I'm a week late with this report, and news of my performance spreads fast. If you've been reading this blog since its inception you know I've had some crazy scores in the 2007 and 2008 Championships. I never know what to expect when I show up at this tournament. However when I dropped a pawn in my first round game, I thought "Here we go again!" Fortunately my opponent was in worst time trouble then me and offered me a draw in the following position after playing 43...Re7.
I didn't even hesitate. I accepted the draw almost immediately. It's funny because, I had considered offering him a draw several moves earlier. I had a big time edge, and didn't see an easy win for him. However I always feel weird offering a much higher rated player a draw when I'm down a pawn.
In the second round I get paired against Benjamin Ascherman. I've played him seven times at the Marshall Chess Club. One thing I find annoying is when I travel two and half hours to play in a tournament, and getting paired against players who I play at the Marshall or at other local events down by me. I don't need to pay for gas and tolls to play someone from New York City! We could have stayed home and played at the Sunday G/30 at the Marshall. However events in Albany and Saratoga Springs draw a lot of NYC and Westchester based players, so I tend to get paired against at least one person each tournament from my neck of the woods.
There are three Ascherman brothers, and a younger sister who all play chess. I've never played the younger sister, but I've had varying degrees of success against the three boys. I having an even record against one, a winning record against another, and losing record against the other. Guess which one I had to play in round two? Yep, the one I have a 1-6 record against. I wasn't overly concerned about my score against him since, one I wasn't really sure if he was really the brother that I had the lousy record against, and two, I didn't even know how bad my record was. I had to look it up when I started writing this post. Most of our games are close positional battles and it's usually some time pressure induced horror that decides the game.
This was a typical game for us, except that on move 35 he out right hung a knight. Didn't get a pawn for it and didn't get play. He almost looked like he wanted to resign on the spot. However no such luck! Easy win for me? Nope! I got sloppy and played passively. I eventually ended out giving him two pawns, and lots of play. Then in a moment of stupidity I allowed my bishop to get trapped. I only got one pawn for it, and went into a knight versus bishop pawn ending down a pawn. At that point the position played itself. Here's the game.
It's very frustrating for me when I'm up material and should be able to win, but some how manage to screw it up. I either get over confident, lose focus, and just play moves without considering all the possibilities. The other extreme is I have this feeling of doom, that somehow I'm going to find a way to totally screw up and lose, because I'm just destined to lose. Sometimes I feel like I suffer from what I refer to as the "Great American Beat Me Complex." I have this annoying habit of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." Since I was playing the two day schedule the time limit was G/40, but my mistakes were not clock induced.
My third round was against a 1962 who after a lousy start in the three day schedule decided to re-enter the two day schedule. I got Black for a second straight round. There wasn't anything spectacular about the game. It was dead even until I missed a simple combination after pushing my pawn to a5. Two moves later I lose the pawn. I dropped another pawn and eventually he trades down to a simple king and pawn ending.
At this point I'm wondering if I'm going to have a repeat of my 2007 score of 1 draw and 5 losses. Blowing the second round game was upsetting, but I didn't let it bother me too much. I think I've just gotten used to bad things happening to me at this tournament. Since I had a half point I was safe from round four bye threats, though I would not have been devastated by a bye since I could go have dinner with my niece and her boyfriend. A bye was not on the horizon. Instead I made the cut and got paired way down to a 9 year old girl with 1392 rating. Oh joy! I guess I couldn't dodge the little underrated kids forever.
Now I have to make the transition from G/40 to 40/2 G/60. I was determined to make sure I slowed down. Too often I can't slow down enough. I end out making some stupid move that I would not have made if I spent a few more minutes on it. My young opponent was taking her time. Often I get antsy when my opponent is taking a lot of time, but I was determined not have another meltdown against a little girl. There were times during the game where I felt we were having a stare down contest. I would be sitting up on my chair leaning over the board, and I'd look up and she would looking right at me. Her expression would be very serious and intense. I'd go back to looking at the board. This occurred a number of times during the game.
I won a pawn on move 15, however it wasn't like I had a clear cut win. We had only traded light squared bishops. All the rest of the pieces were still on the board. It still was not easy for me. I would have liked to trade everything off and win the king and pawn ending. She wasn't cooperating. At one point she offered me a draw before making her move. I had no intention of taking a draw at that point, but I still asked her to move first before I gave an answer. After she moved, she asked again. I guess she wanted to make sure that I remembered that she did offer a draw. I declined it. I wasn't ready to concede a half point.
She certainly wasn't ready to concede a full point to me. She would not trade queens. Every time I tried to get the queens off the board, she would move her queen away. We did trade off a lot of pieces. On move 38 she offered me another draw. We both had a queen and a rook. However I still the extra pawn. I still wasn't sure how I was going to convert my edge, however I still wasn't ready to take a draw. I knew that was her objective, and that if I didn't say something she would be asking me again. I told her if I wanted a draw I would offer one myself.
When we made 40 moves she had 3 minutes left from the first time control, and I had 44 minutes. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have grind out this game, and win on time. Finally on move 50 I was able to get the queen trade I wanted. That still didn't make things easy because we both still had rooks on the board. We traded some pawns and went for a pawn race. 68 moves and four and half hours later the game came to an abrupt end when she allowed mate. At that point it was inevitable. She can hang on for another 9 moves with correct play. At that point it's way past her bedtime, and round five is at 9:00 AM the next day.
It's tough playing these young kids. They feel like they have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain. The 1386 rating on the wall chart was a lie. Her October rating is 1522. I never make assumptions about playing strength when playing kids like her. Like many of the talented young kids, she works hard and has a good coach.
Here is the game.
Stay tuned for part two when Polly shows Murphy who's the boss!