Sunday, December 18, 2011

Light At The End of The Tunnel

I told you it wouldn't be three months before you would hear from me again.  In fact it's actually less then three weeks.  When I last posted I was bemoaning the fact that I seemed to have totally forgotten how play the game.  From September 12th to December 1st I made it down to the Marshall Chess Club four times to play in the Thursday Night "cracktion" tournament, otherwise known as "Four Rated Games Tonight!" or once a month "10 Grand Prix Points Tonight!" I played a total of 13 games, and I won a total of zero games. Yep, you read that correctly. Zero wins! 13 losses! Not a draw in sight.  Most of the games were miserable games where I got a lousy position early on and get crushed either very quickly or slowly grounded down. 

If anyone is half-way decent at math he might notice that 4 rated games tonight x 4 = 16.  So what happened to the other 3 games?  One night I opted for the pre-emptive last round bye since I was the lowest rated player and didn't want to deal with possibly getting a bye in round 2 or 3.  The other two times, I dropped out so I could make an earlier train.  What happened to the woman who refused to drop out when having a bad tournament? She left the building in disgust.  One night I resigned after dropping a pawn early because I didn't feel like playing out a long drawn out game down a pawn. Instead I made the 10:32 train.  That's two hours earlier then if I stayed and played the last round.

On that early train ride home I seriously started asking myself "Why are you doing this? You spend $11 on train fare, another $4.50 on the subway, and a $25 entry fee. Why travel into Manhattan to get abused over the chess board? You can stay home and play Monday evenings in White Plains.  So why?"

I concluded there were several reasons why I needed those trips to the Marshall Chess Club.  I don't need them every week like I was doing the last few years. I needed them at least once a month to remind myself  what it's like to see and attempt to play real chess.  I need to spend time hanging out with chess players over the age 30.  When one spends her days teaching chess to kindergartners, first and second graders after awhile it's easy to forget what real chess is. The other big reason to go to the Marshall is, I'm not in charge.  I don't have to deal with the players whining about which ratings are being used, or why they got two blacks in a row, or one player calling another player an @$$ #%!*.  I can simply show up, pay my entry fee and let Steve deal with the knuckleheads.

It's been a strange year for me chess wise.  I skipped the US Open and the New York State Championships for the first time in years. I spent Labor day weekend in San Diego celebrating my niece's 30th birthday.  I could have played in the Southern California Labor Day weekend tournament. It was in San Diego.  I actually contemplated playing the two day schedule, but decided just hanging out with my nieces and nephew would be be more fun.  After my last trip in October with my sisters, I decided I had taken enough plane flights.  There was nowhere I wanted to go.  The thought briefly entered my mind to find a state that I haven't played in, but that will have to wait.  I'm stuck at 26 and counting.

Although I'm doing a lot of non-chess activity.  I've gone back to riding my bike and contemplating a triathlon comeback for next year.  I'm working towards my Second Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.  That also will probably come next year. 

I will end this post by sharing a game played a few Mondays ago.  It was another case of muddling through the opening and trying to hang on for dear life as my opponent tried to attack the crap out me from the Black side. On that particular night I ended every game with one or less seconds on my clock.  Unfortunately it's not a complete score sheet, but I do have a diagram of the final position.  Don't ask me how we got to that position from where the notation stopped.


Having survived an unsound sac with one second on my clock, I managed to bang out another who knows how more moves to arrive at this final position. A flurry of rook and queen checks allowed me to arrive at this lovely finish.

Despite going down to the Marshall that same week and losing another three games, I felt perhaps there was a little fight left me.  Also knowing why I wanted to be there helped make peace with the inner demons who ask "Why bother?"

The answer to "Why Bother?" came in a most surprising manner. Stay tuned....


Dennis B. said...

I am an amateur chess player, rated about 1750 and I find your difficulties in dealing with higher-rated players very interesting. I too, take many beatings from players stronger than me especially in faster rated games, such as 30 minutes or less per game. At longer time control, sometimes I can take the measure of my higher rated opponents. Keep posting!

Matt Hayes said...

Dennis, you make an interesting comment about taking beatings from higher rated players, especially in quicker time controls. In quick / rapid / blitz chess, pattern recognition and intuition is essential. There is often little time for calculation. Higher rated players usually (but not always) have greater experience, or at least a greater talent, for recognizing key positions and certain themes / patterns. That makes it easier for them to play moves more quickly, whereas weaker players are often doing more calculating. That uses up valuable time on the clock. It's probably okay if you take 5 mins per move in a couple of critical moments (even if your opponent would only take, say, 1 minute per move) but you can't afford to do that many times in a quick game.

With longer time controls, although the higher rated player would still be expected to win, the lower rated player has more chances I feel personally because they can afford to take longer in critical positions.

Matt Hayes said...

To follow up on what I just said, I think that lower rated players often have a misconception that experts or masters can somehow "see" more than they can on the board. On the contrary, I think that weaker players are often spending much more time calculating than their higher rated opponents. The higher rated player often knows which areas of the board to look at, which positions are critical... they have a better feel for the position. I find that's often more likely to decide a game than some flashy combination.

The Mascot said...

One time, I ran a chess tournament.

We hired bouncers to "handle" the people who whined about having to play Black twice.

Wahrheit said...

Hi Polly!

You and your readers are invited to submit items to the The Best Of! Chess Blogging Carnival. Deadline is January 27. Hit the link for more details, and please post a link on your blog or chess forum.

Best regards,

Robert Pearson