Friday, March 26, 2010

Grandmaster Challenge!

Various milestones on the road to recovery from my accident have been marked by trips to the Marshall Chess Club. The earliest trips involved being taken to and from the club by someone from my area, using the ancient elevator to the second floor and requesting an assigned board. Eventually the need for an assigned board went away, and eventually I conquered the steps. At the end of January I decided I was agile enough on crutches to take a train to Grand Central and then get in a taxi and go down to the Marshall. In February I made the same trip again using a cane, but still in the cast. I was not crazy or stupid enough to attempt the subway on that trip.

A month later I'm ready to try the subway. I decided last Sunday would be a good time take my first subway ride since December 17th. I figure it was best to give it a try on a quiet Sunday morning when it shouldn't be too crowded. This way I could see how I manage with going up and down stairs and going through turnstiles without thousands of crazed commuters trying to race for their trains.

I managed fine on the way down to the club. Getting up and down the stairs was fine, and some nice guy gave me his seat. Contrary to belief, there are a few gentlemen left in New York who will give their seat to a lady with a cane. I didn't even have to shoot him dirty looks or glare at him. Once I got off the train, there was still the walk down to the club. The walk has never been a big deal for me before. There have been times I've made it from the club to the subway in under 10 minutes. Today was not one of those days. I took my time, and shot some photos on the way down.

Union Square.
Where is everyone on this beautiful sunny Sunday?

The chess scene in Union Square park is much smaller and mellower then Washington Square Park. In Union Square people bring their own tables chairs for their games. I've never seen more then about 3 tables set up at any given time. Action was pretty slow. Only two games were going on. One guy was waiting for a victim, I mean opponent. I wasn't going to volunteer my services.

I stopped on Fifth Avenue to take pictures of one the old churches in Greenwich Village. I was having some fun playing around with the composition using the wrought iron fence for framing.

After two times directing the Grandmaster Challenge at the Marshall, I decided I would actually play in it. It's a crazy tournament with various entry fees dependent on title or age. There are also all sorts of different prizes that from a director's point of view can be a headache to figure out. The junior prize for top scoring player under 16 years old is equal to winner's age times three. The senior prize for players 55 and over is equal to the winner's age. There's also a woman's prize equal to total entries. Then there are the normal overall and class prizes. All of these prizes are guaranteed thanks to the generosity of the tournament's creator and patron, Yevgeni Margulis.

Margulis' idea behind the tournament was to make it attractive for Grandmasters to play, and to also encourage juniors and seniors to play. Grandmasters enter for free but have $25 taken from their prize if they win something. There's $975 of guaranteed place money and an additional $325 in class prizes starting at under 2400 down to under 1800. He's also offering a $500 class prize to top over 2800 and $250 for top over 2700. He's yet to have to pay those prizes. In addition to the prizes he has a buffet of Russian food during the day. He also gives out boxes of chocolate for any 3-0 at the half way point. He also does very challenging trivia questions. The one who correctly answers the really hard one wins a Chronos Blitz clock.

Yevgeni Margulis looking for the answer to the trivia question.
(I don't remember what the question was.)

The tournament does draw a strong field. There were 4 grandmasters, and 3 international masters. There were 16 players with 2200+ ratings. Even way down on board 11 I played a 2300 in round 1. The top player in the bottom half was rated 2061. This tournament is like Thursday's "Four Rated Games Tonight!" where it takes going 0-2 before I have a chance of getting paired down.

Murderers' Row Top 4 boards in round 1.
GM Kekelidze, IM Lenderman, GM Yudasin, GM Kacheishvili

When Margulis started the tournament he wanted it to be quick chess rated only. He felt more Grandmasters would be willing to come if their regular rating wasn't on the line. Now it's been changed to game/30 which is rated both regular and quick. It's unclear whether having it quick rated only impacted attendance one way or another. Though a quick look through previous months' attendance leads me to believe having it played at game/30 is more popular. Attendance for the game/25 events hovered between 25 to 30 players. This past Sunday it was 40 players despite a conflict with the Bruce Bower Memorial scholastic. That event drew a number of the higher rated juniors who would have normally played in the Grandmaster Challenge.

With the tournament's unique prize structure there were 3 different possible prizes that I could contend for. There was the senior prize, though that would be the toughest one for me to win since there are a number of masters and experts that also qualify for that prize. My best chances lay in the woman's prize where there were only 3 of us, or the under 1800 prize where there were 7 of us. Since a player can only win one prize he/she gets the one that's the most money. All of this is easier said then done when ranked 32nd out of 40 players. I knew I would be paired up more times then paired down.

After losing the first round to the 2300 I got paired against an expert. It was probably my best game of the tournament until I made a couple of bad moves in time pressure. I had reasonable drawing chances until I retreated my bishop late in the game. Here's the game.


Being 0-2, I finally got paired down to a kid rated 1279. I can't take these little kids lightly. My last encounter with a little kid with that type of rating came to a very unpleasant end when I played 46. Qb6? in the following position.

Where's that little arrow when I need it?

Needless to say my 8 year old opponent did not need the little arrow to find 46...Qf1+. From there it was all downhill. 47. Kh2 Qxe2 48. Qg1 f4 49. Qd4+ Kf5 50. Qg1 f3 0-1

My third round opponent was playing in his first non-scholastic event. He won a pawn that I was able to get back very quickly. I did have a moment of panic when he first took it. I'm thinking to myself, "Here we go again!" The position had some similarities to a game Blue Devil Knight recently showed on his blog. The main difference was my pieces were well placed and my king side attack has a good chance to succeed. I did miss a couple good moves that would have made the win much simpler. Sometimes I'm afraid of my own shadow.


In round four I got paired up, and lost. In round 5 I got paired down and won. In round 6, I got paired against a 1790. I don't think they were doing class pairings in the last round, but this was a class pairing. Winner takes the under 1800 prize. A draw creates a 3 way tie. Loser gets nothing. Even though I have 3 prize possibilities due to rating, gender and age losing this game gets me nada. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened. A couple of small mistakes allowed him to trap a piece. Here's that game.


As I was leaving the room one of the woman asked me how I did. I started shaking my head. She said "I won the under 2000, so you can still win the woman's prize." I told her no since the other female took a last round bye, so she had 2.5. C'est la vie. It was a fun tournament. It was Thursday night "cracktion" on steroids!


chesstiger said...

It looks to me, but i can be wrong, you know your openings good enough but that after that you do not always how to continue, what to play for.

Maybe working on your middle and endgame skills can help?

Btw, i never understood why the USCF counts 30/0 games to normal ratings since there isn't even a timecontrol. No wonder that USCF ratings are so messed up since 30 0 is way different then lets say 90 30.

Also that rating floor is decieving in my eyes because one could be playing worse then that floor,but ratings of other players get calculated with that floor which makes their ratings not correct anymore.

Polly said...

tiger: You are right about the fact that at times, I just don't seem to know how to continue. Often I do better when the opponent is attacking like crazy because I know what it is I have to do to survive. If I can survive the attack I often end out ahead, and then can convert my edge. Even positions where there is not a clear weakness to go after are difficult for me.

Delay is different then increment in that the 5 seconds doesn't accumulate. If you only use 2 seconds of the 5 second delay you don't get those 3 seconds. Organizers are starting to try 90 30 increment. I'll be playing in my first tournament using that time control next weekend. The tournament is in Canada, not the US.

Players ratings are not calculated completely based on the floor. They actually do two calculations. The first one uses the pre-event rating which might include players with a floor. The second and final calculation uses a player's performance as the basis for post-event rating. Using my 1700 floor as an example, if my performance in the tournament would have given me a post event rating of 1670 with no floor, the 1670 rating is what they use to calculate my opponent's rating. The reverse is true if I perform at 1730. The opponents are calculated based on playing a 1730.

It's still not ideal, but I don't think there is such a thing as a precise rating. There are too many variables that come into play. A player who plays the same small pool of players all the time may have a rating that is much higher or lower then it would be if he played a larger variety of players. When that player ventures outside of his small pool of regular opponents his results may be quite different then the expected result based on his rating.

Evan said...

I played at Union Square a couple of times.. Often there are more people in the summer and often later on at night. Also I certainly like the idea of g/30 better as I don't particularly like g/25 where I cant really gain rating points.