Sunday, November 30, 2008

Washington State Class - Day 1

Here is a conversation that came up several times during the course of the day.

Local: “You’re from New York?”
Me: “Yes”.
Local: “Are you visiting friends out here?”
Me: “No”
Local: “So what brings you out here?”
Me: “To play chess.”
Local: “You came out here to play in this tournament?”
Me: “Yes”

I guess people found it fascinating that I would travel all the way from New York to play in a local tournament in Washington State. What can I say? I like to travel, and I like to play chess. With frequent flier miles to burn, why not add another state to my repertoire? 22 down, 38 to go. Besides I got the pleasure of spending a few hours with blogger extraordinare, DK-Transformation.

I don't quite win the "traveled the furthest" prize. There is a player from Sweden who is in the area for business. He figured he'd look to see if there was anything happening here chess wise. As luck would have it there's this tournament. Talk about good fortune! Caissa smiled kindly on this fellow. As for me....Caissa can be a two faced _____. (fill in with your own colorful noun.)

I did not mention one thing that DK did for me. When we were making plans to get together, I mentioned that I needed to go out and buy something to sleep in. I had managed not to pack any tee shirts, which are my preferred sleep attire. He offered to give me a tee shirt so that I didn’t need to go out and buy something. Though he did not give me the shirt off his back, it was the next best thing. Thanks!

I thought perhaps since the shirt said Shamrocks on it, and had a picture of one, just maybe the luck of the Irish might be with me. I guess Caissa is not Irish. She did tease me in the first round. I got paired against a kid. (So what else is new?) We reached this position after my move 16...Nh7.

I'm bemoaning the fact that he has 17. e6 Bxe6 18. Qxd8 Rfxd8 19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. Bxe7
Rd7 21. Rxe6 Nc4. The inner pessimist is sitting there thinking "Here we go again. Some kid is going to win some pawns and grind me down to nothing." For what ever reason he didn't play that line. Instead he played 17. Re2. Disaster averted!

After 28...Rc2 we reach this position.

He played 29. b3 allowing me to play ...Rxa2. The game continued 30.
Nc5 Bf5 31. Ne4 Rc8 32. Rd2 Rxd2 33. Nxd2 Rc3 34. Rxc3 bxc3 35. Nc4 g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Ne3 c2 38. Nxc2 Bxc2 39. b4 e6 40. f4 Bf8 41. fxg5 Bxb4 42. Bf4 a5 43. Bc1 Bc3 44. Kf2 Bxe5 45. Ke3 Kg7 46. Kf3 Kg6 47. Kg4 a4 48. g3 Bf5+ 49. Kh4 Bc3 50. Ba3 e5 51. Bc1 e4 52. g4 Be6 53. Kg3 Be5+ 54. Kh4 Bd6 55. Bb2 a3 56. Bc3 a2 57. Kh3 Kxg5 58. Bb2 Bxg4+ to reach this position.

For a change it's my opponent with the clock issues. I went into the ending with a big edge on the clock. I took advantage of the time edge and my two pawns coming at him. His lone bishop could not be in two places at once. The game continued like this. 59. Kg2 Bf3+ 60. Kf2 Bc5+ 61. Ke1 f5 62. Bc3 Bb4 63. Bd2+ Bxd2+ 64. Kf2 a1=Q 65. Kg3 Qg1+ 66. Kh3 Qg2#

After this game I felt as though perhaps Caissa would treat me kindly for the remainder of the tournament. My second round game quickly dispelled me of that notion. I got paired against another kid, though older and higher rated then my first round opponent. It was my turn to have clock issues. My last move was made with 1 second left. I guess that's as good a reason as any to overlook Black's killer move.


At least I didn't have world wide internet audience watching on Mon Roi. In round three I played an adult. It was just one of those blah games where I dropped the a pawn fairly early and knew it would only be a matter of time before my b pawn would fall. Once that one goes then his a & b pawns will come storming down. I kept thinking to myself "Maybe I should just resign this game and save my strength for the 4th round." The fourth round would be the merge round, and I'd be playing the slower 40/2 G/1 time controls. I have trouble resigning when I'm only down a pawn. There is the possibility that maybe I'll get the pawn back or be able to hold on. One never knows. I played on for awhile, but then was so disgusted with the position I finally packed it in.

I was hoping my strategic resignation would give me a chance to pull myself together and catch a breather before round four. Sometimes I think I should just take a bye in round three or four so that I can make a smoother transition from G/60 to the traditional time controls. However no matter how many times I play the accelerated schedule at a tournament and tell myself "Take a bye.", it doesn't happen. I play all the scheduled rounds, and either I lose horriby in the last fast game, or the first slow game. True to form in the first slow game, I manage to play for two hours and lose in 17 moves. That game is Wacky Wednesday material, so look for it later this week.

The evening wasn't a total bust. There was a group of adults playing bughouse. That is rare thing to see. Bughouse is mostly played by rowdy kids or a few token over grown children like myself. How does playing bughouse with adults compare to playing with kids? It's quieter, both amongst the players and over the board. I didn't have my partner telling me " Gawd you suck", and the trash talk was more refined. I guess "refined trash talk" is an oxymoron. It was fun playing with the locals. What made more interesting was that none of these guys were playing in the main tournament. They just came to play bughouse. I never did find out what any these guys ratings were. Then again, ratings are meaningless in bughouse.

Stay tuned for more reports from Washington.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Greetings from Redmond, Washington!

It's a little after 8:00 AM local time. I'm sitting across the street from the hotel at a Tully's Coffee shop. I'm having the super sized Gunpowder green tea and a bagel. Got to get the caffeine coursing through my body in time for my first round at 9:30 AM. There are two advantages of being over here for breakfast. One, I'm sure my breakfast is about the 3rd of the price of what it would be at the hotel. Two, and more importantly; free wi-fi! The Marriott wants $10 a day and it isn't for a true 24 hour block. It's noon to noon. That's a rip off when you don't check into your room until 3:00 PM. Why pay for something that you can get for free across the street. Unlike my US Open reports that came at 1:30 AM from the lobby, I am limited to the more civil hours of 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM.

I arrived yesterday, and had ask the tournament organizer, Dan Matthews if someone could come pick me up at the airport. He and a friend out to the airport and brought me to the hotel. That was very nice on their part, and much appreciated.

I had emailed DK-Transformation to let him know I would be in his neck of the woods. I thought it would be fun to get together with a fellow chess blogger. He has beaten me to the punch in terms of writing of our encounter, but now you can read my side of the story.

Two Bloggers Very Different, Very the Same

The Internet is one of those places where one can become someone they're not, or they can be very open and show exactly who they are. David is one of those people who how he writes is how he is. He mentioned in his post that he has trouble writing in fragments. He doesn't speak in fragments either. The energy and detail that goes into his writing comes through in his conversation and his opinions. Sometimes it was hard to get a word in edgewise, but that was good. For a change I got to really listen, and not worry about what I was going to say, or whether I would sound stupid.

We talked a lot about why we blog, and what our objectives are. He has wealth of information on how he uses Chess Base as a study tool. He wants to share what he knows via his blog. I can't quite remember exactly how he phrased it, but basically he's the ultimate "Chess Base Geek". He was telling me about the different ways he creates his various bases, and how he sorts and ranks the games. He's the guy who uses every resource and capability that Chess Base has to offer. I'm more like the guy with a top of the line racing bike with a cluster that could get me up L’Alpe d’Huez, but instead rides around the block in my neighborhood just using one gear.

It was interesting watching his encounter with the book seller and the discussion of copyright issues. He was blunt and came out and said what he felt. Any blogger who has had the privilege of his leaving you a lengthy comment on what he feels you're doing wrong, and what you should do instead, I got to observe the verbal version. I'm not sure I would have had the guts to tell the guy off like that. However that is David being David, and it was a cool thing to observe.

It was interesting to learn what a homebody he really is. After all here is a guy who grew up in New Jersey, worked on Wall Street, lived a Buddhist Temple in Korea, and now lives across the country from where he grew up. Me on the other hand grew up in Maryland, and moved to New York and has been an east coast gal my entire life. Yet I don't need much of an excuse to go somewhere else to visit. I inherited my fraternal grandmother's and my father's love of traveling and exploring new places. So the opportunity to use up some frequent flier miles and go play chess in another state was enough of an excuse to bring me to rainy cool Washington State.

It's almost 9:30 here, and time to go play some chess. Hopefully I will not be generating 6 weeks worth of Wacky Wednesday material.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Good luck to anyone playing in any of the various Thanksgiving weekend tournaments. Last year I played in Philadelphia at the National Chess Congress. The year before I played in Los Angeles at the American Open. I was planning on heading to Philly again, but......

....I figured I'd better use up some frequent flier miles before the all the airlines merge into one and dump everyone's miles. With that in mind, and an opportunity to find another state I haven't played in before I'm off to Redmond (Microsoft Land), WA to play in the Washington State Class Championships. I wonder if they'll confiscate my Mac Book at the city line?

I fly out Friday morning, and will play the two day schedule. I will arrive early enough on Friday that I can play in the blitz tournament that evening. I just didn't want to take a bye for round one and play the three day schedule, or have to worry about my flight being delayed.

Enjoy your turkey today, and hopefully I won't play like a turkey over the weekend. What do they say? "You are what you eat."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - My Brain Was .....

...hijacked by aliens from out space. Or I'm that or I'm turning into a koala bear by round 4. Those guys don't seem to do anything, but sleep through life. Maybe while nobody is looking they come alive at night and become wild party animals.

Zzzzzzzz When's the next round of sleep begin?

I guess for me the sleep round came at 10:50 pm. I just can't explain what had happened. I went into round 4 with a 1-2 score against higher rated opposition. Two experts and and a 1950. I lost to the experts and beat the 1950 in a very nice rook and pawn ending. In the last round I'm playing an 1854. His results have been rather ragged lately, and he's been picked off by some lower rated players. Maybe I thought I got pick hom off too. However when one is totally oblivious to where the opponent's pieces are, and where they're going, trouble is brewing.

Here it is. Given the ugly nature of the game, I've changed my color scheme. Go ahead, have a good laugh. I think it set a record for time elapsed. Less the 12 minutes for the entire game.

Polly - FrankP111308.pgn

Don't ask because I really can't explain it. My mind was not there,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bishops of Same Color Ending

If you actually read my post about directing at the club last Monday night, you may have picked up on the fact that I was one of the first round upset victims. If there had been an upset prize, my opponent would have won it. (647 point difference.) He had not played since April, but his dad told me he wanted to start playing again. You never know what to expect when you play a 13 year old kid who hasn't played in 6 months. You ask yourself has he spent the last 6 months playing hundreds of blitz games on ICC, and is now 1800 strength? I knew that wasn't the case. The family doesn't even have email, much less an ICC account.

Lack of Internet not withstanding, I didn't think I could take him lightly. His dad and I have had some tough games over the years. I figured he'd been doing some studying with his dad. (He had not been.) I must say I was taken aback how well he played the opening. He played the Qc2 line against my Nimzo-Indian, and rattled off his first 15 moves in about a minute. I figured sooner or later the blitz pace would catch up with him, and he'd make a mistake. However I burned a lot of time in the middle game trying to free up my position. At one point he had sac'ed a pawn to weaken my king side, and then won it back a few moves later.

Eventually we traded down to the position below:

He had just played 48. Kg4. Despite my ugly f pawns and his 3 on 2 majority on the queen side, I thought it was rather drawish at this point. I was way down on the clock, but I didn't think that would be an issue. I even offered a draw within the next few moves. I thought he might take it because of the rating difference. He decided to take on the clock difference. I didn't really see a way for him to convert the majority, and I figured we would just fiddle around with our bishops. I played 48...Bc4. My plan was to maintain control of the f1-a6 diagonal so that he can't create a passer. That move was a mistake. Even though it looks totally counter intuitive, I should have retreated my king with 48... Kg7, with the idea of bringing him back towards the queen side. A possible continuation which gives me good drawing chances is 49. Kf4 Kf8 50. Bd5 Ke7 51. Ke4 Kd6 52. Bxf7 Bxc6+.

The game continues 49. Kf4 Bd3 50. Bg4 Bb5 51. Bf3 Bc4 52.Kg4 Bb5 53. Kg3 Kg5 54. Be4 Ba4?! This was risky, but I was trying to simplify by trading some of the pawns. 55. Bd3 Bxc6 56. Bxa6 Kxf5 57. b5?! to reach the position below:

I have about 5 seconds left. I'm thinking at this point after I move the bishop he'll play 58. b6 axb6 and I can sac the bishop for the b pawn, and the game will be drawn. That's the right idea, but it's dependant on the black bishop being placed on the correct square. 57...Bd5?? I felt I needed to cover b7 with my bishop. In reality white has nothing after 57...Bd7 58. b6 cxb6 59. axb6 Bc6. Instead my bishop move gives him the crucial check will set a road block to my coverage of the queening square. 58. Bc8+! Ke5 59. a6 Kd6 60. Bb7! Now my bishop is totally cut off. I looked, but there was no defense. In the mean time those few precious seconds ticked down to zero. 1-0

Edit: I was looking at the position again after Chess Tiger had left some analysis in the comments section. I realized after looking at the position again that White messed up when he played 57. b5. Had I found the correct move of Bd7 I'm okay. However if he had switched his move order and played 57. Bc8+ first I have major problems. This is one possible continuation. 57. Bc8+ Ke5 58. a6 Bb5 59. a7 Bc6 60. b5 Ba8 61. b6 cxb6 62. Bg4 Kd4 63. Bf3 Bxf3 64. Kxf3b5 65. a8=Q b4 66. Qa7+ Kc3 67. Qc7+ Kb2 68. Ke3 Ka3 69. Kd3 f5 70. Kc2 b3+ 71.Kc3 Ka2 72. Qa5+ Kb1 73. Kxb3 f4 74. Qe1# I'm not sure either of us would have found all of this. I may have flagged along the way.

We hear a lot about bishops of opposite color endings and how drawish they tend to be. Bishops of same color seem like they should be drawish too, except that the one light squared bishop can block off the queening square from other light squared bishop. In your opposite color bishop ending the one bishop can block the pawns and the opposite colored bishop can't force that bishop away. If the king can't penetrate then you will have a draw. Below is the same position with after 57 b5. But now Black's bishop is on the dark square c5 instead of c6. Can black hold with Bd4?

Fire away! I'd be interested in seeing what my end game enthusiasts think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So You Wanna Direct a Tournament? Funky Pairings - Part 2

Note: If you're looking for insightful analysis or another one of my crazy games, you can skip this post. Games will be forth coming in my next post. If you want a little behind the scenes angst from the tournament director's point of view, read on. If nothing else, you'll get the short course on Swiss system pairings.

In my last post, Funky Pairings - Part 1, I mentioned how the computer pairing program can sometimes go haywire and come up with some strange pairings. Since pairing programs came out in the early 90s I've seen some pretty strange pairings both as a player and as a tournament director. Usually on Monday nights I don't need my computer, and I can pair a tournament on a single piece of paper. I don't need a wall chart or pairing cards. When there's no school the next day we get a few more then normal. I wasn't prepared how many more came. So when 16 people, including two father-son combos show up it becomes a little more challenging trying to run a tournament with no computer and no pairing cards. Add to the mix that I was also playing in this tournament to make an even 16.

The first round isn't that difficult to pair. My list is in order of who gave me money first, but once I have all the names I number everyone by rating. Sometimes I mess up the numbering, and then have to start over again. I did manage to number correctly so no do-overs were necessary. After I flip a coin to see if number one will be black or white, I simply take numbers 1-8 and alternate white and black. My page will look something like this:

1 Lonnie-
- 2 John R
3 John K-
- 4 Alex
5 Mike A -
- 6 Mike B1*
7 Mike M -
- 8 Polly

Then I take numbers 9 - 16 and slot them in. After that's done the pairings look like this:

# White # Black
1 Lonnie - 9 Dan
10 Guy - 2 John R
3 John K- 11- Mike B2*
12 Alan - 4 Alex
5 Mike A - 13 Giancarlo
14 Silvio - 6 Mike B1
7 Mike M - 15 Connor
16 Joseph - 8 Polly

* I had 4 Mikes playing and 2 of them had a last name beginning with the letter B.

In an ideal world there would be no upsets. It's a piece of cake to pair round two. Numbers 1 -4 play numbers 5-8 and numbers 9 - 12 play numbers 13 - 16. Adjustments are made to balance the colors. The pairings would look like this:

# White # Black
6 Mike B1 - 1 Lonnie
2 John R - 5 Mike A
8 Polly - 3 John K
4 Alex - 7 Mike M
9 Dan - 14 Silvio
13 Giancarlo - 10 Guy
11 Mike B2 - 16 Joseph
15 Connor - 12 Alan

Blue = 1-0 Red = 0-1

Everybody will have had one of each color, and in the last round all the players in the various score groups will be paired amongst each other and will toss for color. No problem! Now that you've read this far you're ready to direct your own tournament. Piece of cake! Even a trained monkey could do that.....

Unfortunately my buddy Murphy likes to apply his law to pairings. It was upset city with numbers 2 (2202), 4 (2078) and 8 (1729) losing to numbers 10 (1596) , 12 (1540), and 16 (1082) respectively. This almost the worst case scenario possible. White won on 7 out of 8 boards, which meant 7 out of 8 one pointers were due black in round two, and 7 out of 8 zero pointers were due White. It's not the worst thing in the world to have a bunch of people getting two whites in a row in three round tournament. On the other hand it really sucks to have a bunch of people getting two blacks in a row. What makes it even worse when it's most of the first round losers who are faced with the two blacks in a row. (You still want to be a tournament director?)

The objective of Swiss pairings in round two is pair the players in each score amongst each other and balance the colors. Score has priority, so in the one score group I had three people getting two whites in a row, and in the zero score group I had three people getting two blacks in a row. All the remaining players were getting the opposite color they had in round one. It took awhile to sort out who was going to play who, and some players can be a snarky bunch when it's taking awhile to figure out the pairings. Finally I get everyone paired.

I wasn't overly concerned if there were upsets in the top group creating the possibility of having three players due black in round 3. Who's going to complain about getting 3 whites? However during my second round game I'm staring at the pairings I had written down and came to a horrible realization. Barring any more upsets there would be three zero pointers who had two blacks. I started thinking to myself, maybe I should have given the lower ranked player their due color so that after the higher ranked players won as black they could get paired with the 1 pointers who lost with white.

The USCF rule book has 25 pages devoted to pairing subsequent rounds following round one. Buried on page 145 is variation 29E4a "priority based on plus, even, and minus score groups." Using this variation I could have given the lower ranked players their due color. However when the TD is in "time pressure" so to speak she is not thinking about obscure variations of the rules that may be buried somewhere in the rule book.

The only way the color crisis in the zero score group was going to resolve itself was the higher ranked players lost with white aginst their lower rated opponents who got the two blacks in a row. Somehow I didn't expect the master and expert to fall victim again in round two. I also didn't expect the 1722 to lose to a 1200. The only realistic "upset" possibility would have been Silvio (1474) beating me (1729), but that wasn't really going to help because the two of us were the only zeros that were getting their due color. It wasn't going to matter which one of us won.

True to form, Murphy allowed no more upsets except Silvio holding me to a draw. (Our 29th draw in our 90 games we've played.) However that still didn't resolve the color crisis. Pairing the last round was nuts. It was easy to pair the 2 pointers. They had played one game with each color. Now came the fun part. I kept making pairings and then realize for some reason or another they were wrong. I suppose considering how little money was on the line, I shouldn't have been so anal about exact pairing order. I also should have not worried so much about score group. But that's not the way I think when I'm in "time pressure". A couple of players are ragging on me about whether we would get round 3 in before next week. (Good natured kidding, but it didn't help my concentration.) I finally paired everyone, or at least I thought I had when Mike M. asks me "Who am I playing?" I couldn't remember who else had been left out, so I ask who else doesn't have a game. When Dan spoke up I said "Dan plays Mike."

Then the father of one of the kids complains that his son has to play a kid from his school, and that he lost the toss and got the third black. He wants me to change the pairings. I said "No, it's late. People want to play. I'm not changing the pairings again." I apologized for the third black, and offered to give him back his son's entry fee. He declined. Afterwards I found out he was more annoyed that his son had to play somebody from his school. It happens. In round two Silvio and I had played our 90th rated game against each other. Sometimes you have to play people you play a lot.

After all was said and done we had 2 players at 3-0 and 5 players at 2-1. Ideally you need 4 rounds to have a clear winner in a field of 16. Unless people wanted to play until 1:00 AM there wasn't going to be an unadvertised round four. The two 3-0 got $50. The twos got their entry fee back. This wasn't exactly big bucks everyone was playing for.

When I got home I put the results in on the computer, in order to submit the results online. The computer made pretty much the same pairings as I had for the first two rounds. The third round differed because the computer was set without the "3 consecutive colors OK" on. In hindsight I should have paired out of the score group. The bright spot was Murphy didn't totally get his way. The kid who lost the toss and got the third black, beat his higher rated opponent.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Funky Pairings - Part 1

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plunging Back Into The Chess Waters

Vacation is officially over! I plunged right back into the multiple aspects of my chess life.

Wednesday and Thursday I played my first tournament games in over three weeks. Thursday I taught my first chess class of the new school year. Friday and Saturday I inputted entries for my first scholastic tournament of the new school year, and on Sunday I directed the tournament with 190 kids. Last night I had 16 players for our Monday night tournament that I ran with no computer or pairing cards! (That is harder then it looks, especially with 3 upsets in the first round!) I have one question: When is the next plane outta here? (November 28th, Destination Seattle.)

Some people find that a three week break from tournament chess leaves them refreshed and full of renewed energy when they return. I am not one of those people. Rust sets in. This game from Wednesday night proves it. My opponent in this game doesn't play very many tournaments, and he only plays at our club. Even though I out rate him by almost 600 points he always plays me tough. This was only our third game. Up to this point I had a win and a draw. John's biggest is problem is time management. He finds the right moves, but it takes him a long time. He's very cautious in his analysis, and wants to make sure it's right before committing to a move. I think if he could find things quicker, trust his instincts, and played more often his rating would be more like 1400-1500.


I had gotten a big edge on the clock, but gave a big chunk of it back after I blundered. At the end I had a 10 minute edge, he had 8 minutes to my 18. I felt it was too much time to for him to blow it at this point. This game occurred before the one that I discussed in my cheap draw post, so I couldn't even take encouragement that all was not lost if I played on.

Based on the comments I got on that post, I'm sure most of you think I should have played this game out. If the 1/2 point was terribly important to me, perhaps I would have played it out and make him prove that he could win that ending. The 1/2 point didn't matter, and as far I was concerned he deserve to win. Thinking back on the evening I'm sure deep down inside I was punishing myself for my terrible play and felt I deserved to lose. The possibility of slithering away with a cheap draw would have taken away the loss I felt I deserved. I wasn't actually thinking that consciously when I resigned, but I'm sure the inner critic was. Perhaps my reaction to the cheap draw was based on the idea that the 1700 played terribly and also deserved to lose. Then again maybe I'm reading too much into all of this.

So it wasn't exactly how I wanted to return to the chess world, but things started looking up by Thursday. To be continued.....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Going for Cheap Draw Versus Being Gracious?

Note: Take this post for whatever it's worth. I've spent way too long trying to put words down without sounding "holier then thou". I give up, so if sounds that way I apologize. For whatever reason what I recently witnessed bugged the living daylights out of me. So here it goes.

Around this time last year I had several posts where I discussed resignations and the timing of them. There was my discussion with King Kong about why I resigned. Then less then a week later I had the game where my opponent refused my resignation. There was this position that my adult opponent made me play out last winter. Then there was the game where I've felt kind of bad because I didn't resign in an ending of rook and 3 pawns vs my lone rook. I ended out winning on time. Though in that post I did make the remark "One never wins a chess game by resigning."

One can not get a draw by resigning either. But is there a point where dignity become more important then trying to squeeze a draw or win out of a hopeless position? How does one define a hopeless position? Down by a queen or more? Lone king against mating material? Positions like that are pretty resignable. Though one will see Grandmasters resign against other Grandmasters down considerably less material then a queen. How can I forget the master who resigned against me after blundering his queen in the opening? Actions such as these demonstrate the respect the players have for their opponents' ability.

Then you have the positions that were resignable many moves ago, and now it's a forced mate in one. Once it's reached that stage it doesn't really matter if the player opts to resign or allows himself to be mated. Pick your poison! Though don't be a total knucklehead like White in the position below.

Black had just played 66...Qb3+. 67. Kd4 is White's only move. Did he play it? No. He wouldn't make a move. He figured he'd let his remaining 50 minutes run out. I really didn't want to sit there for 50 minutes, especially since my friends were waiting for me to go out for dinner. I complained to the tournament director, who chastised my opponent for his behavior and awarded me the win. The next day my college aged opponent did come up to me and apologized for acting like a jerk. He said he was pissed off about playing so poorly, but realized that was not an excuse to behave the way he did. Apology graciously accepted.

I don't have problems with kids playing out a hopeless position against their peers. There can be educational value in seeing a mating attack played out to its conclusion, even if one is on the receiving end of it. It's important for young and inexperienced players not to give up. They need to develop the hang in there attitude. As they become more mature and experienced they will have better understanding when it's appropriate to fight on, versus accepting defeat and moving on. It's the same sort of process they will deal with in life.

So what about about an adult player rated mid 1700s who plays out lone king versus queen, bishop and king against an older adult rated mid 1400s? The best he's going to get is a draw if the opponent runs out of time or stalemates him. The former was not likely since they were using a delay clock and the opponent had over 5 minutes when he promoted. What will a stalemate accomplish?

Is this game deciding first place in the World Open where holding a draw means $10,000 clear first? No. It's a 2nd round game in a small club tournament. There's no entry fee or prizes. The tournament provides members a chance to play rated chess under tournament conditions. Here are some interesting questions:

Does that type of money on the line make it acceptable to play on?

What would you do?

Eventually they reach the position below is with white having about 3 minutes left.

White initially reaches for the king, but pulls his hand back. 1. Kc3 will cause stalemate, and 1. Kb3 will lead to mate on the next move after 1...Kb1, 2. Qf1# Then he reaches for the queen. Any queen move along the b file except b2 or b3 will force mate after 1...Ka2, 2. Kc3+ Ka1, 3. Qb2#. Unfortunately White played Qb3, rewarding Black with the cheapo draw.

I'm sure there may be many out there that are thinking "See! Black was right to play on and go for that draw! White didn't deserve the full point for botching such an easy win." I respectfully disagree. When I see opponents play out such an absurd position I feel as though they're insulting the opponent. Essentially they're saying "I don't think you're good enough to finish me off. I'll take a cheap draw if I can get it."

Readers remember my Saratoga Open saga and quoting my Tae Kwon Do school's mantra. "Quitters never win. Winners never quit. I'm not a quitter. I'm a winner." So how does that fit into a timely graceful resignation? After all when one resigns that's quitting, and one loses. How is one a winner when he just lost a game of chess? In my opinion a properly timed resignation demonstrates respect to one's opponent. It's a simple way of saying "You have demonstrated your ability by reaching this point. There is no need to prove more to me. Good job!" Showing and receiving respect goes a long way in this game we call life.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Am I becoming a curmudgeon in my old age? I hope not.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Birds Opening! My last day in Hilton Head I went out and shot birds......with my camera.

Sunrise. The start of my last day of vacation. It doesn't look too much different then the sunset shot I took here. Though in this picture the sun is rising over the Atlantic.

"Don't even think about taking my fish! Go find your own."

Snowy Egrets. Sigh. I egret to say vacation is done.

If you wear your chess related attire in enough different places someone is bound to ask you one of the following questions:

Are you a chess master?

Do you know _________? (fill in the blank)

I was asked both questions by a gentleman I met on the beach Thursday afternoon. He saw the Marshall Chess Club cap. He asked me if I knew Bruce Pandolfini. It turns out he had been the principal at a school in Charlotte, NC where Pandolfini visited and did a simul for the kids. We had a good time discussing "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and the reality of the book versus the movie. He mentioned that he asked Bruce about the scene where Bruce swept the pieces off the board in a fit of rage. He had wondered if that really happened. Bruce said not exactly.

Foto fun with pieces. One of my lame attempts at being artsy.

The Pelican Variation? They weren't too thrilled with my presence. Pelican Variation Part II

Their take off is the damnest thing.

One has to wonder how they get off the ground.

Though once they get going, they can haul ass.

Creatures with smaller wing spans. Monarch butterflies on their way to New Mexico for the winter. I saw hundreds of these beauties both at the beach and inland.

Alas all good things come to an end. Sunset, and hopefully not a bad moon risin'.

Okay this is a chess blog, so I will end this post with some chess. Back to the chess club tonight. We had a small turnout of 5 players so we played a casual Game/10. No prizes, and no quick rating results submitted. It figures I'd go 4-0 on a night like this. The position below was an approximation of the finishing touches on my game with Guy.

As the little arrow indicates it's very clear what my next move is going to be. I reached this position by using my bishops to chase him around and then finally got utilize a killer check by taking advantage of the pinned g pawn. I'm usually the one who gets nailed by my g3 pawn getting whacked because of that bishop lurking on a7. This time I beat my opponent to the punch with 1. Qxh6+ Kg7 2. Qxg7#

So back to my normally scheduled programming. Back to some teaching, directing and playing. Next stop on my travels will be adding another state to my "States I've played a tournament in.", Redmond, WA for the Washington State Class Championships over Thanksgiving weekend. I decided it was time to cash in some frequent flier points before some absurd merger causes me to lose them all.

PS. If you're registered to vote, don't forget to do so.