After that disastrous evening the previous week, I wasn't sure I wanted to venture back down to the Marshall anytime soon. However knowing that Thanksgiving was coming up, and that my Wednesday club would be switching to Thursdays for 3 weeks, I decided I would give it another try. What was the worse thing that could happen? I couldn't get a lousier score. From 0-4, nowhere else to go but up. The WCC Fall Swiss had sucked up the remaining 7 rating points to bring me back to my floor. I couldn't lose anymore rating points.
Despite horrendous traffic coming back from my Thursday afternoon chess class in Connecticut, I managed to get home, make a sandwich that I remembered to pack, and make the train. I also managed to stay awake during the train ride. Already I was scoring better then the previous week.
Once a month the tournament is a Grand Prix event with 10 Grand Prix Points up for grabs and guaranteed prizes. Sometimes that means there are a few more grandmasters and masters the normal. That doesn't necessarily do much to my first round pairing except that I might play a 2180 in the first round instead of a 2050. Since the entry fee is a little higher and the competition is tougher at the top, it sometimes scares off the bottom. When that happens I find myself looking at a first or second round bye. I can tell when it's coming in the first round. Steve mutters something to me, and walks around the club saying "Any more entries?"
Sure enough he's walking around the club asking if anyone else is entering. He makes and posts the pairings, and yes I see "Please wait" next to my name. I suppose it's better to get it over with, and not get it in the third round. I just resign myself to having to wait an hour, and go back to eating my sandwich. Steve comes back into the back room and tells me I have an opponent. I see John Mac Arthur, and hope he's my opponent. Nope. I'm playing one of his students who he introduces to me as "young whipper snapper." Swell! Just what I need in the first round, a kid of undetermined strength.
His name was familiar to me since he's played in some scholastic tournaments I've directed, but I had no idea what his rating was. When I asked him, he said he didn't know. I found that a little hard to believe, since most kids can tell you within a rating point what their latest rating is. When I asked for a ballpark figure he couldn't even give me that. Maybe he was trying to be coy with me, but I decided it didn't matter. Most of the kids who show up to play on Thursday night are solid players regardless of rating. I would just play my game, and see what developed.
I played cautiously. At times I was too cautious, and I missed some simple tactics early in the game. It went into a reverse Accelerated Dragon, so it's not like I hadn't seen these positions before. When he played 9...Bh3, I could have simply taken it. After 10. Bxh3, Qxh3 I have 11. Nxd5. How many times as Black have I seen White play Nb3 before playing Bh6? I look for the overworked queen as Black in these positions, but some how I wasn't looking for it as White. Instead I played the really wussy move of 10. Bh1 to prevent the exchange of light squared bishops.
Fortunately for me, I got another opportunity to win the bishop when he pushed f5, cutting off the queen's protection along the h3-c8 diagonal. At the time I was very pleased with myself for finding the combination of the discovered attack on the queen, and attacking the unprotected bishop.
When I gave him a little bit of counter-play my mind started wandering off to negative thoughts about "If I lose I'm going to be really annoyed." "I wish I had just taken the bye." That's the sort of thinking that gets me into trouble so I tried to keep my mind focused on looking for good moves. Anytime I said to myself "Don't blunder and don't get overconfident." I told myself to replace those negative reminders with positive statements such as "Look for good moves." and "Stay focused on winning." I'm trying to be more aware of positive and negative thoughts, and how they impact my board vision and thought processes.
Here's the game.
In round two I played Leif Pressman. He's rated 2300. I was holding my own, but lost a pawn on the 20th move. It's hard to give pawn odds to a master. Eventually he ended out with a passed a pawn that I could not get back and stop. it's even harder to give a master queen odds, so I resigned that game.
In round 3 I played Michael Hehir, rated in the mid 2000s. I probably would have played him in round one if my first round opponent had arrived on time, and the pairings done normally. I tend to play him in the first or second round at least once a month. We always have interesting games, and occasionally I have nicked him for a draw or a win. Most of of the time I'm on the losing end. This evening would be another one of those losing nights. I actually thought I was doing okay. My pawn structure was better, but doubled rooks on an open file more then make up for two sets of doubled pawns. Here's the abrupt ending.
In the last round I was paired against a high 2100 with a drinking problem. This was one of those nights when he was stinking drunk. He even told me at the beginning of the game that he had been drinking since 7:00 am. I didn't understand what he said to me. Somebody afterward told me that. It's very sad to see people in such a state. I've played him before when he's been drunk. I beat him one time, and I've lost a few times. I didn't allow his state to impact my play. I was going to play as if he were sober. Even after he lost a piece, I kept reminding myself to stay focused on the game. It's easy to get overconfident in a situation like that. Eventually he lost another piece, and resigned.
Just another night in Cracktion Land. The rating points I tossed the previous week were returned to me the following week. Easy go, easy come.