Usually I avoid playing in under 1800 sections because they tend to be overrun with under rated little kids. I worked Saturday so I couldn't play in the G/45 Open on that day. I was in the mood to play over the weekend, so I sucked it up and went down to the Marshall to play in the New York Winter Under 1800. Since there was a scholastic tournament in New York City at the same time, this event wasn't quite as overrun with kids as it might normally be.
However the kids weren't the ones that were annoying me in the first round. Some adults really should have paid more attention to Steve's pre-game announcements about knowing the rules. When there are a lot kids playing Steve makes a point of putting out copies of his tournament rules. During his usual spiel about setting the clocks correctly, no cell phones, and the round times, he made mention of the rules sheet that was available. Though I'm not sure it would have helped the guy sitting next to me.
In the first round I got paired against a fifth grader rated around 1530. Next to me was an adult rated around 1500 paired against a kid rated around 1650. I'm totally absorbed in my game when I hear the adult offer his young opponent a draw, on the opponent's time. I glance at his score sheet and notice they've only played 7 moves. I'm thinking to myself "Why bother playing if you're going to offer draw so early? Especially in the first round." The kid ignores him and plays a move.
About 5 moves later he offers another draw. Once again the kid ignores the draw offer and keeps playing. I'm still thinking to myself "Why is this guy so hot to get an early draw? Is he that hard up for rating points?" Speaking of draws, my opponent is playing very solidly, and I'm not getting much play out of the position. My only edge is on the clock. He's playing very slowly, and I'm moving fairly quickly. I'm playing as if it's G/25 with a 5 second delay, but in this tournament the time limit is G/45 with a 5 second delay. I have an extra 20 minutes to work with, but I haven't quite gotten into the groove of the time limit.
On one of the lower boards I hear some adult telling his young opponent that he should be able to claim a draw. I couldn't quite make out the gist of his argument and a couple of the spectators are getting into a discussion with him. "Hello! Butt out!! Spectators shouldn't be getting into the middle of a discussion between two players in the middle of a game." I didn't say anything at that point. It wasn't my business.
In the meantime the guy next to me makes his third draw offer! I'm on the verge of wanting to wring his neck, since each offer gets louder and more obnoxious. They still haven't even played 20 moves. Again the kid says nothing, and just keeps playing. If I had been the kid, I would have told the guy to stop offering draws. Sometimes I think kids in their desire to be respectful to adults, don't want to tell an adult that he's doing something wrong. I wonder if his opponent had been another kid, whether he would have said something or not.
Finally the player makes a fourth offer and says is a fairly loud voice, "Come on take the draw, this is a friendly game." Other players are shooting him dirty looks and saying "Shhhh". At that point I couldn't take it any more. I told the guy he can't be badgering his opponent with repeated draw offers. I wanted to say "This is not a friendly game, it's a tournament game." I refrained from saying that because I would have just gotten more pissed off, and caused a bigger disturbance.
As my opponent I traded down to pawns and minor pieces, he offered me a draw. I felt I was slightly better with better pawn structure so I declined the draw at that point. In the meantime the game next to me ended with the adult saying things like "Good game. God bless you. God loves you. Thank you." I didn't know what the result was at that point. As it turns out, he did get his draw. I was hoping the kid would pound the crap out of him, but no such luck.
In the meantime I reached the following position with an 18 minute edge on the clock. However I felt I couldn't really do anything with the position, so I offered the draw back after playing 33...Nb6. He accepted my offer.
If reading about the first round you think I was not too focused on my own game, you're right. I was easily distracted by the circus going on in the playing room. Between annoying draw offers and clueless players and spectators, I was clearly have attention issues. After a 10 day absence from the chess board it was taking me a little time to get my chess rhythm back. I knew I needed to slow down, and not let myself get distracted. I had left my iPod at home, so I couldn't even use my music to take the edge off my restless mind.
Since there was an odd number of players in the one point score group. the lowest rated one dropped down to play me, the highest rated half. In this particular case the lowest rated one pointer was the player with a 425 rating who received a bye in round one. When playing adults with such a low rating one can not help to wonder why the rating is so low. In most cases it's because the player has played very few games, and probably hasn't won many of them. I encountered that very situation in December, and it was pretty scary being totally outplayed by someone with a rating 900 points lower. Only a major time pressure meltdown on my opponent's part in that game saved me from being his first scalp in rated play. Perhaps that game will be a future "Wacky Wednesday" post.
I was a little nervous at when he responded to my English with a Grand Prix in reverse. He played the opening fairly well, but then a series of small little mistakes on his part allowed me to get a nice attack going against his uncastled king. I still was playing too fast, but the attack just played itself, and I mated him on the 2oth move with his king in the middle of the board.
Having an easy game in round two gave me a bit of break. I went over the game with my opponent and pointed out some of the errors he made. His brother who was also playing in the tournament added a few comments. Aftwerwards I had time to take a walk and grab a bite to eat before round three. I knew if a two pointer dropped down to play me, he was going to be much higher rated then my previous opponent. If I played another player with 1.5 he would also be a challenge.
I ended out playing another kid rated 1650 who also had 1.5 points. I had Black, and I expected the kid to attack like crazy if possible. Sure enough he played he played 3. f4 in response to my Sicilian, and tried bringing his queen to the h file to hit on h7. Lately I've been trying to get a queen trade or drive the queen back to thwart the attack on the h file. He opted to retreat and decline the queen trade. I won a few pawns and as the following position demonstrates the wisdom of the chess axiom, "Passed pawns must be pushed."
42...Qe3+ 43. Kh1 Qf2 44. Qb1 d2 45. Rg1 Qxg1+ 46. Kxg1 e1/Q+ 47. Qxe1 dxe1/Q#
My draw in the first round allowed me to avoid the perfect scores for rounds two and three. I thought in round four I'd get my shot at the lone 3-0 and a chance to win the tournament since I was the highest rated 2.5. However the other 2.5s had played each other, so one of them played the 3-0. The lone perfect score was Kadhir Pillai, a very talented and under rated 8 year old. His January rating is listed at 1599, his actual rating is over 1700. I got paired against the brother of my second round opponent. This would the second time in my last four tournaments where I would get paired against a set of brothers. In Saratoga Springs last month it was the Brooks brothers. Now I was playing the Dattatreya brothers.
Since the brother had seen how I played against his lower rated brother with White, I decided to switch things around a bit. I didn't know whether he had something planned knowing that I play the English, so I played 1. d4 instead. The opening was pretty symetrical, but on his 10th move he castled, and hung his c6 pawn. That allowed me all kinds of play forcing him to lose the exchange or a full piece. It was not an easy win, despite two connected passed pawns and being up the exchange. His knights were very active and effectively blockading the passed pawns.
During my game I had to resist the urge to watch what was happening on board one. What was occurring on board one would impact my standing. However I needed to win to have any shot at tying for first or coming in clear second. Often when I've been ahead, I've let my mind wonder off and start thinking about winning the tournament or gaining huge amounts of rating points. When that happens, I totally lose focus, and throw the game away. By reminding myself to stay focused on my own game, and not think about what is going on around me I was able to concentrate on finding the moves that would force the pawns through.
Kadhir won his game so he ended out 4-0 to win the tournament. That helped me relax some, and reminded me that coming in second was totally in my control if I could win my game. As the sports cliche goes I was in control of my own destiny. I made sure I watched his knights carefully. There were too many opportunities to walk into forks if I left my rooks too close to each other on the same color squares. Finally I was able to penetrate and sac my rook to promote.
Coming in second was a nice way to return after a 10 day break from chess. I just need to keep working on staying focused when I'm ahead, and not become so distracted by what is going on around me.