Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bermuda International Open: Rd. 2

It wasn't quite the same view as yesterday. Unfortunately the weatherman got the rain forecast correct today. However still got to be better then anything that's happening in New York.

There were no upsets in round 1 per se. All the titled players won last night. An unrated Bermudian did put the hurt on his 1800+ rated opponent. I haven't seen all the results from round two yet, so I don't know if there were any upsets. They schedule the rounds at 9:00 am and 3:00 pm. You do the math! No time between rounds if you go the full six hours. I did not.

Larry Ebbin and Donna Reis

Last night they gave all of the out of town players a nice Bermuda canvas tote bag with a few goodies from the Tourism Board. Larry Ebbin, a local player and journalist gave Donna Reis a special bag and gave deep thanks for her generous support of the tournament. I taught Donna's son for many years until he got too strong. Hopefully we have not travelled to Bermuda to play each other again.

Nick De Firminian and Nigel Freeman doing some post mortem of their game from last night.

Carlos Taveres, my second round opponent doing his piece flip.

We had an interesting game that ended out in a draw. While he's playing he sometimes picks up a piece, flips it in the air, catches it and drops it on the destination square. The first time he did it was when he castled. He moved the king normally, picked up the rook, flipped it, caught it in mid air and gracefully set it down on f1. Quite a trick since he manages not to drop the piece before catching it. I had to get a shot of him doing it, but not during the game. So I had him recreate it as we were going over our game afterwards.

Polly does the queen flip.

I asked Carlos to take a picture of me out on the patio. I originally tossed my lens cap, but then decided to try it with a queen instead. I'm not sure I'd ever try to do it during a game. Someone might construe it as showing off. Somehow at a tournament like this, it just fit in. I think it's just part of the local flavor of the tournament. Thanks Carlos for an excellent shot. I may put up the sequence if I can figure out that slideshow thingy.

Time to relax. Round three starts in 35 minutes......Maybe!

Bermuda International Open - Round 3

After my encounter with the piece flipping opponent from Bermuda I had some time to relax and eat lunch. The bad thing about being at a place like this is there's no such thing as a lo-cal lunch. Come to think of it, eating and drinking is a big part of the whole experience. Diet starts on Monday! As I'm wandering around I notice this player relaxing by playing the piano. Since I like to catch all the flavor the event, I took a few pictures and made a mental note to myself. "Check out where he's sitting next round so you know what his name is." I didn't have to look very hard since he was sitting across from me.

Jacob Slepian
Cleveland, OH
Playing "I did it my way"

Sometimes I find older players tougher to play then the kids. Kids attack like crazy, and can be impulsive especially if they're losing. Older players are far more patient and don't give up so easy. I won the exchange against him, and thought I had an easy win. My friends from New York kept looking at the position and were asking themselves, "What's taking her so long?" Mr. Slepian "did it his way" and hung in there. I eventually had give back the exchange and concede the draw. It was very frustrating to let him slip away like that, especially outrating him by almost 400 points. I will post games with analysis when I get back to NY. I was going to put it up with no analysis but I'm having technical issues . I've kind of become the unofficial website for the tournament so I'm basically putting up pictures and some results. My games are becoming irrelevant at this point.

The New York contigent joined Nigel and his group for a lovely dinner at Bacci for Italian food. It was a love dinner, but I ate way too much.

Nigal Freeman, Carol and Ken Troutman
Jorge Vega and Sophia Vega

After three rounds there are 5 perfect scores. No great surprises.

GM Nick De Firminian
GM Alexander Ivanov
GM Pascal Charbonneau
IM Dean Ippolito
IM David Cummings

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bermuda International Open - Day 1

How nice is it to wake up and see this outside your hotel room window? That's how my day started. Note to the guys: Show this to your chess widow. This should convince her that going to a chess tournament in Bermuda isn't such a bad thing.

The water is way too cold for the locals, however the Atlantic in June on the Jersey Shore is colder then the Atlantic off the Bermuda coast in January. I thought it was a delightful way to start the day!

This is the 25th Bermuda Open. Denis Strenzwilk from Maryland has played in all of them. That's him pictured below.

I've known Denis for a long time from my days playing in Maryland before moving to New York. He's one lucky guy to have been able to play every year since it started.

Part of the charm of this tournament is the Bermudian hospitality. Thursday night there was a cocktail reception at one of the local's home. Today there was lunch at Nigel Freeman's home. Nigel is the organizer of the event. He made leg of lamb and roast pork. I had the lamb and it was outstanding. Sitting in his back yard I actually got a little bit of color from the sun. If anyone tries to tell you the sun isn't a problem in January, don't believe them. I didn't get burned, but now I don't look like I've been living under a rock in NY all winter.

Our gracious host serving lunch.

Hanging out in Nigel's living room talking about World Championships and other fun stuff.

Who can name the two grandmasters?

Jorge Vega of Mexico, Continental FIDE President of the Americas making the ceremonial first move for Nigel on board one. Nigel got paired against GM Nick De Firmian.

Meanwhile down on Board 23, Gary Cooper of Bermuda and me shaking hands before the start of our game.

It was an interesting game. I had some excellent chances but messed up. Here's the game.


Back on Board One..... White is drinking red wine. Black is drinking white wine.

Stay tuned for more pictures and news from rounds two and three. It's supposed to rain, but I can't complain. The weather was very nice today.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bermuda International Open Blitz

In one those amazing feats of NYC aviation, my flight actually left ahead of schedule. If anyone has ever flown in or out of New York they know what a miracle it is to not be in a long line of planes trying to fly out of JFK. Getting out of New York early meant arriving in Bermuda early.

It's a Bermuda Open tradition to have a cocktail reception for the players at one of the local's home and then return to the hotel for a blitz tournament. I knew I would not make it for the reception, and I figured I might get to see the last round or two of the blitz. However I forgot about "Island Time". No matter whether one travels to the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda or any other tropical island, people do things on island time. It means everything is done at a leisurely pace. The chances are if something is scheduled for 8:00 pm, it's more likely to start at 9:00 pm.

When I got off the plane I called one of my friends to let her know I arrived. The security people weren't too happy with me talking on the phone so I had end the conversation promptly. That would really suck to get tossed on the next plane back to New York because I was yacking on my cell phone. Though the one piece of information I did get was that the blitz had not even started yet.

After getting my luggage and going through customs I recognized GM Nick De Firmian. He had come down on the same flight with GM Pascal Charbonneau and another New Yorker Conrad Ho. We shared a taxi to the hotel. No, I did not get any pointers on the way to the hotel. :-)

We got to the hotel in time to join the blitz tournament for round two. Conrad and I got paired against each other. He smacked me around in the first game, and I drew the second game. That was dumb luck since I was getting mated as he ran out of time. I didn't even realize he had run out of time, so I thought I had lost. I won round 3 2-0. In round 4 I lost 0-2 and in the last round I won 2-0. In that last round I got extremely lucky in the first game. I had one second left. All my opponent has to do is make any move and I'm going to lose on time. He went into a deep think and used up his remaining 10 seconds. My 5.5 points was good enough for 2nd under 1800. $25! $5 of it in Bermudian money that I will have to spend here.

This tournament is organized by Nigel Freeman. (Pictured below.) He does a wonderful job putting the whole thing together. Tomorrow all the players are invited to his house for lunch.

Nigel figuring out who won what.
Carol Jarecki, Tournament Director.
The winners from left to right.
IM Yan Teplitsky 8.5, GM Alexander Ivanov 8.0, IM Dean Ippolito 7.0

Class prize winners:

Under 2200 - Andrei Moffat

Under 2000 - Moses Mufandaedze

Under 1800 - Max Steinberg

Under 1600 - Kennedy Simmons

First round is 8:00 PM tomorrow night. Wish me luck!

Leaving On a Jet Plane.....

...and I know when I'm coming back again. Greetings from JFK. I'm off to Bermuda this evening to play in the Bermuda International Open that starts tomorrow. This will be my first time playing in this 25 year old tournament. It's something I've wanted to do, and this year I finally got the chance to go.

I will be making posts during the tournament. Hopefully I will have some good games to share with you all. Pictures will also be included. This is my first time playing in a FIDE rated event. It is also USCF rated so it will be another place that I'm getting to play in a tournament. Since Bermuda is not a state, I can't count it towards my quest of all 50 states.

I've been told it's going to rain all weekend down there. Rain in Bermuda has got to be better then the crap we've been having in New York lately. Tonight there is a blitz tournament, but I won't make it down there in time. Unfortunately American Airlines daily flight to Bermuda doesn't leave until 5:15 pm.

Ciao! Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Liberty Bell Open: Part 2

On the two day schedule rounds four and five can be very dangerous. Many players will opt to take a half point bye in one of these two rounds. Some take the bye in round four because they want to rest up for the round five game that will be played at the much slower time limit. Others will play all the fast games and then take the bye in round five in order to enjoy a relaxing evening. Last year I wrestled with the bye issue because I wanted to watch the football game. Despite last year's nightmarish rounds four and five, I decided I was here to play chess. I didn't give a rat's ass about the football game, except to root against the Eagles. However it wasn't worth skipping a round for, and also rooting too loudly for the Cardinals in Philadelphia could be hazardous to one's health.

Round Four: Slam dunk!

Round four had all the makings of a disaster as I got myself into insane time trouble. We reached this position after 30. Qg6. I had less then a minute, and my opponent still had around 5 minutes. However he was one who started tossing pieces away.

The game continued 30... Bxf2 31. Qxe6+ Kh8 32. d5 Be3? He recognized then I had broken the pin with d5, but he managed to move the bishop to another bad square. I didn't have time to really decide whether there was some true sacrifice here, but my king looked pretty safe. I grabbed the bishop. 33. Qxe3 Qxd5 34. Qd4 Qf7 35. a4 Rc8 36.Qd3 Rc4 37. Qd2 Qb7 38. Qd8+ Kh7 39. Qd3+ Re4 40. b5 ? I completely missed the easy win after 40. Ng3 Qxb4 41. Nxe4 Qe1+ 42. Rg1 Qxg1+ 43. Kxg1 Kg8 44. Qd8+ Instead I had to try to force material off the board. The game continued 40... Kg8 41. bxa6 Qa8 42. Kg1 Rxa4 43. Qd7 Ra1+ 44. Kf2 Qf8 45. a7 Ra2 46. Qd4 Qe7 47. Qe3 Qf7 48. Rg1 Rxa7 49.Rd1 Ra8 50. Qe4 At this point the notation has stopped on both sides and the rest of the game is a blur.

We eventually got down to queen, knight two pawns versus queen and two pawns. I'm down to six seconds and I can't find a way to force the queens off, and I can't pick off either of his pawns with my queen or knight. Every time I try to set that up he hits me with a flurry of checks. Every time I interpose with the queen he scoots away to prevent the queen trade. With so little time, I'm afraid I will have to settle for a draw since there doesn't seem to be any way to force the queens off.

At this point with us being the last game we've drawn a crowd to our table. Now my opponent has joined me in the time scramble. I still have six seconds, and he has nine seconds. Both floor directors are hovering near by. I'm sure their expecting an illegal move or some other time pressure issue that will require their intervention. My opponent suddenly makes one of those just horrendous moves that happens in time pressure. He just hung his queen. I made the capture with my queen. I took the captured piece, moved it off the board and let go. However I was not looking where I put it, and managed to drop it into my water cup, which was filled with water. This caused everyone to laugh including my poor opponent who promptly resigned.

I was kind of embarrassed, especially since it was my opponent's nice wood set. I grabbed it out of the cup as soon as possible. How I manged to drop it there without even looking, and not having the cup tip over is beyond me. I think if I attempted to do that again, I'd probably miss the cup all together, or knock it over spilling all the water. As I left the room, I couldn't help giggling to myself over the absurdity of dropping a captured piece into a water cup without looking.

Marshall Chess Club - Philadelphia Annex

Nothing like travelling to an out of town tournament to play people from your home club. However given how close Philadelphia is to New York, and the popularity of this tournament amongst New Yorkers it's no great surprise. I think every time I've played in this tournament I've gotten paired against at least one player I've played at the Marshall before.

In round five I got paired against Linda Diaz. We've played each other a number of times at the Marshall, but always at G/30. This would be the first time playing her at the more civilized time controls of 40/2 SD/1. Usually the first game at the slow time control has not been a pretty sight. Round Six at the 2008 US Open comes to mind as a poor transition to the slow time control. In fact round six at the last 3 US Opens has been bad. In 2006 I walked into a Smith-Morra trap and lost in 15 moves. Since it was BB (before blog) I don't have a link to it. Round five in this tournament last year also wasn't so hot. So what would this year bring?

There were two things working in my favor this time around. First was winning in round four despite my time pressure issues. I was already in slow mode before starting round five. The second was being familiar with my opponent. We've played a few times so I know a little something about her style. Also I have a winning record against her, so I knew I was capable of winning against her despite her higher rating.

This was an interesting game. I was playing very slowly. Part of my slow pace was due to my difficulty in coming up with a coherent plan. I would play a move, she would respond and then I have to rethink my analysis. When I'm in that type of thinking mode it's normally not a good sign. I was getting frustrated with her knights and the potential threats from her passed d pawn. I fiddled around with my rooks and doubled them on the e file. I didn't think they were going to amount to much since she had one of her knights sitting on the e4 outpost square guarded by the other knight and her d pawn. Even if I trade my light squared bishop for the knight she can recapture either with the other knight or the d pawn. Then her passed pawn would become protected on the e file. Here is the game, but below I have put up the critical position.


She made a critical mistake when she took her knight off the outpost square and chased my queen to the g file where I have a mate threat on g7. Her move 33...Nd2 was a classic example of making an attacking move that helps the opponent. I'm not sure what I was going to do if she starts pushing the d pawn or doubles her rooks on the c file.

When we reached the position below, I came up with one of the most daring moves I've made in chess.

I'm not one to sac a queen unless it's one of those simple cases of sac it one move, and promote on the next move. This was a matter of making sure there was absolutely no saving move for Black that allows her to take my queen and prevent mate. While I was thinking about 36. Qxf6 my opponent had left the board. I had been listening to music, but decided I needed absolutely nothing going through my head except the analysis of the position. In many situations music acts as a calming influence when I'm agitated or distracted. I had needed the music earlier when I found myself frustrated by inability to come up with a a good plan. Now I needed a clear head to work all of this out.

I finally took the knight and waited for her to return to the board. She spent quite a bit of time before she came up with 36...Nf1+. I almost freaked out when I saw that move. I can't take the knight because then my rooks aren't doubled any longer and she can play 37...Qxf6 without worrying about 38. Re8+. At first I thought I would have to allow her the 3 fold repetition with 37. Kh1 Ng3+, 38. Kh2 Nf1+, etc. However then I realized 37. Kg1 is okay. It doesn't matter that she's pinning the rook on e3. If she doesn't take my queen then I mate on g7. If she does take the queen then my rook is no longer pinned and I have mate after 38. Re8+ Rxe8 39. Rxe8#.

She ended out being the one to sac her queen, but all that does is postpone the inevitable. I was surprised she played it all the way out to mate. Normally that kind of thing bothers me, but I just treated it as an opportunity to work out knight moves in my head to set up winning her pinned rook, and later on forcing mate without allowing her any stalemate possibilities.

Sunday was rather anti-climatic after my crazy Saturday. I ended out with two rather uninspiring draws that left me out of the money. However I was very happy to achieve a plus score and not lose any games on the slow time control.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Liberty Bell Open: Part 1

I'm still catching my breath from a very interesting weekend of chess. I didn't get much time to hang out in my room, so I decided I wasn't paying $9.95 for what would have amounted to maybe an hour's worth of time online. The Internet functioned fine without me. The chess blogosphere went on without my comments and insights. The USCF Forums had enough rational people to respond to the irrational people, so they didn't miss me there either. Truth be told, I didn't miss a thing.

This year's report on the Liberty Bell is different because I'm not blogging live. I've had time to gather my thoughts together in order to share the highs and lows, the serious and not so serious. The short version is I scored 2 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws in the under 1900 section and gained 19 rating points. (Note: I proceeded to give back the 19 points on Thursday night, but that's another story.) The way I started off the tournament I really didn't expect to get a plus score. In fact after the first game I wasn't sure I'd get any score.

Round 1: What's in a name?

In round one I was paired against a player with the name of Broxie Pace, rated 1775. Broxie! What an interesting first name. Is it short for something? Is this a kid with a set of 60s parents who decided to give their child some funky name? A brash kid with moxie, therefore named Broxie? Nope, not a kid. The kids would come later. After all, when don't I play kids? He's a local player who is probably older then me. I'm not going to venture any guesses though. I've never across him before, but he's played in a lot of the big tournaments in Philly such as the World Open and the National Chess Congress.

In preparing to write this story I was curious as to when he started playing. His first tournament was the 1993 World Open and he played in the Open section. That's quite an ambitious foray into tournament chess. He ended out with a rating of 1696 based on his 9 games. In looking at the cross table for the event I wanted to see who he played. If you click on a player's final ranking you get a list of all of the opponents with the results and pre and post ratings. I noticed that one of the players he lost to was an unrated named John Von Neumann. That name seemed very familiar, and then I remembered why. (For math geeks the name John Von Neumann should strike a chord.) He had caused quite a stir at that tournament when it became apparent that he was getting some sort of assistance via computer. This article from Chess Base tells the story far better then I can. Poor Broxie was one of the unfortunate people that "John Von Neuman" was able to beat.

However I will not wax poetic and mourn over his misfortune from 15 years ago, especially considering what a pounding I got from him. Though part of the pounding was my own damn fault. Once again I allowed myself to be overly intimidated by a sac that wasn't as deadly as it seemed. Here is the damage.


Round Two: Bye Bye, Bye!

Having lost round one, I was already having to deal with the annoying prospect of the "Please Wait" in round two. I was the second lowest rated in the two day schedule, and we had an odd number. I considered taking a preemptive round four bye to avoid getting a bye in round two. Round four was the last game of the fast time control before merging into the slower schedule. Considering how many implosions I've had going into the last round of the first day, it might have been a good idea. However the chess addict in me wanted to play all seven rounds. I figured I'd take my chances with getting a game from a bye player in another section. It almost blew up in my face.

I hadn't noticed the pairings for the Under 1700 section so I thought the only other player with a bye was an 1100 in the under 1500 section. I wanted to play someone closer to me in rating. One of the tournament directors misunderstood me, and thought I didn't want to play the player in the Under 1700 section who got the bye. He told her I didn't want to play. In the meantime I'm trying to find someone who was hanging around and might want to play as a house player against me. Then I found out about the player in the under 1700 section who was also looking for a game. She and her dad were playing in the under 1700 section. I asked her dad where she was. He wasn't sure. Either on the mezzanine or balcony level.

It became a game of cat and mouse. I think we kept missing each other. I'd be upstairs, and she'd be downstairs or visa-versa. Finally one of the NYC parents I know told me she just went upstairs. I dashed up the escalator, hoping to catch her before somebody told her I was downstairs. We finally found each other and got to play. Since she was being moved into my section for the round, she got to keep her bye point regardless of what happened in the game. If I lost the game then I would be out the point. I didn't really care. I seriously didn't think having the full point would make much difference if I did end out losing or drawing.

Alice and I have played each other three times at the Marshall Chess Club. I'm 2-1 against her. The games I won against her have been tight, but the clock has been a factor each time. Since we started late we had to deduct an extra five minutes from each side. She was totally outplaying me and won a pawn. Then she hung a piece. It still wasn't going to be easy for me since she got a second pawn for the piece and it was down on my third rank. I hung the piece right back several moves later. We reached this position. I'm down a pawn.

I'm not sure what I played at this point. I think I may have played either Rb4 0r Ke2. I offered a draw which she took. She had a minute and a half. I had 30 seconds. I was surprised she took the draw. Afterwards she admitted afterwards that she was nervous about the clock. Considering how we both blundered away pieces perhaps a draw was the correct result. Note to my end game fan readers: Feel free to offer some analysis. If time is not a factor can Black convert this?

Round Three: $80 down the toilet. (Not my $80)

This tournament wasn't getting off to the smoothest start. Getting smashed in the first round and eking out a draw in the second round doesn't have the makings of a good tournament. However things could have been worse. I could have been like my third round opponent. He started off .5 -1.5 in the three day schedule, and decided to re-enter the two day schedule. He started off the two day schedule 0-2. That's not the results one wants when he pays another $80 to re-enter. (Don't get me started on re-entries. Waste of money!!) I guess the 0-2 explains why he refused my draw after after 38...Qxd4+ to reach this position.

We fiddled around with our queens for another 13 moves and then he finally accepted my second draw offer. I try not to make a second draw offer before my opponent has made one of his own. Repeated draw offers though technically not against the rules are annoying. In this case the position was going nowhere. I figured 13 moves after my first draw offer, I was justified in making a second draw offer. At that point he accepted the draw.

I still had two more rounds to play on this first day. If you thought all of that was fun. Wait until you see what happened next. Stay tuned for part two.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Words of Wisdom

I got an email from a friend the other day. I have no idea where he got it from so I can't give credit to whoever initially created this. I find it quite funny, but excellent advice to chess players:

One of the secrets of life is......

.......having both patience and wisdom.

Hopefully I can apply that over the next two days in Philadelphia at the Liberty Bell Open. I hope the Cardinals can beat the Eagles otherwise I may not be able to stomach the Eagle fans celebrating in the lobby bar. I guess it would be pay back for last year's performance during the OT of the Giants-Packers game.

I'm glad the Cardinals-Eagles game is the the early game since I'll still be playing the fast schedule and won't have time to worry about what's happening in the football game. By the time I can watch the football game it will be the Steelers-Ravens. I really don't give a rat's @$$ about that game. Despite my Baltimore roots, and growing up going to Baltimore Colts games I can't really get excited about the Ravens. They're not my beloved Colts. Neither is that team in Indianapolis that bears the name.

End of my football rant. 25 days until pitchers and catchers.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sleeper: The Chess Version

It's another Thursday night at the Marshall, and as usual I've gotten smacked around by someone much higher rated in the first round. However since the tournament was smaller and weaker then normal I was on third board in the first round and played FM Ilya Figler. Being on such a high board in round one meant I'd get paired down for round two. When I saw the second round pairing I thought I was playing a kid, so I was quite surprised when an adult sat down across from me. I had confused my opponent, Christopher Lai with Christopher Lee, a 5th grader from NYC who I drew with a few months ago in a weekend tournament at the Marshall.

My opponent probably felt a little bit like the Woody Allen character in this scene from the movie Sleeper.

I didn't know it when we sat down to play, but this was his first tournament in 15 years. It didn't register with me when he asked me why the clock was set for 25 minutes, not 30 minutes. I guess I'm so used to answering this question for kids who have never played with time delay, that it never occurred to me that some adults may have never seen a time delay clock before. I've also have encountered players from out of town who have never played with time delay, so I just figured he was another one of those players. I guess his first round opponent wasn't using a delay clock. I explained time delay to him, and showed him how the clock counts down for 5 seconds before time starts.

I can't explain what happened in this game. We had traded queens by move 13 and I thought I was going to have a decent game after I put my rook on the open d file. However after he played 14. f3, I made a bad tempo wasting move of Be6. When he played 15. Nc5 it took me almost 5 minutes to find 15...Bc8. I thought I was going to have to give up the b7 pawn or allow him to give me double isolated pawns on the e file after 15...b6 16. Nxe6 fxe6. I wasted a lot of time and mental energy on other variations when the simple 15...Bc8 protects the pawn and doesn't allow him create the doubled pawns. When I finally saw the right move my thought is, "Well, duh! What are you thinking about?"

Drunknknite wrote an excellent post titled Essential Tournament Skills: What to do when everything is losing. I think I needed to take #2 (FIX YOUR HEAD) and #3 (REBUILD YOUR ASSUMPTIONS) on his to do list and utilize them to bring my mind back into clear focus. I wasn't lost after 15 moves. In fact the position was pretty even by White's 18th move. Somehow after having spent almost 5 minutes thinking I was going to lose a pawn or end out with horrible double isolated e pawns, I may have just assumed that I couldn't find good moves in the position. It's almost as though I assumed that sooner or later I would have to give up something.

On move 18 I could have simply played Bxd3 and depending on how he recaptures either trade rooks or put pressure on the d3 pawn. At that point I didn't want to give up the bishop pair and thought that line might be drawish. Instead, in my lame attempt to open up the a1-h8 diagonal for my fianchettoed bishop I placed my knight on a horrible square. I ended out walking into the same sort of threat that cost me the exchange in my first round game.

The last 10 moves I played with 2 seconds left on my clock. My opponent asks me why my clock isn't running. He keeps seeing the 2 seconds remaining. I think he just was trying to run me out of time even though he had several opportunities to win more material or force the trade of my lone bishop. Once again I have to explain the whole time delay thing. I have no pawns left, and even though all his pawns are isolated my bishop can't possibly cover all the potential queening squares. I think the only reason I was playing on at that point was to see how many moves I could make in 2 seconds. Also I don't think I was ready to deal with the ribbing I would probably get from one of the kids who came to the tournament with me.


I finally used up the two seconds by move 53. That type of time forfeit is what I refer to as "the clocking resigning for me." After the game is over I explain the time delay in much more detail then I had at the beginning of the game. That's when he told me that he had not played in a tournament in 14 years, and had not seen a digital clock the Mon Roi. Although it's not like waking up 200 years later like Miles Moore, I guess it's culture shock to return to tournaments after so many years, see new equipment, and have to deal with new rules. Having seen so many changes in time limits, equipment and rules, I tend to take these things in stride.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Modified Swiss Gambit

Usually I avoid playing in under 1800 sections because they tend to be overrun with under rated little kids. I worked Saturday so I couldn't play in the G/45 Open on that day. I was in the mood to play over the weekend, so I sucked it up and went down to the Marshall to play in the New York Winter Under 1800. Since there was a scholastic tournament in New York City at the same time, this event wasn't quite as overrun with kids as it might normally be.

However the kids weren't the ones that were annoying me in the first round. Some adults really should have paid more attention to Steve's pre-game announcements about knowing the rules. When there are a lot kids playing Steve makes a point of putting out copies of his tournament rules. During his usual spiel about setting the clocks correctly, no cell phones, and the round times, he made mention of the rules sheet that was available. Though I'm not sure it would have helped the guy sitting next to me.

In the first round I got paired against a fifth grader rated around 1530. Next to me was an adult rated around 1500 paired against a kid rated around 1650. I'm totally absorbed in my game when I hear the adult offer his young opponent a draw, on the opponent's time. I glance at his score sheet and notice they've only played 7 moves. I'm thinking to myself "Why bother playing if you're going to offer draw so early? Especially in the first round." The kid ignores him and plays a move.

About 5 moves later he offers another draw. Once again the kid ignores the draw offer and keeps playing. I'm still thinking to myself "Why is this guy so hot to get an early draw? Is he that hard up for rating points?" Speaking of draws, my opponent is playing very solidly, and I'm not getting much play out of the position. My only edge is on the clock. He's playing very slowly, and I'm moving fairly quickly. I'm playing as if it's G/25 with a 5 second delay, but in this tournament the time limit is G/45 with a 5 second delay. I have an extra 20 minutes to work with, but I haven't quite gotten into the groove of the time limit.

On one of the lower boards I hear some adult telling his young opponent that he should be able to claim a draw. I couldn't quite make out the gist of his argument and a couple of the spectators are getting into a discussion with him. "Hello! Butt out!! Spectators shouldn't be getting into the middle of a discussion between two players in the middle of a game." I didn't say anything at that point. It wasn't my business.

In the meantime the guy next to me makes his third draw offer! I'm on the verge of wanting to wring his neck, since each offer gets louder and more obnoxious. They still haven't even played 20 moves. Again the kid says nothing, and just keeps playing. If I had been the kid, I would have told the guy to stop offering draws. Sometimes I think kids in their desire to be respectful to adults, don't want to tell an adult that he's doing something wrong. I wonder if his opponent had been another kid, whether he would have said something or not.

Finally the player makes a fourth offer and says is a fairly loud voice, "Come on take the draw, this is a friendly game." Other players are shooting him dirty looks and saying "Shhhh". At that point I couldn't take it any more. I told the guy he can't be badgering his opponent with repeated draw offers. I wanted to say "This is not a friendly game, it's a tournament game." I refrained from saying that because I would have just gotten more pissed off, and caused a bigger disturbance.

As my opponent I traded down to pawns and minor pieces, he offered me a draw. I felt I was slightly better with better pawn structure so I declined the draw at that point. In the meantime the game next to me ended with the adult saying things like "Good game. God bless you. God loves you. Thank you." I didn't know what the result was at that point. As it turns out, he did get his draw. I was hoping the kid would pound the crap out of him, but no such luck.

In the meantime I reached the following position with an 18 minute edge on the clock. However I felt I couldn't really do anything with the position, so I offered the draw back after playing 33...Nb6. He accepted my offer.

If reading about the first round you think I was not too focused on my own game, you're right. I was easily distracted by the circus going on in the playing room. Between annoying draw offers and clueless players and spectators, I was clearly have attention issues. After a 10 day absence from the chess board it was taking me a little time to get my chess rhythm back. I knew I needed to slow down, and not let myself get distracted. I had left my iPod at home, so I couldn't even use my music to take the edge off my restless mind.

Since there was an odd number of players in the one point score group. the lowest rated one dropped down to play me, the highest rated half. In this particular case the lowest rated one pointer was the player with a 425 rating who received a bye in round one. When playing adults with such a low rating one can not help to wonder why the rating is so low. In most cases it's because the player has played very few games, and probably hasn't won many of them. I encountered that very situation in December, and it was pretty scary being totally outplayed by someone with a rating 900 points lower. Only a major time pressure meltdown on my opponent's part in that game saved me from being his first scalp in rated play. Perhaps that game will be a future "Wacky Wednesday" post.

I was a little nervous at when he responded to my English with a Grand Prix in reverse. He played the opening fairly well, but then a series of small little mistakes on his part allowed me to get a nice attack going against his uncastled king. I still was playing too fast, but the attack just played itself, and I mated him on the 2oth move with his king in the middle of the board.


Having an easy game in round two gave me a bit of break. I went over the game with my opponent and pointed out some of the errors he made. His brother who was also playing in the tournament added a few comments. Aftwerwards I had time to take a walk and grab a bite to eat before round three. I knew if a two pointer dropped down to play me, he was going to be much higher rated then my previous opponent. If I played another player with 1.5 he would also be a challenge.

I ended out playing another kid rated 1650 who also had 1.5 points. I had Black, and I expected the kid to attack like crazy if possible. Sure enough he played he played 3. f4 in response to my Sicilian, and tried bringing his queen to the h file to hit on h7. Lately I've been trying to get a queen trade or drive the queen back to thwart the attack on the h file. He opted to retreat and decline the queen trade. I won a few pawns and as the following position demonstrates the wisdom of the chess axiom, "Passed pawns must be pushed."

42...Qe3+ 43. Kh1 Qf2 44. Qb1 d2 45. Rg1 Qxg1+ 46. Kxg1 e1/Q+ 47. Qxe1 dxe1/Q#

My draw in the first round allowed me to avoid the perfect scores for rounds two and three. I thought in round four I'd get my shot at the lone 3-0 and a chance to win the tournament since I was the highest rated 2.5. However the other 2.5s had played each other, so one of them played the 3-0. The lone perfect score was Kadhir Pillai, a very talented and under rated 8 year old. His January rating is listed at 1599, his actual rating is over 1700. I got paired against the brother of my second round opponent. This would the second time in my last four tournaments where I would get paired against a set of brothers. In Saratoga Springs last month it was the Brooks brothers. Now I was playing the Dattatreya brothers.

Since the brother had seen how I played against his lower rated brother with White, I decided to switch things around a bit. I didn't know whether he had something planned knowing that I play the English, so I played 1. d4 instead. The opening was pretty symetrical, but on his 10th move he castled, and hung his c6 pawn. That allowed me all kinds of play forcing him to lose the exchange or a full piece. It was not an easy win, despite two connected passed pawns and being up the exchange. His knights were very active and effectively blockading the passed pawns.

During my game I had to resist the urge to watch what was happening on board one. What was occurring on board one would impact my standing. However I needed to win to have any shot at tying for first or coming in clear second. Often when I've been ahead, I've let my mind wonder off and start thinking about winning the tournament or gaining huge amounts of rating points. When that happens, I totally lose focus, and throw the game away. By reminding myself to stay focused on my own game, and not think about what is going on around me I was able to concentrate on finding the moves that would force the pawns through.

Kadhir won his game so he ended out 4-0 to win the tournament. That helped me relax some, and reminded me that coming in second was totally in my control if I could win my game. As the sports cliche goes I was in control of my own destiny. I made sure I watched his knights carefully. There were too many opportunities to walk into forks if I left my rooks too close to each other on the same color squares. Finally I was able to penetrate and sac my rook to promote.


Coming in second was a nice way to return after a 10 day break from chess. I just need to keep working on staying focused when I'm ahead, and not become so distracted by what is going on around me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Different Year - Same Old "Stuff"! Edited

Some things never change. I ended 2008 on New Years eve playing kids in the last three rounds with mixed results (1 win, 1 loss and 1 draw), and I started 2009 on New Years Day with kids in all four rounds with crappy results (1 win and 3 losses). Boris Privman was my lone adult opponent over the two days of tournaments. He beat me for the 17th time. Sigh.

I think the thing that bothered me the most about Thursday's tournament was how poorly I played with the White pieces. In both games Black grabbed the initiative quickly and I spent most of the game on the defense. That's not supposed to happen. Lately I've been very unhappy with the positions I've gotten from both the English and the Colle. I'm starting to think I may have to do some radical like opening with 1. e4. I haven't played 1. e4 since March of 1990. Another one of those things on my 2009 "chess to do" list.

In the first two rounds I played kids who I first saw when they were in kindergarten or first grade playing the scholastic tournaments I direct. They started out with three digit ratings. Now they're teenagers and out rate me by 300 to 400 points. As what would be expected when a player is out rated another by 300 to 400 points, I lost to both of the teenagers. Before anyone says "Don't pay attention to the rating.", I don't take the attitude of "I'm going to lose because this guy is so much higher rated." In fact I have a decent record against my first round opponent. I've been 2100s before, and I'll beat a few again. However if I keep getting positions out of the opening like this one, I'm not going to beat anyone.


In round three I finally got paired down. I played a much younger kid who I had not seen before. He played way too fast, and kept hanging pawns and pieces. He's been playing in tournaments for less then three years and his rating has shot up from 100 to 1460. In the past year it's risen almost 400 points. I suspect as he gets more experience and matures, he'll catch up with me.

In the last round I played a fifth grader who I've seen around the Marshall a lot. Surprisingly enough this was actually the first time I've played him. Having played a crappy English in the first round, I decided to play 1. d4 in the last round. Again I let my initiative slip away, and his attack on the king side proved to be more effective then my attack on the queen side.

Polly-Justus 01012009.pgn

In looking at these two games I played as White, I can see that I made some indifferent moves early on which allowed my opponents to grab the initiative. In both cases I should have hit the center sooner then I did. I've noticed a tendency on my part to sit back, and allow the opponent to dictate play. I need to play with more purpose in the opening. It's time to look at some grandmaster games in my openings. I need to get out of this rut I find myself in.

PS. Everyone should be proud of me because I resisted the urge to go into NYC today and play in Steve's game/30 that he was running tonight. It was tempting to do so, because I have a tendency to try play myself out of these ruts. Eight games in two days was enough. I need a little break. No chess games for a week as hubby and I spend a few days in Chicago seeing friends. Chicago in January brings new meaning to the phrase "cold turkey".

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!

Another year has past. I put the finishing touches on my 2008 page on my tournament record Excel workbook, and opened my 2009 page. The year ended the same way it started with my rating at 1700, but unlike the past few years, my rating actually moved around a lot as I had some very good results. Unfortunately more often then not, the good results would be followed by some not so good results. I played a little less in 2008, yet I won and drew more games then I did in 2007. Maybe there is hope for me yet. :-)

What will 2009 bring?

4400 tournament games?: I'm only 21 games away from 4100. Given my past few years 400+ games pace I might even hit 4500.

New states to play: Tennesee is a definite when I play in the Parents & Friends at Super Nationals in April. Indiana is a maybe if I play in the US Open in August. Who knows what other states may appear on the radar.

Chess Improvement: I make no promises on this one, but I am really going to try to study more this year. I want to come up with specific things I can do in a set amount of time. Some days I may have more time then others.

How would you spend your time studying if you had:

15 minutes?

30 minutes?

45 minutes?

1 hour?

Fire away!!

Tae Kwon Do: Okay it's not chess, but I think a lot of the challenges I've faced in that have helped me with chess. I started the year as a no belt. (Our school makes you in your white belt.) I have progressed to purple belt. Now it gets harder to move on. A lot more is expected as one makes their way closer to black belt. Everything has to be sharper, and the forms become more complex. I went through six levels so far. There are three more (brown, red and bodan) before black. I aim to make bodan by this time next year. Black belt will be a 2010 goal.

Thanks for sharing 2008 with me. Hopefully 2009 will be even more interesting and exciting.