Monday, September 21, 2009

Leaving the Dark Side....

...of "cracktion". Or I should say trying to. After my success in the slow rounds at the New York State Championships, I decided I try to play more slow chess, and cut back on the game/30. I'm playing in the one game a week tournament at the Marshall instead of "4 Cracktion Games Tonight!" Oops I mean 4 Rated Games Tonight!" Fortunately the Westchester Chess Club where I play on Wednesdays does mostly Game/75 tournaments with one game a week.

We have a new slow tournament on Wednesday that started right after Labor Day. 10 players registered so we split it into a quad and a six player Swiss. Luck would have it that I would be number four, and end out at the bottom of the quad. I have my work cut out for me. In a four player round robin number one has white against number four in the first round. My first round opponent is a new member of our club, so I had never played him before, and wasn't familiar with how he played. All I knew was that with my opponent having a rating of 1976, I was going to have use my time wisely.

One of the hardest adjustments I'm having to make, is to not be lazy with my analysis. When I'm playing game/30, I tend to go through the analysis quickly, and at times the depth of analysis is rather superficial. If I'm way behind on the clock, it may be I'm simply looking for a move that is safe, or not a blunder. Sometimes safe moves aren't the best moves, and I overlook a move that is clearly winning. Here is an example from round two of last Monday's "cracktion" tournament in White Plains. I was planning just to direct and not play. However just as I'm getting ready to make the pairings another player shows up making the number odd. I played so there would not be an odd number. (Tonight the number is even so I did not have to play. Instead I'm working on this post while the tournament is going on.)

My opponent had just played 48...Rg1? I had only 2 seconds left on my clock. I made the very safe move of 49. Bd5. It doesn't hang anything, and protects my bishop, but I totally overlooked 49. Rxd4 cxd4 50. Kxg1. Unfortunately my opponent noticed his mistake, and played 49...Re1. The game continued 50. Rg2 Be5. I lost on time. I couldn't come up with a reasonable defense to threat of h4. It's games like those, that make me want to swear off "cracktion".

So how did my first round go in the Wednesday quad? I was holding my own in a wild Trompowsky where White sac'ed a pawn for play. However despite using almost 5 minutes on one move in particular, the move was horrendous and just loses a rook that I can't even get the exchange for. Check is not always the best way to counter a threat. I had played 14...Qa5+, expecting him to interpose with either his knight or queen. I did not expect 15. b4. It's a pretty obvious move, but I was too focused on trying to get him to move his knight back. Playing 15. e5 or 15. Nxd5 would have eliminated the threats on the c7 square.

Several days later I received a very nice email from him. He had attached a pgn file with his his analysis of the game. He has stronger engines then me, and he provided a lot of analysis. What follows is his analysis aided by Shredder and Fritz.

Souvik R vs Polly W.pgn

Stay tuned for more on my transition to slow chess.

Friday, September 18, 2009

2009 New York State Championship - Part 2

After a long game on Sunday night, I didn't know what to expect on Monday. There were several different possibilities, and depending on what happened in round 5 I had all my bases covered. If I had some horribly short loss in round 5, I would go back to my sister's house, get my stuff, beat the traffic, and go to a Labor Day barbecue that I had been invited to. The hosts of the barbecue are chess parents, so they understood that I would not make it if I had a long game. If I had a long game, win or lose I would stick around for round 6, and then decide after that game what I would do.

In the past two state championships of been a victim of Murphy's Law. If there was something fun to do outside of chess, I would have a long drawn out game that would cause me to miss the fun. Also it was likely I would lose the game. If no one was around, I would either get a bye or lose quickly. Winning quickly was never part of the equation. I had kept my "buddy" Murphy at bay on Sunday. The Murphyisms of Sunday were minor. Two Blacks in a row? Big deal! Playing someone from the Marshall that I've played seven times already? It could be worse. I could be playing Silvio for the 101st time.

Monday was a new day, so what could happen? If I thought I was through with playing people I face at the Marshall, I was wrong. Not only did I face another one of my Marshall opponents in round 5, but she was one who I had just played this past Thursday. I was play White against Shernaz Kennedy again. Yes the same Shernaz who delivered mate as featured in my last Wacky Wednesday post. We were both annoyed that we traveled up to Albany to play each other for the second time in five days. Also what were the chances I play females in two straight rounds?

This was the first time I was playing Shernaz at normal time control since the 1992 New York State Woman's Championship. That was back when I was in the mid 1800s and she was close to 2100. I actually beat her in that game, finished the tournament at 3-1 and won the A prize. Would playing her at a slow time control be the thing that would snap my current losing streak against her? I've had really good games against her, but time pressure implosions typically have done me in.

The opening was the same as Thursday's game, however she didn't let me get e4 in right away or get my knight into d5, and I made sure I castled before trying any sort of attack. It was actually a quiet game. We played for over three hours. We had the same number of pawns going into the rook and pawns ending, but my two passed pawns on the queen side were the difference. Here's the game.


This was certainly a change for me. I went into the last round with an opportunity to get a plus score if I won, and an even score if I drew. There was also the third possibility, but most years a minus score has been the default going into the last round. I already had as many wins as 2005 - 2008 added together. Given the opportunity to go for a plus score meant I would be a no show at the barbecue. I was not going to drop out now.

After lunch with a few of my long time chess friends it was back to business. Somehow I managed to make the break and get paired down a little bit. I say a little bit because my opponent was rated 1637. A 63 point rating difference has hardly any statistical significance in terms of predicting results. Anything could happen, and I was Black. I had played this particular opponent in this event a number of years ago, and we drew. This was my fourth opponent out of six that I've played at least once before. At least he wasn't another NYC player!

I had to wonder if I would have my typical last round game that would drag on forever causing me to miss whatever Labor Day fun my sister had in mind. She had left me a voice mail saying that she was planning to go to a barbecue, and that I could join her there when I was done. The last time that had happened I had a game that went on for 5 hours, and I missed everything! Last year it was dinner and a movie that was the attractive alternative to playing out a miserable lost game in round four.

This year I would not have any of those last round of the day dilemmas. This game could be Wacky Wednesday material. My opponent told me at the start of the game that he would leave the board a lot. I could tell that he smoked, and that would probably take him away from the board frequently. I'm not sure what got into my opponent, but he had no idea what to do with my "anti-Yugoslav" move of 7...Qa5. The correct response is simply 8. 0-0, but often players try to play the Yugoslav anyway by responding 8. f3. Shortly after I had played 8...Qb4 he got up left the room on his time. I figured he needed a cigarette before trying to figure out what to do next. Sure enough when I left the room he was standing outside smoking. I went outside and was talking to the other smoker and my opponent. He says to me "Afterward can you tell me something about the Accelerated Dragon?" I said sure and went back inside.

The line is not all scary for White if he simply plays 9. Nxc6. After Black plays Bxc6, White simply moves his Bishop back to b3. Both players castle king side and it's pretty much equal. However at times players don't seem to quite know what to do with the line, and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. My opponent came back into the room, and started thinking about his move. He played 9. Qd3 which allows me the fork his queen and bishop with Ne5.

After 10. Bxf7+ Kxf7 I'm up a bishop for a pawn. It was quite apparent that he had no idea what he was doing with the line, and was visibly shaken by losing the piece. However it's at times like this that I have to be very careful not to get over confident or lose focus. Sometimes when I'm winning, my mind wanders off and thinks about how many rating points I will gain in the tournament, or whether or not I will win class money. I had already thrown away one game this tournament when I was up a piece. I did not want it to happen again.

I wasn't going to take unnecessary chances so instead of immediately taking the hanging pawn, and attacked his queen first, then took it. The did get the queens off the board. Even with the queens off the board, I made sure to stay focused on the position. When he went on his next smoke break it was tempting to go into the other room and look at the wall charts to figure if I could win money or not. I kept telling myself, "Concentrate on the position. Win the game first. It's not over until he resigns or you mate him."

He seemed to be having more trouble concentrating on the position because he ended out making another terrible move which allows me to go up a full rook. Shortly after that he resigned. Here's the game.


This was certainly a unique thing for me. A long time control game that I win in under two hours. It was actually more like an hour and half. Now I could go look at the wall chart and see what the chances of winning Under 1800 money were. There was Benjamin Ascherman, the recipient of my second round "gift" at 3.5 points going into round six, but he was playing way up. There were five players in the 1700s that had 3 points going into round six. There were also some 2.5s who could win and tie with me. So for me to have any decent shot at any sort of Under 1800 prize money, I needed Ascherman to lose and the five 3 pointers to lose or draw. What were the odds of all of that happening? Even though all the 3s had gotten paired up, in many cases the rating difference was only around 100 points which really could go either way. All it would take to knock me out of the running would be for a couple of the 3s to win, and Ascherman to draw or win.

I figured I would hang around for awhile and see how things unfolded in my section. It wasn't even 5:00 pm, and our dinner reservation was until 7:00 pm. I kept going in and seeing what was happening in the crucial games. One thing that was very mysterious was there was no game occurring on one the boards where the 3s were playing, but there was no result posted either. This was one of the games that mattered to me. It seems like neither player had shown up, and eventually it was posted as a double forfeit.

I was making myself crazy watching the various games, so instead I went into the skittles room and watched some kids play bughouse. Another kid wanted to join in, but didn't have a partner, so I offered to be his partner. We were a pretty good team, though it took us awhile to click. He kept forgetting to pass the captured pieces to me. I'd look over, and see he had all these white pieces. Once we worked out this glitch we didn't lose many games. We didn't have to get up very often, so I got to play lots of bughouse. The inner child comes out when I'm playing bughouse. I get loud and silly just like the kids.

Finally the parents of some of the kids wanted to leave so the games broke up. I went back into the playing room to see what was happening. The 3.5 had lost, but a number of 3s were still playing. One of the 3s was up a piece against his higher rated opponent. I figured the best I could do was end out in some massive tie for 2nd place and if I was lucky maybe win half my entry fee back. At that pointed I decided I would head back to my sister's house. Everything was out of my control at this point. If I won something, I'd get the organizer to mail me my check.

I was pleasantly surprised later when I looked at the results, and saw that I tied for 1st Under 1800. I was amazed that everything happened that I needed to occur to have a chance. The 3 who was up a piece when I left, only managed a draw. Instead of being in 4 way tie for 2nd. I was in a 5 way tie for 1st.

Looking at my results at this tournament convinced me that I need to play more slow chess. I scored .5 - 2.5 in the fast games on the two day schedule, and scored 3 - 0 in the slow games. This convinced me that I would play the one game a week tournament on Thursdays at the Marshall and take a break from Thursday night "cracktion". It will be hard to avoid "cracktion" all together unless I can get some players on Mondays to play a slow tournament over 3-4 weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 New York State Championship - Part I

I'm a week late with this report, and news of my performance spreads fast. If you've been reading this blog since its inception you know I've had some crazy scores in the 2007 and 2008 Championships. I never know what to expect when I show up at this tournament. However when I dropped a pawn in my first round game, I thought "Here we go again!" Fortunately my opponent was in worst time trouble then me and offered me a draw in the following position after playing 43...Re7.

I didn't even hesitate. I accepted the draw almost immediately. It's funny because, I had considered offering him a draw several moves earlier. I had a big time edge, and didn't see an easy win for him. However I always feel weird offering a much higher rated player a draw when I'm down a pawn.

In the second round I get paired against Benjamin Ascherman. I've played him seven times at the Marshall Chess Club. One thing I find annoying is when I travel two and half hours to play in a tournament, and getting paired against players who I play at the Marshall or at other local events down by me. I don't need to pay for gas and tolls to play someone from New York City! We could have stayed home and played at the Sunday G/30 at the Marshall. However events in Albany and Saratoga Springs draw a lot of NYC and Westchester based players, so I tend to get paired against at least one person each tournament from my neck of the woods.

There are three Ascherman brothers, and a younger sister who all play chess. I've never played the younger sister, but I've had varying degrees of success against the three boys. I having an even record against one, a winning record against another, and losing record against the other. Guess which one I had to play in round two? Yep, the one I have a 1-6 record against. I wasn't overly concerned about my score against him since, one I wasn't really sure if he was really the brother that I had the lousy record against, and two, I didn't even know how bad my record was. I had to look it up when I started writing this post. Most of our games are close positional battles and it's usually some time pressure induced horror that decides the game.

This was a typical game for us, except that on move 35 he out right hung a knight. Didn't get a pawn for it and didn't get play. He almost looked like he wanted to resign on the spot. However no such luck! Easy win for me? Nope! I got sloppy and played passively. I eventually ended out giving him two pawns, and lots of play. Then in a moment of stupidity I allowed my bishop to get trapped. I only got one pawn for it, and went into a knight versus bishop pawn ending down a pawn. At that point the position played itself. Here's the game.


It's very frustrating for me when I'm up material and should be able to win, but some how manage to screw it up. I either get over confident, lose focus, and just play moves without considering all the possibilities. The other extreme is I have this feeling of doom, that somehow I'm going to find a way to totally screw up and lose, because I'm just destined to lose. Sometimes I feel like I suffer from what I refer to as the "Great American Beat Me Complex." I have this annoying habit of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." Since I was playing the two day schedule the time limit was G/40, but my mistakes were not clock induced.

My third round was against a 1962 who after a lousy start in the three day schedule decided to re-enter the two day schedule. I got Black for a second straight round. There wasn't anything spectacular about the game. It was dead even until I missed a simple combination after pushing my pawn to a5. Two moves later I lose the pawn. I dropped another pawn and eventually he trades down to a simple king and pawn ending.

At this point I'm wondering if I'm going to have a repeat of my 2007 score of 1 draw and 5 losses. Blowing the second round game was upsetting, but I didn't let it bother me too much. I think I've just gotten used to bad things happening to me at this tournament. Since I had a half point I was safe from round four bye threats, though I would not have been devastated by a bye since I could go have dinner with my niece and her boyfriend. A bye was not on the horizon. Instead I made the cut and got paired way down to a 9 year old girl with 1392 rating. Oh joy! I guess I couldn't dodge the little underrated kids forever.

Now I have to make the transition from G/40 to 40/2 G/60. I was determined to make sure I slowed down. Too often I can't slow down enough. I end out making some stupid move that I would not have made if I spent a few more minutes on it. My young opponent was taking her time. Often I get antsy when my opponent is taking a lot of time, but I was determined not have another meltdown against a little girl. There were times during the game where I felt we were having a stare down contest. I would be sitting up on my chair leaning over the board, and I'd look up and she would looking right at me. Her expression would be very serious and intense. I'd go back to looking at the board. This occurred a number of times during the game.

I won a pawn on move 15, however it wasn't like I had a clear cut win. We had only traded light squared bishops. All the rest of the pieces were still on the board. It still was not easy for me. I would have liked to trade everything off and win the king and pawn ending. She wasn't cooperating. At one point she offered me a draw before making her move. I had no intention of taking a draw at that point, but I still asked her to move first before I gave an answer. After she moved, she asked again. I guess she wanted to make sure that I remembered that she did offer a draw. I declined it. I wasn't ready to concede a half point.

She certainly wasn't ready to concede a full point to me. She would not trade queens. Every time I tried to get the queens off the board, she would move her queen away. We did trade off a lot of pieces. On move 38 she offered me another draw. We both had a queen and a rook. However I still the extra pawn. I still wasn't sure how I was going to convert my edge, however I still wasn't ready to take a draw. I knew that was her objective, and that if I didn't say something she would be asking me again. I told her if I wanted a draw I would offer one myself.

When we made 40 moves she had 3 minutes left from the first time control, and I had 44 minutes. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have grind out this game, and win on time. Finally on move 50 I was able to get the queen trade I wanted. That still didn't make things easy because we both still had rooks on the board. We traded some pawns and went for a pawn race. 68 moves and four and half hours later the game came to an abrupt end when she allowed mate. At that point it was inevitable. She can hang on for another 9 moves with correct play. At that point it's way past her bedtime, and round five is at 9:00 AM the next day.

It's tough playing these young kids. They feel like they have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain. The 1386 rating on the wall chart was a lie. Her October rating is 1522. I never make assumptions about playing strength when playing kids like her. Like many of the talented young kids, she works hard and has a good coach.

Here is the game.


Stay tuned for part two when Polly shows Murphy who's the boss!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Rated Game Tonight!

It's Thursday, and I'm heading down to the Marshall to play tonight. However I will be ignoring the cracktion sirens, and playing in the Marshall FIDE Thursday tournament. One game a week at a civilized time limit of Game/2. I've had a number of people suggest that I play more slow chess. After my performance at the NY State Championship this past weekend where I won the three games played at the 40/2 G/60 time limit, I decided I was time to take the advice of many of my readers and other friends to play more slow chess.

A report regarding the NY State Championship is coming up. Murphy stayed home. :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wacky Wednesday!: Jet Lag Catches Up.

In yesterday's post I wrote about my first tournament back after my trip. As I mentioned the first two games were exciting, and overall I played well despite losing both of them. Both those games had down to the bitter end time wise. The two games combined had a total of 13 seconds left at the end of them. When both players are using all their time, it doesn't give much time to recover for the next round.

In round three I played Shernaz Kennedy. We went through a spell last summer where we played each other four times in six weeks including three weeks in a row. I was white in every single one of those games. I also lost all four of those games. This was the first time we had played since last September. Once again I had White against her. I got a good game out of the opening with some attacking chances, but I gambled by pressing on instead of taking a move to castle. That got me in trouble when I misplayed a series of trades allowing her to put her bishop on c5.


This was clearly a case of over focusing in one part of the board without considering how the changed position affects what is happening on the other side of the board. It's funny how many games of kids I've observed where there is mate on f2 or f7 against an uncastled king. It's a pattern that I've seen a million times and have shown my students over the years. In this game I just totally forgot about it. When I saw Shernaz pick up her queen and put it on f2, I was in utter shock. All I could do was laugh over the total stupidity of allowing that to occur.

A few days later I would get my rematch at the NY State Championship. We traveled all the way to Albany to have to play each other again. I'm getting ahead of myself. That is another story. Stay tuned for my NY State Championship report. Murphy stayed home this year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thursday at the Marshall With Wang

Having just gotten back from Europe on Tuesday I wasn't really sure if I would be up for going to the Marshall for my Thursday "Cracktion" fix. Typically I'm still a bit jet lagged two days later. I've had some pretty ugly games when I've played too soon after returning from abroad. I probably would not have gone, except that Wang wrote this post on his blog. He wanted to check out this "cracktion chess" that I blog about frequently. I figured the least I could do was show up and play since I piqued his interest in the tournament.

Polly (O-O-O) and Juan (Wang)

This particular Thursday it was stronger then usual because it was "10 Grand Prix Points Tonight!" instead of the normal "4 Rated Games Tonight!". When it a Grand Prix tournament it draws more grandmasters and masters because the money is guaranteed, and it's another opportunity to pick up Grand Prix points. I knew it was going to be a hard night when I got paired against a 2092 in the first round way down on the next to last board. Wang was next to me playing a 2042. Welcome to Thursday night cracktion!

I actually had a very good game in the first round. I had lots of chances, but unfortunately I didn't take full advantage of my opponent's marginal opening play. Also I had clock issues that came back and bit me at the end. When it was done I had flagged and he only had 7 seconds left. Here is the game.


In the second round I played a 1977. Once again I had a good game, but clock issues caught up with me again. I won the exchange, but he got a few pawns for it. This is the final position after he played Bc3.

I can't stop the promotion. We both have 3 seconds left, but with a 5 second delay White has all the time in the world to win. I did not feel like playing 3 second chess with a rook against a queen and bishop. I suppose I could play on and hope he flags or stalemates, but it didn't seem likely.

The third game is "Wacky Wednesday" material so I will save that for my next post since tomorrow is Wednesday. I'll just say that jet lag had caught up with me, and that I had one of those ADD over focusing moments.

I was 0-3 going into the last round. I wasn't overly distressed by it, since I had played well in the first two rounds against my higher rated opponents. Even my play in the third round was good in the opening, it was just that one totally horrible move that did me in.

Wang also had lost his three games. I'm sure he'll have something to say about his first experience with "cracktion" at the Marshall. I know he was amazed at how strong the tournament was. We would have played each other in the last round, however he had requested a bye for the last round. I'm sorry he couldn't stay for the last round. It would have been fun to have a blogger battle.

Instead of playing Wang, I got paired against a middle school aged kid rated 1711 who was having an equally rough tournament. He played very poorly against me. I almost felt like he was dumping the game. However I found out afterwards that he was really upset about something that had happened in one of his other rounds. He just couldn't get past whatever had happened in the third round, and it showed in his play.


I think one of the hardest things for us to do as tournament players is be able move past a heart breaking loss or upsetting incident. Too often we play it over in our minds. "If I had only done....." Some times I can do it better then others. On this particular night I was coping pretty well with the heart breaking losses. There have been other times where I just totally fall apart, and can't think straight. I did not get the details of what had happened to my opponent in round three, so I can't even begin to understand what was going through his mind during our game. I just know that it really took him out of his game.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2nd Day and Knight in Amsterdam

Having learned my lesson about FIDE photography rules from my first visit to the NH Tournament, I made sure I got there early enough to take pictures of the players. I got there perhaps a little too early since there were no players to be seen. However it gave me a chance to check out the venue, and get the insider view of the playing site. The view below is similar to the one I had taken on Saturday, except this time there are no people around, except the hotel guy stocking the players' refreshment table behind the screen.

View of the playing hall from the back.

Scattered around the room they had framed pieces of chess art work and posters. Below are a couple of examples of the art work.
Star Wars Chess

Glass pieces.
People who have glass chess sets should not throw stones?

Video monitors where games are displayed.

They had two sets of these monitors in the room. People had two choices of where to look at a particular game. When a game was completed then the monitor showed the moves of the game over and over again. It was nice for spectators who wanted to see the moves of a particular game.

Playing room with more of the monitors right in front of the ropes.

Player's table

Each table was set up with a DGT electronic board and chess clock. These boards and clocks are connected to a computer, so that as soon as a move is made it immediately is displayed on the video monitor. They had a few of these monitors in the press room so journalists could follow the action from the press room. I wish I had one of those boards then I would actually have all my moves when I've stopped keeping score. Unfortunately between the price and the lack of portability it makes it impractical to own one. When somebody makes a portable one that doesn't cost an arm and a leg I'll be at the front of the line to buy one.

What happens behind the screen? Refreshments for the players. Periodically one would see a hotel staff member come in with sandwiches and other goodies for them.

Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen and Assistant Arbiter Peter Goud

When I asked Mr. Gijssen about picture taking and when would the players arrive, he said anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes before the scheduled start. Most players seemed to arrive about 5 minutes before the start time. A couple arrived after their clocks had started. I guess they weren't using the draconian FIDE rule regarding arriving late to the board. In a Scheveningen team format tournament one can't exactly be forfeiting players who show up one minute late. Personally I think the rule is overly harsh.

Some of the players did arrive well before the start of the round and could be seen talking amongst each other. Below the two elder statesman of the Experience Team, Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Serbia is chatting with Alexander Beliasky of Slovenia. My guess is their common language was Russian. Though they could have been speaking in Greek for all I know.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Alexander Beliasky
"So did you hear the one about two chess players go into a bar...."

Fabiano Caruana

Hikaru Nakamura

Peter Svindler

Time's up! No more closeup pictures.

Once the tournament games got going I figured I go do a little sightseeing around Amsterdam, come back in a few hours and catch the end of some of longer games. I was speaking to Ian Roger's wife Cathy suggested I go to Van Gough museum. I wanted walk there instead of taking the trolley. She helped me map out a walking route, and suggest that when I got the Begijnhof that I go check it out. I wasn't familiar with it, so when I got there I walked through the courtyard. Check out the link I included because it has an interesting history.

Hanging out with a knight mime in Dam Square

Courtyard of the Begijnhof

There are two churches there. One is Cathlic and the other is Protestant. I go into the Protestant Church where they have a information card and you can do a self guided tour of the church. There was a piano recital going on, so I sat in one of the pews and started reading about the church. It's English Reformed Church. I'm reading this card and thinking to myself, "I think this is where my best friend got married. It was an English congregation." I went to the back and asked if there were any other English churches in Amsterdam. Sure enough it was where the friends that I stayed with on this trip got married. I was there in 1997. I would have never found it on my own, but Cathy's recommendation led me to somewhere I've actually been.

After leaving the church I had lunch a little cafe in the alley leading to the Begijhof. After lunch I headed towards the museum, and stopped in the flower market. It was there I realized that I had left my sweatshirt back at the tournament. I didn't care that much about the sweatshirt, but I had one of my chess pins from my collection on the sweatshirt. I made my way back to the hotel, and found my sweatshirt in the press room where I had left it.

When I got back the tournament was done. I was kind of surprised, but games finished up fairly quickly. There were only a few people left in the press room. I poked my head into the lounge where players had been analyzing after their matches.
Hou Yifan and Peter Nielson were going over their game. Fabiano Caruana was also there. I watched the analysis. English was the language everyone had in common, so I was actually able to follow what they were talking about.

Hou Yifan and her second

Hou Yifan, her second, Peter Nielson and Fabiano Caruna. I'm not sure who the fifth person was, but he took the photo below for me.
Hanging with some strong company.

Afterward I set out to find Cafe de Laurierboom. That was the place that Tempo and I never made it to on Saturday night. The hardest thing about trying to get somewhere using a map is figuring out what dirrection you're heading in relation to the map. I've been known to take maps and turn them upside down in order to get myself oriented. It's hard to do that when the map is on a sign and the map in my hand doesn't have the street name on it. I'm trying to compare the map on the sign which does have the street name on it, to the free tourist map I had in my hand. The "Your are here" marking on the sign map did not help my orientation. I went the wrong direction. Eventually I found the place.

Cafe de Laurierboom

I was kind of disappointed. There were two people playing blitz, and trash talking in Dutch the entire time. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but the body language and tone needed no translation. People would come over and watch, but I could not get anyone to play with me. They were far more interested in watching these two play. I found out afterward one is master from Belgium, and the other is master from the Netherlands. They were playing crazy openings and making some wild moves, so I had no idea they were that strong. It's hard to tell how good players are when they're playing crazy, and you don't speak their language.

The last time I had been in Amsterdam I had visited the Gambit Chess Cafe. They closed after the owner passed away. What I liked about that place is that was dedicated to chess play, and they found me an opponent when I came to visit. Laurierboom seems to be more like a smoky neighborhood bar where people come and sometimes play games. They run all sorts of different tournaments for scrabble, chess, etc. It's not a chess cafe in the truest sense. Nobody would play with me, and nobody seemed interested in finding me an opponent. I've not had that problem when I've played in other cafes in Europe.

After an hour or so of watching the masters drink, play and trash talk, I headed back to my friends' house. I played chess with their nine year old son, who looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm going to beat you." That did not happen. I knew when he opened 1. a4, it would be more of a lesson. The chess set and board were rather interesting. It had been made by my host's great grandfather. The pieces were done on a lathe, and were hard to tell apart. However it was a neat old set. We figure it was over 100 years old. The picture below doesn't do it justice.

Old hand made set.

The next day it was the end of a very nice trip, and back to New York. It was really nice meeting my fellow bloggers and getting an opportunity to watch a very strong tournament. Hopefully I'll get to do another trip like this.