Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Empire State Open - Day 2 Closing the Joint Down: Edited

For the second tournament this week I'd play brothers in back to back rounds. On Monday it was Giancarlo Dell'Orto followed by older brother Dario. Over the weekend it was older brother Michael Brooks, followed by younger brother Will. It wasn't an overly exciting game. On move 32 we had 6 pawns each and bishop against a knight. He offered a draw, which I accepted. The combination of not having slept all that well, and a 9:00 AM round start made the draw offer attractive. It gave me time to relax and just hang out with some of the kids from my area. I ended out watching a totally insipid Adam Sandler movie with them. Nothing like a dumb movie to take one's mind off of chess for a few hours.

Going into the last round I had 2.5 points. That was 2.5 more points then I had last year going into the last round, so I really couldn't complain. If I won the last round I'd have a good shot at a portion of the under 1800 money. However I knew it was likely I'd be paired up, so I'd have my work cut out for me. Sure enough I was paired against a 1899 who had 3 points. If he won he'd have a shot at a portion of the place money. We both had reasons to go all out.

Sometimes the body can't keep up with the mind, and it takes some extra measures to try to get things moving. I often struggle with the long time limits because I get restless if my opponent is taking a lot of time. Since the advent of 40/2, G/1 time limits I don't think I've played the full six hour session. My typical games at that time control usually last between 2.5 and 4 hours. Sometimes I'll have a game that will approach 5 hours. My last round game at this year's US Amateur Team was probably my longest game at that time control. It went close to 5.5 hours

Often players will talk about falling asleep during a game, and missing a strong move. Usually they're speaking figuratively when referring to falling asleep. In my case I was literally falling asleep during the early part of my last round game. My opponent would go into a deep think, and I close my eyes. I would start dreaming about other positions or about something totally unrelated to chess. Even when it was my move I would sometimes drift off and couldn't stay focused on the position. All the traveling around and sleeping in strange beds was catching up with me.

I tried walking around when it wasn't my move, but every time I sat down the urge to close my eyes would come over me. When my eyes would close I'd start falling asleep. It was obvious that if I didn't do something about my drowsiness I'd make some horrendous blunder. As it was I was having trouble finding the right moves. I missed winning a pawn on move 16 because I couldn't find the defense to the fork that occurs after I capture the pawn. There was a simple move that holds both pieces, but since I didn't see it I opted not to take the pawn. That pawn would be annoying later on.

As my opponent went into another deep think I decided the only way I was going to wake myself up was to get some caffeine into me. I debated about whether I should send someone out to get tea for me, or get it myself. I find half the time people botch up my order when I ask them get me a cup of tea. They forget that I asked for it black, with no sugar so they end out bringing me tea with milk in it. I decided it would probably be easier for me to run across the street and get it myself then to explain to someone how I like it.

One of the great things about this location is there's a gas station across the street with a big convenience store where you can get cheap sandwiches and cheap coffee or tea. I'm not a big fan of overpriced tea and coffee. I go over and get a 20 oz cup of Earl Grey tea for $1.69. The same thing down the street would have cost $4.00. My trip over and back probably took about 10 minutes, but my opponent still had not moved. I think the combination of getting a little fresh air and some caffeine into my system helped me wake up.

All around us games are finishing and ours has barely begun. We're both using a lot of time. Now that I'm awake I'm actually looking at the board, and not dreaming about some other position. Being awake can sometimes be dangerous, especially when one discovers that the position induced by the sleepy portion of the game isn't very good. I found myself tied up in knots by his knight sitting on d6 guarded by that e pawn that I neglected to take 10 moves ago. I decided the knight had to go, even if it cost me my rook. I knew I'd get at least one pawn for the exchange, and maybe even two.

We both overlooked the fact that he can sac the exchange back in a couple of moves and run his passed pawn down to d8. However there would be no story if that had happened. Instead I’d be writing something to the effect of “I had a last round meltdown.” Been there, done that, have written about it, don’t need to write about it again. Instead I was able to get two pawns for the exchange and things got interesting after that.

In a rare show of patience on my part I was actually using all of my time on the first time control. Usually if my opponent has used almost all of his two hours, I’ve probably only used an hour by the time we hit 40 moves. This was a different game for me. I had taken a chance with my exchange sacrifice, and it was paying off. No matter what was going to happen I was going to keep things interesting. I think I finally had gotten fed up with my wimpy play against the Brooks brothers.

Every round Steve announces the time control and reminds players to make sure their clocks are set correctly. I’ve heard the announcement so many times I tend to tune it out. Since I have a bunch of preset time controls programmed into memory it’s very easy to select the one I need. On a one time control game such as G/60 it’s easy to tell whether or not the clock is set correctly. On a two control game it’s possible that not all the settings are correct. The first time control may be set properly, but unless you look you won’t know whether the second one is correct or not. I had not looked so when my opponent made his 40th move I was horrified to notice that the clock only added 40 minutes to his time. I didn’t want to mess with the clock until I made my 40th move.

Once I made my move I stopped the clock and told my opponent what had happened. He had noticed the time was wrong also. I added the extra 20 minutes to each side. I’m always mortified when something like that happens. I’m one who certainly should know to always check the clock before starting. I’m not sure how the second time control ended out with only 40 minutes. I don’t recall playing in any tournament with that as a second control. However I’ve loaned my clock to kids at times, and who knows what they do with the settings. The text in italics I wrote when I first published this post. Since writing this, I suddenly remembered where the G/40 secondary time control came from. The Blackstone Chess Festival Open had the very strange time limit of 40/80, G/40 with a 15 second delay. I only remembered about it after participating in this discussion on the USCF Forums. I guess in the first game at the slow time control I didn’t get to the second control otherwise I would have noticed the error. I don't use this clock much for multiple time control events, so it's not too surprising that I had a setting left from an August tournament. Those 20 extra minutes would be used by both of us.

From move 41 to 50 it was a lot of maneuvering with the queens. I knew eventually one my queen side pawns would fall, but I was hoping I’d pick up his a pawn, and keep things even. I messed up and he got the c pawn, but I started getting play. In the mean time there are only 2 or 3 games left.

I had built a fortress around my king, but it left my knight totally out of play. Finally I decided I would open the h file even though I risked his getting his queen and rook in there. It got crazy after that, and all the games were done. Everyone was watching. It was a wild finish, but unfortunately I ran out of time before I could find the move that holds everything.

The loss cost me $150, but it was the most fun I’ve had in a chess game in a long time. As I was getting ready to leave Steve was raging on me because he had to write a bunch of $20 checks for the tie for 2nd 1800 instead one check for $150. Sigh. I would liked to have pulled it out, but I froze at the end.

Originally I was going to drive back home after the last round, but since it approaching 10 pm and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me, I opted to go back to my sister’s house. Hubby would have get himself to the airport the next day.

SRomero - PW122708.pgn

This is the final position when my flag fell.

Position after 60. Kg2

f6 is my best shot here. I just couldn't find it quick enough. A possible continuation would be 60... f6 61. Rd2 (61. Qh4 Qd5+ 62. Kg1 Nf4 63. Rxf4 g5) 61... Qa4 62. Qh4 Qc6+63. Kf2 Nf4 64. Qg3 Qc7.

The photo below indicates a fitting end to my weekend. Somehow I managed to dump my water glass. Fortunately I managed not to dump it on the board, a camera or computer. Maybe there is hope for me after all.

I'm finishing this post at the Marshall Chess Club where I just got through playing in "Your Last Blunder of 2008". I guess it was fitting that I blundered away a win in the last round and ended out with a draw. It could have been worse. I could have lost!

PS: My actual last blunder of 2008 was forgetting to put the memory card back in my camera, so all the pictures I took during the Marshall Chess Club New Years eve party were being saved to a black hole. Duh!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Empire State Open - Day 1

It's taken me a few days to posting about this tournament. By the time I had arrived in Saratoga Springs I had traveled from my house to Albany, from Albany to South Jersey, South Jersey to North Jersey, back to Albany, and then up to Saratoga Springs. Visiting family for the holidays followed by a chess tournament can be exhausting. During that time I spent the night in two different hotels and two different guest rooms at my sister's and friend's houses. It was good to sleep in my own bed last night!

After last year's fiasco, I was looking for signs that this year would be different. The first sign came in the first round when I got paired up against an adult, instead paired down against a little kid. I played adults the first two rounds, and had a 1/2 point more then I did last year after 4 rounds. That's a vast improvement since I started 0-4 last year! In round three I got the inevitable kid pairing, but I didn't really mind. I played one of the girls from New York City that I've played before and have a winning record against. She played a little wildly at the beginning, and paid for it later.

Polly - Lilia 122708.pgn

In round four I played Michael Brooks. He was my last round opponent at the Saratoga Open when I already had the section won. Our game in that tournament was a wild one that ended out a draw. This game was another one with tactical shots. I managed not to blunder anything, and won a pawn. We reached a knight and pawns ending. He offered me a draw in this position:

I probably should declined the draw offer and played more moves. However I was tired and was having trouble counting out even the simplest variation with the knight trade, so I opted to take the draw. It's a simple win if he takes my c pawn and allows me to trade knights. 37. Nxc4? Nxc4 38. Kxc4 Kh4 39. Kb5 Kxh3 40. Ka6 h5 41. Kxa7 h4 42. a4 Kg2 43. a5 h3 44. a6 h2 45. Kb8 h1=Q 46. a7 Qb1+ 47. Kc7 Qa2 48. Kb8 Qg8+ 49. Kb7 Kxf2 50. a8=Q Qxa8+ 51. Kxa8 f5 52. Ka7 f4 53. Kb6 f3 54. Kc5 Ke3 55. Kd5 f2 56. Ke5 f1=Q

I didn't expect him to make that trade, and with knights on the board I don't think I can do much with the extra pawn. 36... Kg5 37. Ke4 Kh4 38. f4 Nc6 39. Nxc4 Ne7 is one possible continuation. With all the pawns being isolated I didn't think there was a win.

Michael and his brother Will were part of a group of Vermonters who came to play in Saratoga. One member of the Vermont contingent was Ben Karren, a student at UVM. He was wearing a UVM Chess tee shirt. I introduced myself and told him I had founded the UVM chess club back in 1974 during my sophomore year. He had started up a chess club again in 2007. We were comparing notes on who still played at the Burlington Chess Club that I would have played when I was there.

Founder 1974 & Re-Founder 2007
University of Vermont Chess Club

I give up on trying to center the caption! If anyone can explain why when I try to center the caption it puts the center code at the top of the page and centers the paragraphs instead of the caption I'd appreciate it. I am severely HTML challenged, and can't get it to work.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas! ( A Day Late)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas yesterday, or a fantastic week of Hanukkah. After three days of eating and fun with my family it will be back to the chess grind in Saratoga Springs. Hopefully things will be more like my last trip there in March, then my previous trip last December. Yes indeed, I'm returning to the scene of the crime, The Empire State Open.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wins to Draws, and Losses to Ugly Losses!

If any of you follow Jim West's blog, you'll notice he posted my game against him from Sunday night. Steve sometimes runs these quads on Sunday evenings when he has another event going on over the weekend. Who shows for these can be kind of a crap shoot. Sometimes he has 8 players and has two sections, other times maybe 4 to 6 players in one section. It can be risky coming just to play in that tournament. Since I was planning to come into the city anyway to do some Christmas shopping, I figured I play in the tournament too.

It was one of those just barely make a tournament type of nights. Four of us showed up. The ratings ranged from 2200 down to my 1730. Being number four in the quad it could have been one of those butt ugly nights where I'd lose all three games. All three of my opponents I have losing records against. On the other hand I've beaten each of them at least once. Knowing that, I tried to stay positive about my chances. I played Jim in the first round and managed to draw. It's always nice to start a quad drawing with a master. I was better, but the clock was an issue for both of us, and I settled for the draw.

In the second round I played the 1900 and again I was better. I was up a pawn, and just couldn't get it done. In the position below I went pawn grabbing and ended out having to take a draw.

30. Qxb7? Better is 30. Bg2 Qf6 31. Be4+ Kh6 32. Qd7 f3 33. Qh3+. 30... f3! 31. Bf1 It took me awhile to find this one move that holds the position. 31...Qc1 32. Kg1 Qg5+ 33. Kh1 Qc1 34. Kg1 Qg5+ 35. Kh1 1/2-1/2

In the last round I played Gabor Schnitzler. We've played over 40 times, and my record against him is pretty pathetic. However lately I've had a good run against him, winning our last three games in a row until this past Thursday. Thursday I lost an ugly game where as Black I never got my pieces developed fully. In my effort to try to get an edge on the clock I had played too fast. Here's Thursday's game:


Unfortunately it not only cost me a little pride, but it also cost me the under 2000 prize. The game is illustrative of my recent difficulties playing Black against anything besides 1. e4.

In Sunday's quad we were paired against each other for the last round,so it would be a choosing for color. My track record in tossing or choosing for color is lame. I can't remember the last time I've actually won the toss. So continuing in that same vein, I end out with Black again. I decided I would play a little differently, but alas things didn't work out any better.


I got to find something to do against this random junk people play as White. It's getting annoying. Time to revamp the openings! I guess another thing to add to my list of things to do in 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Champions of Discipline

I have been to many of the scholastic nationals both as a coach and a tournament director. As a coach I have a little more time to observe what goes on around the tournament venue. There's always something that makes an impression on me. What grabbed my attention this time was the group of children from Norwood Elementary of Miami. First of all, they were the sharpest looking chess team out there with their matching bright yellow windbreakers, shirts, and blue back packs. They were not hard to miss!

Every round you would see them lined up, and go into the playing hall as a team. What impressed me was how orderly the line was. No kids jumping out of line. Nobody yelling or giving the parents, chaperons or teachers a hard time. They went in and quietly found their seat and got down to the business of playing chess.

When the kids finished they would go to back of the room where parents and coaches were sitting. They would sit quietly with the adults who accompanied them and wait for all their teammates to finish.

When everyone was done, they'd line up and leave the playing hall as a team.

After the last round was done, as each child filed by, this one chaperon gave each child a big hug, and words of praise and encouragement. It was really a very sweet moment for these children. This was their first nationals, and I'm sure for many of them their first time away from Miami. I spoke to a couple of the parents and the assistant principal. I could tell they were really proud of their kids and their school. They had every right to be. They really impressed me with their behavior and discipline. They did their school proud. They may not have won many trophies, but they won the respect of those who observed their fine behavior. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who noticed.

The Norwood Tigers were grrrrrrrrreat!!!

Go Tigers! I hope to see you in Nashville next April for the Super Nationals.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tired Tuesday

I got back from Orlando yesterday. We had a nice time at Epcot. It was a good way to celebrate and unwind after an exciting, but sometimes stressful weekend. Even though travel wise it's a very easy trip to make, I feel like I just got back from somewhere far away. It can be emotionally draining, physically exhausting, but at the same time lots of fun and very challenging. I always enjoy seeing old friends, and making new ones. Then there is the Murphy factor. Good old Murphy will rear his ugly head now and then.

When a team that has high expectations for how they're going to do, it can be rough emotionally when things don't quite work out as planned. One kid or another will blame himself for the team missing first place by what ever number of points it happens to be. In this case it was a measly half point between first and second place. It's easy for one kid to feel responsible when it's such a small margin. One kid or another will say, "I was clearly winning, but blundered. If I won that game, we'd been first." However he's forgetting how in an earlier round one of his teammates said, "I was so busted, and my opponent made the wrong move. I can't believe I won that game." It's funny how easy it is to forget that the gift win may have been the difference between second and third place.

There are just too many things that can go wrong or go right. If one went by predicted performance, using ratings as the basis then the top two teams placed as expected. "Stuff happens", and when enough "stuff happens" things can change for the better or the worse. It's so easy to look at the bad, and blame it all on that, and forget the about the good. I'm just as guilty of it as any of the kids. Many of you have left me comments reminding me not to be so hard on myself. I have to give that same advice to the the kids.

I have more pictures and some games, but they will have to wait another day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

K - 12: Day 3

It's over! What a weekend. It was touch and go right to the very last round. Our 9th grade team came in second by a half a point. So close, yet so far. Perhaps the biggest story for the group was our lone representative in the 6th grade section. He came in ranked 7th, and when all was said and done he won the section with a score of 6.5 out of 7. Going into the last round he had 5.5 and faced the lone 6-0. He was able to control his own destiny with his last round win.

Michael Bodek, 6th Grade National Champion

I mentioned in one of my earlier reports that I was pulling for Josh to win the 5th grade section so I could say I've lost to a national champion. Josh didn't win his section, though he did come in 3rd. However I lost to Michael in "Your Last Blunder of 2007". He was the 1375 who beat me in the last round of that tournament. His rating has gone up over 500 points since that tournament on New Year's eve.

I only have a little bit of internet time left, and I need to send a few emails. So to paraphrase the commercial...... "So Polly, you've survived another Nationals and the kids had a great tournament what are you doing next???"

"I'm going to Epcot!"

I will be posting more pictures when I get back to New York and sharing a few thoughts. For complete results go here.

K-12 Nationals Day 2

Saturday is the killer day. 3 rounds of exhausting chess. The match ups get tighter, and the tension increases. It's also when you start to get an idea of how things are going to play out as the favorites either plow their way through the competition, or are met with unexpected resistance. Hopes rise and fall round by round. I saw that just in my own team room. I'm sure the same thing was happening all over the convention center. Here's the scene during any of the rounds.
Must find my child's pairing!

I'm playing somebody rated how much???

You are here.......
Your child is somewhere out here.....
How is he doing?

Today I got a chance to go over to the K-1 room and take pictures before the round started. The kids are adorable, and the Chief TD for that room is like a mother hen, tending to her little chicks. With five and six year olds mom and dad are little more concerned about their little ones and how they'll cope with winning and losing. It usually takes a little longer to clear the room as mommy and daddy give their little ones one last hug, and one last pep talk. I did get a chance to take some pictures of the number one and two players in the First Grade section, and got parental blessing to share these shots. I took these pictures before the start of round four. They both won that round and their fifth round. Sunday in round six they will face each other. There is one other perfect score. Note: I since have updated the caption on the picture below.

Benjamin Lu, of Pennsylvania, rated 1211.
1st Grade National Champion

Aravind Kumar of New Jersey, rated 1595!

I'm glad I don't have to play either one of them. They're six years old. I have a couple of close calls against other six year old kids. It just amazes me that children that age can grasp chess in such a way that they can achieve such impressive results. I think I was maybe playing "Go Fish" or "War" when I was six.

As for myself, I did play in the Parents & Friends tournament. I managed not to lose to any grossly under rated chess parents. I did take a bye in round two, just to break it up a bit. That round usually is pretty stressful as the kids are pouring back into the playing room normally about the time I'm in horrible time pressure! Taking a 1/2 point bye was not exactly the Swiss Gambit, as the other player taking a 1/2 point bye that round was rated 2200, and we faced each other in round three. You can safely assume that since this is at the bottom of the report, that I had the expected result. You know if I had won, that would have been the first thing I wrote.

My round one win was fun, and I will post it another day. My last round game was totally insane as some 1200 was destroying my king side with the Yugoslav Attack. Somehow in the throes of insane time pressure I pulled a rabbit out of a hat. It helps when your opponent makes an illegal move when you have 1 second left. The two minutes added to one's clock for the opponent's illegal move come in really handy.

Off to bed. It's shorter day chess wise, but starts earlier. 9:00 AM for round one. Show time! We're a 1/2 point out of first, and 1/2 point ahead of third.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

K-12 Nationals Day 1

Yesterday I posted some pictures from the blitz tournament, including a picture of parent whose chess attire was more colorful then mine. I had taken a number of pictures of his daughter who was playing in the K-6 blitz. Her serious expression, and intense concentration made for an interesting photograph. I spoke to her dad today and asked him if it would be okay to post the pictures I took yesterday.


When her dad saw my Marshall Chess Club hat, he mentioned that he was originally from Brooklyn, and wanted his daughter to meet Darrian Robinson. He wondered if I knew her, and could arrange for her daughter to meet her. Darrian was not playing in the blitz, but was watching her friends, so I managed to get her to meet Diamond, and pose for this picture below.

Darrian and Diamond

Today was the start of the main event. Here are players ready to start their first round. I guess the young man in the foreground was a little late getting to his board. It's quite the scene as players get settled in to start the first round. This is a shot of the main playing hall where 2nd - 12th grades are playing. Kindergarten and first grade play in a separate room. I hope to get to that room tomorrow for some more pictures.

In the picture below, are the top boards for the second and third grades. Who knows what's going through their minds at this point. I guess if you're the lower rated player it's pretty nerve wracking being on the top board.

Today was just the warm up with two rounds. The first couple of rounds tend to have some serious mismatches between top and bottom half. Tomorrow is when everything really starts to shake out. That's when you'll start to see some upsets, and you'll get an idea of which top seeds will survive the pressure of being the primary target, and those who will wilt from being under the gun. You'll also see the "Cinderellas" of the event, make their presence felt.

Josh is 2-0 in the 4th grade section. King Kong is also 2-0 in the 6th grade section. I'll be rooting for them, along with some of the other kids that have been smacking me senseless. Somehow it feels better to say "Hey that's a national champion who beat the daylights out of me."

My guys are in for dog fight. They're in 2nd place with 4.5 out of 6. The top dog is 6 out of 6. We're cool, because so much can happen tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Greetings from Florida! K-12 Championships

I am here for the National K-12 Championships. I figured while I had some spare moments before the start of the main tournament, I'd post some pictures from yesterday's blitz. Since I was shooting with no flash and had the pushed the ISO to 1600 some of these pictures may not be of the best quality. My photographic journey is a work in progress. I will give updates as the weekend progresses.

Coronado Springs Resort

This place is huge. It's not your standard high rise hotel with all the rooms in one building. There is the main building with the convention center, and then 7 -8 buildings with guest rooms scattered all around the resort property. Two years ago I was staying #7, and it was about a 20 minute walk to get to the main building. They have large golf cart shuttles to take guests who would rather not walk to their building. It's easy to get lost if you're walking back at night. This year our team is in building one.

Start of the blitz tournament.
Two Sections: K-6 and K-12
Young speed demon. Hard to freeze the action with no flash.

What to do between rounds? Play more blitz! Did you have to ask?

Chess parent who has more colorful chess themed attire then me.
Tournament director in the Christmas spirit.
Josh Colas, NY
Gavin Mc Clanahan, IL

These two scored 8.5 out of 10 in the K-6. I'm not sure who won on tie-breaks. They were having some rather spirited bullet (1 minute) games afterward to break the tie themselves. I think they took turns winning the bullet games.

Note to my regular readers: If the name Josh seems familiar, that's because he's the same Josh who is frequent topic of conversation in my posts about getting crushed by little kids. Watch out him for him!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Beating Back Old Age With Chess

There have been numerous recommendations made regarding slowing down the effects of old age on the brain. Physical exercise, an active social life and mental stimulation have been shown to be helpful in slowing down the mental aging process. Crosswords, Suduko and other type puzzle games have become popular with the aging baby boomers. Chess is the ultimate brain teaser for those of us trying to keep the ole neurons firing.

As my regular readers know, I have more then my share of encounters with young chess playing kids. I've taken enough beatings at the hands of children almost young enough to be my grandchildren to last a life time. Though as long as I keep playing I will lose to more kids along the way. So what about the players who are old enough to be my mother or father? I don't run into them as much as the kids, but every once in awhile I get a reminder that chess is not only for the young.

A few weeks ago on Thursday night I played an 87 year old. He's from out Idaho, but you would never know it looking at his MSA. He played in all the big tournaments in the past year; North American Open, Foxwoods, US Senior, Chicago Open, National Open , World Open, US Open, and various tournaments at the Marshall. I've seen him around the Marshall on his visits to New York, but I had no idea how well travelled he was until I looked at his tournament records. I hope when I'm that age I'll still be alert enough and be able to afford to travel like that. He reminds me a bit of my dad who travelled and was sharp as a tack up until the day he died. My dad didn't play chess, but he still played a mean game of bridge in his 80s.

If you want to see proof that intellectual pursuits and challenges help slow down the affects of aging on the brain, just sit down across the chessboard from Mr. Mayers, and you will get plenty of proof. I found out the hard way. I have to admit looks can be deceiving. He uses a cane to walk, and he needs a magnifying glass to help him when he keeps score. One might think that needing a magnifying glass to help see his score sheet would be a big handicap in a fast time limit like game/30. Actually with the 5 second delay it becomes game/25. I thought if nothing else, I might be able to get a big edge on the clock. I've seen some of my older opponents implode in time pressure when I've had the edge on the clock. Ahhhh, but there's the kicker...."Edge on the clock". Something I lacked right up to the end. When I repeated the position I had 9 seconds to his 3 minutes and 6 seconds. He kept score right until the last move, despite not being required to do so.


We both missed wins in the game, so perhaps a draw was a fitting result.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My New Blog: Checkmate State by State

After my latest trip to Washington State, I decided it would be fun to keep track of all the states I've played in, my first game played, and give a little background about my initial tournament in each state. I'm borrowing from Ivan of Getting to 2000, who had compiled his list of states played. I've just taken the idea one step further by having my list serve as a travel journal as I try to make my way around the country playing in as many states as possible.

Some of the places I have vivid memories of the tournament and the people I met there. I guess that means I'm getting old. I can't remember why I went into the kitchen or where I put my reading glasses, but I can remember hitchhiking to my first tournament in Connecticut back in 1975. I can also remember driving in a blinding snow storm and ending out in a ditch on my way to another tournament in Connecticut. I was a little nuts back in those days.

I hope you will join me as I take my stroll down memory lane. Don't laugh too hard at some of the games I played back when I was an E player. Though I must admit, I've been getting some chuckles as I put these games into Chess Base, and let Fritz mess with them. Check out Checkmate State By State. If there are any oldtimers who may have played in any of the events I, mention feel free to leave your own recollections in the comments.

Fear not, I will still be making posts to this blog. My present chess trip is a never ending journey, and I have some interesting stuff that I'm working on.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Washington Wacky Wednesday!

When I play the two day schedule of a three day tournament I sometimes have difficulty making the transition from G/60 to 40/2 G/60. There are three factors that may come into play. 1.)I forget to slow down. 2.) I'm restless from the opponent's slow pace. 3.) I'm tired from the previous games. I think in this particular case it was a combination of numbers 2 and 3. I found myself getting restless when my opponent went into a deep think early on. Despite my relatively short round three game of 1 hour, 20 minutes as opposed to almost two hours for rounds one and two, I was a bit tired going into round four. I suppose I could play the jet lag card, and blame on the three hour time difference.


It was one of those games where I had trouble getting the queen bishop out quickly. Also I just totally ignored all the potential pins that became problematic at the end. Two hours was enough time to torment myself. I was in no mood to play out a position against a player who took over an hour on his first 17 moves.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Washington State Class - Day 2

My newest chess themed blouse makes its debut.

Despite my brutal Saturday, I managed to bounce back on Sunday a little bit. Not that I won any games on Sunday, but I didn't lose any either. I had two interesting draws. The two games were very different in terms of opponents and the final position.

My 5th round opponent was a kid from Victoria, BC. A number of Canadians from BC were playing in the event. They used his 1644 Canadian rating for pairing purposes. His USCF rating is 1581. With kids I tend to just ignore the rating, because no matter what it is they tend to be under rated. When he played the Maroczy Bind against my Accelerated Dragon, I'm thinking to myself, "Here we go again." Lately I've had some painful losses facing the Maroczy, so I wasn't thrilled to see 5. c4. He blundered a pawn early, but he handled the position very nicely. I think I probably played a little too cautiously, and traded down too much. I couldn't see any way to make progress since once we got down to queen and bishops of same color. All the pawns were on the same side, so when he offered the draw I accepted. Here's the game.


In round six I was paired against someone, who my lone adult opponent from round three described as "steady". I didn't even have to see the person to know that he was going to be one of those older players who's probably sitting on his floor, and plays a real solid positional type game. As luck would have it, even though I was due for White I would end out with a 4th Black. Despite being a tournament director, sometimes I don't understand the vagueries of the Swiss System that decides that a player that has had WBBWB gets his third white over the player who has had BWBWB. I'm not going to quote the rule, but if you're really interested go to page 144, and look at #4 under Pairing players due the same color. Go figure. I liked the old rule which is now #5, and the rule of last resort. Higher ranked player gets his due color. I would have gotten White under that rule.

It was one of those games where I was having trouble coming up with a decent plan. The game remained equal until around move 25. I got overly cautious again. I think I was playing not to lose, but that's usually the type of attitude that cause one to let the position get away. It really should have gotten away from me since he missed a couple of good shots that win pawns. When he offered the draw I happily accepted since I still thought I was slightly worse, and at a disadvantage on the clock.


Tomorrow look for my Wacky Wednesday, 2 hour 17 move loss from round 4.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Washington State Class - Day 1

Here is a conversation that came up several times during the course of the day.

Local: “You’re from New York?”
Me: “Yes”.
Local: “Are you visiting friends out here?”
Me: “No”
Local: “So what brings you out here?”
Me: “To play chess.”
Local: “You came out here to play in this tournament?”
Me: “Yes”

I guess people found it fascinating that I would travel all the way from New York to play in a local tournament in Washington State. What can I say? I like to travel, and I like to play chess. With frequent flier miles to burn, why not add another state to my repertoire? 22 down, 38 to go. Besides I got the pleasure of spending a few hours with blogger extraordinare, DK-Transformation.

I don't quite win the "traveled the furthest" prize. There is a player from Sweden who is in the area for business. He figured he'd look to see if there was anything happening here chess wise. As luck would have it there's this tournament. Talk about good fortune! Caissa smiled kindly on this fellow. As for me....Caissa can be a two faced _____. (fill in with your own colorful noun.)

I did not mention one thing that DK did for me. When we were making plans to get together, I mentioned that I needed to go out and buy something to sleep in. I had managed not to pack any tee shirts, which are my preferred sleep attire. He offered to give me a tee shirt so that I didn’t need to go out and buy something. Though he did not give me the shirt off his back, it was the next best thing. Thanks!

I thought perhaps since the shirt said Shamrocks on it, and had a picture of one, just maybe the luck of the Irish might be with me. I guess Caissa is not Irish. She did tease me in the first round. I got paired against a kid. (So what else is new?) We reached this position after my move 16...Nh7.

I'm bemoaning the fact that he has 17. e6 Bxe6 18. Qxd8 Rfxd8 19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. Bxe7
Rd7 21. Rxe6 Nc4. The inner pessimist is sitting there thinking "Here we go again. Some kid is going to win some pawns and grind me down to nothing." For what ever reason he didn't play that line. Instead he played 17. Re2. Disaster averted!

After 28...Rc2 we reach this position.

He played 29. b3 allowing me to play ...Rxa2. The game continued 30.
Nc5 Bf5 31. Ne4 Rc8 32. Rd2 Rxd2 33. Nxd2 Rc3 34. Rxc3 bxc3 35. Nc4 g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Ne3 c2 38. Nxc2 Bxc2 39. b4 e6 40. f4 Bf8 41. fxg5 Bxb4 42. Bf4 a5 43. Bc1 Bc3 44. Kf2 Bxe5 45. Ke3 Kg7 46. Kf3 Kg6 47. Kg4 a4 48. g3 Bf5+ 49. Kh4 Bc3 50. Ba3 e5 51. Bc1 e4 52. g4 Be6 53. Kg3 Be5+ 54. Kh4 Bd6 55. Bb2 a3 56. Bc3 a2 57. Kh3 Kxg5 58. Bb2 Bxg4+ to reach this position.

For a change it's my opponent with the clock issues. I went into the ending with a big edge on the clock. I took advantage of the time edge and my two pawns coming at him. His lone bishop could not be in two places at once. The game continued like this. 59. Kg2 Bf3+ 60. Kf2 Bc5+ 61. Ke1 f5 62. Bc3 Bb4 63. Bd2+ Bxd2+ 64. Kf2 a1=Q 65. Kg3 Qg1+ 66. Kh3 Qg2#

After this game I felt as though perhaps Caissa would treat me kindly for the remainder of the tournament. My second round game quickly dispelled me of that notion. I got paired against another kid, though older and higher rated then my first round opponent. It was my turn to have clock issues. My last move was made with 1 second left. I guess that's as good a reason as any to overlook Black's killer move.


At least I didn't have world wide internet audience watching on Mon Roi. In round three I played an adult. It was just one of those blah games where I dropped the a pawn fairly early and knew it would only be a matter of time before my b pawn would fall. Once that one goes then his a & b pawns will come storming down. I kept thinking to myself "Maybe I should just resign this game and save my strength for the 4th round." The fourth round would be the merge round, and I'd be playing the slower 40/2 G/1 time controls. I have trouble resigning when I'm only down a pawn. There is the possibility that maybe I'll get the pawn back or be able to hold on. One never knows. I played on for awhile, but then was so disgusted with the position I finally packed it in.

I was hoping my strategic resignation would give me a chance to pull myself together and catch a breather before round four. Sometimes I think I should just take a bye in round three or four so that I can make a smoother transition from G/60 to the traditional time controls. However no matter how many times I play the accelerated schedule at a tournament and tell myself "Take a bye.", it doesn't happen. I play all the scheduled rounds, and either I lose horriby in the last fast game, or the first slow game. True to form in the first slow game, I manage to play for two hours and lose in 17 moves. That game is Wacky Wednesday material, so look for it later this week.

The evening wasn't a total bust. There was a group of adults playing bughouse. That is rare thing to see. Bughouse is mostly played by rowdy kids or a few token over grown children like myself. How does playing bughouse with adults compare to playing with kids? It's quieter, both amongst the players and over the board. I didn't have my partner telling me " Gawd you suck", and the trash talk was more refined. I guess "refined trash talk" is an oxymoron. It was fun playing with the locals. What made more interesting was that none of these guys were playing in the main tournament. They just came to play bughouse. I never did find out what any these guys ratings were. Then again, ratings are meaningless in bughouse.

Stay tuned for more reports from Washington.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Greetings from Redmond, Washington!

It's a little after 8:00 AM local time. I'm sitting across the street from the hotel at a Tully's Coffee shop. I'm having the super sized Gunpowder green tea and a bagel. Got to get the caffeine coursing through my body in time for my first round at 9:30 AM. There are two advantages of being over here for breakfast. One, I'm sure my breakfast is about the 3rd of the price of what it would be at the hotel. Two, and more importantly; free wi-fi! The Marriott wants $10 a day and it isn't for a true 24 hour block. It's noon to noon. That's a rip off when you don't check into your room until 3:00 PM. Why pay for something that you can get for free across the street. Unlike my US Open reports that came at 1:30 AM from the lobby, I am limited to the more civil hours of 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM.

I arrived yesterday, and had ask the tournament organizer, Dan Matthews if someone could come pick me up at the airport. He and a friend out to the airport and brought me to the hotel. That was very nice on their part, and much appreciated.

I had emailed DK-Transformation to let him know I would be in his neck of the woods. I thought it would be fun to get together with a fellow chess blogger. He has beaten me to the punch in terms of writing of our encounter, but now you can read my side of the story.

Two Bloggers Very Different, Very the Same

The Internet is one of those places where one can become someone they're not, or they can be very open and show exactly who they are. David is one of those people who how he writes is how he is. He mentioned in his post that he has trouble writing in fragments. He doesn't speak in fragments either. The energy and detail that goes into his writing comes through in his conversation and his opinions. Sometimes it was hard to get a word in edgewise, but that was good. For a change I got to really listen, and not worry about what I was going to say, or whether I would sound stupid.

We talked a lot about why we blog, and what our objectives are. He has wealth of information on how he uses Chess Base as a study tool. He wants to share what he knows via his blog. I can't quite remember exactly how he phrased it, but basically he's the ultimate "Chess Base Geek". He was telling me about the different ways he creates his various bases, and how he sorts and ranks the games. He's the guy who uses every resource and capability that Chess Base has to offer. I'm more like the guy with a top of the line racing bike with a cluster that could get me up L’Alpe d’Huez, but instead rides around the block in my neighborhood just using one gear.

It was interesting watching his encounter with the book seller and the discussion of copyright issues. He was blunt and came out and said what he felt. Any blogger who has had the privilege of his leaving you a lengthy comment on what he feels you're doing wrong, and what you should do instead, I got to observe the verbal version. I'm not sure I would have had the guts to tell the guy off like that. However that is David being David, and it was a cool thing to observe.

It was interesting to learn what a homebody he really is. After all here is a guy who grew up in New Jersey, worked on Wall Street, lived a Buddhist Temple in Korea, and now lives across the country from where he grew up. Me on the other hand grew up in Maryland, and moved to New York and has been an east coast gal my entire life. Yet I don't need much of an excuse to go somewhere else to visit. I inherited my fraternal grandmother's and my father's love of traveling and exploring new places. So the opportunity to use up some frequent flier miles and go play chess in another state was enough of an excuse to bring me to rainy cool Washington State.

It's almost 9:30 here, and time to go play some chess. Hopefully I will not be generating 6 weeks worth of Wacky Wednesday material.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Good luck to anyone playing in any of the various Thanksgiving weekend tournaments. Last year I played in Philadelphia at the National Chess Congress. The year before I played in Los Angeles at the American Open. I was planning on heading to Philly again, but......

....I figured I'd better use up some frequent flier miles before the all the airlines merge into one and dump everyone's miles. With that in mind, and an opportunity to find another state I haven't played in before I'm off to Redmond (Microsoft Land), WA to play in the Washington State Class Championships. I wonder if they'll confiscate my Mac Book at the city line?

I fly out Friday morning, and will play the two day schedule. I will arrive early enough on Friday that I can play in the blitz tournament that evening. I just didn't want to take a bye for round one and play the three day schedule, or have to worry about my flight being delayed.

Enjoy your turkey today, and hopefully I won't play like a turkey over the weekend. What do they say? "You are what you eat."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - My Brain Was .....

...hijacked by aliens from out space. Or I'm that or I'm turning into a koala bear by round 4. Those guys don't seem to do anything, but sleep through life. Maybe while nobody is looking they come alive at night and become wild party animals.

Zzzzzzzz When's the next round of sleep begin?

I guess for me the sleep round came at 10:50 pm. I just can't explain what had happened. I went into round 4 with a 1-2 score against higher rated opposition. Two experts and and a 1950. I lost to the experts and beat the 1950 in a very nice rook and pawn ending. In the last round I'm playing an 1854. His results have been rather ragged lately, and he's been picked off by some lower rated players. Maybe I thought I got pick hom off too. However when one is totally oblivious to where the opponent's pieces are, and where they're going, trouble is brewing.

Here it is. Given the ugly nature of the game, I've changed my color scheme. Go ahead, have a good laugh. I think it set a record for time elapsed. Less the 12 minutes for the entire game.

Polly - FrankP111308.pgn

Don't ask because I really can't explain it. My mind was not there,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bishops of Same Color Ending

If you actually read my post about directing at the club last Monday night, you may have picked up on the fact that I was one of the first round upset victims. If there had been an upset prize, my opponent would have won it. (647 point difference.) He had not played since April, but his dad told me he wanted to start playing again. You never know what to expect when you play a 13 year old kid who hasn't played in 6 months. You ask yourself has he spent the last 6 months playing hundreds of blitz games on ICC, and is now 1800 strength? I knew that wasn't the case. The family doesn't even have email, much less an ICC account.

Lack of Internet not withstanding, I didn't think I could take him lightly. His dad and I have had some tough games over the years. I figured he'd been doing some studying with his dad. (He had not been.) I must say I was taken aback how well he played the opening. He played the Qc2 line against my Nimzo-Indian, and rattled off his first 15 moves in about a minute. I figured sooner or later the blitz pace would catch up with him, and he'd make a mistake. However I burned a lot of time in the middle game trying to free up my position. At one point he had sac'ed a pawn to weaken my king side, and then won it back a few moves later.

Eventually we traded down to the position below:

He had just played 48. Kg4. Despite my ugly f pawns and his 3 on 2 majority on the queen side, I thought it was rather drawish at this point. I was way down on the clock, but I didn't think that would be an issue. I even offered a draw within the next few moves. I thought he might take it because of the rating difference. He decided to take on the clock difference. I didn't really see a way for him to convert the majority, and I figured we would just fiddle around with our bishops. I played 48...Bc4. My plan was to maintain control of the f1-a6 diagonal so that he can't create a passer. That move was a mistake. Even though it looks totally counter intuitive, I should have retreated my king with 48... Kg7, with the idea of bringing him back towards the queen side. A possible continuation which gives me good drawing chances is 49. Kf4 Kf8 50. Bd5 Ke7 51. Ke4 Kd6 52. Bxf7 Bxc6+.

The game continues 49. Kf4 Bd3 50. Bg4 Bb5 51. Bf3 Bc4 52.Kg4 Bb5 53. Kg3 Kg5 54. Be4 Ba4?! This was risky, but I was trying to simplify by trading some of the pawns. 55. Bd3 Bxc6 56. Bxa6 Kxf5 57. b5?! to reach the position below:

I have about 5 seconds left. I'm thinking at this point after I move the bishop he'll play 58. b6 axb6 and I can sac the bishop for the b pawn, and the game will be drawn. That's the right idea, but it's dependant on the black bishop being placed on the correct square. 57...Bd5?? I felt I needed to cover b7 with my bishop. In reality white has nothing after 57...Bd7 58. b6 cxb6 59. axb6 Bc6. Instead my bishop move gives him the crucial check will set a road block to my coverage of the queening square. 58. Bc8+! Ke5 59. a6 Kd6 60. Bb7! Now my bishop is totally cut off. I looked, but there was no defense. In the mean time those few precious seconds ticked down to zero. 1-0

Edit: I was looking at the position again after Chess Tiger had left some analysis in the comments section. I realized after looking at the position again that White messed up when he played 57. b5. Had I found the correct move of Bd7 I'm okay. However if he had switched his move order and played 57. Bc8+ first I have major problems. This is one possible continuation. 57. Bc8+ Ke5 58. a6 Bb5 59. a7 Bc6 60. b5 Ba8 61. b6 cxb6 62. Bg4 Kd4 63. Bf3 Bxf3 64. Kxf3b5 65. a8=Q b4 66. Qa7+ Kc3 67. Qc7+ Kb2 68. Ke3 Ka3 69. Kd3 f5 70. Kc2 b3+ 71.Kc3 Ka2 72. Qa5+ Kb1 73. Kxb3 f4 74. Qe1# I'm not sure either of us would have found all of this. I may have flagged along the way.

We hear a lot about bishops of opposite color endings and how drawish they tend to be. Bishops of same color seem like they should be drawish too, except that the one light squared bishop can block off the queening square from other light squared bishop. In your opposite color bishop ending the one bishop can block the pawns and the opposite colored bishop can't force that bishop away. If the king can't penetrate then you will have a draw. Below is the same position with after 57 b5. But now Black's bishop is on the dark square c5 instead of c6. Can black hold with Bd4?

Fire away! I'd be interested in seeing what my end game enthusiasts think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So You Wanna Direct a Tournament? Funky Pairings - Part 2

Note: If you're looking for insightful analysis or another one of my crazy games, you can skip this post. Games will be forth coming in my next post. If you want a little behind the scenes angst from the tournament director's point of view, read on. If nothing else, you'll get the short course on Swiss system pairings.

In my last post, Funky Pairings - Part 1, I mentioned how the computer pairing program can sometimes go haywire and come up with some strange pairings. Since pairing programs came out in the early 90s I've seen some pretty strange pairings both as a player and as a tournament director. Usually on Monday nights I don't need my computer, and I can pair a tournament on a single piece of paper. I don't need a wall chart or pairing cards. When there's no school the next day we get a few more then normal. I wasn't prepared how many more came. So when 16 people, including two father-son combos show up it becomes a little more challenging trying to run a tournament with no computer and no pairing cards. Add to the mix that I was also playing in this tournament to make an even 16.

The first round isn't that difficult to pair. My list is in order of who gave me money first, but once I have all the names I number everyone by rating. Sometimes I mess up the numbering, and then have to start over again. I did manage to number correctly so no do-overs were necessary. After I flip a coin to see if number one will be black or white, I simply take numbers 1-8 and alternate white and black. My page will look something like this:

1 Lonnie-
- 2 John R
3 John K-
- 4 Alex
5 Mike A -
- 6 Mike B1*
7 Mike M -
- 8 Polly

Then I take numbers 9 - 16 and slot them in. After that's done the pairings look like this:

# White # Black
1 Lonnie - 9 Dan
10 Guy - 2 John R
3 John K- 11- Mike B2*
12 Alan - 4 Alex
5 Mike A - 13 Giancarlo
14 Silvio - 6 Mike B1
7 Mike M - 15 Connor
16 Joseph - 8 Polly

* I had 4 Mikes playing and 2 of them had a last name beginning with the letter B.

In an ideal world there would be no upsets. It's a piece of cake to pair round two. Numbers 1 -4 play numbers 5-8 and numbers 9 - 12 play numbers 13 - 16. Adjustments are made to balance the colors. The pairings would look like this:

# White # Black
6 Mike B1 - 1 Lonnie
2 John R - 5 Mike A
8 Polly - 3 John K
4 Alex - 7 Mike M
9 Dan - 14 Silvio
13 Giancarlo - 10 Guy
11 Mike B2 - 16 Joseph
15 Connor - 12 Alan

Blue = 1-0 Red = 0-1

Everybody will have had one of each color, and in the last round all the players in the various score groups will be paired amongst each other and will toss for color. No problem! Now that you've read this far you're ready to direct your own tournament. Piece of cake! Even a trained monkey could do that.....

Unfortunately my buddy Murphy likes to apply his law to pairings. It was upset city with numbers 2 (2202), 4 (2078) and 8 (1729) losing to numbers 10 (1596) , 12 (1540), and 16 (1082) respectively. This almost the worst case scenario possible. White won on 7 out of 8 boards, which meant 7 out of 8 one pointers were due black in round two, and 7 out of 8 zero pointers were due White. It's not the worst thing in the world to have a bunch of people getting two whites in a row in three round tournament. On the other hand it really sucks to have a bunch of people getting two blacks in a row. What makes it even worse when it's most of the first round losers who are faced with the two blacks in a row. (You still want to be a tournament director?)

The objective of Swiss pairings in round two is pair the players in each score amongst each other and balance the colors. Score has priority, so in the one score group I had three people getting two whites in a row, and in the zero score group I had three people getting two blacks in a row. All the remaining players were getting the opposite color they had in round one. It took awhile to sort out who was going to play who, and some players can be a snarky bunch when it's taking awhile to figure out the pairings. Finally I get everyone paired.

I wasn't overly concerned if there were upsets in the top group creating the possibility of having three players due black in round 3. Who's going to complain about getting 3 whites? However during my second round game I'm staring at the pairings I had written down and came to a horrible realization. Barring any more upsets there would be three zero pointers who had two blacks. I started thinking to myself, maybe I should have given the lower ranked player their due color so that after the higher ranked players won as black they could get paired with the 1 pointers who lost with white.

The USCF rule book has 25 pages devoted to pairing subsequent rounds following round one. Buried on page 145 is variation 29E4a "priority based on plus, even, and minus score groups." Using this variation I could have given the lower ranked players their due color. However when the TD is in "time pressure" so to speak she is not thinking about obscure variations of the rules that may be buried somewhere in the rule book.

The only way the color crisis in the zero score group was going to resolve itself was the higher ranked players lost with white aginst their lower rated opponents who got the two blacks in a row. Somehow I didn't expect the master and expert to fall victim again in round two. I also didn't expect the 1722 to lose to a 1200. The only realistic "upset" possibility would have been Silvio (1474) beating me (1729), but that wasn't really going to help because the two of us were the only zeros that were getting their due color. It wasn't going to matter which one of us won.

True to form, Murphy allowed no more upsets except Silvio holding me to a draw. (Our 29th draw in our 90 games we've played.) However that still didn't resolve the color crisis. Pairing the last round was nuts. It was easy to pair the 2 pointers. They had played one game with each color. Now came the fun part. I kept making pairings and then realize for some reason or another they were wrong. I suppose considering how little money was on the line, I shouldn't have been so anal about exact pairing order. I also should have not worried so much about score group. But that's not the way I think when I'm in "time pressure". A couple of players are ragging on me about whether we would get round 3 in before next week. (Good natured kidding, but it didn't help my concentration.) I finally paired everyone, or at least I thought I had when Mike M. asks me "Who am I playing?" I couldn't remember who else had been left out, so I ask who else doesn't have a game. When Dan spoke up I said "Dan plays Mike."

Then the father of one of the kids complains that his son has to play a kid from his school, and that he lost the toss and got the third black. He wants me to change the pairings. I said "No, it's late. People want to play. I'm not changing the pairings again." I apologized for the third black, and offered to give him back his son's entry fee. He declined. Afterwards I found out he was more annoyed that his son had to play somebody from his school. It happens. In round two Silvio and I had played our 90th rated game against each other. Sometimes you have to play people you play a lot.

After all was said and done we had 2 players at 3-0 and 5 players at 2-1. Ideally you need 4 rounds to have a clear winner in a field of 16. Unless people wanted to play until 1:00 AM there wasn't going to be an unadvertised round four. The two 3-0 got $50. The twos got their entry fee back. This wasn't exactly big bucks everyone was playing for.

When I got home I put the results in on the computer, in order to submit the results online. The computer made pretty much the same pairings as I had for the first two rounds. The third round differed because the computer was set without the "3 consecutive colors OK" on. In hindsight I should have paired out of the score group. The bright spot was Murphy didn't totally get his way. The kid who lost the toss and got the third black, beat his higher rated opponent.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Funky Pairings - Part 1

My return to tournament play didn't exactly get off to a stellar start with Wednesday's loss to an 1100. I was hoping that things would be better on Thursday night down at the Marshall. If I judged how the night would go based on round one, I would have jumped on the next train and gone back home. What can I say about a game that would have ended with a smothered mate on move 26 if I hadn't resigned on move 25? Pretty damn bad. Totally crappy. Sucked big time. Really @#$%! up! Here it is in all it's ugly glory.


In early October I had a bad run of four tournaments where I I didn't win any games. 4 draws and 10 losses. So after the ugly first round loss I'm thinking to myself, "Am I ever going to win another game of chess?" Without even looking at the wallchart I was anticipating playing a 1900 in the second round since I was on the lower half of the zero score group. There had been no serious upsets, but a 1720 drew a 2100 in round one.

If you know anything about how swiss pairings work, you know that top half of a score group is paired against the bottom half. You start with the top score group and work your way down to the bottom. If there's an odd number in the score group he low man drops to play high man in the next score group. In the first round if there's only been one draw and no 1/2 point byes for the round, the 1/2 point score group is only going to have 2 players and they can't play each other again. Since the one score group had an even number there was no one to drop to play the high rated 1/2. What normally happens in that case is those two 1/2 pointers get paired against the highest two players with zero. Then after they've been paired with the top zeros, the remaining players in the zero score group are paired against each other, top half versus bottom half.

Back when I started playing and directing in the early '70s all pairings were done using pairing cards with all the color, score, and opponent information on them. Take the stack of cards in score groups and rating order, divide in half, pair all the players and then write out the pairings on paper. Pairing a section with 200 players was labor intensive and tournament directors would have a bad case of writer's cramp by the end of the tournament.

Now pairings are done using a computer with pairing software. The software does a pretty good job of following the swiss pairing rules, but sometimes the program seems to have a mind of its own. Tournament directors will take the time to double check what the computer does, especially in later rounds when it's very important to make sure the pairings are correct. Normally the second round pairings are very straight forward, and the director doesn't have spend much time checking them. Since the round was running late the director ran the pairings and posted them. He wasn't expecting any hiccups. On this particular night the pairing program must have been feeling sorry for me. It paired the 2100 rated 1/2 pointer with the highest rated zero who was rated 1981. The next zero was rated 1960 and the third zero was rated 1940. The 1722 1/2 pointer should have played one of those 1900s depending on the color. However the program by passed the entire top half of the zero score group, and paired the 1722 against me.

I was sure I was going to play White against Shernaz Kennedy for the fifth time in a row in this tournament. Imagine my surprise when I see that I'm playing the guy right below me on the wall chart. This would be my 39th game against him. 7 wins, 4 draws, and 27 losses. 3 of those wins have been in the last two months and in a row. Lately I've had his number which is a nice change of pace considering my overall record against him. I was perfectly happy to get that pairing. Though when I got to this position I was not too happy. He had just played Nd3 attacking my rook.

31. Rd1 (White's best try may be 31. Qxd3 exd3 32. Rxe8+ Kf7 33.R8e3 d2 34. Nxd2) I'm expecting Nf4+ winning the exchange, but that doesn't happen. 31... Qd6?? Not only does he miss the fork winning the exchange after 31... Nf4+ 32. Kf2 Nxe2 33. Kxe2 f4, he also allows me to win the knight because the pawn is pinned to the rook. The game continues 32. Rxd3! exd3 33. Rxe8+ Kh7 34. Qxd3 Qf6 35. Re6 Qb2+ 36. Qd2 Qxb3 37. Rxg6 Kxg6 38. Qf4Qb2+ 39. Kh3 Qb1 40. Kg2 Qb2+ 41. Kg1 Qc3 42. g4 fxg4 43. Qxg4+ Kh7 44. h5 Black loses on time in a few more moves. I only had 1 second left, and had been giving a bunch of checks. I wasn't convinced I'd be able to do anything with the extra knight in the ending. Fortunately he ran out of time before I had to figure it out.

The next two rounds I got paired way up. I lost in round 3, but pulled out a draw in round 4. I actually gained some points and will have a published rating on the December rating list off my floor. Three months in a row! In some ways it's meaningless, but it's nice to play in tournaments and not be on the wall chart at 1700. Also being higher then 1700 changes my ranking, and reduces my chances of unwanted byes in earlier rounds.