Since my "Last Blunder of 2009" weather bummer I've managed to make it down to the Marshall Chess Club for two tournaments. It takes a lot of planning to work out how I can make it down there. Mass transit is not an option right now. Steve was running the "Happy New Year Open" the first weekend of the year. His two day weekend tournaments always have two schedules. Players can opt to play long two games on Saturday and Sunday at a time limit of 30 moves in 90 minutes followed by 1 hour sudden death. If players only want to play on Sunday or do a reentry after a lousy start on Saturday they can opt for the one day schedule. The one day schedule consists of two games at game/30 and then merging with the two day schedule and playing the last two rounds at the slower time control
I didn't really care which schedule I played. If someone from my area was going to play the two day schedule, I would do that. If they were only going to play on Sunday, I'd take the one day schedule. I could not be fussy. New Years Day I sent out emails to about eight people who either played in the tournament last year, or who might want to play. The only responses I got were "No we're not going." However there were a few people who I had not heard from. One of them I knew I probably wouldn't hear from until Saturday evening.
By Saturday after having missed the "Last Blunder" and a New Years Day party that I normally attend I was getting really grumpy. Cabin fever was raging, and I was in a totally foul mood. I spent a good part of the day sleeping or sulking. I warned my husband that if I didn't get an answer from someone that he was going to have to take me to Manhattan on Sunday. There was no way I was going to spend another day trapped in the house. I think he was praying to Caissa that somebody would call or email me.
Finally I got a hold of Michael's mom and she said they were going for the one day schedule. She said he was probably going to take a round four bye. I could live with that. Three rounds are better then none. There was also the possibility that once I got there I would find someone else who could bring me home after round four. At least I knew I was going, providing there wasn't some freak snow storm arriving Sunday morning. The only snow in the forecast was a snow shower in the afternoon. However being a Murphy's Law believer it would be just my luck that the little snow shower would be a blizzard. It was poorly timed snow on New Years Eve day that messed up my chess playing plans. Had it snowed 3 hours earlier or later I would have had no problems that day. As Chessloser would say, $@#t happens.
Sunday morning came and no snow! Going to a chess tournament on crutches takes some preparation. I made sure the night before I had everything I needed already in my backpack. Clock, Mon Roi, notebook, pens, reading glasses, iPod and Advil. I've managed to forget at least one of those items for one tournament or another. I couldn't be doing my usual running around crazy looking for stuff at the last minute. I also made a sandwich the night before and made sure I had a bottle of water. Running out to grab a bite to eat in between rounds was not an option. I didn't want to have to pester people to get me stuff.
I knew what obstacles I would face once I got to the Marshall. A week earlier I directed the Grandmaster Challenge G/25 tournament. I could write a whole separate post on that, but I digress. There are 3 small steps from the sidewalk to get down to the front door. Fortunately my balance is pretty good from my Tae Kwon Do training. (Okay I know you're wondering; So how does someone with good balance fall down stairs and break an ankle to begin with? Balance isn't worth a damn when you're not looking where you're stepping and completely miss two steps.) Once I navigate the steps then there is the front door. I have an access card so I can buzz myself in, but the door is heavy so I need someone to push it open for me. If the inner door is closed I have to push that open enough so that I can let the person holding the first door come by me and get the second door.
There are two ways of getting to the second floor; walk up the stairs or take the elevator. I have gone to the Marshall Chess Club for over 30 years. The previous Sunday was the first time I had ever taken the elevator to the second floor. To say the elevator is old is an understatement. It's ancient! It's one of the old fashioned ones where you pull the door open like a regular door, and then have to push a metal gate to the side to get on. Even if you're able bodied it's hard to do because you have prop the first door open while you pull the gate open. The gate doesn't stay open so you have to keep holding it while you get in the elevator. It's impossible for me to do by myself. To get in easily I really need two people to help. One to hold the door and one to hold the gate. Usually I have one person trying to do both. It's quite a balancing act.
Needless to say once I get upstairs I'm going to stay there until I'm ready to leave. The weekend tournaments are held downstairs, but if there's more then 32 players the overflow plays upstairs in the back room. Normally it's a bad sign when you're playing upstairs after a few rounds because it means you're on one of the bottom boards and having a lousy tournament. I've played in the back room more times then I care to admit. However in this particular event having an assigned table upstairs was the only way I was going to manage. I needed a table near the door, and away from other tables so I had a place to prop up my leg on a chair.
There were around 30 players signed up for the one day schedule so everybody could play downstairs for the first two rounds. This meant my opponent and I would have the upstairs back room to ourselves. In the first round I just made the top half split so I got paired down against the lowest rated player in the one day schedule, Sarah Ascherman. Sarah is the youngest of four chess playing siblings. I've played all three of her older brothers with mixed results. Benjamin clearly has my number. I have 1 win and 7 losses. I'm even with Jeremy. 1 win, 1 loss 1 draw. Jonathan is the only one I have a winning record against. 2 wins 0 losses, and 4 draws. This would be my first game against their little sister.
Even though Sarah and I had our own private tournament room it didn't mean we were free from distractions. After the merge of the two schedules there would be over 60 players in the tournament. Steve was busy moving tables into the back room, and trying to scrounge up enough chairs. At one point he comes into the room and takes the chair my leg is propped on and replaces it with a folding chair. About 10 minutes later he takes the folding chair and replaces that with a small step ladder. It wasn't the most comfortable set up but it would do until the game was over.
The game wasn't overly exciting. We traded down to reach the position below.
She played 38...Kg6 and offered me a draw. I had a minute and half left and she had close to three minutes. My pieces are better placed, but I couldn't see an easy way to press my advantage. I thought she might start pushing her passed pawn and I would end out giving up my a pawn for her b pawn. I also thought her knight would be able to chase my bishop and centralize on e5. Given the time situation and my physical condition I opted to accept the draw. Looking at the position later I realized that I under estimated my chances in the position. My bishop is active and, her rook is tied down on a8. I think if I had more time on the clock I would have played it out.
Bye decisions had to be made by round two. Michael decided he wanted the last round bye. It looked as though I would only be playing three rounds. I had not seen any other ride possibilities up to that point so I told Steve I would be taking a last round bye also. Then my second round opponent came and sat down. Here was a possible solution to my round four dilemma. My opponent was Ethan Segall, one of the kids from Connecticut who comes to my club sometimes. I asked him if his dad would be willing to drop me off on their way home. He said yes, so that resolved the bye problem.
Ethan and I have played each other quite a few times at the Friday WCA Quads and also at the Bob Peretz Chess Club. This was the first time we would play at the Marshall. When we first played each other I was higher rated. I won the first 3 times I played him. He's one of the kids who used to offer draws frequently when playing a higher rated opponent. Our fourth encounter he got his first draw against me. After that it's been all downhill. His rating has gone up, mine stays the same. These days I would happy if he offered me a draw, especially when I'm Black against him.
I know when I'm Black against Ethan I'm going to see the Grand Prix against my Sicilian. As usual he got a strong attack going on the king side. I managed to beat back the attack to some degree, but only because he missed a killer move. His attack fizzled down to being up a pawn.
Maybe with more time I could have held the ending, but with only a couple of seconds, I was moving quickly and hung another pawn. Eventually I ran out of time. Another way of putting it; I let the clock resign on my behalf. Here's the game. Edit: Here is the correct game. I did not lose on time up a queen!
Two rounds at game/30 with two kids as opponents. So what else is new? The next round would be after the merge. My private tournament room would be no more. Stay tuned for part two. Merger mania!