Apologies to Ken Kesey who wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but that's the best way to describe Thursday night's Four Rated Games Tonight! Was there a full moon, or what? Chess players are often described as a little eccentric. Those who don't mince words might say we are all insane. Let's just say that some of the players who attend on Thursday night are colorful characters. It just seemed that there was a little more color then usual.
The first indication that things might be a little off was the entrance of one player who one might say had a little too much to drink before the tournament. He comes in, completely cuts the line and then asks people who have just finished entering whether they're on line or not. He must have asked about three different people, who all said no. However he ignored all the people who actually were on line. Finally somebody points out where the end of the line is, and he goes there. When he gets up to the front, he asks Steve if it takes 2.5 points to qualify for the St. John's Masters tournament. Steve says yes, and this fellow boldly proclaims he's going to qualify.
The first round pairings go up, and I'm paired against IM Jay Bonin for the second week in a row. Jay and I almost never play in this tournament because usually I'm way down in the bottom half. Last week we played because it was a Grand Prix tournament and he was only #7 in the event. This week we played because I was actually fairly high in the bottom half. Last week was the first time I played him since 2007 Last Blunder tournament in Saratoga Springs. I was 0-14 against him going into last week. Now after two straight weeks of playing him I'm 0-16. Though this week's game was probably my best game ever against him.
Long before I lost to Jay, "Mr. I'm Qualifying!" loses in about 5 minutes to his 2000 rated opponent. It made my Kassa Krush look long in comparison. Even the two kids rated 300 and 164 lasted longer against their 1000+ higher rated opponents. Nope, neither of these kids were the 114 from two weeks ago. These were two brothers that were brought to the tournament by their mother. It was obvious she did not have a clue about this tournament. When she entered them, she asked Steve what trophies they could win. I guess she figured since her kids played for trophies in Steve's New York Under 13 tournament, there would be trophies in this tournament too. Oops!
Things got crazy for me in the second round. I got paired down against a provisionally rated 1156. Nothing overly spectacular about the game. I got some good play out of the opening. After 17 moves we reach the following position after 17...Nc6.
At first glance I looked at 18. Ne6+ Kh8 19. Nxd8 Nxd4 20. Rxd4 Rbxd8. That was just a bunch of even trades. Then I noticed that the knight on c6 was en prise so I simply played 18. Bxc6. What I neglected to look at deeper was 18. Ne6+ Kh8 19. Bxc6. Black's queen and rook are still forked, so I still pick up the rook after 19...Qe7 20. Nxf8. A minor hiccup in my analysis.
Around the 44th move I notice that he has stopped keeping score. I have about 6:30 left on my clock, and he has around 13 minutes. This is the position.
At this point I tell my opponent that he needs to continue keeping score until one of us is under 5 minutes. He tells me. "I messed up my score." I tell him it doesn't matter. He needs to continue from the move we left off on. He repeats to me that he's messed up and can't keep score. I stop the clock to get Steve so that he can explain the rule to him. He starts my clock, and says "It's your turn." I stop the clock again and tell him I'm getting the director. When I leave the room he's started my clock again.
Steve comes in and explains to him that he needs to keep score. He starts arguing with Steve. I'm arguing with him because he started my clock again. The players around us are getting annoyed, so Steve has us come out of the playing room so that we don't cause more of a disturbance then we already have. I must admit, I've totally lost my patience and cool at this point. Steve tells him if he wants he doesn't have to keep score but he's going to reduce his time down to 5 minutes. He also tells my opponent he's going to add 2 minutes to my time since he (opponent) had started my clock when I got the director. My opponent is going on about how it was my move. He didn't seem to get the idea that a player may stop the clock to get the director.
Now my opponent goes off on me, and tells me I'm taking this game way too seriously. He tells me this is supposed to be fun, and now I've ruined his fun. After Steve makes the various adjustments to the clock my opponent says to me. "I hope you're happy now. You better win this game." That comment ticked me off because he didn't have to play on if he thought he was so lost. I went back to the board, and went into hyper focus mode. Instead of grabbing more pawns, I forced the rooks off the board. I wasn't going to give him any chance to get some cheap shot in with his rook. Eventually I promoted and mated him on c2. One of my friends who was watching the end, said I looked so intense and totally focused.
I kind of felt bad that I had made such a big deal about the score keeping thing, but I felt I was going to lose more time on the clock if I kept keep score and he didn't. I've had too many "won games" get tossed because my opponent has a big edge on the clock. I could have chosen to stop keeping score when he did, but I like getting as many of the moves as possible. I had no idea that he was going get so agitated over having to keep score. I also don't think he realized what he agreed to when Steve gave him the option of not keeping score but having his time knocked down to 5 minutes.
After the game I apologized for coming across as too hardcore. I tried to explain myself, but he went off about how I serious I take chess because I have a nice clock and a Mon Roi. He goes on about how chess is supposed to be fun, and so on and so forth. What can I say? Some women like to spend their extra money on designer clothes and shoes. I like spending mine on chess toys.
It's funny because there had been a very lively discussion about this topic in the USCF Forums. In the thread I had cited an incident that I had in one of the Parents & Friends in Florida a few years ago. One of the posters complemented me on my cool in that situation. This time I wasn't so cool. Part of it may have been the fear of losing a won game. The night before I had a tough time fighting my demons as I was attempting to win a game up a rook and bishop for three pawns with queens still on the board. More about that game in another post.
Could things get any stranger? Yes. After having lost a tough game to Larry Tamarkin in round three, I get paired down against an unrated who beat an 1850 in the first round. A funny thing always happens a few months before the World Open. Unrateds or players with provisional ratings come out the woodwork, and conveniently start tossing games. Did my last round opponent dump this game? I am White. Look at the position below, and you be the judge.
Position after 26...Nf3+. The game continued 27. Kg3 Rxe1 28. Rxe1 Qd6+?? Did he really miss 28. Rxe1? At this point I figure the dump is on. 29. Kxf3 Qc6+ 30. Kg3 Qd6+ 31. Kg2 Qc6+ 32. Kg1 Qf3 33. Qb2 This is my test move. Is he going to allow me 34. Re8#? 33...Qxh3??? 34. Re8#
I alerted Steve about the game. My opponent would have ended out with a rating around 1850 if he had won this game along with his first round win against Gabor Schnitzler. Yep, that same Mr. Schnitzler that I lost to a few weeks ago. Yes the same Mr. Schnitzler who owns me with a record of 30 wins, 4 draws and 8 losses.
However I was not the only one receiving a gift in the last round. Remember the two brothers who were looking for trophies in this tournament? The 164 rated player was playing my second round opponent, "Mr. I Play Chess For Fun". What is the probability of player who is outrated by 1000 points winning? Normally around .001. However when somebody wants to lose badly enough the probability goes up substantially. Though it was kind of iffy whether "Mr. Fun" could actually escape with a loss. The kid had two queens, but it took him awhile to execute the mate. There was a good chance he'd stalemate first. Though if your opponent is determined to lose, you'll probably stumble over the mate sooner or later.
I have a couple of questions. Is this guy trying to sandbag his way down to the under 900 section at the World Open where he can win the walloping $300 and a trophy for first place? My other question is; Why do people trying to sandbag at "Four Rated Games Tonight" where the tournament director also works the World Open and will remember you, and there are so many high rated players?
As to "Mr. I'm Qualifying!", he went 1-3 with his one win against the 164. Better luck next time. Try again for next month. Maybe one of these days I can get that elusive 2.5 and qualify. I'm a little more realistic about my chances. I also don't like making predictions. Predictions usually get me in trouble.