Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not So Grand (Prix) Return!

I got back from Kansas two weeks ago. I was a little tired from the trip, so I was not in the mood to jump right back into the thick of things. I decided I would not go for my Thursday "cracktion" fix at the Marshall. I waited until the following week for that. However it's not like I did nothing chess wise until last Thursday. Sunday I was directing the Grandmaster Challenge at the Marshall. This is a 6 round G25 tournament that is sponsored by Yevgeni Margulis. James West wrote a post on his blog about last month's tournament. It was a change of pace for me from the usual chaos that I face at large scholastic tournaments. The toughest part was trying to calculate some of the special prizes for top senior and junior because they're based on the player's age.

Wednesday I played my make up round from the Westchester Chess Club summer round robin. Unlike like last year's chaotic event, it's more manageable. We broke it down into two 6 player round robins, instead of one gigantic round robin. Instead of going by straight rating order of putting numbers 1-6 in one section and numbers 7-12 in the other section we mixed it up by alternating ratings. (1,4,5,8,9, 12) (2,3,6,7,10, 11) The idea was to give lower rated players an opportunity play some of the higher rated players. In hindsight I'm not sure this was ideal since the spread between some of the ratings is significant. I'm number 2 in my section. Number 1 is 1969 and number 6 is 987. I have my work cut out for me in this section. I beat the 987 pretty easily, but after that it gets hard.

Wednesday I played Michael Knatz, rated 1969. I did not have to play him in the club championship since he got upset in the first round, and had a few draws while I was winning my games. It was probably good that I did not have to play him in the Club Championship. I'm not sure I would have scored 5.5 and won the tournament. I'd only played him one other time, and he beat me with Black by playing a reverse Grand Prix against my English. I had forgotten about that game so I didn't know I would be seeing the same type of stuff as Black against my Sicilian.

My biggest problem stemmed from wasting moves early, and not forcing a trade of his c4 Bishop. One approach I've tried against the Grand Prix has been to attempt to trade queens after White puts his Queen on h4. However it doesn't work well when White plays Bg5 and I don't have f6 at my disposal. Things got very difficult after 13. Bg5. Here's the game.


I played again Thursday night at "Four Rated Games Tonight!" I can't stay away from my "cracktion" for too long. Things were more like they used to be with me near the very bottom of the wall chart. No kids with three digit ratings and no unrateds of dubious repute. I knew I would probably get the bye in the 2nd or 3rd round, but I didn't go for the pre-emptive last round bye. I figured I'd take my chances on maybe being able to avoid it all together, or hope there was a house player near my rating hanging out. Neither would be the case. I lost in the first round to an expert, and one of the players below me drew in the first round, and the other was taking a 1/2 point bye. That left me with the bye in round two. There wasn't a suitable house player floating around, so I just hung out. At least having a point would give me good pairings in the last two rounds. I played kids in rounds three and four, but these are big kids who out rate me by 200 points.

Wouldn't you know it! After Wednesday's ugliness, I'm paired against Zachary Weiner. Guess what he plays against my Sicilian? Yep! Another Grand Prix. However having remembered the previous night's game, I took a different approach. Early on I was able to block out his light squared bishop and not have to deal with the annoying pin on f7. I actually defended well and was up a few pawns. Unfortunately I had one of my time pressure meltdowns and hung a rook.


Sigh. I hate when that happens. I'm seriously thinking about switching tournaments in September when the Marshall starts up their next FIDE Thursday. It would be one game a week for 6 weeks at a time limit of G/120. Even though I kept telling people I don't like to come into the city just to play one game, I think it will give me a better shot at trying to regain some of my form. It's open to 1600 and above so I should get some good games.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lindsborg, KS: A Chess Tourist Report

As I mentioned in my last post about the Kansas Open, I was quite captivated by the city of Lindsborg. Yes it's actually a city of the second class under Kansas State Statutes. Don't ask me what that means. I am pretty clueless when it comes to differentiating between a village, town, or city. Civics was not something I had to take in high school. All I know it's a charming little place that is home to the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess, which hosted Friday night's Kansas Quick Championship.

While waiting for the quick tournament to begin, I was looking in the windows of some of the various shops on Main St. What immediately caught my eye was the wood carving pictured below. It was in the window of Studio Lindsborg, a small art gallery and store that features the work of five local artists.

The wood carving is the logo of the Karpov Chess School, and was done by Gene Holdsworth. He had done six of these carvings. Five of them had been presented to grandmasters who were at the school for some event. The sixth one was sitting in the window, just waiting for some collector of chess themed objects to take it home. I made it a point to go back when the gallery was open so that I could buy it. The photograph doesn't really do it justice in terms of the intricate workmanship and carving. It's a wonderful piece of chess art, and now it sits on my bookcase in front of my chess books.

Wood Craftsman - Gene Holdsworth
Sitting behind some of his hand carved ornaments.

I loved walking around and looking at the different dala horses that were scattered around the city. I took pictures many of the ones that I like a lot. Unfortunately I forgot to write the names down so not all of them I remember.

Blossom - She was in front of the florist.

Dalamation - Firefighter

This one was in front of the Swedish Country Inn

A Christmas dala on wheels. She gets around town.

Kronor - The Dalla Horse
Worth lots of dollas

Old Grey Dala Mare
In front of the Lindsborg Senior Center

Salvador Dala
Great play on words!

I like bringing back some unique item from the places I visit. What would be more fitting then black and white dala horses?

Dala Knights

Maybe next summer I'll come back to Lindsborg to go to chess camp at the Karpov School. It's pretty reasonably priced, and it's open to adults and kids. I would certainly recommend a visit if you're in that neck of the woods. It's certainly a unique place, and not what you would expect to find in the middle of Kansas. I'm happy to report that I did not have to follow the instructions on this sign.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kansas Open - Day 2

If this seems to be kind of late, you're right. Sometimes one needs a vacation from her vacation. It took me awhile to get back into a New York state of mind, and blogging got pushed down to the bottom of the to do list.

So where did I leave off? Oh yes. Losing round three in an exciting game. After the game was done I hung around watching the other games finish up. Then I was looking to find some real food, since for the most part I had been just snacking on fruit and energy bars. One of the tournament directors and I went on a food finding mission, that failed miserably. What is it about bars that stop serving food after 11:00 pm in a town where nothing else is open?

Having failed miserably we returned to the dorm, and before going to bed Tony and I played a little more bughouse. Only in bughouse can you get a mate like the one pictured below. I don't know what other pieces were on the board for either side, but only the knights and White's king and pawns matter.

The move sequence was ....Nc2+, Kf1, Nd2+, Kg1, Ne2#. I love knights!

The following morning I got up, determined to find real food for breakfast. When I had been walking around town on Friday I recalled seeing a Swedish pastry and pancake place on Main St. I figured I would go for some of the local cuisine. The pancake place wasn't open, but around the corner is the Swedish Country Inn, a cute little hotel. They serve a nice buffet breakfast with Swedish meatballs, pickled herring (I passed on that one!), Swedish tea ring, rye bread, various meats and cheeses, and waffles. I can't say I've ever had Swedish meatballs for breakfast before, but they were tasty. After breakfast I asked the waitress how much I owed. She said that they would take care of that at the front desk. Imagine that in most places? Not going to happen. I was expecting to pay around $10.00 to $12.oo for breakfast. It cost $6.95 including tax.

Swedish Country Inn - Breakfast of Champions!

After a lovely breakfast it was time to play chess. I got paired against one of the teenaged 1600s who decided to play up. Nice kid for the most part, but he couldn't sit still. Almost after every move he'd get up and go look at the game on board one. After I would move he would come back to the board, make another move and leave again. In the past I would get annoyed when an opponent did that. I would feel as if my opponent wasn't taking me or the game seriously. However I've had my moments when I can't stay focused on my own game, and take to wandering around the playing hall looking at other games.

The only time I got annoyed with his wandering was when he came back to the board, not having seen that I had moved, and starting accusing me of recording my move on my Mon Roi before making the move on the board. I'm saying "What are you talking about? I made my move on the board first." He's insisting that I recorded first. Fortunately a player who was looking at our game saw that I had moved first, and told my opponent this. It was then that my opponent noticed I had moved and his clock was running. It's a little annoying to be accused of something when the one making the accusation isn't even at the board to see what I did or did not do.

That was about all the excitement the game had. He played the Maroczy Bind against my Accelerated Dragon. He had a lot of pressure, but I was able to make some trades. After my 21st move he offered me a draw. I happily accepted since my position was still a little cramped.


It also gave me a lot of time to wander around town some more, and have another good meal. Lindsborg is a charming little town, and quite different from many of the places that I've gone to play chess. Most of the out of town tournaments I've played in recently have been in large hotels in the middle of nowhere, or at an airport. After awhile one hotel looks like another, and there isn't much to look at outside the hotel. As I mentioned in an earlier post, all over town are hand carved dala horses, painted in different designs. Some of the designs and names were quite clever, so I decided to walk around town and take pictures of some the ones I liked in particular.

Hello Dala!

The one I'm standing in front of is painted in the traditional Swedish motif. Since they are hand carved and painted they are expensive. Even the smallest ones were not cheap.

I found another buffet for lunch. I love how they put it on the board outside the restaurant. "All you care to eat." Maybe that's a nice Midwestern or Swedish way to say, "Don't eat like a pig!"

I didn't want to eat like a pig since, I hate feeling really full when I'm playing chess. There's nothing like feeling totally stuffed, and trying to stay awake enough to play a half way intelligent game of chess. I figured I was going to pay another one of the teenagers, so I wanted to have a clear head and not be falling asleep at the table.

Sure enough I played the other 1600 in the section. We traded down to bishops of the same color and 5 pawns each. I offered a draw which he promptly turned down. My queen side pawns were connected, and his were split. However his king was a lot more active. He did win my a pawn, but he had the wrong color bishop to convert the pawn advantage. Since he had been so emphatic about refusing my draw offer, I figured I wouldn't offer another one. I'd either wait him out with the 50 move rule, three fold repetition, or let him offer the draw back. When he did conclude that it was a draw, it wasn't exactly a draw offer. It was more a begrudging realization that I was not going to screw up and give him control of the crucial a2-g8 diagonal, or move my king off c3.


Even though I didn't win any games, I was satisfied with my result. My non-losses outnumbered my actual losses. The first round game was ugly, but I felt I rebounded nicely from that game. Seeing how the Under 1800 section went, I was glad I played up. Colby Stuckman, rated 1349 at the start of the tournament went 5-0 in the section. I probably would have played him in the first round. Needless to say he's no longer in the 1300s. His rating shot up to 1634. Almost 300 point gain! Congratulations Colby.

Under 1800 Champion: Colby Stuckman

Kansas State Champion: Tom Brownscombe
Executive Director Karpov Chess School

Laurence Coker and Tony Dutiel
Organizer, Tournament Director.

A very nicely run tournament. Thanks for a well organized event.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kansas Open - Day 1

The Kansas Open was being held at Bethany College. I had mailed my entry in back in June. I had received the following email from the organizer.

Dear Polly,

I received you entry fee today. Everything looks in order. It is a long way to go from NY to Kansas. You wouldn't be trying to play in a chess tourney in all fifty states, would you?

Laurence Coker

Is that obvious that I'm trying to play in all fifty states? Though I did want to get out and visit my sister in Kansas since it has been four years since I've been out there. I just happened to have found a chess tournament to attend while visiting.

When I mailed my entry in, I signed up for the Under 1800 section. I looked at last year's results and noticed there were a lot of really low rated players, and wasn't sure if I really wanted to be sitting on one of the top boards with a bulls eye on my forehead. I don't mind playing in an Under 1800 section when there's another section below it. As I found out in Las Vegas, playing in one's own section is very challenging when there are sections below. There are no easy games.

When I got here and looked at the two sections I told the tournament director if he had an odd number in the Open Section to go ahead and switch me there to make it even. I wasn't even going to be the lowest rated player. There were three teen aged kids rated in the 1600s who opted to play up. As it turned out there was an odd number so I switched sections. I was glad I switched sections, because in the first round there were 6 upsets on the top 10 boards in the Under 1800. I would have played a young kid rated around 1350 who did beat his higher rated opponent in round one. I play enough really under rated kids in New York. I don't need to travel half way across the country to play more of them.

In the first round I played David Blair again. He was the one who crushed me in the second round of the quick tournament. Hopefully having more time on my clock, and perhaps learning from the previous day's mistakes I could maybe get my revenge. Unfortunately the result was the same. I put up a little more resistance, but it still was painfully short. That game can be seen here.

In the second round I played Ron Pasik. The name didn't really ring a bell with me when we sat down and played. We had a tough game, that ended out in a draw. I offered the draw in this position after 45. Kc4. I may be slightly better with the passed pawn, but I just couldn't see a safe way to penetrate. It just seemed like one of those positions that if either player tries to win, he/she will lose.

Afterward we got talking and he asked me if I had played in tournaments in Leominster, Massachusetts. I said yes, way back in the early 70s. He remembered me from those tournaments. He moved out to Seattle in 1980, and then to Kansas in the 90s. Even though my last name was different, how many chess players out there are named Polly? He's about 4 years younger then me, so he would have been an even younger kid then me back then. I'll have to go through my old score books and see if we actually played. It's not something I'll be able to find on the USCF website since the rating history only goes back to 1991.

In the third round I played Ken Fee again. He was my 4th round opponent in the quick tournament. It's funny how I not only was playing my second player from the other event, but again I had Black. Why couldn't I play the guy I beat playing with White? I guess I made Ken nervous from the close call in the quick event, because he played 1. e4 instead of 1. d4.

It was a very interesting game. I was glad for the long time control because I had time to think things out. Unfortunately after spending 15 minutes on one move and another 25 minutes on another move, I left myself short on time. I was also totally fried after all of that analysis. I ended out making a terrible mistake because I reached a point where I couldn't sort out the lines anymore. I had reached the "screw it" stage where I didn't feel like it made a difference which move I made. It did make a difference.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Kansas Quick Chess Championship

I made the drive up from Hutchinson to Lindsborg this afternoon. For a change the GPS was acting fairly normal. The only issue was when it tried to have me make a left turn into what is now a plaza on the Bethany College campus. That is forgivable since the plaza is part of a street. You just can’t get to that street from the one I was on. I had forgotten to print out the campus map, so I pulled over, fired up the laptop and brought up the map. A laptop computer is a wonderful thing. Don’t leave home without one.

I finally found the building I was looking for. I’m staying in a dorm on the Bethany College campus. It isn’t exactly the Hilton, but for $35 a night one can’t complain. It has beds, and the air conditioning works. Out here functioning air conditioning is crucial. When the daytime temperature hits 100 degrees, opening the windows and turning on a fan just doesn’t do it.

Deluxe Accommodations

Lindsborg is an interesting little town that was settled by Swedes. It’s called little Sweden, and you can see the Scandinavian influences all over the place. All around the town there are these brightly painted horse like animals called dalas. The theme on each one often relates to the building that it’s in front of, and often has cute pun filled name.

"Herd it through the grapevine"

I thought I would find this one in front of the local wine shop. It's actually in front of the Lindsborg newspaper building. Though it turns out the lady that owns the local wine shop also is part owner of the town newspaper.

Two famous people, and one not so famous person pictured.

The Kansas Quick Chess Championship was being held at the Karpov Chess School. The school has it’s own storefront right on Main Street. There’s a large playing room in the front. In the back there’s a kitchen and tables set up for skittles or in this case bughouse. The Kansas Bughouse Championship had been held earlier in the afternoon. There were 8 teams in the event. I can’t believe that one team drove from Kansas City to play in the event, and then were going to turn around and drive back home later that night after playing more bughouse later.

I don’t know if I should take this as a bad omen, but in the first round I’m paired against the only other woman in the tournament, WIM Luidmila Mokriak and she's a no show. She had sent the organizer an email but he didn't get it in time. I won my first round game by forfeit. Damn that sucks. Though if I’m going to win a game on forfeit I’d rather it happen in a quick chess event where I don’t have to wait around very long for the next round. Consequently I got paired up in the next round, and got smashed. Since the time limit is game/10 I have no written record of how ugly it was.

How ugly was that second round game? You see the empty seat in the picture above? That was where I was sitting. As you can tell from the lack of empty seats at the other boards, my game came to an abrupt end.

The third round I got paired up again. It was an exciting game. I managed to win the pawn race to reach the position below.

White to move.

The pieces may not be on the exact squares, but you get the idea. I was able to give checks, and force him in front of his pawn and slowly work my king in. I thought I might have trouble with his having the h pawn too, but I was able to grab that pawn with check. After that it was easy. I did all of that with about three minutes on my clock. I mated him with 58 seconds to spare.

Round four was annoying because I was up two pawns after my opponent sac-ed one and blundered another. However I made some dumb ass move that allowed him to take a knight, and when I recaptured my pawn structure is trashed. He not only got the two pawns back, but he got a very strong attack. That was just one of those games where I lost focus while ahead.

In the last round I played an unrated who also had two points. It was a pretty insipid game that I ended out losing. I don't even remember much about it.

After the tournament was over I went back to the dorm and played bughouse. I enjoy playing bughouse with adults. It has a very different flavor then playing with kids. The tactics are different. Adult bughouse is more positional. I know that sounds strange. They provoke weaknesses without slapping down pieces, then they go for the jugular. Some of these guys are really good, and no matter who I had as a partner we kept getting smashed. One partner I had was terrible. I don't think he had played much before. He kept forgetting to pass me the captured pieces, and the meantime my opponent is just getting loads of stuff from his partner.

Finally there were enough players to have two games going. We let the "pros" have their game, and the bughouse patzers had our game. I did better in the "patzer" division. Around 12:30 AM I decided I really needed to get some sleep. They kept playing. One of the guys I partnered with said he stopped around 2:30. I'm not sure if anyone continued playing. Some were threatening to play until 5:30. I wasn't going to stay up to find out.

10:00 AM is the start of real chess. The time limit is a more leisurely G/120. I don't count quick chess as a serious game. G/10 is just slightly longer blitz chess.

I Went To A Golf Tournament and....

....a chess tournament broke out!

Just kidding about the chess stuff, but listening to the ladies at the end golf tournament reminded me of the types of things we chess players feel when we're playing kids, or dealing with their parents.

My sister is an avid golfer and had been playing in the Kansas Woman's Amateur for the past three days. There's an Open and Championship section. Anyone can play in the Open. The Championship tends to have a lot of Division I college golfers in it along with very good women amateurs. My sister was playing in the Open. After the second day of the tournament I went out to dinner with my sister and a couple of her friends who were also playing. They got talking about a girl whose father was caddying for her, and kept telling her where to stand or where to aim. At that level they're not supposed to be getting advice. A number of times the girl told her dad that it didn't feel right, and that she wanted to do something a little different. He would back off and let her make her own decision. My sister and her friends felt that was good that she felt comfortable enough to disagree at times with dad, and that he just let her decide. Sometimes she'd end out saying "I guess maybe you were right." Other times she make a good shot, and say "I think I was right."

On the last day another woman had a young girl in her group. It seemed the father and the girl needed a few lessons in golf etiquette. He kept coming up to the tee box and putting his daughter's bag down close to where the other person was getting ready to tee off. Sometimes the girl would be standing on the green doing small practice swings with her putter. The woman playing with her after a couple of times of this happening asked her not to do that, and asked the father not to stand so close in the tee box when she was teeing off.

At the end of the round the father was yapping to the officials about how the other women in the threesome were bullying his daughter, and that it affected her play. I was listening to all of this and thinking to myself "Why does this sound so familiar?" A number of my sister's friends and other women from the tournament were talking about how somebody needs to explain to these young girls about etiquette and some of the rules that apply at this level. I guess I can't complain about hovering chess parents since at least they can't hand their kid the piece that they should move. Though I'm sure some of them would like to be able to do that.

I guess it doesn't matter what the sport is, there will always be parents who feels the whole world of ____ (fill in the blank) revolves around their child, and that their child can do no wrong. Puleeze. Get a life.

I'm off to Lindsborg this afternoon, and will be playing in the quick event tonight. G/10. At least I don't have to worry about keeping score, and I can have a little fun. I don't know if I'll have internet access at the collge or not. If not, you'll have to wait until Sunday night or Monday to hear how the weekend went.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On The Road Again, Destination: Kansas

Greetings from lovely La Guardia airport where I am waiting to catch a flight to Dallas, and then from there Wichita, KS. This one of those "kill two birds with one stone trips". I'm visiting with my sister and her husband who live out there, and I'm playing in the Kansas Open giving me state #25 of my 50 states quest.

Unlike last my last trip, the airport scene has changed. On my trip to the National Open the airport looked like a ghost town. I flew through security because there was no one on line in front of me. Today was a different story. The line for simply showing your boarding pass and ID was going around the corner. Fortunately that line moves fairly quickly, though the Japanese family in front of me had their Chicago to Tokyo boarding cards out instead of New York to Chicago. I got to admit I've done that before; having wrong leg of the trip boarding card out.

I know once I get through that line I'll be able to go through the priority line because of my frequent flier status. I think the guy looking at my boarding pass was asleep, because he tried to send me to the other line. I show him the card again, and he sends me to the right line. That line wasn't exactly a bargain. The woman right in front of me had on the most ridiculous shoes for traveling. They were a pair of very stylish strappy high heels. Taking them off was a major production. There were two different buckles on the straps that had be undone to get out of the shoe. How the hell do people schlep around airports wearing shoes with a 4 inch heel? Myself, I wear a pair of really comfy Merril slip ons. They have good supprt, but no laces. Out and in. No sweat!

There was family of 5 that looked like they never had gone through security before. Don't ask me how they ended out on the priority line. The kids loaded up their bins with stuffed animals. One of their bags had a DVD player that should have been taken out of the bag. Then it took mom about 5 passes through the scanner before she didn't set it off. She kept standing in the middle of it. The guy kept saying stand behind the linr, then come back through. They sent her for a hand screening.

While I'm watching all of this I'm rolling my eyes and thinking to myself "Have they ever been on an airplane before?" Then the x-ray screener holds up my bag. "What's in the bottom of that bag?" Oops. For the first time ever my Chronos chess clock threw off the screener, so I had to pull it out of the bag. I guess that will teach me to moan and groan about rookie travelers.

Just about time for boarding. At least I can get on the plane right after 1st class and the ultra elite travelers. The ultra elite are the ones that fly 100,000+ miles a year. Unless someone starts paying me to travel all over he place, I will never make Executive Platinum status. I have enough trouble getting in my 25,000 to stay Gold. The double points in May and June helped. This trip will put me over.

Maybe in Dallas I'll post a game from Saturday. I behaved myself, and did not go to New York on Sunday for the Marshall "Cracktion". Maybe there's hope for me yet.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Doggone Chess Analogy

Yesterday before I went down to New York City, I took about a one hour walk. Often when I go out for walks I pass houses with dogs out on the front lawn. Sometimes they're big dogs and sometimes they're little dogs. No matter what the size, they always bark like crazy when I walk by. They are defending their turf. Fortunately for me, most people have "Invisible Fences" so the dogs will not be coming after me, and taking a bite out of my calf.

Yesterday I walked past one house that had a big yellow Labrador retriever out front. As soon as he saw me he started barking. Labs are wonderful dogs. My parents had one when I was in high school, and my sister has one. If anyone ready this post from September of 2007, you've met my sister's lab Willie. Willie is the son of my sister's previous lab, Mickey. Mickey was awesome with my nieces and nephew when they were little, but he made a lousy watch dog. He he didn't bark very much, and he always was wagging his tail. He certainly didn't do anything to deter the thieves that broke into my sister's house years ago. The thieves let him loose in the yard and did their thing.

Unlike Mickey, the lab I met yesterday barked a lot. However it's hard to take a dog's bark seriously when at the same time his tail is wagging as if to say "Do you have a ball I can retrieve? Come play with me!" I was walking in one direction and another walker came by in the other direction. Now the dog didn't know who to bark at. He looked at me, and then he look at the other walker. Then he would turn his head and look at me again. It was as if he was thinking; "Who's the bigger threat to my turf? The man or the woman?" Eventually the owner came out to bring him back inside.

Watching the dog having this debate, reminded me of how some chess games go. If I have several different ways of attacking, I'm looking at which way I should go. King side, or queen side? Go after the backward pawn, or the isolated pawn? Go after the king right away, or pile on a pinned piece? Do I lead with the queen or lead with the rook? If I'm defending, what is the bigger threat? Do I need to worry about the opponent's passed pawn, or his attack on my backward pawn? Is he coming in on the king side or the queen side? Should I block with the bishop or with the knight? Coming up with the right answers to these questions can make the difference between winning, losing or getting a draw.

Last Sunday I went down to Westfield, New Jersey to play in the quads. I wasn't going to get involved with the pairings, or give the TD any advice. I'll wait until they get Version 8, and make sure Murphy isn't sneaking a ride with me. Even Murphy stayed away from the tournament he sure was a pain in the butt during the drive. It took me forever to get out of New York. I was afraid I wasn't going to make it in time so I had my husband call, and tell them I was coming. I made it with about 10 minutes to spare. Not to mention they waited another few minutes to see if they'd get a 40th player, which they did.

In round one I played Alice Dong. She was White again. Like our last game she attacked king side while I went queen side. Both our attacks fizzled, but she ended out ahead by a pawn and a big edge on the clock. Don't ask me how I survived the position below with 5 seconds left on my clock.

But with 3 seconds left on my clock, and who knows how many moves later we reached this position with black to move. She resigned.

My second round game was very interesting. I dropped a pawn early, but got lots of counter play. Unlike the game from Thursday where I thought I had an attack, I really did have an attack. However like the lab who didn't know who to bark at, I didn't find the right square for my rook. This is the crucial position.

King side or Queen side for White's e1 rook? I played 33. Re3, with the idea of going to g3 and piling on his backward pawn. 33. Rc1 was the right move, which forces him to sac the exchange to stop my threat of 34. Rxc6+. My plan was too slow, and gave him time to consolidate on the queen side. Here's the game.


In the last round I played a teenage kid who seemed to just want to simplify and offer a draw. Considering how long and how draining my first two games had been, I happily accepted the draw. That gave me time to complete the true mission of my trip.

True confession time. There is an ulterior motive to my trips to Westfield. After all, schlepping 38 miles in New Jersey traffic is a lot of work for playing in a quad. My mission in three words; Three Buck Chuck, Trader Joe's ultra cheap wine. We can't get it where I live because in New York you can't buy wine in a grocery store. You have to go to a liquor store. In New Jersey you can buy wine in a grocery store.

It's actually decent wine. I wouldn't serve it if I was having a dinner party, but it's perfect to have with pizza, and other foods like that. I'm not going to have a $50 bottle of wine with pizza. Actually Trader Joe's has a nice selection of wines at varying price points, so I usually pick up other wines that I never see in my neighborhood wine shop.

On this particular trip I wasn't just shopping for my husband and me. We introduced our neighbors to it, so they wanted me to get some for them too. So after my last round game, I went over to Trader Joes which is about two blocks away from the Westfield YMCA where we play. I loaded up on wine for the neighbors and us, and found the food items they were out of stock at the Traders Joe's near us. I got enough to last us through the summer. I'm in no hurry to go back down there after sitting in George Washington Bridge traffic for over an hour. Note to self: Don't come back from New Jersey on a Sunday until after Labor Day. Summer traffic on the George Washington sucks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!!

As you may have guessed from the lack of blog posts from Philadelphia, I'm not at the World Open. Somehow paying a $300+ entry fee to get hammered by 1600 rated masters playing in the under 1800 section didn't seem like such a good idea. Paying that entry fee to play up a section was even a dumber idea. So what does a chess junkie do on the 4th of July, when she can't afford the World Open? She gets on the train and heads to New York City.

Welcome to Grand Central!
Rush hour on the 4th of July?

As a kid, one of my mother's frequently used expressions when our house was overrun with all of our friends was; "It looks like Grand Central Station in here." The above photo is the real Grand Central. That's what it typically looks like during rush hour, but today lots of people were looking to leave the city. All these people are standing on line to buy train tickets. I don't know where everyone was going, but certainly not to the Marshall Chess Club.

World Open alternative. Marshall CC Saturday G/60
Round Four

There were a grand total of 12 people playing. By the last round two players had dropped out. I lost to Raven Sturt in the first round. He won the tournament 4-0. It was an unusual tournament for me. My remaining three games were all draws. They were all hard fought draws. I'll post some of the games later.

I've never seen the club clear out so quickly at the end of a tournament. When I left at 9:00 pm the only person left besides the manager was one of the members who didn't even play in the tournament. He was going over some game from a book. I guess everyone else was off to late 4th of July barbecues, or going to see the fireworks. I decided I would go take a walk up to 34th St and over to the West Side for the fireworks.

Empire State Building lit up in Red, White & Blue

I guess for every one person who got on a train to leave the city, ten people came into the city to see the fireworks. I got as far as 33rd and Tenth Avenue and decided I could see well enough from there. It wasn't a bad spot for watching and taking pictures, except when a stupid bus would block our view. I probably should have crossed the avenue, but too many people over there! I took these pictures without a tripod so some of the effects are kind of interesting.

Warming up

I have the camera set to shoot multiple frames in sequence. These next three pictures are the same sets of shells, but with no tripod it's an interesting sequence of movement.


Getting bigger!
More colorful!
Big Bang!! (Polly's brain in time pressure)
Get your 4th of July tacky souvenirs!

Even managed to make a train leaving at a civilized hour. That's two hours earlier then the train I make on Thursdays. I even made it with time to spare. The fireworks finished around 9:55. I walked from 10th Ave and 33rd to Vanderbilt Ave and 42nd in less then 25 minutes. Not bad, considering all the people I had to maneuver around.

If I'm crazy enough I can go back to the Marshall on Sunday and play 5 more games in the Sunday Action. I think I'll go ride my bike instead. Next weekend Polly's traveling chess circus is off to Kansas. My sister lives out there; so combining family visit with chess. No I'm not going by broomstick. "I'll get you, and your little doggie too!!"

Friday, July 3, 2009

Returning To The Scene Of The Crime - Part II

Where were we? Oh yes, I have one point going into round three. I would be paired up again. I was paired against a 1900 who I've had good results against lately. I have a win and draw against him in the last two games we've played. My overall record against him isn't so hot, but I was more focused on how I've done recently. Sometimes it's probably better that I not think about how I've against someone recently. It can be a distraction from the game at hand, and cause me to overlook my opponent's chances. After I made my 21st move Re3, I felt I had an overwhelming advantage. I'm ahead on the clock, his rooks were out of play, and I was preparing to bring both my rooks to the king side and perhaps be able to take advantage of his h6 pawn.

Positions like this can be dangerous for me if I don't keep my mind totally focused on what's happening on the board at that moment. As soon as I start thinking about how many rating points I'll gain, or who I might play in the next round if I win the game at hand I get myself in trouble. Sure enough my mind is wandering because I'm a little too confident about my attack, and his out-of-play rooks. In the meantime I'm overlooking how much trouble his queen can cause all by herself. Instead of blocking her pathway into my second rank by putting one of my rooks on e3, I decide to chase his queen with my g3 rook.


A wise chess teacher once said "Never drive your opponent's piece to a better square." My move 24. Rf3 chases his queen to d2 where he is attacking my suddenly vulnerable rook on e1 and my pawn on b2. After moving the rook away and 25...Qxb2 I'm down a pawn and I'm the one having to play defense. Sheesh! How did that happen so suddenly? It happened because I lost sight of what his queen could do and the suddenly annoying bishop on c4. I thought I was going to trap his queen, but she slipped away on the queen side, and came back in on the king side.

This not so wise chess teacher has another piece of wisdom to impart. "Don't make the same mistake twice in the same game." With 38. Rg3 I chase his queen once again to a much better square (f4). With four seconds left I find the worse possible move on the board with 39. Kg1?? after 39...Qxf2+ I'm toast.

So how does one bounce back from a loss like that? Learn from one's mistakes, forget about the ugliness, and move on. That's what I would tell my students, and that's what I told myself. However sometimes I'm incredibly thick-headed, or I find something else to screw up instead. I wasn't even thinking about that game when I sat down for the last round. I got paired way down against a kid rated 1247, and figured perhaps I could salvage an even score out of this mess. I put up good fights against my higher rated opponents in rounds one and three, and won in round two. Certainly I could beat a player I out-rated by over 400 points. Right??

Okay the game wasn't as bad as all that, but what can I say about a game where less then 10 minutes have elapsed on the clock and I get my queen trapped on the 11th move? If I had come to the tournament by train, I probably would have resigned on the spot and tried to make the 11:14. However I got a ride down, and I had make sure I waited with one of the kids until his mom met us where we would be dropped off after the tournament. So what else was I going to do while waiting for Josh and Michael to finish their games? So I decided to make this kid earn his win.

It turned out to be a pretty interesting game. Even though I eventually lost, I got some decent counter play. Having nothing to lose at that point, I think I was able to just play the game and not worry. Queen for a bishop? No problem! What's the worse thing that can happen now? I can lose sooner, then later.


Actually the worst thing that happened was the drive back home. The problem with "the city that never sleeps" is; that the construction crews don't sleep either. No matter which way one tries to leave Manhattan, there is always going to be lanes closed for construction, and lots of cars going nowhere fast. Normally if I take the 12:30 train home, I'm back at my house by 1:15 AM. I think I got home closer to 2:00 am. I guess Murphy does traffic too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Returning To The Scene Of The Crime - Part I

Last year around this time, I recounted the story of my woeful performance in the 21st Annual Thursday Night Action Championship. Luck would have it that my second tournament back from my 9 day hiatus from chess would be the 22nd Annual Thursday Night Action Championship. Would it be another year of three games, three losses, good bye and good night? Follow along and you will find out just how my night went.

Once again Andre Harding was assisting Steve with the entries. He takes my money and says " Do I have to ask? Under 2200?"

"Yes, Under 2200 and that is all I have to say about it. No predictions after last year's disaster." He remembers last year, so no further explanation was necessary. This year's tournament was even bigger then last year's. There were 36 players in the Open, not counting a re-entry and a house player, and 48 in the Under 2200 not counting a re-entry. The tournament took over every bit of playing space in the club both upstairs and downstairs. The Open section had 20 players rated 2200 or higher. That meant even the lowest rated player at 1462 got paired against a master. Yes, if I had chosen to play up there would have been three players below me on the wallchart.

When I think about it, if I had played in that section the ratings of my opponents probably would not have been much different then they are on many Thursday nights. Most Thursdays I end out playing a master or high expert, a couple of 1900s and some random player rated anywhere from 1600 downwards. This tournament I would have played a low 2200, an expert, an A player and probably would have gotten the bye in round 4 or played one of the 1600s.

In the Under 2200 section I got paired against a 2040. It was an interesting game, and even though I lost I felt I made it some what challenging for him. I made a couple of small mistakes in the form of poor piece placement so I wasted a lot of time trying to untangle the mess I had made. Here's the game.


This year's tournament was bottom heavy so I knew that in round two I would get paired down. I ended out playing a kid who I've played a number of times before, and also know from a chess camp that I assisted at the past two summers. Having played a lot of blitz with him at chess camp, I'm very familiar with how he plays. He tends to play very cautiously trying for a draw, and is quick to resign as soon as he's down more then a minor piece. He's not one of those kids who plays to the bitter end. Every time I've played him in a tournament I've always been surprised how quickly he gives up when behind.

Being familiar with how he plays dictated how I went about playing the game. I was not surprised that he played a fairly quiet line against my Accelerated Dragon, allowing me to get in an early d5. He seemed to be willing to make trades that allowed me to weaken his king side pawns. It looked like he was trying not to take too many chances, and perhaps simplify to a drawish ending. I made a number of minor threats on his pawns that were easily parried, but he had taken the most passive approach to his defense allowing me to eventually pick up a couple of pawns. At the end he allowed me to trade off his very advanced b pawn for my previously backward f pawn. Here's that game.


After two rounds I had more points then I had scored in last year's tournament. I was actually satisfied with my play, and thought perhaps my Taekwondo focused chess hiatus had done me some good. I had stayed focused during both games, and felt I had managed my time fairly well. So how would I fare in round three?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I will discuss the last two rounds.