Monday, April 28, 2008

9th Bruce Bowyer Memorial Tournament.

This weekend I played in the Bruce Bowyer Memorial Tournament. It's the first time I've actually played in the event. I've heard so many good things about the event. It seems I've either been away in working on the days they have it. The last few years it's been on the weekend that I'd be in Florida competing in the Saint Anthony's triathlon. This year I bagged the race. It's a long story which I briefly touched on in my other blog.

Bruce Bowyer was a long time member of the Manhattan Chess Club. His family and friends started this tournament in 2000 in his memory. This years Grand Prix event on Saturday drew over 50 players. I'm not sure how many showed up for Sunday's scholastic. Here is a quote about the tournament from their website. It sums it quite nicely. The adults enjoy coffee, the low $ fee and the strong competition, but the consensus overall is that a hug from Sunny makes this truly the friendliest chess event of the year. Young gunslingers everywhere were thrilled to see our ‘resident’ GM, the great Joel Benjamin playing as he has done every year – we love you , Joel!

International Master Jay Bonin is a recipient of one of Sunny's hugs. Sunny is Bruce's niece. She makes everyone feel welcome.

Nick Conticello handled the pairing duties while Ed Frumkin handled the floor. Ed didn't seem to have to work too hard. There didn't seem to be any major issues, except perhaps the last round discussion on board 1 regarding the DGT "Bronstein Mode" versus the Chronos "Time Delay Mode". Bronstein puts the time back after the move whereas delay counts down before the clock runs. Even though they are different, according to USCF rules they are treated equally in terms of clock preference. Delay is the normal choice in the US whereas Bronstein or increments are more typical in Europe. After everything was said and done the players decided to use GM Benjamin's Chronos with delay.

The other small glitch was they didn't seem to have my entry so I didn't get paired in the first round. The funny thing was if I had been paired normally I would have played one of my Thursday night first round usual suspects Polyakin or Margulis. I wasn't thrilled by the prospect of getting paired against the 1300 getting the 'please wait". My luck would be that he's an under rated ringer, and I lose and get crappy pairings the rest of the tournament. If I was due to lose in round one, I wanted to play a higher rated player.

Anatoliy Ostrovskiy was originally going to to take a 1/2 point bye in round one, but he offered to play me instead. Yes the same Anatoliy Ostrovskiy who I so grossly blundered away a totally won ending against in November. Maybe this game was dedemption for that horrible game in November or pay back for his son crushing me this past Thursday. I'm 0-6 against his son, but now at least I have more then a draw against the family Ostrovskiy.

He actually read my account of our November encounter, so he couldn't help but to kid me about picking up my captured queen before making the promotion. I had kind of forgotten about it when I reached over to get the queen though this time I was sure the promotion was coming.

In the next round I got paired up against Kassa Korley, rated 2115. Like my other encounters with him, I got crunched. For his efforts he was rewarded with a third round trip to board one against GM Benjamin.

Here are the top board match ups in round three. It's the young guns of NYC against the titled players. GM Joel Benjamin was matched up against 8th grader Kassa Korley, and IM Alex Lenderman was playing 9th grader Raven Sturt. IM Jay Bonin is in the foreground, but I can't remember who he played. Joel and Alex beat their young opponents, and Jay drew with his. My combined record against all those people seated there is 0-27. Ouch! I've never played Joel Benjamin.

There ended out being a 5 way tie for first place at 3 1/3 points. Joel and Alex drew each other. Jay Bonin beat Yevgeni Margulis the remaining 3 pointer. Zachary Weiner and Oliver Chernin won their 4th round games to join the titled players at the top.

Anatoliy Ostrovskiy came up with a new variation of the Swiss Gambit. After giving up his first round 1/2 point bye to play and lose to me, he went on to win his remaining 3 games and won the Under 2000 prize. Myself, I did the Swiss Gambit in reverse. I won my first round game and then lost my last 3 games. I got the tough competition I wanted, but would have been happier if I had not had a time pressure induced implosion in round 4 against one of those 1300 rated high school kids.

It's a very nice event. The Bowyer family and friends do a wonderful job taking care of the players. In the morning there was coffee, tea and pastries. Later on there were Chessman cookies and fruit. For the last round there were donuts. What more can the hungry chess player ask for? It's a very friendly atmosphere and is kind of like a little chess family reunion. That's definitely a tournament that I will want to play in again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Maybe I Should Have Accepted This Draw.....

Having spent this post and this post ranting about kids offering draws before 20 moves have been played, it was perhaps fitting that I would find myself in this very same situation once again. We're in round two of the Westchester Chess Club Championship. The round two pairings were rather strange because we have numerous games outstanding from round one that all got paired as draws. the 1/2-1/2 score group was the largest group for round two.

For round two I'm paired against Dario's younger brother, Giancarlo. We've played a two times before. I have a win and a draw against him. The first time I had played him, I had to beg him to play in the tournament to make an even number. He'd had just come to hang out while his brother was playing. He thought that his rating of 950 was too low to play in the tournament. I told him it was okay, and that he'd be fine. So what happens? I play him in the second round and barely squeak out a draw with him. In fact I had blundered and he missed a very nice forced mate in this position that arose after 33. Qf8+ Kg5.

The game continued 34. h4+! Kh5 35. Qf3+ White offers draw?? I accepted, figuring he was just going to play 36. Qf8+ and repeat the position which had done twice before playing h4+. We both had missed the killer combination. The solution is at the bottom of the post. I haven't quite figured out how to do the hidden font trick that Happy Hippo does on his blog.

Getting back to Wednesday's game in the club championship. Giancarlo was part of this group of players who had been paired as draw pending the outcome of the first round for the latecomers. I had played the first round and drew with one of these under rated "returning to tournament chess after a long lay off" type players. After his 17th move of Nxc6 we reach this position, and he offers me a draw.

What is it with kids offering their higher rated opponents draws after so few moves? I was rather annoyed by the offer and told him "No I don't want a draw right now. I came here to play chess." We had only been playing for a half hour. Why would either player want a draw at this stage of the game? It's not like we're Grandmasters in the last round playing on board 1 for first place. It's the second round of the club championship where first prize is going to be around $80. What are we going to do for the rest of the evening if we take a draw here? Watch the other games? Play a bunch of blitz games? If I want to play blitz all evening I can save gas by staying at home and playing 5 minute chess on FICS.

Maybe this is a new psychological ploy. Offer a draw to an opponent who you know hates early draw offers. I know it was not intentional on his part, but it seemed to get me so ticked off that I lost focus. Two moves later he played 19. Qb4 attacking my b7 pawn. I spent 10 minutes coming up with one of the worst ways possible to give him the pawn. Here is the entire game.

I could have resigned right after I had to give up the rook on move 31, but having rejected the draw offer 15 minutes earlier because "I was here to play chess", I felt like I should keep playing. Did I regret not taking the draw offer at move 17? No. Perhaps my only regret was allowing it to distract me when I was trying to find the best response to 19. Qb4. That's just another one of those focusing issues that I have to work on. On the bright side I got see how one takes advantage of a weak flank.

I talked to my opponent after the game, and explained why I rejected the draw offer. Draws should only happen with there is nothing left in a position. As a teacher and coach, I would never want my students go for an early draw just for the sake of rating points. One does not learn that way. In this game if I had taken the draw on move 17 he would not have had the opportunity to play out that position and execute the nice queen side attack. Unlike my opponent from Saturday who couldn't take advantage of his position, Giancarlo pounced on my queen side weaknesses.

It's funny because I had given his brother the exact same lecture last fall after one of his premature draw offers ended out with him losing a piece two moves later. Since that little lecture his record against me is two wins and one draw. Maybe I shouldn't be giving these kids advice since it seems to come back and bite me. However the teacher in me wants to see the kids improve. They're not going to improve by asking for early draws.

In case you didn't see the mates that we missed from our first game here they are:

35. Rf5+ Kg4 36.Rg5# or 35... gxf5 36. Qxf5+ Kh6 37. Qg5#.

Even sac-ing my rook doesn't help. 34. h4+ Rxh4 35. gxh4+ Kxh4 36. Qh6+ Kg4 37. Bc1#

Wacky Wednesday! No Fear Here.

Lately I've been posting about some of my encounters with unrateds and players with very old provisional ratings. These are the Forrest Gump chocolate games. You never know what you're going to get. Today's WW post features a game where there was no doubt in my mind that my opponent did not have a clue. He was an adult who had just taken up the game within the past year. He really wasn't ready to play in tournaments but the TD encouraged him to give it a try. There would be no surprises for me this game.

I have shown this game to numerous classes as an example of how not to play the opening. It also has a good example of removing the defender. I could have also demonstrated en passent if he had not resigned right before mate. It's also possible that he didn't see 19...d5 and thought it was mate already. In the first nine moves he makes six pawn moves and three moves with the f8 bishop. The third bishop move on move 9 leads to it being traded.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Two Kids, Two Approaches, Two Different Results

For a little change of pace I played in the Marshall CC Saturday G/60 this past weekend. I like game/60 because it's slow enough that I can actually think more without getting into constant time trouble. At the same time it's fast enough that I'm not bouncing off the walls of the tournament room asking myself "When will the guy making a freaking move??" Though perhaps in round one I should have spent the 5 minutes I used on my last move in a more constructive manner so that I avoid putting my rook on a3 which was being attacked by a bishop on e7. That was one of those serious DUH moments. At least it wasn't against Polyakin. I managed not to get paired against him in this tournament.

In round two I'm Black against a 10 year old kid with a 1400 rating. Like I didn't play enough kids on Friday night at the WCA quads. (No I didn't lose to King Kong. He was playing baseball that evening.) The game starts out 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3. There was no way in hell I was accepting the Smith Morra Gambit, especially against some probably under rated kid. I opted for 3...Nf6 figuring on it transposing to a c3 Sicilian. As much as I don't like the c3 Sicilian it sure beats dealing with the Smith Morra. After his 17th move of Nxb5 which completed the queen trade we reach the following position.

I wasn't particularly happy with my position and I was spending a lot time debating on how I wanted to cover his threat of Nc7. At the same time I'm trying to figure out how I'm ever going to get the c8 Bishop into play. Right in the middle of my analysis he offers me a draw. I'm annoyed that he's made the offer right in the middle of my move. What the hell? He's got a solid position, I'm essentially playing down a piece and he wants a draw? I'm the one who should be begging for a draw. Did I take it? No way! I don't spend a day playing chess in order to take a draw after 17 moves in a position with a lot of life left in it. I could take the half point and feel lucky that I survived, but what do I learn about extracting myself from such a mess? What does the kid learn about finishing off a strong attack? Personally I'd rather lose the game trying to defend and fight back the get a draw.

Besides what's with kids offering early draws against higher rated players? I've never seen an adult offer me a draw in such a position. Are they just interested in the rating points? Given my prior history with kids begging for early draws, I figure now I've got him where I want him. Instead of fearing his attack, I feel much better about my chances. With his draw offer he's telling me "I don't think I can finish you off, so a half a point is better then none."

The game continued 17...Rb8 18. a3 a6 19. Nd6 Rd8 20. b4? This move indicated to me that my draw rejection was correct. Better was 20. Ng5! with lots of threats against my king side. Probably my best continuation is 20...g6 21. Ngxf7 Rf8 22. Be3 Rxf7 23. Bxc5 Rf8 which still leaves me down a pawn and an open king position.

The game actually continued 20... Nd7 21. Re1 h6 22. Rad1 Nb6 to reach the following position. Even though I still haven't moved the c8 Bishop my position is starting to free up a little bit.

He starts thinking about his move, and then offers me another draw before making a move. I immediately shake my head, and he goes back to thinking. I think he was totally rattled at this point, and it was just a matter of time before the wheels were going to fall off the c3 Sicilian Express.

23.Be3 Nd5! This forces him to remove the knight from the d6 outpost if he doesnt want to lose the pawn after Bxd6. 24. Nxc8? Rbxc8 He would have been better off retreating the Knight to e4 then solving all my problems by taking my undeveloped Bishop. The momentum clearly shifted. The game continues, 25. Bc5 Bxc5 26. bxc5 Nce7 27. Rc1 Rc7 28. Bd3 Rdc8 29.Rb1 Nc3 30. Rb3 Ned5 31. Bc4 b5 32. Bd3 Rxc5 33. Rc1 Ne2+ 34. Bxe2 Rxc1+ 35.Bf1 Rd1 36. g3 Rcc1 37. Nd2 Rxd2 38. Kg2 Rc3 39. Rb1 Ne3+ 40. Kg1 Nxf1 41. Kxf1Rxa3 42. Ke1 Raa2 43. Rc1 Re2+ 44. Kf1 Rxf2+ 45. Ke1 Rxh2 46. Rc8+ Kh7 47. Kf1Rh1# 0-1

Afterwards I had a long talk with the kid, and gave him the same advice I've given Dario and Ethan. I told him if he wanted to get better that he needed to keep attacking and not be content to take an early draw against a much higher rated opponent. I explained that by offering a draw in a clearly better position that one is telling the opponent that he lacks confidence in himself. He shouldn't be intimidated by the opponent's higher rating. I said "Did you see that kid who kept coming over to look at our game? That's Kevin. (King Kong) At the age of nine with an 1100 rating he beat me. He was not afraid of me or my rating. I've lost to him about nine times now and he's higher rated then me."

Kevin's mom overheard my conversation with the kid and told me that she thought Kevin's dad had done the right thing by telling him when he was younger that he was not allowed to offer or accept a draw . He wanted Kevin to play every game out to the end. As rigid as that may seem, I think his dad had the right idea. His parents are highly accomplished professional bridge players so they know what it takes to be competitive. Learning early on to play to win made him stronger. The emphasis was on fighting to the end regardless of the outcome, and not to worry about rating points.

After losing a tough king and 6 pawns vs king and 6 pawns ending in round three I got paired down against another kid. This time I'm playing black against an 11 year old girl who's been playing since she was in kindergarten. She is the complete opposite to what I was at her age. There is no way I would have been caught dead carrying a pink tote bag or having pink butterfly stickers with my name on them to identify something belonging to me. I would have been carrying a olive green army knapsack and labeling my stuff with my dad's label maker. I was a major tomboy. My opponent Julie on the other hand is 100% girl.

Julie attends an all girls school in Manhattan that has a big chess program. The school has hosted three all girls tournaments that have drawn over 70 girls each time. Who says girls don't like to play chess? I'm sure a number of the girls at those tournaments aren't quite ready to brave the rugged competition of an open tournament at the Marshall with lots of adults and (ewwww gross!) boys. Julie is not one of those girls. She's an active tournament player who plays in any type of event, open or scholastic.

With her cute and feminine outfits and her pink tote bag with crowns on it she's quite the contrast to the guys in their drab tee-shirts or ill fitting suits. Feminine charm aside, beware of the girl with butterfly stickers on the buttons of her Chronos. She doesn't play quiet and prissy chess. Any thoughts of my having a quiet positional game this round were quickly squashed when the game started 1. e4 c5, 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4! Here we go again. Another kid who likes to play aggressive stuff against the Sicilian Defense.

Julie has all the makings of being a great poker player. Nothing she does at the board gives away what she thinks about the position. There are no fancy wrist flicks, slamming pieces, constant adjusting pieces, or slapping the clock that is so typical of a many kids her age. Unlike me she isn't constantly changing positions in her seat or getting up from the table. She may have left the table once to use the bathroom. She certainly wasn't intimidated by the 400 point rating difference, and she wasn't going to offer me a draw if her attack fizzled.

She would occasionally look my direction if I suddenly changed position in my seat. I try not to be annoying or distracting when I start kneeling on my chair or standing up to look at the position. I'm not sure looking at the board at these different angles really helps me see more of the position, but there are times I can't sit still even on my own move. My body language may or may not have anything to do with what is occuring on the board. The body movement may simply be a release of the twitchiness of my thoughts. "cxb, axb, Nc2, Kg7, ...I wonder which train I'm going to make...what happens if she plays Qh4?...can I play h6 and g5?...How is Kevin doing in his game?" (Stand up and look at the position from behind my chair) "g5 is too dangerous. Her queen doesn't do much on h4. Can I take the b pawn for free?" (Sit down, lean on my elbows and look at the clock and go back to my analysis.

Here is the game.

She played solid and aggressive chess. I probably played a little too passively and let her have more then I should have. The difference was when her attack petered out she just traded queens and went for an ending, up a pawn. No draws for her.

Friday, April 18, 2008

In Lieu of This Week's Wacky Wednesday: Freaky Friday!

It's been an extremely busy week as I've been very busy practicing in preparation for my Tae Kwon Do belt promotion test next week. I will write more about the mental aspect of learning new forms and techniques in a later post. There are remarkable similarities between how I learn in Tae Kwon Do and how I learn in chess. The mind battle I deal with in chess also plagues me in Tae Kwon Do. I guess none of this should surprise me. This leopard isn't going to change her spots just because she's doing TDK instead of chess.

But after three straight days of class I had no time for Wacky Wednesday. Do not fret! Last night I went into autopilot, and the result of that was a pretty freaked up opening. So welcome to Freaky Friday. It was a typical Thursday night at the Marshall Chess Club for me. First round I'm paired against Vladimir Polyakin. Unlike most of my recent games with him I had a very good position going into the ending. We reached this position after 42...Qa3.

I had around 1:30 on the clock and my opponent had a little over 3 minutes. Instinct told me I did not want to trade queens and allow him the very advanced passed pawn. I didn't feel real comfortable trying to hold the pawn back with so little time. I looked at the position today and perhaps I can hold. One possibility is 43. Qxa3 bxa3 44. Nc2 a2 45. Kf1 Na6 46. Ke2Kf8 47. Kd2 Nc5 48. b4 Ne4+ 49. Ke3 f5 50. g4 Ke7, but who has time work that all out with less then two minutes? Even now I haven't worked it all the way out to the end. At the time I felt it was safer to keep the queens on the board. Unfortunately I managed to find the fourth worst square for the queen. a1, a2 and c3, tie for first in the worst square category. I played 43. Qc2, overlooking 43...Qa1+. Curses! Forked again!

That was not the Freaky Friday moment. The FF moment came in round four. Yes I actually made it to round four without getting paired against "please wait". My third round opponent so nicely hung a piece in drawish position. In the last round I'm playing the Black side of what was supposed to be an Accelerated Dragon Sicilian. The problem was I hit the accelerator way too early and played 3...g6 instead of cxd4. When he played 4. d5 I was totally oblivious to what I had done and said to myself "What the hell piece of crap move is that? White can't just push d5 there. That never happens." Then the light bulb comes on. "DUH! White can play that if you don't play 3...cxd4. Hello! How many years have you been playing the Sicilian Defense as Black?"

Here is the game in all it's splendid ugliness. I think after my brain fart I couldn't think straight, and kept finding horrible responses. Once again I was seeing things that didn't exist, and dismissing defenses that did exist. I could have held on longer if I didn't freak out over the move transposition. C'est la vie! Today is another day. Maybe I can beat King Kong tonight.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Close Call!

In March I ran a bunch of game/30 tournaments at the club on Monday nights. I called them March Madness. I had gotten some requests for running a game/90, one game a week tournament so I scheduled a four rounder starting tonight. I was hoping to draw a few more people then the usual suspects of Alan, Silvio and me. Lately this young kid Ben has been coming and giving the adults fits. Every week I've been paired against him in the first round. I've managed to stay relatively unscathed in my battles with him. I have two wins and a draw. Some of the other adults have not been so fortunate.

So last night in addition to the usual suspects and the kid we have Mike Amori from the Westchester Chess Academy. Isn't this just wonderful. I have five players for a four round tournament. I don't want to send the kid home with a first round bye, especially since he comes the farthest to get to the club. I decided I would make it a round robin, and give myself the first round bye. I had been in White Plains for my Tae Kwon Do class any way so it didn't really matter to me if I played the round or not. I make the and announce the pairings. I figured I would get an early night. I had my put my coat on and was ready to head out the door when suddenly another player shows up.

I had met Greg at the Hudson Valley March Open a few weeks ago, had told him about the club and added him to my email list. He had decided to come for the first time this Monday. Rating wise he fit in right where I had put the bye so I didn't even have to change the pairings around. I was a little leery of him because I had seen him knock off a high 1600 in the first round of the tournament we met at. He's one of those guys with an old provisional rating who hasn't played in a tournament for three years. With guys like that the rating is meaningless. I learned that the hard way the above mentioned tournament when I lost a long game in the last round to a 1400 who had not played in a tournament in 14 years.

My game with Greg was wild. I felt like I was living points 1 and 2 in BDK's recent post on feeling good about being a patzer. "1. You get to be a reckless gunslinger." and "2. Tactics is everything." (Not to be the grammar police, but shouldn't it be are not is? Is tactics singular or plural?) As you can see from the game that follows he certainly played like a gunslinger. I kept expecting simple exchanges, but he let it all hang out. Fortunately he missed the killer move.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Few More Grey Hairs, A Little Less Grey Matter

What is more likely to cause this article title to occur? Getting beat by a bunch of 10 year olds, or trying to direct a tournament with 200 kids? It depends on who the 10 year olds are or how crazy the tournament is. Today I think I would have preferred the 10 year olds feeding on my rating points. I guess these two things should have told me it was not going to be an easy day.

1. No tables set up in the playing room.

2. A substitute janitor who hasn't a clue.

What else could possibly happen? I guess Murphy is a scholastic tournament organizer.

We stagger the start times of the various sections. The top two sections with the slowest time controls start at 9:30. At 9:45 we start the Reserve Section, 10:00 Primary, 10:15 the two unrated Novice sections. In theory this system works well, and for the most part it does. As entries come into me, I focus on the ones for whichever section is due to start next. However today seemed to be one of those days where parents and kids kept changing their minds in terms of what section to play in, or I put someone in the wrong section. Putting a second grader in the K-1 is not a good thing. Then there are the no-shows and re-pairs on the floor to get everyone a game. Someone else makes all those changes, and then I have to decipher the notes on the pairing sheet. Sometimes I'm still trying to figure out the changes as I'm putting results in. In one case today a player was substituted, but no one told me until the second round had started and the sub couldn't find his name. Fortunately that was easy enough to fix since the original player was still listed. Just another thing to fix before round three.

In no particular order these are some of the fun things in the day of a scholastic chess tournament director.

Which square is the queen on? If it's on one square it's stalemate, if it's on the adjoining square the opponent's king has a move. Neither player is keeping score. Fortunately I was busy with computer stuff and did not have to get involved with that one. That's always a tough one to call. I hate those decisions. All one can do is listen carefully to what each player says and how they show what they think happened and rule accordingly. It was ruled a stalemate. At first the father of the kid with the queen was ticked off, but after hearing the TD's reasoning felt it was correct.

Two rounds later this same kid is seated at the table next to where I have my computer set up. The father tells his son to play slowly, and use more time. He pleads with him to use more then a minute. The time limit is Game/45. Before the round starts the kid and his opponent take every piece on the board, adjust and switch them around. Finally I tell the kids to stop changing the pieces around and to start playing. A few minutes later I look up and the kid is just moving instantly. He now has promoted two pawns to queens. He forced the opponent's king down the board using the two queens, and it looked like he would checkmate using the ladder mate. However they reached this position.

What I've noticed often with young kids is that they're great at doing the ladder mate until the king is covering the square that they want to put the next checking piece on. After 1...Qf7+, 2. Kc8 the natural move in the pattern would be 2...Qb8+, except that Kxb8 eliminates the mate. The inexperienced player does not see 2...Qc7#, or 2...Qe8#. Black hesitated at this point. He picks up his king, and then puts it back down. It seems he realized that he shouldn't be moving the king. He reaches for one of his queens but the opponent calls him on the touch move. Black tries to say he just reached for the king but didn't touch it. Having seen him pick up the king, I tell him he has to move the king. He moves the king and says "I got stalemate." Total time used by Black; 1 minute 35 seconds.

After the third round starts a father comes up to me and tells me his son's score is wrong. When I hear that I'm always concerned that I put the result in wrong. I proofread my input very carefully, but sometimes I still screw up. He tells me his son lost in the second round, but it shows him as having drawn. I find the pairing sheet and it indicates a draw. I show it to the dad, and says "He told me he lost. Go over and ask him or the girl sitting next to him. She beat him." I look at the pairing sheet and it looks like someone had written over the original 0-1 with 1/2 - 1/2. I asked the two kids what happened, and they both agreed the girl won. Neither one had an explanation for how the result got changed.

That was a new one for me. Unfortunately usually when I've seen a result been changed it's been a case of the loser changing it to a win for himself, and telling his parents he won. It's only when the opponent complains about his score being wrong that I find out what really happened. It's sad when I see a child cheat like that. Either he's putting too much pressure on himself, or the pressure is coming from mom and dad. Wherever the pressure is coming from, it's not a good thing for the kid. Fortunately I really don't think that was the case here.

I had another result that was totally unintelligible. Both boxes where the score goes were completely penciled over so I couldn't read the score. Very faintly I could kind of make out a 1 and a 0, but I didn't feel like guessing. I had somebody go find out the actual result.

Not all players are like me when it comes to getting a bye. One player comes up to ask me what "See TD" means. I told her we had an odd number and she was getting the bye. She pumps her fist and says "Yes!" I didn't bother to ask her if she wanted to see if she could get a game.

I think the one question I hate the most is. "Will x points be enough for a trophy?" This question usually gets asked when over half the games are still being played, and I have no idea how many trophies are actually being given out.

I didn't see this one, but one of the floor directors told me that when a kid promoted to a queen he took one of the rooks he captured and turned it upside down. He was white and his second queen was an upside down black rook. Needless to say the TD was a little confused by what was going on in that game until he asked.

The pairing software is PC based, but I run it on a Mac Book using Parallels. I love my Mac, but most of my chess software needs Windows so I fudge it with Parallels. It never fails, just when I'm trying to get pairings out, or change something I'll get some annoying message saying. "The Parallels application has stopped unexpectedly." Duh. That's rather apparent when all I see on the screen is my Mac desktop and an Excel spreadsheet running on Office for Mac. Fortunately today it was a minor hiccup, not one of those "I want to punt this friggin laptop across the room" blow outs.

I'm sure I've forgotten half the crazy stuff from today. I swear every time I see blown mates and weird openings by little kids my chess ability declines another 100 rating points

However the thing I love the most is submitting the rating report online, writing this blog post and going back to the MSA and seeing that the tournament has been rated. Hopefully I won't get a phone call or email saying "Nice job getting the tournament rated promptly, BUT there's a wrong result." I've had the happen twice lately, and both times it was the result of my own game that was wrong. Today I can safely say my game won't be reported incorrectly.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beware of Unrated Chess Dads

As I mentioned in this week's Wacky Wednesday post I played in the Parents and Friends event in Dallas this past weekend. There were no psychotic chess parents or crazy disputes. At least I didn't have any close encounters with psychotic chess parents in this event or get into any crazy disputes. In fact I actually played a kid in this event. My first round opponent was an 8th grader who was also playing in the the K-8 under 1000. I was surprised when he told me he was playing in both. He had a quick win in the 9 AM round so he didn't have to run back and forth between rooms. Technically he wasn't supposed to be doing that, but some how he slipped through. He made a lot of mistakes and I was able to beat him fairly easily. So I managed not to fall victim to a first round upset which has been the norm the last two times I've played in this event.

In the next round I get the one pairing I did not want. I did not want to play the unrated who won in the first round. He had been forced to play in the rated section since he had a USCF membership even though he had never played in a tournament before. I guess since the prizes in the unrated section are USCF memberships they make current members play in the rated section even if they're unrated. This unrated had beaten a 1253 in the first round. In this tournament that doesn't necessarily mean anything. In this particular case the the 1253 had just shot up to 1440 from an outstanding result at the end of March. At the time I did not have this information so I didn't know what to make of the unrated winning his first round.

When I play unrateds at the Marshall Chess Club they tend to be solid players. Weak unrateds don't usually play in the Four Rated Games Tonight! event since it's so strong. Often the unrateds I play on Thursdays are fairly new to the United States. I'm always leary of unrateds with Eastern European names and accents. I just assume they're at least 2000 strength.

So how do I treat an unrated from Colorado who won his first round game in his first tournament? Not lightly. However there is a fine line between taking someone too lightly or being scared of him. I'm not so sure I was afraid of him per se, but I wasn't thrilled to be facing the Grand Prix Attack. I managed to trade queens early, and unbeknownest me I probably was slightly better. However in my mind I thought White was better and started playing afraid. I had numerous oppourtunities to play d5 starting at move 17. Fritz gives it = over + .66 edge for Black. Fritz confirmed what our team coach told me when we went over the game Saturday night.

Unfortunately I was having trouble looking at this particular position objectively. I kept thinking about other games I've had against the Grand Prix where I've gotten crushed by White shoving pawns to e5 and f6. Once again perception versus reality was clouding my vision. I perceived that White had a crushing position. In reality the moves that I was so afraid of would weaken White's position and give me an overwhelming advantage. I was replaying memories of horrible losses against this opening, forgetting that I had managed to trade off queens early. I needed to replay memories of games such as those in Saratoga Springs where I beat back the opponent's attack and took advantage of the weaknesses caused by that attack.

Here's the game. The last 20 moves were played as the kids were coming back into the room for their 2 PM round. All I can do is put on the iPod and try to block out the noise while trying to cope with immense time pressure.

In the next game the unrated got crushed by a 2100. He said our game wiped him out mentally. I did come back next round and beat an 1100. In the last round two of the top 3 scorers had taken byes so I ended out on board 1 against a 2100 with a 3-0 score. I had bemoaned the fact that getting upset in the first or second round causes me to play low rated players the rest of the tournament. I guess this was a case of be careful what you wish for. The lucky red hat from Saratoga Springs seemed to have lost its luck. I had my chances against him, but I think I was mentally tired and beat at that point. Once again I finished the tournament with an even score. Maybe the next time I'll take a 1/2 point bye in round two.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wacky Wednesday!: The Dyslexic Version Edited

Note to anyone who had read this post on Thursday. I had one of my dyslexic moments and put the names on the game in backwards. I was Black in the game posted, not White. Those of you who have seen my games know that I don't play e4 as White, and I wouldn't play e5 on the second move of the Sicilian. I have corrected the game score, and added a few notes in light of the comments I got.

Having just returned from the Junior High Nationals I thought I share one of my amusing encounters with a neurotic chess parent at a past Parents and Friends event at a scholastic national. It seems like every time I play in the event I manage to lose to some parent who is much lower rated then me. Since it tends to happen in the first or second round I never get to play any of the higher rated players in the section.

Now that I've played in about 4 or 5 of these "Parents & Friends" events I learned that unless you're playing another coach or a parent with an established rating, the rating is meaningless. This because in most cases the parent's rating is based on just playing in this particular event in a previous nationals. This also means that the parent may not have a good handle on things like notation and the rules.

In one of my early forays into this event I got knocked off in the first round by a parent with a provisonal rating of 1179. Needless to say I was a little cautious when in the next round I got paired against another parent with a similar rating. I sat down at the board, and noticed he had no score sheet and no pen. I calmly said, "Excuse me, but you're required to keep score in this section." He tells me that he's not going to keep score because I have such time advantage because I'm using a Mon Roi. I try to explain to him that; one score keeping is required and; two it's not the big time advantage that he thinks. In round 1 I had one of my time pressure induced implosions and flagged in a position down the exchange.

He didn't want to hear about that. He was adamant about not keeping score because I was using a Mon Roi. He thought it was totally unfair that such a device was allowed. I rarely get into arguments with players, but I finally went and got the TD. He explained to the opponent that he had to keep score and that if he didn't then the TD would have to make a ruling. The TD said if he don't like the ruling he could appeal. At this point about 15 minutes have gone since the start of the round. I knew if the opponent appealed it would probably be another 10 to 15 minutes getting the floor chief, explaining the issue and getting a ruling. Finally I said to the TD "Just give me a scoresheet, and I'll write my moves down instead." I think the TD was tremendously relieved that I did not want to push the point further. At this point I just wanted to get the damn game over with.

This satisfied my opponent, and the game started. It turned out this was much ado about nothing. I think the dispute took more time to resolve then the actual game. Here is the game.

In light of how this game went, it was apparent that this was a very inexperienced player. It turned out his 1169 rating was based on his 4 games from a past Parents and Friends tournament. If anything he was probably overrated, unlike my first round opponent who was underrated. I think his issue with my Mon Roi was that he really didn't know how to keep score very well so he thought I was getting a huge advantage over him by being able to keep score on such a device. My reaction to him was stemming from my first round loss to a player of similar rating. Having lost on time in the first round, I did not want to give in on a point where I felt my opponent would gain time.

The tournament didn't get much better when in the third round a parent got upset with me because I ask nicely his son not to stand next to me when watching our game. i just don't like people standing right on top of me when I'm playing. I like my space, and it bothers me when people hover too close. The dad freaked out because he thought I was accusing his son of helping him. At the end of the game I apologized and told him I did not feel the son was doing anything wrong, but that just need my space. He told me I was taking this way too seriously. I wanted to tell the dad to lighten up, but he was just too freaked out.

After that event, I swore I'd never play in another one. However being the glutton for punishment that I am. I have played in several more since then. I have learned to take all the ratings with a grain of salt, and to not to take an opponent's over reaction too seriously. In many cases it's a matter of a nervous and inexperienced chess parent being a little over anxious. I managed one plus the score, but most the time I end out two and two. This past weekend was no different, except one of my losses was finally against a higher rated player. I may post one of those games later this week, because some interesting things did happen.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

I got back home from Dallas on Monday, and I'm still wiped out. I woke up this morning and felt like I'd been hit by a tank. I had all sorts of wonderful plans to do daily updates, but by the time I'd get back to my room I was too tired to post. The wireless service was pretty much non-existent in our team room so I didn't even bother to bring the computer downstairs.

I work with a few different schools, so depending on which team I'm traveling with my responsibilities may be a little different. Last year I attended all three of the spring scholastics with three different teams. I'm not doing that again! It seemed like I spent all last spring holed up in hotels and hanging out in airports. This year I get a break and will not be jumping on a plane to go to Atlanta in two weeks.

For the Dallas trip I'm not the only coach. The main coach is rated around 2400, and can do a lot more with the players then I can, especially since our top player is 1900 and is 11 and 5 against me in tournament play. There's not a whole lot I can tell him in terms of better moves then what he played. Assistant coach doesn't adequately describe my role with this team. I play researcher, cheerleader, therapist, referee, punching bag and interpreter.

The tournament tends to be one gigantic roller coaster ride. One round a player can be on top of the world, and the next round he can feel like he's on a runaway train with no brakes. One of our players whose rated around 1400 beat a 1700 in the first round. On Saturday he lost to a 700. Go figure. However that's the type of thing that happens when you got a bunch of kids from all over the country with different experience gathered in one place to do battle.

As many times as I can tell a kid play the position not the rating, one can not help to expect someone 700 points lower to eventually fold. Everyone at every rating level deals with the psychology of playing somebody way higher or lower. Dana MacKenzie posted an article on his blog called Ratings: Love ‘em, hate ‘em, ruled by ‘em? The last paragraph of the article says it best in terms of what we need to do.

To conclude, let me say that whether you love ratings or hate them, it is best for your development as a chess player to completely put them out of your mind once the game begins. In any given game, it’s just you and your opponent and the chess pieces. The numbers beside your names on the wall chart should not have anything to do with what’s happening on the chess board. Your opponent’s queen does not get extra moves because his rating is higher than yours — unless you allow it to! As soon as you start thinking that he must have some deep plan that you don’t see because he’s better than you, then you are effectively giving his pieces more moves than yours, and then you are going to lose.

The reverse can seem to be true when you're the higher rated player. It's easy to think that just because the lower rated player made a certain move, that it can't possibly be any good. I've been guilty of that more times then I admit. Lately on this blog I've have confessed to that type of thinking. What was that I was saying about 1100 rated kids not being able to play the ending? So when I say to one of the kids "Ignore the rating, and play chess", I'm really saying "Do as I say, not what I do."

As our 1400 was in playing and losing to the 700 his mother was sitting in one of the parents/coaches meetings where the topic of rating discrepancies arose. Many kids come into the nationals with a low USCF rating which is based on very few games. In reality the kids have played many games rated by one of the alternative rating services out there. In Hawaii they use CXR ratings. In Washington state they use Northwest Chess ratings. So a player with a USCF provisional rating of 750 may in reality have an established CXR rating of 1300. Which number reflects the true measure of a player's ability? Should the higher rating be used to rank the player in an event like this?

After that round we starting doing little more research beyond simply checking the USCF MSA for the opponent's most current rating. When a player's mom couldn't find a CXR or northwest rating I suggested she Google the name. What she found when she did that was that her son's next opponent had scored the biggest upset at last year's Junior High Nationals. Armed with that information he was better prepared for putting up with stronger then expected resistance to his attacks. I must say I have often debated whether it's more beneficial to know how much higher rated a player is then the rating used for the event. After this tournament, and knowing how I handle what I know about a player I think for most players it's good to have this information. For some kids it may be better for them not to know, especially if they're easily intimidated by the rating difference. The trick as a coach is to know which kid will be helped or hurt by such information.

Sometimes when a kid comes back from a game he lost and starts complaining about something his opponent did I have to dig a little deeper to find the real story behind the story. One player came back into the team room and complained that his opponent kept walking away from the table with his Mon Roi. The scholastic regulations have a list of 8 rules regarding the handling of the device. Numbers 5 and 6 make it pretty clear that it needs to remain on the table.

5. When recording moves, the player should have the Device on the table in view of the opponent.

6. When not recording moves the player should keep hands off the Device and leave the Device on the table in plain sight until the end of the game.

Number 8 deals with security if someone wants to leave to go to the bathroom.

8. The player may request the TD to provide security for the Device when the player uses the restroom.

At first the player made it sound like his opponent was frequently leaving the room with the device. I asked him if he complained to the tournament director. He gave me a rather unclear answer. After asking him what the TD said, I got the impression that he had not really complained, but had walked over to one of the floor directors to ask about it. I also found out that his opponent had not left the room with the device, but was simply holding it while pacing around next to the board. It also seems like he didn't do it that many times. Even doing that is in violation of #6, but was it really giving the opponent any sort of edge?

That's a case where if the opponent's actions are really bothering a player he needs to raise his hand and get the TD to come over to the table. That way the opponent can be made aware of the issue, and an official warning can be made if needed. If I'm working on the floor as a TD and a player comes up and asks me a general question such as "Can a player hold his Mon Roi while standing near the board?" I'm more likely to treat it as someone wanting information, not filing a complaint. I've often had players come up to me and ask rules questions without making a specific complaint. If I ask them if there's a problem usually they say "No, I was just wondering."

Some rounds can be totally brutal for a team. In round 6 everyone on the team lost. What does one say to the kids and the parents? I reminded the parents that this was the first year we were playing in the championship section. In past spring nationals we've been in the under 1250 or under 1500 sections. The competition is tougher and we don't have the benefit of our 1200 to 1300 rated players getting paired down a lot. The kids look at what happened in their games, and know that there is another round to come back. They did bounce back and all of them won pulling the team back up to sixth place.

After the last round everyone can relax. It's at that point pizza and bughouse are the main interests. "Can't we just skip the awards and stay here and play blitz and bughouse?" No it doesn't work that way. Get the trophy, take the pictures and then all the blitz and bughouse the players want. Usually I want in on the fun, but I was just too tired. I decided a nice dinner with adults was more my speed this time.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On The Road Again: Dallas, TX

Greetings from the big D! I'm here in Dallas for the National Junior High Championships. Here are some pictures from Day 1.
Everybody dreams of taking one of these babies home with them.

NTDs Wayne Clark and Frank Guadalupe huddle for pre-tournament planning.
These are the guys in charge of the whole directing staff.

Zeljka from Mon Roi. She's the one that gets all the live games broadcast. To see live coverage of the action, click here.
Maybe my games in The Parents& Friends tournament will be broadcast.

Wanted: A few good men and women. Heavy lifting not always required. Tom Nelson on the left is the volunteer coordinator. He's the one that gets all those people in the blue smocks to be runners and results takers. Without those volunteers tournaments like this don't run quite as smooth. He's looking to hire 20 people to work at the Burt Lerner Elementary in Pittsburgh, PA. May 9-11. The pay isn't much much, but the experience is priceless. If you're a club or local TD, or an experienced scholastic volunteer and would like to work in Pittsburgh, drop him an email at csca-scholastic-chess at

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura gave a simul in the morning. I believe he won all his games.

Boys don't get to have all the fun. Sarah Chiang gave him a tough game.

He graciously signed things between moves. Here he's signing someone's board.

Shaking hands at the end of a tough game with the next to last player to finish.

Alex Paredes from IS 318 was the last one done and came close to drawing. Here Hikaru takes time to show him how he could have held the draw. Nice work everyone.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

1st New York Experts @ The Marshall Chess Club

The Marshall Chess Club has a pretty full tournament schedule. Between the club organized tournaments and the Chess Center of New York organized tournaments there's a rated event every day of the week except Tuesdays and Fridays. It's a chess junkie's paradise! Fridays is Rapids night. Once a month on Tuesday the club hosts the St. John's Masters. Yes that same tournament that I managed to win zero games out 16 for the four times that I played in it. Now that they changed the qualification process I can't sneak in any more.

Recently the Board of Governors which I am a member of, decided to add another tournament once a month on Tuesdays. This would be the New York Experts which would be open to non FIDE titled players rated under 2300. Also no unrateds would be allowed. Like any new event it will take time to get people used to seeing it on the schedule, and making plans to enter. So on this first night which interestingly enough fell on April Fools Day, drew 10 players. Fortunately there were no little under rated kids to annoy me.

A number of the Thursday night usual suspects were there. I said before the pairings went up, "How much you wanna bet I'll play Polyakin or Margulis in the first round?" Sure enough I'm paired against Polyakin in the first round. Why should this tournament be any different then Thursday's tournament? For that matter why should it be different then the other Tuesday tournaments I've played? In the St. John's Masters tournaments, I was paired against Polyakin three out of the four times. Just like I did in those three games, I lost to him again.

Just like most Thursdays and all the Tuesdays I got paired up in round two. It appeared I was well on the way to having my typical score of 0-2 after two rounds. I was down a pawn, on the verge of losing another one and had less then 10 seconds on my clock when we reached this position. My opponent has around 5 minutes.

I couldn't do a thing about his taking on f2 so I played 35. Rb7?? in the hope of getting some counter play. I totally overlooked 35...Rc1+, which is just crushing. One possible continuation is 35... Rc1+ 36. Bf1 Rxf1+ 37. Kg2 Rxf2+ 38. Kg1 Rf1+39. Kg2 Ne3+ Fortunately my opponent missed it too and played 35... e5 At that point I did see it brought the rook back. The game continued 36. Rb1 Nxf2 37. Re1 Ng4 38. Bb7 Rb2 39. Bf3. I only have 4 seconds at this point. The only reason I'm continuing to play on is because my opponent is burning his big time advantage doesn't seem to know what to do with his big edge. My 39th move is annoying since I'm threatening to remove the defender of his passed e pawn. I guess he didn't want me to double his pawns so he played 39... Ne3?? I look at this move and ask myself "Is there some trap if I take the free knight?" Before the 5 second delay elapses I say to myself "What are you thinking about? You have four seconds. You don't have time to think about this. Take!!" The game continued 40. Rxe3 f6 41.Ne4 Be6 42. Ra3 Ra2 43. Rxa2 Bxa2 44. Kf2 Bd5 45. Ke3 Bxe4. We reached this position.

I played 46. Bxe4, f5. The game continued with the g and h pawns getting traded off and me having the bishop blockading his remaining 2 pawns. We agreed to a draw. He felt I should have played 46. Kxe4. I played around with that move and like this sequence below I end out with the h pawn and the wrong color bishop.

46. Kxe4Kf7 47. Kd5 Ke7 48. Be4 g5 49. Bg6 gxh4 50. gxh4 Kd7 51. Bxh5 Ke7 52. Bg6 Kf853. Ke6 Kg8 54. Kxf6 Kh8 55. h5 e4 56. Bxe4.

So I actually salvaged a 1/2 point but that didn't prevent me from the dreaded "please wait" in round three. Fortunately my customary Tuesday night house player was there so we had another one of those Dolly vs Polly match ups. I could have wimped out and played the 1200 that was hanging around. However given the choice between a game against a 1200 or a 2000, I'll take the 2000 every time. I know I'm more likely to beat the 1200, but I'd rather take my chances and playing stronger competition. Besides the 1200 gives me fits every time I have black against him. He plays the first 12 to 15 moves like an expert, but his middle game needs serious work. I've lost to him sometimes because he has me so crushed out of the opening, and I'm at such a severe disadvantage on the clock, I implode in time pressure and lose. Knowing I had to have black against which ever house player I opted for, I didn't feel like taking my chances with the 1200.

I had a decent game against Dolly, but I blundered a pawn on the 13th move. She is one of these very solid positional players who just grinds out the pawn advantage. She doesn't take risks, and I had no counter play what so ever. For the next 43 moves she methodically traded down, created a passed pawn and marched her king into the center. The clock put me out of my misery before she could get her pawn down to my back rank. Here's the game with no notes.

The last round was really interesting. That I will I put in a separate post. It was one of those classic cases of relaxing after beating back an attack with powerful counter play. Sometimes after a long evening of chess it's hard to stay sharp to the very end. So a new tournament, but with a similiar ending to it. I guess if I see the glass as half full, I can say I score a 1/2 point more the my previous 4 Tuesdays in the Saint Johns Masters combined. I also liked the fact that there was nobody under the age of 22 in the tournament, and no unrateds!

I'd like to say that it had been one giant April Fools joke on me. Hopefully April Chess Showers will bring May Chess flowers.

Note to any horticulturists who know their flowers: Okay I cheated, and this is a February flower from Southern Spain.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wacky Wednesday! - 70's Chess Road Trip

This is inspired by Chess Loser's recent post on doing a chess road trip. In college I used to get load up my car with 3 or 4 junior high school kids and we'd go off to Boston, Springfield, Hartford or where ever else there might be a tournament outside of Vermont. I think back on those days and compare to today. I'm not sure any parent these days would entrust their teenage sons to a college kid for a weekend out of state.

After I relocated to New York I used to enjoy returning to New England to play in some of the tournaments that I played in during college. One weekend I had driven up to Leominster, Massachusetts to play in the Central New England Open. It was held ever year in the fall. Any of my New England readers who are familiar with that area will tell you it's not exactly the "sun and surf" capitol of the Northeast. However it was nice tournament. In fact it was where in my freshman year of college I was introduced to the devil's tool of chess destruction, bughouse.

My intention had been to drive up for the tournament on Friday, play and drive back on Sunday. Sometimes plans change. I was hanging out with Canadian Grandmaster Peter Biyiasis and Ruth Haring. They mentioned that after this tournament they were planning on taking a bus to Burlington, Vermont and then head up to Montreal. Suddenly I got this crazy idea that I wanted to return to my college chess stomping grounds and play in the Vermont State Championship that was being played the following weekend. I offered to drive them up there. At the time I was working for Bill Goichberg as the office manager of Continental Chess Association, so it wasn't particularly hard to ask for the week off to drive an Grandmaster up to play in another tournament.

The Burlington Chess Club ran these one game a week tournaments for 5 weeks at at time. People could come and go as they please. Bill Mc Grath the club president had a stack of pairing cards withe everyone's information on it. If you showed up on Thursday he pull out your card and you would get paired. If you didn't show up then your card stayed in the pile and you got a bye for that week. I had surprised everyone with my appearance on a random Thursday that November. They were in round three of that particular tournament so I jumped in for the round. I got paired against some player with a 1092 rating. It wasn't any of the kids that I used to take on my college chess road trips. When I found the scoresheet last week I was trying to visualize who this person was. I don't know if he was a kid or an adult. I don't have a first name, just an initial. All I know is that my opponent was not a female. I tend to remember my female opponents since they're few and far between.

Here is one butt ugly, but amusing loss to some random E player from Vermont.


What the hell was I thinking about when I played 16...Rc7? Obviously not about getting mated by a knight. That was kind of a bad way to make my return to my old stomping grounds.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Time To Move On

Sometimes there comes a time in one's life when some thing or person had become one's consuming passion to the detriment of other life pursuits. I am one of these people who tends to take things way too seriously. If it's not chess, it triathlon. If it's not triathlon the it's something else. The triathlon scene has left me frustrated since I'm incapable of running any sort of distance or speed with out my knees and hips sounding the sound track for a Rice Krispies ad. (Snap crackle and pop.) From 2002 tp 2005 I had incredible results. Top 3 finishes in my age group in all my races with the exception the national and world championships. There I'm way out of my league. I did 3 races in 2006 and 1 race in 2007. All my results sucked. I didn't finish DFL (dead f-ing last) in any of them, but I was just some random racing lurking towards the middle to back. Sometimes I think I'd be happier coming in DFL because there's a certain notoriety to be the last person across the finish line. Maybe I just crave the attention.

This picture of me after finishing the 2005 Age Group World Championships summarizes all that I felt at the time. I was physically and emotionally fried. 85 degrees with humidity to match. I had great plans for 2006, but life got in the way in the form of a bike accident that left me with 3 broken ribs, and 10 days later the sudden passing of my father. 2007 I had recovered physically, but mentally I was not there. 2008 has been much the same thing. I'm limited by my running, so I just don't give a crap. I can't accept not placing high in my age group. It sucked in Seville by totally humiliating myself in the marathon. I was so freaking slow, that even the sweep vehicle that accompanies the last runner gave up on me. Stuff happens, but left a bad feeling. I've only recently started trying to speed walk again.

So what does all this having to do with chess? Maybe nothing. Maybe I'm doing a Chess Loser random crap post. However chess got me through a lot of the physical and emotional angst that had gone on during my descent into triathlon mediocrity. But chess has it's own issues. Why do I accept losing at chess as normal, but at the same time agonize over draws that I didn't take and moves I didn't make? Why do I let little kids and old men become the proverbial monkeys on my back? Why can't I just move on?

Chess at times is an accident waiting to happen. The game gets out of control and the wheels come off and I feel like this guy.

God only knows what he was thinking about as he was flying through the air. Some how I don't think it was "I'll get back on the bike and finish the race. No problem!" But if he was conscious after he hit the pavement, I'm sure his first question was "Is my bike okay?" However when we do the chess equivalent of a header, that's exactly what we do. We put the "bike" (our game and self esteem) back together and limp through the next round of the tournament. Sometimes we can overcome the big chess mishap, other times stuff keeps falling apart. As I've struggled with the second guessing, and beating up on myself I realize that there is more to life then this crazy game, and perhaps it's time to move on to bigger and better things.

Perhaps a sheep farmer in New Zealand?

How about running away with an aboriginal tribe in Australia?

Maybe it's time to ride off into the blogging sunset, and do something more constructive with my time......

I'll cross the bridge when I get to it. I'm kind of like the guy in the foreground. I'm in no hurry to get to the bridge. Though my thoughts were serious here, but the idea of quitting my blog or giving up chess;

Look at the date;