On the two day schedule rounds four and five can be very dangerous. Many players will opt to take a half point bye in one of these two rounds. Some take the bye in round four because they want to rest up for the round five game that will be played at the much slower time limit. Others will play all the fast games and then take the bye in round five in order to enjoy a relaxing evening. Last year I wrestled with the bye issue because I wanted to watch the football game. Despite last year's nightmarish rounds four and five, I decided I was here to play chess. I didn't give a rat's ass about the football game, except to root against the Eagles. However it wasn't worth skipping a round for, and also rooting too loudly for the Cardinals in Philadelphia could be hazardous to one's health.
Round Four: Slam dunk!
Round four had all the makings of a disaster as I got myself into insane time trouble. We reached this position after 30. Qg6. I had less then a minute, and my opponent still had around 5 minutes. However he was one who started tossing pieces away.
The game continued 30... Bxf2 31. Qxe6+ Kh8 32. d5 Be3? He recognized then I had broken the pin with d5, but he managed to move the bishop to another bad square. I didn't have time to really decide whether there was some true sacrifice here, but my king looked pretty safe. I grabbed the bishop. 33. Qxe3 Qxd5 34. Qd4 Qf7 35. a4 Rc8 36.Qd3 Rc4 37. Qd2 Qb7 38. Qd8+ Kh7 39. Qd3+ Re4 40. b5 ? I completely missed the easy win after 40. Ng3 Qxb4 41. Nxe4 Qe1+ 42. Rg1 Qxg1+ 43. Kxg1 Kg8 44. Qd8+ Instead I had to try to force material off the board. The game continued 40... Kg8 41. bxa6 Qa8 42. Kg1 Rxa4 43. Qd7 Ra1+ 44. Kf2 Qf8 45. a7 Ra2 46. Qd4 Qe7 47. Qe3 Qf7 48. Rg1 Rxa7 49.Rd1 Ra8 50. Qe4 At this point the notation has stopped on both sides and the rest of the game is a blur.
We eventually got down to queen, knight two pawns versus queen and two pawns. I'm down to six seconds and I can't find a way to force the queens off, and I can't pick off either of his pawns with my queen or knight. Every time I try to set that up he hits me with a flurry of checks. Every time I interpose with the queen he scoots away to prevent the queen trade. With so little time, I'm afraid I will have to settle for a draw since there doesn't seem to be any way to force the queens off.
At this point with us being the last game we've drawn a crowd to our table. Now my opponent has joined me in the time scramble. I still have six seconds, and he has nine seconds. Both floor directors are hovering near by. I'm sure their expecting an illegal move or some other time pressure issue that will require their intervention. My opponent suddenly makes one of those just horrendous moves that happens in time pressure. He just hung his queen. I made the capture with my queen. I took the captured piece, moved it off the board and let go. However I was not looking where I put it, and managed to drop it into my water cup, which was filled with water. This caused everyone to laugh including my poor opponent who promptly resigned.
I was kind of embarrassed, especially since it was my opponent's nice wood set. I grabbed it out of the cup as soon as possible. How I manged to drop it there without even looking, and not having the cup tip over is beyond me. I think if I attempted to do that again, I'd probably miss the cup all together, or knock it over spilling all the water. As I left the room, I couldn't help giggling to myself over the absurdity of dropping a captured piece into a water cup without looking.
Marshall Chess Club - Philadelphia Annex
Nothing like travelling to an out of town tournament to play people from your home club. However given how close Philadelphia is to New York, and the popularity of this tournament amongst New Yorkers it's no great surprise. I think every time I've played in this tournament I've gotten paired against at least one player I've played at the Marshall before.
In round five I got paired against Linda Diaz. We've played each other a number of times at the Marshall, but always at G/30. This would be the first time playing her at the more civilized time controls of 40/2 SD/1. Usually the first game at the slow time control has not been a pretty sight. Round Six at the 2008 US Open comes to mind as a poor transition to the slow time control. In fact round six at the last 3 US Opens has been bad. In 2006 I walked into a Smith-Morra trap and lost in 15 moves. Since it was BB (before blog) I don't have a link to it. Round five in this tournament last year also wasn't so hot. So what would this year bring?
There were two things working in my favor this time around. First was winning in round four despite my time pressure issues. I was already in slow mode before starting round five. The second was being familiar with my opponent. We've played a few times so I know a little something about her style. Also I have a winning record against her, so I knew I was capable of winning against her despite her higher rating.
This was an interesting game. I was playing very slowly. Part of my slow pace was due to my difficulty in coming up with a coherent plan. I would play a move, she would respond and then I have to rethink my analysis. When I'm in that type of thinking mode it's normally not a good sign. I was getting frustrated with her knights and the potential threats from her passed d pawn. I fiddled around with my rooks and doubled them on the e file. I didn't think they were going to amount to much since she had one of her knights sitting on the e4 outpost square guarded by the other knight and her d pawn. Even if I trade my light squared bishop for the knight she can recapture either with the other knight or the d pawn. Then her passed pawn would become protected on the e file. Here is the game, but below I have put up the critical position.
She made a critical mistake when she took her knight off the outpost square and chased my queen to the g file where I have a mate threat on g7. Her move 33...Nd2 was a classic example of making an attacking move that helps the opponent. I'm not sure what I was going to do if she starts pushing the d pawn or doubles her rooks on the c file.
When we reached the position below, I came up with one of the most daring moves I've made in chess.
I'm not one to sac a queen unless it's one of those simple cases of sac it one move, and promote on the next move. This was a matter of making sure there was absolutely no saving move for Black that allows her to take my queen and prevent mate. While I was thinking about 36. Qxf6 my opponent had left the board. I had been listening to music, but decided I needed absolutely nothing going through my head except the analysis of the position. In many situations music acts as a calming influence when I'm agitated or distracted. I had needed the music earlier when I found myself frustrated by inability to come up with a a good plan. Now I needed a clear head to work all of this out.
I finally took the knight and waited for her to return to the board. She spent quite a bit of time before she came up with 36...Nf1+. I almost freaked out when I saw that move. I can't take the knight because then my rooks aren't doubled any longer and she can play 37...Qxf6 without worrying about 38. Re8+. At first I thought I would have to allow her the 3 fold repetition with 37. Kh1 Ng3+, 38. Kh2 Nf1+, etc. However then I realized 37. Kg1 is okay. It doesn't matter that she's pinning the rook on e3. If she doesn't take my queen then I mate on g7. If she does take the queen then my rook is no longer pinned and I have mate after 38. Re8+ Rxe8 39. Rxe8#.
She ended out being the one to sac her queen, but all that does is postpone the inevitable. I was surprised she played it all the way out to mate. Normally that kind of thing bothers me, but I just treated it as an opportunity to work out knight moves in my head to set up winning her pinned rook, and later on forcing mate without allowing her any stalemate possibilities.
Sunday was rather anti-climatic after my crazy Saturday. I ended out with two rather uninspiring draws that left me out of the money. However I was very happy to achieve a plus score and not lose any games on the slow time control.