Friday, November 30, 2007

When Is It Time To Resign?

My post from the other day certainly evoked a lot responses regarding what appeared to be a resignation that got turned into a stealth draw offer. I've been thinking about chess etiquette a lot lately. I was surprised by how people reacted when I mentioned the noisy food incident. Often there are debates about whether one should play out a game to mate, or resign when it is a hopeless case. I had an interesting discussion with King Kong the last time I played him.

This was the final position. He just played 29...Rc2. He's threatening to mop up my queenside pawns, and run his two pawns down the queenside. He's also threatening d3. I can break the pin by playing 30. Kf3, but that's easily answered by Re3+ My rook is tied down to the e2 pawn. My knight is horribly out of play. There are no forking possibilities the way the position is set up. Time was not a big factor here though he did have a 4 minute advantage of 10:30 vs 6:30. Given the time difference if anyone was bound to implode in later time pressure, it would have been me. It was the last round. All Kevin needed was a win or a draw to wrap up the section. I saw no reason to play the position out so I resigned.

Afterwards Kevin said, "I don't know why you resigned there. You should have played on." I told him that I felt it was an easy win for him, and that I don't like to drag out positions like that. He said he knew was an easy win, but he would have played on. There were no extenuating circumstances such as his having 10 seconds left. I told him I know kids would play it out, but I told him that as one gets older and more experienced one tends to concede the hopeless position out of respect for a player who totally out played them. It had nothing to do my track record against him. There was no feeling of intimidation. I felt pretty good about how things had gone that evening. It was actually one of my better games against him until I got sloppy with my attack, and dropped the exchange. Things just fell apart after that.

Would I resign that same position every time? I would be more likely to play on if I out rated my opponent by 700+ points, or if the clock was a major factor. Then I'd want the opponent to prove that they have the skill to it finish off. In this situation I didn't need King Kong to prove to me that he could win the game. I knew he could. It was my way of making a quiet statement about playing out hopelessly lost positions. Maybe my resigning took away the pleasure of totally crushing me, by promoting the queenside pawns. I wasn't going to hang around to find out.

In my next post I'm going show two games from my weekly Thursday night "cracktion" tournament. One game I lost despite my opponent making me retract my ill timed resignation, and the other I won because I didn't resign a pretty much lost position based on Steve's and my history of time pressure implosions. As they say those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What is A Draw Offer?: Learning The Hard Way

At the National Chess Congress they have a few sections for lower rated players that have no cash prizes, just trophies. Many kids play in these sections, but because they're not scholastic tournaments there will also be low rated adults in the sections. (Note: I may gripe about losing to 10 year olds, but at least their ratings are 4 digits. I'm not sure if I could cope with having a rating under 1000 and playing and losing to children with such ratings.) The other thing about these sections not being scholastic, is the neurotic chess parent can hover near by, thus making the tournament director's job much harder. I think my favorite scene in "Searching for Bobby Fischer" is when the tournament director locks all the crazed parents in the cage. My tournament director fantasy is to be able to do that to crazed mothers and fathers when they get in my face.

As I was walking out of the tournament room after my fifth round loss there was a big argument going on between the father of a little girl in the Under 1000 section, the opponent of the girl, players sitting at adjoining boards, other spectators and the poor tournament director. And people wonder why spectators are not allowed near the players at the national scholastic championships. As much as I did not like losing another game, I much preferred being able to leave the room to mark up another zero, then have to make a ruling on what was happening in the Under 1000 section.

The last thing I heard the father say was something to the affect of, "You're grown men taking advantage of a little girl." I asked the director later what that was all about. The girl was crushing her opponent and had mate in a few moves. The opponent was shaking his head and muttering. The girl thought he was resigning and reached out to shake his hand. He interpreted the extended hand as a draw offer, and promptly accepted. That was not her intention, but that's how it came across. I guess the other players seated at the adjoining boards felt that was what happened. The father felt the opponent was taking advantage of her youth and inexperience by claiming a draw in a hopeless position. However the director did rule that it was a draw offer. Not having heard what the witnesses had to say or what the player herself said, I can't really say whether or not the ruling was right or not.

Fortunately her tie breaks we better so she did come in first any way. It would have sucked to have not won the section because of that error. It also would have sucked if there had been money and she ended out with less because she was in a tie for first instead of clear first. (BTW the under 1600 section was won by a 7 year old who got $3,000.) Hopefully she learned not to offer or accept a handshake without hearing "I resign" from the opponent.

I've had more then one kid ask me what my intent was if I stopped the clock, said "Good game", and extended my hand. My adult opponents accept my resignation in that manner. The kids want to see a tipped king, or hear "I resign." Though recently a tipped king was not enough for one of my young opponents. He still asked me what I meant. I know he knew what a tipped king meant, but I think he just wanted to make sure that it wasn't a big j'adoube that was disguising a stealth draw offer. That's not my style, but I'm sure the kid must have been burned once with what he thought was a resignation, but actually was a stealth draw offer. It's better to be safe then sorry.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Going Out With a Bang!

My last round game was interesting, but another loss. I was totally caught off guard by White's 23rd move of f5. Afterwards I thought maybe I had gone terribly wrong by playing 23...gxf5, but I'm actually okay if after 24. Rd4 I play 24... Kh8. Fritz came up with 25. Rh4 f6 26. exf6 Rxf6 27. Qg5 Rg8 28.Qh5 Qc7+ 29. Rff4 with it being minus over plus. The other line Fritz found was 24... Rg8 25. Rh4 Kh8 26. Qh6 also minus over plus for black. I'm not sure of the ratings of the guys who were going over the game with my opponent and me afterwards, but nobody found these lines. Everybody thought I should have played 23...f6 or exf5 instead. Fritz gives equality to f6, and a slight edge for black after exf5.

The losing move was 24...Qc7?? There is no defense to 25. Rg3+, Kh8, 26. Qh6! He has the simple mate threat of 27. Qg7#. That's simple to stop with 26...Rg8 or 26...Qxe5. Unfortunately there is no defense to the queen sacrifice of 27. Qxh7+!!

Normally I'd simply resign under those circumstances, but it's funny how I start thinking when I know that my game is being shown in real time on the Mon Roi website. I don't know if anyone was watching my game at the time. I think the games on the top boards in the Premier Section had a larger audience. However just in case I did have an audience, I figured I make it entertaining. I played 26...Qxe5, 27. Qxh7+, Kxh7, 28. Rh4#. Another game that will make interesting instructional material. "Okay boys and girls, white to move and mate in two."

I once had a button that said "Losing is an educational experience. Let me be a teacher." I don't think the person who came up with that meant it quite the way it comes out in my case. Oh well!

Live From Philadelphia Part 2

If you tried to find my round 4 game yesterday on the Mon Roi site, it wasn't there. The TD's system crashed during the round. It should be up later as will my round 3 win. I would not let him take the Round 1 & 2 games. I figure my little blog readership was enough. I don't need the entire universe seeing me suck so bad yesterday.

I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning because I got really annoyed with the little kid sitting next to me during this round. Usually I don't get bothered by people I'm not playing, but this kid was driving me nuts. First he was coughing and sniffling like crazy. Like I want kiddie cooties! I get exposed to enough of them during the week. He wasn't covering his mouth. I moved my tea and water to the other side of me so he would cough all over what I was drinking. I also put my iPod on so I didn't have to listen to all his cold sound effects.

My game was interesting, and both of us were using a lot of time. My opponent was using more. One of the problems I have after playing "cracktion chess" is trying to stay focused when my opponent is taking a lot of time on a move. The position was kind of cramped, and so I made some pawn pushes that opened up my pieces, but unfortunately gave his pieces even more space. I probably should have sat back longer. I think in hindsight 18. e4 was too risky.

The kid had stopped coughing, but then he has a bag of potato chips, and his crinkling the bag, and chomping on the chips really loud. I kind of let him have it, as nicely as I could. I told him it was rude to eat noisy foods at the table, and that he should leave the board if he wants to eat that stuff. He put the bag aside, and later on I noticed that he had switched to eating a piece if pound cake. I get hungry when playing a long game, but I try to stick to quiet foods, and when I have a sandwich I walk away from the board. The kid's opponent earlier on had come in with a hot dog with sauerkraut on it. Can't stand that smell! I almost said something to him, but he was sitting across from me so I didn't want to lean over. The hot dog incident was before the potato chips. The chips were the last straw.

One round left. Hopefully I don't get paired against that kid since he's been beating and drawing with 1900s. He's rated 1673 which means he's really 1873. Besides after my little "etiquette lecture" he might be extra motivated to put me in my place.

Whoever I play it would be nice to score another point. There is still the hope of gaining rating points since my bye loss in the Premier Section will be rated first, then they'll rate the under 2000 afterwards.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Live From Philadelphia.....

It's the Rocky Polly Horror Show! Let's do the time warp again! It's in between rounds 3 and 4, so I will give you a brief synopsis of how my day has gone. I'm playing the two day schedule, and opted to play up in the Under 2000 section. First round I get the dreaded "Please Wait". (Bye) Nothing like getting it over with early. Before I even get a chance to look at the pairings David Mahler from DC asks me if I would be available to play his student who got the bye in the Premier section. Not having seen the pairings yet, I said "I'm playing." pause "Or did I get the bye in my section?" My next question was "What's his rating?" When I found out it was 1800, I was willing to play. I'll on pass 1100 rated cross-pairs.

Second time this week I've gotten a bye, elected to play, and played like a moron. This was ugly. Ranks right up there with the 11 move loss to Eric Hecht. This took 12 moves, and about 20 minutes. 1. c4 e5, 2. Nc3 Nf6, 3. g3 c6, 4. Nf3 (I'm not sure why I played this move. I hate c3 Sicilian as black. Why should it be any better as White in reverse? I should have played d3.) ...e4, 5. Ng5 d5, 6. cxd5 cxd5, 7.d3? (7. a3 prevents all the crap on b4.) h6, 8. Nh3, Nc6, 9. dxe4 d4!, 10. Nd5. (I'm so proud of myself because I saw that Nb5 loses to Qa5+. That feeling didn't last long, after what follows.) ...Nxe4, 11. Ndf4. Bb4+!
I'm looking at this move, and just shaking my head. It's the freaking 11th move of the game, and I'm dead meat. Goodbye queen or king. It continues 12. Bd2 Bxd2+. I resigned on the spot. Damn! Should have just taken the freaking bye without playing.

The result was recorded in my opponent's section. The bye point was posted in my section, so I have 1 point, and was paired accordingly. That game wasn't much better. 18 moves. It was a "pick your poison" position. Move to one square it's forced mate in two. Move to the other square, king and queen fork. Another quick resignation. That game lasted about 45 minutes. The time limit is G/45 with 5 second delay. So I had lots of time to hang out.

It's funny, but I can cope much better with games where I just get crushed early. I guess maybe because it's over quickly so the pain doesn't last long. I guess if I'm going to lose, might as well make it quick, and not have my hopes up. I decided I couldn't think about the first two rounds, so I went back to the room and relaxed a bit to settle down my wild thoughts. Round 3 I'm paired against another player with one point. It was a wild one. I dropped a pawn, and then just started hurling stuff at his kingside. At this point I have nothing to lose. It can't get any worse. I end out up a piece with rooks still on the board. I was in time trouble for most of the time, but when all was said and done, he flagged, and I had 5 seconds. I'll add that game later too. It's a humdinger.

If you want to see my live, you should be able to pick up my round 4 game on Monroi. Hopefully you don't have to give up your first born. Gotta scoot, round starts in a few minutes.

Later. Somehow my game didn't end out on the broadcast even though my Mon Roi had my pairing. It was actually a very instructive position that demonstrated the superiority of the bishop versus knight. There were too many mates and promoting pawn threats that could not be stopped. Tomorrow is another day. More tough pairings ahead with my fake 2-2 score.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

There will be no wining about chess today!

Next stop on Polly's Chess Tour: Philadelphia for the National Chess Congress.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reality Bites!

Last night I took my second stab at the St. John's Masters at the Marshall CC. When I played in September there were only 15 players including the house player. There was less then a 100 point difference between me and the next to last guy on the wallchart. Not that it mattered since he dropped out after the second round, so I didn't get to play him. I was shark bait for the experts who were losing to the IMs and GMs. This time there were 24 players including the house player. However this time there was a 300 point gap between me and #23. If I could simply win a game, I'd be a good candidate for the upset prize. Easier said, then done.

In the first round I played Boris Privman. I'm 0-11 against him. I actually had a good game against him. It would be my best effort of the night.

In this position Privman had just moved his king from f6 to e7. I had less then 30 seconds at this point, so I was blindly making moves. I played 47. Kf3. Several people including Privman thought I had good drawing chances with 47. Rc5. However Fritz came up with an even better idea. 47. e5 Rxe5 48. Rc5 Rxc5 49. Rxc5 Kf6 50. Rf5+ Kg651. Be4 Kh6 52. Rf8 Bxc6 53. Rf6+ Kg7 54. Rxc6 Rxc6 55. Bxc6. It took Fritz a few seconds to come up with this stuff. Even if I had found e5, I doubt I would have figured out the rest of it in the remaining seconds I had.

The remaining moves that I recalled were 47... Ra6 48. Bf1 Raxc6 49.Rxc6 Rxc6 50. Rxc6 Bxc6. It looks like I should be able to hold by staying on the b1 diagonal with my bishop, but his king can come in, and my passed e pawn isn't going too far. Eventually he was able to take advantage of my weak pawn structure, picked off the e and a pawns, and started marching his a pawn down the board.

So one would think after a near miss against the highest rated player I'd play all evening that I would be inspired in the next round. In theory that's what should have happened, but who said anything about me following theory? Reality check! Instead I got the bye and played the house player, Dolly Teasley. Everyone always gets a chuckle out of the Dolly vs Polly pairing. However there was nothing amusing about blundering a piece on the 9th move. Geez! I should have just taken the bye and saved myself the aggravation of losing so stupidly.

Once again Wright's Rule of Pairing comes to pass. "If there are only two women in a tournament they will get paired." Round three I play Iryna Zenyuk. This game was good knight-bad knight. Guess who had the bad knight? Though if you ask Iryna she probably say she had a bad night, having lost to a lower rated player in round two. I was holding my own out of the opening. This time I managed not to blunder a piece. I simply played too passively and gave her too much space to work with. At one point late in the game I look up and notice Grandmaster Yudasin watching the game. Too bad I couldn't read his mind, and get his analysis of the position. Though at that point perhaps even a grandmaster would not have been able to hold black's position.

Lately I've been getting into pretty aimless positions as black against d4. I do okay if I can play my Nimzo-Indian, but if they play stuff like the Colle or Stonewall I tend to muddle about. Both of my female opponents played d4 against me. Maybe I need to bring the Dutch Defense out of retirement. I actually used to play that in college.

In the last round I played Leif Pressman. The last time I played in this tournament I played him in the first round. This tournament was much stronger so he played Nick De Firmian instead of getting feast on shark bait. Even for a player rated 2192 there aren't easy games in a tournament this strong. After losing the first round he gets "paired down" to a 2113. That game is a draw. Round 3 with a half a point he gets "paired down" to a 2153. He was winning, and overlooked mate. Even high experts miss stuff. Finally he gets his true "down pairing".

I don't know if he thought this would be an easy match up for him, or whether he was just trying to annoy me. He went 27 moves without the clock going below the original 25 minutes. Time delay is a wonderful thing unless your opponent is making all his moves on delay. I didn't adjust the speed of my play to counter his blitz mode. I've had too many time scrambles with him where I came out on the short end of the position and/or the clock. Needless to say, I ended out with a significant time deficit. I messed up when I gave up my queen for two rooks, because I forgot he already had a piece. The best I was going to get out of the position was a rook for a knight and bishop.

So it was another 0-fer night. My lifetime record in this tournament now stands at 0-8. Outside the butt ugly loss against Dolly it wasn't such a bad night. The games were interesting, and against Privman I actually played well. On Chessloser's Blog he talked about not wanting to play in an open tournament where he'd get his butt kicked one round, and then kick some 900's butt in the next round. There was some spirited discussion about the merits of his thinking. As evidenced by my williness to pay for the privilage to qualify for the St. John's Masters, I don't mind the butt kicking. I'd rather lose to those guys then beat some clown who doesn't have a clue. Though sometimes I wonder do my high rated opponents think the same about me? I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that question.

Small Chess Club Blues

The Internet sucks! Not really. I love the Internet, but at the same time I hate it what has happened to local chess clubs that have lost players to Internet chess. I belong to two local clubs in Westchester County. The Bob Peretz Chess Club meets on Mondays in White Plains, and the Westchester Chess Club meets on Wednesday in Scarsdale. Both clubs run USCF rated events on a regular basis, but the attendance has been slowly dwindling over the last couple of years. The Westchester Chess Club Championship drew 14 players. There was no announcement in Chess Life. It was simply email, and website traffic. All of the participants were players that drift in and out of the club during the year. 6 to 8 of players come almost every week and the rest come now and then.

The Bob Peretz Chess Club is currently holding its club championship. We have a free space at the White Plains YMCA, so we don't rental expenses anymore. Our Treasurer got the bright idea that we should hold the tournament as a Grand Prix with a Tournament Life Announcement in Chess Life. I figured we guarantee $500, but Alan wanted to do $1000. He figured we only needed 20 players at $50 each to cover the prize fund. Surely $400 first prize would attract some different people to the club, and give us some new blood. There are also some nice class prizes, and an upset prize.

I brought my computer to do the pairings, thinking we'd have a good turnout. Nope. On the first night we got 8 people. First round I'm paired against number 1. I was so bummed by the lousy turnout, and how much money the club was going to lose. I couldn't concentrate and walked into a mate on move 27. We do a "second" first round the following week to give people an option to start a week later without taking a 1/2 point bye for round 1. I sent out more emails. We got one more player the following week. I finally was able to get a 10th player so that I wouldn't have be giving byes.

Maybe I should have let there be an odd number. The 1300 who would have gotten the bye was my second round opponent, and I managed to lose a game where he blundered a bishop on move 13. This is the same kid who I've played twice in the last few months, and offered me a draw in an even middle game with lots of pieces still on the board. Both games I turned down the draw and he blundered away a piece a move or two later. Then he simply imploded after that. I remember after the second game I told him, "Don't simply offer a draw against a higher rated player in the middle game. If there's any play in the position they'll turn you down. Keep looking for play in the position." This also the kid who I "checkmated" when I was in check.

I guess he took my advice this time because he played aggressively as black, and despite blundering his bishop on move 13 just kept attacking. I think he plays better when he's not simply trying to draw against a higher rated player.

Starting on move 19 he just started shoving pawns down the kingside. I was a little concerned but felt that since I was up a piece I shouldn't have any problems. Keep in mind that this was my first game since my weekend meltdown at the Marshall, so my thought processes were still a little off. The other factor was I had found out earlier that day that I won a week's trip to Seville Spain to run in the Seville Marathon in February. (How cool is that?) So I'm thinking about how I'm going have to train to complete this marathon by the 5 hour cutoff, I'm thinking about the game, and I'm telling myself "You're up a piece, forget about the marathon for the moment, and try not blow this game."

I spent about 5 minutes trying to decide what I wanted to do with my rooks. Did I want to double on the f file, move the bishop and double on the g file, or have the rooks on g1 and f1? I decided I would play 24. Rf2 so that I could either double on the f file or eventually double on the g file after moving the bishop. I thought this move would give me a little more flexibility once I saw which way he was going to try to open up my king position. I thought he might play h5, but he pushed 24..f4. After 25. gxf4, gxf4, I had a major brain fart. My plan is to move the bishop off g2, attack the queen by moving my rook to g2, and then sliding the other rook over to g1. If he puts his rook on g8, I still have Rg2. I force the queen away and I can trade off a pair of rooks. (Trade pieces when ahead!) Great plan, except I overlooked 26...Qg3+! Oh crap! I can't play Kg1 to protect the rook. Suddenly I'm down the exchange, my king is exposed, his rook can grab the open g file and his queen is sitting on the seventh rank. Can anyone say "Up the proverbial creek, with no means of propulsion"?

Sigh. Another blown game. The funny thing was, it did not bother me as much as the game I blew on Saturday. I think maybe I had a chess hangover from the weekend, and my mind was too dulled to even care at that point. Perhaps I've mastered SonofPearl's Art of Losing so well that games like this just bring me to a deeper understanding of why I keep playing this damn game. Truth be told, I think I was too pumped up about winning the trip, to give a rat's ass about this particular game. Oh well at least I can rest assured that the upset prize in this tournament will not go to someone simply beating a player 100 points higher. This was good for 400 points.

One of the problems I have as a playing tournament director is after losing a game like that, I can't simply walk out and go home to mope. I have to deal with the rest of the games and getting results. The other problem is dealing with a small tournament spread out over many weeks. People have to reschedule games, people get sick, or have emergencies. The third round of this little 10 player tournament gave me more headaches then the 165 player scholastic tournament I directed on Sunday.

It started last week when one player told me he had play the 3rd round on the makeup date. The straight, by the book pairing would have matched him against the player who already had a game to make up. So I made a slight pairing transposition to avoid that problem. Monday I get an email from Dario's mom saying he's sick, can he play on the makeup date? The problem is he's paired against another player who has a make up game, so I look to see if I can make a reasonable switch. Dario has one point, and he's paired against the highest rated zero. I switch him to play another player from the zero score group. Actually the pairing was better because it got rid of all the ugly color problems. So I make various phone calls and get everybody rescheduled.

Then one of the players who is 2-0 calls. He has a family emergency, and can't come. His opponent has already left for the club. I really don't want to award a forfeit on board 1. I get to the club and have to explain to Isaac that John can't make it. Fortunately he is willing to play next week. Then I had a nervous moment when one of the other players hadn't shown up. I'm thinking to myself, "Did he misunderstand my email and think that he was playing next week, and not this week?" Finally he walks in at 8:30. He's a college student that comes up from NYC. He had missed the train, and had to take a later one. Catastrophe avoided! Despite all the chaos, I managed to win my game.

I felt like he had the better position early on, but I just kept defending. Eventually he wasted time, and then after he traded down I wasn't afraid of his advanced passed pawn. I had the squares covered, and it was weak. Eventually I won two pawns, and then squeezed out the ending. I like these types of games. I'm a tenacious defender, and I hate when the opponent plays boring "squeeze em" chess. Those types of games I end out fiddling around, and getting into time trouble. This one I was behind on the clock, but the time limit was long enough that it did not become an issue. I had lots of interesting things to consider which I think kept me more focused.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Broke A Board In Half Today

No I didn't get pissed off after losing and smash a chess board over my opponent's head. Today I took a trial class in Tae Kwon Do, and I actually broke a board with my hand at the end. I've been kicking around the idea of taking some sort of martial arts for a few years. Even before starting to read Waitzkin's "Art of Learning", the idea of developing mental and physical discipline from martial arts has intrigued me. I had taken one semester of judo in college, and found the discipline and ritual of the class fascinating. However at the time I had too many other sports and stuff going on to really follow up on it.

I've had a number of my chess students over the years participate in Tae Kwon Do. My most hard working and disciplined students were the ones who also had great success in Tae Kwon Do. I had one student who I started working with in second grade. As a third grader he went 7-0 in the Primary under 800 section at Nationals. (His tiebreaks sucked so he ended out in third.) His rating peaked around 1500, and yes he's another one of my former students who's beaten me in a few tournaments. He's now a sophomore at Cornell and on the Tae Kwon Do team. (Damn that makes me feel old!)

This past spring I checked out a couple of the martial arts academies in my town, but either their adult classes were full or on my chess nights, so it was just one of those things that got set aside. Last Friday I was in a shopping center that has a Do Jang (Tae Kwon Do School) there. I've gone by it many times when they've had children's classes going on, and I had even asked about adult classes. However I've never summoned up the courage to give the trial class a try. This time as I went by there was an adult class of mostly women participating. I guess seeing all these women there inspired me to at least go in and ask about classes, and they sold me on trying a trial class.

So today I came and took my trial class. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised by what we covered in this 45 minute class. By the end he had me kicking and hitting targets. And yes I actually did break a board in half. There was a lot to think about in terms of form, breathing and movement. My balance needs work, and I need to focus on technique.

What does this have to do with chess? I think the focus that it takes to master the various forms and movements in Tae Kwon Do will help in the focus I need to master positions I encounter over the board. It will be interesting too see if it helps me stay focused down to the end. I signed up for a year. I start next week. We'll see where this all takes me. Now I guess I have finish the Waitzkin book. I got bogged down once he stopped talking about chess.

It may have been coincidence, but I had a very good game tonight. My opponent was attacking like crazy, but I defending well. He made a few mistakes giving up the tension he had built. I stayed calm, and avoided little cheap shots. This was my first win after my Saturday meltdown. I had lost 5 games and had one draw since Saturday. Getting past the mental block of blowing a won position, and staying on track was important to me emotionally.

Tomorrow will be a good test. It's the monthly St. John's Masters at the Marshall. This is the tournament for players rated over 2100, but players lower then that can pay a qualifier fee and try be the top score on Thursday night. This time I managed to win a game on the night I paid the qualifier fee. In September I was the only one who paid, and I went 0-4 in the Thursday event, and followed up with another 0-4 in the masters tournament. Stay tuned for my report.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stopping A Potential King Kong II

Last week when I wrote about my first round win in the Marshall Amateur Team tournament I mentioned in passing that King Kong beat me again. But then again since the post got zero comments, I guess no one was paying any attention. What? Are my wins too boring to merit discussion? Or is losing more entertaining? One blogger who I can't remember (senior moment) mentioned after posting a few nice wins, it was time to get back to analysis. But before I entertain you with another loss to King Kong, here is a moment of redemption.

When I played in the Friday Quads in October I got matched up against Mike, a kid from one of my lunch time chess classes. To put it mildly, I played like a f#$%-ing moron. This is the final position after White's 18th move. Unfortunately I'm Black in this lovely position. Fritz can't help but to point out how toast Black is.
One thing that is good about Mike, is he's a very sweet kid who doesn't show people up. He did not make a big deal about it. When it came up in one of our classes he did not humiliate me by saying how quickly I lost. He wasn't even the one who brought it up. One of the other kids from that class had played in the same tournament. He was the one who mentioned it when kids in class were discussing how good Mike is. Mike has a 1600 rating. Maybe when he passes me, I'll let him teach the class!

Nice kid or not, I still wanted payback. Also I don't need another 10 year old to become "King Kong II". Once somebody starts beating you a few times in a row he starts to think he has your number. With these kids, I want an unlisted number!

I have to admit I feel fortunate to have won this game. He got the better of me out of the opening. After 15 moves all my pieces were sitting on the first and second ranks. Visions of Godzilla started appearing in my head. I traded off pieces to free up space. Also I was trying to work on the isolated e pawn and his doubled pawns to the queenside. I had a moment of panic when he played 28...Rd1+. I'm thinking "Oh, crap I have to play Rxd1, and I lose my queen!" Fortunately I got my composure back and played 29. Kh2. After the queens were traded we had a flurry of pawn captures, where I was able to win a pawn. The other thing that was working in my favor was a significant time advantage. He had less then a minute so he didn't have time to find the best moves. When I attacked his rook with 33. Kg1, 33...e3 was probably his best shot. Having the passed pawn on my third rank would have been annoying though Fritz still gives White a bit of an edge.
For a change I was not the one in horrendous time trouble. I was able to reap the benefits of my opponent having 10 seconds left, and missing the ugliness of 35...Bh7. 36. Rb8+. It was only a matter of time before I win the pinned bishop, and can march the a and b pawns up the board. That would become unnecessary as he flagged on move 47. I dodged a big bullet with that win. The big test will come the next time I have Black against him.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

I think I'm getting senile. This is the third Thursday out of four that I have forgotten to put something in my "Don't Need a Set Chess Bag". I'm sure most of you are asking yourselves "What in the hell is a Don't Need a Set Chess Bag?" True confession time! Despite the fact that I play a game where over 95% of the participants are men, I do very woman-like things such as having multitudinous purses and bags for various occasions and purposes. Any of my male readers who are married or have a female significant knows what I'm talking about. They know better then to ask "Why do you need another purse dear?" (Male readers may be redundant, since according to Chess Tyro there aren't many female chess bloggers.

I have my regular chess bag that I take to tournaments and chess clubs where there are not sets provided. This bag has my tournament set, roll up board, a chess clock, assorted writing instruments, and a pair of reading glasses in it at all times. My Don't Need a Set Bag has another clock, key card to the Marshall, another pair of reading glasses, and my subway card in it, but no chess set. This is the bag I take to the Marshall and to WCA since both these venues have sets and boards already set up. Items that go back and forth between the two bags are my Mon Roi, iPod, and a little notebook that I keep results, final times, and sometimes some train ride analysis.

This system works out pretty well for me. I don't have to drag a set and board to places where I don't need them, and I have a clock in both bags so I don't have to worry about that. I get myself in trouble when I'm recharging either my Mon Roi, or my iPod. I also get in trouble if I move the clock from my Don't Need a Set Bag for some reason. Three weeks ago I left the Mon Roi at home because I was charging it, and forgot to put it back in the bag. Everyone kept asking me "Where's your scorekeeping thingy? Did it break?" Despite using it for almost a year now, I still remember how to keep score by hand. In fact I think my hand written notation has improved. Go figure!

Last week I very carefully made sure I had put the Mon Roi in the bag, especially because I had managed to forget on it Monday night, had to notate by hand again, and had severe time management issues that were acerbated by having to write. So that Thursday I sit down for my first round game, pull out my trusty Mon Roi, reach for my clock, and it's not there! I forgot that on Tuesday I had attended a chess team season kick-off party, and brought the clock for blitz and bughouse in a different bag. Just my luck. The week I forget my digital clock is the week Steve is not there with his supply of digital clocks. My opponent didn't have a clock so we ended out using one of the club's old BHB analog clocks. Frank Brady had just donated some brand new digital clocks to the club, but neither the manager or I knew how to set them. I have enough trouble setting the Chronos for anything besides what I have stored in memory! Playing with no time delay ended out being a non-issue because I got mated on the 26th move. Ouch!

So yesterday I very carefully double checked my bag to make sure I had everything I needed. Clock: check, Mon Roi: check, Reading glasses: check, note book: check, metro card: check, card key:check, chocolate:check, sandwich:check, snacks: check, reading material for train ride: check. All systems go. Get in the car to go to my next class, and half way there I realize I forgot my iPod. No turning back. No music to drown out the noise. Hopefully John Jacob Jingle Heimerschmidt would not be the music de jour. So what else did I manage to forget besides the iPod? The stylus to the Mon Roi. No stylus? No problem! I used a pen. No, I didn't write my moves down the old fashioned way. I just used the pen as a stylus.

Next Thursday I will not forget anything! Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I can be thankful that I won't lose any chess games on that day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Knightmare on West 10th St.

The hardest thing about playing after a crushing loss is trying to forget about it, and move on. So even though I got to sleep on it, and try to start fresh I have trouble leaving it behind. It doesn’t help that I now have to play the higher rated 11 year old son who I’m 0-4 against. I don’t consider him one of those proverbial monkeys on my back. He’s young, out-rates me by almost 300 points and will probably become a master in the next few years.

All the studying of tactics, openings, endgames etc, does not prepare you for the battle of your mind. How one rebounds after a horrific blunder is probably worth a class. I can think about one instance where the inability to bounce back after a crushing loss cost me 67 rating points in one tournament. I know there have been others. That particular incident from 1989 stands out, because I had mate in two. I had worked the whole thing out, knew exactly what I needed to do, and was expecting the opponent to resign. I had walked away from the board, gave a friend "thumbs up", sat down, and when he didn't resign I forgot the moves. I lost about 12 moves later. I came back the next day and lost both games. In a tournament where I was the number 3 player I went 0-4. The only reason I didn't lose more points was because they had just put 100 point floors so I could only drop to 1845.

Often when I write an entry for my blog it takes several days before I complete it and publish. This I started on Sunday night, and here it is Tuesday. I mention this because tonight Paul Hoffman was at the Marshall Chess Club for a Q&A and book signing. I bought the book and started reading it on the train ride back. In the first chapter of his book KING'S GAMBIT: A SON, A FATHER, AND THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS GAME he talks about the same subject. "The world's top grandmasters are successful in part because they are able to recover from devastating losses. Every player, even Gary Kasparov, collapses in the odd game, but he has the inner strength to pull himself together and not let defeat unduly interfere with his subsequent concentration and performance."

So I guess perhaps I was being overly conservative in my assessment of the importance of psychological inner strength. So how did I rebound from Saturdays' crushing loss? I sucked. It didn't help that on the 7th move I made a dumb queen move that cost me a pawn on move 8. So not only was I angry about Saturday's game, I was angry at myself for making an error that I've made in previous games. On the 23rd move I lost another pawn. By move 35 we're in a rook and pawns ending. He has reached over for the black queen and set it down in front of him. That just got me more aggravated since my doing it the night before preceded my meltdown. Seeing him do the same action that I did in my game against his dad just reminded me of how cocky and unfocused I had been the night before. So here he is being the cocky little kid, but unlike me he doesn't screw up the won ending.

As we traded down he kept fiddling with the black queen sitting in front of him. I'd like to think that it wasn't intentional on his part, but the more he did it the more I was seething inside. Jay thought he was being obnoxious, but I'd like to think it was the twitchiness of an 11 year old kid. He gave me back one of the pawns and I was hoping perhaps I could hold on for a draw, but it came down to a classic Lucena Position. He played it perfectly, building the rook bridge to finally block my checks.

After move 64 we reached this position:

Jay thought maybe I could draw by "passing" with Rf7, but he simply will check on d4 and still set up the bridge. The game actually continued 65.Kd2 Ra2+ 66.Kd3 Ke1 67.Re8 Kd1 68.Rf8 Ra3+ 69.Kd4 Ke2 70.Re8+ Kf3 71.Rf8 Kg2 72.Rg8+ Rg3. Knowing that stopping the pawn would cost me my rook I resigned. At this point my rage is boiling over, and all I really want to do is throw pieces around, burst in tears, scream and go find mommy. Little kids can do that because they're children, and children can't always handle losing well. Even grandmasters can have major meltdowns, and get away with it because they're grandmasters. However, 50 something B players can't do that sort of thing without people saying "what a jerk!"
I suppose that's why internet chess appeals to certain people. They can curse at their screen, throw their mouse around, pound their fists, or any thing else they want to do. The opponent isn't going to know what's happening on the other side. For me, I want the human contact, even though in situations like this I might be better off hiding behind a screen name where I can be just another somebody in cyberspace.

It's funny how such anger can mess with one's thought processes, and make it hard to see what is really happening in a particular position. In the last round I'm black against Joe Felber rated 2000. I've known Joe since 1976 when we both were living in Baltimore and attending some of the same tournaments, but this was the first time we actually have played each other. I was still in a totally foul mood from the morning loss that was not helped with being given the wrong salad dressing when I got lunch, and Aleksandr continually coming over to see what I was doing on my computer between rounds. "I vant to be left alone!"

So here I am still in a rage, barely able to think straight, and trying to appear calm. Anger can really cloud one's judgement. We reach this position.

I'm thinking Joe has a killer move, and that if he makes it I might as well resign. I'm seeing phantoms, and as he's thinking about his move I keep looking at my watch and thinking "If he plays 25. Nf6+ I'm going to get crushed, so if I resign I can make the express train, and get home in time for the online hearts tournament." The more he thinks the more I'm convinced I'm going to lose. It turns out 25. Nf6 is nothing, but I didn't realize it at the time. Instead he played 25. Nd6. That move is annoying, but I hang on, and in the process pick up another pawn.

The anger has faded, but now it's been replaced by fear. In this case the fear of blowing another game. It doesn't help that people keep coming over and watch the game. Aleksandr keeps coming over, and standing too close. I keep using hand signals to tell him to back up. Finally I tell him, "Stay back. You're standing too close." I don't mind people watching, but when they hover next to my right side I find it annoying. I think it's because I want my space where I have my scoresheet. Also I almost feel like he's bringing me bad luck. He kept coming and watching my game against his dad, and then I lost to him in the morning round. I don't recall him watching my first round game that I won. Though that game I was sitting on the bench against the wall. Sitting there one does not have to worry about spectators being on one's back. (Note to self: Next tournament take sit on the bench even if it means switching the board around.)
Here's a classic case of nothing to fear, but fear itself.

I'm seeing ghosts again. I didn't want him to play 46. Rxd8, because I was afraid after I play 46...Rxd8 that he'll play 47. d7. What I was missing was the pawn is pinned to his queen. So instead of making a hiding place for my king with 45...h5, I play Rxc8. The game continues 46. Qxc8+Kg7 47. Qc3+ Qf6 48. Qc6 Qe6 49. Qc3+ Kf8 50. Qh8+ Qg8 51. Qe5 Qg7 52. Qc5 Qf7 53. Qc3 Qe6 54. Qh8+ Qg8 1/2-1/2 I was too afraid to let him chase my king out so I repeated the position.
Emotions are a tough thing to control. Maybe I wouldn't be so affected by them if I played chess on the internet.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not The New York Knights: Round 2

The next round we played the team called Alec Ostrovskiy. The team consisted of Alec Getz and Anotoliy Ostrovskiy. Anotoliy is the father of another talented kid named Aleksandr, hence the team name. Alek was playing on a different team with Irenya Zenyuk. They are the top rated team. Anotoliy and I have played two times with a draw and a loss. He was the house player at the NY State Championship who took me apart the round I got the bye.

Jay beat Alec fairly quickly so it came down to my game. It was very drawish, and that’s all I needed for us to win the match. He had the bishop pair, but I had a centralized knight so I thought I had very good drawing chances. We eventually traded off the dark squared bishops. I was a little nervous because all my pawns were on light squares, but my knight was making it hard for him to try to get behind my pawns. Eventually he traded the bishop for the knight. I think he was hoping I’d take with the b pawn giving him the outside passed pawn. I knew that lost, so I wisely took with the c pawn.

I was really pleased with how I was playing up this point. I was counting squares right for possible pawn races. I was finding the right square for my king when I had to back off. My first opportunity for a potential pawn race I counted and determined he would queen two moves ahead, so I knew I had to retreat the king instead. It’s amazing how much easier it is to calculated these endings with time on the clock. (Note to self: Play more slow tournaments!)

So we reached this position.

I looked at several different possibilities such as Kd4, followed by Ke3. I calculated the pawn race if I push c4 and he plays b4. I promote one move earlier, and get to check on a1 forcing his king to the b file. Qb1+, and I skewer the queen on b8. Seeing that this variation is simple to count and wins, I push the pawn to c4, and then do one of those annoying things that cocky little kids do. I reached over and got a black queen for the anticipated promotion. I'm doing mental somersaults in my head. I'm so pumped because I'm going to be 2-0 in a tournament that I'm one of the lowest rated players. My opponent pushed b4, just as I had anticipated. I think I used about 2 seconds of the delay and immediately pushed c3. This move is a major mistake. All I have to do is play Kd4! I had around 40 minutes left and my opponent had around 10 so there was no need to make the move so fast. Instead of playing the anticipated b5, he played Kb3! At this point I have a major meltdown. I’ve thrown away the win with my hasty pawn push. I still have a draw after 49…Kd4. 50. Kc2, Kc4, 51. b5, Kxb5, 52. Kxc3, Kc5, 52. Kd3, Kd5, 53. Kc3, Kc5.

I’m so angry at this point that I can’t even see Kd4. I put the black queen back on the other table, knowing that I had been presumptuous to take it so soon. I just start shaking my head, and tapping my Mon Roi stylus on my hand. I get up, I sit down. I couldn't believe I did such a stupid thing. In my rage I push b2??, and walk out of the playing room. This move just loses. He takes the pawn on c2. I have to give up my hard earned opposition to go chase down his pawn. The rest of the games goes like this. 50.Kxc2 Kc4 51.b5 Kxb5 52.Kd3 Kc5 53.Ke4 Kd6 54.Kxf4 Ke6 55.Kg5 Ke5 56.f4+ Ke6 57.Kg6 Ke7 58.f5 Kf8 59.Kf6 Kg8 60.Ke7 Kg7 61.f6+ Kg6 62.f7 12 moves later with him on the verge of promoting and no stalemate possibilities I resign in disgust. So instead of going into round 3 against the top rated team with the same 2-0 score we have 1.5. Instead of me being on the top of the world with a 2-0 score, I'm 1-1 and mad as hell. If it had been game/30 and I had 4 seconds left then I wouldn't have been so pissed off. I would have been able to blame it on time pressure, and moved on. I had 40 freaking minutes!! Total loss of focus.

"Not The New York Knights" Round 1

This weekend the Marshall Chess Club is having its second 2 player Amateur Team Tournament. The team average had to be under 2200. The time limit is Game/2 hours which is a nice change of pace from "chess crack". I hooked up with IM Jay Bonin and he decided our team should be called "Not The New York Knights". I thought maybe we should be the LT Fan Club in honor of my inability to beat Larry, and Larry's inability to beat Jay. However we went with Jay's name. There are 9 teams entered, and our team is ranked number three. In the first round we got paired down against a team with two players whose first and last names had about 10 letters each in them. I thought they should have called their team "Alphabet Soup", or maybe "Vanna White's Letter Stash". We won the match 2-0. My first round game was very interesting. We reached this position. With it being my move as White.

I took 17 minutes on the move 23 Qa3. It's sort of an insane looking move because stuff is hanging all over the place. My bishop on d2 is unguarded, and the pawn on b4 is pinned. 23...a5 looks really annoying, so that's what I spent the time looking at. Just how annoying is it? I looked at 24. Nc4, ab, 25. Nxd6, ba3, 26. Nxe8, Rxe8. I figured there was no way black wanted to play that line. I figured he'd retreat the queen to either b8 or f8. I think I was seeing ghosts because I thought 24...Qb8 would be dangerous for me because he could push e3 and I can't play fxe3. In reality e3 is covered enough. The game proceeded 24. Nc4, Qf8, 25. 25. Nxa5, b5, 26. axb5, cxb5 27. Rec1, Nb6, 28 Rxc8, Rxc8, 29. Rc1 Nc4, 30. Nxc4, bxc4, 31. Bc3, e3, 32. f4 I debated this move for awhile. I was considering 32. Bd5+, Kh8, 33. Bxg7+, Kxg7, 34. Qc3+. Instead I played it safe with f4 to avoid the one cheap shot on f2 that e3 was threatening. Black proceeded to play probably the worst move on the board. Even though I have a significant time advantage of 26 to 9 minutes, there is still a lot of time. He played 32...Bh6?? I did a brief double take to make sure I wasn't missing something, but 33. Bd5! is a killer now. Good bye queen. He resigned.

I was genuinely pleased with this game. It was my second nice win in two days. Though sandwiched between the nice two wins was Alexandra Wiener paying me back for the two defeats over the summer, and King Kong jumping on my hastily played dumb ass recapture in a position where I was attacking and got a little overconfident. (That's a new one for me!)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sorry Boys, Not a Thong But,,,,

the closest thing you'll get to see me wearing that is skimpier then my normal chess playing attire:

This is me completing the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco on October 21st. You can read here about why I do these crazy races. This is not a plug. I'm done for this year. Next year maybe I'll make a shameless plug.

This hopefully is is more attractive then my butt ugly chess games. Unfortunatetly it it doesn't quite rank up there with Dutch Defense's hot babes pics.

This is the offshoot of a bunch of comments on Hardcore Pawnography's blog. It's a classic case of when the comments take on a life of their own. Blame it on Liquid Egg Product for his merchandising suggestions. No, I will not be offering coffee mugs, teeshirts, or a lifesize blow up of this photo on Cafe Press.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

King Kong - Game 2

Here's my second game again "Kevin Kong". There was nothing special about this particular tournament. Since his big breakthrough in February his rating had been bouncing back and forth between low 1400s and high 1300s. In the first round both of us got paired up and lost. I just missed the break so I played the number 1 seed and lost. Kevin was the lowest in the whole tournament. One upset and two late entries forced the second round pairing of the two of us.

This time I had the white pieces so I was pretty confident that I could get payback in the rematch.

I like my position out of the opening, but I guess I expected to be able to take advantage of the isolated d pawn. As I looked at the position today I thought maybe allowing the d pawn to become passed with 19. e4 was a mistake. However Fritz gave every line as equal. It wasn't until 21. exf5 that Fritz started giving black a small advantage. Once again he had a time advantage of roughly 4 minutes at move 25. 29. Bf3 is the last move I wrote down. Even though the passed pawn is a pain in the ass it's not crushing. Most of the continuations that Fritz suggested were equal or equal over plus for black.

This is the final position:

I have no idea how we arrived at this position, but somewhere in the time scramble I got rid of the pesky passer, but dropped a pawn, and as my time ran out the queens were being forced off the board. I don't know how many moves we played once we stopped keeping score. I drew up the diagram at the end. For all I know I left out a piece and maybe his bishop is defended by more then his queen and I'm losing my queen. If I'm only down the pawn going into the bishop versus knight ending it seems like I have drawing chances. If he doesn't choose to trade queens I still have problems. However when the digital clock reads 00:00 the board doesn't matter unless you have mate or the opponent lacks mating material.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

King Kong - Game 1

This post is in response to a number of the comments I got regarding Adult Knightmares Redux. I decided to look at my past games with Kevin and see what is happening. This is my very first game against him back in February 2006. He was rated 1253 at the time. He was on the first of one of his breakthroughs. He had beaten a provisionally rated 1800 in the first round. In the meantime I got nicked for a draw by one of the kids from a lunch time chess class I teach. This was only the third time he was playing in a tournament with adults. The other two times were the under 1600 section of the Northeast Open, and the US Amateur Team East. His first round win was his biggest rating win ever, so he was totally stoked when he sat down to play me. In the meantime I was relieved to draw with the 1034.

The opening was pretty ordinary though 9...a6 wasn't very good. He got a little too much play with the knight and the bishop and boxed my queen in. I think there's where I got a little panicky and tried to reposition my pieces. Unfortunately I missed a simple little "remove the defender" tactic when I played 19...Nd7. After I dropped the pawn it went downhill from there. After 20 moves he had an eight minute time advantage.

I tried simplifying in the hopes that he wasn't good with endgames. I've pulled many rabbits out of my hat against young kids when I've been in time pressure in a lost ending. Some kids are so tactics driven that they don't know what to do in the ending. Unfortunately all I did with my attempts at simplification was give him the open c file and a centralized knight on d4. Instead of trying to chase the knight away I retreated my knight and ended out walking into a pin. When I was analyzing this game in Chessbase I couldn't figure what in earth I was doing during the game. It seems I had I just had a time pressure meltdown. When I looked at my scoresheet it appears I scribbled a time note of 37 seconds around move 30. The remaining moves I had gotten from my opponent when the game was over.

This particular loss was a combination of losing tempi early, dropping a pawn, and poor clock management. I didn't feel like he had gotten into my head. I figured he was pumped up from beating his first high rated adult in the prior round, and I happened to be the next one in line.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

King Kong On My Back: Adult Knightmares Redux

The final paragraph of my post of September 16th said: 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. Actually I played there in October, and managed an even score. I didn't play any of the same three kids that smacked me around in September, so I didn't really feel like I got payback. Winning a game where I was down a piece was satisfying, but it was off set by getting totally crushed by a kid who's in one of my lunch time classes. Ouch! (Sometime I will post on the topic of losing to former and current students, but not right now.)

Now it's November and I had an opportunity for payback time. Two out of the three kids from September were in my quad on Friday night. Instead of being #2 in the quad I'm #3. The two kids from September's quad are now higher rated then me, though not by much. Once again this is a very balanced section. The ratings range from 1721 down to 1666. First round I play black against Harry, and he beats me. Exact same opening, and I had the exact same problems. (Note to self: scrap 8...d5 against the attempted Yugoslav transposition. It's sucks!)

Next round it's time to play King Kong. I've made references to certain players who seem to be the proverbial monkey on my back. Those are the players that just completely have my number. There are 4 players that I've played more then 10 times that I am 0-fer against them. They are Jay Bonin 0-13, Larry Tamarkin 0-12, Boris Privman 0-11 and Ilya Lugonov 0-11. As annoying as that may seem I can take consolation in the fact that they are all at least 300 points higher rated then me.. There are a number of other players that I've played 5 or more times that I'm 0-fer against, but playing them doesn't fill me with fear.

So what's with me and King Kong Kevin? The first time I played him was February of 2006. He was rated 1253, and beat me in 45 moves. It was annoying but it wasn't the first time some 9 year old kid with a lower rating had beaten me, and it certainly wouldn't be the last time. He beat me again in April, November and December. I figured he'd be my next Ben G. Ben beat me 5 times in a row as a lower rated little kid. Then I beat him 5 times in a row. Then Ben started beating me again, but he's 1900 so who am I complain?

So after losing to Kevin again in January of 2007 for the 5th straight time, I figured next time I'd win. I didn't lose, but I didn't win either. I missed winning a pawn, but ended out in an ending where the material was even. I thought he was slightly better, but he offered me a draw. Since a draw gave me 1st place in the quad, who was I to turn it down. Trying to beat him would have to wait. It didn't happen in September......

I think it's become a totally mental thing now. I'm allowing myself to get psyched out by him. Even before the game he was bugging me, and asking if I was going to play the English against him. I decided I wouldn't play the English. Instead I played d4, and went for a Colle like position. We reached the following position after 12 moves.

I was considering the Bishop sac on h7. I couldn't work it all out, and I ended out chickening out. My thoughts at the time were, "I don't know if it's sound, but if it's not I don't want lose to him. I'll play Ng5, and even if my attack peters out, I won't be down material." I think against anyone else I would have said, "Go for it! Even if there isn't an outright win, you'll get play. It will be fun!" When I put the position into Fritz that move wasn't even considered, but when I put 13. Bxh7 this was what Fritz came up with.

Analysis by Fritz 5.32:
1. ± (0.75): 13...Kxh7 14.Ng5+ Kg6 15.Qd3+ Kf6 16.Qh3 Qd7 17.Ne4+ Ke7 18.Bg5+

2. +- (2.22): 13...Kh8 14.Ng5 g6 15.Qg4 Qd7 16.Bf4 Bxf4 17.Qxf4 Qe7 18.Rad1

Both lines look pretty good for me, but because of who I was playing I couldn't pull the trigger.

The rest of the game went like this;

13. Ng5 h6 14. Qh5 Qd7 15. Rd1 f5 16. Bxc6 ({Fritz 5.32:} 16. Nxe6 fxe4 17. Nxf8Kxf8 18. Be3 Ne7 19. Bxc5 Nf5 20. g4 g6 {[%eval 206,10]}) 16... Qxc6 17. Nf3 Rad8 18. Re1 e5 19. b3 Rd7 20. Bb2 g6 21. Qxg6+ Rg7 22. Qe6+ Kh7 23. Kf1 Rg6 24. Qc4? Ba6 0-1

I included analysis from Fritz for my 16th move. I felt this was the crucial part of the position where I started letting him back into the game. By move 18 I was getting defensive, and panicky. Again I attribute that to who I was playing. When he played 23...Rg6, I knew my queen was toast. My best try is simply 24. Qxg6, but I played Qc4, knowing full well that he had Ba6. It wasn't like I overlooked it in time pressure. I didn't feel like playing down a queen for a rook, so somehow I was hoping beyond hope that he wouldn't play 24...Ba6. When he did play the move I promptly resigned.

Kevin couldn't help but to point out at the end that I should have played 24. Qxg6. I admitted that I saw the move and didn't play it. He made the astute observation to the effect of "I don't understand why you chose to make the move that loses more material." I didn't want to admit that I was playing "hope chess" (I hope my opponent doesn't see.....), so I simply said "I don't know, I just did."

It's frustrating to allow somebody to get into your head like that. It's even more frustrating when it's a precocious 10 year old kid who knows that he's gotten into your head. After the round was done I heard him bragging to the other kids that "I killed Polly." He told my last round opponent to sac against me, and that he would win. Usually he's not so animated about his wins against me, but I think he knew that it was more then a game of chess he won.

I'm not sure how to prepare for my next game against him. I could play him again next week, or next month. Somehow I have to get past the head games and figure out how to beat him over the board. The other kids in the section don't have these problems with him. He lost to Harry, and drew a won ending against Josh. In September he drew with Harry and got crushed by Robert. Maybe I need to take lessons from Robert. :-) Maybe I have to start thinking like a 10 year old.

PS. Josh and I drew in the last round, so at least it wasn't a repeat of the 0-3 September blow out.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Off The Board Strategies: Playing The Pairing Game

An outsider might think that all the maneuvering and strategical planning happens over the board. Those who play in a lot of tournaments knows there's a whole other game going on at the same time. Depending on one's rating or position in the tournament the end result may be different but the objective is the same. The object of this inner game is to try to out guess the pairing program in order to achieve a certain result. The result isn't a win, loss or draw of the game. The result is trying to get the most favorable pairing as possible.

There are different ways to play this game. A master rated 2200 - 2300 may look at the potential next round pairings and realize barring no upsets he's going to play a grandmaster in either that round, or the round after. Based on his calculations he'll choose to take a 1/2 point bye for the round that he anticipates playing the GM. This way he plays a "Swiss Gambit" deferred and avoids the GM and still slips into the money. Another variation on this theme is the player anticipates that 3 points will win money. He knows he'll get two easy pairings, and the next two rounds will be a crapshoot. He takes his two 1/2 point byes, and barring any upsets he has his 3 points and a piece of the action.

Along with strategic byes one has the reentry gambit. The reentry gambit is usually played by class players who get off to a lousy start and want to reposition themselves to have another crack at the class prize. However I've seen a few different objectives for the reentry gambit. One kid I knew used to re-enter when he anticipated that he would get the full point bye in the next round. This way he'd avoid getting the bye along with a chance to contend for the class prize. Sometimes I felt like he did it just to annoy me because when he'd reenter, usually I'd be the one getting the bye.

I won't play the reentry gambit for any reason. I see no point in spending more money to attempt to have a better shot at winning a prize, or to avoid getting a bye in a middle round. I also have sworn off the preemptive last round 1/2 bye to avoid middle round full point byes. I tried that in one tournament and it blew up in my face. I was forced to take the last round bye that I didn't need. Now I take my chances and hope that I can avoid byes or that at least a decent house player is floating around if I get a middle round bye.

Last night was the second week in a row I was the second lowest on the wall chart in 4 Rated Games Tonight! When one is that low there's a very good chance that a bye can't be avoided. Last week it came in the first round because the lowest rated player was taking a 1/2 point bye. I was given the option of playing an 1150 house player. There's always the risk that one may lose to the lower rated house player, and then get crappy pairings for the rest of night based on scoring zero in round 1. I wasn't thrilled by having to play someone that low, but I didn't feel like sitting around an hour for round two. It almost blew up in my face. He played much better then his rating, but in a very drawish position he let his time run out. Apparently the guy had never used a digital clock before. He didn't know what time delay was, and had no idea how to read the display on my Chronos. I dodged a serious bullet that round!

I would not have had to think about bye possibilities last night if I had managed not to lose that round two game where I declined a draw offer while up a rook. So I started looking at the wall chart and figuring out whether I'd end out with a bye in round 4, or be able to avoid it all together. One scenario had the bottom player and me both losing in round 3. That was possibility since we were both going to get paired up again. Though the rating differences amongst the zero score group wasn't significant so anything could have happened. If that happened then even if there were an odd number he'd get the bye, not me.

What I didn't take into account was one of the zeros playing the reentry gambit. I'm not sure why he reentered. If was to avoid playing down it didn't help. He still played the highest rated in the zero score group. He won, and then got paired up in the last round so it didn't improve his chances at the class prize. $15 down the tubes. His money, not mine. However his maneuvering caused me to play the lowest rated player. Playing the lowest rated player in this tournament is not a slam dunk win considering that he's only 70 points lower then me. What resulted was a totally bizarre game where I should have ignored the advice I give my students. Castle to keep your king safe. I would have been better off taking my chances in the center.


I lost on time because I just couldn't figure about what to do about all the threats along the b1-h2 diagonal. I let Fritz take a whack at the position, and it came up with 28. Rh6 Rad8 29. Rxg6+ Qxg6 30. g3 e5 31. Qc2 Qxc2+ 32. Kxc2 Ra6. Fritz rates it plus over equal for white. The two pawns for the exchange gives white a slight advantage. That's all well and good but when black has a 5 minute time advantage and white has very little time, all the numeric evaluations of the position go out the window. Unfortunately my brain doesn't work as fast as Fritz. I had not even considered that move. I was freaking out over the threat of 28...Bxc3, and didn't even consider that 28. Rh6 takes care of that threat. All I was looking at as a defense was 28. Bxd4 which doesn't work because of 28... cxd4 29. Rh6 Rc8 30. Rxg6+ Qxg6 31. Rd1 Rd5.

Back to the pairing sub-plots of bye evasion and improving one's class prize chances. My loss positioned me for a last round bye if there was an odd number. A last round bye allows me to make the 11:12 train home as opposed to the 12:30 train if I play the last round. It does have its merits, but I won't do a preemptive drop out to make the earlier train. As it turned out the number was even so I avoided byes all together. Unfortunately avoiding byes also afforded me another opportunity to lose which I did. As for our reentry player, he got paired up to a 2100 and lost. So much for improving one's chances at the class prize.

You Know You're Having a Bad Knight......

......when you decline a draw offer in this position as black, and find a way to lose. My oppoent offered a draw. Even though I had a under two minutes to his 3:30 I still felt a rook advantage was enough. I had stopped keeping score, but was able to reconstruct to some degree how I tossed the rook back. The moves went as follows: 41. c5 bc, 42. bc Rd8, 43. c6 Rc8, 44. Bf3 Nxc6?? (Very foolish to be pawn grabbing at thsi point. I should be trying to simplify), 45. Qc3 Qd7?? (Totally overlooking the loose rook on f6.) 46. Qxf6 Na5. At this point I probably should have offered a draw back, but the time factor was clearly to my opponent's advantage. I think my pride is such that I don't want to beg for the draw after dismissing it outright a few moves earlier. I have no idea how we got to the final position where he takes my knight, and if I recapure, I lose my queen to a bishop pin on the king. So suddenly the position where I'm up a rook had degenerated into I'm down a piece, have 26 seconds on my clock, and my opponent still has 2:22 on his clock.
That had me talking to myself for the rest of the evening. Though one of my friends, and a member of the usual suspects make an interesting point. He said bravo for going for the gusto. If you had taken the draw up a rook you'd hate yourself even more. He's probably right. That's the chicken shit way out to grab a few rating points from an 1800. I'd rather play it out and take my chances.