Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Polly's Sports Report

Yes, there is life outside chess! I actually went nine whole days without playing a single game of chess. No cracktion at the Marshall, no blitz on FICS, no slugging it out with Fritz, nadda, nothing, zippo! I didn't even have to go on vacation to force myself away from the board. Did I suffer from withdrawal? Have a bad case of the shakes? Was I asking where is my next game coming from? Nope. I had other things on my mind.

Taekwondo took up a lot my time. I had two important events within a few days of each other. The first was the American Taekwondo United National Championships on a Saturday, and my promotion test on the Monday following. For the week leading up to the championships I was training every day. I would do extra practice either before or after class. During class our master would have those of us who were competing get up and do their form in front of the class. The first time I had to do it, I was taken by surprise, and found myself being nervous. When I'm nervous I tend to be off balance and prone to making mistakes. This particular form has a lot of side kicks in it. Side kicks are the bane of my existence. I have a lot of problems with balance and pivoting the standing foot. If I'm off balance for any of the side kicks, then things have a tendency of going to hell. The thing I had to work on all week was not allowing myself to get upset by off balance kicks or other mistakes. Staying focused on what was coming, and not dwelling on what I did were the key points.

In many ways it reminds me of what happens to me when I'm ahead materially, but the opponent has a lot of pressure. If I make a mistake that gives back some or all of the advantage I tend to just lose it after that. It's too easy to dwell on the move I should have made. The problem is; dwelling on what should have happened doesn't allow one to focus on the present position. Those types of distractions make it hard to find good moves.

I was looking forward to this tournament because I would be competing against women my age and rank. When I competed in Korea last summer, my competition was younger then me, and some were higher ranked. In our school tournament I was competing against guys who had been brown belts for awhile. They were doing the brown belt form and I was doing the purple belt form. You always lose a little bit with the judges when you're doing a lower belt form.

After busting my butt for the tournament, it ended out being a bit of a let down. There were no other women over 50 in the brown - bodan belt division, so I became a national champion by showing up and doing my form. At least I didn't fall on my face, or make any horrible mistakes. At first I felt funny about being an ATU National Champion, but then I reminded myself of something. How many women start doing Taekwondo in their 50s? If they're out there, they weren't in Queens, NY that weekend. I showed up and competed, so I won.


BM Kim's Taekwondo rocks! 6 gold medals.

After competing in the tournament I still had Monday's test to look forward to. Test is sort of a misnomer. If you are allowed to test, it means you're ready to go to the next level. In theory the test is graduation day. You show what you've learned to the masters, and to Grandmaster Kim. No matter how many times I've done the stuff in class and told I'm ready to be promoted it's still nerve wracking. This is my ninth belt promotion test, and mentally it doesn't get any easier. Maybe it's because what I have to perform is more difficult. Now I am a bodan belt. (The belt is red and black.) I still have another form to learn, but I also have to redo everything I learned at the lower belts. My problem is my memory like a sieve, and I tend to forget the old form as soon as I start learning a new one. I guess I will find out how good I am at multi-tasking in Taekwondo. (Hopefully better then I am at chess!)

Lately I've been having trouble with board breaks while kicking. Board breaking is for building confidence, working on focus and proper technique. It started back in April. In Monday's test I had trouble with the spinning hook kick. It took me about five attempts to do it. In the mean time all the other lower ranked belts were breaking on their first or second attempt.

Twice a month we have board breaking classes. I think I was away when the first breaking class was held in June, so I didn't get to practice before the test. The second class was on Friday after the test. It was tempting to not go to class that day so that I wouldn't have face my kicking demons so soon. I kept thinking of reasons not to go to class that day, but decided to suck it up and go. I was even worse on Friday with the damn spinning hook kick then I had been on Monday. It's funny how some days I can nail the kick, and other days I suck. I think the real problem is that I haven't been doing the kick correctly, so when I have broken the board it's probably been dumb luck. I spent time after the class working on the kick, and the master has me doing it differently then I have been doing it. Now I have to unlearn what I was doing before. Somehow this reminds me too much of how I play chess!

In other sports news, I'm starting to ride my bike again. Unfortunately getting out on my bike, reminds what a bunch jerks drivers can be. I just love the fat slobs leaning on their horn, and "Yelling get the @#% off the road." It really makes for a nice ride when you have people like this and this, taking out their frustrations on you. Today I had some lady yell at me and tell me to ride on the sidewalk. "Hey lady, it's against the law to ride on the sidewalk. I'm supposed to be on the road." People like that need to get out of their cars, and get a little exercise. Don't get me started on inconsiderate drivers.

Chess....I'm playing. Some good, some bad. Details in my next post.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview with EB Candidate Ruth Haring

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that there are certain topics I stay away from. Religion and politics (chess or US) are topics that I tend to shy away from, and will continue to do so. However I'm bending the ban on USCF politics to post this interview that I did with Ruth Haring at the National Open. I saw Ruth last year at the US Open in Dallas, but I think the last time I had seen her before that was when I gave her a ride to Burlington, Vermont back in 1977.

Ruth was one of the top US women players back then. She stopped playing chess for about 30 years, and just started up again last summer. So I was very intrigued when I heard she was running for a seat on the US Chess Federation's Executive Board. These elections tend to be contentious affairs, and I often why anyone in their right mind would want to run. I got to spend time with her between rounds five and six, and had the following interview with her. This is my first attempt at doing an interview on my blog. I apologize if I don't have pithy questions and comments to add flavor to this post.

Ruth Haring in action

Polly: I saw you last year in Dallas, and I can’t remember when I saw you before that. When did you start playing again?

Ruth: One year ago at the National Open. That was my first tournament after a little over 30 years of not playing tournament chess. I now have three grown children and decided to start playing again. Then at the US Open last year I actually got my son to start playing. So we’re sort of going around as a team now.

P: How old is your son who is playing?

R: He’s 19. He’s my youngest. I have two daughters, 22 and 21.

P: And they’re not following mom’s footsteps, trying to be an outstanding woman chess player?

R: They both can play chess. And they’re probably decent because they sometimes can beat my dad who used to be a C player. But they’re not interested in playing tournament chess.

P: How is your son doing so far?

R: He’s disappointed with his result. (National Open) He just got a 1700 rating and he’s improved a lot. He started in class D. He was sort of hoping to win, and win the class prize. (Under 1800 section) But you know you have to go through the school of knocks a little bit before you do that. But it’s good for him to be optimistic at this age.

P: I started out the tournament 0-3 in the same section. It’s been pretty brutal competition. So what have you been doing all this time that you haven’t been playing chess? Obviously raising three kids, but what else?

R: I’ve been working for the majority of the time. I started out as a programmer, and then went into project management. Consultant in the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley. The last 15 years I’ve been in program management for companies like IBM and eBay. A pretty intense and hard working field.

P: When did you decide that you wanted to run for the Executive Board?

R: Shortly after started playing again. In my career in Silicon Valley I met a lot of the movers and shakers type of people, and some of them are very good chess players, or chess enthusiasts. My initial idea was I wanted to volunteer my time and do some fundraising.

I went and talked to a bunch of people I knew from the old days and said “Hey I’d like to help out the USCF and I think I can do some fundraising because I have all these contacts.” Everybody I talked to told me “Don’t do that. The money would be wasted. The USCF is embroiled in lawsuits.”

Then we got talking about what I’ve been doing and catching up. When they saw my resume, and learned what I had been doing, they said, “The thing you should do is run for the executive board.” After about 5 or 6 people told me that I started seriously considering that, and here I am.

P: If you’re elected what do feel that you have to offer the board? What are some of your goals?

R: My initial goal was fundraising, but that will have to wait until some of the legal problems are solved. I do have a management background, and I have great interpersonal skills. I feel I would be a calming and maybe mediating influence on the board.

As a program manager it was always my objective to make things happen and get things done. There are probably a lot of little projects in different areas of the USCF that have been around a long time, and haven’t gotten done. I would really like to help mentor people and get some of these projects done so we can move on to other things. Make sure there are plans and place and help move the organization forward, and that’s how I think I can help.

P: Are there any sort of pet projects that you’re interested in doing in terms of helping the USCF move forward?

R: I was interested in the fund raising as a pet project. I’ve always thought there should be better media coverage and better programs to promote players. I would really like to figure out how that could happen because all the various formats that have been tried over the years don’t really seem to do what they’re intended to do.

(We spent some time talking about how expensive it is to play in the big tournaments and we kicked around a few ideas about that. That I will discuss in another post.)

P: Thanks for your time. I think you have some very good ideas and positive energy.

R: I’m trying to keep it all positive though I know there are a lot negative things going on. I really don’t see the value in name-calling and infighting. So I’ve been trying to keep my campaign totally positive. Hopefully it will be effective.

P: Good luck, and we have just over a month left before the ballots need to be in.

R: I would just like to encourage everyone reading this to read all the candidates’ statements. (The link is the USCF website. You must be logged in to read.) It’s very important to vote this year.

I will echo Ruth's sentiments and encourage everybody to vote. There is a lot of stuff on the internet about the issues and the candidates. Read what you can, and try not to get sucked in by all the hyperbole.

Edit: Chess Tiger asked some good questions in the comments section. Maybe I should have had him do the interview! Ruth took the time to answer them. Feel free to contact her via Facebook or leave more questions here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

National Open - Pictures and Recap

I'm finally catching up on my National Open reports, and I wanted share some pictures and last thoughts. Despite not playing very good chess, I did have fun. I also learned that I can't do the el cheapo variation and play a short schedule without being properly adjusted to the time change. Jet lag sucks, and does impact one's ability to see threats and come up with a decent plan.

The National Open draws from all over the country, though it definitely has a California flavor to it. 5 out of my 6 opponents were from Southern California. My last round opponent was from Virginia. My section alone had players from lots of different states including Hawaii. We even had players from Germany, United Kingdom and the Philippines.

USCF Executive Director
Bill Hall

Tom Nelson
Bowling buddy, and 6-0 in Under 1200!

As mentioned in a previous post I went bowling with Tom Nelson and his daughter. I also mentioned that he was had gotten off to a much better start then I had playing the two day schedule. He's from Colorado, so he did not have quite the jet lag problems I did. I did not want to jinx him by mentioning that he was kicking butt in the Under 1200 section starting off 4-0 as opposed to my staggering through the under 1800 section going 1-3. Sunday he was able to complete the sweep by winning both games. He had a very handsome pay day for a weekend's worth of chess. It was a heck of lot more then he gets for working at the scholastic nationals as the volunteer coordinator.

Rex Sinquefield
Founder St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center

Rex Sinquefield was playing in my section, however I did not get a chance to play him. I definitely would like to make a trip to St. Louis sometime so that I can play at the chess club. I've seen pictures of it, and it looks amazing! I wish there was someone like him in New York to spiff up the Marshall Chess Club.

Grandmaster Row!!
GM Jaan Elvist checking on the competition.

Going into the last round there were 13 players sitting at the top with identical 4-1 scores. I was wondering if there were be all draws and a 13 way tie for first place. Nope. GM Varuzhan Akobian and IM Enrico Sevillano would win their sixth round games and tie for first. Those wins were good for a $4,641 pay day.

The tournament draws young, old and in between. The oldest player was Daniel Litowski, 92 years young! He's from San Francisco. He was playing in my section, and we were sitting near each other for much of the tournament. He has a better excuse for having the same 1700 rating as me. I hope at 92 I'm still alert and healthy enough to be travelling to tournaments.

Daniel Litowski
Oldest player at 92!

Jason Zhou and Al Losoff

My eight year old opponent from round two was not the youngest player. Jason Zhou of St. Louis is seven years old. He scored 4 points in the under 1200 section and took home the chess backpack he's holding in the picture and $78 for tying for 6th-13th place. Maybe I'll play him next year!

Michael La Budda of Alto Loma, CA
Why is this guy smiling?

Every year before the last round starts they have a raffle for various prizes. The grand prize is airfare and entry fee to next year's National Open. Michael La Budda had a damn good weekend. 4-2 score in the under 1400 section and winner of the grand prize. Heck I would been willing to go 0-6 if that guaranteed me the grand prize. I suppose I can't be too greedy. After all I won a trip to Seville, Spain last year and a really nice chess set at the 2007 US Open.

In addition to main tournament, Susan Polgar runs two events for girls and boys. There are different sections by age. One of my fellow New Yorkers, and some time opponent Linda Diaz won the girls under 19. She scored a perfect 5-0. In addition to the nice trophy she won, she received a Mon Roi and a digital clock. She also qualified for the Polgar Girls' Tournament of Champions in Texas this summer. Nice job Linda!

Linda Diaz
Girl's Under 1900 Champion

I will end this National Open report with my one win in the tournament. This was my fourth game on Saturday and the first one at the more civilized time limit of 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by game in 1 hour. All that time and we still were done in about two hours. It would have taken even less time if I had not kept overlooking killer moves. Fortunately this poor jet lagged soul came across someone who was having just as bad a start. It's not pretty, but it's a win.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Westchester Chess Club Championship

If you've been reading my blog for the last couple of months you've been probably thinking, "Poor, Polly she's had a rough spell of tournaments." Between getting crushed in 12 moves, losing to cute little girls, and former students, disasters in New Jersey, jet lag in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and the usual Thursday nonsense I was playing in the Westchester Chess Club Championship on Wednesday nights. The last couple of years I've not done very well. Last year was particularly ugly when I started off scoring 1/2 out of 3 including drawing with the lowest rated player in the tournament, and in the next round losing to a kid who offered me a draw after 17 moves. This year I managed to negotiate my way through the lower rated players in the first two rounds. Then things got interesting.

In round three I played Duncan Foster. I'm 0-2 against him, and the last time was a particularly painful loss as I blundered horribly in game where I was up four pawns. I couldn't help but to think about that game when I was up four pawns in this game. However I kept things simple and just pushed the pawns. Here's the game with no notes. It's pretty straight forward.


In round four I played Dan Garrett. We always have crazy games where one or both of us get into insane time trouble. For a change the game was decided well before we had one of our crazy time scrambles. I dropped a pawn early and he hung a knight on move 24. Dan is one those guys who will play to the bitter end. He's a disciple of Tartakover who once said "Nobody has ever won a game by resigning." One move before mate he did finally resign.

So after four rounds I'm 4-0. If you're wondering why I was not giving updates and posting the games, it's because I didn't want to jinx myself. I'm a baseball fan that won't talk about no hitters during the game. Just like last year in Saratoga Springs when people started asking me if I was going 6-0, I didn't want to talk about it. The tournament director told me after the third round, "You have a really good chance to win the club championship." I told him I didn't want to talk about it. After winning the fourth round he tells me "I know you don't want to talk about it, but good luck."

But there was another reason I did not want to discuss the tournament here. One of my regular readers was going to be my 5th round opponent. I didn't want give him bulletin board material by making some bold prediction, or let him know how nervous I really was about our upcoming game. The funny thing was he showed up at my other club the Monday before we were supposed to play. I'm thinking to myself as I'm taking entries, "I hope I don't have to play Marty in this tournament." So what happens? I have to play him in the first round, and I'm Black which was the same color I would play against him in Wednesday's game.

The game was totally insane. I decided that I didn't really care if I lost this game as long as I could win the fifth round game in the club championship. I sac'ed a knight on move 23 to get counter play instead of ending out with ugly king side pawns and white having more active pieces. I don't normally do stuff like that, but I figured why not? Actually Fritz like my 22...Nxe3. It would have seemed brilliant if I had not kept missing the killer move on 26, 27, and 28.

There was a lot of psychology in my wild play. I out rate him by over 300 points, but his rating was based on only on 14 games at the time. I know he works on his game, and the comments he leaves on my blog indicate to me that he takes the time to study the games I post. He is familiar with my normal mode of play, so I figured mixing things up a bit might throw him off.

Most of his games were at much slower time controls. This was his first time playing "cracktion". What was working in my favor was an advantage on the clock and his inexperience at this faster time control. In some ways I was messing with his head with my reckless play. It's hard to explain my rationale, but it was almost like I wanted to lose this game. I thought maybe if he won this game, he might be a little over confident and also not quite be sure what to expect in the club championship game. Here is the Monday night game.


When we played again a week later the game was much quieter, but it had its own drama. There were two crucial moments. Here's the first one on move 51.

I had just played 50...Kh8?? in response to 50. Nxf6+. White has mate in 6 if he plays 51. Rd7 instead of 51. Rd8+ . Answer in the brackets [51. Rd7 Rb3+52. Kxh2 Rb2+ 53. Kh3 Rb3+ 54. Kh4 Rh3+ 55. Kxh3 d3 56. Rh7#]Fortunately for me he played the check instead. The game continued 51... Kg7 52. Nxh5+ Kg6 53. Rxd4 Kxh5 54. Rd5+ Kg6 55. f5+ Kf6 56. Kg4 Be5 57. Ra5 Rb4+ 58. Kf3 Kxf5 59. Ke2 Ke4 60. Rc5 Rb3 61. Rc4+ Bd4 62. Kd2 Rb2+ 63. Kd1 Kd3 64. Rc8 Rh2 to reach this position.

This position should look familar to any one who read this post I made in March. I had gone crazy playing out the position from both sides. I would play it from the strong side against Fritz. Fritz would resign, but I could not figure out why. I would play it from the weak side, and Fritz would usually force mate in 8 to 12 moves. So here I am playing this same position in a real game and trying to remember the ideas from my battles with Fritz. Unfortunately for White he put his hand on his king. It wasn't an ambigious touch like I had in February. I knew he touched it, he knew he touched it, and the spectators knew he touched it. All king moves lose. 65. Kc1 loses to 65...Bb2+ 66. Kd1 Rh1# 65. Ke1 leads to immediate mate on h1. Tough way to lose, especially after missing the mating combination earlier.

Winning this game, put me a point ahead of the field. My last round opponent allowed me to trade down to 7 pawns and light squared bishop versus 7 pawns and light squared bishop after 19 moves. Same number of pawns on both sides of the board. 14 moves later he accepted my draw offer, making me 2009 Westchester Chess Club Champion.

Receiving trophy and 1st place money from TD Andre Morawski

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

National Open - Round 2

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the National Open did not get off to a terrific start. Losing the first round is not the end of the world. (You can see the game here.) In a 6 round tournament there is time to recover. Unfortunately my saying the tournament did not get off to a terrific start is a gross understatement. Miserable is a nice clean family friendly adjective that more accurately describes the start of my tournament.

When playing in a tournament with sections by rating class there is really no such thing as getting paired way up or way down. Even if you are number one in the under 1800 section at 1799 the chances that you will play anyone lower then 1600 is not very likely. Since there are pretty big class prizes, you just don't see as many people playing up a section. (The co-champions in my section each won $2901. That's a nice way to leave Vegas!) Out of the 150 players in my section only nine of them were under 1600. Of those nine players only one of them was under 1400. I did not play anyone under 1600.

My problem is every game feels like I'm playing up even when the opponent's rating is lower then mine. That's what happens when I am sitting on my floor, but not playing like I'm 1700. So what's the worst thing that could happen to me in round two? Nope, I did not have to play a cute little girl with 11 consonants in her name. The cute little girls were all playing in the Polgar tournament going on at the same time. However I did have to play a little kid. How little? He just turned eight in the last few weeks, and was listed at #2 on the June: 7 and under list. But as the line from an old Who song goes...."Won't be fooled again", or so I thought.

What do you do when you are playing Black against an eight year old who has a rating of 1651?

a. Play a solid and quiet line, and bore the kid to death.
b. Play something wild and complicated and get him out of book ASAP.
c. None of the above
d. All of the above.

I would say it ended out more along the lines of choice d. Though he was the one playing the quiet line against my Accelerated Dragon. In the opening he wasted a few moves, but I did not really come up with a way to take advantage of it outside of getting in 8...d5 without playing e6 first. If anyone was watching they probably would have found the off the board moves more interesting.

How many seven or eight year old kids do you know that can sit quietly for any extended amount of time? What happens when you give a kid that age an expensive chess toy like an Mon Roi? What happens when you match a kid like that against an adult who can not sit still for extended periods of time and also has an expensive chess toy like the Mon Roi? You probably feel sorry for the people sitting next to them.

Early on he was fiddling with his Mon Roi and pulling the SD card out and putting it back in. I'm not sure if he knew what the card was for, but he was having fun playing with it for awhile. I was going to suggest that he not do it, but then he stopped. Later on he was tapping his stylus on the unit, and again I was about to say something, but noticed I was tapping my stylus on the table. How can I say anything when I'm doing the exact same thing? (The picture below was taken during another round.)

I change positions in my chair a lot. I often get up and kneel on the chair and lean over the board a little bit to change how I'm viewing the position. At one point during the game, I assumed that position. I happened to have looked up and noticed my opponent was sitting the exact same way. He even had his head propped up on his hands the same way I did. It almost looked like he was playing copy cat with me. More likely he was sitting like that because it is easier for a little kid to see the board that way.

He only left the board once around the 17th move. It was actually his move and he suddenly got up and ran out of the room. Was my move that scary? In big money tournaments it's easy to look at something like that and wonder to yourself "Why did he suddenly leave the board on his move? What is he up to?" The first question briefly crossed my mind, but I reminded myself that I was playing a little kid. When Mother Nature calls it doesn't matter whose move it is. The call must be answered. It was probably a wise thing not to rush a move first.

Here is the game.


In the later stages of the game as he was mounting his attack, I witnessed the funniest case of fidgety kid syndrome I've seen. He would make a move, get up from his seat, take a few steps back, do 5 jumping jacks and then sit down. Fortunately there were not many games going on around us at this point, so I don't think he was really bothering anyone. Was he bothering me? Not really. Was he doing it to annoy me? No. I just think he was letting off nervous energy after playing for over an hour and half. (Time limit was G/60) I found it rather amusing that this kid is getting up and doing jumping jacks between moves. I've often thought that I should have kids in my after school chess classes do 30 jumping jacks before the lesson to blow off some of that excess energy they have at the end of the school day.

I think he was a little surprised when I resigned when I did. I'm sure he used to playing almost all his games down to checkmate. I was little hasty in my resignation, but not having seen 45...Qc7 I thought I was dead right then. Even if I played on, either the 15 minute time deficit would do me in or the two connected passed pawns. Pick your poison!

He helped me clean up my set, and then he took off to find his parents. Unlike many of the kids I've encountered at other tournaments, he didn't have constant stream of parents and coaches hovering over him. His mother brought him to the board at the start of the game and left. When the game was done he did come back into the room with his dad to post the result. I had already taken care of it so I walked out with them and get an opportunity to talk to the parents about how well he played.

I asked his mom how old he was. She said he had just turned eight a few weeks earlier. I think he's now the youngest player who has beaten me. I've played a few kids younger then that, but I won. She said sometimes he has trouble staying focused. I told her that for the most part he was focused though he would sometimes be staring off into space on his move. Sometimes when he did that I had to make sure he had not moved, and just forgot to press the clock. I said he was focused when it counted. I mentioned how impressed I was that he didn't wander away from the board, except the one trip to the bathroom on his move. She said they have emphasized to him the importance of ethical behavior and not doing things that would be questionable. It's nice to hear parents talk about that kind stuff with their kids.

I would see him through out the rest of the tournament. I was really impressed how he handled the long time controls. I think he spent more time in his seat then I did in mine. In the last round he was seated next to me. His opponent showed up about a half hour late. Winston was out of the room when the opponent arrived. The opponent did a little double take when this little kid comes and sits down across from him. I don't think he was expecting such an opponent. Like me, he also lost to the youngster. It will be interesting to see where he is by next year. Probably not in my section unless I play up, or by some miracle get my rating over 1800.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

National Open Day 1


I am dog tired!! No more traveling across three time zones and jumping into the accelerated schedule with four games in one day. Time to suck it up, and pay for an extra night in the hotel. I would have been much better off coming in Thursday, and playing two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately my line on the wall chart resembled my blog name after three rounds. O-O-O. In another post I will put up some games. Right now that's too much like work.

The man behind this tournament is Fred Gruenberg of Chicago. He has organized the tournament for the last 25 years. He's done an amazing job over the years. He's got a top notch directing staff led by Bill Snead of Texas. This is the last National Open he's organizing. He's turning it over to Al Losoff. I'm sorry I never got around to coming to this tournament before. It's been very nice so far, lousy score and all.

Fred Gruenberg

Before round four started Al Losoff talked about Fred's contributions to the success of the event, and thanked him for a job well done. He was presented with video screen that's loaded with pictures from the 25 years that Fred has organized it. That's what Bill Snead is holding up in the picture below.

Al Losoff, Bill Snead, Susan Polgar, Fred Gruenberg

After the presentation it was time to play chess. I found myself on floor row. There were three of us on the bottom boards sitting at our 1700 floors with the same crappy 0-3 score. The depressing thing was I was probably 15 years younger then the other two 1700s. We were the "top half" of the zero score group. In this group there was no danger of playing little under rated kids. The kids all points of some sort or another. I finally managed to win, but was because of my stellar play. My opponent blundered a piece early. He had some attacking chances, but I managed to survive.

I finished in about two hours so I had time to kill. I decided I was not going donate any more money to the house. I spent my gambling budget last night. Instead I went bowling with Tom Nelson and his daughter Melinda. I've known Tom for about five years from the scholastic nationals. He is in charge of all those volunteers who take results, run errands, and do what ever else that the directors don't do. He works very hard at those events. He's actually playing this weekend for a change. He's having a much better tournament then me. I don't want to jinx him, so I won't say any more right now.

My bowling started out about as well as my chess. I threw two gutter balls on the very first frame. Tom is a very good bowler and Melinda and my goal was to have our combined score beat his score. We succeeded in the first game, by seven pins. We didn't do so hot on the second game and his score was higher then ours.

Oops missed a few on the side!

Me and Tom

After the bowling I went back to see what was happening in the tournament. Unlike me, some people actually play for six hours. There were about four games left including one on board 5 between IM Irena Krush and GM Gabriel Sarissian.

Below is the position when I left. Black just moved Bb2. Sargissian went on to win it.

Two more rounds to go. I still can get an even score if I win both games. This wasn't quite what I was expecting. Not that I was expecting to go 6-0 and make off with the money. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Live from Las Vegas! With Pictures Now!

Modeling the latest from Endgame Clothing

Greetings from Las Vegas! After a number of years saying to myself, "I need to play in the National Open.", here I am. I arrived yesterday afternoon. I didn't get here in time to play the 3 day schedule without having to take a round 1 bye, so I start play today in the two day schedule. You know how much I loath taking byes. I'm playing in the Under 1800 section. A tournament like this is not to be playing up a section. I can play up for a lot less money closer to home.

The interesting thing about the Dallas-Las Vegas flight was the number of TSA agents just standing around the gate area shortly before we boarded. I have never seen so many TSA guys standing around the gate area. My theory is since it's a flight to Vegas, probably lots of people are carrying cash for gambling and TSA people are there to keep an eye out on the crowd. Either that, or they wanted in the action if a poker game broke out in the departure lounge.

The plane was booked solid, in fact they were looking for volunteers to take a later flight. I should have done that, I probably would have arrived at the same time considering how late this flight was. However before I could even consider the possibility and get out of my seat they had their volunteers and then some.

This is my first time ever to Las Vegas so it's been a case of culture shock. All over the airport there are slot machines. They try to get you when you first arrive, and again when before you depart. My flight from Dallas to Vegas was late, so I had to haul ass to catch the hotel bus that left at 1:30. First I went to the wrong level of ground transportation, and the escalator to the lower level was on the other side. I did make it, just barely! I was already in time trouble and I had not even started playing chess yet.

Walking into the hotel lobby was my second moment of culture shock. The casino is right there in the lobby. Some how I figured the casino was in another area, or there might be a few slots in the lobby. I wasn't expecting this! Being from New York where you can't smoke anywhere it's a looking hard for me to stand in the registration line and smell smoke everywhere. Fortunately the tournament is on the second floor and there's no smoking on that level. However the smell does drift upstairs.

Welcome to Vegas. We want your money!

I met John from Endgame Clothing who is here with his wife and two boys selling their shirts. The two new designs are totally awesome. If you have not looked at his website and are looking for nice chess shirts, check it out. I don't really need more tee shirts. But with his stuff I make an exception. He gave me one of the new designs which I'm wearing in the first picture.

John and his family

I spent the afternoon watching friends play, and taking pictures of a lot of the Grandmasters. This is a very strong tournament. A friend of mine played and beat an IM rated 2400+ on board 20 in round one. Awesome game. But to think somebody rated 2400 is only ranked 20th. If you read this post before I updated it you would have seen no pictures. That's because I forgot my card reader. My Mac laptop does not have a media card slot. Grrrrr! Thank you Chris Bird for loaning me your card reader. Now we have pictures!

In the evening while the tournament was going on, I wandered down to the casino and watched some of the various games. I decided I would try my hand at Blackjack. I played it in college for friendly stakes and this would be my first time trying it at a casino. I am not a gambler so the way I treat this is, I am going to spend $30 for entertainment. It was a lot cheaper then go to one of the Vegas shows that runs for $150 to $200, not including the $30 taxi ride to get down to the strip. So I bought $30 worth of chips, and when I lost them I stopped.

I'm a total newbie at this stuff so the dealer kept having to tell me, don't do this, you can't do that, and you should do that. I cost my self an extra chip when I didn't show my 21 right away. The other people at the table were giving me pointers on when to sit and when to take a card. I actually managed to not lose my 6 chips in 6 hands. I got to play a decent number of hands over the course of a few hours. This is not my thing, but it was an interesting way to pass a few hours. However I used up my allocated "gambling budget" for the weekend. I'll be sticking to chess for the rest of the weekend. That will not be a problem since I have 4 games to play today on the two day schedule.

Stay tuned. Games to follow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NY State Woman's Championship - Rd. 2

Let's come up with a corny cliche as a subtitle to this particular post.

Don't judge a book by its cover.

Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

I guess you can see where this is going. I confess! I was deceived by appearance. I should have paid more attention to the fact that her last name had 11 letters in it, and only 2 of them were vowels. No need to buy a consonant with a name like Zlotchevsky. However I'm a sucker for cute little kids. What I did not know about her before the game was that she won the 8 and under at the Girl's Nationals in Dallas in April with a perfect 6-0 score.

Nicole Zlotchevsky
8 and Under Champion Girl's Nationals

She was the youngest player in the tournament. She was also the lowest rated which meant she got a bye for round one. She went home between rounds, so I never saw her before she appeared for our game. She was a little late, so naturally I was anxious over whether she was going to show up or change her mind about playing. Another player had shown after she left, but when given the choice between playing an 1800 or taking her 1 point bye she opted to take the bye. When she did show up she stood by the door and would not come in. I asked her if she was Nicole, and I introduced myself.

She did not come straight to the board. She disappeared with her parents, and I overheard bits of a discussion between her parents and the TD about keeping score. I'm thinking to myself, "Oh great here we go again! Somebody who does not want to keep score." It was nothing of the such. The score sheets that the club provides have narrow lines, so it's difficult for a young child with large print to keep score on a page like that. There are score books designed for the young scholastic player who writes big. Since she had not brought her own score sheets, her mom made her a score sheet on the back of a flier making big rows and columns. I must say I was quite impressed with her notation. She has neater notation then many adults I've played.

Finally we got down to the business of playing chess. I had White, and opened with 1. d4. After a rough spell of games opening 1. c4, I decided I would play around with 1. d4. The game started off nice and quiet. On the 18th move she opted to let her d pawn go, or so it appeared.

Position after 19. Qxd5

Sometimes I get into these thinking ruts. I look at one move, and after seeing it's not a problem I figure I'm okay. I took the "free" pawn on d4 thinking Nxf2 does not work. What I missed was 19...Nxc3. The combination is not all that good, but having not seen 19...Nxc3 I sort of became unglued at that point. How could this adorable little girl come up with this move; winning her pawn back, and destroying my queen side pawn structure??

Too bad I do not have Fritz running in my head. Fritz was not impressed with 19...Nxc3. It gives White + over = (0.63) after 20. bxc3 Rxe2 21. Rfe1 Re6 22. Rad1 Rb8 23. Qd8+ Kh7. Instead I came up with the totally stupid move of 20. Qd3??. She naturally played 20...Nxe2+. The funny thing was I did not notice that I was down a piece until about 2 moves later. I'm thinking to myself, "Wow she's got quite an attack going. Hey, wait a minute! Why does she have a bishop and a knight, and I only have a knight? Where did my bishop go??" It was then that it occurred to me that since I did not play bxc3, I never took her knight. Duh!!

After the realization that I had blundered a piece, I just mentally lost it. Sometimes I can bounce back after losing material. In fact on Sunday I would do that very thing in the last round. In this game I could not get over the blunder. I suppose part of it was she had a very strong attack going in addition to the material edge. What ever it was I just made a series of bad moves and got my queen trapped. At that point I decided I had enough. Here's the game. I should have posted it on Wednesday. It was Wacky Wednesday worthy.


Afterward I spoke to her father who then told me she was working with Ilya Figler and had won the 8 and under in Dallas at the Girl's Nationals in April. Small consolation for my major implosion. I suppose if there is a bright side at least I can say "I lost to a national champion."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NYS Women's Championship - Rd. 1

In the first round I played one of the IS 318 girls with a 1255 rating. I've learned from past experience, don't take any of the kids from that school lightly, regardless of rating. I had played one of the boys from IS 318, and he did a number on me in time pressure. Fortunately in this tournament time pressure would not be a factor. The time control was 30/85 followed by G/60. For a "cracktion" addict like me, that's eons!

Linuxguy made the following comment on my last post. I think his observations on kids are pretty interesting.

"Personal chess coaches aside, I think one of the things that young players have (besides a cheering parent or coach) is that they can play so fast.

I have begun to see chess as more of a performance/experience art, than just plain analysis. How many games do you make terrible moves in time-trouble after playing a quality opening (or at least quality versus your opponents')? When have you ever seen a kid's play go south because they were A) in time-trouble? B) energy level drop? Despite the possible feigned boredom, I've personally never seen those things happen from a very young player.

I would not want to get in time-trouble versus youth. Keep it solid, let them mix it up first, don't give them a solvable advantage."

In a tournament with this type of time control, staying focused and keeping one's energy level up is crucial. I'm finding that my endurance for longer games is not what it used to be. I think part of that is some problems with sleep, and not doing my long distance walks and bike rides. I got to get back into that routine. This first round would be a test of my patience and endurance.

I was Black in the first round, so I'd get to see early on if she would play aggressively and attack like crazy, or play solid positional chess. She played the c3 Sicilian against my 1...c5. However instead of pushing e5, she played f3. I don't come across that line very much. The pawn duo on e4 and d4 is solid, but I find e5 gives me more problems because I don't have a knight on f6 to cover h7 after castling. As it turned out, picking off the e pawn after she pushed f4 would be the deciding factor in this game. This game was a 70+ move positional battle that came down to promoting a pawn for the decisive advantage.


I used to get annoyed at players who wouldn't resign even when there is no chance for time pressure cheapos. Now I look at these games as a chance to work on my "mate in x moves" skills. It's also good to look for possible stalemate chances for the opponent. I didn't come up with the quickest mate, but it got the job done.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NY State Woman's Championship

I played in the New York State Women's Championship this weekend at the Marshall Chess Club. 13 women ranging from 8 years old to 65+ competed. There was a lot of hard fought games through out the tournament. Here are some pictures from the event. Games with analysis will follow in the next few days. I had some of my most interesting and challenging games as of late. It helps when I have time to think.

The Queens of Brooklyn
Coach Elizabeth Vicary with 5 of her students from IS 318

I played three of these young ladies, and even though I out rated them by 450 to 550 points, all them made me bust my butt to manage to score 2.5 against them. They played aggressively, and held on right to the end. Probably by next year they'll be within a 100 points of me, and will kick my butt. 1100 - 1200?? HA! Maybe next year I'll have to go play in the senior. It might be easier.

Elizabeth deep in thought while playing Rochelle Ballantyne in 3rd round.

Jie Jing Li getting ready for her 3rd round match with me.
A 3.5+ hour draw ensued.

Jessica Regam of Pennsylvania playing round 4 against Ms. Vicary
Lots of hard fought chess which I think tired everyone out.

Julie Flammang another 3 point scorer.

NYSCA Secretary, Phyllis Benjamin does a simul with her opponent from the Women's event and the player getting the bye in the senior. Usually it's her son Joel that's giving simuls.

Prize winners
1st: Elizabeth Vicary 3.5
2nd - 4th Jessica Regam, Julie Flammang, Jie Ji Li 3
5th Polly Wright 2.5

Games and observations to follow. I promise not to go off on a negative kid rant. :-)