Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'm with my family for Christmas. Originally my husband I were going to go to Chicago the day after Christmas. I was going to play in the Mayor Daley's Holiday Championship on Sunday. However a major mishap has canceled the trip. Last Saturday I fell down, and broke my left ankle. I'm on crutches, so I'm not really mobile. Getting on a plane, and trying to negotiate snowy Chicago on crutches just wasn't going to work.

It really sucks, because canceling the plane tickets cost money. It's so annoying that when you can't use a plane ticket you're just SOL. If I couldn't go to a concert, I could sell the tickets to somebody else. If I can't stay in a hotel I can cancel the room with notice. If I have withdraw from a tournament before it starts I can get my entry fee back. The airlines on the other hand just stick it to you. I'm going to write a letter, and see what happens, but I'm not expecting anything will come of it.

If I had not planned on going to Chicago I would have gone back to the Empire State Open in Saratoga Springs. However I'm learning quickly that the little things like walking through a door, taking a shower, getting something to eat, getting in and out of a car, getting dressed takes a lot more work when trying do them on one leg. Getting to chess tournaments is going to be dependent on people taking me there. Jumping on a train and subway to go to the Marshall Chess Club is not happening.

Most disappointing to me is that I will not be able to test for black belt in June as originally scheduled. My friends that I have trained with will go on without me. I'll end out having to wait until November. This is under the assumption that my ankle will be able to handle the stress once it's healed, and I've done physical therapy to strengthen it again.

I was working through my mind a post on my holistic approach to chess improvement that would incorporate my Tae Kwon Do training, meditation, diet, and mental discipline. I guess I will be reworking it, minus the Tae Kwon Do piece. Though I do need to figure out how I'm going to remember the forms without being able to do them. In the mean time I'll find time for chess study.

It's hard to write at the moment. There's a lot going through my mind. I'm not sure I'll get back to writing about my adventures of being a journalist in Dallas. I still have a deadline for the actual article to deal with first.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adventures in Photojournalism - Part 1 (Blitz)

The 2009 K-12 Championship is completed. I got back from Dallas on Monday. What did I do for post event relaxation? I went to the chess club to direct our Monday night action tournament. I was so hoping I would not have to play. Fortunately there was an even number so I was off the hook. The only reason I went to the club was because I forgot to see if someone else could direct. Despite not sending out the weekly email I still had 10 players.

I really did not want to play. I was exhausted from the weekend, and the thought of playing chess was giving me a headache. I did not play one single game of chess when I was at the tournament. I didn't play blitz or bughouse at all, and I didn't play in the Parents & Friends tournament. That's unusual for me. I usually want to play blitz or bughouse with the kids, but by the end of each day, I just wanted to relax. I kept myself amused at the club by working on this post.

I never quite realized how much running around I would be doing during the tournament trying to take pictures, and track down interesting stories. At Super Nationals I was running around a lot taking pictures, but I didn't have hunt for results, track down winners for interviews, and try to be in three places at once. Thursday night was the blitz tournament. The lighting was really poor, so it was hard to get good shots even using my new flash unit. I've yet to figure out all the tricks to making it work right. Rule #1 of Photojournalism: Purchase and test new equipment several weeks before the real thing. However I've been picking the brains of some the other photographers that have been taking pictures. Nothing like lessons on the fly! I must have done something right because Chess Life Online used everything I sent out to the editor.

Getting the shot I took of the K-6 winner, James Black got me into my first confrontation with a crazy chess parent. I have a 70-300 mm zoom lens, so sometimes I have to stand a few rows back to get the shot. I try to make sure I'm not too close to any of the players that are in the row that I'm standing in, but this one father is annoyed that I'm standing there. He comes over and says "You're distracting the little kids. That's not fair." I didn't have my press credential yet, so he had no idea who I was. I said "I'm writing the article for Chess Life and taking pictures." He wasn't impressed. He says "It's not right to be disturbing the little kids."

Fortunately I had gotten the picture before he started complaining to me. I moved away. The funny thing was the kids near where I was standing didn't even pay much attention to me, but perhaps his child looked up at me while I was shooting. Though I appreciate parents wanting to look out for their child's interests, I think it's a little excessive to be making a fuss during a blitz tournament which is more fun than serious chess. The serious blitz games were happening about 30 boards away from where I was standing.

I'm a people watcher. I love seeing their facial expressions, and observing the body language. As watch the kids playing, some are very animated at the board. Others are deep in concentration. Often wandering around the playing room I see a particular child who is making interesting facial expressions, or just doing funny things at the board. When I spot one of these kids I might just set up my camera, and just wait for the shot. It takes patience and luck. Some of the kids just ham it up when they see a camera pointed in their direction.

In one of the later rounds I spot two little kindergarten kids playing on the last board. They're both chattering away, and playing around with the pieces. Very cute scene. I go to take some pictures and my telephoto lens seems to be locking up which it will do if it can't get the proper exposure and focus. I run back over to where I've set my bag down, and quickly switch lenses. I go back and try to get the shot, but now realize my battery has died. I go back and switch batteries. I run back over to the board to take the shot, and one of the TDs says "I hope you're not using a flash." I had been using a flash all evening and no one said anything. (I don't use flash during the regular tournament games.) I finally get a few shots off, and after all that running back and forth, the pictures were slightly blurred. I hate when that happens. Fortunately in a tournament like this I will have more opportunities to get the shot. Rule #2 of Photojournalism: Have all lenses and spare batteries on you at all times. (Next purchase will be a photographer's vest.)

As my long time readers know, at times I can be rather forgetful. I forget recharge my Mon Roi so the battery dies during a game, or I forget to put it in the bag I'm taking down to the Marshall. How many times have I needed to buy another pair of reading glasses because I forgot to put a pair in my bag. I don't want begin to count how many times I've walked out the playing room, and left my jacket on a chair because I put it down, and then forgot about it. There are times I feel like I'm suffering from early onset senility. It's amazing that in 37 years of tournament play I've never lost a chess clock. Then again that might have to do with the fact that I've seen too many chess clocks mysteriously grow legs and walk out of tournament or skittles rooms when their owners weren't looking.

I do not have the memory of my friend here.

Thursday evening after the blitz tournament we ordered room service for the kids on our team. As we were waiting for the food to come, I remembered that I needed to recharge the camera battery that had died during the blitz tournament. I went to my room with the battery, and look through my bag where I had packed all the gizmos for my various electronics. Cell phone charger, check. iPod charger, check. Power cord for the laptop, check. AA - AAA batteries and charger, check. Point and shoot camera, spare battery and charger, check. Mon Roi and USB cable, check. Mini tape recorder and spare cassette, check. Battery charger for my real camera...... Ummmmm. Where is it??? I proceeded take my knapsack and just dump the entire contents of it on the bed. I dump everything out of my briefcase. No charger. I look in my suitcase, but I know full well it's not there. Instead it's.....

....here on the floor of my home office.

Now I'm in a panic. How the hell am I going to photograph the remaining three days with one battery? Our team coordinator has the exact same camera as mine. She bought it because she loved the pictures I took on our hiking trip in July. Problem solved? No. She decided to just bring her point and shoot camera since she figured I'd have things covered, and she tends to just do snapshots over the weekend. Then I remembered that Chris Bird, one the floor directors has the same camera. I go downstairs where the tournament directors are having their meeting to go over rules, procedures and assignments. I quietly pull him to the side and ask him if he brought his camera. No. Duh! Floor directors, especially the chief floor directors don't have time to be taking pictures. Why bother lugging a big camera with you that you're not going to be using? Rule #3 of Photojournalism: The Santa clause applies. "Making a list, checking it twice." Having all your gear would be nice.

At this point I figure I'm going to have find an electronics store like Best Buy on Friday and go out and buy another charger. I can use the little point and shoot at the Kosteniuk simul if necessary. It figures the one tournament that none of the parents in our group decide to rent a car would be the year I need to go somewhere by car. Normally at these events I go into the hotel on Thursday, and don't leave the the premises until Monday when it's time to go to the airport.

That was just the warm up to the main event that started on Friday. Stayed tuned for Part 2.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Up In the Air!

As I'm writing I am winging my way towards Dallas for the National K-12 Championships. Fortunately all the really crappy weather was yesterday, so at least we got off the ground. We were late leaving New York because of strong winds. When that happens they only can use one runway at La Guardia. If they thought the wind this morning was strong I hate to see what happens when the really gusty winds start this afternoon. I guess the wind is from all the wild mid-west weather. Once again the early departure time works in my favor. Though for me a scheduled 9:50 departure is late. I told the team coordinator that if she had me make the reservations we would have been on the 7:00 am flight. She doesn't do early mornings.

The team coordinator and I could have been doing a Mac commercial on the plane. I'm a Mac, she's a PC. We were both trying to connect to the on board Internet service. It took me about 2 minutes for my Mac Book to find the signal and get online. She had to fiddle with all her settings, ask for help from the flight attendant and still had problems connecting. After a half hour of fiddling she then shut off the Wi-Fi turned back on and was able to get connected. Back in my data center operations days we used to refer to that as a "hardware reset". That always sounded more impressive then telling the user we turned their machine off and back on, or that their printer was unplugged which often was the case.

I can tell that airline travel is down when there is hardly anyone in the security lines even at 8:00 AM. I actually ended out going through the line a second time because one of the kids on our team forgot his chess bag. That wouldn't be such a big deal but his wallet and ID was in there. Fortunately a kid traveling with an adult doesn't always need ID. Somebody drove out with the bag, and I ran outside and got it. I made sure that when I went back out to get the bag that I left my sweatshirt off. I stuffed my phone in his bag, took off my shoes and was through in a flash. I'm glad his chess clock didn't send the guy manning the x-ray into a fit. They'll be seeing lots of chess clocks today.

The bughouse tournament is this morning. We never come down in time to play in that. However the kids will play in the blitz tournament this evening. I'll be busy taking pictures, and trying track down winners for possible inclusion in my article for Chess Life. There are a number of kids from my area that have good chance of doing well in both the blitz and their respective grades. I'm not going to mention names right now, lest I jinx anyone.

Last year our team finished second in the 9th grade section. This year there seems to be some extra competition in 10th grade. It gets much tougher in the high school divisions. Kids that went to all different middle schools in NY are now together at Stuyvesant HS. Stuyvesant is one of the elite public high schools in NYC. These schools draw good chess players. In April we won the K-9 Championship. Fortunately Hunter HS is not sending a 10th Grade team. They've got 4 10th graders rated over 2000 including Alec Getz who's rated 2317. Next April we will be going against high school teams that have 2300s on them. In the December Nationals the sections are strictly by grade. In the spring the teams have a range of grades on them.

That's all for now. Look for blitz pictures later on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

American Open: Train Wreck @ LAX

Saturday morning the 4 day schedule and 3 day schedule merged. Now I would be playing the much slower 40 moves in 2 hours followed by remaining moves in an hour. I've been prone to having difficulty making the transition from the much faster time control to the slower one. However in this tournament I had a night to sleep on it, before making the transition. In most tournaments where I've played the shorter schedule I've played 3 - 4 games and less then an hour after the last fast game I've had to switch gears. Sometimes the result of that transition have not been pretty. Round 4 of the 2008 NY State Championship, or Round 4 of the 2007 Empire State Open come to mind.

Since this was the first day with all the schedules together Randy Hough got up and spoke about Jerry Hanken. Jerry had played in the previous 44 American Opens. My trip to the tournament was my own little tribute to Jerry, and Randy had asked me to say a few words. Unfortunately with no mike, and despite my loud voice I don't think people in the back heard what I said. I just shared about how much he cared about chess, and what a good friend he had become. Nothing particularly eloquent.

I felt rested and ready to make the transition to the slow time control. For a change I actually got a half way decent night's sleep, time zone change and all. When I got to the board my opponent already had his equipment set up. The previous day I had played all the rounds with my pieces. When I'm on a good run I kind of like to keep things the same. When I won the Under 1800 section in Saratoga Springs I went to great lengths to sit in the same seat, use my equipment, and wear my "lucky" cap. I couldn't control the seat thing in this tournament since the board numbers were constantly changing. I could have been a pain in the ass and insisted on using all my equipment since I was Black. I've seen players do that to try to intimidate or annoy their opponent. Actually I should say I've seen a psycho chess dad do that to their child's opponent. I think that's rather obnoxious and over the top, but I digress.

My opponent had a very nice wood set, so I saw no need to make a fuss over the set. If it had been some crappy plastic set with mismatched colors I probably would have asked to switch. I did ask to use my clock since I prefer my Chronos and the way I set it for a two control game. I like the time delay always showing, I like seeing hours, minutes and seconds when then clock is running, and I like the move counter. A lot of people don't like the move counter because it can get messed up if someone forgets to press the clock. I like it because when the first control is done, it automatically adds the extra time for the second control. That way I know how much time is really left and I don't have to do time math. "The clock says 33 minutes, but it's really 1 hour and 33 minutes."

He tried to play the Smith-Morra Gambit against my Sicilian, but too many ugly games with Eric Hecht cured me of taking the c pawn. Instead I play Nf6 and it usually transposes into a c3 Sicilian. Not that I'm overly fond of that line either, but it beats getting smashed in less then 20 moves. Early in the game he was using a lot more time then me. I got up a few times to get water, use the bathroom or look at other games. However I wasn't overly restless, so I wasn't constantly jumping up from the board. That's what tends to happen to me when I've just gotten through a G/60 game and now have to deal with an opponent who is using a lot of time.

I try to gauge my pace by looking at how much time I've used by the 20th move. It's not a good sign when I see I've spent a measly 10 minutes on the first 20 moves, and my opponent has spent an hour on those same 20 moves. That means I have not made the transition well, and that I'm likely make some move that I'm going to regret not having given more thought to. I was kind of surprised when we hit 20 moves and both of us had used over an hour each. At one point in the game he had used about 20 minutes more then me, but by 20 moves the time edge was down to 5 minutes. Perhaps that was because I spent 11 minutes on move 19 and after he spent 10 minutes on move 20, I spent another 8 minutes on my 20th move.

It was probably around move 25 when I noticed the move counter was off by a move, and would showing 39 moves when we actually had made 40. It wouldn't be a big deal if we both made the time control with plenty of time to spare. I thought about mentioning it to my opponent, but he was so intense in his concentration. I didn't want to say anything on his time, and I didn't want to stop the clock on my move and break my train of thought. I decided I would let it go for the time being. Things did get a bit wild between moves 30 and 40. We traded queens and then had a battle of doubled rooks on open files. I was looking for cheap shots on his back rank because he had not moved any of his pawns around the king. He was looking to penetrate since I had gaping holes on both sides of the board.

I made my 40th move with 23 seconds left, and it was at that point that I mentioned the clock. At time control there tends to be a natural break as both players just verify that 40 moves had been played. Once we had agreed on that I just pressed the clock back and forth to get the extra hour put on both sides. Note to self: Fix the error when first noticed instead of worrying about it approaching the first time control.

The real fun started after time control. Often when somebody says that, it's a cliche. In this case it's not a cliche because the game truly became fun and exciting. It would not have been fun if my opponent had just ignored my desperate attempt at counter-play. He won my a pawn, and my b pawn would fall soon, but he responded to my crazy 48...Nh5. If he just goes after my b pawn I'm going to have difficulty stopping his queen side pawns. But at this point I'm in the "I'm losing, but I'm going to have some fun before I resign." mode. I'm not sure why he was so concerned about my knight going to f4 ang e2+, but he wasted time with 49. g3. There's an old teaching expression that is sometimes used. "Rooks on seven are in heaven." I had two rooks on his 7th. He had one rook on my 7th.

I can't even begin to describe the craziness that ensued. He chased my king from one side of the board to the other, and with seconds left on my clock I came up with a combination that won a piece. Here is the game up to the point that I stopped taking score. The last few moves I included are from memory, and I'm not even sure if they're correct. What happened afterward defies explanation.

JoseG-PW112809.pgn


At this point the game has drawn a crowd because we're the only game left. I've won many games with only seconds left on my clock, but I'm not sure exactly what happened after I stopped keeping score. I was a bundle of nerves. If one only looked at the part of me that was visible across the board, I looked fairly calm except the quick movements of my hands as I went for pieces. Under the table was a whole different story. My legs were bouncing up and down, and I was having trouble sitting still. Linux-Guy thought I looked very focused. However what was going through my mind along with the analysis wasn't really very focused. At one point it crossed my mind "Why doesn't he resign? I'm up a piece and 2 pawns and I'm going to shove my f pawn down his throat." That type of thinking gets me into trouble.

I have no memory of the moves that followed once I stopped keeping score, but somehow I never got around to taking the a pawn, my king wandered too far away from his queen side pawn majority, he played a5, and ran the b pawn down the board. With a total of 6 seconds (1 second real time & 5 seconds delay) per move, I could not find a way to get back to stop him from promoting. My knight and king were too far away, and my rook was blocked. Linux-Guy who was watching, seemed to think I may have had a way to sac the rook for the pawn. With my advanced f pawn I still should have been able to win even down the exchange.

As I'm writing this I stopped to look at 6 seconds tick off on my watch to get a sense of how much time it is. In the comfort of my house with no pressure to calculate a series of chess moves, it seems like enough time. However when one is banging out 20 or more chess moves one right after another and is in hyper mode, it's very hard to sort out the emotions from the problem at hand. I know why this happens. I discussed it at great length in my Chess Survival post.

I know I was very emotional that game. I went from a feeling of hopelessness when it appeared he would just gobble up my pawns and march his down the board, to a feeling of euphoria as I came up with the combination that won a piece, then to a feeling of utter panic when I couldn't find a quick win with so little time. Then I got angry with myself when he made the passed pawn. I try to keep the anger to myself, and not project it towards my opponent. When he promoted the pawn, I stopped the clock so that he could replace the pawn with the queen. The pawn was sitting in front of me, so I picked it up and tossed to the side where the other captured pieces were. I guess my toss would a little harder then intended because it went shooting across the table and my opponent got annoyed and said "It's only a game." I said "Sorry", but somehow when somebody says "It's only a game" when they've suddenly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat it sounds rather hollow. I had not paid any attention to his body language, but Linux-Guy told me afterward that he exuding arrogance as he marched the pawn down the board.

The position was certainly resignable at that point, but I chose to continue playing with my one second. I think I was just too angry at myself to give up at that point. I think I was also ticked off by the "It's only a game" remark. I'm not 100% sure how it ended. The position below is a rough reconstruction of the final position. Usually I write down the position at the end, but having played for over 6 hours I couldn't think straight. I did apologize again for tossing the pawn. I was kind of embarrassed because I don't like showing anger by throwing things around, especially my opponent's nice pieces.




The next round was scheduled to start in a few minutes. The smart thing to have done was take a bye for that round. However in one of my "suck it up, get over it, and get back on the horse" moments I chose to play round six. I wasn't in contention for money after that loss, so a zero point bye would been acceptable.

When I started playing round six, I knew it was a mistake. I got a second Black in a row. I almost offered my opponent an early draw. But no, since I hate early draw offers I chose to play out the game. I got a so-so position out of the opening and then just lost focus. He was going to win a pawn, and I thought it was going to be deadly to give up that pawn, so I sac-ed the exchange. Sometimes I make irrational decisions like that. Eventually I just resigned. The previous game had sucked the energy right out of me. I figured I needed to save something for rounds 7 & 8.

My opponent and I looked at the game, and concluded that losing the pawn was not going to be devastating. In fact it didn't really look like White was going to be able to do much with it. It's hard to get out of the losing mind set after a long and heart breaking loss. Decisions get made based on that mind set. The funny thing was my opponent told me he almost offered an early draw, but looking at me he thought I wasn't in the mood to accept such an offer. If he had offered the draw, I would have taken it. Socializing over a glass of wine afterward was the best part of the evening.

At 9:30 he said that we both should head back to our respective rooms, and get ready for the next day. I wasn't quite ready to do that. I went back into the playing room to see how Linux-Guy was making out against Ryan Polsky. When that game was done, I got someone to take a picture. Brian and Ryan get join my rogues gallery of bloggers and commenters I've met at tournaments. Welcome to the club.

Ryan, Polly & Brian (aka Linux-Guy)

I was going to write another post about Sunday's games, but this one ended out taking longer then I expected. To make a long story short; in the 7th round a played a 5th grade girl with one of those names that's hard to spell and even harder to pronounce. (Always a bad sign!!) I won a pawn, and then messed up. In round 8 I played Black against someone who played 1 .d4 followed by 2. Nf3. For some reason I just get really crappy positions and have been getting smashed as Black against that kind of line. I guess that will be part of my ACIS agenda. Work out an opening plan against random d4 openings.

Tomorrow I head off to Dallas for the National K-12 Championships. I'll be tending to my job as assistant coach to the team, taking pictures, and following the action closely since I'll be writing an article for Chess Life about the tournament. I was very excited and honored when the Chess Life Editor asked me if I'd write the article for the tournament. Finally I get to play a real chess journalist. I probably won't have time to torture myself by playing under-rated chess parents in the Parents & Friends tournament.

Stay tuned for pictures and other tournament tidbits. Maybe I'll post my first Texas game to Checkmate State by State in honor of the occasion.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

American Open - Part 1: Marathon Madness

I started writing this post on Saturday morning before round five. However it took me so long to figure out how to get the Internet working in the room, that I didn't get very far. By the time I got back to the room on Saturday night, I was in no mood write much of anything except the following little blurb on Facebook.

I was better off playing G/60 with no sleep, then playing 40/2 G/60 with sleep. Lost both games today. Managed to lose a totally won game on the second time control imploding with 1 second left on the clock. Then was aggravated that I totally messed up the next game. Sometimes I really hate chess!!!

Sunday morning I wasn't going to spend another $9.95 to get another connection. Any attempts to use the free Internet in the lobby at the tournament site failed miserably. Nobody was getting connected. So here I am back in New York, and I've had some time to look at some of my games.

The LA chess scene is truly the proverbial melting pot of America. As I'm walking though foyer outside the playing room, I hear more different languages then English. The predominant languages are Russian and Chinese. That should not have surprised me considering my "lost in translation" incident in May. When I only visit certain parts of the country once or twice a year, it's easy to forget what the chess scene is like. Perhaps I need to go back and read old posts about previous tournaments to remind myself of what to expect.

Though I didn't need to read my Lina Grumutte Memorial Day Classic reports to remember psycho chess mom. I saw her walking around with that intense stare that looks like she could turn someone to stone with it. I was happy to see that her son's rating has gone up over 200 points since May, and he's playing in the Under 2200 section. I would not have worry about playing him in this tournament.

My first round opponent was Zheng Zhu, a very nice kid who I would guess was in 9th or 10th grade. Our game was a very quiet opening. In fact it was so quiet that I kept dozing off while he was on move. I was so sleepy from starting my day at 4:00 AM EST, I would literally close my eyes and fall a sleep for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Since I have one of the Chronos clocks with the touch sensor buttons I would not hear the normal click of a clock button when it's been pressed. I prefer this model over the other one due to the ease of hitting the buttons, in addition it makes the compulsive button tapping that some kids are prone to do, much less annoying.



Fortunately my opponent was so engrossed in the game I don't think he was noticing that I was falling asleep at the board. I also tried to keep the bill on my cap as low over my eyes as possible so it wasn't so obvious that I was napping between moves. I realized that I also needed to change my music choice. I love Stolkowski's Symphonic transcriptions of Bach's organ works when I need music to calm me down. However they're a poor choice when I need something to energize me. I switched to Beethoven's 6th Symphony, Pastoral. That's a very lively piece of music. The 5th would have been better, but I don't have it on this particular iPod.

Even though I was the one dozing, he was the one using a lot of time. Maybe that was why I was having trouble staying awake. I drop a pawn, but managed to get into opposite bishops. With 2:30 left on his clock he offered me a draw which I took in the following position:



We looked at the game afterward, and didn't really find an easy win for Black even with the extra pawn. A number of his friends came by and started putting their two cents worth in. Some of the variations weren't even worth a penny. We had fun picking apart some of the suggested moves.

I guess the one positive thing I can say about this tournament is, I drew with the the winner of the Under 1800 section. He would end out scoring 6.5 - 1.5 with 5 wins and 3 draws.

Round two was another quiet game where we traded down to a bishop and pawns ending. I offered a draw which he took. Round three was when things got exciting. I won a pawn, then got a piece trapped and then managed to sneak a pawn up the board while he went pawn grabbing. The result was a wild ending where he was trying to mate me, and could do no better then giving a bunch of checks. I figured he would repeat the position so I offered him a draw. He said "I haven't repeated the position." I told him I wasn't claiming a draw, I was simply offering a draw. He finally trades his useless rook for my extra queen. We trade queens, and end out with knight and two pawns each. He immediately grabs his captured queen as if he really thinks he's going to get one of his pawns down the board. It was a rather presumptuous thing to do. I've learned the hard way not to grab for the extra queen too soon. However in the heat of the moment I grab my queen too.

We trade a pawn each and then he begrudgingly offers a draw. I don't take it right away. I play a few more moves. When the game is done one of his friends says something, and he snarls at the friend "I don't want to talk about it." Gets up and leaves the board. No hand shake, no "Nice game", no helping to clean up the set. What a knucklehead. I wasn't surprised to see that he forfeited in round eight after losing in round seven. I had stayed for awhile to talk to one of my friends who was watching the game. Then I left the room. I forgot to check the pairing sheet, and a few minutes later the TD is looking for me because there was no result posted. Why should I have assumed that the guy would even bother to post the result?? Oops!

Here's the game.


PW-DBJ112709.pgn


I was expecting to play Black in round 4, but instead I got White for a 2nd game in a row. Unlike my previous 3 games it went fairly quickly. The game was an instructive example of why knights belong in the center of the board, not on the edge. White's knights were all over Black's center, whereas Black's knights sat idle on a6 and h6 for most of the game.

As I was on the attack, I felt as though I could have played it better. I sensed my move order at times wasn't the best. In a fit of paranoia I played a very passive king move to get out of check. I had given no consideration to sacrificing the exchange. The exchange sac is crushing. I had only looked at moving the king to get out of the knight check. No harm was done by playing conservatively in the position. However it perhaps was an indicator of overall mindset that would render me a wreck for the rest of the tournament.

Here's the game.


pw-RAtkins112709.pgn


I was very happy to get through a very long day without any major meltdowns. I felt like I was in good shape heading into the longer time control games. Little did I know what was coming. The mind is a terrible thing to mind. Stay tuned for the train wreck.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Quick Recap - Detailed Reports to Follow.

Friday I played 4 games at a time limit of Game/60. I started off with 3 straight draws, and then won round 4. I was encouraged by my play, and was looking forward to the slow games on Saturday and Sunday.

What can I say? Everything went all to hell. I don't understand what happens to me when I have lots of time to work with, and I actually use the time. Round 5 went almost the entire 6 hours, but I self destructed in a position that I was up a knight and a pawn. Round 6 I would have been better off skipping the round, just to unwind after the brutal loss. Instead I tried to tough it out, and lost that game.

Sunday was a fresh start, but gave away a game in round 7 that I was up a pawn against a 5th grade girl with one of those last names I couldn't spell or pronounce. The 8th round sucked. I just crushed. I had nothing left.

In the slow games I was not wandering the room much at all. Pretty much my trips from the board were for water, or answering Mother Nature's call. I need a couple of days to sort through this weekend I figure out what the hell happened.

Maybe Game/60 my time limit. 2.5-1.5 against players rated 1710 - 1790, followed by 0-4 on the slow schedule. Go figure. Maybe Linux-Guy can offer some insights since he got to watch me in action.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Greetings from LA!! - American Open

I got home late from Thanksgiving dinner last night. I caught a few hours of sleep, and then got up at 4:00 am New York time. Flew to LA at 6:30 am. The flight arrived 45 minutes early! So instead arriving at 10:00 AM LA time it was more like 9:15. Once again my rule of leaving early worked well. I had no checked luggage. My one bag in the overhead flew business class, I flew coach.

When one flies to LA to play chess it's not so terrible to be playing at a hotel on the airport property. Get off the plane, go downstairs, jump on the free shuttle and in my room before 10:00 am. I was so happy to have my room was ready!! Tried to nap a bit, but ended out going for a walk instead.

In an hour I start my insane schedule. I kept telling myself after Vegas "No more crazy schedules on a different time zone." So I lied. We'll see how it goes. At least I don't have to play a bunch of fast games followed by a slow game tonight. The slow part of the schedule doesn't start for me until Saturday morning.

Off to grab a bite to eat before the round at 12:00 and catch up with my west coast buddies. Hopefully I will have some good wins to share. Heck, I'd take bad wins to share. I hope I don't have any good train wreck stories to share.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will be going out to New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with my nephew and his in-laws. One of my sisters will be there too. I think they only want me to come because of my specialty.

CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES!!!

I've been making chocolate chip cookies for years. They keep getting better as I tweak the recipe. If they gave ratings for chocolate chip cookies, mine would be 2800 strength.

Lots more chocolate then the recipe calls for.

The finished product, hot out of the oven.

The chef doing quality control.

They passed the taste test. It's safe to go to dinner.

Next stop: Los Angeles and the American Open. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adventures in Cracktion Land Part 2

After that disastrous evening the previous week, I wasn't sure I wanted to venture back down to the Marshall anytime soon. However knowing that Thanksgiving was coming up, and that my Wednesday club would be switching to Thursdays for 3 weeks, I decided I would give it another try. What was the worse thing that could happen? I couldn't get a lousier score. From 0-4, nowhere else to go but up. The WCC Fall Swiss had sucked up the remaining 7 rating points to bring me back to my floor. I couldn't lose anymore rating points.

Despite horrendous traffic coming back from my Thursday afternoon chess class in Connecticut, I managed to get home, make a sandwich that I remembered to pack, and make the train. I also managed to stay awake during the train ride. Already I was scoring better then the previous week.

Once a month the tournament is a Grand Prix event with 10 Grand Prix Points up for grabs and guaranteed prizes. Sometimes that means there are a few more grandmasters and masters the normal. That doesn't necessarily do much to my first round pairing except that I might play a 2180 in the first round instead of a 2050. Since the entry fee is a little higher and the competition is tougher at the top, it sometimes scares off the bottom. When that happens I find myself looking at a first or second round bye. I can tell when it's coming in the first round. Steve mutters something to me, and walks around the club saying "Any more entries?"

Sure enough he's walking around the club asking if anyone else is entering. He makes and posts the pairings, and yes I see "Please wait" next to my name. I suppose it's better to get it over with, and not get it in the third round. I just resign myself to having to wait an hour, and go back to eating my sandwich. Steve comes back into the back room and tells me I have an opponent. I see John Mac Arthur, and hope he's my opponent. Nope. I'm playing one of his students who he introduces to me as "young whipper snapper." Swell! Just what I need in the first round, a kid of undetermined strength.

His name was familiar to me since he's played in some scholastic tournaments I've directed, but I had no idea what his rating was. When I asked him, he said he didn't know. I found that a little hard to believe, since most kids can tell you within a rating point what their latest rating is. When I asked for a ballpark figure he couldn't even give me that. Maybe he was trying to be coy with me, but I decided it didn't matter. Most of the kids who show up to play on Thursday night are solid players regardless of rating. I would just play my game, and see what developed.

I played cautiously. At times I was too cautious, and I missed some simple tactics early in the game. It went into a reverse Accelerated Dragon, so it's not like I hadn't seen these positions before. When he played 9...Bh3, I could have simply taken it. After 10. Bxh3, Qxh3 I have 11. Nxd5. How many times as Black have I seen White play Nb3 before playing Bh6? I look for the overworked queen as Black in these positions, but some how I wasn't looking for it as White. Instead I played the really wussy move of 10. Bh1 to prevent the exchange of light squared bishops.

Fortunately for me, I got another opportunity to win the bishop when he pushed f5, cutting off the queen's protection along the h3-c8 diagonal. At the time I was very pleased with myself for finding the combination of the discovered attack on the queen, and attacking the unprotected bishop.

When I gave him a little bit of counter-play my mind started wandering off to negative thoughts about "If I lose I'm going to be really annoyed." "I wish I had just taken the bye." That's the sort of thinking that gets me into trouble so I tried to keep my mind focused on looking for good moves. Anytime I said to myself "Don't blunder and don't get overconfident." I told myself to replace those negative reminders with positive statements such as "Look for good moves." and "Stay focused on winning." I'm trying to be more aware of positive and negative thoughts, and how they impact my board vision and thought processes.

Here's the game.

PW-ILuttway111909.pgn



In round two I played Leif Pressman. He's rated 2300. I was holding my own, but lost a pawn on the 20th move. It's hard to give pawn odds to a master. Eventually he ended out with a passed a pawn that I could not get back and stop. it's even harder to give a master queen odds, so I resigned that game.

In round 3 I played Michael Hehir, rated in the mid 2000s. I probably would have played him in round one if my first round opponent had arrived on time, and the pairings done normally. I tend to play him in the first or second round at least once a month. We always have interesting games, and occasionally I have nicked him for a draw or a win. Most of of the time I'm on the losing end. This evening would be another one of those losing nights. I actually thought I was doing okay. My pawn structure was better, but doubled rooks on an open file more then make up for two sets of doubled pawns. Here's the abrupt ending.

PW-MHehir ending.pgn


In the last round I was paired against a high 2100 with a drinking problem. This was one of those nights when he was stinking drunk. He even told me at the beginning of the game that he had been drinking since 7:00 am. I didn't understand what he said to me. Somebody afterward told me that. It's very sad to see people in such a state. I've played him before when he's been drunk. I beat him one time, and I've lost a few times. I didn't allow his state to impact my play. I was going to play as if he were sober. Even after he lost a piece, I kept reminding myself to stay focused on the game. It's easy to get overconfident in a situation like that. Eventually he lost another piece, and resigned.

Just another night in Cracktion Land. The rating points I tossed the previous week were returned to me the following week. Easy go, easy come.

Wacky Wednesday: Adventures In Cracktion Land!

As I mentioned in my high altitude post, I decided that traveling almost an hour each way to play one chess game that could last anywhere from an hour (totally stupid play) to the full four hours (thinkathon) was not worth the time and expense. As it was, three out the six weeks of the tournament I ended out playing in the cracktion den upstairs. Fear not gentle readers, I have not totally reverted to the dark side. It's just that if I'm playing at the Marshall Chess Club on Thursday it will be with the cracktion-heads upstairs, not the slow pokes downstairs.

My first trip in a month to cracktion-land was not pretty. Even though the calendar said Thursday November 12th, I felt like Friday the 13th came a day early. It started in the morning with my Tae Kwon Do master telling me after class that he thinks my technique has regressed. He said my kicks were better when I was a purple belt, and that my stamina doesn't seem to be as good. I thought I was doing okay, but I have felt like my brain has been in overload as I've been working on relearning and refining the old forms. In a future post I will discuss the overload issue because it does tie in with chess learning. ACIS of Martial Arts?

I had debated about whether I wanted to play that night, but decided I needed to get my mind off of Tae Kwon Do for awhile, and try to utilize my brain over the chess board. The train ride down to the city should have an indicator that I was not at my peak mentally. First I realized I had left my sandwich at home which meant I was going to have rush and get something before getting to the club. Then I started reading. After a few stops I found myself getting tired, so I put the book down and decided to nap. That was one hell of a nap. I fell dead asleep and the train cleaner had to wake me up at Grand Central to tell me "last stop". Good thing I was getting off at the last stop or knows where I would have ended out.

My night was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or perhaps Dr. White and Ms-played Black. I played decently with White against my higher rated opponents in rounds one and three. I lost both those games, but it was a matter of an extra pawn. I didn't feel bad about those games. I can deal with losing if the games were close.

However my play with the Black pieces was just horrendous. In my second round game I reached this position after 14. Qe2 Bd7? (taking away the escape square for my knight.) 15. Be3

I saw that my queen was under attack. At the same time I realized that with his bishop on e3 he would have 16. f4 after I move my queen. My knight has nowhere to go. I was trying to find a move that would protect my queen, and give my knight an escape square. Such a move did not exist, but somehow in trying to give my knight an escape square I forgot about White's bishop and my queen. I played 15...f5?? which was met with 16. Bxb6! Oh crap! I couldn't even blame that on time pressure. I still over 15 minutes left on my clock.

I followed up that ugly game with a hard fought loss with the White pieces in round 3. Now I'm sitting at the bottom with an 0-3 score with a bye be a distinct possibility. After the two close losses with White, and the butt ugly loss with Black I was kind of hoping I'd get the bye in the last round. Put me out of my misery please!! Given how the entire day had gone, it should not have surprised me that the number of players remained even. I got to play another game with the Black pieces. This game was just about as ugly as my second round game with Black. We reached the position below after 11...Nb6 12. Be2


There are a number of moves I can make here. However, I made the insipid pawn capture of 12...cxd4. He answers with 13. Bb4 winning the exchange after 13...Qd5 14. Bxf8 Kxf8. The game continued 15. Qxd4 Qc6 16. Qb4+ Kg8 17. Rfd1. His position is strong and my development isn't even completed. At this point I look at my watch. I'm trying to figure out if I resign at that moment, whether I can make the 11:14 train. "Let's see. It's 10:50. That gives me 24 minutes to catch the subway and make it to Grand Central. The worst that will happen is if I miss the 11:14 I can take the 11:45 train. Either way it sure beats playing this out, and being on the 12:30 train."

"I'm outta here! Good night!"

For the first time all day I had played the winning combination. My timing was perfect. A subway pulled in practically the moment I arrived. The 11:14 train was on one of the track platforms closest to the subway exit. What more could I ask for? I decided no naps on the way back, otherwise I might have ended out in North White Plains. Another ugly night in cracktion Land and almost all of the rating points gained last month, down the tubes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wacky Wednesday! Payback is a .......(edited)

Yesterday I mentioned that the two games that I lost in the recently concluded event were against opponents I had beaten in our previous game. In round one Reva paid me back for the game at the New York State Championship. In round three Peter Wojnar got a chance to avenge himself for the ugly loss he incurred during the Westchester CC Summer Round Robin. This time he enjoyed the fruits of some ugly moves on my part. Sometimes we get to enjoy dinner, other times we are dinner.

"I'll have the fish of the day."
"I'll take that to go."

This was one of those games I felt like that fish. Just swimming along minding my own business, and bam! Where did that bird come from? In my case it was the White queen and rook that swooped in. My biggest problem putting my b8 knight on c6 instead of d7. That move would come back to bite me when I was forced to relieve the pin of the knight on f6. Here's the game. (This is the correct one! The first one I had was our previous game where he blundered.)

PWojnar-PW110409.pgn


Once again I saw the threat and the defense, but when White didn't play what I was expecting I forgot about the threat. With my knight pinned on f6, I knew I had to concern myself with the eventual e4. However my response to e4 would be g5 to block the bishop. I just didn't want to open up my castled position with g5 until it became necessary. I expected him to play e4 after he brought his bishop to d3, but he delayed the move and completed his king side development with Ne2 and O-O. After awhile I just didn't think he was going to play the move. It wasn't until he played f4 that I realized my defense to e4 was no longer viable. At that point it was too late.

The game was done in an hour. That's not a good thing when playing such a long time control. My play was for the birds. If nothing else it gave me a good excuse to post a few of my "osprey going fishing" pictures.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chess Analysis That Doesn't ADD Up

Last week was my last round in the Game/80 tournament at the Westchester Chess Club. 2-2 record. On the surface that doesn't look too awful, except that my two wins came against unrated players. One was playing in his first tournament and the other one was playing in his second tournament. Neither game was a blowout. Both opponents put up a good fight.

What about the two losses? It was payback time. I had beaten both of them in my last games against them. Someone once said "you can't win them all." Someone else said "Payback is a b@#$!" In round one I played Reva Singh who I had beaten in round four at the New York State Championship. This time she had White. I knew this was going to be a tough game. She chose the Maroczy Bind to counter my Accelerated Dragon. Even though I don't enjoy playing against the Maroczy, I don't find it as frightening as the Grand Prix or some of White's other aggressive responses against the Sicilian. Defending against the Maroczy tends to be an exercise in patience. Black's game is cramped, but it's not all that easy for White to attack.

One of the things that I have found difficult in playing longer time controls is staying focused while analysing a complex line. Tied in with that is remembering that threats don't necessarily go away just because the opponent hasn't played the moves that create the threat.

We reached the position below after 23. a3




White had made a number of the typical Maroczy Bind issues go away for Black by trading on c6 giving me the chance to play d5. Without the d5 break Black tends to have a very cramped position. Here I have a protected passed pawn on d5, but no easy way to start pushing it. My concerns here are the holes on f6 and d6. I don't want her being able to stick her knight on one of those squares with no easy way to dislodge it, so I really wanted to trade the pawn on e4. I spent 6 minutes trying to figure out if 23...f6 was sound or not. If White takes right away I have the option on recapturing with the rook or the knight, but I will have a backward pawn on e6. I concluded that opening the e and f files would free up my position, and that White can't really take advantage of the backward pawn. One possible continuation might be 24. exf6+Rxf6 25. Qd4 Qc7 26. Rae1 Kg8 27. g3 e5 28. fxe5 Rxf1+ 29. Rxf1 Qxe5 30. Qxe5 Nxe5.

After I played 23...f6 White actually played 24. Qd4 giving me the opportunity of capturing on e5 and giving her an isolated pawn that I can target. The game continued 24... fxe5 25. fxe5 Qb8 26. Rxf8 Rxf8 27.Ne4? to reach the position below.



It took me no time at all to the reject the knight trade of 27...dxe4 28. Qxd7+. Perhaps the outright rejection of that move caused me to miss 27...Rf4! winning White's knight. 28. Re1 Nxe5 29. Qd2 Rxe4 30.Rxe4 dxe4. Instead I was focusing on whether I could take the hanging pawn on e5, and be able to hold it. What I was forgetting about was White could stick her knight on d6. Though it didn't seem like it could do much since its only safe destination was b7. The game continued 27...Qxe5 28. Qxe5+ Nxe5 29. Nd6 to reach this position below.



One of the things I had taken into consideration was what I would do if White played Re1 attacking my knight. If she does, I can bring my king to f6 to guard it. My king will not be in danger, and White's knight still doesn't have useful moves. However in the course of my analysis leading up to 27...Qxe5 I had given thought to playing ...Rf6 at some point to guard the backward pawn if my knight moved, and to retain control of the open f file. When taking that move into consideration White's knight was not on d6. Now the knight is on d6. Where is the knight going?

I'm sure you can see where this leading and you're probably thinking to yourself, "Please tell us you didn't play 29...Rf6?" Unfortunately in one of those ADD moments that I'm prone to, I did play 29...Rf6. After having spent over 6 minutes on 23...f6 and another 4 minutes on 27...Qxe5, I used less then a minute to play 29...Rf6. She took all of about 3 seconds to find 30. Nf8+.

It's hard to describe what goes through my mind when I'm trying to work out different variations. There are the the moves themselves I'm thinking about, and then there are the little internal reminders to myself. "Stop looking at Dan's game." "Take another look at move X." "Look at the board, not at her facial expression." etc.

So why didn't 'blunder-check" mode kick in at this point? I think I was too busy drooling over being up a pawn and having two connected passed pawns. Also I had written her knight off as not dangerous. I was correct that her knight isn't dangerous. Even if she has Ne8+ as long as my rook is not on f6, it's not a dangerous move. The only worse moves I could have played in that position would have been 29...Re8 or 29...Rc8.

Despite losing the exchange at this point, it's far from over. I still have the passed e and d pawns. Fritz gives White + over =, so not even a full pawn advantage. However it was a complex ending that required a lot of analysis and counting squares. I constantly had to be concerned about White pushing b5 to create a passed pawn on the queen side. Two things I had to keep thinking about were keeping my king close enough to get back in time, and having my knight ready to blockade if necessary.

Almost every move from move 32 onward I kept looking at White playing b5. I kept counting how many moves it would take to get the king back. Each time I can get the king over in time. However White can make some pawn trades, and it's still quite complicated. We reach the following position after 34...a6



I thought 34...a6 would prevent b5, but she can play it here. Better for me would have been 34...Ke6. The game continued 35. g4 e4 36. g5+ In another ADD moment I forgot about why she had not played b5 up to this point. I played 36...Kxg5?, and now my king is too far away. Now she plays 37. b5.

Here is the entire game.

RSingh101409_0.pgn


It's frustrating when this sort of stuff happens. Thoughtful analysis goes right out the window in a brief lapse of concentration. In looking back at this game I thought that I might have played Kxg5 because I was in severe time pressure. I wasn't at that point. I spent a couple of minutes on the move, and played it anyway because I forgot about b5. (Senility or ADD?) Then when she played b5 I had to burn a lot of time trying to see if my knight could cover. The time scramble came after I was lost.

I haven't found anything in the literature on coping with ADD that covers how get through a complex chess position without losing concentration or getting distracted by a sudden burst of overconfidence. Maybe trying to resolve that problem will be my contribution to ACIS.

Tomorrow: A Wacky Wednesday case of forgetting about threats.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Thoughts From 30,000 feet. (edited at 0 feet.)

Greetings from Delta Flt. 1780 Atlanta to New York. I don't have a lot say, but just thought it would be fun to blog from such heights. Sometimes when I'm playing I think my brain is at 30,00 feet while my game is at sea level.

The slow chess on Thursday nights experiment is over. It's too much like work to schlep down to Greenwich Village once a week to play one game of chess. The slow crowd is not as friendly and sociable as the fast crowd. Maybe I just like life in the fast lane. I'm not giving up on slow chess. I'll still have my Wednesday night slow games, and just maybe I can find some people who would like slow games on Monday. Back to Thursday night cracktion, but not as often.

As it turned out during the six weeks of the slow tournament I ended out playing cracktion three times. The first was because I played like an idiot in the slow game and lost in an hour. I decided I didn't have enough moronic play so I went upstairs and lost three more games. The second time was because I had gotten a bye in round four. The third time was totally unplanned. I wanted to see if I could snap out of my prolonged slump that had encompassed almost two months with a couple of draws and no wins. I really wanted to make the slow time limit work for me. However Caissa had different plans for me in round six.

You've heard the expression "too many cooks spoil the broth." The same can apply to chess tournaments when one director does one thing, and another director does something else. One director had made the round six pairings and told the player who was going to get the bye that she did not have to come that evening. Bad move. 15 minutes before the round a played called in to say he couldn't make it. To make a long story short, they asked me if I'd be willing to play upstairs so that they didn't have to give the bye to a player who had 2.5 points and would win money if he got the bye.

What the heck! The worst that could happen is I have another 0-fer night. That was not to be. After having my usual round one loss against a master I got paired down against a former student. He has yet to join the "ex-students who have beaten Polly club." I thought with the way I'd been playing lately this might be his night. However he got sac happy, and I won. He'll have to wait another day to earn membership into that club.

The next round I got paired against his current teacher. I had a good game against him, but lost on time. I was satisfied with the result. I had not blundered and held my own against him. I just couldn't manage the time so well. Last round I was paired against my long time nemesis, Gabor Schnitzler. I've played him over 40 times and only have 8 wins and a few draws. Too many times I've let him wiggle out of a mess, and he's found a way to win. This would be my night for the cheap shot. I had an edge on the clock, and since he never takes draws until no other choice I played on. In this position he blundered allowing me mate in two with a pawn in a rook and pawn ending.

White to move and blunder. 45. f4??

I did a double take when he made this move, and had to ask myself does 45...f5+ really lead to mate? I played the move and the game continued 46. gxf5 gxf5#. I did not announce mate. One I don't like to do that, and two I was still finding it hard to believe it really was mate. He stuck his hand out to shake. Only then was I sure.

I'm running out of time. I'm in airline time pressure, and soon I'll have to put the laptop away.

By the way, despite my statements to the contrary I will be making another chess trip outside of the grade nationals in Dallas. Thanksgiving weekend I'll be heading out to LA for the 45th American Open. It would have been Jerry Hanken's 45th. It's my salute to a good chess friend who I miss.

Fasten your seat belts, stow tray tables and turn off all electronic devices.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vacation Is Coming To An End.

In case anyone is wondering, I have not defected to golf yet. Though being down here in golfer's paradise it's tempting. Golf seems to be an expensive variation of chess using clubs. The vacation from chess is coming to an end.

I guess wearing a chess tee shirt doesn't count as doing chess.

I'm heading back home tomorrow. I'll have a slow game on Wednesday, and we'll take things from there. Hopefully my opponent will not be like this guy below.

End of vacation bites!

Here are a few birds in flight. Hopefully my flight will be as smooth.

We egret to tell you.....
Heron today, gone tomorrow.
Pelican Variation

Back to chess!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Am Alive!

I just haven't felt like writing. I do have some interesting thoughts, but just can't sort them all out at the moment. I'm spending time with my sisters in Hilton Head, and enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the ocean outside our window. Maybe it will inspire me, but right now I need a break. So instead of words, pictures from my walk on the beach yesterday.

I egret to inform you, no chess today!

I'm ducking the issue.
Perhaps because my game is for the birds.
Maybe I'm nervous, and have butterflies.

That's it for now. I'm off to take another walk since I think my brother in law made off with the bike trail map that has all the combinations to the bike locks on it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chess Blind as a Bat!

Week two of FIDE Thursdays at the Marshall I get paired against the dad of kids that used to play in my scholastic tournaments when they were in elementary school. Now those kids are in college. That makes me feel old. Either that or maybe I've been doing all of this for way too long!

This was a game that was mine for the taking, but I just wasn't seeing everything. The opening started as an English but transposed into a Maroczy Bind. Being an Accelerated Dragon player I'm used to seeing it from the Black side. I've had some success transposing into the White side of it from a symmetrical English. One way Black can play against the Maroczy is to play 7...Ng4 attacking White's bishop on e3. I don't play the line, but players have played it against me when I've had White. My opponent played 9...Ng4 which was a blunder. However I missed the simple win of a piece because I was analyzing a different move order. After 10. Bxg4 Bxg4 we reach this position.

I could have simply played 11. Nxc6 Bxd1 12. Nxd8 and I'm up a piece. I wasn't looking at that line. I was looking at 11. Qxg4 Nxd4. I decided to play 11. f3? My opponent wasn't through with trying to give me gifts. He spent 7 minutes on his next move, Instead of retreating his bishop he plays 11...Qb6? 12. Nd5 Qc5?? We reach the position below.



I spent a long time on this next move. Sometimes it's very easy to get fixated on a certain idea, but be blind to what other pieces are doing. I wanted to utilize a discovered attack on the queen, but I kept thinking that my bishop on e3 is not protected. I looked at 13. Nxc6 and if 13...Qxc6 14. Nxe7+ forking the king and queen. I think my problem was that I got ahead of myself in the analysis and saw my knight no longer guarding the bishop. I was forgetting that my knight on d6 isn't going anywhere until he responds to the threat of Bxc5. So to guard my bishop I played the discovered attack move of 13. Nf5. It wins material, but not as much as 13. Nxc6.

Here's the game in its entirety with the analysis of how it might go after 13. Nxc6.

PW-PRachlin091709.pgn


I played too cautiously after winning material. I could have picked up another pawn or two and forced some more trades. Instead I took the wrong approach to trading down and my opponent found ways to avoid trades and hold on to his pawns. Then 3 hours into the game I had one of those total lapses in concentration and allowed him to get the exchange back. I wanted to just kick myself at that point. 7 moves later we agree to a draw. It's that point that he tells me that would have resigned if I played 13. Nxf6. In fact he admitted that he was contemplating resigning when I played 12. Nd5, figuring I saw 13. Nxc6, but he waited to see what I would play. Sigh. I hate when that happens, especially since I saw the move!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time Pressure Fun and Games

Even with 75 minutes for each side, I still can find ways of getting into insane time pressure. Squeezed in between the Marshall FIDE Thursdays tournament, and the Westchester CC Fall Tournament was a make up game from the Westchester Chess Club summer round robin. My game was with Marty Tallan. Yes the same Marty that I had the crazy games with before and during the club championship. Unlike our first two games, I had White this time. However having White, and lots of time on the clock did not prevent me from doing something stupid like getting a piece trapped early. Despite myself, somehow I managed to steal a half point with 5 seconds left on my clock in this position.


PW-marty ending 091609.pgn

We both made mistakes in the time scramble, but I guess being a time pressure junkie gave me an edge in the game. Some people's idea of living dangerously involves jumping out of airplanes or diving off bridges attached to an elastic rope.





Insane person jumping off the Kawarau River Bridge.
(Not something I tried in New Zealand!)

I'd rather play and record 23 moves in 5 seconds, and live to tell about it. I kept notating to prove the threefold repetition.

Train Wreck - Part 1: Gum on the tracks!

When I entered the slow tournament at the Marshall I did not know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to win a lot of games. I figured with a tournament minimum rating of 1600, there weren't going to be too many people lower rated then me. I hoped I could put up a decent fight against those much higher rated, and even beat a few people within a 100 points of me.

The first round I did put up a good fight until I panicked when his knight got deep into my territory. It's just not a good feeling when you're black and there's a white knight sitting on f6. Just like the night before I got into some gambit line that I really had no idea what I was doing. My opponent had a lot of play for the pawn, but I was holding my own. In game/30 I know that I can't agonize over the position, and in less then an hour it's going to be over with one way or another. I may succumb to an overwhelming attack or I may hold on for dear life and win or draw a wild ending with little time on the clock.

When both players have 2 hours each then it's a whole different story. There's time to work out the lines of attack, and defense. In playing with so much time, I needed to adjust my thought process and my attitude. In game/30 I may find a move, look at the possibilities briefly and then just make the move with the thought "I don't know what the hell is going on, but I don't have time to figure this out." Sometimes that works but more often then not, the move loses.

When I saw that he was threatening to stick his knight on f6, I retreated my queen to d8 with the idea of if 24. Nf6+ Rxf6 25. exf6 Qxf6. I had spent a good bit of time on 23...Qd8 debating whether or not the sacrifice was sound or even necessary. Then once he played Nf6+ I had decide whether I really wanted to go through with the exchange sacrifice. I debated a long time, and then chose not to do it at that point. A few moves later I did do it. It turns out if I was going to play Rxf6, I should have done it on move 26. Waiting a few moves changed the position too much, and then it was no good. Here's the game.

jb-pw.pgn


One of the problems with slow chess is if your opponent is being somewhat annoying, you have to deal with it longer. As I mentioned in yesterday's summary this particular opponent barely acknowledged my existence at the beginning or the end of the game. After I resigned, I made the comment to the effect of "Maybe the exchange sacrifice would have been better when you first played Nf6." Most opponents would acknowledge the remark, express an opinion on the offhand analysis, and if time permitted ask if I wanted to go over the game. He ignored me and went to analyse his friend's game. I think I even posted the result on the pairing sheet.

He chewed gum the entire game. This is my own personal opinion, but I think chewing gum in certain places is kind of rude and annoying. Would you chew gum during a church service, classical music concert, at a reception or other formal occasion? I think that chewing gum during a tournament game is not appropriate. Considering the less then congenial exchange at the beginning of the game, I didn't feel very comfortable asking him not to chew gum during the game. Maybe I felt he would not respond kindly to my request. I certainly didn't want to bring the tournament director into it if he had some negative reaction. It seemed like a petty thing to fuss about. My solution was to listen to classical music on my iPod and tune him out. I pulled my cap down low so that I could keep his face out of my line of vision. It's really annoying to look up and see your opponent making faces similar to what cows do when chewing their cud.

I guess I should ask myself "Why would I want to spend any more time with the guy?"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Train Wreck! The Slow Express Has Derailed!

Since the New York State Championship I have tried to play more slow chess, and ease up on the cracktion. Easier said then done. I have played in two tournaments with one game a week with time limits of G/75 and G/115 respectively. The Wednesday evening G/75 was at the Westchester Chess Club. The Thursday evening G/115 is at the Marshall Chess Club. Both tournaments have been exercises in frustration and at times futility. I've spent the last few weeks trying to write a post about the Marshall CC FIDE Thursdays tournament that I've been playing in lieu of "Four Rated Games Tonight!" There's one week left in the tournament, and it can't end soon enough for me. I came, I saw, I got conquered, and I've had enough.

Here's the short version:

First round
: I lose to an annoying guy who barely acknowledged my presence at the start of the game, chewed gum the entire game, barely acknowledges my resignation at the end of the game, and walks off to go analyze his friend's game without saying a thing to me about our game. Sheesh! We don't have to be best buddies, but what's wrong with a being a little sociable before or after a game? Isn't that part of the charm of live chess? Social interaction. I've more enlightening conversions with Fritz!

Second round: I see the winning move, but don't play it because I think my bishop is hanging with check if I play the move. It's not hanging and the combination I saw wins his queen. The game was a draw.

Third round: I lose a piece early, and I don't feel like playing out a lost game for another three hours. I resign, go upstairs, play the last 3 rounds of the "cracktion" tournament and lose 3 more games.

Fourth round: I get a bye since I have the low score and the low rating. Since I've traveled into NYC to play chess, I play in the "cracktion" tournament upstairs and go 0-4.

Fifth round: I play an old guy sitting on an 1800 floor that he got for winning over $1,000 tying for second in the under 1800 section at the 1986 New York Open. His score in this tournament consisted of a 1/2 point from a requested 1st round bye. 3.5 hours later he now has 1.5 points. On the bright side, it was an interesting game, and he's a very pleasant person.

Sixth round: TBA. It can't get any worse at this point. Actually it could. I could get paired against somebody who decides to not bother to show up, and not tell the director he isn't coming. One player had that happen to him in the fifth round. His opponent was a no-show. People like that piss the hell out of me. Just make a phone call so the director can pair accordingly. Instead one guy gets a bye because there's an odd number, and another player sits around watching his opponent's clock run down.

In the Wednesday slow tournament my results have been just as ugly, but at least it's only a 10 minute drive from my house to the club. I posted round one from that tournament in this post. More games from the various tournaments will follow.