I've spent a lot of time writing about this particular tournament and analyzing the games. It's actually been very helpful in terms of figuring out some of the things that I could have done better. It's paid off in some of the games I've played in the last few weeks. I'll try to post a few of them before I leave on Thursday to go to BERMUDA!!! Cast and all I'm going!
Back to the Philadelphia story. In round 6 I got paired against another kid! Even younger then the previous round's opponent. I was paired up against Arvind Kumar of New Jersey. He is the highest rated 7 year old in the country. He's a very nice kid and has wonderful parents. His mom had helped me the day before with some of my bathroom runs. I felt bad because she's a petite woman having to push me. I decided that I would not ask her while I was playing her son.
I'm not going to show the whole game, but just a few positions where one of us chose to lock up the pawn structure as opposed to capturing or leaving it up to the other to make the decision
In the first position Arvind had just played 22...c5
I had two choices here; capture or push. I did not want to capture and isolate my a pawn. Also I felt capturing gives his bishop more space. I played 23. b5, keeping the position closed. His knights may be slightly better then my bishop pair but my pawn structure is solid.
A little later in the game he played 31...a5. To EP or not to EP that is the question? Is it better to break up the pawn structure and open the position, or ignore the pawn push and play something else?
Again I felt it was better to keep my pawn structure intact and not let his knight go to a6.
Now it was his turn to decide on whether or not to lock up the position on the king side, trade pawns or let me decide on the trade. He had played 32...f5. I responded with 33. f3
I felt he should have left the pawns alone and let me decide whether I want to trade or not. He pushed 33...f4. I played 34. Ne4. I thought I was much better here since I have the knight on the out post square. However he's able to defend against any attacks I have on the c5 or a5 pawns. He can just shift the bishop as needed. The game continued 34...Be7 35. Bc1 N6d7 36. Ba3 g5 37. Kd2 Bf8 38. Kd3 Be7 39. Bc1 Bd8 40. Ba3 threatening to take on c5. It's easily defended with 40...Be7. We agreed to a draw.
Now I had gone from losing 3 in a row to drawing 3 in a row. Again I could play on, but I didn't see that I could make progress. The only pawns left to push are the h pawns. Neither of us can push without losing a pawn. We can both fiddle around with our minor pieces, but what's the point? If my opponent only had a minute left that would be one thing, but we had the entire second time control left and then some.
One round left. Donna and Alexander are leaving, but she's having someone stay with me and bring me back if I want to play the last round. So the question is; shall I stay or shall I go? There were merits to either decision. If I skip the last round I get to go home earlier. If I stay I get another game at the long time limit that I rarely play. I decided to stay. I stayed knowing that I most likely would play another kid with a single digit for age. He had been sitting a few boards below me and I knew he had won his sixth round game. Our scores were most likely the same, and I was running out of people to play. There weren't many people left with 2 points.
Sure enough I was paired against the 9 year old kid, rated 1633 . So if I add up the ages of my last 4 opponents 14+8+7+9=38. 9.5 years old! A little lower average age then my first four rounds of the Empire State Open in 2007. On the positive side at least I had 3 draws, unlike the 0-4 in 2007.
Zachary is another kid I see with his dad a lot at the Marshall, but this was the first time I've ever played him. With so many people taking byes or withdrawing we had the whole back row to ourselves. However it wasn't quite as vacant as round 3. We didn't have people hanging out in the back talking or going over games. His dad sat a few seats away, and my chess mom substitute was near by if I needed anything.
Unlike my 4th round opponent, Zachary needed no time find 8. O-O in response to my 7...Qa5. He knew the line. It's interest observing how young kids spend their time at the board or thinking about their moves. I had the one kid who couldn't sit still, and was away from the board almost every time it was my move. Then I encounter a very focused 7 year old, who rarely left the board and always seemed to be looking at the position. Zachary didn't leave the board except to go to the bathroom, and he would always tell me that's what he was going.
There were a few times where I wasn't sure whether he was aware that I had moved. He would be looking up at the ceiling or looking left and right. There was that look of "when is my opponent ever going to make a move?" I think I had that look a lot in the opening of round 4. Sometimes the inner coach wants to say "It's your move." However I've learned to just stifle those thoughts and just wait to see what unfolds. I know some kids who appear as if they're not looking at the position, but in reality they're analyzing even as they're looking off into space.
The game started out quietly enough, but one poor choice on my part caused the position to fall apart. It was a choice of blocking an attack on my queen or moving away. I didn't want to give him the pin, so I moved. Wrong plan. I ended out dropping the exchange. Here's the game.
I think what impressed me was the way he gave the exchange back and simplified to a won ending. Many young kids try to hold on to the material instead of figuring out that they can can give back the exchange and win the pawn race.
Did I regret staying for the last round and losing, instead of taking my 3 draws in a row and going home? No. Winning, losing or drawing wasn't going to change anything in terms of money or rating points. A win wasn't going to suddenly gain me points. I just wanted one more chance to break out of the locked up position rut that I was in for rounds 4 through 6. I'm not sure losing to a 9 year old was the best cure to that rut, but since that tournament I haven't had quite as many draws. There have been a couple of butt ugly losses, but I've also had a few nice wins.
Tomorrow I head down to Bermuda for the Bermuda Open. I hope I'll get some interesting games, and not play every low rated player in the event. I guess a first round win might help resolve that problem. Look for pictures and games during the event. I'm not sure if my reporting and pictures will be as detailed as last year. It depends how much energy I have. Having to walk around at least another 3 weeks with this damn cast on my leg isn't exactly making me happy. However there could be worse things, such as not going to Bermuda and having the damn cast still on.