After my walk I tried to take a nap before the 6th round. That didn't last very long. I got restless and went back onto the computer to check the next round pairings. My opponent had not played since the 2003 North American Open where he had scored 5 out of 6 in the under 1600 section. Once again it's hard to glean any information from that. I just have to play my game, and not make any assumptions about how he plays. That's all well and good in theory, but what I say to myself is often different then what I actually do.
My opponent was much younger then all the older players I had been playing in rounds 2-5. It's a rare tournament when the majority of my opponents are older then me. I would say he was in his early 20s. He opened 1. Nf3. I thought "Here we go again with one of these random openings." I played 1...c5. I was ecstatic when he replied 2. e4. I was surprised he played e4 on his second move because he clearly didn't know how to proceed against my Accelerated Dragon. If I were a rusty player and started with 1. Nf3 I would continue on that vain and probably play 2. g3 or 2. c4. I wouldn't play 2. e4 and allow the opponent to transpose to something she is comfortable with.
Given my temperament at longer time controls maybe this wasn't the best thing to happen to me. The opening was pretty standard Accelerated Dragon. 1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 Nc6 3. d4 cxd 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Qa5?! 8. Nb3? (8. 0-0 is the correct move.) 8...Qb4. At this point he spends 20 minutes to come up with the move 9. Qe2? This allows me to win 2 pawns by move 11. 9...Nxe4 12. 0-0 Nxc3 11. bc Qxc3.
At this point I'm feeling very confident. I'm up two pawns and I'm playing somebody who is really rusty. The problem with playing somebody who is rusty is he takes a lot of time on a number of moves. He spent 10 minutes on move 14 and another 13 minutes on move 15. I can't sit still while the opponent is taking so long on early middle game moves. I left the room, bought a tee shirt and came back in. He just moved so I hadn't even wasted any time with that trip. At this point I'm just so amped up on emotion. I was forgetting about the ugly play of round 5 and thinking I could salvage an even score out of this mess. Every time he spent a long time on a move I was pacing around the room, or outside the room.
It was around move 20 that I realized I was letting him get play on the king side and that perhaps I should not be counting the proverbial chickens just yet. The problem I was having at that point was trying to calm myself down and come up with a logical defense. I slowed down my play, and stopped leaving my seat. Unfortunately the psychological damage was already done. I would find a way to totally screw up the game by making the move 25...Qe7?? too fast. Once again I walked into an overly familiar pattern of the f pawn being pinned to the king and unable to defend the g pawn. At first I thought I was only giving him a draw because he could just repeat the position with 26. Qxg6+ Kh8 27. Qh6+ Kg8. However the lack of a dark squared bishop was going to do me in at this point.
My opponent and I spent a lot of time looking at the game. We had incorrectly concluded that I was lost after 23...Bxg4. (That's what happens when 2 B players try to do serious analysis without a stronger player or Fritz to assist.) We both though I should have played 23...Bxb3. However when I did analysis with Fritz later it preferred 23...Bxg4. Here's the critical position:
I didn't need the little arrow to see the threat 26. Bh6. I needed an arrow to remind me the f pawn was pinned. Perhaps then I might have found 25...Kh7. But then again maybe I wouldn't, considering that neither my opponent or I could find it in the post-mortem.
Here's the entire game with the correct analysis.
Doing analysis after a game regardless of the result is what makes over-the-board chess so much more sociable then playing on the internet. A bond is formed and you find out a little more about the player you just spent the last few hours sitting across. War stories from past tournaments get shared, and perhaps a few laughs. Then we part company.
It was after that parting that, it suddenly hit me how alone I was at this tournament. I didn't have a roommate to commiserate with. I had trouble processing what went wrong this tournament. I thought coming in a day earlier and playing the slower schedule would help, but it didn't matter. I was still tired and still played like crap on the last day. I was in California until June 2nd. I came home and then on June 10th flew back out West. That's a lot of airplane travel in a short period of time. Maybe I should have figured out how to manage to not have to go home between the Memorial Day weekend tournament and this one. However the thought of spending 3 weeks in hotels or on relative's couches doesn't seem like a good solution either.
Games like the last round one make me think I'm better suited for shorter time controls. I may have still screwed up and missed the pin, but on the other hand maybe knowing I wasn't going to have 6 hours to work with might have kept me in my seat. I never leave the board when playing game/30 to game/45. At game/60 I might run out to use the bathroom, but I won't be wandering all over the tournament venue talking to my friends who are directing. One time control sudden death games have a finite amount of time that I can manage. It's true 40/2 SD/1 is also a finite amount of time, but it's 6 hours. It doesn't matter that the game may not go that long, it has the potential to go that long. It's difficult to figure out how to keep my hyperactive mind in focus for that amount of time. I've done it as evidenced in my round 6 game at the 2008 Empire State Open.
Monday was much better then Sunday. The trip home was sweet. Originally I was supposed to fly LAS to DFW and then DFW to LGA. My arrival time was going to be 6:20 pm, and then I was going to have go into Manhattan for the Marshall Chess Club's annual meeting. However sometimes the airline horror stories of oversold flights can have happy endings. The LAS-DFW flight was oversold so they were looking for volunteers to take another flight. Normally I tune those announcements out until they get desperate and start offering cash to change flights. There was no offer for actual cash, but when the alternate flight is LAS-JFK non-stop in first class and a $300 travel voucher, I'm listening.
Let's see. I can change planes in Dallas and get to New York at 6:20 pm if I'm lucky, or I can take a non-stop in first class that gets me in at 4:00 pm. Hmmm, tough decision. NOT! I was quick to ring the call button and offer to get off the plane I was one, and get on the other. At first it appeared people had beaten me to the punch, but then somebody came back and asked me if I was still interested. Yes! This switch almost didn't work out. We were circling JFK and the pilot announced that we might have to circle for another half hour which would mean we would have to go to Philadelphia to refuel. Swell so much for getting back early. Fortunately a slot opened up and we were able to land without a side trip to Philadelphia.
My luggage went to La Guardia without me, which actually was good for me. That way I didn't have to schlepp it into Manhattan to attend the meeting. It was delivered to my home the next day. Instead all I had on my person were my carry-on items. That made for an easier trip into Manhattan. So I spent money to go have a lousy tournament in Las Vegas, but now I have a $300 voucher to fly somewhere American Airlines goes. Maybe I'll find a tournament in a city, in a state I haven't played yet. I haven't played in any new states this year.