Wednesday, June 10, 2009

National Open - Round 2

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the National Open did not get off to a terrific start. Losing the first round is not the end of the world. (You can see the game here.) In a 6 round tournament there is time to recover. Unfortunately my saying the tournament did not get off to a terrific start is a gross understatement. Miserable is a nice clean family friendly adjective that more accurately describes the start of my tournament.

When playing in a tournament with sections by rating class there is really no such thing as getting paired way up or way down. Even if you are number one in the under 1800 section at 1799 the chances that you will play anyone lower then 1600 is not very likely. Since there are pretty big class prizes, you just don't see as many people playing up a section. (The co-champions in my section each won $2901. That's a nice way to leave Vegas!) Out of the 150 players in my section only nine of them were under 1600. Of those nine players only one of them was under 1400. I did not play anyone under 1600.

My problem is every game feels like I'm playing up even when the opponent's rating is lower then mine. That's what happens when I am sitting on my floor, but not playing like I'm 1700. So what's the worst thing that could happen to me in round two? Nope, I did not have to play a cute little girl with 11 consonants in her name. The cute little girls were all playing in the Polgar tournament going on at the same time. However I did have to play a little kid. How little? He just turned eight in the last few weeks, and was listed at #2 on the June: 7 and under list. But as the line from an old Who song goes...."Won't be fooled again", or so I thought.

What do you do when you are playing Black against an eight year old who has a rating of 1651?

a. Play a solid and quiet line, and bore the kid to death.
b. Play something wild and complicated and get him out of book ASAP.
c. None of the above
d. All of the above.

I would say it ended out more along the lines of choice d. Though he was the one playing the quiet line against my Accelerated Dragon. In the opening he wasted a few moves, but I did not really come up with a way to take advantage of it outside of getting in 8...d5 without playing e6 first. If anyone was watching they probably would have found the off the board moves more interesting.

How many seven or eight year old kids do you know that can sit quietly for any extended amount of time? What happens when you give a kid that age an expensive chess toy like an Mon Roi? What happens when you match a kid like that against an adult who can not sit still for extended periods of time and also has an expensive chess toy like the Mon Roi? You probably feel sorry for the people sitting next to them.

Early on he was fiddling with his Mon Roi and pulling the SD card out and putting it back in. I'm not sure if he knew what the card was for, but he was having fun playing with it for awhile. I was going to suggest that he not do it, but then he stopped. Later on he was tapping his stylus on the unit, and again I was about to say something, but noticed I was tapping my stylus on the table. How can I say anything when I'm doing the exact same thing? (The picture below was taken during another round.)

I change positions in my chair a lot. I often get up and kneel on the chair and lean over the board a little bit to change how I'm viewing the position. At one point during the game, I assumed that position. I happened to have looked up and noticed my opponent was sitting the exact same way. He even had his head propped up on his hands the same way I did. It almost looked like he was playing copy cat with me. More likely he was sitting like that because it is easier for a little kid to see the board that way.

He only left the board once around the 17th move. It was actually his move and he suddenly got up and ran out of the room. Was my move that scary? In big money tournaments it's easy to look at something like that and wonder to yourself "Why did he suddenly leave the board on his move? What is he up to?" The first question briefly crossed my mind, but I reminded myself that I was playing a little kid. When Mother Nature calls it doesn't matter whose move it is. The call must be answered. It was probably a wise thing not to rush a move first.

Here is the game.


In the later stages of the game as he was mounting his attack, I witnessed the funniest case of fidgety kid syndrome I've seen. He would make a move, get up from his seat, take a few steps back, do 5 jumping jacks and then sit down. Fortunately there were not many games going on around us at this point, so I don't think he was really bothering anyone. Was he bothering me? Not really. Was he doing it to annoy me? No. I just think he was letting off nervous energy after playing for over an hour and half. (Time limit was G/60) I found it rather amusing that this kid is getting up and doing jumping jacks between moves. I've often thought that I should have kids in my after school chess classes do 30 jumping jacks before the lesson to blow off some of that excess energy they have at the end of the school day.

I think he was a little surprised when I resigned when I did. I'm sure he used to playing almost all his games down to checkmate. I was little hasty in my resignation, but not having seen 45...Qc7 I thought I was dead right then. Even if I played on, either the 15 minute time deficit would do me in or the two connected passed pawns. Pick your poison!

He helped me clean up my set, and then he took off to find his parents. Unlike many of the kids I've encountered at other tournaments, he didn't have constant stream of parents and coaches hovering over him. His mother brought him to the board at the start of the game and left. When the game was done he did come back into the room with his dad to post the result. I had already taken care of it so I walked out with them and get an opportunity to talk to the parents about how well he played.

I asked his mom how old he was. She said he had just turned eight a few weeks earlier. I think he's now the youngest player who has beaten me. I've played a few kids younger then that, but I won. She said sometimes he has trouble staying focused. I told her that for the most part he was focused though he would sometimes be staring off into space on his move. Sometimes when he did that I had to make sure he had not moved, and just forgot to press the clock. I said he was focused when it counted. I mentioned how impressed I was that he didn't wander away from the board, except the one trip to the bathroom on his move. She said they have emphasized to him the importance of ethical behavior and not doing things that would be questionable. It's nice to hear parents talk about that kind stuff with their kids.

I would see him through out the rest of the tournament. I was really impressed how he handled the long time controls. I think he spent more time in his seat then I did in mine. In the last round he was seated next to me. His opponent showed up about a half hour late. Winston was out of the room when the opponent arrived. The opponent did a little double take when this little kid comes and sits down across from him. I don't think he was expecting such an opponent. Like me, he also lost to the youngster. It will be interesting to see where he is by next year. Probably not in my section unless I play up, or by some miracle get my rating over 1800.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Great account! That kid sounds awesome.

I forgot about the Monroi. If you have a Monroi, are you allowed to take it with you when you leave the game to go to the bathroom or whatever?

linuxguyonfics said...

"I think he's now the youngest player who has beaten me."

That was funny.

I guess he was following theory because it sure turned out alright for him.

I thought his h6 move was questionable.

I liked your Bc6 idea to keep his Knight off a4, but then instead of pinning down his Q-side pawns first, you switched to a strategy of getting your play going in the center.

Then ..f4 instead of ..e4 really let his knight and queen into your position, and it was quickly over.

Polly said...

It's funny because they haven't formally put anything into the rules about how the Mon Roi should be handled. However in the scholastic regulations that are used for all the National Scholastic championships state that it must be left on the table at all times. Taking it to bathroom would be a clear no no because somebody could actually do analysis on it by moving pieces around and then taking moves back.

There have been some arguments as to whether looking at it during the game could be construed as using another board for analysis. My feeling is as long as it's sitting on the table, a player can look at it all he wants. I don't see it as being extra help for the player. In fact I had a case where I based my move choice on what I saw on the screen. The position was wrong, but since I touched the knight I had to move it. It wasn't fatal since I had not touched the opponent's pawn which was protected. However it was a serious loss of tempo that I dealt with the rest of the game. Here is the account of that game. (I need someone to show me how to put in links in comments.)

linuxguy said...

I agree with Chess Tiger's comment in that link, in that I think the lack of long-time controls has a definite negative impact on your results. I am the same way, a chess-master told me once that I should never play rated games at fast time-controls.

I've never known of a chess-player that blatantly cheated, although I understand the thing about big-money tournament blah, blah, so who knows.

Since you like stories, I've got one for you. I was at a tournament last week where the guy picks up his queen and touches the captured piece (which loses on the spot, and he half picked up the pawn to be captured), but the other player never called him on it. Ended up being a draw. Anyhow, that one player was so frustrated after touching the pawn that he took the queen off the board and kept it in his hand for over a minute, then forgot which square it belonged on. lol. Me and another player had to remind him of the correct square.

Weird game, the other guy started sacking pieces after that.

Now you can feel modest in insisting you move the touched piece. I know one guy who says "oop! you touched it!" loudly (quiet unassuming guy, too) even if you accidentally brush over a piece.

Anonymous said...

Another long post about a child's behavior! Stop obsessing over the behavior of eight year olds. Work on improving your chess.

Polly said...

Linux: Unfortunately there have been some incidents of cheating at the World Open involving trips to the bathroom and in more recent years sophisticated computer technology. I'm usually willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, especially a little kid playing in an open tournament. I might get suspicious if someone is leaving board every time I make a move.

Touch move is probably the most common form of low tech cheating. Sad to say I've seen kids resort to touch move disputes in both small and large scholastic events.

In the situation you witnessed I'm surprised the opponent did not call him on it. Maybe he was being a nice guy. :-)

The knuckleheads who try to claim touch move on accidental contact should be shot! It's excusable amongst beginners who may not understand the rules regarding intentional versus unintentional touches. I probably have to explain that at least once in every scholastic event I've directed. Adults know better, but there is always someone trying to pull a fast one.

linuxguyonfics said...

I kind of like it though, it's like watching someone choke at the free-throw line. Oops, I did not say that! ;-D

Losing to a kid at a fast time-control, there is no mystery there. I agree though with what anonymous said about improving. Try to avoid the "cracktion" time-controls and get to a long, meaningful game where you can genuinely work on improving your game.

I've always believed that games with higher time-controls contain more quality of play. said...

I leave the board a lot but don't stay away from the board for long, maybe 3 minutes max. Late in the tournament I'll leave to stretch my legs even. My face gets hot so I am constantly throwing cold water over it it seems.

The one guy was being nice, yes. :-) Okay, the guy who shouts "you touched it!" most probably already knows he does this. He's done it loud at a big tournament before and it's so freaking embarassing.

In this one incident, I saw that he touched the piece, and the player saw that I saw, but he was either being gentlemanly or didn't know the rule, I'm not sure which, probably gentlemanly. Which was weird because it didn't occur to me until a day later that he was playing for prize-money ($30) rather than just for rating points.

Big-money tournaments, yeah, technology probably has ruined that. I really only think about rating points these days, back in the day it was about prize money, but I forgot about this and I think many do play for prize money.

Even back then there were way too many perfect scores to be believed at tournaments with a modicum of real money. 3 guys in practically each section with 6-0 or 7-0, lets get real here.

I wouldn't be inclined to believe a kid about a touch-move call unless someone else also saw it. I dunno, call it a prejudice or something, but I also have nothing personally to base that on (except maybe they are afraid their parent will get mad at them for losing, who knows).

Paul said...

I've been drinking large Dunkin' Donuts Iced Coffees before events, and, as you might guess, I end up leaving the table quite frequently (although I do try to wait until after my own move to stand up).

I'm glad that you mentioned questionable behavior, because it reminded me about one thing from those seminars at work about ethical behavior: that it is best to avoid actions that give the appearance of being unethical, whether or not they actually are - which I guess is exactly what your comments about "questionable behavior" addressed.

So my plan now is to skip the coffee (it was keeping me up at night anyway).

Love the blog. Keep up the good work!

Polly said...

Anon: I wasn't obsessing over his behavior. His behavior was amusing and interesting. When I observe interesting behavior whether it's my opponent, or somebody's else opponent it stays with me. I find chess players of all ages sometimes have interesting mannerisms and quirks. I suppose I would be better off observing and writing about these things as a spectator instead of as a player.

When I took photographs at Super Nationals for Chess Life and the USCF website I had a lot of fun observing and photographing the players in action, or in the case of the sleepy kid in K-1, inaction.

However when I write about my experiences I like to include a little of the flavor of what is happening. OTB tournaments are not played in a vacuum. You have a live opponent in front of you, what he does, how he looks and dresses, and the interaction is part of the game. That doesn't happen when you play on ICC.

PS. I know I need to improve my game. It sucks right now. I also know I should knock off the fast chess, but with the exception of two and three day tournaments most everything is game/60 or shorter.

Linux: I've seen kids do some terrible things because of pressure put on them by pushy parents. I've come across kids changing results on the pairing sheet. Read this post if you want to see what I sometimes come across in scholastic tournaments. The player in question had an overbearing father who put a lot of pressure on him. I think that was one the things I found so refreshing about my opponent and his family. He has talent, but his parents don't seem to be pushing him too hard. He seems to be a happy little kid that plays a good game of chess.

Paul: I drink a lot of water when I play, so I too find myself making frequent trips away from the board. I think the majority of players are not "up to no good" when they leave the board. But you're right about the appearance issue. It's better to avoid anything that can be taken wrong no matter how innocent it is.

linuxguyonfics said...

Polly, I just want to say that I, as probably many do, love reading your stories. I like the slight "train-wreck" appeal when you lose to (or simply play against) a kid. hehe. I am glad that you don't take it too seriously, because if all ratings were based on G/60, I probably wouldn't take anyone's rating seriously as being "real chess".

Once, I looked at other states clubs and noticed the Marshall does a lot of G/60 I think it is (Colorado Springs didn't look much better). If that's your only option, then that's your only option. I think it is sad what Chess has come to. I am lucky I can play 30/90 SD 30. CA is actually perhaps the best for clubs with longer time-controls. This is the main reason that I feel no need/compulsion to play in the big tournaments.

I'm no expert on kids so I'm inclined to agree with your opinions and observations, not much debate from me there.

If anything, I would think it would be harder on the parents because they are the ones that want the kid to care the most (to do a lot of chess work) but are also the most helpless when it comes to what the kid's natural inclination to do is.

Oh, if I had to play G/60 for my rating these days, how would I do it? I'll tell you.

I would look upon it as a slow blitz game. I've played enough absolute time-control games on fics, such as G/15, to know what the strategy on the clock for me must be. Some players will play faster than others, so I will have less of their time to use, so really, I should be aiming to have 10-20 minutes on my clock by the end of the game (where that happens in some games but not most).

Not playing macho for the sake of playing macho, but for the case when the other player tries to blitz from the get-go for the sake of winning. Really, it can turn into a mutual game of chicken where both players play fast simply because the other guy is playing fast. If I looked at it as "Gee, I actually get to spend all 60 of these minutes", I would probably lose more often because of time than because of who was actually winning on the board, as I would probably be winning most of those games I lose on time.

Polly said...

Linux: Thanks for all the interesting observations. In fast time controls one needs to have his opening down, so that not a lot of time is wasted thinking about moves that should be known. If I can get through the first 10 - 15 moves without eating a lot of clock time then I have more time to find the tactics and threats that arise in the middle game. Lately I've been unhappy with the positions I'm getting out of the opening, and have ended out burning time early and then trying to catch up later.

Regarding kids; Parents do have challenges when dealing with a kid with talent whether it's chess, athletics, academics or the arts. They want their child to succeed in their endeavor, but there's a fine line between pushing enough to keep him on track, and pushing too much. The child needs to enjoy their chosen activity and be given guidance and encouragement. Unfortunately some parents and coaches go overboard which puts undue pressure on the child to perform. Sometimes cheating seems to be the only way out for the child who is trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.

chesstiger said...

I wonder why the question how to play against a kid? Just play like you normally play. It doesn't matter if you play against a kid, a young adult, a grandpa, ..., you never have to change style, just play as you normally play and therefor what you know best even if this might bore the opponent to death.

Anonymous said...


As a TD (and organizer) you probably have a better answer than I do, but it's always puzzled me when I see some "chump" (I'm 1700 so I readily put myself in that category) come away with decent money in the "under" sections of say The World Open, yet the pros who try to make a living a playing chess and tie for 10th place in the open section come away with peanuts. I know the organizer needs to make some dough and attract players, but the prize money for the "chump" sections is seriously stupid. Reallocating the prizes so more is given to the pros might help the cheating situation. While someone like Hikaru can make decent money at it (for a chessplayer, LOL), but for each "Hikaru" there are 100 consummate chess professionals who end up with pocket change at these events. I don't know how they do it, after you take into account the expenses of playing in a tournament!

Rolling Pawns said...

With regards to the piece touching I had an interesting case recently. I was playing with a boy and his father was standing near the table. Father also plays, I had a draw with him before (were I blew up the win in 1 move) and I found him a bit arrogant. So, I see the winning move ( taking by bishop ) and on the way to make it I knock down my king. I say something like "Adjust", make the winning move and put the king back. Then I have some chilly feeling as I suddenly realize that the father (not the kid, it's just a normal 10 year old boy) can say something about that. Fortunately, the kid analyzed the position and resigned, the father said nothing to me, though wasn't happy with him losing. I said that I saw the boy has good results with the kids (I knew that). Father said that he won the provincial competition, it brought him in better mood and all finished well.
More about kids - I played on Sunday and saw how one 12 year old boy, who was one of the leaders played the man rated 100 higher than him. He had a book with him, and after making a move he was reading !? He was OK quite a long time, I saw him having 2R+N vs. 2R +N with the same amount of pawns. I still didn't like it, and my feeling was right. Last time I looked at the board he was pawn down, then after all the games finished I asked him what was the result and he said he lost. Why in the hell he was doing it? He was nice playing with me (3 times on total), but I didn't play him for 10 month, and recently I noticed that he ate some snacks pretty loudly at the board. So, was it intentional?

Rolling Pawns said...

Polly, did you notice that one of the co-winners of your section ($2,900 prize) had a very convenient sharp rating drop, which brought him below 1800 just a few months before the tourney (losing to 1200+ and 1300+ guys in one competition)?

Polly said...

Anon: The debate over large cash prizes for us patzers has been going on for years. It's unfortunate that top players don't have a more effective way of earning income here in the states. Nakamura makes nice money when he wins a big money tournament, but he get earn steadier income playing for various teams in the European leagues and tournaments.

Rolling: Actually both of those guys had been consistently over 1800 - 1900 for a year before the tournament. The one player's dump was more brazen with all those losses to 1200-1300 rated players in that one tournament. However look at the co-winner's results and you'll see he also conveniently dropped below 1800.

Fortunately they will not be able to take any more class B money from us because they will have a floor of 1800 since they won over $1,000 in one tournament.

I don't really pay a lot of attention to who is in my section. When I'm struggling to play like a 1600, how can I even worry about the sandbaggers? That's one of the reasons I won't play in the World Open. Why should I spend $300 to lose to sandbaggers and under rated kids? I can play in 15 tournaments at the Marshall for $20 a pop for that money.

It would be great if organizers of these big money events could take the time to research a player's playing history and opt to bump him if necessary. I know if I saw those two players rating history I would be saying WTF? This sub 1800 rating is bull crap.