Sunday, September 30, 2007

OMG! The Things I Do In Time Trouble!

Somebody should just revoke my memberships in the USCF and the Marshall Chess Club, put my Chronos, and Mon Roi on eBay, hide my Metro North tickets, Metro Card, and Marshall CC key card, and pack me off to Time Trouble Anonymous. "Hi, I'm Polly and I'm a clockaholic."

It's another Thursday night with the usual suspects. Alright so I didn't play Polyakin in the first round, but I did keep my "perfect" record against Boris Privman intact. 0-11 and counting. Other 1700s pull upsets against him, so what's my problem? The clock may have played some part in my demise, but this time I actually held my own until the ending. It came down to he could stop my pawn by sac-ing his Bishop, and I couldn't do a damn thing with my knight to stop his pawn. Say "Good Knight to the White Bishop, and hello to the coming white queen."

Now it was time to play one of the usual suspects. This would be game number 30 against this particular opponent. In August I actually won two times in a row against him, doubling the number of wins I have against him. I was actually starting to think maybe I starting to get the better of him. September tempered my optimism with an annoying loss in a totally insipid position that somehow got away from me. But why dwell on annoying losses when one can for a brief few moments be elated by being up a piece for a pawn.

This was the position at the point that I stopped keeping score. I'm up a pawn, and there's not a whole lot happening. As I was writing this, I let Fritz play around with it. It gave white plus over equal. Fritz didn't even have me ahead by a full point. One line had white at .59. Whoopie!

However my opponent and I don't think or play like Fritz. Somehow the queens came off the board, and somehow I won a piece. GOK (God only knows) how that happened. For several moves I wasn't even aware of the fact that I was ahead. Maybe I would have been better off not noticing the extra piece, and offering him a draw. Instead I'm thinking, "I'm up a piece, time trouble be damned! I can win! Woo hoo! 3 wins out of 4 games with him."

Don't ask me how we arrived at this position. I'm fretting over the backward b pawn which he doesn't take, and I've been having this debate whether I want my rooks lined up on the first rank or the third rank. Mind you, I have 10 seconds, and he has 30. Instead of taking, he plays f5!

"What's that pawn move all about? Who cares? No time to think!"
Debate resolved, I play R1-f3??

"Oh look! He has a check."


"Oh crap, I can't move my king to g4. Quick do something, you're almost out of time. "


"So much for my extra piece."


"So much for 3 out of 4. Sigh." Sometimes I hate this game. I especially hate it when this particular player gives me some sort of lecture afterwards. In this particular case he's asking me if I watched his game against Eric Hecht last week. (Yeh, the same Eric Hecht who beat me in 10 moves last week.)

"No I wasn't watching your game last week. I was too busy licking my wounds from the butt ugly round 3 loss that preceded the heart breaking round 4 loss. So no I didn't happen to notice that you pulled the exact same mate against him."

Note to self: Watch Schnitzler's other games so you can see how he's going to beat you next time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seeing Ghosts

The difference between stronger players and mere mortals like myself is the ability to see variations and work them out deeper. Often I simply overlook something. (See previous post for an ugly example!) Other times I see something that's not really there. This position is a classic example of seeing things that aren't really there.

We just traded minor pieces with 13. Nxd6, Qxd6. It's my move and I'm looking at 14. Qxb7. Pawn captures on the 7th rank always make me a little leary due to trapping possiblilities. My analysis goes something like this. 14. Qxb7 Rb8 15. Qxa7 Ra7 16. Qb7 Rfb8. Oh crap my queen is trapped! But it isn't because I can play Qxc6.

Because I'm looking at the physical board with the black rook on c8 I'm thinking the pawn is guarded twice so my queen has nowhere to go. In reality there is no rook guarding on c8, so I can pick up another pawn. This is where stronger players have an advantage. They can see the new position in their head much clearer. They would recognize that the rook is no longer protecting c6. This wasn't even deep analysis. Only 3 move pairs.

I looked at other possibilites such as 15 Qxa7 Rxb2 16 e3. I had expended a lot of time and energy on the "trapping the queen" line, that I didn't really look too deeply into having Black's rook on my 2nd rank. After digging myself a time hole that would actually work in my favor later, I finally played the very safe 14 Rfe1. A few moves later we traded a pair of rooks, and the pawn was still there for the taking so I grabbed it.

My opponent in this game is a nine year old girl with a rating in the mid 1300s. I've played her twice before, and she likes to attack. We each have won once. Black has lost all our games. Knowing that she does play aggressively I was cautious. She ended out getting play for the pawn, and she eventually got it back. It was in a wide open position with both kings exposed that I used my "time disadavantage" to my advantage. I had around 45 seconds, and she had over 3 minutes. I find that younger kids will try to blitz in these types of situations in the hope that they can run the opponent out of time. Pieces tend to get dropped in these types of positions. She grabbed a pawn with her knight, and I pinned it to her queen. She could have forced the trade of queens saving her knight, but instead she instantly moved the queen away. I won the knight, and then a few moves later she hung her queen. When she resigned I had 14 seconds she had over two minutes. If she had used a little more time she probably would have found the queen trade, and the game may have ended out being a draw. Who knows. Unfortunately the next round I'd be the one screwing up the time advantage.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Thank God it's Saturday! I can't lose any more USCF rated games this week. The week of 9/16 - 9/22 was the chess week from hell. And I thought US Open week in August was bad! That was a piece of cake compared to this week, even though I played more games that week in August. So let's take a look at the two weeks.

From 7/29 - 8/4 I played 21 games of rated chess. (I left out round 9 of the US Open since that technically was played the following week.) That week I scored 6 wins, 3 draws, and 12 losses. The ratings of players I played that week ranged from 714 to 2670. The average rating of my opponents was 1615. If I throw out the 3 extreme ratings of 714, 734 and 2670 the average goes up to 1656. (It's amazing the stuff you can do with downloaded rating history and an Excel spreadsheet.)

From 9/16 - 9/22 I played 13 games of rated chess. I scored 1 win, 0 draws, and 12 losses. The ratings of my opponents ranged from 1442 to 2287. The average rating of my opponents was 1847. There were no extreme rating differences so even throwing out the top and the bottom gives me 1843 opponent average. Big deal! This past week was clearly a tougher week of chess. The average rating and my "lovely" win loss record tells the whole story.

What can one say about a week that starts out with my getting stomped on by a bunch of kids? But that wasn't even the worst of it. Whoever said "Mondays suck!" may have been a fly on the wall at the Bob Peretz Chess Club this past Monday. Not only did I lose 2 games, but I had to give myself the bye in the 2nd round. I played the number 1 and 2 players on my most frequently played list. Both games were comedies of errors. My opponents and I were hanging pieces left and right. We seem to bring out the worst in each other. Maybe that explains why our team did so poorly at the USATE in February. Sheesh! And the three of us teach chess to kids??

By the time Thursday arrived I was on a 9 game losing streak that got extended to 10 with a butt ugly 18 move loss to FM Asa Hoffman. I finally won a game where I was on the verge of offering a draw, but that was before my opponent so nicely hung a knight in my time pressure. That win led to my match up with Eric Hecht. We've played 8 times with my record being 2 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses. We tend to get paired in either the 3rd or 4th round of "Four Rated Games Tonight!" with neither of us having many points. We both have "clock management" issues, so our games usually end with one of us flagging, or taking a draw because neither of us have enough time to convert a small advantage.

I had no reason to believe that this game would any different then our previous encounters. Boy was I wrong. But then again I wasn't expecting the Morra Gambit from him. The last time I had black against him was a year ago and he played Nc3 on the second move. I hate the Morra Gambit. I lost an ugly game in the 2006 US Open against it because I walked into a stupid ass trap by playing Bg4. That's one of those phantom pins, or as David Mac Enulty calls them in his book Chess Tactics for Kids, a pin that's not a pin. Since that game I've managed to avoid falling into Morra Gambit traps, until Thursday.



I think that was my shortest rated game ever. 10 moves in 11 minutes. I think 1/2 of the 8 minutes I used was spent debating on whether I should resign on move 10, or let him mate me on move 11. Ugly, ugly, ugly!! Maybe I'll write a book called "Medusa Chess" and fill it up with all my ugliest losses that will cause the reader to turn to stone. Maybe I need to take up the Von Goom Gambit.
Tomorrow is another day, and the start of a new week. Hopefully it will be a better week for me. I don't think it can get any worse.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dropping Out: Sometimes I Don't Get It

Sometimes I just don't understand chess players. Maybe that's why I don't understand myself. (LOL) I'm a chess player. Actually after 35 years of tournament chess I developed a pretty clear understanding of what I expect of myself when playing in tournaments. Respect my opponent regardless of age or rating, suck it up when stuff happens (IE; bad pairings, colors, TD decisions, annoying opponents, etc.), handle victory and defeat equally gracefully, and finish what I start. These are the types of things that I also expect out of my students when they're competing. I also would expect these things out of my fellow competitors, but I have no control over other's behavior.

I've given my opinion on dropping out of tournaments that I'm doing poorly in. I don't like doing it, and it's only been on very rare occasions that I've actually done so. I've seen many higher ranked players in a section cash it in after a few rounds when they've lost to lower ranked players and aren't in contention anymore. Everyone has their reasons for dropping out at some time or another. But some drop outs I don't understand. Last night was a prime example.

Last night I played in the St. John's Masters at the Marshall Chess Club. It's a monthly tournament open to players rated over 2100. It attracts many grandmasters, and for the lower rated player it affords an opportunity to play some strong opponents. If you're under 2100 you can try to qualify to play in the tournament. To qualify, you have to play in the 4 Rated Games Tonight! tournament on Thursday nights at the Marshall and pay a $5.00 qualifier fee by the start of round 2. The top scoring $5 paying player earns the right to play in that month's masters event. Some weeks there are 4 or 5 players who pay the fee, and other weeks maybe just 1 or 2 people. Some players will shell out the $5 every week until they make it. I never even bother, except a few weeks ago nobody had paid the fee, so I plunked down my $5 and earned the right to play in last night's event. I was hoping for the opportunity to play someone besides the usual Thursday night suspects.

When somebody like me qualifies for the tournament there's the hope that maybe an upset can be had, and some rating points gained. The reality is, play your best, try not to look like a total moron, and learn something from the losses. Last night was small field of 14 players. There were only three of us that had gone the $5 route. Everyone else was over 2100, including 3 GMs, 1 IM, and an FM. However when you're ranked 14th out of 14 there is no way you're playing one of those guys. You're going to get a low 2200 or high 2100. You lose the first round, you're going to play another 2100. You lose again, you might play one of the other $5 qualifiers who is also getting crunched, or you might end out with a bye and play the house player who's rated 2000. That was exactly how my tournament went. I lost to two 2100s, and then got the house player rated 2000. I didn't play the other 1700 because he dropped out after two rounds thus making it an odd number.

This is where I don't get it. Am I missing something here? Why does a guy with a 1764 rating plunk down his $5 for several weeks in a row on Thursday night, come to the masters tournament, plunk down his $40 entry fee, only to drop out after losing the first 2 rounds to a 2200 and a 2150? "Hello! You're ranked 13th out 14, and your opponents have outrated you by over 400 points. Did you really expect to have an even or plus score at this point? What's the matter? You didn't want to play me in round three?"

Actually I don't get this guy at all. He must have money to burn on entry fees. I've seen him play on Thursday night where he's way down on the wall chart with me. He's lost his first round to a much higher rated player, and then reenters with a 1/2 point bye for another $15. If he continues to lose on the reentry he drops out. Maybe he likes to try for upsets, or avoid getting paired down. (I knew one kid who used to reenter to avoid getting the bye in the next round. I think he did it to tick me off, becuase I'd be the next one in line for the bye.) Sometimes the reentry works out for him. The last Thursday night tournament he played in he reentered and managed to score 2.5. This qualified him for last night's tournament and he also won the under 2000 prize.

What the heck? It's only money. I certainly have shelled out a lot of bucks this year to play in tournaments. I'm afraid to add it all up, especially if I throw in train and subway fares. Out of town tournaments also bring in hotel room nights and transportation. Okay, I'm going to stop thinking about all of this! I don't spend $3,000 on a purse or a dress, so what's a few entry fees?

I suppose if you've read this far you're wondering how the rest of the tournament went. It went according to statistical analysis based on a 300 to 400 point rating difference. Duh! Last round I played Vladimir Polyakin. He's one of the players high up on my usual suspects list from Thursday nights. I play him at least once a month on Thursday. The only difference between last night and Thursday was I played him in the last round with both of us being 0-3 instead of in the first round in a typical top half vs bottom half pairing. Like my typical Thursdays against him the result was the usual.

Even though I ended out playing two of the usual suspects from Thurday nights, I did play two others that I don't play too many times. In fact I think it was the first time I'd ever played my second round opponent. Will I do this again sometime? You betcha! It's a nice tournament. They brought in food for the players, they have a strong house player in case there's an odd number, and most importantly I didn't have to play some kid rated 400 points lower then me who's taking lessons with grandmaster and is really 1700 strength. :-Þ

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Odd Quads: The Adult's Worst Knightmare

Quads are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. You show up, plunk down your entry fee, wait to see who else shows up, get assigned to a section, and start playing. If you want to annoy the tournament director you can hover around to see whether you're going to be playing up, down, or in between. If you really want to annoy him you can beg him to move you to a different quad then the one it appears you'll be assigned to. "My latest MSA rating is xxxx, so move me up so that I don't have to play those lower rated players. I don't want to risk my hard earned rating points!

The ideal quad section will have 4 players within a 100 rating points of one another. A section like that makes it any one's ballgame, and there tends to be less whining about being a in quad with somebody much higher or lower rated then you. I've played in plenty of those types of quads. Sometimes I've done well, sometimes not so well. For the most part I like quads so that I don't have to deal with extreme pairings like the ones I got at the US Open.

Sometimes if there's a small turnout you can end out with some strange sections. One quad I played in at the Manhattan Chess Club consisted of three A players, and Grandmaster Ron Henley. Being number two in the quad I got to play GM Henley in the last round. I drew with the other two A players, and lost to GM Henley. Best $20 entry fee I ever spent. I got three games of rated chess, and a free lesson from a Grandmaster. Ron spent about an hour with me after the game going over the moves. It turned out I really had some chances in the game.

In 1988 I landed in another funny quad section at the Manhattan Chess Club. At the time I referred to it as an adult chess player's worst nightmare. Imagine being the fourth ranked player in a quad with a 16 year old master (James Schuyler), the winner of the Aspis Prize (Erez Klein), and the World Under 10 Boys Champion (John Viloria). The average age of my opponents was 13. I brought the average up to 18. The average rating of my opponents was 2130. I brought the average down to 2052. I put a decent fight in every game, but ended out with the statistically predicted results of no wins, three losses.

19 years later I'm learning the true meaning of the adult chess player's worse nightmare. When I think back upon that Manhattan CC Saturday Quad it wasn't so bad. I got the opportunity to play three outstanding young players of the time. Despite losing every game, I didn't totally humiliate myself by getting crushed in any of the games. If I had been playing three adults with those ratings I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. It simply would have been "C'est la vie, I ended out in the bottom of the higher quad, not the top of the lower quad." Now I'd be happy to be at the bottom of a quad instead of the top of a quad full of bloodthirsty underrated kids.

Having said that, I must be a real glutton for punishment. Today I played in a quad with three kids rated from 1650 to 1726. If you add up the ages of the three kids they'd still be 13 years younger then me. Since the playing space is small, the quads are limited to 20 players. They send out an email, and it's first come, first serve. There is no on site registration so you know ahead of time who is going to be in your section. I knew going in that this had all the makings of being an ugly afternoon of chess. I've played all these kids a few times. One of the kids I'm 2-0 against. Another kid I'm 1-1-1 against. Then there is the proverbial monkey on my back. He's 10 years old. I've played him 6 times. My record is 0 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses against him. After five straight losses, I finally got a draw with him over the summer. I was hoping today I could get the monkey off my back and finally get a win.

A few weeks ago I made a number of observations about kids playing in adult tournaments, and some of their annoying little quirks. Today's tournament was kind of the reverse situation. I was the lone adult in a tournament full of kids. The kids in my section have gotten past the stage of fancy wrist flicks, dropping the pieces off center, constant adjusting, and fancy clock slaps. I guess as they get a little older and their ratings get over 1600 they tend to realize that move and clock theatrics don't win chess games against their rating peers. However with kids being kids and being the lone adult it was interesting in watching their demeanor playing one another versus their demeanor when playing me.

In the first round I played the 10 year old. I had white, and was perfectly happy to get this game out of the way. I didn't want to spend my early rounds wondering if I could remove the proverbial monkey. I made a small mistake on move 11 by playing my bishop to e3. It allowed him to pick up a tempo and grab the initiative. However I don't think that was the turning point of the game.

We reached this position after Black played 20...Qf7 with the threat of Bf4. What is White's best defense against that threat? I saw the threat, and defended, but unfortunately I did not make the best move. 35 moves later the proverbial monkey is still on my back. We were the last game done. In fact I think some of the second round games of the other quads were even done.

Kevin can be extremely talkative and animated when he plays. Despite his 1700 rating he is a 10 year old and can act accordingly. However with the exception of a few stray piece adjustments on my time, he acted like an adult when playing me. His only remark at the end was that I shouldn't have played Be3. Before I could comment about the wisdom of my 21st move he was out the door to tell mom how he did, and get a snack. Postmortem? What postmortem? Heaven help the opponent that stands in the way of a kid and a snack from mom. I let Fritz tell me I would have been equal if I played the right move.

The next round I played Harry. He's a 10th grader and up to this point I was 2-0 against him. I had been so absorbed in my first round game that I was not aware that he had beaten the number 1 player playing with black. I'm not sure it would have changed my approach to this game. I did beat him playing black the last time we played. However, just like I try to prevent previous losses against a current opponent mess with my mind, I also try not to let previous wins get me overconfident. He played differently this time against my Accelerated Dragon. Since he did not play Bc4, I played a line where I get d5 in, and delay the recapture on d5 by playing Nb4. He pushed d6 and I recaptured with Qxd6. What a mistake that turned out to be!

In the meantime Kevin and Robert are in some totally insane position where Kevin seems to be mopping up Robert's pieces. Kevin is giggling and talking to Robert. The two of them are making little comments back and forth. I guess this is the stuff I don't see at scholastic tournaments because I'm holed up in classroom with my computer. I can't help but to look at their position and see what is so amusing. You know how it is when somebody yawns it makes everyone else yawn. Same thing seems to happen with laughter. Now the four of us are giggling, and the players from the other section are trying to figure out what's so funny. Meanwhile back on my board, I'm trying to figure out what to do with my queen that is under attack and defending my knight on b4. My position was no laughing matter.

A few moves later there's more mumbling from Kevin and very animated body language. He resigns on the 11th move. Geez! This is the same kid who just took me apart in the previous round? You just can't make this stuff up. The two of them start talking about the game, and I'm trying to get them to quiet down so I can concentrate on my game. I feel like I've been transported into a K-1 section of some scholastic tournament I've directed. However there is no crying here. Finally the room has emptied, and all is quiet except perhaps the pounding of my heart and the sounds I make as I chew nervously on my Mon Roi stylus. The comic relief provided by Kevin's animation and absurd position has morphed into the depressing reality of I'm down the exchange, he has the bishop pair, the queens are off the board, and I'm way behind on time. With two seconds left on my clock I opted to resign.

Kids can come up with some of the funniest questions or comments. Kevin asked me if I flagged or resigned. "Resigned" I told him. He told me I should have flagged instead. Like it really mattered? A loss is a loss. I can't blame it on the clock. There was no time scramble implosion on my part. If anything, I played the crucial move of Qxd6 too fast. It looked so natural keeping the pawn structure intact that I played the move almost immediately. Perhaps a little more time on that move would have made it unnecessary to spend over 5 minutes on the next move.

The pairing sequence in a quad is such that when you get to the last round 1 is playing 2, and 3 is playing 4. In theory 1 vs 2 in the last round is going to determine the winner of the quad. So much for theory. Number 4 is 2-0 and only needs a draw to win the section. Number 1 and 3 want to win, and create a 3 way tie for first. Number 2 would just like to win a game and avoid the indignity of losing to three kids young enough to be her children.

There are just some days where no matter how hard you try to forget what happened in earlier rounds you just can't do it. Stupid things get you rattled, and it's hard to focus. I think this was one of those days for me. It's hard to describe the physical sensation that overcomes me when I feel the pressure to avoid the worse case scenario. Sometimes I lose and it's no big deal. I move on it's done. There have been other times where the loss was so devastating that I cried. Yes adults sometimes will cry over a loss. The heartbreaking losses bring out emotions that might not be expected from adults, but they're there. We just are a little more discreet in how we show those raw emotions. Kids tend to be more open with their feelings.

The times that losing affects me it's not so apparent on the outside. Instead there's this feeling of "Oh crap, this can't really be happening to me." Physically there's an uneasiness in my stomach, and a tightening in the chest. It's almost like I'm having a panic attack, but the symptoms aren't quite as severe. When I get like this it's hard to focus. I feel like the deer caught in the headlights. It started as soon is it was apparent that Kevin was going to beat me again. There must have been that look in my eyes because every time I came bursting out of the playing room to refill my water cup the TD would look at me. Sometimes he might say hi other times he'd just watch as I went into the parent area to get water. I don't think he wanted to know what was going on inside, but I think he sensed some agitation going on internally. The parents didn't say anything as I hustled over to the water cooler, refilled my cup and went running back inside. Those who seen me at action events, know that I rarely get up from the board, much less leave the room.

The other thing with quads is the last round toss for color. One of the players from another section came up with an innovative way to "toss" for color. He tells my opponent to toss the pawns up in the air and predict which one will land first. We opted for the more traditional "pick a hand" method. Continuing what was rapidly turning into a lousy afternoon, I picked the hand with the black pawn. Maybe I should have asked him if he wanted to do "Rock, Paper, Scissors" for the white pieces. Come to think of it, maybe I should have played "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to determine the outcome. It would have been quicker, and probably less painful.

Our section is the only one still going. The lower two sections had finished earlier. I swear some of the players finished all three of their games before I had finished my first. It wasn't quite like that, but most of the kids in the other sections finished their three games before I had finished my second. Once again Kevin was having a very animated discussion with his opponent. I'm not sure what that was all about. I glanced over at them, but I decided I was going to ignore them and deal with my own problems. They eventually drew, but Kevin was very quick to point out to Harry that he had a winning position. At this point I was in no mood to listen to their postmortem, and reminded them that this was a chess tournament.

Eventually my position deteriorated, and I decided enough was enough. It's hard enough getting blown out of a quad 0-3, but somehow if my opponents had all been 20 years older I wouldn't have left with that sickly feeling. When you think about it, it was an ideal quad. There was less then a 100 point difference from top to bottom. Anyone of the four of us could have gone 3-0, 0-3 or something in between. One just never knows, but especially playing kids. I've watched these kids start off quite young, and slowly work their way up the rating scale.

Some of the adults from my chess club admitted they don't like playing the kids. The organizer of this event was looking for one more player. He contacted some of those guys from my club. The all begged off. Too much pressure, and the kids go in with the attitude if there's nothing to lose. I have noyjing to lose when I'm hovering at my rating floor. All I do is contribute rating points to the youthful masses, and not have to cough up my own.

So am I masochistic enough to play again when the next tournament there comes up? You betcha. I'm not letting a clean sweep get me down. Payback time is coming.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Gorilla On My Back

One would think that playing at a chess club like the Marshall I'd get to play lots of different players from week to week. It's not necessarily so. Just like my little 10 member club in White Plains, the usual suspects show up each week for the 4 Rated Games Tonight! , and the one day weekend events that I tend to play in at the Marshall. According to my MSA records I've played 1054 different players from 11/10/91 to today. That will go up to 1055 after the results from the WCC Summer Swiss gets submitted later this week.

Of those 1054 players, 32 of them I have played 10 or more times. Of those players that I've played 10 or more times, 4 of them have a perfect record against me. I guess there is no shame in being 0-13 against IM Jay Bonin, but 0-11 against Ilya Logunov? There was a stretch of time I'd play him in the first round almost every week in the 4 Rated Games Tonight! tournament. He'd always call in his entry, and show up anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes late. Yet despite his always giving me time odds, I'd find a way to piss away the time advantage. He stopped playing over a year ago, so who knows if I'll ever get a chance to raise my winning percentage against him above .000.

The three players I've played the most since 1991 I have a winning record against all them. I racked up a lot the wins when these players were lower rated then me. As our ratings have gotten closer, my win percentage has slipped closer to .500. Number three on the list is Steve Chernick. We played each at the Manhattan Chess Club quite a few times, and after the Manhattan folded we continued our rivalry at the Marshall Chess Club. From 1998 to 2005, my record against him had been 15 wins, 5 draws, and 4 losses.

Then a funny thing started happening. From 01/06 to the present my record has been 4 wins, 4 draws and 11 losses! This year in February I played him 3 times in 2 weeks and I lost every single game. Not just the 3 games to him, but in all three tournaments I went into the last round against him having an 0-3 or 0-2 record. I was starting to think I'd never win another game of chess at the Marshall again. I was winning games at other clubs and tournaments, but I had that stretch at the Marshall where I could not win. I should have not played there during the month of February. I had a record of 1 win, 1 draw and 17 losses.
Steve seems to bring the worst out in me. We'll have some totally boring position where nothing is happening and I'll find some bizarre move that makes the position totally disintegrate. Here's game number 1 of Polly's February from Hell:

White just played 29. dxe6. What should Black play? 29...fxe6 is the right move. So do I play that move? Noooo! I'm trying to keep my nice pawn structure intact, or at least get the queens and a pair of rooks off the board before playing fxe6. I play 29...Qxe6?? As soon as I make the move I realize he is not going to play 30. Qxe6.

Suddenly I have that "Oh crap, I just blundered big time!" sensation. That's where you hope and pray that your opponent doesn't see it. Steve saw it, and played 30. Qf1. The game went all to hell after that. 30... Qd6 31. Rxe8+ Bf8 32. Bh6 Rd8 33. Rxd8 Qxd834. Bxf8 Qxf8 35. Qd3 Qc5+ 36. Kh1 Qc8 37. Rd1 Kg7 38. Qd4+ Kf8 39. Qd8+ Qxd840. Rxd8+ Ke7 41. Ra8 Kf6 42. Rxa7 Kf5 43. Rxf7+ 1-0

Four days later later I play him again. Once again I have Black, and once again my position goes all to hell. This game is truly a comedy of errors especially the last 5 moves or so. So here is game number two.


Nine days later, I'm playing him again. It's the third round of a three round tournament so it's a toss for color, and guess what color I get? Yep, Black again. I'm thinking to myself "Will I ever get white against this guy again?" It's also not helping that I'm on this major losing streak at the Marshall. All of this is wrecking havoc on my mind, so I approach the game fairly cautiously.

Once again we reach one of those positions where I feel I have better pawn structure, a knight on the outpost square d5,he has a do nothing bishop and his threats are easy enough to defend.

He just played 27. f5 with the annoying little threat of Qb8+. Annoying yes, but crushing no. I play 27...Qc7 28. Qxc7 Nxc7 29. fxe6. Now I have a decision to make. Which way do I want to recapture? Do I keep the kingside pawn structure intact, bring the knight back into play, but give him a passed pawn? Option number two is recapture with the f pawn giving me an isolated e pawn, stopping his d pawn, and having the option of bringing the knight back to d5.

Sometimes we can get overly fixated on pawn structure. I'm thinking to myself, "I want to keep my kingside pawns intact, and besides that stupid isolated d pawn isn't going anywhere." I made the very natural looking 29...Nxe6. Guess what? That stupid isolated d pawn became a royal pain as it made its little march down the board. 30.d5 Nc7 31.d6 Ne6 32.d7 f6 33.Bb6 Kf7 34.d8Q Nxd8 35.Bxd8 b5 36.Kf2 Ke6 37.Ke3 Ke5 1-0

I suppose I could have placed my pawns on light squares and fiddled around with my king, but having chucked another decent position against the same player for the 3rd time in two weeks I just had no desire to try for some time scramble funny business. I had less then a minute, and think he had 3 minutes. There have been times I've played on positions like that, and suckered my opponent into trying to out blitz me, and have pulled a rabbit out of my hat. In this case about the only thing pulling I was out was my hair.

I feel like I may be finally getting the gorilla off my back. I've beaten him two out of three in our last few games. I even beat him with black last weekend, despite getting ahead of myself and outright hanging a rook. Maybe I'll give it another shot this weekend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9-11-01 Remembered

Today I think about what happened six years ago, and all that has happened since. This piece today is not about the political aspect or thinking about the pros and cons of the Iraq war. I hate thinking about politics, and I rarely discuss them. Unlike some of my fellow chess bloggers I will not write about politics or religion. Heck, I don't even like to talk about chess politics! So this is simply a rambling piece with a definite NY bias. Though I wasn't born and raised in New York, I've spent over half my life here so I consider myself a New Yorker. And yes there is chess in this piece too. An event like this impacts all parts of one's life, and chess is a big part of mine.

9/11/01 is day I'll certainly never forget. People of my generation remember where they were when John K Kennedy was shot. Today's generation will remember where they were when the four planes crashed into the WTC, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I remember the day well. It was beautiful and sunny. Since I hadn't started my chess classes yet, I was out riding my bike with friends, and it was only because someone on the ride was listening to the the radio that we had any idea that something unusual was happening. It wasn't until I got back from that ride and saw the images on television that I could understand the magnitude of those events. Getting second hand information from a guy with a little radio didn't make it clear what had happened.

A part of my work scenery and chess history was destroyed that day. It also changed some of my teaching experiences when I ended out replacing a NYC police officer who taught at one school. Fortunately he was not lost that day, but his job got a lot harder, and he was working 12 hour days seven days a week. He had no time to be teaching a game he loved to kids. I know chess people who had worked at the World Trade Center. They survived except the dad of a young kid who played in a number of the scholastic events I directed in Westchester and Fairfield counties. Today I watched some of the memorial ceramony. It's raining today, and watching the families leave their flowers and carrying the photos of their loved ones I felt like the heavens were crying with us. I didn't know Colin's dad too well since more often then not it was mom who brought him to tournaments or picked him up after chess club. I didn't listen to every single name being read, I did wait to hear Colin's dad's name being read. Steve, I know that Colin and the rest of your family misses you very much.

I worked for 12 years in lower Manhattan. I can remember looking out the windows of 1 New York Plaza from the 42nd floor. The view of the World Trade Center from our data center window was such that you could only see one tower. It was an interesting perspective. I had always wanted to take a picture from there since it was an odd view, but being wrapped up in my first real job that had prospects for an actual career, I never go around to it.

I left that job after a year and a half, and moved a few blocks north. Every morning I'd get off the subway at Fulton St. As I'd come up the stairs the twin towers loomed ahead. Architecturally they really were pretty boring buildings. New York City has far more magnificent buildings, however there was something impressive and imposing about these giant twins that I would see every morning. Also they were a major part of the New York sky line. No matter how many times I fly into NY or drive over bridges with the spectacular view of Manhattan, I never tire of it. But the hole in the skyline also leaves a hole in my heart. I remember one of the first times I came back into Manhattan to play chess after 9/11 I looked down Seventh Avenue and could see the World Financial Center. It was really weird seeing that instead of the towers.

In 1992 I got "downsized" right out of my 10 year career as a data center operations manager. Despite having been miserable for the last couple of years on the job, it still was a big blow to me. I was making very good money, I had 4 weeks of paid vacation, and very good benefits. My job was like a comfy old pair of shoes that one knows aren't meeting the needs of her tired feet, but can't bear to part with. I hated the job, but when one is making good money and have 10+ years with a company, it's hard to let go.

Even though I officially my last day had been August 31st, 1992 I was given outplacemnt assistance and I still had a cubicle and a phone to work from for many months to follow. I was downtown in 1993 when the first bombing occurred. I can remember seeing the smoke pouring out, and wondering what the hell was going on. My husband had come downtown to shop at J&R and grab a bite to eat with me. I remember the two of us sitting in the Burger King on Liberty St. across the street from the Trade Center, eating lunch and watching the firefighters and police scurrying around.

As I watched all of this unfolding I thought back on a job interview I had in one of the towers. It was a temporary job with Citi Bank to train tellers in the new banking computer system. If I had gotten the job I would have been working there in one of the towers as a trainer. That was just one of many job interviews that I went on that never panned out. I do believe things happen for a reason, and that was a job rejection that I can be very thankful for.

As New Yorkers who live or work in Manhattan we rarely take the time to do the touristy things that out of towners do. Since moving here in 1977, I never went to the top the Empire State Building. I did that as kid when visiting my aunt. I never went to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. The first time I was ever on the observation deck level was for the Kasparov-Anand World Championship match. Ironically enough that would start on Tuesday Sept. 11th, 1995. Six years to the day of 9/11/2001.

I still have the program and poster from that event. I collect a lot of chess related stuff. Posters and programs end out in my possession, but many of them I end out getting rid of because paper items don't interest me as much as my beloved chess pins and medals. However these items got stashed, and did not get given away or sold. These will not end out on Ebay.

The World Trade Center also holds a lot of chess playing memories for me. I played in the Commercial Chess League for many years. I played for Exxon and Solomon Brothers when I worked at those two companies, and I also played on some of the alumni teams that consisted of players who were no longer working for a company with a team in the league. We played our matches either at home (our company offices) or away (the opponent's company offices). When you played on an alumni team all of your matches were away games. I played a number of matches at the World Trade Center against The Port Authority and Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

My last match there was April 18, 2001 against Blue Cross. The reason I remember the date is because several months after 9/11 I found my visitor's badge from April 18th. Security had been tightened tremendously after the truck bombing of 1993. You had to show photo ID and being photographed and issued a temporary ID for your visit. They allowed you to keep the badge, and I guess being the pack rat I am it got tossed into a drawer as a souvenir from a successful match.

It was a match that we were outrated on every board. I was on Board Two playing a 1900 player. The match score was 1.5 - 1.5 with just my game still going on. Blue Cross only had to win or draw the match to win the division. My team was just playing for pride. I guess pride is a good enough reason at times. This was probably my hardest fought game I ever played in the league. I had played a hard fought 64 move game that I managed to win, despite the fact that my opponent at one point had two passed pawns sitting on my 7th rank. Looking at the game today as I was putting into Chess Publisher, I was amazed I had pulled it out. It certainly was one of my better defensive efforts and after I had gotten rid of both of the annoying passed pawns, it came down to an ending with my queen and 4 pawns against his two rooks and 3 pawns. It was one of those positions that I was glad the time limit had been G/120, not G/30. I don't think I could have held the position with so little time. Winning the game also allowed us to pull out the match, and costing Blue Cross clear first.

Commercial Chess League
White: Kenneth Eng 1921 vs Black: Polly Wright 1700

After 9/11/01 I wondered if Ken had gotten out in time. I had heard from others that he indeed was alive. I was immensely relieved to see him the following February at the US Amateur Team East. I still don't know whether he was at work that day, or whether he has some harrowing tale to tell about getting out on time. Outside of passing him in the corridors outside the playing room of various tournaments we've both played in, I've had no contact with him. Perhaps one day we'll cross paths gain over the chessboard, and I will find out about his day on that particular Tuesday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fun With Ratings History

There's a nifty little program that will allow you to extract all your tournament history from USCF's Member Services Area. You can download the program from I am a statistics junkie. I have a 35 page Excel workbook with my entire tournament history dating back to 1972. It's keeps yearly and cumulative stats with my win, loss, draw records for every tournament I've ever played in. It also contains rating changes. However this data extraction program is even more cool because it gives me assorted breakdowns such as combined record against individual opponents, a running tally of opponent, biggest upset win, loss, draw. It also has longest winning streaks and losing streaks. The only limitation is that it only works with MSA data that is from 1991 forward. Since I've been playing since 1972 it misses out on my early years. (Maybe given the quality of that game I posted yesterday, it's better left alone.) It misses out on my lowest rating of 1029, but more importantly it misses out on my high rating of 1945.

Here is a summary that the program generated on my ID:

This is data from 01-01-1991 to 09-10-2007

Current Official rating is 1700 Current UnOfficial rating is 1700
Best Unofficial rating = 1899 Best Official rating = 1899 Lowest rating on record = 1700

1054 Opponents Total Rated Games = 2174 ---> 625 Wins 344 Draws 1205 Losses

Best Upset = 515 points -- FIDEL DE LOS SANTOS -- 2230 NY DECEMBER ACTION! 12-03-2005
Best Draw = 529 points -- RODELAY MEDINA -- 2229 ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT 01-13-2005
Worst Loss = -894 points -- PETER WASILENKO -- WESTCHESTER CHESS CLUB CHAMPIO 05-30-2007

Highest Rated Opponent Win = FIDEL DE LOS SANTOS -- 2230 NY DECEMBER ACTION! 12-03-2005
Highest Rated Opponent Draw = ILYE FIGLER -- 2239 YOUR LAST BLUNDER IN 1997!!?? 12-31-1997
Lowest Rated Opponent Loss to = PETER WASILENKO -- WESTCHESTER CHESS CLUB CHAMPIO 02-17-1997

Most Recent Wins in a row = 8 ending on 12-28-1997 at 1997 NY STATE WOMEN'S CHAMPION
Most Recent Draws in a row = 4 ending on 06-17-2002 at BRONX/YONKERS SUMMER ACTION GA
Most Recent Losses in a row = 10 ending on 06-12-2003 at ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT

Results against 1018 higher rated players: Wins = 97 Draws = 102 Losses = 819
Results against 6 equally rated players: Wins = 1 Draws = 2 Losses = 3
Results against 1150 lower rated players: Wins = 527 Draws = 240 Losses = 383

Results against 810 players rated + 100 : Wins = 57 Draws = 63 Losses = 690
Results against 454 players rated +/-100: Wins = 111 Draws = 91 Losses = 252
Results against 904 players rated - 100 : Wins = 456 Draws = 188 Losses = 260

You can run the program on anyone's ID, so it's an interesting insight into the development of some of our young masters. Here is the same data for Hikaru Nakamura. I picked him because as a very young kid he played in many of the tournaments I directed, and I remember when he had a 3 digit rating.

This is data from 01-01-1991 to 09-10-2007

Current Official rating is 2749. Current UnOfficial rating is 2738
Best Unofficial rating = 2762 Best Official rating = 2762 Lowest rating on record = 684

972 Opponents Total Rated Games = 1594 ---> 906 Wins 285 Draws 403 Losses

Best Upset = 633 points -- ALEX EYDELMAN -- 2013 2ND SAT STAMFORD TOURNAMENT 07-13-1996
Best Draw = 661 points -- JAY BONIN -- 2439 ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT 02-11-1997
Worst Loss = -713 points -- CHRISTOPHER PANNA -- 1084 US AMATEUR TEAM EAST CHAMP 02-17-1997

Highest Rated Opponent Win = ILYA SMIRIN -- 2812 FOXWOODS OPEN 03-27-2005
Highest Rated Opponent Draw = ILYA SMIRIN -- 2816 32ND ANNUAL WORLD OPEN!! 07-05-2004
Lowest Rated Opponent Loss to = COLIN MARREN -- 607 WHITE PLAINS SPRING SCHOLASTIC 11-19-1995

Most Recent Wins in a row = 12 ending on 11-05-1995 at 1ST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH QUADS
Most Recent Draws in a row = 4 ending on 07-17-2007 at ST. JOHN'S MASTERS AT THE MARS
Most Recent Losses in a row = 5 ending on 05-26-1996 at MANHATTAN CC ACTION OPEN

Results against 545 higher rated players: Wins = 150 Draws = 117 Losses = 278
Results against 5 equally rated players: Wins = 3 Draws = 1 Losses = 1
Results against 1044 lower rated players: Wins = 753 Draws = 167 Losses = 124

Results against 372 players rated + 100 : Wins = 87 Draws = 66 Losses = 219
Results against 370 players rated +/-100: Wins = 158 Draws = 109 Losses = 103
Results against 852 players rated - 100 : Wins = 661 Draws = 110 Losses = 81

The fun part about looking at the history of a young grandmaster is seeing that the lowest rated opponent he lost to was 607. However one has to remember that his rating at the time was 718 based on 10 games. His biggest upset win came as 1400, and his biggest draw as an 1800. His biggest upset on the losing end was against a 1084 when he was around 1800. Yes, even future grandmasters fall victim to those massive upsets that we mere mortals succumb to.

I can say I had a better first rating then Hikaru, but the similarity ends there.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Fischer Boomer? Sorta, But Not Really.

The cover story from September's Chess Life is on the fallout from Bobby Fischer becoming World Champion 35 years ago. How time flies. It's hard to believe I played in my first rated tournament in the fall of 1972. I remember it as if it was last week. It's funny because any time I mention that I started playing in tournaments in 1972 some will say something to the effect of "You must have gotten caught up by the Fischer Craze." My answer has always been, "Not really, it just happened that I attended my first tournament in that fall." The timing just worked out that way.

I attended a girls' boarding school in Massachusetts. Yes, I admit it. I was a preppy. I was known for two things there; sports and chess. I played on any sports team that would have me (JV field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse), and I played chess with anyone I could. I was considered a bit of an odd ball, being a combination of jock and geek. I wasn't part of the in crowd, and I didn't have a whole lot of friends. My friends were fellow odd balls, and they knew how to play chess. I was much better then them, but I often let them take moves back or I'd lose pieces on purpose to make it more interesting. I thought I was hot stuff because I could beat the teachers and all the students at chess. Playing in USCF rated tournaments would wake me up to the reality that actually I was simply a big fish in a very little pond.

In the spring of 1972 the lady who worked as the evening receptionist invited me over to her house for lunch on a Sunday. She knew how much I loved chess, and her husband was an avid player. She thought it would be nice for the two of us to meet and play. That little lunch has taken me a long way since then. We played several games of chess which he won. He had a 1600 rating, but at the time he had switched from OTB chess to postal. He gave me a copy of Chess Life and Review, a USCF catalog, and a postal chess album. (I still have it, though it's missing pieces from a couple of the sets.) I saw in the back of the magazine that there were chess tournaments, and that some of them were not far away from school. I think I sent in my $7.00 to become a USCF junior member almost immediately.

In the fall I returned to school, and early on the trimester planned how I was going to get to my first chess tournament at U Mass in Amherst. When one goes to a girl's boarding school going away for a weekend isn't a matter of hopping on a bus and checking into a hotel for a weekend. One has to have a specific person she is going to be staying with and visiting. Fortunately my chemistry teacher and his wife lived in Amherst and they offered to put me up for the weekend and get me to and from the chess tournament each day.

On September 30th, 1972 I entered the world of USCF rated chess, and found out that I was actually very little fish in a bigger pond then I was used to. My first game I resigned after 20 moves in a position where I was already down 3 pieces to a 1400 player and about to have to give up the exchange to stop mate. "Gee Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." And so the first day of this tournament went the way of many that have followed over the years. Castling queen side on the wall chart.

0-0-0. Ouch!

Sunday I returned to do battle once again, but unfortunately I would make the acquaintance with the infamous bye. Sad to say, an acquaintance that I've made way too many times over these 35 years. Back then there were no house players hanging around so I had to wait around for the fifth round.

So after getting the bye, I finally put a real point up on the wall chart. Above you can see my original score sheet in all it's English Descriptive glory. I actually kept fairly neat notation. Putting it into Chess Base to show it here was a challenge. I don't know how I went almost 3 years before I made the plunge and switched to Algebraic. I guess it was because all my chess books were in English Descriptive, and Algebraic seemed so foreign.

I was black in this game against a guy whose last name was Barrelson. I don't know his first name. Back then I never bother with first name on my scoresheets.


This is not high quality chess. This was a game between an unrated and an 1191 player. Also this wasn't a kid. There were not many kids playing then. I was probably one of the youngest players there, and I was an 18 year high school senior. I look at some of the moves both us made and wonder what in earth was I thinking about?

Monday, September 3, 2007

New York State Championship: Murphy Works Overtime!

Good old Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

I think Murphy must have been a chess player, or at least known some unlucky ones. He and his fellow law makers seemed to be hard at work this Labor Day weekend. So here are some the laws of chess that you won't find in the rule book.

Carrier's Law of Playing Room Temperature: No matter what you wear it will not be right.

I always have problems with this one. If I have on a short sleeve shirt, shorts and no socks it will be freezing in the playing room. If I have on long sleeve shirt, pants, and regular shoes it will be hot. Generally I find that for summer tournaments I should wear winter clothing, and for winter tournaments wear summer clothing. The first day I was freezing during all my rounds. I wanted to buy a sweatshirt from the concession, but they were out of my size. The next day I came prepared. I had a sweatshirt, and wore socks with my sandals. (I know it looks dorky!) Spent most of the day without the sweatshirt on. On a bright note, I managed not to leave it en prise. I have a tendency to lose things that I'm not using.

Godiva's Law: The more you need chocolate, the less likely you'll have any available.

Some people do drugs, or drink a lot. My recreational drug of choice is Dove dark chocolate. I love the stuff. I get a bag of the miniatures, and usually take a few pieces to tournaments with me. Generally I allow myself one per round. It's my little treat to myself, and a nice pick me up if I'm having a crappy game.

I played the two day schedule so my first three games were G/50. For the three games I played at that time control, I had a grand total of 7 seconds left at the end. When I'm having those kinds of "clock management" issues, I need my chocolate real bad. Unfortunately, I had left it at my sister's house where I had stayed during the tournament. Maybe I'm going to have to create a chess equipment check list for tournaments. I do check lists for triathlons, so why not chess?

Wright's Law of Byes: A bye never comes at a time that the player might actually want it.

Anyone who read my account of my last round at the US Open knows my opinion of un-played games in the form of forfeit wins, or byes. However there are times where they come in handy. The last round of a local tournament is not a bad spot to get the bye. If you're staying with family or a friend during a multi-day tournament and get the bye for the last round of the day that's not too bad either. You can go back to the house, have dinner, catch a movie, play cards, etc.

There have been many times when I've stayed at my sister's house during this tournament and she's told me that if I finished my last round early to come join them for a cookout that evening. Do you think I've ever gotten a bye for that particular round? NO! In fact is most likely that the game will last the entire 6 hours. Naturally because my sister and the kids were at a party in New Jersey, this would be the year I'd get a bye for the 4th round. Fortunately at a tournament this size there is always a few people floating around that are available to be the house player. I ended out playing the father of a kid that I played last Thursday at the Marshall. My result against dad matched my result against the kid. Ostrovskiy Family 2 - Wright 0.

Funny Pairings

In the first two rounds I got paired against players that I played in last year's tournament. My first round opponent I played last year in the third round. Last year I drew against him. I'd like to say that I got the same result this year, but unfortunately I did not. My second round opponent I also played last year in the second round, and unfortunately I did match last year's result against him. It was a case of the wrong Wright winning.

The last round featured a battle of the 1700 floors. We were the "win challenged" group. "Win-challenged", a nice way to say loser. The only reason his line on the wall chart didn't look exactly like mine was because he opted to take his bye point and go home Saturday evening. So what's a fitting result for the win-challenged? Wanna draw??? This was not a grand master draw, or perhaps in our case, a grand patzer draw.

I played 34. Qf3, and offered a draw. I didn't really see any good chances to force the major pieces off the board and push the passed pawn. I knew if I tried to push the pawn with the major pieces still on the board, it was going to be toast. Fritz gave white plus over minus, and the suggested lines didn't force the issue. We had been playing for three hours already, and trying to squeeze a win of out the position for another couple hours wasn't what I really wanted to be doing at that point. Having steak cooked on the grill, and fresh corn on the cob with my sister and niece sounded like a better plan. Perhaps if first place was on the line I would have played on, but one starts out 0-5 the difference between 1/2 - 5 1/2 and 1 - 5 is nominal. Score one for my tummy.

When Life Imitates Blog
A few weeks ago I did a Letterman Top 10 list of signs you're having a bad tournament. Some of the items on the list were plausible, and some of them were utterly ridiculous. I haven't ended out in a broom closet yet, but at one team tournament the bottom boards were being played at a hotel across the street. I also haven't seen the pairing program crash trying to pair somebody with a really bad score, though in the last round of a 10 round insanity an 8.5 played a 2.5 because the 8.5 had beaten everyone in the other score groups. Yes, I have lost to the bye. That's what happens when I've gotten repaired against the bye player from another section. I've lost to kids who are up past their normal bedtime, though not quickly or having the kid tell me it's mate in four.

Losing a game of chess to a dog is not going to happen. I don't care how smart the dog is, or how stupid the human is, the dog will not win. Though if they're playing "give away chess" the dog might win by eating all his pieces. However after my Bloody Sunday of 0-4 it should not have surprised me that I could lose to a dog. However this was not a game of chess, but more like a tug of war. When I got back to my sister's house I took her dog out for a walk. What else could possibly go wrong? Well when a 100 pound lab wants to go chase something you can either try to keep up, or let go. If you can't do either then of those things then you're going down. So like the rest of my day, I went down. Score one for the dog.

The name of my blog is Castling Queen Side. My line on the wall chart after three rounds looked like a queenside castle 0-0-0. After 5 rounds it look like both white and black had castled on opposite sides of the board on the same move. 0-0-0 0-0. The last round draw prevented the second queenside castle.

I came very close to completing black's queenside castle. After losing the fifth round in less then an hour and half I seriously considered dropping out. I could have been on the road by 11:45 after a completing a 9:00 am round. I could have hit the road even earlier if I had resigned after I lost the second pawn, and my king position was utterly trashed. However I couldn't stand the thought of finishing in less then an hour. Besides where was I going to go? When you choose to play in a tournament over a major holiday weekend you forfeit all the major holiday weekend festivities like cookouts, pool parties, day at the beach, etc. My choices were go home to an empty house, go back to my sister's and watch her and her daughter go crazy the day before they were leaving to take her to boarding school for the first time, or I could suck it up and wait the four hours to try to redeem myself in the last round.

I suppose when you're 0-5 there isn't really any redemption in the last round even you do manage to win. Whoopie! The winning percentage goes from .000 to .166. My last round draw raised it to .083. Major league managers have gotten fired with better winning percentages then that. I really don't like dropping out when I'm having a bad tournament. In 35 years I've done it three times. Once when I decided going to Disneyland would be more fun then playing the last round of the US Open. Another time I was going back and forth between the NY State Championship in Long Island and my house every day. It almost certain I was getting a bye in the fifth round so I decided I really didn't want to travel out there for just one game. There was no guarantee they could find me an opponent for the morning round. At another NY State Championship I left after the fifth round and gave a fellow dropout a ride back to White Plains to catch the train to NYC. That was my good deed dropout, saving the guy a bus ride back to the city.

Hmmmm, there seems to be a recurring pattern here. NY State Championship = lousy results. Maybe I need to play somewhere else over Labor Day weekend. Does Hawaii hold their state championship over Labor Day weekend? Oh that's right I'm VP of the state association and we hold our annual meeting over the weekend. I guess it would be bad form to be at another state's championship.