Friday, June 27, 2008

Me and My Big Mouth! - Edited

Last night was the the Chess Center of New York's 21st Annual Thursday Night Action Championship. This tournament is different from the regular Thursday night tournament in that there are two sections instead of the normal one section. The sections are Open and Under 2200. Not counting the re-entries and house players there were 57 players. The Open section had 23 players alone, including 6 Grandmasters. There are many Thursdays where the one section doesn't even have 23 players. This is one of those tournaments where playing up is an invitation to a first or second round bye to a patzer like me. Can anyone say "Shark bait"?

Since it's such a large tournament for a Thursday night Steve always has someone assist him. This time Andre Harding was helping him. Andre often subs for Steve when he's directing another tournament or inputting 300 kids' names into his computer for the Greater NY Scholastics. Andre sees me come in and he asks "Under 2200"? I tell him yes. I should have stopped at yes, but instead I go on to say "I don't want to deal with bye issues. In this section I shouldn't get the bye. If I'm getting a bye in this section, then I deserve it."

"You figuring 2-2 or maybe 2.5?" Andre asks.

"Yes. 2-2 is about right." The last two years I've had two wins and two losses, so that seemed like a reasonable score to reach.

The typical pairing sequence in this tournament for me has been I get paired up in the first round, and then make the break and get paired down in the second round. In 2006 I lost round 1, won in round 2, pulled an upset in round 3 and then lost in round 4. I actually gained a few rating points. Last year I got paired up in round 1 and lost, but in round two had the misfortune of getting paired down against Robert Hess' brother Peter who was rated 1450 at the time. It was one of those games where I was actually up a pawn but an insipid knight retreat on my part lead to serious ugliness. Being 0-2 lead to getting paired down the next two rounds against lower rated kids. I managed to beat the two kids and maintain a bit of dignity though I did toss ratings points since I was not sitting on my floor for a change.

So back to 2008's event. The top half seemed a little stronger this year. Last year the break was around 1750. This year a 1900 got paired up in round one. In the first round I'm paired against Nagib Gebran rated 2042. Despite my 0-5 record against him I usually give him a fight. Not this night. My game was just butt ass ugly. I got crushed with White. Ouch! I hate when that happens. We were one of the first games done. That gave me plenty of time to stare at the pairings and wall chart and try to figure out whether I was going to make the break or not. I fell smack into the middle so it was possible to go either way depending on number of draws, round 1/2 point byes and upsets. I decided I wasn't even going to try to figure it out. I didn't want to know. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of just making the break and getting paired against a kid with a published rating of 960 who was actually high 1100s.

I had nothing to worry about. I got paired up against Moshe Uminer, rated 2039. He's another one of those players on my usual suspects list who clearly has my number. I have 1 win, 1 draw and 13 losses against the guy. We have pretty close games that often result in a time scramble, however this was not the night I'd double my number of wins or draws against him. Chalk up loss number 14. At least it lasted longer then the first round, and wasn't so ugly.

Okay, so I've started off the same way as last year, 0-2. No need to panic. Also I knew I won't play the 900 since I was the top of the score group and he was the bottom. There was a possibility I would end out with the lowest 1/2 pointer, but no I ended out with a fellow no pointer, Eric Hecht.

There are times when it does not pay to be the higher ranked player. When you and your opponent are both due the same color and all other things being equal, the higher ranked gets the due color. This is great when you're due white. It sucks when you're due black and you have a crappy record with the black pieces against your lower rated opponent. I knew what was in store for me. I'd see him offer up his c3 pawn. At the moment I'm refusing the gambit. I'm not overly happy with the positions I'm getting, but sure beats getting crushed out of the opening. This game was more like the games we used to have when it would come down to somebody being short on time. I was one the one fighting the clock, and a difficult position.

Note: When I first published this article I seemed to have had some technical issues with Chess Flash. On my Explorer browser I was getting nothing showing, and all my Mac Safari browser I was getting a game of LikeForests. I think I got it fixed so there should be my round three game. Sorry for the confusion. If anyone came across this post after I wrote that note they'd find no game at all. It seemed to have gone into a black hole. Here it is almost a year later, and I notice. Here is the game. Really!

EricH-Polly W062608.pgn

After the game was over I saw Andre and he asked how I was doing in the tournament. I held up my hand in the shape of a zero. He asked "What happened?" I told him about getting paired up twice and then getting paired down against Eric. His reaction was "Oh no! He's the worst possible player to get paired down against. I hate having to play him." Andre has also been victimized by his wild attacking style, and also feels he's under rated.

So then I'm looking at the wall chart to see whether my words of bravado at the beginning would come back to haunt me. Any other zeros lower rated then me? Yes, but taking requested last round 1/2 point bye. Odd or even number of drop outs and last round 1/2 point byes? At the same time the quirky 1100 player who always arrives around this time looking to be a house player comes in and asks if he'll be needed as a filler. I told him if there was going to be a bye needing an opponent, it was going to be me, and no he would not be needed because I was not waiting around, but was going to make the 11:14 train instead.

I have my Thursday night routine worked out precisely. I know exactly what time I need to leave the Marshall in order to make to Union Square in time to catch the subway back to Grand Central. I know what time the subway is pulling into Union Square. I even know whether it's an express or a local. Whether I'm going to catch the 12:30 train (Yessss! No byes!) or the the 11:14 train (Oh crap, I sucked!) I've got the timing down to a science.

With the rounds running a few minutes late I had to be ready to race out the door if I had the dreaded "Please Wait". It would suck to get the bye, miss the 11:14, and have to wait for the 11:45. Knock on wood, I've never missed the train at 11:14 or 12:30. I try not to hover over tournament directors when they're doing the pairings. I hate it when players do it to me when I'm directing. However once Steve started printing the pairings I asked "odd or even?" He knew what I meant by the question and said "please wait." I said good night to him and told Andre "It says please wait, but I'm not waiting. Oh and by the way. I guess I was right when I said if i get the bye in this section then I deserved it!" Note to self: Next year keep your mouth shut about projected score.

If being a NYC pedestrian ever became an Olympic sport, I'd probably win a medal. The object of a NYC pedestrian is to make it from point A to point B without getting hit by a car or bike messenger going the wrong way on a one way street, and being able to cross a street or avenue without having to wait for a light. It's this precise timing at intersections that makes it possible for me to walk from W 10th St and Fifth Avenue to 14th St. and Broadway in five minutes. It also helps that I can walk fast. That's a good thing because the express was pulling into Union Square just as I walked down the stairs to the subway platform. For the first time that night I wasn't in time trouble.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wonderful Wacky Wednesday!

A slight name change because the game I'm presenting is wacky, but it was from a wonderful US Amateur Team East where my team won the Under 1900 prize with 4.5 points. In 1989 I had the privilege of playing Third Board on a team with Art Bisguier on Board One, a random pick up player on Board Two, and Don Maddox on Board Four. I can't remember what had happened to our original board two, but the day of the tournament we got a replacement whose name I can't remember. In fact I can't remember who our original board two was supposed to be. For those readers who may not have been born in 1989 or don't remember who Don Maddox was. He was the editor for Chess Life for a time in the 80s. He was also one of the developers of ChessBase.

Anyway enough of the name dropping. Out of the 28 US Amateur Team tournaments I've played in, this was probably one of my best and most memorable. My score wasn't overwhelmingly great. 3 wins 2 losses and 1 draw. In fact the tournament got off to a pretty crappy start when I lost to a 1397 in the first round. I was rated 1900 at the time. Fortunately the rest of the team did their job and we won the match. Luckily for me somebody else pulled a bigger upset then the 400 points between my opponent and me, so I did not become the victim of the biggest upset for that round. That game does not qualify for WW status, though the final position is notable for where my king ends out. Sad to say I'm black.

In the second round I'm paired against an 1080. The game does not last very long.

Since I was done so early I kept wandering in and out of the playing room to check on my teammates. We were winning that match 2-1 and Bisguier was up a pawn so it seemed as though we should win the match. However somehow in the late hours of a lengthy game, he gave back the pawn and more. He ended out losing so we drew the match.

This was truly a team effort. Every round one of us who would be out rated on his/her respective board would find a way to pull an upset against a higher rated opponent, and help us pull out a win or draw against a tough team. In round three Don Maddux beat a higher rated opponent to help us pull out a draw against a higher rated team. Don was a trooper. The poor guy had a fever and was sick as a dog. On Sunday he went to his doctor in between the third and fourth rounds. What doctor sees patients on a Sunday? Getting to the doctor involved an hour's drive in each direction. We weren't even sure he'd make it back for round four or not.

In round four it was our second board who pulled an upset against a higher rated player. I beat my lower rated opponent and Don lost to his higher rated opponent. Once again Bisguier was up a pawn. When I finished my game I handed Art the result cards and said "We're winning the match 2-1. All we need is a draw." It looked like the game would go on for awhile. About 10 minutes later I see Art come out of the playing room. I asked him what happened. He said, "I took your advice, and offered my opponent a draw which he accepted." So much for their Board One playing it out for the team. I guess he decided a draw against a grandmaster was better then trying to draw the match. Now we were 3-1 heading into Monday's matches.

In round five it was my turn to beat a much higher rated player, allowing us to win the match. This was my first real win against a master. I don't count the finger fehler win against Master X from the 1985 USATE. I actually turned down a draw in an opposite colored bishop ending where I was up a pawn. I felt my king would get in. I was correct. At som point I'll put the game in Chess Base and post it.

In the last round we had a chance to finish 5-1 and be in a tie for 2nd place. We managed a draw against our higher rated opponents for our4.5 points. I drew a master. Not a bad day for me. 1.5 out of 2 against players rated 2250+. I gained 17 rating points that tournament the nice win in round 5 was cancelled out by the ugly round one loss. My other wins and losses cancelled each other out, so the last round draw made the difference.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Riding the Chess Roller Coaster

Sometimes a chess game is like a wild roller coaster ride where you keep going and going until the ride operator says "time's up, gotta get off now." Truth be told, I hate roller coasters. They scare the crap out of me. I hate the steep drops and the sharp turns. Forget about the ones that turn you upside down. There is not enough money in the world to get me on one of those suckers. Closing my eyes doesn't help either, because I've already seen the monster at work. The only one I really like is "Space Mountain" at Disney World. Maybe it's because I can't see what's coming in the dark.

There are times during a game where I feel like I'm going to lose. Either my position sucks so bad that it's inevitable that it's going to collapse, or I'm down material of some sort. Also if I have a history against the player in question that also plays a part in what's running through my mind. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with my win-loss record against the player. It may just be remembering situations from past games. They say that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes in chess it's better to forget history so we don't repeat it.

In this game it would have been better if I had not remembered all the times that my opponent has executed correctly with less then 5 seconds on his clock. Just maybe not thinking about that would have helped me get off the "I'm going to lose" rollercoaster before it was too late. John and I have played 14 times up to this point. My record is 1 win, 1 draw, 12 losses. He's a master, and for the most part I've had pretty close games with him. Many games have come down to winning a pawn, and then executing the end game correctly. So when I dropped a pawn against him, and it appeared I'd lose another one I thought to myself "Here we go again."

He had a number of moves that make it easy to convert the ending, but in his time pressure he didn't come up with the killer moves. My problem was I thought there was still a win for him, and I just kept playing on instead of offereing a draw that with 2 seconds left on his clock, he probably would have taken. Despite my time edge, it wasn't like I was playing to run him out of time. I was just trying to hold on for dear life, and somewhere I lost focus on my time and the fact that the position was now a dead draw. As several spectators observed, the game had been drawn for at least the last 20 moves. But no, I got too wrapped up in the rollcoaster ride, and couldn't stop in time.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tournament of LEP'ers II Round 2

Tonight I played Tom in the second round. It was not a very pretty game. I kind of messed up the opening, but fortunately for me Tom didn't take advantage of it. His game went to pieces after hanging his queen.

We'll see what next week brings.

Friday, June 20, 2008

June Loony Tunes

I've only written six posts this month. Yes, I know for some bloggers that's a lot of posts. But for this "motor mouth" that's hardly anything. However June got off to a crazy start which left little time for blogging. I started out the month by playing six consecutive days. I played 17 games. Amazingly enough I didn't play Vladimir Polyakin or Gabor Schnitzler in that stretch. Quite surprising since there are some months that I play the two of them almost every week. So how did I do in this crazy chess maarthon? I won 5, lost 11, and drew 1. There would have been 9 losses and 3 draws if I hadn't tried to win drawn games against Family Ostrovskiy on the last day of this crazy chess marathon.

When Steve has a two day tournament at the Marshall he runs a 3 round G/30 on Saturday night called "Prove Your Point!" You win money based on how many points you score. Often it's a crap shoot in terms of how many players show up and what their strength is. The tournament tends to be small, but often is very strong. There was a stretch where I never won a game in the event. In a two year period I played in the event 5 times and scored 2 draws and 13 losses.

This particular one was a funny tournament in that out of eight players there were two father/son duos, and one brother/brother duo. Yefim Trager and I were the only two players not related to someone else in the tournament. In the first round I played Aleksandr Ostrovskiy. I had played him two days earlier in the first round of 10 Grand Prix Points Tonight! In that game I misplayed the opening and ended out with a miserable position and resigned on my 24th move. That brought my record to 0-7 against him.

In this game we played the exact same opening except I played the correct move, and I had a good game going. I was up two pawns in a rook and bishops of opposite color ending. I turned down a draw in this position after hanging the g6 pawn and walked into mate after 60...Re3+, 61. Kf4 Ra3?? 62. Rh6#. Chalk up loss #8 against the kid.

In the next round I played the father of the other father/son duo. They were visiting from Chicago for a weekend of going to baseball games in various east coast cities. They had attended a Yankees game that afternoon, and the son decided he wanted to play at the world famous Marshall Chess Club. This was dad's first tournament. This was not the ideal tournament for a newbie to start out. As number 6 on the wallchart, I out rated the son by almost 500 points. The son is much stronger then his dad.

There are two types of unrateds. There is the ringer unrated who can be anywhere from 1400 to 2200 in strength, and then there is the novice unrated. Dad fell into the latter catagory, though I didn't take anything for granted. When he hung a piece early I actually thought it might be a sacrifice. It wasn't. He said afterwards it was simply a blunder.

In the last round I got the other half of the Ostrovskiy duo. I'm not sure what the hell I was thinking about when with less then 10 seconds on my clock I opted not to repeat the position, and went for it.

I guess that's what happens when I get to my 17th game in 6 days. I had blown my chance to not be on my floor for the July rating list with Friday's 0-3 thumping by King Kong and company. It didn't matter. I'd already blown one draw in this tournament. The worst that would happen is I'd blow another one. Somehow losing this game did not bother me as much the loss last November. Perhaps I'm finally getting to the stage where I can shrug off stuff like that and move on.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Answers to Some Good Questions

Likeforests asked me a few tournament directing questions under the comments of one of my recent posts. I thought they were excellent questions. Since comments often get ignored or buried under a low commented post I thought I'd repeat the questions here with my answers. These may not be the text book answers, but they're how I try to handle things in my own games. I'm not ready to have my own "Arbiter's Notebook" column at this time.

1. What do you do if your opponent makes a 'minor' violation such as touching the piece with one hand and punching the clock with the other, using two hands to move the pieces, or chatting on your move (especially if they happen when you are in time trouble)--do you ask them to stop, stop the clock and ask them to stop, or stop the clock and call the TD?

All of the situations you mention, I always try to resolve with the player before getting a TD involved. As soon as a TD is called in then the tension rises and the flow of the game is lost. Also a lot just depends on the player and the time situation. In a long time control where there is no issue with time pressure, I may simply ignore the fact that my opponent is using two hands to make a capture or pressing the clock. Sometimes I feel it's better for my concentration to stay focused on the moves and the position then fuss over my opponent's mechanics. Afterwards I may point it out, especially if I'm playing a young or inexperienced player.

However in time pressure I am quick to point these things out, especially moving and pressing the clock with the same hand. Violating that rule tends to lead to a hovering hand over the clock which may reach the point of pressing before completing the move. At least by moving and pressing with the same hand one has to let go of the piece, thus competing the move, before one can actually press the clock. Given what happened in the Krush-Zatonskih playoff I'd be quick to jump on any sort of violations in a sudden death time scramble situation.

If my opponent is chatting on my move I am quick to ask them to stop. I don't care what the situation is on the board or the clock. That's just rude and annoying and should be nipped in the bud ASAP. I gave a little lecture recently to a kid who towards the end of our game asked me what my rating was on my time. This is a kid who I've never had an issue over his behavior before. However lately he's picked up some of those annoying piece movement and adjustment mannerisms that too many kids do to be cool. Asking me about my rating on my time just pushed me over the edge. I guess his father had been observing the same thing because when I discussed it with the kid and his dad, his dad said "What did I tell you about adjusting and moving your pieces?"

If the opponent continues to indulge in these "minor violations" even after I've asked him to stop, then I will stop the clock and get the tournament director.

2. If they violate the touch-move rule, how do you handle it? Is it worth calling the TD since they'll decline your claim unless you can prove it anyway?

The touch move rule is one the hardest rulings for a tournament director to make. However even if my opponent denies the touch, or letting go of a piece I will call the TD any way. Some times someone has observed it and can verify your claim to the TD. A skilled TD will know what questions to ask before simply saying "he denied it, therefore I'm not going to make him move that piece". A few weeks ago I described a situation in the last round of "Four Rated Games Tonight!" where the TD had to make a ruling regarding letting go of a piece with no one having seen it.

Even if the TD ultimately rules in favor of the opponent, it still has brought your opponent's behavior to the TD's attention. He may just pay a little extra attention to your game. The opponent may be hesitant to try that stunt again. It may not help you in that particular game, but if this same player is getting into touch move disputes every round with different opponents the TD may be more inclined to stop giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

A player's reputation can help or hinder him in situations like this. That's why as a coach and teacher I'm quick to harp on the kids about how they conduct themselves. That's why I also try my best to keep my cool in tough situations. I don't want a reputation as a hot head, sore loser or chronic whiner. Right or wrong, I've seen TDs take into account a player's history and rep when dealing with that individual.

3. If an observer is interfering or disturbing you, can you stop the clock to tell the TD? In one case I remember you told them to back off but otherwise put up with it.

Once again I will try to handle it myself with the spectator by asking him to stand back. I have complained when it's impacting my game or the spectator is related to my opponent in some way. (Parent, sibling, child, coach, etc.) Sometimes it's hard to deal with when it's not your game that the spectator is observing. My problem with AK's dad in Los Angeles was somewhat out of my control. My round four solution was not the most mature way of handling it, but at the time it was the best I could muster.

3a. I read if you stop your clock for the wrong reasons you could face a 2 minute penalty, which would be horrible in SD time controls!

This is not a rule. If you stop your clock to get a ruling, even if the TD rules against you there is no time penalty. If it was an absurd claim the Td might give your opponent extra time based on Rule 1C2a: "Except where specifically noted in the rules, the standard penalty assessed by the director is to add two unused minutes to the remaining time of the opponent not following the rules of chess." (Don't ask me what unused minutes are versus used minutes. It seems to me simply stating add two minutes would be enough.)

Things like cell phones ringing or refusing to keep score can lead to time deductions, but stopping the clock for the wrong reason doesn't lead to that sort of penalty.

Many years ago they told players to never stop the clock, and that if a claim was upheld the TD would give you back time. That stupid rule was scrapped some time in the mid to late 70s.

I hope that answered your questions.

PS. This will probably be my last post since I'll be spending the weekend in the woods at a Tae Kwon Do retreat. I don't there is internet access, and I'm not even going to bring my laptop with me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tournament of LEP'ers II (Bawk, Bawk, Bawk)

I played Blunderprone in the first round. In case you didn't recognize the spelling in the title that is the clucking of a big time chicken. I'm not sure my head was completely in the game. I had a lot on my mind as I was debating over a few decisions I need to make in the next day or so. I was also thinking about what stuff I need for my Tae Kwon Do retreat this weekend. (No chess tournaments and no Internet! ACK!!!)

Here this goes in Chess Flash. I'm holding my breath.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wacky Wednesday! It's Backkkkkkkkkk!

As promised to an anonymous commenter who wondered what happened to Wacky Wednesday. However I did not have to go rummaging through the Polly archives to find a suitable game for today's post. Monday's June Action #2 provided me with appropriate material.

The problem with a small chess club that runs a lot of little events one tends to play the same people over and over again. If you think I've played people at the Marshall Chess Club a lot, that's nothing compared with how many times I've played Silvio and Alan. This game would be number eighty between Silvio and me. We always have interesting games no matter who wins. We don't draw very often. We only have 11 draws out of the 80 games we've played. The earliest draws were from pre-time delay days when with only seconds left on my clock I'd claim "no losing chances." (The rules language changed to insufficient losing chance later.) That few draws is pretty remarkable given the number of times we've played. One player who I've played 17 times we've drawn 10 of those games.

Sometimes I get really frustrated when I play Silvio because he'll play some random moves in the opening as White and I'll end out in some cramped position with very little time left. He actually played a fairly normal d4 opening that allowed me to get a real Nimzo-Indian. However he got himself in trouble once he went out of book.

It's not often I get mate with a knight. When I made the move I didn't say anything. I'm not one of these players who likes to say mate at the end. I'm not sure I even said check. I think I was having trouble believing that I mated in that position. However he had taken away the king's one square when he put his rook on e2. One player said to me afterwards, "You forgot to say mate." I guess I wanted to make sure it really was.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

King Kong Strikes Back!

My moment in the sun against King Kong was ever so brief. He came roaring back this week, and not just against me. I wasn't the only one who was going to get paid back for last week's fiasco. This WCA Friday Action had the exact same players in Quad 1 as the previous week. The June ratings left us in the exact same order as we were with the May ratings. Since the tournament director uses straight rating order as opposed to the optional random rank assignments we end out playing the exact player with the same color in the same round. The only possible exception is the last round when we toss for color. (More about the toss later.) I think we all wanted to reverse the colors. I know I'm getting tired of Kapil's Maroczy Bind against my Accelerated Dragon. Kevin wanted to play white against me. I'm not sure if Josh and Kapil wanted to reverse colors or not.

One thing I've noticed about playing in tournaments with mostly kids is there's a lot of nervous energy before the round begins. When I play at the Marshall the kids are playing blitz or ragging on each other before the round. Though there is one certain annoying kid who shall remain nameless who plays at the Marshall who likes to rag on me about my playing ability. The adult players may be talking amongst each other or maybe looking at a chess book. Depending on my mood I may be engrossed in some non-chess book, eating my dinner and tuning everyone out with my iPod. Other days I'm talking to my friends both adult and child. At the Marshall there is enough space to spread out before and in between rounds.

At the Westchester Chess Academy space is at a premium. It's in an office building and its primary purpose is chess training. However they also run these action quads several times a month. It's an excellent opportunity for the students to get matched up with other players close to them in rating. There are two classrooms that are used for the tournament. Two quads play in the smaller room and the other sections play in the other room. 20 players is the ideal set up, but sometimes there will be 22 players. The waiting area outside the classrooms is fairly small so parents tend to hang out not only there, but in the hallway outside office space. Needless to say short of hanging out in the parking lot, one can't really get away from the pre-tournament energy that kids or nervous chess parents bring to the table.

Before the tournament begun Kapil and Kevin were having a discussion that then led to them going into the tournament room and start playing. Other kids were watching or playing blitz at the other tables. Before I start my round I like to take my seat, and fill in the tournament and player information on my Mon Roi. That's the one thing that does take longer then old fashioned writing. I also like to straighten out all the pieces so I don't have an "adjust-a-thon" at the start of the game. Many kids go through this whole ritual of adjusting all the pieces while saying "adjust, adjust, adjust" the entire time. I simply center all the pieces before I shake hands or start the clock. In order to get ready for the first round I had to get through the group of kids who were watching Kevin and Kapil, and ask for my seat.

As the four of us in quad 1 are getting ready to play Kevin says something to the effect of he did not want a repeat of last week. I joked about wanting to win more games then last week. The kids are relaxed and so am I. I've gotten to the point where I don't let my stomach get twisted into knots over the prospect of losing to these kids. I was hoping by changing my move order a bit I could get Kapil to do something besides play 5. c4. However I was not successful in that regard. I may just have to suck it up and try 4...Nf6 and take my chances. Every game I have with him tends to be very positional where he squeezes me and then wins a pawn or two. This game was no different except that it took him longer to finish me off. I guess that's progress on my part. Though "making progress" don't change that I'm now 0-5 against the kid.

In the mean time Kevin is doing something similar to Josh. He wins a couple of pawns and then trades down. This time is was apparent that he wasn't going to try anything fancy. It was funny because at one point I had looked at the position and thought he had dropped a rook. I thought to myself "Here we go again. Poor Kevin!" Later on I looked and both players have rooks and Kevin had the extra pawns. I guess his rook was in my blind spot when I first glanced over. I guess that shouldn't surprise me since at times my opponent's pieces end out in blind spot where I don't see what they're doing.

Second round I'm playing Kevin. Needless to say he wasn't going to play the same moves as the last game. I'm not sure getting King Kong off my back really helped my outlook or not. I got intimidated by his bishop sac when in reality it was nothing. I could have taken the bishop after all. Even after declining the sacrifice and playing safe I missed 17. Ba3+ which is very strong for me.

While Kevin and I are playing our game Josh and Kapil agree to draw. Kevin leans over and tells Josh that he missed a win earlier. He resets the position and shows Josh how he can push his passed pawns through for the win. I'm watching this happening and I'm just shaking my head. How can he play his game against me, remember the position on the adjoining board and show those players where the win was? I have enough trouble trying to figure out what is going on in my game, much less seeing the winning move in someone else's game. I suppose the inner tournament director in me should have chastised Josh and Kapil for analysing in the playing room, and the inner teacher should have told Kevin to pay attention to his own game. However the inner child and outer chess enthusiast was enjoying the "hanging with the kids" moment and kind of forgot where she was.

After the momentary detour of looking at the other game it's back to trying to extract myself from the mess I've made with my chicken play. Again it comes boils down to not withering in the heat of an attack that isn't as powerful as it seems. It's easy to mentally throw in the towel when you're in a slightly worse position against a player who has a totally dominating record against you. Even though I spent a lot of time trying to work out the best defense and try to get some counter play, I couldn't seem come up the best moves. On move 25 I just made probably one of the worst possible moves. Instead of simply trading on f4, I opened up my weak position even more with f3. Eventually the mental throwing in of the towel became the physical as I tipped over my king and said "good game."

Going into round three Kevin's score was the exact opposite of the horrendous 0-2 from last week's debacle. All he needed was a draw to win the quad. However playing for draws is not his style. Last week he did take a draw with Kapil. Though that may have been to guarentee that he would not spoil his record of never having gone 0-fer in a tournament. Unfortunately for me I was the one sitting there with the 0-2 score. Kevin would face Kapil again, and I'd face Josh again. Once again I'd lose the toss for color. This was the 4th time in a row at the Friday Quads that I'd lose the toss and end out with black. We had played earlier in the week at the Bob Peretz Chess Club. I won the toss, but playing white did not change the result. It's funny because the first 14 games against Josh my record was 8 wins, 5 draws and 1 loss. Now the tide has turned. My last 5 games against him, including this tournament I'm 0-5. Dang kids! They're improving and I'm not. :-Þ~

However the story of round three was not this ugly position on my board. The blue arrows need no explanation. One picture is worth a thousand words.......

The story of the last round, and perhaps the whole tournament was King Kong's comeback from a "finger fehler." If I were to level one criticism at Kevin it would be that he does not know how to keep a poker face. If he blunders, you'll know it without even looking at the board. I was looking at my position when I suddenly hear what sounds like snoring followed by a groan. I look over and Kevin has his face buried in his hands and he's shaking his head and moaning. He had picked up the b2 pawn with the idea of pushing it to b4 when he realized that his knight on c3 was no longer protected. After 12 moves he's down a knight and a pawn.

One thing I've learned from watching a kid like Kevin play is never relax against him, because you can't count him out until it's mate or he's resigned. You know the expression "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings." Kevin wasn't ready to hear the fat lady sing. He sent me the game, but for what ever reason I was having trouble getting it to load in Chess Publisher. Here are two critical positions with his comments.

Position after 20. Rxg7. Kevin: Faulty, black had better move in 20...Nxg7 21. Qg3 Bg5 22. Qxg5 f6 -+

Game continued 20...Kh8, 21. f6 Nxf6 22. Rf1 e4 23. Qg3 Nh5 24. Rfxf7 to reach the position below.

After Kevin played 24. Rfxf7 he had stood up from his chair. His body language had changed from what I had seen after his 11th move. I couldn't help but to smile as I looked at the black knight forking the queen and rook, but unable to take either due to the mate threats. He smiled back at me, and I watched Kapil as he tried to figure out what to do. Kevin seemed a little nervous. Kapil then resigned, seeing no way out. Actually there was a way out, but still winning for white. At first Kevin had thought Bf5 wins for black. He shows the move to Kapil. Josh and I look over from our game. The three kids are looking at the moves for black. I look over at the TD, shrug my shoulders and go back to the mess on my board. He tells them to stop analyzing in the playing room.

Kevin: Bf5, although still winning for white. Hard though.

This is what Fritz gave me. 24... Bf5 25.Nxf5 Qc5+ 26. Qf2 Rxf7 27. Rxf7 Bf6 28. Rxf6 Qxf2+ 29. Kxf2 Nxf6 30. Bg7+

Watching Kevin in this tournament gave me a greater appreciation of his talent as a chess player, and his ability to come back from adversity. It would have been easy for his parents or him to say "The rating difference is too much, and it's not worth risking points. Let's not go back." Instead he came back and demonstrated why he's number one in the section. Since my first game with him in 2006 I've watched his rating shoot up over 700 points. I've also seen him mature tremendously in how he handles both winning and losing. I know he's reading this so I'll just say one thing. "Work on that poker face, kiddo!"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Guilt Free Win On Time

Last night was my night to redeem myself. It was my chance to overcome my terrible 0.5 - 2.5 start in the tournament by winning a third game in a row. It was a chance to purge those feelings of guilt that I felt from the previous two wins. Once again it came down to a rousing game of "Beat the clock" or "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"

And now it's time for a really special feature.....Sometimes I wonder how I get into these crazy situations. More to the point, how do I survive these crazy situations? This game I only had five seconds left when we reached the following position. I just played 49. Qd2.

There was nothing I could do about his threat of Rxg3 so I played Qd2 hoping maybe I could get some play on his back rank. He must have thought there was more to it then there really was because he played Qd3 offering to trade queens.

Here's the game up to the point I stopped notating. When he ran out of time I had the g and h pawns cruising up the board. The next 30 moves were played with me only using another 3 seconds of time.

I didn't feel the least bit guilty about winning this game on time. First of all I'm totally won, and second of all he had me several different ways, but got scared. Scared doesn't win chess games. We both played sloppy at times, and he missed two big chances to make my life totally miserable. Time delay is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How To Feel Bad After A Win

A few weeks ago I showed my round three loss from the Westchester Chess Club Championship. In the post I made the following comment: "How much worse could it get? After this game I don't want to know!" It could have gotten a lot worse except that in rounds four and five my opponents picked the most inopportune moments to go into a deep think. You've heard the expression "sometimes it's better to be lucky then good." That's how I feel going into tonight's round six. At the same time I kind of feel bad for my opponents. Neither of them deserved to lose based on their play over the board.

Below is the final position of my round 4 game against a young kid. He's rated around 1400. He plays nice solid chess, but has time management issues. I've seen him time and time again spend 3 to 4 minutes on opening moves. I keep telling his dad that he needs to work on his various openings, and be able to rattle off those early moves quickly. Even in action games (game/30) I've seen him spend 5 minutes on the 4th move.

In the above position it's White's move. I had offered him a draw several moves earlier. At the time he had 15 seconds and I had 5 seconds. (I'm one to talk about time management. Though I tend to burn my time later in games.) He declined the draw which didn't surprise me since he was slightly better. In this position I had just played Ke6. I had 3 seconds left. He had around 8 to 10 seconds. At this point he goes into a deep think. After 46. a5 bxa5 47. bxa5 Kf6 48. Bb7 he'll have excellent chances since my knight will be tied down to the a6 pawn. However he never gets any of these moves in because he runs out of time. When I called the time he was genuinely surprised that he lost on time. He seemed to totally forget that his time edge was not all that big. I dodged a bullet there with that win. I did feel bad for him since he had outplayed me most of the game and could have simply accepted the draw a few moves earlier.

Winning that game hardly put me into contention for anything, but at least it still gave me a chance to get a plus score if I could win rounds five and six. That is easier said then done. My fifth round opponent is one of the old timers whose been a member of the club for over 20 years. Fred is probably in his mid 70s and is rated 1228, but he plays much better then that rating would indicate. He doesn't play in many tournaments any more, but he always plays tough. We've played a few times over the years, and I've never lost to him. We last played in the 2006 club championship. It took me 48 moves to put him away in that event. I don't remember the specifics of our games from the late 80s, but I recall it was never an easy win. This game was no different. Actually it was different, because I was totally lost. In a rook and pawn ending I was down three pawns and way behind on the clock. I'm not sure why I was even playing on. I guess it was a combination his indecisive play in the end game, and my really not wanting to lose and go into the last round with a pathetic 1.5 - 3.5 score. As the old expression goes "One never wins a chess game by resigning." I was going to let the clock decide.

I did get one of the pawns back and after 59... Ra3+, 61. Kf4 we reach this position. I had 5 seconds left. At move 56 he had almost 2 minutes to my 8 seconds. He burned over a minute and half from there to to move 60. He never got to play move 61 because he spent his remaining 30 seconds on it. In this position he can play 61...g5+. I can't take because after 62. Rxg5 Ra4+ 63. Kf5 Ra5+ 64. Kf4 Rxg5. Good bye rook!

I truly felt bad when I called the time. I felt even worse when afterwards he said he had never beaten me, he thought he was finally going to win, and that this was his best game ever against me. I know he wasn't saying those things to make me feel bad. He was just sorry that he let the opportunity get away. I did feel bad though. I almost felt guilty that I had not resigned when I was down the three pawns. Is this a normal feeling? I felt bad the week before for the kid, but I know sooner or later the kid will probably get me. The good ones always do. Winning this game made me feel worse. Maybe that's why I can't seem to break through. I'm too kind hearted and lack the merciless killer instinct.

I've got to put those thoughts behind me tonight as play another one of the old timers. However tonight's opponent has beaten me before, so I won't feel gulity if I pull another rabbit out of my hat.