Morning comes too soon when I've stayed up late watching the Olympics and blogging. When the alarm went off at 7:00 am, I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. However another day of chess awaited, so I did drag my tired body out of bed. With no snow to clean off the car, Guy got to the house earlier then the day before. Having made the trip on Wednesday we had the route down pat, and got there earlier then the day before. It also helped that we knew where to go this time. No chance of ending out on a school field trip.
On the way down we discussed whether it would be more advantageous to have White or Black in the first game. The player with White had the upper hand in each game. So would it be better to take White in the 3rd game and hope to repeat the success of the day before, or take Black and try to break the spell or hold a draw? Given the choice, I would take White and try to win to have the upper hand going into the deciding 4th game. There is merit to taking Black and trying for put some psychological hurt on the opponent by breaking the trend of White winning. No which color the players took, whoever could win the critical third game would have a big edge going into the final game.
All the games were being broadcast on ICC. Organizer and tournament director Shaun Smith would go back and forth between the office where Justus and Joshua were playing and one of the other offices where there was a Internet connection. He would then post the moves on ICC where a number of people were following the action. On ICC people can watch the game and chat about what they're seeing. Josh's dad sat at another computer in the same office and followed the play that way.
Justus had White in the third game and won a pawn on the 15th move. The extra pawn held up and Justus went on to win the game. (All the games can be viewed on the USCF website.) Now all the pressure fell on Joshua to win the last game. When I saw Justus after the third game it was very apparent he had won. He seemed a lot more relaxed then he had been Wednesday afternoon. He was smiling and enjoying his lunch. I didn't see Joshua and Guy between games. I think they may have opted to go out and grab a bite to eat, and get away from the frenzied lunch scene downstairs. With all the kids from the quads having lunch, playing blitz or just talking non-stop it was not the place to be if one wanted to clear his head before the last game.
Joshua had White for the last game but Justus could afford to play safe and go for a draw. Joshua played a different line against Justus' Sicilian Defense then he had the day before. I guess he figured Justus would have prepared something overnight for the line played the day before. It did not look like Justus was playing for the draw. He got nice pawn play on the queen side and kept his king safe from any play Joshua was trying to get on the king side. (I wish I could get positions like that as Black against the closed Sicilian.) Being down 2-1 Joshua had to take chances, that unfortunately didn't work out for him. Justus won the last game and won the match 3-1.
In my previous post I made an observation about the "home field advantage" that Justus possibly had. I wasn't sure whether the pressure of performing in front of his teammates and the documentary film crew was a distraction or not. I think it definitely helps in match like this. Even though the games themselves were played in an office far from where his teammates and friends were playing, I'm sure he drew some energy from having teammates and friends around. There's also the familiarity with the venue, a certain comfort level of being at his own school, and not having to go far. It will be interesting to have a rematch at Joshua's school. We'll have to wait to see if home field advantage is all it's cracked up to be. Joshua wasn't using that as an excuse. His dad guy left the following comment at thechessdrum.net
"Congratulations Justus! We really enjoyed the struggles in games two and three. Obviously, when Josh was down 2-1, the psychological pressure of a must win caused him to try too hard. Josh told me he felt that Justus was more prepared for this match and deserves the win."
Both Joshua and Justus are examples of what chess is all about. Both have a sense of pride in the game, and are fine young sportsman. I think much of that has to do with the family support that both get. Let's hear it for the moms and dads who work hard to make sure their children are doing their best, being considerate of others and have a healthy approach to life.