After a long game on Sunday night, I didn't know what to expect on Monday. There were several different possibilities, and depending on what happened in round 5 I had all my bases covered. If I had some horribly short loss in round 5, I would go back to my sister's house, get my stuff, beat the traffic, and go to a Labor Day barbecue that I had been invited to. The hosts of the barbecue are chess parents, so they understood that I would not make it if I had a long game. If I had a long game, win or lose I would stick around for round 6, and then decide after that game what I would do.
In the past two state championships of been a victim of Murphy's Law. If there was something fun to do outside of chess, I would have a long drawn out game that would cause me to miss the fun. Also it was likely I would lose the game. If no one was around, I would either get a bye or lose quickly. Winning quickly was never part of the equation. I had kept my "buddy" Murphy at bay on Sunday. The Murphyisms of Sunday were minor. Two Blacks in a row? Big deal! Playing someone from the Marshall that I've played seven times already? It could be worse. I could be playing Silvio for the 101st time.
Monday was a new day, so what could happen? If I thought I was through with playing people I face at the Marshall, I was wrong. Not only did I face another one of my Marshall opponents in round 5, but she was one who I had just played this past Thursday. I was play White against Shernaz Kennedy again. Yes the same Shernaz who delivered mate as featured in my last Wacky Wednesday post. We were both annoyed that we traveled up to Albany to play each other for the second time in five days. Also what were the chances I play females in two straight rounds?
This was the first time I was playing Shernaz at normal time control since the 1992 New York State Woman's Championship. That was back when I was in the mid 1800s and she was close to 2100. I actually beat her in that game, finished the tournament at 3-1 and won the A prize. Would playing her at a slow time control be the thing that would snap my current losing streak against her? I've had really good games against her, but time pressure implosions typically have done me in.
The opening was the same as Thursday's game, however she didn't let me get e4 in right away or get my knight into d5, and I made sure I castled before trying any sort of attack. It was actually a quiet game. We played for over three hours. We had the same number of pawns going into the rook and pawns ending, but my two passed pawns on the queen side were the difference. Here's the game.
This was certainly a change for me. I went into the last round with an opportunity to get a plus score if I won, and an even score if I drew. There was also the third possibility, but most years a minus score has been the default going into the last round. I already had as many wins as 2005 - 2008 added together. Given the opportunity to go for a plus score meant I would be a no show at the barbecue. I was not going to drop out now.
After lunch with a few of my long time chess friends it was back to business. Somehow I managed to make the break and get paired down a little bit. I say a little bit because my opponent was rated 1637. A 63 point rating difference has hardly any statistical significance in terms of predicting results. Anything could happen, and I was Black. I had played this particular opponent in this event a number of years ago, and we drew. This was my fourth opponent out of six that I've played at least once before. At least he wasn't another NYC player!
I had to wonder if I would have my typical last round game that would drag on forever causing me to miss whatever Labor Day fun my sister had in mind. She had left me a voice mail saying that she was planning to go to a barbecue, and that I could join her there when I was done. The last time that had happened I had a game that went on for 5 hours, and I missed everything! Last year it was dinner and a movie that was the attractive alternative to playing out a miserable lost game in round four.
This year I would not have any of those last round of the day dilemmas. This game could be Wacky Wednesday material. My opponent told me at the start of the game that he would leave the board a lot. I could tell that he smoked, and that would probably take him away from the board frequently. I'm not sure what got into my opponent, but he had no idea what to do with my "anti-Yugoslav" move of 7...Qa5. The correct response is simply 8. 0-0, but often players try to play the Yugoslav anyway by responding 8. f3. Shortly after I had played 8...Qb4 he got up left the room on his time. I figured he needed a cigarette before trying to figure out what to do next. Sure enough when I left the room he was standing outside smoking. I went outside and was talking to the other smoker and my opponent. He says to me "Afterward can you tell me something about the Accelerated Dragon?" I said sure and went back inside.
The line is not all scary for White if he simply plays 9. Nxc6. After Black plays Bxc6, White simply moves his Bishop back to b3. Both players castle king side and it's pretty much equal. However at times players don't seem to quite know what to do with the line, and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. My opponent came back into the room, and started thinking about his move. He played 9. Qd3 which allows me the fork his queen and bishop with Ne5.
After 10. Bxf7+ Kxf7 I'm up a bishop for a pawn. It was quite apparent that he had no idea what he was doing with the line, and was visibly shaken by losing the piece. However it's at times like this that I have to be very careful not to get over confident or lose focus. Sometimes when I'm winning, my mind wanders off and thinks about how many rating points I will gain in the tournament, or whether or not I will win class money. I had already thrown away one game this tournament when I was up a piece. I did not want it to happen again.
I wasn't going to take unnecessary chances so instead of immediately taking the hanging pawn, and attacked his queen first, then took it. The did get the queens off the board. Even with the queens off the board, I made sure to stay focused on the position. When he went on his next smoke break it was tempting to go into the other room and look at the wall charts to figure if I could win money or not. I kept telling myself, "Concentrate on the position. Win the game first. It's not over until he resigns or you mate him."
He seemed to be having more trouble concentrating on the position because he ended out making another terrible move which allows me to go up a full rook. Shortly after that he resigned. Here's the game.
This was certainly a unique thing for me. A long time control game that I win in under two hours. It was actually more like an hour and half. Now I could go look at the wall chart and see what the chances of winning Under 1800 money were. There was Benjamin Ascherman, the recipient of my second round "gift" at 3.5 points going into round six, but he was playing way up. There were five players in the 1700s that had 3 points going into round six. There were also some 2.5s who could win and tie with me. So for me to have any decent shot at any sort of Under 1800 prize money, I needed Ascherman to lose and the five 3 pointers to lose or draw. What were the odds of all of that happening? Even though all the 3s had gotten paired up, in many cases the rating difference was only around 100 points which really could go either way. All it would take to knock me out of the running would be for a couple of the 3s to win, and Ascherman to draw or win.
I figured I would hang around for awhile and see how things unfolded in my section. It wasn't even 5:00 pm, and our dinner reservation was until 7:00 pm. I kept going in and seeing what was happening in the crucial games. One thing that was very mysterious was there was no game occurring on one the boards where the 3s were playing, but there was no result posted either. This was one of the games that mattered to me. It seems like neither player had shown up, and eventually it was posted as a double forfeit.
I was making myself crazy watching the various games, so instead I went into the skittles room and watched some kids play bughouse. Another kid wanted to join in, but didn't have a partner, so I offered to be his partner. We were a pretty good team, though it took us awhile to click. He kept forgetting to pass the captured pieces to me. I'd look over, and see he had all these white pieces. Once we worked out this glitch we didn't lose many games. We didn't have to get up very often, so I got to play lots of bughouse. The inner child comes out when I'm playing bughouse. I get loud and silly just like the kids.
Finally the parents of some of the kids wanted to leave so the games broke up. I went back into the playing room to see what was happening. The 3.5 had lost, but a number of 3s were still playing. One of the 3s was up a piece against his higher rated opponent. I figured the best I could do was end out in some massive tie for 2nd place and if I was lucky maybe win half my entry fee back. At that pointed I decided I would head back to my sister's house. Everything was out of my control at this point. If I won something, I'd get the organizer to mail me my check.
I was pleasantly surprised later when I looked at the results, and saw that I tied for 1st Under 1800. I was amazed that everything happened that I needed to occur to have a chance. The 3 who was up a piece when I left, only managed a draw. Instead of being in 4 way tie for 2nd. I was in a 5 way tie for 1st.
Looking at my results at this tournament convinced me that I need to play more slow chess. I scored .5 - 2.5 in the fast games on the two day schedule, and scored 3 - 0 in the slow games. This convinced me that I would play the one game a week tournament on Thursdays at the Marshall and take a break from Thursday night "cracktion". It will be hard to avoid "cracktion" all together unless I can get some players on Mondays to play a slow tournament over 3-4 weeks.