Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Kid on The Block

Before I launch into the sad saga of my second day at the Blackstone Festival Open, I wanted to share Dean's story. As I mentioned in my previous post I had met Dean and his dad while sitting in the lobby waiting for the tournament to begin. Before meeting them I had seen Dean speaking to Ken Ballou, the tournament director and asking him some questions about notation. I over heard Ken explaining how to notate a pawn promotion. I didn't think about the encounter too much. I figured it's just some kid hanging out asking some questions, or that maybe there was a scholastic section being held in conjunction with the main event. I was confused enough about the tournament itself since some of the Chess Life information was different then the website, so for all I knew there was scholastic event too.

When I was speaking to them in the lobby his dad asked me whether it would okay for him to come into the playing room and watch his son play. I told them it wasn't a problem since it was a regular tournament. I mention that in most scholastic tournaments parents have to stay outside the tournament room during play. When he asked what a scholastic tournament is I was thinking to myself "Oh boy. They haven't a clue what's going on. The poor kid is going to get destroyed every round."

Having dealt with many chess parents who range from totally clueless to "too damn savvy for their own good" I knew it was important to give father and son as much useful information as possible. After describing how the Swiss System works his dad said "So he could end out playing you." I said "Oh that won't happen because I'm playing in a different section." This was before I knew about the section merge. I tried to emphasize the chess education aspect of losing and importance of going over the game afterwards with the opponent. I had no idea what his expectations were regarding his chances in the tournament, but I wanted to gently explain that he might lose all his games.

He had participated in chess club at school, and over the summer attended a chess camp. He thought he'd get a chance to earn a rating at chess camp, but there wasn't a tournament at camp. He was told he had to play in a tournament in order to get a rating. Without someone to explain what would be an appropriate first tournament he landed at the Blackstone Chess Festival Open. Those of us that are involved with large scholastic tournaments can be prone to taking it for granted that parents and children are given the right information regarding appropriate tournaments. Playing in this tournament would truly be baptism by fire.

In the first round he got paired against a 2100. It was over very quickly. I told his dad to make sure he asked his opponent to go over the game with him. He had made many of the typical beginner mistakes of bringing his queen out too early and overlooking hanging pieces. It's something we all did in the early stages of our chess development. He'll learn even the grizzled veterans of the chess wars still do things like leave pieces en prise. It goes with the territory.

Kids have a non-stop appetite for playing. It isn't enough to simply play the round, go over the game and rest before the next round. Kids want to play in between games too. Dean was no different. I came into the skittles room and he was playing with various players who had dropped by the tournament. He was playing 3 minute chess with people like Ilya Krasik who is rated 2100. His opponents and kibitzers would remind him not to bring the queen out so soon, and to watch out for hanging pieces. He was get lots of pointers along the way.

In the second round he was paired with Howard Goldowski who was rated 1795 for the tournament but actually over 1800. Howard was another one of the under 1900 players who had signed up for the Open Section instead of the Under 1900. They were seated next to me. I would steal a peek at their game when I wasn't looking at my own game or wandering around the room. Hanging pieces would do him in again, but he stuck it out.

I was curious as to whether he'd be discouraged by the first day, and not want to return on Sunday. He came back on Sunday with mom this time, and was ready to give it another shot. In the third round he got paired against a kid from New York with a 1300 rating. His young opponent has been playing in tournaments since 2003. He's also had the advantage of easing his way in gently through numerous scholastic tournaments before taking on adult competition. I didn't see much of the game, but Dean seemed to be putting up more of a fight, and being more careful with his pieces.

Going into the last round there was a possibility he'd play me, or if there was an odd number there would be a bye. Since I'm the queen of byes I thought knew all the rules about how they're assigned. I assumed with my 1/2 point I'd be safe from the bye. However there is rule 28L5: New players in four-round events. The short version is: Since one doesn't get an official rating until he has played 4 games the TD should avoid giving a new player a bye. A TD can go up to the next score group (yours truly) and assign the bye to the lowest player in that score group. However don't do that if the player getting the bye then has good chance of winning a prize.

Since there were 8 prizes for 9 players at the bottom of the wall chart a bye was going to give the recipient (moi) automatic money. To avoid this the tournament director played Dean so that there would be no bye.

They were seated next to me. He hung a piece early against Ken, and then everything got traded off to a king, knight and five pawns versus a king. Ken opted to promote one pawn to a bishop and work on his bishop and knight checkmate technique. Ken executed the mate quite nicely. He never had to bail out and make a pawn move to reset the count. It's funny because despite having played over 3900 games of tournament chess I've never encountered that ending. It's one of the few times I've seen it done in tournament play. Here is the game starting from the pawn promotion.

Dean-Ken ending.pgn

I probably would have just taken a queen and gotten the game over with, but Ken's approach was a good exercise for both of them. He got to practice the bishop and knight mate in a tournament game, and Dean got a chance to see a rare checkmate. After the game was done he wanted Ken to show him how to do it. Dean's perseverance paid off for him as he won $75 and a book for top youth under 16. The other kid under 16 won the under 1500 prize.

I tip my hat to Dean for displaying excellent sportsmanship and handling himself so well under difficult circumstances. Mom and Dad should be very proud of their son. When he plays in his first scholastic tournament the other kids better watch out. I'm sure he's going to kick some butt.


es_trick said...

Imagine that, winning $75 and a book for going zip and four!

I guess he got his entry fee back, plus the book, and lots of skittles action.

Sounds like he'll be OK, and didn't mind the 'baptism by fire.'

Polly said...

It reminds me of the first time I won a medal in a running race. I came in last by almost 10 minutes, but won my age group because I was the only one in my age group. Personally I'd take $75 and a book over a medal any day of the week.

tanch said...

Well done to Dean for having the guts to stick it out and going 0-4.

It's so easy to get disheartened to lose game after game.

Thanks for the well written reports on the Blackstone Festival Open, Polly! I really enjoyed reading your adventures. ;)

Anonymous said...

Like reading such reports.

Dean did well. If he can handle loss by loss and then learn in skittles games after game i am sure he will be a force to be reckonned with (atleast for us patzers).

denopac said...

Polly, so in the end how did you like the time control? I like the idea of a delay like this long enough to allow score keeping until the end. Of course it's only practical in tournaments with some padding between round times (i.e. not your beloved weeknights at the Marshall).

Polly said...

denopac: My next post will go in more detail on the time control, but playing 40 moves in 80 minutes even with that long a delay was very difficult. I'm used to either playing 30 moves in 90 minutes or 40 moves in 2 hours.