Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And Who Is Reading Your Blog?

I get emails with the comments left on my blog. I did this so I could look for new comments without necessarily going to my blog, and looking to see if someone has left a comment on an older post. Most of the time I find emails with comments from very recent posts. Most of the comments I receive are from the same group of chess bloggers. I hadn't gone to my gmail account in few days so I was very surprised to find a comment on September 20th left on a post I wrote way back on Jan 24th, 2008. Here's the comment:

Aaron Durst said...

I saw your post and glenn's comment about OODA. It intrigued me and led me to write my thoughts on chess and OODA (http://ofinterest2.blogspot.com/2008/09/ooda-and-chess.html). I guess those thoughts could be summed up as strategically rather than trying win the game through checkmate, attempt to win the game by forcing your opponent to run out of time before you do. I think that is the lesson of OODA applied to time controlled chess games.

He referenced my post and then wrote a post on his blog regarding time pressure. It was an interesting perspective from someone who doesn't appear to be a tournament player. I did a search on the USCF website and did not come up with anyone with his name. I left a rather lengthy response on what I agreed and disagreed with. What's interesting is his blog has absolutely nothing to do with chess. He publishes lots of short pieces covering politics, religion, economics, etc where he's quoted somebody, links the source of the quote and gives his opinion. It's not the sort of blog that I would expect to find myself referenced on since I never talk about any of those topics on this blog. I'm not sure I would have ever come across his blog in my travels through the blogosphere if it weren't for his leaving a comment on my blog.

I guess it just goes to show you that you never know who is reading your blog. Dang! People outside of the chess world now know I suck in time pressure. I guess I won't get this job!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lessons From A Fellow Blogger

I am so happy to see Blue Devil Knight back from his extended hiatus. I know most of my regular readers follow his blog too. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I highly recommend you do so. In his post of 9/24/08 he shows a position from a recent game where he missed a simple combination, but still won. The discussion that followed in the comments was more interesting then the post itself. In the comments he referred to two posts that he made last year on "Blunderstanding" and "Things to remember before I play". I had read both posts last year. At the time I'm sure I said to myself "those are really good things to apply to my own games."

Almost a year has passed since those posts were made. Have I applied what I learned from them? Errr, umm, well..... Rereading them today it was like I was reading them for the first time. Probably intuitively I know this stuff, but rereading them gave me a fresh perspective on trying to analyse my games. I've printed them out, and will look at them more and see if I can think about this stuff when I'm playing. Too bad I didn't click on those links Saturday when I read the post. Maybe my last round game on Sunday wouldn't have ended the way it did.

There are three crucial positions in the game.

Position #1 after 19. Nd6 Nxg2. I've forked the rook and the bishop, and Black has just sac-ed his knight on g2. I'm not sure why I was afraid to take the knight right away. Instead I debated about winning the full piece (20. Nxb7) or the exchange (20. Nxf7, Kxf7). Both moves threaten the queen. What I wasn't looking at with either move is where is the queen going? This is where #9 Reason we blunder comes into play. I'm ahead in material (after the capture on b7), but I'm not looking close enough at Black's threats.

I opted to win the full piece with 20. Nxb7. Better is winning the exchange 20. Nxf7 Kxf7 21. Kxg2 Ne5+ 22. Kg3Nxg4 23. Kxg4 Kg8 24. Qf4.

The game continued 20... Qh4 21. h3 h5 22. Kxg2 hxg4 reaching this next position.

Here I have to be very careful. If I play 23. hxg4?? That loses horribly with black getting mate in 3. Answer in the brackets. [ 23... Qxg4+ 24. Kh2 Rh7+ 25. Qh6 Rxh6# ] I found what I felt was the best defense in 23. Rh1. Also I have attacking possibilities on the h file once the h pawn is traded off. After 23...Ne5 I have to worry about Reason #10 Knights in enemy territory.

Technically the knight is not in my territory but it is controlling 4 squares in my territory. I should have challenged the knight by attacking the knight with my queen. 24. Qd4, 24. Qe3, or 24. Qc3. Any one of those moves puts black on the defensive by having to protect his knight. I was too anxious to open up the h file and try to get play there. I played 24. hxg4 Qxg4+ 25. Kf1. This where I really needed Blue Devil Knight's "Thing to remember list." These things come to mind:

"9. When ahead in material, keep your cool. It is easy to get overexcited, start moving quickly when you are ahead. Your opponent is doing everything possible to make sure you don't get the full point. You still need to think. You still need to use the time on your clock."

Too anxious to trade pawns and open the h file.

"14. Defend with threats. You will need to defend against attacks and other threats in many of your chess games. Often there are multiple moves that meet the same defensive goal. Try to take back the initiative by playing the defense that generate the biggest threats against the opponent. Sometimes it is even possible to ignore a threat by making an even bigger threat that your opponent must deal with."

Attack the knight with the queen. Make him deal with the threat.

"16. Play the board, not the rating. If he is rated higher than you, play the board in front of you. If he is rated lower than you, play the board in front of you. You can win this game if you just slow down and think."

I tried to ignore the fact that his rating was 1173, especially since he had beaten two 1600s in the first two rounds before losing to a 1750. However some of his earlier moves didn't impress me, so perhaps I took him a little lightly at this point.

Now we arrive at crucial position #3 where Black has just played 25...d6?

Here's where reason #7 on blunder list comes into play. "When I'm thinking about potential complicated tactics I often miss simple captures I can make." DUH! 26. Nxd6 covers some key light squares. Light squares are black's only entry points into my king.

Instead of the simple capture on d6 I go for the mate threat of 27. Qh8# with 26. Qh6?? The problem with my plan is I've taken my queen away from the defense of my exposed king. Now he has perpetual check on the light squares c4 and g4 with 26...Qc4+ I had totally missed the check on the diagonal. This could be added to the blunder list as 5a. Queen moves sideways but attacks on the diagonal. This is why it's so easy to miss queen forks since the forked pieces may be on the same diagonal and rank (file) as the queen.

If I had tried to avoid the perpetual I would find myself losing. 27. Ke1 Nf3+ 28. Kd1 Qd3+ 29. Kc1 Qc4+ 30. Kb1 Nd2+ 31. Qxd2 Qe4+ 32. Kc1 Qxh1+ 33. Kc2.

The game ended with 27. Kg2 Qe4+ 28. Kf1 Qc4+ 1/2 - 1/2

Thanks BDK for such wise advice. Next time I'll read it before I play.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday Follies!: It's Deja Vu All Over Again

This cartoon should have been in the original Vista rant post, but I just came across it today. Better late, then never. On a positive note it only took two tries to actually find the rating report files, and only one minor error on the rating report before successfully submitting it by 10:35 PM Friday night. Personally I would have liked the results to have disappeared into the great abyss, never to be seen again.

The alternate title to this post could have been "Two Kwongs Make a Wright". Last week I played Eric Kwong in the first round and lost. This week I played little brother Robbie in the first round and lost again. The second round I had a different opponent then last week, but once again in round three I played Joshua. Once again, he won the toss and chose Black. Since this post was named Deja Vu All Over Again, I don't need to tell you how the last round went. He's becoming my new King Kong. I've lost 9 out of my last 10 games with him. This coming after I had started off with 8 wins, 1 loss and 5 draws in our first 14 games. The difference between us now, he's rapidly improving and I'm not. If I am improving it's certainly not at the same rate as a very bright 10 year old.

Sometimes after a big rating gain I get all uptight about playing in another tournament and giving it all back. That was not an issue for me. I'm not sure what was going through my mind during my first round game. There were some similarities to the game I played last week against his brother. Same opening and same responses at the beginning. Unlike last week when I got impatient with Eric's knight and encouraged a bad trade on my part, this week I fiddled around on the queen side instead of being more aggressive on king side. Once he sacrificed his bishop for two pawns I think I got psyched out by the attack. I kept seeing things that weren't as bad as I thought, and missed things that were more dangerous. My mind was playing tricks on me again.

Here's the game.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Chess Survival

I'm reading an interesting book right now called Deep Survival (Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why) by Laurence Gonzales.

It's been really interesting reading about different incidents and how people manage to survive or end out dying. Some of the stuff he writes about in the first chapter is really interesting. I could see some correlations between what happens in dangerous situations and what happens in some of the more tense moments in a chess game. He writes about how the brain functions. He writes about the difference between cognition and emotion. "Cognition means reason and conscious thought, mediated by language images and logical processes. Emotion refers to specific set of bodily changes in reaction to the environment, the body or to images produced by memory. Cognition is capable of making fine calculations and abstract distinctions. Emotion is capable of producing powerful physical actions."

Later in the chapter he writes about the chemistry of stress, and how the entire memory system, both input and output are affected. "As a result, most people are incapable of performing any but the simplest tasks under stress. They can't remember the most basic things. In addition stress (or any strong emotion) erodes the ability to perceive. Cortisol and other hormones released under stress interfere with the working of the prefrontal cortex. That is where perceptions are processed and decisions are made. You see less, you hear less, miss more cues from the environment, and make mistakes. Under extreme stress, the visual field actual narrows. .....Stress causes most people to focus narrowly on the one thing that they consider most important, and it may be the wrong thing."

The book is referring to how people react in extreme situations that are possibly life threatening. He gives examples of experienced climbers, snowmobilers, and river rafters who despite all their knowledge and experience, end out doing something that gets them killed. One example he gave was a river rafter who fell out of his boat. An experienced rafter knows not to try to stand up, but to ride the current to a safer spot where he can be helped out of the water. Standing up can cause the person to slip and perhaps get caught in between rocks and get sucked under. The victim stood up, stumbled and got caught in the rocks and drowned. His cognition would tell him to ride the current to safer ground, but his emotions said "I need to get out of the water as soon as possible."

Another example he gave was about Navy pilots landing on an aircraft carrier. As they say in the field, taking off is optional, landing is mandatory. Many crashes on landings occur because despite all the warnings that are telling the pilot he's coming in at the wrong angle, he's so fixated on the deck, that he blocks out the warnings and ends out overshooting the deck instead of pulling up and going around for another try. If he's lucky he might end out only trashing a very expensive airplane. The unlucky don't live to tell about it.

Reading this got me thinking about how different players react to different tension filled moments in a chess game. Why do some players get easily rattled by time pressure, whether it's their time that is short or the opponent's time? Why do some players handle the "money round" so well, and others choke? Why are some players so calm in the face of vicious attack on their king, and other freak out even though the attack may not be as strong as it looks?

It also got me thinking about how I react during chess games. Sometimes I'm Ms. Cool in time pressure, and pull rabbits out of my hat. Other times I implode and create a total disaster area on the board in a game that I was winning. There are games where I have all the time in the world, and there is no clock induced stress, yet I find the worse possible move on the board. Why does this happen, and what can I do about it?

So do these types of situations in chess cause the type of stress related chemical reaction discussed in Gonzales' book on a smaller scale? Is chess blindness caused by the stress hormones that interfere with the functions of the prefrontal cortex? Is our field of vision really narrowing when we're in a tense situation such as time pressure? Thinking about myself, am I overly sensative to those triggers? (Maybe that's why I have no desire to climb Mount Everest, or go white river rafting. I know myself too well.)

As any of you who read this post knows, the last few weeks have not been so easy for me. Some of the games I lost during that period seemed to come down to chess blindness (narrowing vision), "I probably shouldn't make this move, but what the hell" (emotion), and "That could be a threat later, but isn't right now so I'll worry about it later" (focusing on the wrong thing.)

Perhaps this game from the organized bedlam round robin set the tone for what has been a rough couple of weeks. I'm White against the number two seed rated 1753. This was only the second time I've played him. He won the first game. We had reached this position after his move 22...Rhd8.
Somehow in the course of the first 12 moves I had won three pawns. With my rook and bishop undeveloped on the king side he was getting some play for his pawns. However one would think that I could come up with a reasonable plan such as 23. Rxd4 Rxd4 24. Rh2, but noooo I got overly excited and decided to be bold, daring and creative by trading my queen for the two rooks. I played 23. Qxd8?? overlooking the fact that his queen now has an entry on g3. He played 23...Rxd8, 24. Rxd8 Qg3+. A few moves later he won my rook on h1. On move 37 I resigned.

There were no clock issues to deal with. The time limit was Game/75 with a 5 second delay. It was simply a matter of getting overly excited and trying to simplify by get rid of two of his pieces for one of mine. I looked at the straight math 5+ 5 > 9 and didn't take into consideration my undeveloped king side. My gut was telling me that Qxd8 was not sound. "Your other rook is out of play, you still need to develop the bishop, and your king is in the center of the board." However my opponent has his moment of chess blindness in the position too. The difference was his only prolonged the game longer then necessary. Do you see how he could have forced mate in 4 after 23. Qxd8? Answer in the brackets [ 23...Qg3+ 24. Ke2 Re4+ 25. Kd2 Qe3+ 26. Kc2 Rxc4# ]

This position arose last Thursday against Larry Tamarkin. He was serving as the house player to spare me from the all annoying round three bye. Larry and I always have totally bizarre games with one or both of us in time pressure. This game was no different.

He had sacrificed a knight for a pawn and an attack. I had managed to beat back the attack, and we reached this position after White played 23. Bg6. My emotions are running amok as time is ticking away and somewhere in the back of my mind I'm thinking that just maybe I could put an end to my 0-fer (0-14) against him. Here came my first bout of chess blindness in this game. My position is cramped, and I was concerned about White's passed pawn. (focusing on wrong thing) I attempted to resolve the passed pawn issue by playing 23...Qxd5? I had spent a few minutes on the move, and had considered the possibility that he could play 24. Bxf6, but wasn't concerned since I could play 24...Qxd1. I was blind to the in between move of 25. Bxe7+, Rxe7 followed by 26. Rfxd1, and now he's gotten his piece back.

I'd like to say that I hung on and got a draw, but 5 moves later with only seconds left I walked into a fork and lost my bishop. Again I wasn't looking at the entire board so I missed the forking move. A few minutes later the clock put me out of my misery.

On Friday I reached this position against Eric. He's a middle school kid rated 1530. I had gotten a big edge on the clock early in the game, but as we approached the middle game I had given back the time advantage I had earlier in the game.

This position came up after Black played 25...Raf8. My position was cramped and I really wanted to get rid of the knight on d4. Given that we were both short on time I should have played something along the lines of 26. Qd2 followed by 27. Qe3 and 28. Rc3. Black does have a space advantage, but it's unclear how he's going to break through. Instead of choosing a safe plan I tried to free myself by encouraging the trade of the Knight. I played 26. e3?!, knowing full well that he'd play 26...Nf3+ forcing 27. Bxf3 Rxf3. This was a case of focusing on the wrong thing. Yes the knight is a nuisance and is tying my queen down to e2, but I created more problems for myself by allowing his rook to come to f3. Th game continued 28. Kg2 Qf7 29. Rc2 Qf6 30. Rd2 Qf7 31. b3 h532. Qe1 Qe6 33. Rg1 hxg4 34. hxg4 Qxg4+ 35. Kf1 Qh3+ 36. Ke2 Qh5 37. Kf1 Qh3+38. Ke2 Qh2? He missed 38... Rxe3+ 39. Kd1 Rxe1+ 40. Rxe1 Qg4+ 41. Kc2. Time was clearly on his side at this point. The game continued 39. Kd1 Rxf2 40.Rxf2 Whites loses on time. 0-1.

One can easily write off these three positions as "she needs to work on her tactics", but I think it goes beyond that. I'm trying trying to figure out how I can be more aware of what is going on inside my brain, and use some of the survivor patterns and mindsets that Gonzales discussing in his book. IN a future post I will discuss some of things I have gleaned from later chapters.

Note: I started the post last Saturday, and it has taken me almost a week to gather my thoughts and examples. I should note that despite going 0-4 last Thursday, and 1-2 on Friday, that I have bounced back this week with a solid 2-2 result in this week's "4 Rated Games Tonight!" I lost two games against 2100s and beat a 1900 and an 1800. The two wins featured my nerves of steel time pressure technique. I wish I had one of those sensory boards so I could have the game score to the end. The fun stuff started and we stop keeping score.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday Follies: Vista Rant - Part 2

Virtually Impossible System To Access.

So it was another exciting night of how many tournament directors does it take to submit a rating reporting on a Vista based machine? Once again three tournament directors couldn't make it work. Vista seems to be the OS version of Where's Waldo? Except here it's where are my tournament files, and where are the export files for the rating report? I know they're out there somewhere. Reminds me of this Moody Blues song. If you too young to recognize it in this video pick one of the concert videos instead.

Instead of making ourselves crazy this week Mike decided he would take the computer home, and try to figure the damn thing out. The back up plan was I had the hard copy of all the quad charts and could recreate the tournament at home like I did last week. Though I would not have to do at midnight or some ungodly hour. Mike was going to sleep on it, and give it a try in the morning.

I left a message on Mike's cell phone saying something to the affect of "This is Polly from the tournament director's help desk. Do you need assistance submitting your tournament for rating?"

The answer to the question ended out being no, though he did admit it took him almost two hours to figure out where the files end out. It seems like everything ends out in the "Mike Folder". He finally got the files uploaded to the USCF website only to have the tournament kicked back with an expired membership error. We had that same problem last week. That's what happens when a kid doesn't play chess all summer, and his membership has expired in the meantime. Mike wasn't quite sure how he had arrived where he had, and was too afraid to even open another window to submit the membership. He ended out calling the family, and walking them through how to renew a membership online. After that was done, he was able to submit the tournament and it got rated this afternoon.

Next week's challenge will be, "Can he remember what he did in order to find the files and upload them to USCF?" I suggested that he might want to get "Vista for Dummies". I wasn't trying to be a smart ass with that comment. I find the "For Dummies" books an excellent starting point for learning a new computer application. Skip the techno mumbo-jumbo and tell me how to do x in the simplest language possible.

Next week challenge for me is "Can I trade off my opponents' knights before one of them get permanently lodged on c4 or e4?" My two losses had a lot to do with annoying knights lodging themselves in my territory with no good way to make them disappear. Maybe I need a book called "Knight Trading for Dummies".

In the last round I'm facing Joshua again. Just like two weeks ago, he wins the coin toss and takes Black. A win will give me a piece of first place at worse. It would also help recover from my rocky first round. A draw or loss gives me nada. Maybe I should play a different opening the next time I'm White against him.


Joshua's game has become more well rounded. He can beat you with a blistering attack, or he can grind you down in an ending. It seems no matter how he does it against me, he takes advantage of the edge he gains on the clock. Maybe he's got me figured out to the point that he doesn't need to spend a lot time. He used about 20 minutes for the 53 moves. I used all 30 of my minutes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wrandom Writing Wrants - Edited

For the last couple of weeks I've been angry, frustrated and afraid. Some of these emotions are generated by what is going on in the world, and others are from things I'm trying to sort out in my own life. What is happening these days effects each of us in different ways. Whether it's the stock market falling apart, Hurricane X wiping out a town or who's going to be the next President we're all impacted in one way or another. I've always been a bit of a free spirit, and often have had a bit of "What the heck, I'll manage somehow" attitude. Now I don't feel that way. There are times I just want to rip the newspaper into a million little pieces or throw the radio out the window. Sometimes my husband may start reading part of a newspaper article out loud, and I just have say "Shut up! I've heard enough bad news today."

I've always used my hobbies, particularly my sports as an outlet for my feelings and emotions. When I got laid off in 1992 my self esteem took a real beating. One of the things that helped me when I would get angry and frustrated with myself or the job market was going out and riding my bike for 30 to 50 miles with friends. Since I rode mostly with younger or stronger guys I'd have to work hard to stay with the group. Often on a hill I'd get dusted and be by myself. Those times alone I'd be thinking about the things I'd like to say if I wanted to tell somebody off. The more pissed I get, the harder I rode. It was a good way to vent without taking it out on other people.

I'm not riding much these days. I've been absorbed by my pursuit of rank in Tae Kwon Do, and trying to make up the walk training that got side tracked by all my travels. I walked 13 miles on Saturday. I started out with a couple of women who are about 5 to 6 inches taller then me. At times like this it sucks to be short. When I got tired of trying to match their strides and keep up I finally told them to go ahead. It's at that time I pull out the ipod, put on some good music and allow myself to vent about world and national affairs and how they impact me.

When I got tired of being depressed over that. I mulled over things I wanted to write here. I debated with myself about whether I wanted go on a rant about cranky old men who insist on playing down to mate when I'm up a rook and a bunch of pawns, and aren't very gracious when they lose. Nope, why bother? Then there was Wednesday night's game where I had an irrational fit of stupidity and managed to throw away a game that I was up 3 pawns in. Do my readers want see another one of my "I can't believe how stupid I am" posts? Probably not. That game still may make an appearance, but in a different context.

What came out of my walk was my Friday Follies Vista Rant. Just for the heck of it as I was writing this, I Googled "vista rant" to see where it came up. #20 of 1,430,000 hits on that topic. I guess a lot of people like to complain about Vista. We'll see how this Friday's tournament goes in terms of how much the TD has learned about Vista in a week, and whether we can manage to submit the rating report without me taking it home to do.

This post started out as an introduction to what I was going to write regarding a tournament I played in on Sunday. However I still haven't quite figured out what I want to say about what occurred. There are a lot of things bouncing around inside my head. I just have to figure out how sort it all out. In the mean time thanks for letting me vent a bit. I debated between saving as draft, deleting or publishing. For better or worse I decided to publish.

Edit: I think what all of this rambling was about was how external forces such as personal life issues, world issues, and all the other stuff that can stress us out can seriously impact those things we do for pleasure. Most of us play chess because we enjoy the challenges associated with and take pleasure in well played games, and meeting interesting people. When we're not overly stressed little pet peeves just get brushed aside. However when one is feeling like the weight of the world is crushing him then those little pet peeves that might bug us to a small degree like missing a combination, the twitchy opponent who drums their fingers on the table on your move, or the spectator who hovers too close get magnified.

The question is how do we balance our emotions and anxieties so that we can maintain control over the pleasure we derive from chess without losing it? Lately that's been difficult for me. Perhaps some of that is tied into the fact that my hobby is also a part time profession.

Let's hear it! This inquiring mind wants to know.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday Follies! (Vista Rant!)

How many tournament directors does it take to submit a rating report online using a Vista based laptop? Zero. Because three certified TDs could not figure out where the hell Vista was hiding the DBF files needed for the upload to USCF. How many tournament directors does it take to submit the same rating report using XP? Two. One to provide the wall charts of the tournament and one to recreate the tournament at home on her Mac using Parallels and Windows XP.

Blunderprone is right. I think Bill Gates may be the Antichrist. I am not a totally converted Mac-head quite yet. Unfortunately my pairing software and Chess Base does not run on Mac, so I have to contaminate my Mac with software that allows me to run Windows on it. However there is no way I'm ever replacing my XP with Vista. I don't know why Microsoft felt the need to totally change their operating system and make so difficult for a long time computer user to figure out where stuff is being saved. Many of the mouse short cuts have completely changed so when I do a left mouse click and don't get the choices that I'm used to. What was wrong with the old ones?

I've been helping Mike and Rusa at the Westchester Chess Academy with their computer stuff for over a year now. I helped them install Swiss-Sys and trained them on how to use the pairing software, submit memberships and rating reports online, and upload ratings. When they have the tournaments on Friday night I always hang out at the end to help them submit the rating report in case they have a problem. We have a barter arrangement so it works well for all of us.

Last night took the cake for utter frustration in terms of submitting the tournaments results online. I've submitted tournaments with 700+ players and had less problems then I had with this 22 player multi-section event. All of this because Microsoft decided to "improve" Windows. I guess it was only fitting that in the second round I blundered horribly in this position against a high school kid whose last name is Gates. He had just played 37...Nc7.

I'm not where my brain was at when I came up with the plan to get my knight to f3 followed by Ne5 to grab the outpost square. It seemed like a good idea at the time so I played 38. Ne1? totally over looking 38... Re3 . Far better for me would have been to play 38. Re1 Rxe1 39. Qxe1. I'd have a slight edge and Black really has no way of penetrating. I guess his rook move totally unnerved me, and I proceeded to make things even worse. Instead of playing 39. g4 and living with being down a pawn after 39...fxg4 40. Qc5 Nd5 I played 39. Qd2?? Did I really think I was going to get out alive after 39...Qxg3+? The end came swiftly after that. 40. Kh1 Qxf4 41. Qd1 Qxf1+ 0-1

After all the sections finished up Mike goes to submit the rating report. He's got a brand new laptop because he also had a hard disk crash. Bad month for hard drives! New computer, new operating system. This is his first time running a tournament on Vista. Everything looked like it was going smoothly. He runs the rating report utility on Swiss-Sys and it's time to save the upload files somewhere. I usually like saving them directly to the C drive because sometimes the USCF site gets flaky when you have the files in a folder. I guess Vista doesn't allow you to save stuff directly to C because we kept getting an error message about not being able to open tdexport.dbf.

I saved the files to a folder. No problem! I didn't get any error messages. I figure we're in business now. I go to the USCF website and go to upload the files. Click on "browse" bring up the folder where I saved the files, and no files are showing. Just other folders within that folder. WTF? Where are the damn files? Maybe Vista didn't like where I tried to save them to. So tried a few other folders, but still no files showing. I'm sure there is some way of displaying files in the folder window, but I'll be damned if I could figure it out. I went from DOS to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, 98, 2000, Millenium and XP. I never had problems figuring out how to do simple stuff like saving and retrieving files. What the hell was Billy Gates thinking when he and his merry men developed this piece of crap?

It was getting late and we're all tired. My quad had been the first one done. (Grand master draw on board 1 between the 2-0 players, grand patzer draw on board 2 between the 0-2 players. I guess you know which draw I was a part of.) I finally said to Mike, "Email me the tournament files and I'll run the rating report from home." Good idea, except we couldn't find the tournament files in Swiss-Sys or the folder that he had put them in. Argh!!!!

At this point it's screw it all. Gimme the damn wall charts! I can recreate the entire tournament from home in less time then it will take me to figure out FUBAR, I mean Vista. So help me God, I better be dead or have Chessbase and Swiss-Sys for Mac when the Evil Empire makes it so Windows XP stops running on anything.

I went home and recreated the tournament and would have had rated that night except in the Vista chaos a couple of USCF memberships didn't get renewed until today. So the tournament got submitted 18 hours later then normal. All the ratings junkies were probably going crazy wondering why the tournament wasn't on the USCF website this morning. Players get really spoiled by tournament directors who have submitted the event for rating within 15 minutes of the conclusion of said events. There has been a few times that by the time I get off the train at 1:10 AM and back home that the new ratings from "Four Rated Games Tonight!" are on the USCF website. There are times I'd rather not see the damage.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Last night I lost a game of chess that so pissed me off. I worked on the analysis, and I was going to post it today with my comments. Then I remembered that today is Septemeber 11th. Why should I spend this day writing about a meaningless game of chess that I played yesterday. In the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Did I learn anything? Yes. Will my readers learn something from it? Maybe. Can it wait for another day? Yes. Let's think about how lives were changed in such a dramatic fashion 7 years ago today.

Last year I wrote this post on my thoughts and memories of that day. I don't think I can add anything more to what I wrote last year.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wacky Wednesday! Ugly Chess On Bd. 1

BDK's recent post about the Soller Gambit inspired me to rummage through the Polly archives and pull up this "beauty" from 1979. The game is comical in itself, but what makes it funnier is where and when it was played. This game was played at the 1979 Empire City Open (Under 1600 Section) in round three. So what? We were playing on board 1 with the two of us both being 2-0 with the winner of this game having excellent chances at winning the section.


In round 4 I had a 57 move draw. I don't recall whether my opponent was also 3-0, and we tied for first or not. I guess the prize money wasn't anything special because think I would have remembered whether or not I won the tournament. Pretty wacky, huh?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I'm Number Two!!

It's official, the Tournament of LEPers II is done. I came in second, which is a nice way of saying I lost in the finals to Ivan. It was a tough match up. We played one game and ended out with this position when he offered me a draw.

I had lost a pawn late, but managed to get it back. There was nothing left in this position except if one of us fell asleep and blundered horribly. The next game was far more interesting, and came to a wild end. Ivan missed a few chances to end it quicker, but both of us were short on time at the end. This is the first one of the games I've played in the two LEPers tournaments where time has been an issue for me.

Here's the game. Ivan and I actually spoke on the phone after the game and discussed some of the different possibilities. As we were talking I was letting Fritz pick it apart. Fritz was the one who found the mate in three he missed.

Ivan-Polly 090608.pgn

Thanks LEP for organizing the event. It's been fun playing with my fellow bloggers. I'd like to say I'm number two in the chess blogosphere, but the tournament was missing some of the stronger bloggers out there like Carlsen, Nakamura, Polgar, Ginsburg, etc. I guess if we want one those guys in our tournament we'll have to give something better then a Mickey D gift card to the biggest loser.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Josh!

Tonight was the start of a new season of Friday night action tournaments at the Westchester Chess Academy. I was returning to the scene of the crime where in June the killer kidz, Kapil. Kevin and Josh put the big hurt on me. I had a decent result at the State Championship and another good result on Thursday night. Having gained rating points in those two tournaments, I really didn't want a repeat of my June disaster. Since tonight is the cut off for the October Rating List a decent score in this tournament would give me another month of being off my floor. Woo hoo!!

Things got off to a scary start. Lately it seems like any time there's another female in a tournament I get paired against her. I had three Thursdays in a row where I play Shernaz Kennedy, and on two of those Thursdays I played another woman too. Five games against females and I went 0-5. In round one I played Alexandra. The last time we played she got a nasty attack going and I ended out flagging. This game had some remarkable similarities.

The game started out very quietly but she was using way too much time. I wasn't so sure what she was thinking about because the moves seemed very straight forward. On move 22 she played Ne4. I didn't really think it was such a big deal. I was paying more attention to the clock. She had less then a minute, and I had over 20 minutes. Then she played 23. Nf6+ to reach this position.

At first I panicked, and thought the discovered or double check was going to be deadly. Then I realized that after 23...Kg7 that the best she can get here is a draw. She can force the draw after 24. Nh5+ Kg8 25. Nf6+ Kg7 26. Nh5+ Kg8 27. Nf6+. I can't avoid the perpetual with 24...Kh6?? It's mate in 7. Do you see it? Highlight between the parenthesis for the answer.( 25. Qf6 Qxg2+ 26. Kxg2 Rd2+ 27. Kh3 Rg2 28. Kxg2 Nh4+ 29. Kh3 Nf3 30. Qg7+ Kxh5 31. Qxh7# )

She opted not to go for the draw. The game continued 24. Rf3 Rh8 25. Nh5+ Kg8 26. 26 Rg3 Qb5 White loses on time. She has very interesting possibilities after 27. Rd3 Re8 (Not Rxd3!) 28. Nf6+ Kf8 29. Nxe8 Qxe5 30. exf5 Kxe8. Fortunately I didn't have to deal with those possibilities. I felt like I dodged a serious bullet that game.

In the second round I played Michael and Josh played Kevin. This was an exact repeat of the Monday night pairings from a few weeks ago. Like two weeks ago I beat Mike and Josh beat Kevin. Kevin's mom noted that Josh is becoming Kevin's King Kong. However Josh has a lot games before his record against Kevin looks anything like kevin's record against me. I'd like to say that my round three result against Josh was just like two weeks ago, but it was not to be. He won the coin toss for color, but opted to take Black. This kind of surprised me, given his success against me with the white pieces. I guess he figured it would be good practice to take black against me. Kevin's third round opponent also had won the toss and opted for black.

Once again Josh and I were playing for first place. $60 on the line this time. This time he was far more focused. Two weeks ago he gave me a gift rook shortly after my stupid hastily made knight move. I guess he learned that he can't take this old chess dog for granted. She may have some new tricks. However the only trick I did was roll over and play dead. It was his birthday and I gave him the gift of a backward pawn on an open file. Eventually he picked up that pawn and more.


I suppose I could have played on, but after he takes the e pawn I'm going to be hard pressed to do anything about the passed c and d pawns. I didn't feel like having to give up material to stop the pawns. He had a sizeable time advantage to go with the material advantage. I could tell from Josh's demeanor that there would be no gifts this time. He looked like a young man on a mission. I had snapped his winning streak against me, so payback was coming and the start of a new streak. Maybe I can break it before it becomes a streak of two or more.

Happy Birthday Josh. Welcome to the world of double digit birthdays. Now I can say I've stopped losing to 9 year olds. Well at least for the time being. I'm sure there are more of them waiting for me.

NY State Championship: Round 6 (Etiquette Rant)

Despite the length of my round 5 game, I had time to have a nice lunch with a few of the local area players that I know. Just getting out of the hotel and eating somewhere besides Subway helps a lot. Poor David. I think Alan and I started to bore the hell out of him when the conversation went from chess to wineries that we've visited in Napa Valley. It's actually nice to be able to discuss something besides the latest opening theory, or how many people cheat online.

Amazingly enough I had managed to go through the first five rounds without playing anyone under the age 21. My last round opponent looked like he was a college student. Even though I didn't have to play any little kids they still managed to find ways to annoy the hell out of me. Sitting next to my opponent was a local kid who's around 10 years old and rated almost 1700. As I mentioned in my 9+10+9+12=40 post from last December, kids like to hang out and watch their friends play. They don't get to do that in scholastic tournaments, so they tend to take advantage of the the more relaxed floor rules in an open tournament.

At one point I looked up and noticed two kids standing on either side of the kid, "Peter" (name changed to protect the guilty.) seated next to my opponent. They weren't simply standing behind "Peter" they were squeezed in between the people seated on either side him. I'm thinking to myself "I'm glad he's not sitting next to me. I probably tell the kid to his right to back off." I didn't say anything at that point. It's Peter's problem, and if it's bothering my opponent he can say something.

Later some kids are watching from the end of the table next to my board, and start whispering. I say "Shhhh!" and wave them away. They go away, but then a little while later the same two kids came back and start having a conversation with Peter whose opponent is on move. This is occuring at Peter's board. At that point I had to say something. It's distracting for both my opponent and me, and Peter's opponent. I walked away from my board and signaled to the three kids to come over to me. I quietly reminded them of several things. First of all having a conversation in the playing room is not allowed, and especially not at the board. Second thing is if you're still playing you should be concentrating on your own game, not on other people's games. I also reminded them if they were at a scholastic this would not be tolerated whatsoever and could cost the game or lead to their team being penalized.

After my discussion with them ,they scattered, and I had to go outside and get myself recomposed. Once the kids start making noise it becomes part of my problem too. That's why I said something at that point. However giving the little lecture got me distracted so I had just leave the room and pull myself back together. I suppose getting the tournament director would have better, but they probably would have vanished by the time I hunt up Steve, and get him to go into the room. That would have taken more time, then simply giving them the two minute speech on behavior at the board. This was a round that I should have been listening to Bach.

Sometimes these kids don't seem to get it. Late in my game I had just made a move and stood up. I wasn't necessarily standing up to leave the room. I change positions a lot while seated. Sometimes I stand behind my chair. Sometimes I kneel on the chair. I'm get fidgety, especially when the position is complicated and I'm ahead. I'm thinking about what's going on in the position and Peter asks me how many points I have. I said "Two. Shhh!" and waved him off.

Gimme a break! What's with asking me about my score in the middle of game? He was sitting on the board next to me so there was a very good chance we both had the same score. Besides even if we both won there were already a number of under 1800s that already had 3 or 4 points, so we weren't winning the under 1800 prize. Besides I had given him this lecture about not talking to people in the playing room, and there he is talking. I'm sorry I don't care if he's only 10 years old. His rating is almost the same as mine. He's played in enough adult and scholastic tournaments to know better.

End of my editorial rant. I did not rant and rave at the kids, despite what the title implies or what some anonymous reader thinks. Here's the game. This was a heart breaker. The win was there, but I messed up at the end and allowed him the perpetual.


Even though I went a second straight year with no wins, it was a direct reversal of last year's score. Last year it was 1 draw and 5 losses. This year it was 5 draws and 1 loss.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

NY State Championship: Round 5

Back to our scheduled programming. I didn't sleep very well Sunday night after discovering my computer had died, and probably wasn't anything I could resolve. There was the angst of why does this crap happen to me? Then there were the what ifs. What if I had done this, or that? The usual ruminations of a person who beats up on herself way too often.

Unfortunately 9 AM rounds come way too soon when one hasn't had much sleep. Despite the lack of sleep I played pretty well. I got paired up against an 1882. We reached the following position.

I came up with 24. Bxh6. It's a pretty little combination that wins me a pawn after 24...Bxh6 25. Nxf6+ Kg7 26. Nxd6 Bxc1 27. Nxe5 Bd2 28. Red1 Bc3 29. Nf3 b6. I was very pleased with myself for finding this line and working it all the way out to my 29th move. However there's an old axium that says "If you find a good move, look for a better one." It seems the combination would have been more effective after 24. b6 Ra8 25. Bxh6 Bxh6 26. Nf6+ Kg7 27.Nxd7 Bxc1 28. Bxb7 Bxd7 29. Bxa8 Bd2 30. Red1 Bb4 31. Bd5 axb6.

I had looked at b6 at some point, but given my history of losing over extended pawns I opted not to play that way. Sometimes one needs to forget about history. The game continued 30. Rdc1 Bf6 31.Nd2 Rce8 32. Bf3 Bg5 33. e3 Bc8 34. Ne4 Be7 35. Ra1 f5 36. Nd2 Bf6 37. Ra2 Bd738. a5 Bd8 39. axb6 Bxb6 40. Kg2 Re7 41. Rh1 Rd8 42. Nb3 d5 43. Na5 dxc4 44.dxc4 Be8 45. Rd1 Rxd1 46. Bxd1 Kf6 47. Nb3 Bf7 48. Be2 g5 49. Bf1 Rd7 50. Rd2Rxd2 51. Nxd2 Bc7 52. Nb3 Bb6 53. f4 Bh5 54. Kf2 Bd1 55. Nc1 gxf4 56. gxf4 Bc257. Bd3 Bd1 58. Ke1 Bf3 59. Nb3 Bb7 60. Ke2 a6 61. bxa6 to reach this position.

I didn't really see a way to force my way in so I offered a draw at this point. We had played for over four and half hours by now. A possible continuation might have been 62. Kf3 Ke6 63. e4fxe4+ 64. Kxe4 Bb7+ 65. Ke3 Kf6 66. Be4. He can simply move the bishop away and not trade. Even if he does trade I'm not convinced it's easy for white to get in. Maybe someone in my audience with Rybka or understands Monte Carlo analysis can find a win. Likeforests or Chessaholic perhaps???

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Words to The Wise: BACK UP!!!

I will say it again! BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE!!!!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Murphy reared his ugly ass head in the worst possible way. The hard drive on my lap top is totally kaput. Gone are all the pictures I took in Seville. Gone are the pictures I took in Seoul and Jeun Ju. It's true my husband took lots of pictures on our Spain trip, and other people took pictures on the Korea trip. However they don't replace the pictures I took. Photography is one way I express myself, and preserve certain experiences in my travels or just day to day occurrences. I can travel with people and they can take similar pictures, but it's just not the same thing. I may compose a certain setting one way. Anyone who enjoys taking pictures can relate to what I'm saying.

The good thing is my 750+ chess games that I've recorded on my Mon Roi and saved on my computer were not on that computer. I had some analysis on that computer, but those games were ones that I had analyzed on one of my road trips and posted on this blog. The games are on this computer, and this is getting backed up today!!

Some of you serious chess study geeks have a lot of work on your computers. If you faithfully back it up, then you are far smarter then me. If you haven't been backing it up, then learn something from my loss. I was hoping that my blog would only teach things from my chess games, but alas I offer another public service to my readers. Personally I would have preferred to show you six ugly losses from the weekend and a wall chart line that castled queen side twice. Instead I one ugly loss over the chess board, and many personal memories lost.

I'm just hoping that maybe I will be able to recover some of the stuff off the hard drive. There are companies that do that sort of stuff, but I have to find out how much it costs and whether it's worth the price.

I guess the only bright side is that the computer still has 4 days left on the warranty.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bad News, Good News: NY State Championship Day 1

First the bad news.....

For a second year in a row I did not win any games in this tournament!

The good news is, I had one loss, five draws against players rated 1800 - 1889 and gained 17 rating points. The tournament did have it's share of "Murphistic" moments, but overall it was a helluva better then last year's event.

Unfortunately Murphy reared his ugly head in the worst possible way. He's a miserable rat bastard in regards to my laptop. Come to think of it, I'd take 0-6 in the tournament to not have the disaster that befell my lap top on Sunday night. One of the reasons there is such a delay in getting this post up is because Sunday night my Mac Book would not start. It was making horrible clicking noises when it tried to boot up. Clicking noises aren't usually good things to hear eminating from one's hard drive. My live-in Mac geek (hubby) wasn't able to do a damn thing. All of my games scores are on this computer. I did have some analysis on the other. However those were games that I posted so I can always get those off my blog. The worst thing is I've lost all my pictures from my Spain trip, and a good chunk of my Korea trip. I can get pictures from other people, but it's just not the same as taking one's own pictures.

I don't know what's with me and hard drives. It's the third time in 4 years that I've had a drive crash. Two PCs and now a Mac. My Mac geek hubby was the one who kept telling me that Dell and Compac are pieces of crap and switch to Mac. Maybe I need to get one of those Panasonic laptops that you can run over with a truck and spill water on. This time I didn't do anything stupid. It just died while I was at the tournament.

Oh yes, the tournament. That's what this post was supposed to be about. Back to chess! I played the two day schedule which meant the first 3 rounds would be Game/40 with a 5 second delay. Then the 4th round would be part of the regular schedule at 40/2 and G/60. In round one I dropped a pawn on move 14. I thought "Here we go again! I can't get much out of the opening and already blew a pawn." However I felt I had compensation for the pawn because he gave up his light squared bishop and had a gaping hole on the h1-a8 diagonal.


It was a nice way to start the tournament. I told people "I have as many points in the first round as I had for the entire tournament last year!" That was my way of laughing about last year and seeing what I could do about this year.

My second round draw was only interesting because I played a few mind games. My opponent offered me a draw on the 32nd move. The material was even, he was ahead on the clock, and he may have been slightly better. I turned the draw down anyway. I hate taking draws when there's so much material left on the board. We both had a queen, rook, two minor pieces, and four pawns. I figured it was worth using my draw psychology here. Though in this case I was not playing a kid who I out rated by 100-200 points. I was playing an older guy sitting on his 1800 floor. I figured he wasn't very confident in his ability to do anything with his slight edge so I played on. I actually won a pawn a few moves later, but he was able to force a draw in a rook and pawns ending. I couldn't escape his rook checks. Now I've doubled last year's score.

An interesting side light was what happened in round three. My second round opponent was paired against Ethan, the kid mentioned in my draw psychology post. He offered Ethan a draw after 15 moves. Ethan jumped at the draw offer since the opponent out rated him by 150 points. The thought crossed my mind that Ethan really should have kept playing, but then I reconsidered. It gave him a two hour break before having to play the fourth game of the day at the longer time control. I may have accepted a draw in that spot too. Though it begs the question, "If you're going to offer your opponent a draw after 15 moves, why bother playing that round?" Hey, it's not my money. I come to play chess. A 15 move draw is not chess.

So "Ms. I'd rather lose, then take a short draw" ends out drawing her third game in a row. It was not a 15 move, 10 minute draw. I missed a very good shot in round three. We reached this position after 18...Qc7.

I missed 19. Nb5! Probably his best continuation is 19...cxb5, 20. Rxc7 Bxc7 giving me the queen for my rook and knight. Instead I played 19. Nxd6 and eventually the game petered down to 6 pawns each and bishop against a knight. We agreed to a draw on move 32. This would give us a chance to catch a breather before the 4th round at the longer time control.

Round four, and Murphy is going to mess with my mind. Last year I had "castled queen side" on the wall chart and I got the bye in round four. Last year my sister was away, so getting a bye was going to suck. I opted for a house player, and lost that game too. This year my sister was around, but by the time I heard from her it was too late to ask for a 1/2 bye for round four. It was even too late to ask for a zero point bye. The pairings were up. She and two of her daughters were thinking about going out for dinner, and then go to a movie at 9:00 pm. Hmmm, could I play a game at 40/2 G/60 in less then 3 hours without blundering?

The answer to that question is "NO!" Some times I wish I could stick Post-It notes on certain pieces and squares to remind me of things I need to do, or not do.

"Forgive me Caissa for I have sinned." Note the four queen moves I made in the first 11 moves. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Bxc3 6.bxc3 a6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e3 Qg5 10.f4 Qh4+ 11.g3 Qe7 12.Nf3 dxc4 13.Bxc4 b5 14.Bd3 Bb7 15.e4 Nd7 16.O-O c5 17.c4 bxc4 18.Bxc4 Bxe4 19.d5

Somewhere between moves 12 and 17 I really should have castled! If I had done that I would not have needed to remind myself not to make a capture with the pawn allowing the file to open up. In fact it was around move 15 that I said to myself "Watch out for f5 or d5, because you can't capture with the e pawn."

The problem was I didn't have a little reminder so when he pushed he played d5 I played 19...Bxd5? Thinking I'm now up two pawns. After he plays 20.Bxd5 I suddenly remember my little note from move 15. "You can't capture with the e pawn." So now he has a bishop for those two pawns. The two pawns are no bargain since I'm sitting there with 3 isolated pawns and he's piling up on my e pawn which is still pinned.

20...Ra7 21.f5 O-O 22.fxe6 fxe6 23.Re1 Rf6 24.Qb3 Nf8. After I play the knight back to f8 I'm wondering what my sister's plans are. (Kids: Don't try this at a tournament.) I go outside to call her, and see that I have a voice mail from her. They're waiting for a table at a place a few miles down the road from me, and then after dinner go to the movies. I call back and get her voice mail. I tell her that I screwed up horribly, and may join them for dinner.

I go back into the playing room and continue my game. My phone vibrates, but it's to tell my I have voice mail. I'm not sure why it kept going straight to voice mail, but we're playing telephone tag. In the mean time my position is just getting worse. 25.Bc4 Kh8 26.Re3 Qd6 27.Rd1 Qc6 28.Ne5 Qa8 29.Qb6 a5. I call her back and leave her another message saying if my opponent plays a certain move I'm resigning. I'm expecting my opponent to simply play 30 Qxc5, but instead he plays 30. Rc8. My sister calls again, and this time I actually get to talk to her. I tell her I'm on the verge of resigning and will be joining her for dinner.

As I'm having this conversation one of the kids I know hears me. So he asks me if I'm going to resign right now. I said "Probably, but I'm not sure." He follows me back into the room to watch. I decided I did not feel like having an audience for my resignation so I played a few more moves. 30...Qb7 31.Qxc5 Ra8 32.Ng6+ 1-0

Ugly game! Remind me next year if my sister is in town, just to take the round four bye and be done with it. Though I can't blame it on her. I always have trouble making the transition from the game/40 to the slower time control. I tend play as if I'm still on the short time control. I have to remind myself to slow it down.

Before my round four game my opponent mentioned that he reads my blog and enjoys it a lot. I told him he should know how I play if he's a regular reader. He told me if I beat him to be kind. So this is for you Scott. I was very kind in that I played like an idiot, and let you have an early evening. :-) Now you know why I played like an idiot.