checked bags. It has some other nice benefits like getting to board in group one, and getting to check in on the business or first class line at the counter. That's the good news. The bad news is I have to fly 25,000 miles a year to keep it up. Usually I manage at least one flight that someone else is paying for. My travel to scholastic nationals was not on American, and unfortunately Korean Air is not part of American's network. However Iberia is, so I got miles for the free trip to Spain. KER-CHING!

"How can we charge you? Let us count the ways." Want food? $$ Want your own bottle of water? $$ Want a headset to watch the movie?? $$ You're bringing luggage with you? $$. I thought I had heard it all when it comes to nickling and diming passengers to death, but I heard a new one. I was talking to the guy sitting next to me from Montreal to Dallas. He had flown up there on US Air (US Dare). They were charging a dollar for those paper luggage tags that are sitting on the counter when you need one for a checked bag. Gimme a break! They're going to charge you for checking a piece of luggage, and then they want you to pay another dollar to identify it. Note to self: Make sure all my bags are are already tagged.

Introducing the frequent traveler's best friend. The little gizmo pictured below is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

That is a mini power strip made by Belkin. It has three outlets and two USB ports for charging. In that picture I have my computer and cell phone plugged in two of the outlets and my Mon Roi and iPod plugged into the USB ports. It's great when you're in a hotel room with too many electronic things to charge and not enough outlets. It's also a great way to make friends at the airport. Outlets at the airport are few and far between. If you scrounge around you can find random outlets in places, but you may have to sit on the floor to use them. Often if there is an outlet, somebody else is already using it. That's where this thing comes in handy. You offer a spot on the strip in exchange for plugging it into the one outlet. I made all sorts of friends in O'Hare and LAX with this toy. I think the frazzled mom with a dead battery on her DVD player was tremendously grateful that I had room for her so that her kids could watch a movie while waiting.

I won't be getting on an airplane again for awhile, but that doesn't mean I won't be traveling. Next stop: Pawtucket, RI for the Blackstone Chess Festival Open. I attended school and college in New England for 5 years, and never played a tournament in Rhode Island. I'm finally completing my chess tour of the New England states. Being a total glutton for punishment I'm playing in the Open Section because I've had it with playing 1300 and 1400s. The Open section is for players rated over 1600. I'll be safe from old geezers and little monsters with low ratings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

US Open Wrap-Up

Sunday I survived a second day of delegates meetings. That session was much quieter then Saturday's. It helps that on Sunday we have a strict cut off time due to the 3:00 PM start time of round 9. Motion sponsors tend to withdraw a lot of their motions to help speed things up. Since the meeting is conducted according to Robert's Rules of Order there is always someone who will "call the question" to help move things along. Those of us who have attended these meetings over the years know that when we see Tim Just of Illinois at the microphone it means the question is going to be called. The picture below is an example of delegate humor.

Larry Cohen of Illinois calling the question while pretending to be Tim Just.

I had mentioned earlier that the US Open tends to be like a reunion where you meet up with someone you haven't seen in ages. Earlier in the week I met up with somebody I hadn't seen since the 1981 US Open in Palo Alto. Before the last round on Friday Jerry Hanken was announcing the names of people who were receiving certificates for playing in their 5th or more US Open. My name was announced even though I had already received the recognition in 2006. The mis-announcement was good because it allowed an old friend to realize that I was at the tournament. During Jerry's long presentation a woman comes up to me and says "Hi Polly, do you know who I am?" I look at the woman and I have absolutely no idea who she is. I'm terrible with names and faces, but when it's a guy I don't feel so bad when he knows who I am but I don't know who he is. Men have a much easier time remembering the women they run into at chess tournaments. There are a lot less of us to remember.

I'm looking at this woman and saying to myself, "Okay she knows who I am. Who is she? Did you meet her at one of the scholastic nationals this past year? The face and the voice are familiar, but....." Finally I admitted, "No I don't remember who you are." It turns out to be Julie Anne Desch. Talk about a blast from my past. She had been the assistant editor at Chess Life in the late 80s and had worked closely with me on an article I wrote on women in chess that was published in the April 1989 issue of Chess Life. I lost track of her after she left Chess Life, so I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with her after all these years.

Another good thing about the 3:00 PM round time is that even if one's game lasts a long time it still will be over at a civilized hour. When I finally gave up on trying to win a hopelessly drawn opposite color bishop ending I could catch up with Julie and find out what she's been doing for the last 15 years.

Since I don't like worrying about whether I'll make my flight or not, I always leave Monday morning. It does mean another night in the hotel, but it does give me a chance to socialize with people after the round. I ended out finally escaping from the hotel and eating somewhere besides Subway or Jack in the Box. Those were my cheap, within walking distance alternatives to the overpriced hotel food. I got to have a nice dinner with some of my fellow delegates, and tournament directing cronies. As we were heading to the restaurant one of the people in the car says "I hope you eat meat. We're going to a steak house." YES!!! I don't come to Texas to eat chicken or fish.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel. There I was faced with the annoying task of trying to pack all my stuff. Somehow I always manage to end out with more junk then I started with. It doesn't help when one has been away for almost two weeks, and can't leave a place without buying something. I did manage to escape the US Open having only bought two chess books, a couple of chess key rings and a sweatshirt. That's pretty good for me.

I'm sure the question everyone is asking is, "Well, how was the tournament? Were you satisfied with your results?" I have a love/hate relationship with the US Open. I love the tournament room atmosphere. There is something very impressive about walking into a ballroom that is filled with tables covered with table cloths and chess sets at every table. It's not something you see at your normal weekend swiss. I love the fact that it's a truly open tournament with a rich history behind it. Despite what some people would call the bastardization of the Open by having multiple schedule choices, I like those choices and I love the fact that they don't allow re-entries! Multiple schedules usually give people the option of re-entering on a different schedule. I like the fact that you never hear about people using high tech gizmos to cheat their way into a prize. I suppose some would say the prizes aren't worth cheating for, but that's besides the point.

There is not the paranoia often seen at the big money events. There seems to be a certain congeniality not seen at other tournaments. You have many players who have played in the tournament year after year, and when you see them every year it's like catching up with old friends. Even those of us who don't get to play in it as often as we like still feel like we're part of a special chess fraternity that makes the US Open an important part of our tournament history.

So what's not to like? It's a hard tournament, especially for players rated near the middle and lower. The middle of the pack players spend the early rounds bouncing up and down, or down and up between rating extremes depending on where you lie on the break. For a lower rated player he may spend many rounds getting paired up until he's lost enough times to finally get paired down. That can be pretty discouraging, though I applaud the perseverance of one player at last year's US Open who played and lost all 9 games. Most people wouldn't have the stomach for that, and probably would drop out after 5-6 straight losses. She gamely stuck it out through all 9 rounds.

I don't mind all the up pairings, but the extreme down pairings tend to make me a little crazy. I can't really complain about all the down pairings in this year's event. Considering my score, I got what I deserved in terms of getting paired down. There was a bright side in that I didn't have to play any players rated under 1200, and most surprising is I only played two players under the age of 18. Maybe I needed to play more kids because I scored 1.5 - 0.5 against the kids, and only 1.5 - 5.5 against the adults.

The interesting thing about my adult opponents is that most of them were older then me. All of them just played very solid chess. There weren't a lot of wild tactics. My lone win against adult competition was playing a much older player sitting on a 1400 floor. It was apparent that he had "been around the block" so to speak. He played a very solid game and it just came down to my winning a pawn and grinding out the ending. Unlike my young opponent from a later round who made me play out king and six pawns versus king until one move before mate, this gentleman resigned one move before I queened.

Was I disappointed with my results? Yes, but I didn't feel like I played horrible chess. Most of the games were interesting and hard fought. In some cases it just came down to one small error that cost me the game. Probably one of my worst games was the one where I ended drawing after my opponent missed the killer knight fork that wins my rook out right. Dodging that bullet allowed me to have a few laughs about luck in chess. I can do without having depend on luck, especially since my refrain on luck tends to be "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

This is my 3rd US Open in a row. My score has gone down by a 1/2 point each year since 2006. I keep this trend up I'll be like the 0-9 lady by the year 2014. Will I be in Indianapolis next year? I hope so. I'd like to add another state to my list of states played in. So why not the US Open for my Indiana tournament? However my traveling to next year's Open will depend on whether I can afford it or not. Who knows how much a plane ticket will cost by next year. It is an expensive proposition staying in a hotel for that many nights, especially when you're by yourself. I'd love to find a roommate, but on the other hand if I have to share the room I can't do this.

"Oops roomie! You wanted to actually sleep in that bed?"

It's safe to come out Mac. All liquids have been safely secured.

Monday, August 11, 2008

US Open Round 8 Game

I did not mention that on August 8th I reached my first anniversary of the Castling Queen Side blog. Thanks to my readers who have given me a lot of encouragement and feedback over this past year. Hopefully I can continue to entertain and “educate” via this blog.

Now back to my regularly scheduled programming: 2008 US Open.

At past US Opens I’ve had a tendency to stay up to play cards with friends after the round. I thought, as I got older I would outgrow such late night forays. However after last year’s Open where I kept leaving relatively early to drive back to my hotel, I think this year I making up for missed time. The more observant reader might have noticed the time stamp on “last night’s” post of 3:30 am. My computer is still on NY time. I’m not sure what time I’m on. Maybe I’m on Honolulu time. Maybe I’m still in Korea.

I’m in multi-task mode at the moment. I’m writing this post offline as I’m sitting in the delegates meeting. By doing it here hopefully I can catch up with my posting without staying up until all hours of the night. Yesterday’s meeting was a rather contentious session. I won’t rehash the details. If one wants to follow the action it was video taped. I did just stop to speak on a proposal that I was a co-sponsor for. Now proposals regarding rules are coming up, so I’m trying to pay attention to the discussion since this is stuff that I actually care about, or have co-sponsored.

Fortunately things are moving along at a much faster rate then yesterday. A number of motions have been withdrawn. I remember my first meeting in 1976 that went on forever and lots of stuff never even got brought up. Things have gotten more streamlined over the years. It’s currently a little after noon. The next round is at 3:00 PM. Hopefully this will end in the next hour. I think I need a nap before my next round. Actually what I really need before the next round is a Rybka implant.

*Sigh* It's after midnight and I never got this post finished. I also never got that nap I was looking for before round 9. The lights in the ballroom are off and there are just a few chess people lurking about. The curtain has been lowered on another US Open. Don't ask me who won. Those guys were in the front of the room I spent my time in the back. Round nine was a rather insipid opposite colored bishop ending where despite being up two pawns I couldn't do a damn thing. He wouldn't move his king off d6 and I had the wrong colored bishop to make him move from that square.

Nothing special about the game. If you want to see it go to Mon Roi. You can also find out who won the tournament. My pathetic 3 points wouldn't even had won the E prize. Some guy with an 1188 rating scored 4 points. To quote Chess Loser "I suck!" I think too much traveling and not enough sleep did me in. I should have known this wasn't going to be a great tournament when the hotel issues me a room key card with fish on it.

Round eight's game was actually pretty interesting. It even rated a diagram in the daily bulletin again. It would be nice if I'd get a win with a diagram in there, but nothing but losses and draws. Actually I would have been happy with a win of any sort. However wins did not come too often in this tournament. In fact I had no wins during the slow time control part of the five-day schedule. My two wins came in rounds two and five which were played at game/60.

Life in the fishbowl sucks. You're in the back of the room and near the doors leading in and out of the playing room. There's a constant flow of people in and out of the room. The doors are constantly being opened and closed. Also talking loudly outside the doors seems to be a favorite pastime amongst players and spectators. "Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." There is always a constant buzz, so my way of dealing with it is to itune-it out with my iPod. I'd rather be listening to Mozart then hearing the noise from outside. I have to be careful with my music choices because sometimes it's either too energetic or too somber for the moment.

In this particular game the music got a little too energetic. I was deep in thought trying to figure out when he'd would sac his bishop on h6, and whether or not I could accept it or not. Like most highly twitchy chess players I have my little nervous tics that at time I'm totally oblivious to. Sometimes I bounce my legs up and down, but more often then not I'm doing something with my Mon Roi stylus. Usually I'm chewing on it, but this time I had it in my hand. I'm thinking about my move and Jon Haskel who was running the Mon Roi feed stops by my table. He's pointing at my right hand, and saying something to me. Since I had Mozart overtures going I couldn't hear what he was trying to say. I thought he was telling me I was having problems again with my game being broadcast. My round 7 game crapped out in the middle because the pairing output didn't match my Mon Roi profile. It turns out I was tapping the stylus on the table and making noise with it. He wanted me to be aware of the noise I was making. Oops!

I put the stylus down, but I'm having difficulty getting refocused on the position. I walk away from the board on my time to get some water, and bring my head back into the game. I also decided Bach would be a better music choice at this point. The position is complicated and both of us are taking a lot of time. The game next to us had taken 65 moves in the same amount of time it had taken us to make 26 moves. For a change I actually was using most of my time from the 2 hour first time control. Usually I can't sit still that long.

One thing that I have to get over is mentally resigning myself to loss of material or worse. Shortly before time control I had gotten my bishop trapped. There were no squares for it, but with the exchange of rooks on d1, I had a saving move. However because his rook move was unexpected and I didn't look deep enough into how the position had changed after the exchange, I missed the queen move that gains a tempo and freedom for my bishop. I just continued with my plan of getting a pawn for the bishop.

Some people may have looked at my round eight game on Mon Roi, but I'm posting it here with some analysis.


This is my last post from Dallas. I have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight back to New York. When I get home I will write a summary, make some random observations and post a few more pictures.

Signing out from Dallas! Good night. See you back in New York.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

US Open In Pictures

The night owl is lurking. The one problem with boycotting $9.95 Internet in the room is I tend be sitting in the lobby at some ungodly hours as I try to catch up on my posts. The other day you got my lengthy essay on the flavor of the event. Now I will let the camera do most of the talking.
The Executive Board getting ready for the start of the Delegates meeting.

Some of my fellow Delegates from New York and New Jersey.
50 bonus points if anyone can name both those people.
200 bonus points if you can name everyone pictured.

Life in the back of the room otherwise known as the fish bowl.
If you want to know why I'm making such a face go to MonRoi and look at US Open Round 8.
No, my game is not one of the ones on display behind me.

The tournament room at 7:00 PM

The tournament room at 11:30 PM

Despite the live MonRoi feed displayed in the back, spectators like to be up close and personal. That is Emory Tate, my first round opponent. No we did not have a crowd watching our game. Our game did end out in the bulletin with a diagram. Another loss that will end out in the next Chess Base database.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

08-08-08 How Many Times Can I Miss Mate?

I'm sorry I couldn't help myself. I could not stay away from "cracktion" chess. I was so aggravated with getting paired down against 1200 and 1300s, I decided I needed to play in the Friday Game/30 quads in order to have a chance to play some players close to my rating. I would increase my odds of playing higher rated players in the Open if I'd stop losing to the 1200 and 1300s.

I did get to play people my own rating or close enough. Rating wise it was about a 70 point range from high to low. I can't complain about the rating distribution in my quad. The next section below mine ranged from 1600 down to 1300. In round two I played the number one seed. We both lost in the first round.
This game was a comedy of errors. Maybe a tragedy of errors would be more like it. My opponent blundered a rook on his 29th move. He moved the rook to f2, took his hand off the piece and then hesitated. He didn't press the clock and his hand hovered over the rook. I said "You took your hand off the piece. You can't take it back." He replied that he did not press the clock. I told him it was touch move, and he couldn't retract the move. I initially didn't see that the move was a blunder, but when he made a fuss abut wanting to take the move back I looked at the position more carefully and found Nh3+. Here is the game up to the point that I stopped keeping score.


I missed mates all over the place. None of them were mate in one or two moves, but it was very frustrating that I let his king hide deep in my territory. It got ugly in the time scramble. I managed to give back the rook. I guess given the number of mating opportunities I missed it was only fitting that I missed the final mate as seen in this position. Mated by a knight no less.

Friday, August 8, 2008

US Open Round 6: Who Do I Need to Call??

Ghost Busters!!

Last night's round six disaster was a classic case of seeing things that weren't there. I think I'm getting mated if I accept his rook sacrifice. I was seeing ghosts. All he has is a perpetual. I would have been happy to take a draw in that position.

It's actually a very interesting position with both of us having minor pieces on outpost squares. His knight was pinned, but my unwillingness to give up the pin probably played a part in my eventual demise.


Can you find the mate in 8 if I sac the queen on e6? Select the text between the parenthesis to see it.

( 37...Qxe6 38. Nxe6+ Ke8 39. Rxd5 Bxd5 40. Qxf5 Bxe6 41. Qxe6 Kd8 42. Rg8+ Kc7 43. Rxc8+ Kb7 44. Qc6+ Ka7 45. Ra8# )

US Open Round 4

Yesterday I had my chess masochist's marathon with the killer 4 games in one day portion of the 5-day schedule. As I mentioned in my brief summary before round six I had a rough time in round four with an under rated 1284 player. Here is that game.


US Open: Sights, Sounds and People

I wrote this post in Word this morning before having seen Greg's comment on my previous post. Hopefully this will answer his questions.

The US Open is a unique event in comparison to other tournaments. First of all is its’ history. This is the 109th edition of the event. It’s one of the longest running events. I believe the NY State Championship is oldest as the 130th edition will be in Albany over Labor Day. Past US Open winners could fill a “Who’s Who of Chess Players”.

The second unique aspect of the event is the format. It is a truly open tournament. There are no sections so the variety of opponents is immense. One round you might play a Grandmaster, and the next round play somebody 400 hundred points below you. They could eliminate the extreme pairings by using accelerated pairings for the early rounds, but it take away from the flavor of the event. I’m sure some people would like to get away from extreme pairings and just play within their class or a narrower range of ratings then typically encountered in this event. However there are plenty of other tournaments of equal length where they can stay within a much narrower rating range.

The number games played has changed over the years. I was told the first US Open played until there was a clear winner. They didn’t have the Swiss System pairing method that we have now so they played until one player was left with a perfect score. It took 6 rounds to accomplish that. The winner received the princely sum of $100.

For many years the tournament was a 12 round Swiss played for two weeks. You played 6 rounds from Sunday to Friday. There was no round on Saturday night. The weekend consisted of the delegates meeting or free time for those who were smart enough not to get involved with USCF politics. Sunday night after all the meetings were done week two of the event started. There would be 6 more rounds Sunday through Friday. It made for a long and tiring two weeks. Last year one of my first posts on this blog was recounting some of my experiences from those 12 round marathons. I won’t retell the story but you can go here if you missed it the first time.

Things have changed in that the tournament is 9 rounds instead of 12. There are also various schedules that give players the choice of playing the traditional 1 round a night format, two games a day for 6 days at the traditional time control of 40/2 SD/1 or the 5 day “you better have a cast iron stomach, endurance for 4 games in one day, and the ability to play G/60” format. There is also what they call the quick format which I think allows players to play one game a day, but at a faster time control in order to get finished earlier. Other formats have been tried over the years, but these schedules seem to be the ones that have worked out the best for the 9 round format. I’m sure there are old timers who don’t like all these different schedules. In some ways I’m not overly fond of all the options and much prefer the event being contested amongst the same field for the entire event. In this format the top players can kind of jockey for early edges by strategically picking the “easiest” schedule. No schedule is easy for a patzer like me. Being the cheap masochist that I am, I opt for the 5-day schedule. The less nights I have to spend in an over priced hotel trying to avoid $20 breakfasts the happier I am.

The Westin Park Central where the tournament is being held is a nice hotel, but the food is expensive. That's very typical since many guests are there on business and someone else is paying their bill. The playing room is very nice and brightly lit. I just seem to manage to end out always under an air conditioning vent so I'm perpetually cold. My Canadian vacation clothing is coming in handy.

Because the tournament moves around the country each one has its own vibe to it. Last year’s event in Cherry Hill had a definite New York edginess to it. Also with it being a hotly contest election year there was a certain tension in the air over the results of that election. This year being in Dallas it has a more laid back southwestern feel to it. Though the delegates meeting promises to be filled with tension as the Paul Truong/Susan Polgar issue is brought before the delegates. (That will be all I have to say about the whole mess. There are plenty of other places on the Internet to read all the dirt. This blog is not one of those places. Politics and religion don’t get discussed here.) I think as the delegates start arriving today the tension level will rise. Also the noise outside the playing room will increase. The non-playing delegates lurking by the ballroom doors will debate the merits of the various hot issues fiercely. Even some playing delegates will come out between moves and also join the debate.

One of my favorite parts of this tournament is the social aspect. I run into lots of my various chess contacts and this tournament is a great place to catch up with people. I see a number of my directing colleagues here. I’ll see then at the big scholastic nationals, but at those tournaments they’re usually running around foaming at the mouth dealing with the problems that come up with 2000 kids so there is really no time to talk. Here the leisurely pace allows for a little more socializing.

It always seems to happen that I’ll run into someone that I haven’t seen at one of these events in a gazillian years. Yesterday I saw a guy wearing a taekwondo tee shirt so I went up to him and we got talking about the sport and the philosophies of our respective dojangs. After several minutes of talking about taekwondo and chess he looks at me and says “Wait a minute I’ve met you before. Didn’t you play in Palo Alto?” Sure enough we had met there and hung out for a bit. Talk about ancient history. The US Open in Palo Alto was in 1981, so we’re talking over 25 years. I wasn’t married yet so my name was different.

I only have one complaint about this year’s tournament, not including all the losses to lower rated players. I’ll save that complaint for another post. How the hell can you have a tournament like the US Open with its evening rounds in a hotel where the bar closes at 11:00 PM? After a long game of chess it’s always nice to have a glass of wine, hang out with other players and swap war stories. It’s hard to do that of your game lasts for 4 or more hours. Last night that was not a problem. I was done by 10 PM, we analyzed for about a half hour and then I wandered over to the bar and joined friends for my post game glass of wine.

I had a very interesting conversation with David Kuhns of Minnesota. He’s Chairman of the Rules Committee and has been involved in organized chess for many years. We having a good laugh over one the proposals regarding Internet tournament play that will be brought to the delegates this weekend. We also got talking about pairing tournaments and the advent of computer pairings. Here’s a little piece of trivia for you. What year was computer aided pairing tried for the first time? My guess was 1990 since I had seen it attempted at the National Elementary in Hollywood Florida. (The computer crashed and they switched to their back up pairing cards that had prepared.)

WRONG! 1958 at the US Open in Rochester, Minnesota. IBM had headquarters there and somebody from IBM wrote a routine using the pairing rules to generate pairings. The first round went off with no problems. However in the second round the program paired two players who had drawn with each other in round one. At the point George Koltanowski was one very happy tournament director because he could do the pairings himself and not deal with this new fangled technology.

One does not have to have a continuous flow of drinks to sit at the bar and tell chess war stories. They closed down the bar and we continued to sit there and talk. By the time we stopped it was after 1:00 AM. If I had any sense I would gotten on the elevator, gone up to my room and gone to bed. “Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200.” Have I ever told you how dumb I can be at times? Yes, at least once a week if not more depending on how much “cracktion” I’ve played in a seven-day period.

First stop on my long journey back to my room was the TD room. I poked my head in and said hello to Phil Smith who is in charge of the computer pairings. We chatted for a bit, and as I was leaving I said please stop pairing me against 1300s that keep beating me. He asked if I’d rather play an 800. NOOOOO! Not that!

Next stop was the ballroom. I didn’t really expect any games to still be going, but there was one game and few people quietly analyzing. Jerry Hanken had been watching one game and had fallen dead asleep sitting in his scooter that he uses to get around. After the last game was done the TD said people could start talking. Jerry was still asleep. “Jerry you can leave now. The games are done.” It took a few loud “Jerry, wake up!” before he realized that everything is done. I’m sure we could have all left, turned out the lights and he would have slept through the night there.

Jerry is one chess’ more colorful characters. I’ve known him since 1976. I could write an entire piece just on his exploits, but suffice to say people either love him, hate him or try to ignore him. He’s hard to ignore though, and at this particular Open he is way ahead in the “King of Multi-tasking” competition. He’s on 5 different committees and chairs three of them. Naturally he’s either running or attending all the workshops associated with the various committees. He’s also been writing his daily report for the bulletins and CLO. On top of all that he’s playing in the traditional 9-day schedule.

After leaving the playing room I wandered over to the other end of the foyer where a large group of college age kids were hanging out. They were playing 2-minute bughouse. Those types of bughouse games I want no part of. I suck at anything under 5 minutes, and all these kids are much higher rated. Those who weren’t playing were arguing over geography and other such stuff. Ah to be 20 and have unlimited amounts of energy! Today I saw some of the kids and asked them when they finally went to bed. 4:30 - 5:00 am. What time did they get up? Late!

Last stop was helping Jerry back to his room and accepting his offer of lots of food to take back with me to the room. I won’t have to go for the $20 breakfast with all the goodies he loaded me up with. Finally a bid Jerry a good night and manage to make it back to my room at the unholy hour of 2:30 am. Damn! I thought I had out grown all-nighters at the US Open when stopped playing hearts to all hours of the night. Last year I wasn’t doing this type of stuff. It probably helped that I wasn’t staying at the tournament site so I had motivation to pull myself away from late night chats and drive back to my hotel.

PS. If you were looking on the Mon Roi site for my game last night, it wasn’t there. The guy didn’t get the pairings early enough to include us mere mortals from the alternate schedules. Just as well I lost to another 1300 player. I'll post some games in future posts. The rest of my games should be there. I’m not sure that is such a wonderful thing since tonight I’m bound to be playing some kid rated 1100 who has not gotten paired down yet but has knocked off two higher rated players.