Sunday, May 17, 2009

They All Flew Over the Marshall Nest

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.


chesstiger said...

That last game indeed looks like sandbagging. It's a pity that people lower themselfs to such tactics just to win some extra cash.

But offcourse the problem is to prove it since i have seen low rated players (1100-1200) play at such awfull level not being aware of what is possible in the position.

Polly said...

This player is no 1100. He did make some mistakes, but I also made some worse mistakes which he jumped on, leading to the position I posted. I don't believe he overlooked my hanging rook. I also believe he saw the back rank threat. He had moved the g pawn up before launching his attack to stop earlier threats that I may have had on the back rank.

Chris Harrington said...

an honest question I have for you Polly. Did you really feel that taking 2 seconds to write down the move was going to put you into time trouble. It doesn't take very long to write two or three letters on a score card.

How does the scorecard rule work. I was always under the assumption that if a player stops keeping score he forfeits his ability to claim flags and repetitions. Is that untrue? Thanks

Wahrheit said...

Chris! Hey man, where did your blog go off to?

Polly--I am reminded of a post I wrote awhile back about the corrosive effects of money on good chess. You may recall that back in the '80s the foreign sandbaggers usually beat out our national sandbaggers at the World. Sadly, it appears that the problem has not gone away completely.

Polly said...

Chris: In sudden death time control(G/30 in this case) one does not have to have a complete score sheet to claim a win on time. He does lose the right to claim 3 fold repetition. Both players are required to keep score until one player is under 5 minutes.

It's not how much time it takes me to record moves, it's the lack of time it takes the opponent not to record moves. Sometimes it does take me more then 2-3 seconds to record a move, especially if I'm a little nervous or distracted.

I felt he was gaining too much time on me by not writing the moves. He had actually gone over 10 moves without writing. It took me awhile to notice it. I could have let it slide, but if I'm distracted by an opponent's refusal to follow a rule then I feel I need to have the rule enforced.

In hindsight maybe I was making too big a deal, but I guess I didn't expect the opponent to be so stubborn about the whole thing. He just didn't seem to get it, and was just so annoying. Though I felt I was vindicated when the club manager had told me about an incident with this same player during the Monday under 1600 tournament, and seeing him brazenly dump his last round game against an opponent 1000 points lower.

Wahrheit: Unfortunately it never goes away. Most of the players who have dumped games against me have foreign names. Nobody named John Smith has dumped games against me. More likely the culprit's name is Igor Smitsovich. :-)

Matt said...

Ah, the old "you're taking it too seriously" argument. It's a straw man argument and frankly one I find rather pathetic. Keeping score is part of the rules of tournament play. If you can't adhere to the rules, why SHOULDN'T your opponent call you on it? What if you deliberately made an illegal move and "checkmated" him? Then, we he complained, you said "Oh lighten up, it's only a bit of fun." To me, I don't see the difference. Knowing how the pieces move, keeping score, and managing one's clock are all part of the game.

On another note, Polly, I see you are playing in the Lina Grumette again this year? I'll be sure to catch up with you and Saul (who I see is also on the advanced entries list). I haven't signed up yet but will do so in the next day or two. Perhaps we'll be paired against each other again! ;)

CaseMoney said...

I am playing in the wrong tournaments! So much excitement: clock disputes, sandbaggers, kids rated 100.. I never get to see this stuff

well, if nothing else it's great blogging material :)

wang said...

Sorry to be so harsh, but these sangbagging folks are complete losers and need to get a life! I mean $300...REALLY!

Although it's possibly more about ego.

wang said...

Oh, and you were not making a big deal about it, its the rules.

Polly said...

Case: The NYC chess scene is very unique. Let's just say there's a very colorful element that frequents the Marshall Chess Club at times. I don't even have time to blog everything that happens. I have about 3-4 different ideas of things to write about. I don't even know where to begin. LOL

Saul R. Priever said...

With regard to the "colorful" chess scene at the Marshall, could you maybe do a blog post on Ken Cohen or others?

Polly said...

Saul: I tend to err on the side of caution when writing about the colorful element of the club. In many cases I don't mention names. I have actually written about playing Ken in these two posts.

Saul said...

Yeah Polly you're right. It's better to avoid saying names. Anyway, see you Sunday!

Anonymous said...

was the sandbagger Willanthian Williams or a different sandbagger?

Polly said...

Anon 5/26: I'm, not familiar with that one. Check this out, and just look at who lost to me.

I will have a follow up piece later.

Rihel said...


Having played in the Marshall, I'll say that the Boston and West Virginia clubs I've attended have a color that equals it. Color is endemic to chess, I'm afraid. Or delighted, I can't decide.

And try Harvard Square at 11PM on a Friday night!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....Arent you like up a piece and two pawns, I may be hung over but i can still count. Why in the world would you want/care if your opponent records the moves enough to actually stop the clock and call a's bizare.

PS. I've seen Jason Rihel, in the club that he mentions act in similar fashion. He tried to claim (after he had lost on time in a totally position) that the guy had previously walked into check and therefore he felt the game needs to restart with time added to his clock retroactively, lol.
The problem starts and ends with one thing only, not knowing the damn rules, if everyone knew the rules we would have very few problems.

Rihel said...

Re: the similar situation that I faced and Ilya observed. I had a king and queen vs. a king with very little time left. I was already annoyed because my digital clock had died in the middle of the game, and so I had to use an analog clock. My time delay clock is to avoid exactly this problem, and I felt that my opponent was being a little unfair to make a 2000+ player play this out in this particular circumstance, but fine, I can live with that. To top it off, when, in the Q+K vs. K endgame, I asked if I can have a digital clock, I was told, "Only if you are playing for a draw." Never mind the fact that the game STARTED with a digital clock. I know the rule, but I felt the situation was a special case.

But the reason for my complaint, please remember anon, was that my opponent called, "Flag!" when I was getting close to mating him. This totally distracted me, I paused for maybe a few seconds at most, looked over at the clock, and saw it hadn't fallen. He then says, "No, sorry," and I rush to make a few moves, but my flag does fall shortly thereafter, with mate in two on the board.

This happened right in front of the TD, and I felt that the TD should have intervened. There are rule-book situations that allow TD intervention or post hoc decision-making. At best, his claim of my flag falling was an illegal claim that would have given me two minutes. At worst, it was an unsportsmanlike attempt to distract me. That I queried about the ruling afterwards is hardly surprising, given that the difference between the infraction and the end of the game was a couple of seconds. That draw cost me a prize, a bunch of rating points, and spoilt a nice game I felt, so certainly I was mad about it.

Polly said...

Anon: Yes I was winning, and perhaps I could have ignored the fact that he wasn't keeping score. I did explain my rationale in an earlier response to Chris. As it turned out there was more on this guy's agenda then not wanting to keep score.

Rihel: I can sympathize with you. It seems like the digital clock should have been replaced with a digital at the time, or if one wasn't available at that time put it on when one became available. Switching an analog clock in mid-game certain changes the dynamic, and makes it hard to make a ruling when asking for the digital clock later.

Technically the TD is correct that requesting a digital clock at that point is equivalent to making an ILC claim which is basically a draw offer. Actually a position like that the director wouldn't even put the digital clock on the game. He would simply call it a draw. The ILC rule does not default to a digital clock being put on the game. The director can call it draw based on the criteria of C player holding against a master, reject it because a C player might not be able to hold it. (Positions with lots of pieces fall under this catagory), or put a delay clock on if he's not sure.

It's an interesting case, and I'm not sure at the point that you requested the delay clock whether the TD could ignore the normal ILC rule and allow it to replace the analog clock that replaced the original digital clock.

It's easy to play armchair quarterback here, and say you should have stopped the clock and complained when he made the flag claim. The rules don't require the director to intervene in a situation like this. In fact the director should not be the one decided on his own whether the player's action constitutes annoying behavior or is illegal. In fact in a sudden death situation the TD is not allowed to point out an illegal move even if he does witness it.

I think if you claimed that you were distracted and lost time looking to see if you had flagged, the TD would certainly be within his rights to give you back a little time. That's hard to do on an analog. Whether he would rule this as annoying behavior it's hard to say. There is nothing in the rulebook specifically cover false flag claims. Even if he did rule that it's annoying behavior there is a lot of latitude in terms penalties from a warning to time add on or deduction. Giving you back a little time would be my choice. Not having witnessed how he said it I can't say whether I would have given you two minuts or simply given you back a 1/2 minute.

It's an interesting case that perhaps should be posted on the Chess Tournaments forum at the USCF website. There are a lot of highly experienced TDs who would be able to give input. If you don't mind I would like to quote your comment and see what they have to say.

Rihel said...


Sure. I'd be interested, too. I did think it was interesting, and that is the only reason I was discussing it with the TD after the fact. And I find it so hard to keep a level head in those time pressure situations, and punching the clock after a quick move almost always comes to mind faster than a ,"that was an illegal claim." It also happens when someone is blitzing and dropping pieces everywhere-- I usually just ignore that, even though I should stop the clock and demand he replace the pieces on his own time. When that clock is ticking and mate is on the line, I tend to forget to make the claims!

Polly said...

Rihel: I think we all forget our rights in the heat of the moment. I'm a TD who knows better, but there are times in a time scramble that I get too caught up in the moment I forget to stop my clock and make the appropriate claim.

I had a situation in a tournament where I was playing an ending of R & a pawn versus R. I had the pawn, and the opponent refused to give me a draw. I had 2 seconds left with delay. I kept banging out moves, forgetting that I could request to have the TD count 50 moves for me or witness a repetition. I knew I could claim ILC since we were using a delay clock. One of the spectators got the TD who then counted the moves and called the draw.

I know the opponent was hoping for a skewer situation but I was keeping my king and rook away from each other to avoid skewers, and wasn't going to move the pawn and cause the count to start over.

Polly said...

Rihel: I did post your comment on the USCF Tournament Forum. The general consensus was that replacing the clock again should not be permitted, but that you should have been compensated for the false claim. Ken Sloan felt if the TD was watching that he should have checked on the claim when he heard flag, and rule accordingly.

Here is the thread:

Rihel said...

Thanks, Polly!