Going into the last round I had 2.5 points. That was 2.5 more points then I had last year going into the last round, so I really couldn't complain. If I won the last round I'd have a good shot at a portion of the under 1800 money. However I knew it was likely I'd be paired up, so I'd have my work cut out for me. Sure enough I was paired against a 1899 who had 3 points. If he won he'd have a shot at a portion of the place money. We both had reasons to go all out.
Sometimes the body can't keep up with the mind, and it takes some extra measures to try to get things moving. I often struggle with the long time limits because I get restless if my opponent is taking a lot of time. Since the advent of 40/2, G/1 time limits I don't think I've played the full six hour session. My typical games at that time control usually last between 2.5 and 4 hours. Sometimes I'll have a game that will approach 5 hours. My last round game at this year's US Amateur Team was probably my longest game at that time control. It went close to 5.5 hours
Often players will talk about falling asleep during a game, and missing a strong move. Usually they're speaking figuratively when referring to falling asleep. In my case I was literally falling asleep during the early part of my last round game. My opponent would go into a deep think, and I close my eyes. I would start dreaming about other positions or about something totally unrelated to chess. Even when it was my move I would sometimes drift off and couldn't stay focused on the position. All the traveling around and sleeping in strange beds was catching up with me.
I tried walking around when it wasn't my move, but every time I sat down the urge to close my eyes would come over me. When my eyes would close I'd start falling asleep. It was obvious that if I didn't do something about my drowsiness I'd make some horrendous blunder. As it was I was having trouble finding the right moves. I missed winning a pawn on move 16 because I couldn't find the defense to the fork that occurs after I capture the pawn. There was a simple move that holds both pieces, but since I didn't see it I opted not to take the pawn. That pawn would be annoying later on.
As my opponent went into another deep think I decided the only way I was going to wake myself up was to get some caffeine into me. I debated about whether I should send someone out to get tea for me, or get it myself. I find half the time people botch up my order when I ask them get me a cup of tea. They forget that I asked for it black, with no sugar so they end out bringing me tea with milk in it. I decided it would probably be easier for me to run across the street and get it myself then to explain to someone how I like it.
One of the great things about this location is there's a gas station across the street with a big convenience store where you can get cheap sandwiches and cheap coffee or tea. I'm not a big fan of overpriced tea and coffee. I go over and get a 20 oz cup of Earl Grey tea for $1.69. The same thing down the street would have cost $4.00. My trip over and back probably took about 10 minutes, but my opponent still had not moved. I think the combination of getting a little fresh air and some caffeine into my system helped me wake up.
All around us games are finishing and ours has barely begun. We're both using a lot of time. Now that I'm awake I'm actually looking at the board, and not dreaming about some other position. Being awake can sometimes be dangerous, especially when one discovers that the position induced by the sleepy portion of the game isn't very good. I found myself tied up in knots by his knight sitting on d6 guarded by that e pawn that I neglected to take 10 moves ago. I decided the knight had to go, even if it cost me my rook. I knew I'd get at least one pawn for the exchange, and maybe even two.
We both overlooked the fact that he can sac the exchange back in a couple of moves and run his passed pawn down to d8. However there would be no story if that had happened. Instead I’d be writing something to the effect of “I had a last round meltdown.” Been there, done that, have written about it, don’t need to write about it again. Instead I was able to get two pawns for the exchange and things got interesting after that.
In a rare show of patience on my part I was actually using all of my time on the first time control. Usually if my opponent has used almost all of his two hours, I’ve probably only used an hour by the time we hit 40 moves. This was a different game for me. I had taken a chance with my exchange sacrifice, and it was paying off. No matter what was going to happen I was going to keep things interesting. I think I finally had gotten fed up with my wimpy play against the Brooks brothers.
Every round Steve announces the time control and reminds players to make sure their clocks are set correctly. I’ve heard the announcement so many times I tend to tune it out. Since I have a bunch of preset time controls programmed into memory it’s very easy to select the one I need. On a one time control game such as G/60 it’s easy to tell whether or not the clock is set correctly. On a two control game it’s possible that not all the settings are correct. The first time control may be set properly, but unless you look you won’t know whether the second one is correct or not. I had not looked so when my opponent made his 40th move I was horrified to notice that the clock only added 40 minutes to his time. I didn’t want to mess with the clock until I made my 40th move.
Once I made my move I stopped the clock and told my opponent what had happened. He had noticed the time was wrong also. I added the extra 20 minutes to each side. I’m always mortified when something like that happens. I’m one who certainly should know to always check the clock before starting. I’m not sure how the second time control ended out with only 40 minutes. I don’t recall playing in any tournament with that as a second control. However I’ve loaned my clock to kids at times, and who knows what they do with the settings. The text in italics I wrote when I first published this post. Since writing this, I suddenly remembered where the G/40 secondary time control came from. The Blackstone Chess Festival Open had the very strange time limit of 40/80, G/40 with a 15 second delay. I only remembered about it after participating in this discussion on the USCF Forums. I guess in the first game at the slow time control I didn’t get to the second control otherwise I would have noticed the error. I don't use this clock much for multiple time control events, so it's not too surprising that I had a setting left from an August tournament. Those 20 extra minutes would be used by both of us.
From move 41 to 50 it was a lot of maneuvering with the queens. I knew eventually one my queen side pawns would fall, but I was hoping I’d pick up his a pawn, and keep things even. I messed up and he got the c pawn, but I started getting play. In the mean time there are only 2 or 3 games left.
I had built a fortress around my king, but it left my knight totally out of play. Finally I decided I would open the h file even though I risked his getting his queen and rook in there. It got crazy after that, and all the games were done. Everyone was watching. It was a wild finish, but unfortunately I ran out of time before I could find the move that holds everything.
The loss cost me $150, but it was the most fun I’ve had in a chess game in a long time. As I was getting ready to leave Steve was raging on me because he had to write a bunch of $20 checks for the tie for 2nd 1800 instead one check for $150. Sigh. I would liked to have pulled it out, but I froze at the end.
Originally I was going to drive back home after the last round, but since it approaching 10 pm and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me, I opted to go back to my sister’s house. Hubby would have get himself to the airport the next day.
SRomero - PW122708.pgn
This is the final position when my flag fell.
f6 is my best shot here. I just couldn't find it quick enough. A possible continuation would be 60... f6 61. Rd2 (61. Qh4 Qd5+ 62. Kg1 Nf4 63. Rxf4 g5) 61... Qa4 62. Qh4 Qc6+63. Kf2 Nf4 64. Qg3 Qc7.
The photo below indicates a fitting end to my weekend. Somehow I managed to dump my water glass. Fortunately I managed not to dump it on the board, a camera or computer. Maybe there is hope for me after all.
I'm finishing this post at the Marshall Chess Club where I just got through playing in "Your Last Blunder of 2008". I guess it was fitting that I blundered away a win in the last round and ended out with a draw. It could have been worse. I could have lost!
PS: My actual last blunder of 2008 was forgetting to put the memory card back in my camera, so all the pictures I took during the Marshall Chess Club New Years eve party were being saved to a black hole. Duh!