Friday, January 16, 2009

Sleeper: The Chess Version

It's another Thursday night at the Marshall, and as usual I've gotten smacked around by someone much higher rated in the first round. However since the tournament was smaller and weaker then normal I was on third board in the first round and played FM Ilya Figler. Being on such a high board in round one meant I'd get paired down for round two. When I saw the second round pairing I thought I was playing a kid, so I was quite surprised when an adult sat down across from me. I had confused my opponent, Christopher Lai with Christopher Lee, a 5th grader from NYC who I drew with a few months ago in a weekend tournament at the Marshall.

My opponent probably felt a little bit like the Woody Allen character in this scene from the movie Sleeper.

I didn't know it when we sat down to play, but this was his first tournament in 15 years. It didn't register with me when he asked me why the clock was set for 25 minutes, not 30 minutes. I guess I'm so used to answering this question for kids who have never played with time delay, that it never occurred to me that some adults may have never seen a time delay clock before. I've also have encountered players from out of town who have never played with time delay, so I just figured he was another one of those players. I guess his first round opponent wasn't using a delay clock. I explained time delay to him, and showed him how the clock counts down for 5 seconds before time starts.

I can't explain what happened in this game. We had traded queens by move 13 and I thought I was going to have a decent game after I put my rook on the open d file. However after he played 14. f3, I made a bad tempo wasting move of Be6. When he played 15. Nc5 it took me almost 5 minutes to find 15...Bc8. I thought I was going to have to give up the b7 pawn or allow him to give me double isolated pawns on the e file after 15...b6 16. Nxe6 fxe6. I wasted a lot of time and mental energy on other variations when the simple 15...Bc8 protects the pawn and doesn't allow him create the doubled pawns. When I finally saw the right move my thought is, "Well, duh! What are you thinking about?"

Drunknknite wrote an excellent post titled Essential Tournament Skills: What to do when everything is losing. I think I needed to take #2 (FIX YOUR HEAD) and #3 (REBUILD YOUR ASSUMPTIONS) on his to do list and utilize them to bring my mind back into clear focus. I wasn't lost after 15 moves. In fact the position was pretty even by White's 18th move. Somehow after having spent almost 5 minutes thinking I was going to lose a pawn or end out with horrible double isolated e pawns, I may have just assumed that I couldn't find good moves in the position. It's almost as though I assumed that sooner or later I would have to give up something.

On move 18 I could have simply played Bxd3 and depending on how he recaptures either trade rooks or put pressure on the d3 pawn. At that point I didn't want to give up the bishop pair and thought that line might be drawish. Instead, in my lame attempt to open up the a1-h8 diagonal for my fianchettoed bishop I placed my knight on a horrible square. I ended out walking into the same sort of threat that cost me the exchange in my first round game.

The last 10 moves I played with 2 seconds left on my clock. My opponent asks me why my clock isn't running. He keeps seeing the 2 seconds remaining. I think he just was trying to run me out of time even though he had several opportunities to win more material or force the trade of my lone bishop. Once again I have to explain the whole time delay thing. I have no pawns left, and even though all his pawns are isolated my bishop can't possibly cover all the potential queening squares. I think the only reason I was playing on at that point was to see how many moves I could make in 2 seconds. Also I don't think I was ready to deal with the ribbing I would probably get from one of the kids who came to the tournament with me.


I finally used up the two seconds by move 53. That type of time forfeit is what I refer to as "the clocking resigning for me." After the game is over I explain the time delay in much more detail then I had at the beginning of the game. That's when he told me that he had not played in a tournament in 14 years, and had not seen a digital clock the Mon Roi. Although it's not like waking up 200 years later like Miles Moore, I guess it's culture shock to return to tournaments after so many years, see new equipment, and have to deal with new rules. Having seen so many changes in time limits, equipment and rules, I tend to take these things in stride.


Aziridine said...

It wasn't your best game, but kudos to your opponent - an impressive debut for someone who hasn't played in 14 years.

Polly said...

Azir: Nice move 5...Qb6. Though he can play 6. Bxc5 dxc6 7. O-O Bg7 8. c3 Nf6. Most likely he'd find that continuation and not make the "normal" looking Be3. I went into autopilot mode and just played my normal 5...Bg7 as if he had played the bishop to c4. I had played Qa5+ several moves later with the idea of possibly winning the bishop on b5.

These days I find many players returning to tournament play after a prolonged absence tend to be as good or better then when they stopped playing. Usually before they return they've gotten the competitive itch from playing on the Internet, against Fritz or Rybka.

I wish I could say that he truly had an impressive debut after 14 years, but he lost his last two rounds to other 1700s. His third round was over very quickly. When I saw what happened in his third roundI couldn't help to think to myself "I can't believe I just lost that guy."

But I got to hand it to him. Despite his confusion over these "new fangled" digital clocks and the changed rules, he took advantage of my sloppy play.

Aziridine said...

5...Qb6 6.Bxc6 bxc6 (Black should always recapture with the b-pawn in these situations) is nice for Black - the trade on c6 strengthens Black's control of the centre.
On the other hand I didn't look far enough the first time - 6.Be3 is lot more complicated than I thought: 6...Nxd4 7.Qxd4!; 6...a6 7.Ne6! Qa5+ 8.Bd2 Qb6 9.Be3 is a cute draw by repetition; 6...e5!? looks like it might work after 7.Ne6 Qa5+ 8.Bd2 Bb4!?
A deceptively complex position!

For a 1400, 1/3 against 1700s is still quite all right. Guess he used up his beginner's luck on you :)

Polly said...

Azir: I guess sometimes playing the usual move isn't such a bad thing. I hadn't even considered your continuation. It does get quite complicated early on.

chesstiger said...

22. ... Bb7 looks good.
23. ... Bb7 looks good.

For a 1400+ player he did play well to take advantage of your mistakes.