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.


Glenn Wilson said...

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.

I think this rich of storytelling and relating back to past events is one of the compelling things about your blog. Is this all from memory or do you go back and look at results, games, notes, etc?

Anonymous said...

Do your "rivals" Karl Schapira and Dario Dell'Orto only play at the Westchester clubs or do they play other places as well?


tanch said...

hello polly,

i make it a habit never to predict what kind of results i'm going to get.

that's because i realise that once i set a predetermined result, if i find myself losing, i start to apply additional pressure on myself to win the remaining games (as if i needed more stress). if i find myself winning, i start to relax and take things easy which is what i don't want to do.

as a result, most of the time, when people ask me, i just say,"i'll treat each game as it comes."

as for your "inspid" knight retreat, don't treat it as the cause of your loss, instead, understand the reasons behind that move. usually we make moves that makes sense to us but we fail to find stronger moves.this is just part and parcel of the process of chess improvement.


Polly said...

Glenn; Thanks. Unlike some of my fellow chess bloggers I enjoy telling stories of past tournaments instead of doing deep analysis on how to study. I'm not knocking that. In fact I always enjoy reading those deep posts, and trying to draw some useful information from them. I just feel fortunate that I'm so close to a chess Mecca like the Marshall and like sharing what it's like playing there.

It's a combination of memory, looking at the USCF MSA pages, my Excel workbook with all my results starting from 1972, old scorebooks, and games downloaded from my Mon Roi to my computer.

For example. to write my most recent Wacky Wednesday post I wrote the tournament narrative from memory, but I had to look at my scorebook to recall who I had lost to in round 1 and to retrieve the moves of the round 2 game I showed. My spreadsheet provided me with my overall score and rating change.

For this particular post I had to look at the MSA to remember who I had played and which rounds I won and lost. Pulling up the Hess game from Chess Base allowed me to remember why I lost the game.

I love data. I've kept track of my lifetime history long before Excel existed. I had all that information in a notebook. When I learned Lotus back in the early 90s I transfered all that data to spreadsheet form, and wrote formulas to keep yearly and lifetime totals. The Excel workbook format allowed me to put each year on a separate spreadsheet.

Anon: Dario and his brother do play at the Marshall sometimes. They also travel to other tournaments. In fact my first game against either one them was at the Marshall. I've only played Karl at the Westchester CC, but he plays in Stamford, CT every once in awhile.

Tanc: I generally am not in the habit of predicting results. It just came out in the course of my conversation with Andre and joking around about byes. We have a running joke about the frequency of byes that I get on Thursday nights. I don't worry about whether I will match expected or past results.

If I start out 0-2 I don't necessarily feel pressure to win the remaining games. Having gone 0-4 and 0-5 in tournaments in the past, I just think to myself "What's the worst that can happen? I'll match that 0-fer score and be last. So what? Been there, done that."

I think I was more stressed out winning the tournament back in March then by any crappy result I have.

Regarding the insipid knight move. It was one of those thoughtless "safe" moves. If I had spent a little more time I would have found a better move. After that move my opponent won a pawn, got a strong attack and then won an exchange. The game turned on that move.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful blog post, Polly! I am sorry to hear about your unhappy performance at the Marshall CC Action Championship. Nonetheless, I am sure it was an action packed event for a chess junkie like you!! I am playing a 6 round tournament July 4-6 @ the LAX Hilton directed by Hillery. I hope to make a plus score, but I've learned from you not to jinx it. However, I really want the money and the rating points! I am up to 1662 now! Maybe I will gain 138 points this summer and become an "A" player! Anyway, better luck next time to you.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

BTW, I love your last statement "...for the first time tonight I wasn't in time trouble..." That's beautiful!

likesforests said...

Sorry about the results, but at least it made for an entertaining story as only Polly tells 'em. :)

Polly said...

Saul: Congrats on the big rating jump! Good luck at the tournament. Tell John I say hello.

Like: If I worried about my results I'd be too ashamed to tell the story. However if I can make people not feel so bad about losing and give them a good laugh then I've done something good.

Anonymous said...

I am just curious because I have seen him at a few tournaments, Is Dario someone who takes chess seriously or does he care less and just like to have fun?


Matt Hayes said...

Saul... thank you!!! I almost forgot about the Pacific Southwest. I'll sign up tomorrow. I'm not sure if I will play in the 2-day or 3-day yet. I want to play in the 3-day but I was going to work on Friday because I need a day off the following week. And really, G/'s a time control for those who are good at their openings. ;) So, I'll have to think about whether I will do the 2-day or the 3-day. Either way, I'll see you at the tournament!

Polly said...

Anon: I can't speak for Dario. He seems to rake it pretty seriously when he's playing me. LOL But I never judge somebody's motivation and intent. I don't know what sort of work he does on his game, but he's certainly improved tremendously since the first time I played him.

Glenn Wilson said...

I answered your question on my blog but I did leave out something because I thought you would not be interested. But, can make the board bigger by not including the moves (you could just include the text of the moves in the text of your blog). Use the option "BoardOnly" = yes to do that. You can then have a board of say 400x400 fit nicely. If you also have the variations tab then readers can even navigate variations (but just one level deep).

wang said...


By my estimation that's 9 blocks in 5 minutes. That's not really walking. At least at that time of the evening you're less likely to run down a tourist...

Glenn Wilson said...

I tweaked how the space is allocated between the board and the moves text so that, in certain circumstances (such as your blog) the board is bigger. I hope this works for you!

Anonymous said...

You pay way too much attention on possible pairings, byes etc.

Just play the game!

Polly said...

Glenn: Thanks for the tweak. The board looks much better.

Wang: Dudette, to you. :-) LOL It's probably closer to 7-8 minutes to make that walk. Though on that particular evening I think I did do a bit of a jog in spots. Though when I do my long distance walking I do it around 15 minutes a mile.

Anon: Guilty as charged. I just hate playing way down, and I hate not getting to play all the rounds. I'm not as bad as the masters who stare at the charts even more to figure out if they'll miss the break or make the break to dodge GM Peraqua or Izoria.