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


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Polly, I follow your blog regularly, mainly because you write about the "real world" of us mortal tournament chessplayers. With regard to your topic, I have had to withdraw from my last two tournaments because of illness and a family emergency. I hated, just hated, to do it. The TD had to assure me it was okay. I guess my values about honoring one's commitment to the other players/potential opponents is similar to yours. Keep up the excellent writing!

Liquid Egg Product said...

Like you, I've never understood dropping out. People must have their own priorities and pride to deal with.

My favorite (?) lack of chess etiqutte guy: the master who read books while playing weaker opponents in tournament play (yes, happened to me). Most people have the decency not to show up their opponents, even if they are hundreds of points weaker.

Liquid Egg Product said...

Addendum: of course, people who have emergencies and illness should be given a break :D

Polly said...

I have no problem with people dropping out as long as they tell the TD so someone is not waiting around for a non-existent opponent. Stuff happens, and people have their reasons. I just thought in this tournament it was a little peculiar given requirements to play in the tournament.

Dropping out without notfying the TD is the height of chess rudeness in my book. At the US Open I was able to get another game, but I have had several occaisions when I haven't been able to get another game. The no show opponent is what I call the "stealth bye".

Last year I played in a 5 round tournament where my 4th round opponent was a no show. It was particularly annoying because if he had simply told the TD he wasn't playing, there would have been an odd number, and I would have been assigned the bye based on my score. There were extra players floating around who could have served as a houseman to give me a rated game. Instead I ended out sitting around. Hence the term "stealth bye". I got the bye without even knowing it.

Anonymous said...

{reenters with a 1/2 point bye for another $15.}

Allowing re-entry reminds me of when the Catholic church sold "indulgences".

GeneM ,