Maybe I should have read my 2008 post about this tournament, and then followed it up by reading my 2009 Part I and Part II posts on the same event. Just maybe if I reviewed what has happened in this event past two years, I'd either skip the tournament or just say "Screw it! I'm playing in the Open Section. I can't do any worse, and I might scalp a master and not have to worry about losing the other games." I had even considered playing up, but I'm not convinced of the value of playing in a field with 18 masters out of 23 players. (25 counting the two house players.)
So once again I chose to play in the Under 2200 section. That section was not so easy. In round one I was paired up against James Black, rated 2079. James won the 6th grade championship at last December's K-12 in Dallas. I featured his last round game in my April Chess Life article on the K-12 Championships.
I've played James a few times in the past, so I should not have been surprised that he attacked with the Black pieces, and sacrificed material. The sacrifices were not sound. By move 22 he had given up both his rooks for minor pieces, and I had many chances to win easily. Unfortunately something happened and I just did not find the best moves in several different situations. On move 26 I had grabbed a pawn on the 7th rank with one of my rooks. He responded to that move by forking that rook and my queen with 26...Nd5. I was rather annoyed with myself, but figured I'd still be up an exchange after playing 27. Rxd5. However instead of being annoyed with myself I should have looked at the position closer. Then I would have found 27. Rcxg7+, giving me the extra move to get my queen out of danger.
Even after that mistake I still was winning, but opted to give a check instead attacking his queen. My move at that point wasn't losing, but I certainly could have made my life simpler with 28. Be5. I'm not sure why I kept missing the best moves. I think I may have been either overly excited about the prospect of winning the game, or afraid of messing it up. Both thoughts were going through my mind simultaneously. Unfortunately the fear of messing up was realized and in his time pressure I managed to screw up. The problem was I knew what his threat was, and I knew how I could defend. Unfortunately the position changed slightly when he went for his threat, and the same defense does not work. My queen had been on e3 and I had just played 33. Qf4 so the f2 pawn is not guarded and Rg1 is no longer a viable defense to 33...Qf1. 34. Rg1 loses to 34...Qxf2+
Here's the game in its entirety.
Even though I was extremely angry with myself for missing the opportunity to pull a big upset, I tried to put it out of my mind. I rationalized that I was expected to lose that round, and that it wasn't really that big a deal. However it completely changed the tone of the tournament. Instead of having a nice win under my belt and an opportunity to play up again, I would get paired down. I played a kid that I faced a couple of times before and have won each game. Every time I play him it gets a little more difficult, but I figured I knew enough about his play to hold my own.
The last time we played he attempted a Yugoslav Attack against my Accelerated Dragon. It didn't work out for him, and after the game his school coach showed him why it doesn't work without Black playing d6 before g6. I was guessing that he probably ignored the entire lesson, and would play f3 against me again. I was correct on that point. I won a pawn and managed to get the queens off the board. However I missed one move he had and ended out giving the pawn back. We eventually ended out in a minor piece and 3 pawn ending. Even though he'll win a pawn, I should be able to hold the position. The problem was I tried to save the pawn and walked into a fork and lost my bishop.
Instead of being 1-1, I was 0-2 and started having visions of a repeat of 2008. Though at least this time I wouldn't have Eric Hecht and his Smith-Morra Gambit to deal with. First of all I was due White, and second of all he wasn't at the tournament. I got White against a "little kid" I'd never played before. Looks can be deceiving. I thought he was a fifth grader. In reality he just finished up eighth grade and is heading off to Stuyvesant HS (A very prestigious NYC Public School that is difficult to get into.) in the fall. I didn't find any of this out until the game was over. Not that any of that information changes anything. I'm playing a kid rated 1475, that's all that mattered. Could I move beyond the stupid moves of the first two games, and just focus on this particular game?
I know I'm agitated and have to try to forget about what happened and try to tune out any distractions. We were playing on a table that has a pedestal base instead of 4 legs. At the beginning of the game he kept swinging his legs and kicking it with his foot. I asked him to not kick under the table. It was another one of these games that starts out as an English but transposes into a Maroczy Bind type set up. He did not go into a Sicilian Dragon type set up. Instead he fianchettoed the c8 bishop and got pressure on the diagonal. The ending to this game was eerily similar my round 1 game. The last two moves are identical. 42. Rg1 Qf2+.
As Yogi Berra once said "It's deja vu all over again." I did have a defense in this position, but with 5 seconds left I didn't find 42. Qh4+. This move allows me to force a 3 fold repetition with perpetual check.
Here's the game.
At this point I'm ready to have a repeat of 2008 and get the bye in round 4. Please someone just send me home early and put me out of my misery! No such luck. The numbers remained even and I would have to play another kid, and play White again. I decided after the earlier losses playing the English I would switch to 1. d4 for the last round. That probably was not the best choice against this particular kid. Every time I play he tries to trade down and go into a drawish position. Sure enough after 7 moves both pairs of bishops have been traded off. I was tempted to ask for a draw at that point since I really had lost interest in trying to win. Nothing was going to salvage the rating hit I was taking. I just didn't want to lose.
I felt like I should at least make an effort to win, so I played on. Eventually I was bored silly and looked at my watch. I decided I was going to offer the draw and try to make the 11:45 train. He turned it down because he had started getting some counter play. We played on, and I won a pawn later. However there really wasn't any way I was going to win with the extra pawn, so I offered another draw which he accepted. I was rather annoyed since his declining the first draw made it impossible to catch the earlier train. As I was leaving the club he apologized for making me play it out. Easy to say when you have your father taking you home.
Some may ask "Why didn't you just drop out if you didn't want to play the last round?" If the number is odd with me in the tournament then I'm going to get to leave because of the bye. If it's even with me in the tournament and I leave then I cause someone else to get a bye. I hate byes so I try to avoid sticking other people with them. Also I just don't like to withdraw when I have a horrible score. I'm constantly telling my students to suck it up and move on. I figure if they should suck it up, so should I.
PS. Don't think of this as a continuation of my Vegas struggles. I played in a quad last weekend and scored 1 win and 2 draws against kids near my rating. I know I have to work on tactics and maybe play some blitz. I'm just missing too many things for no good reason.