Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Capablanca Memorial - Recap

Sominex Sunday (Yawn!)

When I last wrote I mentioned that I was going into round 3 with hopes of breaking the "wall chart castling" (0 0) trend.  I did have White against a 1785 who also had no points.  Our game was an example of two players trying not to lose.  It was a pathetically boring draw.  However it did stop the losing streak at two.  In round 4 the two schedules merged.  As the low half pointer I dropped down to play a zero pointer.  Once again I had White.

My fourth round opponent was a little late getting to the board.  I get a little paranoid when paired against somebody who has lost all their games on the short schedule and hasn't come to the board.  The thought crosses my mind that he got fed up and went home.  However when the opponent is the son of the organizer there is no way he is withdrawing without notifying the director.  It had just taken me a few minutes to make the connection when I looked at the last name I had written down.  DUH!   The game started out quietly with a bunch of trades.  We both made a few attempts to mix things up a bit in an ending with two rooks and seven pawns each.  There wasn't much to do with a position like that unless either one of us made a gross blunder.  Eventually I realized this position had no possibilities and I offered a draw.  He accepted.  On Monday his father told me that his son thought it was one of the most boring games he played.  I wasn't going to argue the point.  After my crappy Saturday, my play was pretty uninspired on Sunday.  The only fireworks I saw were outside, not over the board.

The hotel is located across the street from CA Great America Amusement Park.  One could hear the screams from people riding roller coasters and other thrill rides.  I actually had gone to that amusement park back in 1981 when playing at the US Open in Palo Alto.  I got dragged onto some ride that I really didn't want to do.  One of these years I'll get around to writing about that tournament for my other chess blog since it was my first California event, but I digress.  They had a 15 minute fireworks display that could be seen from the hotel parking lot.  I actually went up the 2nd floor of the parking garage and found a spot to prop my camera so I could hold it relatively still.  The two pictures below are just a few of the numerous shots I took.  The fireworks were not as impressive as the 4th of July ones I photographed in New York City last year, but I liked being able to keep the camera steadier.

Timing Is Everything

One of the challenges of traveling and staying at a hotel is trying to not go broke on food.  Hotel food albeit convenient is never cheap.  There were reasonably priced alternatives across the street, so I would go have breakfast at one place, and later on get lunch and dinner at another place.  Unfortunately the bagel shop where I had been getting breakfast was closed on Memorial Day.  I looked at the breakfast buffet prices at the hotel and decided I wasn't in the mood to pay $19.95 for breakfast.  I tried going to the IHOP across the street, but the wait was going to be too long, so I ended out coming back to the hotel for the breakfast.

I can justify the over priced breakfast buffet by making the most out of it.  That means grabbing a bagel or extra slices of bread, some cold cuts and making a sandwich for lunch.  An apple or orange rounds out the lunch.  Some people might argue that one should only take what they're going to eat at the meal.  However between what I did eat at the table, and what I took for later I had as much as some people would eat in one sitting.  However an omelet, slice of toast and a bowl of fresh fruit was plenty for breakfast.

I happened to have been seated next to three teachers from Orange County who had taken a road trip up to San Francisco and were now making their way back down south via Santa Clara to Monterrey and Carmel.  We got talking about some of the issues we deal with as teachers with misbehaving kids.  They teach middle school and high school, but some of the problems are the same that I see with elementary school kids.  They were interested in the fact that I taught chess in school.  It was an interesting discussion, and a nice way to pass time during breakfast.  Most of the time when I travel by myself I eat in solitude with a book or newspaper to keep my company.

They finished up before me, and were taking care of their check.  One of the women had won a $100 gift certificate for the hotel restaurant.  I wasn't paying much attention to the discussion between her and the waiter, but the next thing I know she was pointing to me.  I look up and say "What just happened?" She explained that she just took care of my breakfast for me because she couldn't get get cash back on the gift certificate.  She figured why waste the balance.   I thanked her very much, and thought to myself "Wasn't that a lucky break on my part?" Timing and location was perfect.  I was hoping maybe such serendipity would carry over to my morning round.

Delayed Reaction

Due to my longer then planned breakfast I arrived at the board about five minutes late.  My opponent had provided the clock, and it was running when I sat down.  The kid had the exact same model of the Chronos clock that I had, and it appeared that he had set it the same way I set mine.  There are a few different ways to set the display for any given time control.  I didn't give the clock anymore thought and proceeded to get into a very interesting game. Unlike me who played very quietly with White, my opponent played aggressively trying to set up a Yugoslav type setup against my Accelerated Dragon. However I managed to discourage him from castling queen side with a knight trade that messed up his pawn structure.

I won a pawn on the 23rd move when I played Qxa2.  I spent a lot of time thinking about the capture to make sure it wasn't a poisoned pawn.  Sometimes I have a tendency to grab a pawn like that and ask questions later.  However when the questions are "Will I get my queen trapped? or "How will I leave the area if he attacks?" it's better to answer the questions first before making a decision.  Longer time controls give you that opportunity to find the right answers.  I didn't hold onto the pawn as long as I would have liked, and fortunately for me he misplayed a few moves after we made time control.

It was when we made time control that I finally noticed that he had not set the clock with the 5 second delay*.  I'm not sure why I didn't notice before that point.  I got rather annoyed with my opponent and said "You didn't set the delay."  He calmly said "I know."  Though I knew I probably would not get it changed, I still went to talk to the tournament director.  I'm a tournament director so I know the drill.  If I had spotted it within the first couple of moves I could have gotten it corrected, but at this point I knew I was SOL and would have to deal with it.  Fortunately with a time limit of 30/90 SD/1 I should be okay.  We both made our 30th moves with 20 minutes to spare.

* Note for my foreign readers.  Time delay is an American thing.  The clock counts down 5 seconds and then starts the main time.  Unlike increment where the time can accumulate if you use less then the increment time, delay time doesn't accumulate.  So if you only use one second of the delay, you don't get the remaining 4 seconds added.

I eventually won another pawn, and very cautiously squeezed out the ending.  I missed chances to make it easier, but I eventually got the remaining minor pieces off the board, and able to penetrate with my king, and was on the verge of promoting when he resigned.  We had played 80 moves over the course of 4 1/4 hours.  I was happy he didn't make me play it all the way down to mate.  Here's the game.  I thought I played really well, but both of us had made errors.


Afterward I discussed the clock issue and asked him why he had not set the delay.  He said he didn't know how to set the delay.  I thought maybe he had just gotten the clock, but he's actually owned for awhile.  I told him he should learn how to set it correctly since delay is the preferred method.  I also said that if he doesn't set the delay, he should at least let the opponent know there is no delay so that the opponent has the option to provide a clock with delay or isn't surprised later on.  I'm not saying that he was deliberately trying to deceive me, but I didn't think it was very sporting not to say anything.  I've heard kids boast that they don't set the delay intentionally to deceive the opponent.  At a long time control such as 40/2 SD/1 or 30/90 SD/1 it may not make a big difference, but at a short control such as G/30 or G/60 the delay time becomes far more important.

Finally I had a win to my credit.  If I could win the last round then I could salvage an even score.  That would make for a very satisfying result since I was one of the lowest rated players in the section.  After starting the tournament with 3 straight adult opponents, I ended the tournament with three straight kid opponents.  My opponent got to the board first, and had put his clock out.  He also had a Chronos clock.  Having learned my lesson from the previous round, I asked him if the delay was on.  He said no.  I told him delay was the preferred setting, and that I wanted to play with delay.  I started to take my clock out, but he quickly reset his clock with delay.  This opponent wasn't claiming to not know how to set it.  He just decided he would not use delay.  Maybe it's a Northern California thing, but everywhere else I play anyone who has a delay clock, uses the delay.

This game could be subtitled "Dancing With Knights".  We both were making many knight moves, particularly late in the game.  We were both trying to maneuver our knights into enemy territory.  However it was apparent that neither of us were going to let the other cause problems with knights lodged deep the opponent's territory.  7 out my final 10 moves were knight moves. My opponent made 5 knight moves in the final 10 moves.  We finally agreed to draw on move 35.  Once again my play with White led to another drawn position.  My games with Black were far more interesting and despite losing 2 of them, I felt I played much better with Black.

Co-Champions of A+ Section

Winston Zeng  

Manuel Mangrobang III

An interesting sidebar to this tournament was how my section ended up.  If you remember, I handed my first round opponent, Manuel Mangrobang III a large gift when I did not play 24...f6 to stop his threat of 25. Rxg5.  I guess he was so inspired by not having to play out an ending down a pawn with 4 pawn islands, that he went on to win his next 4 rounds to go into round 6 with a 5-0 record.  He simply needed a draw against his last round opponent to win clear first.  Unfortunately he last round opponent was Winston Zeng, a sharp 9 year old kid who I lost to last year at the National Open.  He had about as much luck as I did against Winston, so the two of them tied for first.

As far as the annoying opponent I played in round two, he was just as obnoxious in the other rounds too.  He annoyed his other opponents with the piece and clock slamming.  It was amusing watch him slam a piece in triumph only to find the opponent refuting the move, and going on to win.  He ended out with the same score as me. If I end out having to play him at the National Open this weekend I'm not going put up with his crap.  He is playing in my section

I wrote a tournament report about the event which is on Chess Life Online.  There one can read about the overall tournament.


LinuxGuy said...

Polly, that is the strongest game performance that I have seen you post on this blog. You have become "a force" in the endgame. :-)

Polly said...

Thanks Linux! I've got a couple of really nice games from Monday to post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Polly, thanks for this blog. May I please request that you delete your reference to that "annoying opponent" - a google search of my name comes with a result incorrectly identifying me as your "annoying oppponent" maybe because my name is immediately above the paragraph.
Good luck on your 50-state quest!
Best regards, manny

Polly said...

Manny - I moved the paragraph about you and Winston below the photos and the caption. Hopefully when you do another google search on your name it will be apparent the annoying opponent has nothing to do with you and is someone else.