For the entire month of April I did not play one single game of "cracktion". Every single game I played in April was at a time limit of G/85 or slower. I played in the Bob Peretz Chess Club Championship and the Westchester Chess Club Championship. The latter just finished a couple of weeks ago. Sad to say it was nothing like the 2009 championship. Losing rounds 5 and 6 to the two guys who who end out as co-champions did not help matters.
In mid-May I ventured down to the Marshall Chess Club for the weekly "cracktion" tournament. In the first round I was paired against IM Ilye Figler. This was my 13th game against him and like 11 of my previous encounters with him, I lost. My only draw with him was back in 1997. He got the IM title last year at the NY International at the tender age of 63. Yes there is hope for those who are not under rated little munchkins. I felt like I was holding my own out of the opening. However things fell apart after I played the rather insipid move of 15...c6. Looking back at the game I don't even remember why I played the move. Was I afraid of 16. d5? More to the point, was it one of those "I don't know what to do so I'll just make a random pawn move and see what happens" moments?
Position after 15...c6?
I totally missed 16. Bxh6! I chose not to play 16...gxh6 allowing 17. Rxf6. I felt if I was going to play down a pawn against an IM I should keep the pawns around my king somewhat intact so I opted to play 16...Nh5, a move that would have been better then c6. The game continued 17.Bf4 Nxg3 18.Bxg3 Rad8 19.Rae1 Bh5 20.e5 Bg6 21.Bxg6 Nxg6 22. e6 to reach the position below.
I guess I didn't get quite get the tactical idea of deflection down the first time so I foolishly accepted the pawn he offered. 22...fxe6? 23.Qxg6 Qd5 24.Be5 Rd7 25.Rxf8+ Kxf8 26.Rf1+ Kg8 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.Rf8 Black resigns.
Many a wise chess teacher has said "Learn from your mistakes." This not so wise chess teacher has told her students the same thing. Do I always follow my own advice? We won't go there. However I did manage to use this very same tactic, not once but twice a few weeks later.
In the first round of CalChess State Championship I got paired against the first of four opponents under the age of 13 that I would face over the weekend. She was only 8 years old. She played very solidly and I had to wonder if I was going to cough up a 1/2 point in the very first round. I had played 27...Nf4 with the idea playing 28...Nxh3 if she didn't play 28. Kh2 or moving the knight. She played 28. a4 to reach the position below.
I took my time to make sure there was no counter play if I took the pawn on h3. Noting that I'm taking with check and can retreat to f4 afterward I play 28...Nxh3+. I'm up a pawn, but I still had a lot of work ahead of me. Just like I did in the Bob Peretz Club Championship, I had to grind out a rook and pawn ending. She offered me several draws which I turned down. She was going to have to prove to me that she could hold the ending. She couldn't hold and finally on move 65 I mated her in a queen and king ending.
I could have mated her on move 64, but I think I was fixated on avoiding stalemates and missed both moves that mate in the position below.
Black to move. Mate in one.
I missed 64...Qe2# and 64...Qc1#. Instead I played 64...Qc2. 65. Kf1 Qf2#. Good thing there wasn't a 50 move rule claim in the making. That would have been very embarrassing.
The next two games would two exercises in ugliness. The total number of moves in the two games combined was less then the number of moves played in the first round. Since neither game falls into the theme of this post I'm not bothering to show them.
In round 4 I finally get to play someone who may actually be older then me. If I had added up the ages of my first 3 opponents and multiplied by 2 the total might have come close to my age.
Once again I came across a position where I could take a "protected" pawn for free. We reached the following position after Black played 25...Re8.
Once again an advanced h pawn was just begging to be taken. The position was very similar to the one from the first round. However there were a few differences. First, there were a lot more pieces on the board. Second, at first glance it appears Black can counter with 26...Nfxd5. In reality there is no counter play for Black because moving the knight off of f6 opens up the long diagonal for White's queen. I played 26. Bxh6 expecting the game to continue 26...gxh6 27. Qxf6 and then face a long grind trying to convert the pawn advantage. Much to my surprise Black countered with 26...Nfxd5?? I had to double check and make sure I wasn't imagining things with the move 27. Qxg7# Yes it really was mate. For a change I would be the beneficiary of a very short game.
I would like to say that winning in such a manner inspired me to go 2-0 on Monday and limit the damage of my rocky 2-2 start. Monday morning I started off by hanging a pawn on move 7 because I reversed the move order. 41 moves later I squeezed out a draw against my young under rated opponent. Round 6 I still could salvage a plus 1 or even score with a win or a draw. Unfortunately I was done in by White's very active rooks and the game came to an abrupt end with my playing 40...Kh8? in the following position.
After 40...Kh8? White has mate in 1.
I presume my readers can do a better job of finding the mate then I did. I suppose the bright side of getting mated on move 41 was not having to try to hold the position after 40...Kf8 41. Rxg6.
The one thing I learned from this tournament is play up a section. Northern California has even more under rated kids then Southern California. However Northern California chess parents aren't psychotic like some of the Southern California chess parents I've encountered.
That's it for my chess travels for the time being. My next trip will be with the chess widower of my life. We cashed in a bunch of frequent flier miles and will be spending time in Belgium and Netherlands. Perhaps my Belgium readers can steer me to a chess cafe in Brussels or Bruge.