Friday, February 27, 2009

End Of The Week End Game

As I mentioned in my USATE Round 1 & 2 report, my teammate Guy Colas played a beautiful ending against his tough as nails 86 year old opponent, Albert Makatenas. I wanted to share the ending because it's so educational. It's the classic queen against a pawn on the seventh rank with the king far away. The position below was reached after 63...Qxb3+.

In these types of positions the challenge for the player with the queen is to force the opponent's king in front of the pawn, and use that tempo to bring his king closer to the pawn. Without those critical interludes in front of the pawn Black can not make progress. Guy did a beautiful job to get the win. One missed check will allow White to promote and draw. 66. Kc7 Qc4+ 67. Kb6 Qb4+ 68. Kc7 Qc5+ 69. Kd8 Qb6+ 70. Kc8 Qc6+ Here is the first check that forces White in front of his pawn. Any other king move loses the pawn outright.

71. Kb8 Ke3 72. Ka7 Qa4+ 73. Kb6 Qb4+ 74. Kc7 Qc4+ 75. Kd8 Qd5+ 76. Kc8 Qc6+ Once again Black has danced around White's king and forces him back to b8.

77. Kb8 Kd4 78. Ka7 Qa4+ 79. Kb6 Qb4+ 80. Ka7 Qa5+ Difference dance steps, but same situation for White. Back to b8 with his king.

81. Kb8 Kd5 82. Kc8 Qc5+ 83. Kd8 Qb6+ 84. Kc8 Qc6+ Once again the White king has to step in front of his pawn, giving Black the final king move he needs.

85. Kb8 Kd6 Look who has come in town to join the party! Please welcome his majesty, the black king. He's even going to let the white pawn hang around to watch the fun.

86. Ka7 Qc7 87. Ka8 Qa5+ 88. Kb8 Kc6

89. Kc8 Qc7#

A very nice ending done with precision. I wonder if I could do that with 5 seconds left on my clock?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wacky Wednesday! Westfield Quads

After my recent disasters at the Marshall Chess Club, I decided a little change of scenery and format would be good for me. The Westfield Chess Club (New Jersey) meets every Sunday afternoon at the Westfield YMCA. Several times a month they run quads. They've been running these quads for many years. They are very popular, and tend to draw around 40 to 50 players.

I like the quad format because it's a 4 player round robin with opponents close in rating. One doesn't get the extreme pairings that are typical in an open Swiss. I couldn't complain about the rating distribution in my quad. 1705, 1700, 1700, 1651. I also managed to avoid having any kids in my quad. That was the good news. The bad news was I played horrendously in round one and walked into mate on the 31st move. Believe it or not, that's not even the designated Wacky Wednesday game. It was too long to qualify.

Round two was an interesting game. I was up two pawns, but black got play for them. This is the final position after Black played 42... Qc2. The question facing White "Is Black's exchange sacrifice sound?" Unfortunately I ran out of time trying to find the answer.

Accepting the sacrifice allows Black to force a draw. 43. Bxe2 Rxe2 44. Kf1 Rh2 45. R3d2 Rh1+ 46. Kf2 (Not 47. Kg2?? Mate in 7 for Black. Highlight text between the brackets for the answer. [46. Kg2 Qe4+47. Kf2 Qxf4+ 48. Ke2 Qe4+ 49. Kf2 Rh2+ 50. Kg3 Qe5+ 51. Kf3 d4+ 52. c6 Bxc6# ]) 46...Rh2+ 47. Kf1 Rh1+

White's best plan is 43. Qg3 Re1+ 44. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 45. Qxe1 Qxd3 46. Bg2. White is up two pawns and Black's atack has run out of steam.

Interesting position, but not the wackiest thing of the day. That came in round three. I guess winning the toss was a sign that perhaps things might turn around for me. I was 0-2, so things couldn't get much worse for me. The inner pessimist is asking herself "What's the worst that can happen now? I can lose again and end out 0-3." When my rating can't go any lower, I don't sweat 0-3 versus 1-2. Though after a long afternoon of chess, ending with a win would be a nice way to finish. My opponent was very accommodating on his part.

This game was painfully quick for my opponent.


When I played 17. Qh7+ my opponent suddenly realized what he had overlooked. It was nice to be on the giving end for a change. Lately, I've had too many games end in such an abrupt manner with me having the "OMG what was I thinking?" moment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kidz Night @ 4 Rated Games Tonight! - Part II

Due to the large number of lower rated kids, I actually have 1 point after 2 rounds instead of the usual no points. There were a number of kids from my area at the tournament, including King Kong (Kevin). Kevin has never played in the Thursday night tournament before. Ben on the other hand, plays in this tournament quite often. We got paired against each other in the first round three Thursday night tournaments in a row. Last week we didn't get paired for a change. He asked me how I did in round two, and I told him I won. He had lost to Jay Bonin again. I think Ben gets as aggravated losing to Jay as I do losing to him. When he knew we both had the same score he said "I better not have to play you." Sure enough that was the round three pairing.

Ben and I have a long history together. During the summer of 2002 his mom would bring him and a few other players from our area down on Thursday evenings for the tournament. Before that time, I didn’t play in the tournament very much. If I did, I would take a half point bye in the last round because I wasn’t sure what train I’d be able to catch otherwise. At the time Ben was starting his climb from 1100. Since we traveled in together Steve would make an effort to try to avoid pairing any of us together. Finally after several months of coming to the tournaments together, he couldn’t avoid pairing us. Going into the last round Ben and I were both 0-3. Nobody else had zero so the pairing was forced. He even wrote next to the pairing “forced”. Ben totally outplayed me and won the game. I’m not sure whether he was 8 or 9 years old at the time, but he was the youngest player I’d lost to up that point.

Over the next year we’d play each other 10 times. We would play at the Marshall and also at some tournaments in Westchester County. He won the first five games we played. Then I won the next five games we played. When I won game #10 I made a comment in jest that "He'd probably win the next 5 in a row." I was trying to be funny, but sometimes young kids misunderstand the intent, so he was not amused by my attempt at humor. Number 11 was a game of “Who wants to lose this game?” He blundered a piece, then I walked into a fork several moves later and gave the piece back. Then a number of moves later he hung another piece. Was I able to capitalize on this gift? No. Shortly after that I hung my queen.

Since my last win against him in 2003 I have played him 9 more times. I'm 0-9 against him. This would be our 10th game since 2003. He took a break from chess, which is why we haven't played more in the past 5.5 years. I sometimes have played really well against him, but messed up in time pressure. At other times I have gotten a bad position out of the opening and lost horribly. Mentally I have problems when I play him. Part of it is our ancient history from when he was a little kid. Also he's the top player on the team that I often assist at nationals. Sometimes he likes to bust my chops when I lose to lower rated players. There are times when he asks me how I did I'll tell him "I'm having a crappy night, I don't want to talk about it." He will back off when I say that.

This was a game where I was holding my own. He messed up, and I won a pawn. It should have been a straight forward win in the rook and pawn ending. However I was behind on the clock, and he used that to his advantage. Since he's played me a lot, and he's seen me in these action tournaments he knows that I don't always handle time pressure very well. I couldn't come up with a decent plan for pushing one of my pawns through, so I decided I was willing to settle for a draw. I attempted to repeat the position three times, but he wouldn't go for the third repetition. Probably against a higher rated opponent, or one that he didn't know so well he probably would have been happy to take the draw. Given my history he opted not to repeat. He even said afterwards, he just made moves knowing that I'd start thinking and get way behind on the clock.

Here is the first crucial position after 44...Rc7.

I played 45. Ke5 and the game continued 45... Re7+ 46. Re6 Rd7 47.Rd6 Re7+ 48. Re6 Rd7 to reach the position below.

I played 49. Rd6 to see if he'd go for the three fold repetition. He did not play 49...Re7+. Instead he played 49...Rc7. In my attempts to go for a draw I ignored the very strong 49. g6+! Part of my reluctance to play that move is because I'm leaving myself with a backward pawn. It's easy to be distracted by positional flaws, instead of seeing potential mate threats. A possible continuation for me is 49... Kf8 (49...Kg8??, 50. Re8#) 50. Rc6 Rd8 51. Rc7 a5 52. Ke6 Re8+53. Kd6 Rd8+ 54. Rd7 Rc8 55. Rf7+ Kg8 56. Rc7 Re8 57. Kd7 Kf8

The game continued 50. f6 gxf6+ 51. Rxf6+ Kg7 52. Ke6 Rc6+ 53. Ke5 Rc5+ 54. Kf4 Rc7 55. Kf5 Rc5+ 56. Kf4 Rc7 57. Kf5 Rc8 58. Ke6 Re8+ 59. Kf5 Re3 60.Rc6 Rf3+61. Kg4 Rxb3 62. Rc7+ Kg6 63. Rxa7 Rc3 to reach the position below:

Sure enough Ben was right. I'm down to one second on the clock, and even with the five second delay I can't find the right move. 64. Rb7?? I forgot that he's taking my c pawn with check and then can play Rc6 holding on to the b6 pawn. 64. Rc7 b3 65. Rc6+ Kg7 66.Rxb6 Rxc4+ 67. Kh5 Rxa4 68. Rxb3 would have been the best continuation for me. Instead the game went 64... Rxc4+ 65. Kg3 Rc6 66. Kg4 b3 67. Rb8 b268. Rg8+ Kf7 69. Rd8 b1=Q 70. Rd7+ Ke6 0-1.

It's kind of ironic after explaining why it's not good to settle for a draw in the middle game, that I end out falling into the same sort of psychological trap. In my efforts to repeat the position and settle for a draw I was missing stronger moves. Perhaps against another player I would have taken more chances, but in my quest to not lose to Ben again, I ended out setting myself up to lose. The psychology of the draw offer works both ways. I knew if I outright offered a draw he would refuse it. However attempting to repeat the position is pretty much the same as making a draw offer. I probably should have made the offer, have him refuse it, and then not waste moves trying to repeat the position.

I'd like to say that I bounced back in round 4, took out all my frustrations on my fourth round opponent and crushed him. BUT......that's not what happened. Instead I got mated in 22 moves by an obnoxious kid with a provisional rating of 1183. I played this kid in December when he had an 842 rating based on 6 losses to higher rated players. He was beating me in that game too, but got overconfident and imploded in time pressure. This time I wasn't so fortunate.

Normally after such a quick loss in round four, I'd rush out of the club to catch the early train. Since I was getting a ride back with Kevin's mom, I went over the game with my opponent. I wanted to see what went wrong. What I didn't expect was this kid ripping my moves apart and lecturing me like he was some grandmaster and I was a mere patzer. I really wanted to ask the kid where he gets off talking down to a higher rated adult opponent like that? Ben's coach who is a FIDE master was observing our post mortem, and started challenging the kid's analysis. I just sat back and watched the kid act like a butt head arguing with one of the top scholastic coaches in the country. The kid had no idea who he was arguing with.

I can take criticism and I'm willing to learn from anyone, however I found this kid's post game behavior a bit over the top. Ben's coach can rip my game apart all he wants. He made a couple of very good points about my crappy 17...Rc8 move. It was bad because I'm defending a one pointer with a five pointer, and I'm taking an active piece and putting out of play. When I said "I was trying to free up my knight" he made the point of "You're trying to free up your knight by tying up your rook. Does that make sense?" No it made no sense at all. I paid dearly.

Here is the game. I suppose I could have saved it for Wacky Wednesday, but I have another game for that.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Kidz Night @ 4 Rated Games Tonight! Part I

Remind me the next time the public schools are on vacation to skip Thursday night. On a typical Thursday night there are usually around 20 to 30 entries. Of those entries there are normally around 5 kids that will attend regardless of whether it's school night or not. This particular night there were 40 entries, and 19 of them were kids. That would go up to 21 if I counted the two college students, but when they out rate me by 300+ points I don't really look at them as kids.

I guess if I use the rating difference criteria I shouldn't count my first and third round opponents as kids either. However since they're both ninth graders and I've known them since they were in kindergarten and first grade it's hard to think of them otherwise. My first round opponent was Alec Getz. He's a FIDE master and rated 2280. Of all the very talented kids I've watched progress over the years, he is probably one of the nicest and most humble kids I've encountered over the board. I've never seen him be a hot dog at the board, show up his opponent, or say anything unkind about others. I've nicked him once for a draw, otherwise I've lost to him. This night was no different.

Since I was on board 4 in round one I knew I'd get paired down for round two. Normally in this tournament I don't get paired down until round three. I knew I'd play somebody rated in the mid 1400s. Most likely I'd get another kid. Sure enough I'm black against a 6th grader rated 1454. My rule of thumb with kids like that is figure they're really about 100 points higher strength wise. I also figure they're going to play 1. e4 and then play something aggressive against my Sicilian. I was right on both counts. His March rating is close to 100 points higher then his February rating, and he played the Grand Prix against my Sicilian.

Lately my plan against this type of play is to open up the h4 - d8 diagonal and try to exchange the queens after the opponent comes into h4. Getting the queens off the board blunts the king side attack for the most part. Depending on the move order, I've found a number of players will retreat the queen to h3 to prevent the exchange. My opponent traded queens on move 13, and on move 20 offered a draw. We've played for all of about 15 minutes, and outside of two pawn trades, a minor piece trade and the queen trade everything else is still on the board. He obviously hasn't read this, this or this, or he would have known better then to offer me a draw so soon. I said I would think about it. Who was I kidding? There was nothing to think about. I wasn't taking the draw.

We trade off a pair of bishops and he offers me another draw. It's the second draw offer that always causes me to say something. At this point I tell him that if I want a draw I will offer one, but right now there too much left in the position. I find it's usually the second rejection of the draw that does the player in. It's almost like they feel they have to justify their draw offers, and suddenly they play very cautiously. Instead of looking for moves that might even give them the initiative, they play overly safe and allow the opponent to get an attack going. This is exactly what happened in our game.


I talked to the kid and his dad afterwards, and explained that it's not a good idea to simply be aiming for a draw in position that has so much play in it. My opponent responded that he thought the game would end out drawn. Maybe it eventually it would, but there were too many pieces left on the board to accept a draw in round two of a 4 round tournament. I explained how simply trying to get a draw changes one's mindset, and that it's hard to look for aggressive moves that may swing the position in his favor. The dad understood exactly what I was talking about.

In a game with even material it seems like it should simply trade down to a draw, but it doesn't work that way. There are dynamic changes that occur during the course of the game. Small errors can suddenly morph into position killers, and the simple draw becomes a fight for one's life. I would experience the same sort things in a "won ending" in round three. In part II I will recount how a wrong mindset came back to bite me.

I guess my little lecture helped him. He went on to win his last two rounds including a win against an 1800 who makes his younger opponents play almost all the way out to the end.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

USATE - Back To Our Regular Progamming

Yesterday was the breaking news day highlighting numero uno. Complete results are now posted on NJSCF site. Today it's back to life in the slow lane. It was back to playing with the big boys in the ballroom. I hate the fifth round. It comes way too early. 9:00 AM Monday morning. Talk about the Monday Blahs. Maybe Monday Blags is more like it. This was the battle of the Blagojevich teams. We were "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale" and they were "Blagojevich Defense: Never Resign". Unfortunately for us, they weren't buying, and we couldn't follow their advice unless we wanted to play down to mate. We were the ones having to do all the resigning. It was another round of losing the match 4-0. On the bright side it took much longer then 2 hours for our opponents to put us out of our misery. I lasted three and half hours against my 2057 rated opponent. Note to self: 5+1 = 3+3 unless the opponent has the bishop pair, and I don't.


Sitting at the table next to us was another team of kids from our area. Since their average rating was very close to ours there was no danger we'd ever have to play them. This team was a family affair. They had the three Dell'Orto brothers; Dario, Giancarlo, and Antonio, and father/son, John and Connor Riddell. John is a master and played the first three rounds. Then Antonio played the last three rounds on board four. Antonio is the only one on that team I have not played. I have a losing record against both families. Even though I'm undefeated against Connor, his dad more then makes up for that. I was happy we didn't have to play their team, since I can play John or Dario without having to drive 45 miles to do so.

Dario, Giancarlo, Connor and Antonio

After another tough round Alan, Silvio and I found solace in getting out of the hotel for a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant. Guy did not join us since he had his son, and his teammates. Somehow with a group of kids their idea of Italian food is pizza. What I've learned out three straight years of playing with Alan and Silvio, they like to eat. Since we had over two hours to kill before the final round we had time to pick and choose. I'm glad to hang out with a Jewish guy who thinks he's Italian, and an Italian guy who is Italian. The food was decent, and the chocolate cake was outstanding. What more can I ask for? A win in the last round would be nice.

When we arrived back at the hotel the lobby was swarming with players. That's always a dead give away that the pairings are not up yet. That's alright with me. It gives me a few more minutes to let the food digest.

Waiting for round six pairings.
Hotel lobby becomes an ad hoc skittles room and picnic area.

As the pairings were being posted in the usual places, Steve Doyle comes in to the lobby to do another one of his pre-round give-aways. This time he was looking for a New Jersey quarter. This would get the owner his very own copy of the pairings. Nobody produced a New Jersey quarter, but one kid came up with a New Hampshire quarter so he won the set of pairings. All his friends were all over him to see where they were paired. He finally gave me my shot at them. I looked all over the two score group, and could not find our team. Where were we? I finally decided it would be easier to fight the crowds looking at the alphabetical list to find our name. A new twist on an old game "Where in the world is Blagojevich Gambit?"

As I mentioned in my report from rounds 1 and 2, there is clearly a hierarchy in terms of board assignments and where they're located. For the top rated teams they may spend the entire tournament in the best seats in town, behind the ropes in the main ballroom. For the teams on boards 10-80 they get to fight the crowds in the main ballroom, but it's the ballroom. All the fun stuff happens in there. It can be a circus in there, especially when Steve Doyle does his give aways before the round. "First person with a YMCA card from Connecticut gets a prize." "First person to come up and sing YMCA and do the motions, gets a prize." Yes and there is mad dash to be the person who comes up and sings in front of the assembled masses.

View from Board 80 - Main Ballroom.

For the teams on the fringe (lunatic fringe?) such as ours, we spend the winning rounds in the Heritage ballroom, and the getting hammered rounds in the main ballroom. Tell me again, why is so great to play in the main ballroom? It's fun to watch people go berserk over getting free stuff from Steve before every round? It's great to fight a crowd of kids to win some random book you might not otherwise buy? It's inspiring to be in the same room with grandmasters? It's a good place to hide from the guy you owe $100 to for losing at blitz? It's good for our game to get hammered by a much higher rated team? It's the US Amateur Team East, and that's where all the cool people are? Truth be told, no self respecting adult wants to be seen playing in one of the Morris conference rooms where the average age of the players is around 10.

No that's not an unused table in the background. A match quickly concluded. I took this picture about an hour into the round.

Of the four regional team events held on Presidents Day weekend, the Amateur Team East draws the most players, and the most kids teams. The Amateur Team North has a separate scholastic division that drew 16 teams this year. Getting to 2000 posted the winning teams from all 4 regions on his blog. The Amateur Team East probably had more scholastic teams then regular teams in the other three regions combined. For a number of the kids playing on scholastic teams at the Amateur Team East, this will be the first time they may play an adult. For some it may even be their first tournament ever. For local area kids this is an exciting opportunity to play in a national tournament.

In 2003 I played first board on a team with 3 elementary school girls. In the first round we got paired against a team who had a 598 on board one. I think it took our team less then 40 minutes to finish the match. My game went 24 moves and was done in about 35 minutes. Teams like that eventually get paired against each other, and somebody will finally win their first match of the tournament. At the USATE there is a special prize called Ethel Collins Perseverance award. This goes to the lowest scoring scholastic team. Ironically this year's winner of that award was named "Yes We Can Mate You". I guess they couldn't, which is why they "won" the prize this year.

As I mentioned before when I looked at the 6th round pairings in board order, I could not find us amongst the two pointers. I thought it might be because I was trying to read the pairing sheet without my reading glasses on. Actually the reason I couldn't find our name in the expected spot was because we were assigned to board 200. Where in the world is board 200? Not next to board 199 in the Morris wing. It's actually in room 200 on the second floor next to regular sleeping rooms.

From the window of of room 200 you can see the lobby. The picture below is cropped from the upper left hand corner of the lobby shot I posted earlier in this article. That window is part of Room 200.

The organizers of the tournament go to great lengths to accommodate teams that have special needs. There are often teams with blind players or players in wheelchairs. It's easier for those teams if they have an assigned board all tournament. Two such teams had assigned boards in the main ballroom. Two other teams had assigned boards in room 200. Our sixth round opponent was one of those teams in room 200.

Knights of the Square Table VS Blagojevich Gambit

Alan got his wish. At lunch he said "I hope we don't have to play little kids again." No kids in this bunch. There are advantages and disadvantages to playing in the middle of nowhere in an event like this. The advantages, are it's very quiet, there are only 16 people in the room, nobody is bumping into the back of your chair, and nobody but your teammates and opponents will see if you're playing like crap.

The disadvantages are, the hotel forgets you exist so the bathroom is messy, they've run out of water, and the room is hot as hell. Somebody asked if the room was going to get any cooler. One the players from the other team says "This is cool." The air conditioner was blowing cold air, but it sure wasn't getting around the room. During the match Alan asked me if we could open the window. I showed him the view of the lobby from the window, and he realized it would not be a good idea to open the window.

I hate when the playing room is really cold, but at least I can throw another layer on. When the playing room is really hot there is only so much one can take off. The thought crossed my mind to go out to my car and grab a tee-shirt and gym shorts to change into. I decided that was way too much work. It was cool in the hallway, particularly by the elevators. When it wasn't my move I would sometimes leave the room to cool off. I was getting a splitting headache. It's hard for me to stay focused when my head is pounding and I constantly have to leave the room to get relief from the heat. Fortunately my game was over in less then 2.5 hours. Here's the game.


I'm not how much longer I could have dealt with the heat. I finally put a win on the scoreboard, and my team won the match 3-1. We ended out 3 out of 6. We won the matches we were supposed to win, but unfortunately we couldn't do any damage to our higher rated opposition. We scored 1 out of 12 in the matches where we were paired up.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Breaking News!: Palin Gambit Wins USATE 6-0!

Going into the last round there were only two teams with perfect 5-0 scores. Team number 3 "UR Outrated: Give Up" (2199) and "Palin Gambit: I Can See Checkmate" (2192). Unlike last year both of these teams were very balanced with the ratings ranging from 2445 down to 1981 on UR Outrated, and 2320 down to 2052 on Palin Gambit. That made for a very closely contested match on the top board.

UR Outrated: Give Up
Larry Kaufman 2445
Raymond Kaufman 2317
Ian Schoch 2056
Douglas Stanley 1981

Palin Gambit: I can see checkmate
Paul Mac Intyre 2320
Brian Hulse 2210
Libardo Rueda 2189
Alan Price 2052

L. Kaufman and Mac Intyre drew on board one, R. Kaufman beat Hulse on board two, Rueda beat Schoch on board three, and Price beat Stanley on board 4. Close match! 2 1/2 - 1 1/2. Congratulations for a a tough win.

In case anyone cares, my team got smashed 4-0 in round 5 and squeaked by 2.5 - 1.5 in round 6. I finally won a game in round 6. Details at 11, or whenever I get to it tomorrow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

USATE - Rd. 4 Photos

It's late, so not much writing but a few pictures from before the round. Pictured below is the team we really, really, really don't want to play. Why don't we want to play that team? Board one is King Kong, Board two is Josh (our board two's son), Board 3 is Mike and Board 4 is Ben. Those four kids have nicked all of us for a lot of rating points. Ben is the only one of those kids that I have a winning record against. Fortunately they have a 1/2 point more then us so we shouldn't be faced with having to have father play his son.

Chess We Can
Killer Kidz - Adults beware!

Parsippany's Only Chess Club Band

There were only two entries for the chess gimmick. The above group did a take off on Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was very clever. The lyrics will be posted on the New Jersey State Chess Federation site. I've seen a lot of these chess gimmicks at this tournament over the years. This one was probably one of the best ones ever. They not only won the dinner for four, but Steve decided to give them entry into next year's event.

Here is a portion of their skit on youtube

These cute girls did a patriotic theme, and won chess clocks for their effort.

The winning team name was "I can see Russians from my board". There were a number of Madoff played the Ponziani type names. Our Blagojevich Gambit didn't even get nominated. Geez! All that hard work coming up with that name.

We were back in the small ballroom paired against a kids team. They had older kids on the top two boards and two really young ones on boards three and four. Silvio's opponent was 6 years old with a 500+ rating. He gave Silvio a run for his money, but the bottom two boards ended pretty quickly. All Guy and I needed to do was get a draw between the two of us to clinch the match. It was touch and go for awhile, but Guy some how managed to win a very closed up position. My opponent and I played a long game that went over 4 1/2 hours. We drew our game so we won the match 3.5 - .5. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be back in the action. I'm still looking for my first win! Though 2 draws and 2 losses on board one is not all that terrible. Though the masters have trashed me pretty badly. We'll see what rounds 5 and 6 bring.

For some people there is never enough chess, and tournament would not be complete without bughouse. There were 26 teams in the bughouse tournament. One team achieved a perfect 6-0 score.

Bughouse Champs - Asian Domination
Neph Diaz (TX) and Shin Uesugi (MD)

It's hard to get a decent picture with no flash when everyone is moving so fast! Here is a video of their round 6 win. The mate in 5 combo is quite cool.

USATE - Rd. 3 Valentine's Day Massacre Deferred

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, but the massacre came today. Another one of Steve Doyle's special things for the tournament were custom M&Ms in Valentine colors that said "I love the team" and "Rooking Good". I ate way too many of them!

The pairings are back to normal now with everyone playing opponents in their own score group. Our average rating has put us in a bad spot this round. We got paired up against the #20 team with an average rating of 2180! Geez, what's a team like that doing with only one point? Upset city on the first day. In fact Alex Lenderman's team with its 2199 average go knocked off, so as their 3rd board said, "We're playing with the peasants now." The top 10 boards get to play in a roped off area away from the crowds. It's very nice playing back there. Four years ago I played 4th board on a high rated team. We were behind the ropes 5 out 6 rounds. Nice spot if you can get it.

The safety zone behind the ropes.

Life on Board 35, by the doors.

We were paired against a team of college aged kids. They looked as though they had a lot of fun last night. This morning they looked like they were paying for it. Their first and second boards arrived about 10 minutes late. Even hungover they put us out of our misery pretty quickly. The round started around 11:00 am, I think our final player hung in until 1:00 pm. OUCH!

My game was interesting. The opening was kind of crazy. Here's the game.


Dr. Frank Brady, Marshall CC President & GM Arthur Bisguier,

I suspect we'll get paired down next round. Hopefully we'll stay in the ballroom because it's before the fourth round when they do the team name and chess gimmick contests. It's always fun seeing what people come up with. Pictures to follow.

USATE - Rds 1 & 2 Edited with correct numbers!

Greetings from Parsippany, New Jersey. It's US Amateur Team - East time! There are 200 teams. 283 x 4 = 1132, but add the alternates and the real number is 1207. That's a lot chess players. Outside of the scholastic nationals this is one of the largest tournament in the United States. Since this hotel lacks a convention type space that could fit 1100+ players in one room, the boards are scattered around the first floor of the hotel. Depending on where your team ranks and how it's doing determines whether you'll get to play in the main ballroom with the big boys, or you may be banished to the Morris Conference Center corridor. The flavor of the tournament certainly changes depending on which room you're in.

There were many years when I played first board on a team with three little girls, and we would spend our entire tournament in the conference center corridor. Playing in those rooms is like being in a scholastic tournament. It's mostly kids teams that are playing in those rooms. The girls and I played together for about 4 years, and every year we would vow that we'd make it to the ballroom for at least one match. It took a couple of years, but we finally made it in there.

My team finally ended out with a name. We're "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale". I'm glad we didn't go for a Bernie Madoff team name because there ae about 10 to 20 teams with a name like that. In fact in one round it was hard to tell two of the Madoff teams apart because they were paired next to each other, and on the pairing sheet the names get truncated. One of the floor directors had to find the two team captains and figure out which team was which, and make sure they were playing at the correct board.

With 200+ teams and only 6 rounds to determine a winner, they use quarter pairings for the first two rounds. In the first round one the 1st quarter plays the 2nd quarter and the 3rd quarter plays the 4th quarter. Normally it's 1st half and against 2nd half. It gets more complex in the next round because the highest rated 1-0 scores play each other. Then low rated 1-0 get paired against high rated 0-1 and lowest rated 0-1 scores play each other. I'm not quite sure where the 1/2-1/2 teams fit into the equation. The whole idea is to try to get rid of a bunch of perfect scores by the end of round two.

With our 1607 team average we were in the 3rd quarter so we got paired down. This pairing left us on board 82 which is in the Heritage ballroom. That's the room next to main ballroom. I guess you could say that's the triple A minor league room. Boards 1 -80 are in the main ballroom. Since we were on the 2nd board in that room we had a good spot. First row with the wall at our backs. I like having a wall behind me so that people aren't constantly knocking into my chair. I must say as much as I miss the atmosphere of the main ballroom it is less noisy, and not so crazy in there. There are only 10 to 12 boards in that room so you're talking about 40 to 48 players as opposed to the 320 players in the main ballroom.

The view from board 82 in the Heritage ball room.

The gentleman standing next to me is 86 years old. He was playing board two on our opponent's team. Being of the old school of chess he was peppering his opponent with a bunch of questions about the digital clock. Many of the questions were about time delay, what would happen at 40 moves, and what would happen at the end of the sudden death. He also had questions about how long he needed to keep score in the second time control. Having answered these questions a million time for kids, I answered them all for him. As I was answering the questions I couldn't help to think to myself, "Wishful thinking that he's going to last that long against his much higher rated opponent."

I was totally wrong on that count. He made it to move 40 with less then two minutes on his clock, and when he finally was mated on move 72 he had around 3 minutes. It was a beautifully played king and pawn ending where Guy was able to chase the king in front the advanced g pawn and bring his king down. A textbook ending. I will try to get the game from Guy and post the ending. Very instructive.

It also turns out I played the guy in 2003 at the Amateur Team East and I lost. He was only 80 at the time. :-) When I got back home I went to find the score sheet from our game. It's gone missing. Either the game was so bad I destroyed the evidence, or it was so instructive that it's stashed away in one of my folders with lesson plans.

This match was not a pushover despite winning the match 3 1/2 - 1/2. There was one point that I was looking at all our games where it seemed like we were losing on one board and looking really drawish on the other boards. Silvio pulled a rabbit at of his hat against his much lower rated opponent. The opponent had a perpetual and didn't go for it. Instead he played some horrendous rook move which allowed Silvio mate in two.

I played a high 1500 who played a very solid game against me. We went down to a king and pawn ending. We reached the following position after 42...Kd5

I spent a long time trying to figure out whether I should cede the opposition at this point by moving the king to c3 or play a pawn move. I was having difficulty counting it out if I play Kc3 and he goes into e4 and goes after my king side pawns. I actually left the room on my time to refill my water bottle, and just de-clutter my brain. I also had to change my music from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture to Bach's Fantasia And Fugue in G Minor. The Bach is more soothing where as the Tchaikovsky has too much emotional charges in the music. I finally counted it all and realized that he can't go for the king side because I win the pawn race. The game continued 43. Kc3 g5 44. b5 axb5 45. axb5 h5 46. Kd3 h4 47. Ke3 hxg3 draw offered and accepted.

The next round we got paired up against a 2nd quarter team that lost its first round. Now the view from our board looks like this. That is only half the ballrom.

Blagojevich's Gambit having to try to buy points.

We lost the match 3-1. If you look carefully you'll see my opponent has one more pawn then me. I played the opening terribly, and got smashed pretty quickly. I was going to lose a second pawn and my dark squared Bishop on g7 would be traded off for a knight. I decided I did not feel like play down two pawns and a totally trashed king side. On move 29 I decided I had enough of the torture and decided to make an early evening of socializing.

This year's theme is the 60s so all of the directing staff were wearing tie-dyed tee shirts with the name of some 60s cartoon character on the back. The man behind all of these ideas is Steve Doyle, pictured below. He starts every round with give aways for who ever has certain objects on them or is willing to come up and sing a song.

For our next prize....

NTDs Steve Immitt and Carol Jarecki with their 60s look.

One of the TDs had the above on the back of her shirt, for Miss Polly Purebread from Under Dog. Gawd I hated that character growing up. She was way too prissy and wimpy for me. I would constantly get teased about that. That and Pollyanna. Pretty funny considering I'm going to be a brown belt next week.

Round 3 going to be a rough one. We got way paired up and are playing the #20 team with a average rating of 2180. Stay tuned for further details.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th! - USATE Preview

I'm certainly glad there were no chess tournaments to play in tonight. I think I had enough bad luck this week. Actually it's not so bad. Tomorrow I'm off to Parsippany to play in my all time favorite tournament, US Amateur Team - East. Maybe my team will get paired up against Derek's team again. We can't do any worse then we did last year in round one. From 0-4 the only way is up. Any of my fellow bloggers playing this weekend? I would tell you to come look up my team, but we're having naming rights issues.

This year the 60s is the theme for the tournament. I came up with the name "Give Piece a Chance". Simple, and a nice play on words. The problem was by the time one of my teammates sent our entry in, the name had been taken. Back to the drawing board.... (Hmmm, there's an idea for a name.) Staying with the 60s theme I then thought of:

Let's spend the knight together

Twisting the knight away

Knights in White Satin

Black is black, but I'd rather be white

Something in the way we move

You see where this is all going. Silvio threw out a few song related ideas too, but we couldn't come up with an idea. Then I thought let's skip the 60s and do a current events name. Those are the ones that tend to win the best name contest. With that in mind, I thought of "Blagojevich Gambit: f pawn for sale". I never heard back from the organizer if that name has been taken, and my teammates are rather indecisive over the name issue. So for the time being we don't have a name. Maybe we should be "Somebody Madoff with our name."

So why is this my favorite tournament? It's one big social time with a lot chess thrown in. I see people that I only see once a year at this tournament. There are always very clever team names which are fun. Also teams dress up in funny costumes and sometimes do goofy skits on Sunday night when they have the best chess-related gimmick contest. I've been known to put together some pretty goofy skits and costumes over the years. When I've played with kids on my team, they're all for that type of stuff. My adult teammates of the last few years don't want anything to do with that type of stuff.

This will be the 29th year I've played in this event. This is the 39th annual team tournament. Next year will be the 40th anniversary, and it will be my 30th. I've only missed 10 of them which is not too bad considering that the first time I played in it was 1978, and I didn't play in it again until 1981. I would have a really impressive streak of consecutive tournaments if I had not skipped it in 1990 to attend a pin collectors event in Lake Placid. I guess back then I didn't realize how much the tournament would mean to me over the years. The 1978 event was my first tournament in New Jersey, so look for an update on Checkmate State by State with my story from that event. I seriously doubt I'll get to it this weekend unless I have a super quick round where I go hole up in my hotel room for three hours.

This will be the third year in a row that I'm playing with Alan and Silvio. Our 4th player keeps changing every year. The first year we played together I played board three. Last year I played board two. This year I'm playing board one. I've played board one a number of times in the past, but it's normally been for a low rated team with a bunch of little kids. It will be tough this year playing on board one with a team average of 1607. (Many teams make a huge effort to have their average fall at xx99. As you can see we didn't.) Depending on the composition of our opponents' line up, even when we get paired down I could be playing a higher rated player. That's fine with me. I've had my fill of low rated players lately.

Team play can be very difficult because my game is no longer just about me. If I blow a won game there's not only the aggravation that I might feel because I messed up, but there's also the feeling that I let down my teammates if it costs us the match. There's also the loss of control in terms of opponents. It's not like we really have control of who we're playing in an individual tournament, but the competition is going to line up consistent with how the tournament is going. If I'm having a bad tournament sooner or later I'm going to get paired with somebody who's having an equally bad tournament. If I'm having a good tournament then my competition is going to get tougher.

In a team tournament my individual results may have nothing to do with the overall team performance, or they may play an important part. In 1989 I scored 3.5 - 2.5, including a win and draw against masters. Our team scored 4.5 - 1.5 (3 wins and 3 draws.) and won the under 2000 prize. Every single player contributed with an important win or draw in each round to allow us to not lose any matches.

In 1991 I had the I had the team tournament from hell. I was playing board two on a pick up team of four random players. Our team name was "Practice Safe Sacs". I had a big work project going on over the long weekend. My staff and I were having to work 48 hours straight doing massive back ups, compressing the data, reformatting the hard drives and reinstalling everything. When setting up the schedule I managed to take a shift where I'd go to work, skip the Sunday morning round and make it back it time for the Sunday evening round.

You know you're having a bad tournament when your alternate who only plays one round scores more points then you. Our alternate went 1-0. I went 0-5. I spent almost every game in horrible time pressure. The time limit was 50/2 and there was no time delay. 2 hours seems like a lot of time, but having to make 50 moves in that two hours is harder then it looks. The difficulty for me in that tournament was despite my total lack of help the team was doing pretty well so my opponents were rated almost always higher rated. My only two down pairings were against a 1614 and a 1757. I was rated 1869 at the time. Here's the one game that had no clock issues. It didn't last long enough. Perhaps it could have been saved for a future Wacky Wednesday post. However it's Freaky Friday the 13th worthy also.


Hopefully this weekend will not be filled with horrible missteps and other assorted ugliness. If you're at the tournament look for me. Even if I don't know the name of my team, and I'm not hard to miss. I always have some piece of chess themed clothing on. Hopefully we won't get banished from the ballroom too quickly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Touch-Move: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

When I'm directing a scholastic tournament the one thing I dread when I see a hand go up is hearing, "He touched the _____ (fill in the blank) and moved something else." The touch move rule is the bane of every tournament director's existence. What's a tournament director to do when one player claims the opponent touched a piece, and the opponent vehemently denies it? Either the opponent did or did not touch the piece. Who is right? How does the tournament director figure it out if no one saw it?

In the USCF Official Rules of Chess there is a TD Tip listed even before the rule is stated. TD tips were added to the 5th Edition of the rule book. They are to further explain how experienced directors and players have applied the concepts of the relevant rule. Usually they come after the rule is stated, but in the case of Rule 10 touch-move the TD tip comes first. The TD tip states; "Without a neutral witness Rule 10 depends on the reliability of both the claimant and the opponent. If they disagree then the TD should strongly consider denying the claim. In most cases, by denying the claim the TD shuts the door to all false claims. Upholding a false claim usually does more harm to more players than denying an accurate claim."

Well that certainly puts the TD in an awkward spot right off the bat. If he can't determine whether the piece was really touched or not, it's recommended that he rules in favor of the opponent. The opponent could be lying through his teeth, but he has the TD tip on his side.

Here's the rule: "Except for 10A (adjustment of pieces), a player on move who deliberately touches one or more pieces, in manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece that can be moved or captured. See also 10E, Accidental touch of piece; 10F, appearance of adjustment."

The typical scenario is one player reached for a piece with the intention of moving it, but may or may not have touched it before changing his mind. This same argument often arises in whether somebody took their hand off the piece after moving it to a square. The lazy TD will ask players at the near by boards whether they saw anything or not. If the answer is no, then he'll simply deny the claim using the TD tip as the basis for his decision.

The conscientious TD will spend more time trying to determine what really occurred. This usually involves asking the players to state what they think occurred. The claimant might say "He put his hand on the ____, but moved something else instead." The opponent may respond, "No I reached for the piece, but didn't actually touch it." Then the TD may ask the claimant to show him what the opponent did. The claimant may demonstrate by reaching for the piece in question and either pick it up, or simply touch it. The opponent may respond by moving his hand towards the piece, pulling back and moving something else. I have watched a TD have both players demonstrate what they think happened a number of times. It's usually around the third or fourth occurrence of the demonstration that it becomes apparent what happened. An excellent example of NTD Steve Immitt being diligent in trying to resolve this type of issue is given here. That was a game between two adults!

I would say most of the touch-move disputes I've observed as a TD or a bystander come about because of a player's indecision over moving a particular piece or not. It usually comes down to did the player touch the piece in the course of changing his mind about moving it? The second TD tip relating to touch-move rules deals with this issue. "After talking to the claimant and the opponent, TDs will often find that opponents often insist that they did not deliberately touch a piece. Often, after some further discussion, the TD will find that some opponents really did physically touch the piece in such way that it appeared as if they intended to move it (not an accident); however, they will explain that they really intended to move another piece; therefore, they believe that since the 'touch' was not literally 'deliberate' (since they intended to move another piece), the rule was not broken. The TD will have to uphold the claim in this instance."

As a coach and teacher I continually remind my students not to reach for a piece until they're positive that they want to move that piece. I also remind them to make sure that they know what square they're putting the piece on. When they're sure of what they're going to move and where they're going to place, then and only then should they pick up the piece and move it. I tell them, "Don't have your hand hovering over a piece while you're thinking about whether you're going to move it. Also don't be holding onto the piece while you decide whether the square is the right one or not." I mention examples of this happening in tournaments and the consequences of the inadvertent touch that can occur in the course of changing one's mind.

Unfortunately I now have a very specific example of the inadvertent touch. On Monday night I reached the following position after 8...Bb6.

Even without the little arrow, I knew that my d pawn was hanging. I had considered simply trading with 9. dxe5, but I didn't like the g1-a7 diagonal being opened for Black's dark squared bishop, and the queen recapture forking my bishop and knight, forcing me to play either Bd2 or Qd2. I'm not sure why I had not given more thought to simply playing the solid developing move of 9. Nf3. Maybe I was afraid he'd push to e4 and chase my knight away. Instead I though 9. e3 would be good because after 9...exd4 I could play 10. exd4, retaining my centralized pawn. What I forgot about until I reached out to play 9.e3 was that after 9...exd4 my e pawn is pinned!

I had not actually picked up the e pawn, but in my reaching for it I did make contact. I pulled my hand back and started to consider my options at this point. Now if this had been a game between two kids it's most likely that Black would have immediately said "You touched the pawn, you have to move it." If my opponent was a kid he might have said something. However my opponent was not a kid, but the father of a very talented 10 year old who is becoming my new King Kong, and he didn't say anything.

I must admit the first things crossing my mind were, "Did he see me touch the pawn? I just brushed it with my hand as I was reaching for it. I didn't actually pick it up. Has he read the rule and the related TD tip? Can I make another move? Will he say something if I play Nf3 instead?" I kept thinking about those questions as I looked at the position. Moving the e pawn to either e3 or e4 causes me to lose the d pawn and gives Black a dominating bishop on d4. I really did not want to allow that to occur. To give Black such a position right out of the opening would be very hard to recover from. One might call it the "generosity gambit". You give up a pawn to allow your opponent control of the center.

I thought about what would happen if I tried to play Nf3 instead of moving the "not deliberately touched e pawn." He could have said nothing because he didn't see that I lightly touched the pawn as changed my mind and pulled my hand away. If he said nothing I probably would have spent the rest of the game feeling guilty because I didn't move a piece I touched. I would have felt even worse since I've advised his son about proper tournament etiquette and sportsmanship. He might not have known, but I would know.

The other possibility was that he would challenge me because he did see the contact. What would I say at that point? "Oh I forgot about that e pawn. Silly me! I will take back the knight move and play the pawn move instead. I'm so sorry." The other choice would have been to say "No I didn't touch the pawn. I reached for it, but changed my mind before touching it." The second choice what have necessitated bringing the TD in to make a determination of what actually occurred. The problem is I'm the TD for the club. I would have had Silvio make the ruling. Silvio is the section chief for the K-1 and 2-5 unrated sections for the numerous scholastic events we run in this area. If Silvio asks the same type of questions Steve does, then he would clearly rule in the opponent's favor.

I finally picked up the e pawn and moved it to e4. I was rather annoyed at myself for putting myself into such a situation by reaching for the pawn before realizing the move was no good. However I knew moving the e pawn was the right thing to do, even though it was clearly the wrong move in that position.

Here is the entire game.


In the grand scheme of things I may have lost anyway. He tends to play faster then me, and I normally have time pressure issues when I play him. I played him last Thursday, and the clock was a large part of the reason I lost that game too. At least this way I could live with myself.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bermuda International: View From the Fish Bowl

I spent a lot of time blogging about the overall tournament and the battles for top dog. You can read the top dog's account here. (Check out the photo credits!) Now it's time to look at the tournament from the back of the room where I spent most of my time. I'm not sure what I was expecting from this tournament in terms of the competition and where I would be ranked in relation to the other players. Somehow I had the impression that I'd be pretty far down on the wall chart, and get paired up most of the time. In reality I was ranked around 33rd out of 50 players. As I mentioned in an earlier post I lost the first round, and drew in the second round.

As I mentioned in my round three report I got paired against Jacob Slepian of Cleveland. This game was very frustrating for me because I won an exchange on the 22nd move, but couldn't find a way to finish the job. Here is that game.


Endgame 101: Put your rook behind your passed pawn!

I'd have time to sleep on that one, but not before another nice dinner. At dinner, I did have to listen to a bit of needling on how I managed to only draw that game. Ahhhh, to be 14 years old with a 2050 rating. Sigh.

Need my morning tea for this 9:00 am 4th round game!
Photo by Larry Ebbins

Unfortunately blowing the win, left me way down in the standings, so I got paired down again. Being paired down in this tournament was deceptive though. A number of locals were playing in their first tournament. However instead of listing them as unrated they were given an estimated rating. My fourth round opponent was given an estimated rating of 1310. At the time I was not aware of the fact that this was only an estimated rating, and that he was playing in his first tournament. Estimated rating or not, I knew better then to take him lightly. He had already knocked off somebody close to me in rating.

We reached the following position after 31...Bc6.

I was not very happy with my position, and my Bc6 move was just a random move to see what he was going to do next. My bishops were blocked in by pawns, and the knight seemed to have a good square. I had considered trading, but didn't want deal with 32. dxc5 and the protected passed pawn. He played 32. Nxa4. I felt he was helping me out by trading his good knight for my crappy one on the edge. It's true that I have doubled a pawns after 32...bxa4. I didn't see that he'd really be able to take advantage of them since the position was so closed. The funny thing is Fritz had Nxa4 as its first choice. Perhaps there's no good way for White to utilize the c5 square, but I think if I were White I would have tried for play on the kingside with Nh2 and Ng4

The game continued 33. Rc1 Bb7 34. Rxc8 Bxc8 35. Qc2 Bd7 36. Qc5 Kg8. Once again he chooses to trade his outpost piece, and this trade undoubles my a pawns. 37. Qxb6 axb6 38. g4 g5 39. Bd2f6 40. Bc3 Kf7 41. exf6 Bxf6 42. Ne5+ Bxe5 I offered a draw, which he accepted. We're into opposite colored bishops and had been playing for almost four hours. Let's see.... I can have lunch with friends, or spend the next two hours trying to grind out this ending hoping my inexperienced opponent might mess up. Lunch or slightly worse endgame? Nothing much on the line. Lunch wins out.

Round 5, and I get paired down again against another local playing in his first tournament. Having seen how tough all my Bermudian opponents had played so far, I knew I couldn't take this guy lightly either. However that didn't prevent me from playing a series of horrendous moves, and pitching a pawn and the exchange. This was a case of not doing one last check of my move before making it. I hate when I reject a move as no good because it loses material, and then after analyzing a number of different moves, and end out playing the one I rejected earlier.


Fortunately for me, my opponent moved way too fast at one point. That one move gave me back everything, and set me up for a favorable ending. I thought I was going to be the gracious guest who gives her host a very nice gift. Instead my host gave me the gift. The win put me in the 4 way tie for 3rd under 1800.

Even though I was a little disappointed in my overall play, it was a very enjoyable tournament. The organization and hospitality was superb. If one wants to combine chess with some good socializing and an escape from winter this tournament can't be beat.

Even though Bermudian chess players lack the experience and opportunities that we have, they play some tough chess. What I found in my games is they play the openings well, and often play aggressively. Lack of tournament experience hurts. My last round opponent admitted to me that after winning the pawn and exchange, that he got a little overconfident. That probably played a big part in his overly hasty c6 move. Having blown my share of games due to lack of focus in winning positions, I can relate to what my opponent went through. As the old expression goes...."Never count your chickens, before they're hatched."

If all works out right, I plan to be back next year. These days I can't take anything for granted, but that's my plan. I'd like to bring one of those beautiful glass Bermuda longtails home. That would be a nice trophy to add to my collection.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bermuda International Open - Results & Closing Party

Sigh.... It's snowy cold afternoon in New York, and I'm stilling thinking about Bermuda. "Hey Gary Cooper, can I come down this weekend for a rematch? I want a do over on our round one game. " Since that is not going to happen I guess posting pictures and writing about the closing ceremony party will just have to do in the meantime.

After our late start, and the length of the board one game it took awhile before we made our way over to the Somerset Country Squire Restaurant & Pub for the party. I highly recommend it if you happen to be in Bermuda for vacation. Better yet, come to the tournament next year!

Food and Drink Await!

Nigel - Bermuda Open Organizer & Donnie - Pub Owner
Both responsible for a wonderful evening!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

We had a sumptuous spread of food in a private room in the back. I must say the roast beef was outstanding. The chocolate cake was to die for. I only had one piece, but it was tempting to go back for seconds and thirds. Being that it was Super Bowl Sunday, the Americans migrated to the bar in the front to watch the game on the big screen television. Usually the tournament is a week later so this conflict would not normally occur. Nigel assured us we would get our normal weekend back next year. A lawyers conference is taking over the hotel this weekend, so that's why the date was pushed back into January. I guess it's not wise to sue a lawyer group.

The blitz play off would have to wait until the game was over. Though I was indifferent about the game, I have to admit it was a pretty exciting finish. I would have liked to see old man Warner win another one, but still it's pretty amazing that Pittsburgh is now 6-0 in Super Bowls. I'd like to go 6-0 in a chess tournament.

Finally it's time for the blitz matches. They split the cash prizes evenly, but they also give first place, and the top amateur a return trip to next year’s event. To settle that tie they do a blitz match. GM Charbonneau would face IM Cummings for first place. Andrei Moffat would face Conrad Ho for top Amateur. The playoffs turned into a Canadian affair. All four them are from Canada though Conrad and Pascal are currently in New York City.

The blitz format was a two game match, one game with each color. I can't recall what would happen if the two games were split. The time limit was G/5 with a 2 second delay. I think that was done to prevent some of ugliness we’ve seen in some blitz playoffs. Though none of the games came down to insane time scrambles with flying pieces.

Charbonneau won his match 2-0, and Moffat won his match 1.5 – 0.5. The second game went into some line that forced three fold repetition early.

GM Pascal Charbonneau - IM David Cummings

Andrei Moffat - Conrad Ho

If you're wondering what was with the extra people were sitting at the tables with the players, they were writing down the moves. One person who write White's moves and the other would write Black's moves. After wards hopefully they're able to reconstruct a complete set of moves.

After the blitz matches were completed it was time for the awards ceremony. Nigel puts on quite a show for the awards, and there were lots of them! There were class prizes, upset prizes, best game prizes, and all sorts of special recognition awards. Nigel believes in order to have a proper awards ceremony, the master of ceremonies has to dress in Kalmyk style. That's why he has the scarf and hat which are from Kalmykia. That is where FIDE President Kirsan is from.

And the winner is......Nigel Freeman (He wished!)

Bermuda Long Tail - National Bird
Blown glass awards for class winners.
Sure beats the tacky trophies one usually wins.

Nigel jumped back and forth between giving out class prizes and recognition awards. When awarding biggest upset prizes he has the loser present the money to the winner. In one case he had to do that presentation himself. He thought it might be better if the loser got the money instead.
Maria Shiela Cancino (1410) receiving top upset for her win against Nigel (1780)

I have included some of the pictures of various award winners. This post was getting way too long to include everyone. Besides I hate to admit this. In many cases I don't know who is who. I guess I flunk photojournalism 101. Get names for captions! However in many cases I was lucky to get the picture, much less the names.

Alexander Reis, his mom Donna Reis, Jorge Verga

Jorge is presenting her a Bermuda long tail for her generous support of the tournament. Alexander also won the under 1600 prize so he also received a Bermuda long tail. I used to be taller then Alexander until this summer. I still have an edge over the chess board, but who knows how much longer that will last. He will probably join the growing list of past students who have beaten me in tournament play.

FIDE Arbiter Carol Jarecki presenting
Jorge and his wife Sophia with a longtail.

Edit: When I posted the above picture I thought Jorge and his wife were presenting Carol with the longtail. Actually I had it backwards. Carol was presenting it to Jorge in recognition for his work as Continental President for the Americas for FIDE. Perhaps I need a remedial photojournalism class.

I seemed to miss the moment when Nigel gave Carol recognition for her hard work in directing the tournament. Carol has been directing the tournament from its inception. She does a wonderful job dealing with all the challenges that go into directing an event like this. Nigel said in his speech "The secret of running a successful tournament is hiring Carol to direct it, and then do whatever she tells you." Having worked with Carol at many tournaments, it's excellent advice.

Bryant Yang from Toronto was the youngest participant. This was his first tournament outside Canada. Bryant, rated 1380 Canadian drew with an 2056, 1887 and beat a 1510. He lost to a 1997 and 1760. All I can say is; the way I played, I'm glad I didn't have to face him.

GM Nick De Firmian presents Bryant a tee shirt from the World Championship

My lucky last round win put in in a massive tie for 3rd place under 1800. That gained me another $25. Woo hoo! $50 won over the weekend. Not exactly a break even proposition. Considering how rare it is that I win money, I will not complain. Even if I won no money, I can't complain. I was in Bermuda.

Louis Gal, Michael Craggs, Jorge Vega (presenter),
Yours Truly, Nigel Freeman (emcee)and
Larry Ebbin
3rd place under 1800

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Larry's role in Bermuda chess. He writes a chess column in the Bermuda paper, and has helped get sponsorship for the Bermuda chess team that competes in the Olympiad. Though I did not get a chance to go their chess club, apparently he puts up loads of pictures from the various events. Good job Larry! Every chess club needs a guys with that type of energy and enthusiasm.

Max Steinberg, Ruben Reyes tied for first under 1800
Jorge Vega making the presentation

Max is one of Alexander's teammates and part of one of teams I travel with. He was part of our Westchester County, NY contingent that made it down for the tournament. I had mixed feelings about how I wanted him to do in round five. Had he lost to his 2188 rated last round opponent he would have ended out with 2.5 and instead tying for third, I would have tied for 2nd. (More money for me!) He hung tough and drew with Denis Strenzwilk to score 3 points. Being that I've watched Max go from being a little kid with a 3 digit rating to a big kid with a 1771 rating, I couldn't help but to be happy for him. It would have been even nicer for him if he won which would have given him clear first. That would not have changed anything for me. Max , get em next year! Hopefully we won't be in the same class!

Massive tie for 3rd place! Conrad Ho, Alexander Ivanov, Nick De Firmian, Ester Epstein (Ivanov's wife), Dean Ippolito, Andrei Moffat with Sophia and Nigel

Tied for 1st between GM Pascal Charbonneau & IM David Cummings
Jorge Vega making the presentation.

The picture did not come out very well. My apologies to David since the flash washed him out pretty badly. I don't have Photoshop to fix it, and iPhoto just doesn't cut it for digital enhancement.

Complete results to follow as soon as I can figure out how to post the standings table.

In my next report I will talk about some of my games, overall impression and experiences. I will take off my journalist hat, and once again put on my storyteller's hat.