Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Liberty Bell Open - Day 2: Round 5

I was tired after my long round 4 game. I went back upstairs to eat and tried to take a nap. It wasn't much of a nap, but just being able to lie down and rest a bit helped. This was a luxury that I have not had at the last 2 Liberty Bells I played in. Normally after playing 4 games on Sunday I would be lucky if I had time to finally get around to checking into my hotel room. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back to that frenzied schedule. I'm sure my long time readers are saying "It's about time!" Yes I suppose it's about time. This is not a promise to totally eliminate fast schedules, but I certainly will avoid them as much as possible.

After an early dinner, it was time to head back downstairs. Being on a high floor has its advantages when it coming to going down on the elevator. There might be one or two people when it stops on the 23rd floor on its way down. When there are a bunch of people trying to go down at the same time it gets harder for people on the lower floors to crowd on. Evan Rabin took this picture on one of our elevators rides down and posted it as part of his Liberty Bell report.

I'm laughing because shortly before he took the picture I was brandishing the crutches and saying "No more can come in!" Right after that the elevator had stopped and the doors opened. The people waiting caught the tail end of my act. The kid staring at me was the only one on the elevator who did not know me. He probably thought I was nuts. I have to have a little fun at my own expense. Soon enough I would be back to the business of playing chess.

This post could be sub-titled "I'm so glad I traveled to play one of the members of my chess club in White Plains." It seems to never fail at this tournament. I will get paired from someone I've played at the Marshall Chess Club. This 5th round pairing was a variation on that same theme. I played one of the kids who plays at the Bob Peretz Chess Club. I had just played him a couple of weeks ago in the last round of one of the Monday game/30 tournaments. He totally outplayed me and won with the Black pieces. Now it was my turn to play Black against him.

I got the stealth three Blacks in a row pairing. In round 3 I had played Black. In round 4 I had the bye in my section, but I played Black in the under 2100 section. Back in my section the computer only sees the bye, so for whatever reason I got Black again. I never did get around to looking at the wall chart to check it out, but my guess is the computer was alternating colors and he probably had played WBWB and was now due for White. I probably could have complained if I wanted to, however it wasn't worth the energy going back to the director's room. Besides I had two miserable losses with White in rounds 1 and 2. Why would I want to play White when my games with Black at least were half way decent?

This would be the first of 3 consecutive opponents whose age is a single digit. Jason has had a phenomenal jump in rating since the beginning of 2009. He started the year at 988 and finished at 1777. He's got a lot of talent. However he's got the energy of a very active 8 year old. He is one these kids who can't sit still. Maybe he's the 8 year version of me, or I'm the 55 year version of him. Unlike him, my rating won't go up 800 points in a year. On the other hand I don't think his rating will go up another 800 points this year.

Unlike my last game we played the first 10 moves in less then 15 minutes. Some of those minutes were spent on him coming back to the board after I made my move. He would make a move, get up and walk around the tournament room, and then come back when he saw I had moved. When he started out with the Grand Prix against my Sicilian I was expecting another one of those games where I would have to try to beat back a fierce attack. However he seemed to be willing to let me break up the tension with a few trades in the center.


He was the one who offered the draw. I have the bishop pair. I didn't see any easy way to get in. Looking at the final position later I though maybe I can try to put my king on d5 and try to break with b5. Either way it didn't look like there was anything forced. I was the one behind on the clock. The clock wasn't going to be an issue for long time. We agreed to the draw on 39th move, so we still had the second time control in addition to the time remaining from the first control.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Liberty Bell Open - Day 2: Round 4

Sunday morning, and now it's time to see if I would be playing in my section or scrounging for a game because I got the bye. Sure enough as expected I had the bye in my section. There were byes in other sections, so it seemed like I would get a game. In round 3 the kid who got the bye in my section played a 1040 who got a bye in the Under 1300 section. I wouldn't want that pairing. I would take my bye and find something else to do until round 5. I could have super mom roll me around one of the museums.

I told Walter I wanted a game if possible. Last year when I got the bye in I was running around looking for somebody to play. This year I just had Donna park me outside the TD room. I figured if I hung out there long enough one of the TDs would find me an opponent. I can be pretty persistent when trying to avoid byes. It was pretty hectic because the directors were trying to get the players to go quietly into the room since the 2-day and under 900 sections were playing already. I just waited patiently hoping for the best. I at least showed restraint by not dropping out of the 3-day schedule and re-entering the 2-day schedule. The thought had crossed my mind, albeit very briefly. I don't believe in re-entries. Really now, what makes me think I would do any better if I started over?

After about 20 minutes one of the directors comes by and tells me I have a game. I'm playing Black against a kid rated 1796 who opted to play up in the under 2100 section. We're playing on my new assigned board. Finally I feel like I'm actually in the tournament. I have players sitting to my right and across the aisle that row is also full. These players are in the under 1900 section. I don't know what scores they have. It didn't really matter since for that round I was playing in the under 2100 section. I was getting the full point bye in my section which would mean regardless of what happened in this game the "wall chart castling" would stop at 0 0 0. Fitting for someone who calls her blog "Castling Queen Side".

I don't think my opponent had ever seen 7...Qa5 in the Accelerated Dragon before. If he had, he would played 8. 0-0 immediately. Instead he spent 15 minutes coming up with 8. Nb3. I played 8...Qb4. He spent another 20 minutes on 9. Bd3. Having sat through 35 minutes on two moves in the opening I was getting antsy already. Inside I was screaming, "IT'S THE OPENING!! JUST MAKE A MOVE!" At least after that much time he didn't play Qd3 which loses a piece to Ne5. It's so rare that I actually see this line that I forgot that I still have 9...Nxe4. Instead I played the very timid 9...b6. I think I was recalling one of my Thursday night screw ups where I allowed Bc5 trapping my queen.

I knew this was going to be a long round since my opponent spent almost an hour on his first 10 moves. Under normal circumstances I would have been out of my seat, wandering around the tournament room, and checking out what my friends were doing. Even though I could get up and walk around if I wanted to, it was a bit of a production, and too much like work. Instead I figured this was a good exercise in patience and concentration. Breaking an ankle was not exactly what I had in mind for dealing with my ADHD issues at the board, however might as well make the best of the situation. Though despite how focused I may have appeared on the outside, my thoughts weren't completely about this game. I was thinking about what I would blog, watching the games next to me, and asking myself when is he going to move?

So here is the game.


This is an example of a game being played between two people who have gotten off to a poor start. We're 0-3 in our respective sections, and it's almost like neither of us is willing to take chances because we don't want to lose. The one time I did play for material gain on move 24, I miscalculated and it ended out being a series of even trades. My opponent was using a lot more time then me. In the mean time many games were finishing up. I was thinking we had been playing a really long time, but then I remembered we started around 20 minutes later then everyone else. I was concerned that we would hold up the round if we went the full six hours.

When we got to the 40th move he had 01:41 left on his clock and I had 39:33. I was moving faster then I had in round three. Usually I slow down as the tournament goes on, but I was restless. We only played another 5 moves after that, but the game lasted almost another hour. When I offered the draw I had a big advantage on the clock. However there was nothing happening in the position. I have a passed pawn, but it's isolated and sitting back on e6. He can't win it and I can't push it. We're just going to fiddle around with our rooks and minor pieces. While working on this I let Fritz analyze the final position. Every line was 0.00.

It felt good to finally do something besides lose. It wasn't a win, but I'll take drawing as Black against an 8th grade kid with a rating close to 1800. I also got the bye out of the way, and would not have to think about the possibility again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Liberty Bell Open: Day 1

Since the end of December I've managed to direct a couple of chess tournaments in New York City, and play in two tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club. Those one day trips were manageable and with a small amount of space to cover it wasn't that hard to get around. The hardest part about going to the Marshall was getting up to the second floor on that antique conveyance that passes for an elevator. Once I got upstairs everything else was relatively easy. I entered the tournament, requested a permanent board for all the rounds, sat at the board and let my opponents come to me. When the round was done the opponent posted the result or Steve came over and asked me how I did. It was not a particularly long distance to go to the skittles room or to the bathroom.

This past weekend I made my 3rd annual trip to the Liberty Bell Open in Philadelphia. In 2008 and 2009 I got up early on Sunday morning, drove to Philadelphia and played the two day schedule. I only have to spend one night in the hotel that way. Despite the craziness of playing 4 G/40 games and 1 40/2 G/60 game in one day, I've actually had some decent results on the two day schedule. It's true there was the 2008 meltdown, but then there was the 2009 queen sac game. For those two years my combined record is 4 wins, 4 losses, and 6 draws against opponents with a 1750 average rating.

This year driving myself to Philadelphia was not going to happen. If I wanted to go, I needed a ride down there. Unlike my trips to the Marshall, there were many options ride wise. There were about 10 different players from my area going to the tournament. Many options, but only one person was the perfect choice for a female chess player with limited mobility. Super chess mom to the rescue! I went down with one of my former students, Alexander and his mom Donna. Every scholastic chess team needs a parent like Donna. She's been the driving force behind building up the chess team at her son's school, and is the one that takes care of all the logistics when traveling to the various scholastic nationals. Getting her son and me to Philadelphia and through the rigors of a three day weekend tournament is a piece of cake compared to what she does for the chess team at scholastic nationals.

The logistics of playing in a large class tournament for three days in a big hotel is a lot different then taking a day trip to the Marshall Chess Club. A weekend tournament with over 400 players, 8 sections, and 3 different schedule options poses many obstacles to any player who has mobility issues. 400 players don't fit in a small space. Everything is spread out. If you have ever played in a tournament at Sheraton City Center Hotel in Philadelphia you know what I'm talking about. Pairings and skittles room are in one place, the director's room is in another place and the playing room is in a third place. On the mezzanine level where the tournament is held the bathrooms are far away from the playing room. Even on two good legs it can take a player a few minutes to walk to the bathroom and back.

However even before I started playing I knew I had some serious issues with getting around. Donna had checked us in while I sat down. Alexander was overseeing the bellman loading our luggage on the cart. Finally the 3 of us and the bellman with the luggage cart get on the elevator to go up to the 23rd floor. Normally when I check into a hotel for a big chess tournament I try to get a room fairly close to the elevators. However since we had a suite with adjoining rooms it was all the way at the end away from the elevators. As I'm walking to our rooms I'm thinking to myself "I'm going to be exhausted just walking to my room from the elevators. How am I going to make it through the weekend?"

Fortunately that's where having super chess mom looking after you comes in handy. She could see this was going to be a problem for me, so she called up the front desk to see if the hotel had a wheelchair we could borrow for the weekend. Yes they had one, and sent it up to our room. This former marathoner, triathlete and hopefully future black belt was not overwhelming thrilled with the prospect of spending the weekend being pushed around in a wheelchair. However unless my opponents wanted to come up to the 23rd floor and play me there, I didn't have any other viable options. Trying to tough it out and walk all around the tournament area on crutches wasn't going work. That was very apparent from my walk to the room.

Since breaking my ankle I've gained much appreciation for the simple things that able bodied people take for granted, and the challenges one faces when trying to make one's way around on crutches. Doing these same things via wheelchair presents a whole new set of challenges. Perhaps that's how the politically correct term "physically challenged" came about. As I went through the weekend, I felt a little like one of those investigative reporters that goes "undercover" and takes on the role of someone they're not. The anonymous reporter blends into the world he is investigating and plays his role without anyone knowing who he is. However in the chess world I'm not anonymous, so I would make a lousy investigative reporter trying to play this role for real. Instead it makes for a very different report on this particular tournament. Sit back and enjoy my ride.

The first order of business was getting myself entered into the tournament. I could have played the four day schedule with a 1/2 point bye for round 1, or the 3 day schedule with the first two games at G/75. I opted for the 3 day schedule. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to play all 7 rounds. G/75 is a decent compromise between really slow chess and really fast chess. Walter Brown, one of the directors asked me if I needed a special board. I wanted to be at a board on the end of a row. I just needed space to put a chair to prop my foot up. At the Marshall when I requested a special board, I showed Steve what would be easiest for me. At this tournament I had no idea how they were numbering the boards in my section, and there would also be a merge of schedules after round 3 and then again after round 5. I left it up to the directors to figure out where to put me.

Afterward I was sitting outside the director's room talking to Jay Bonin. He's been at the various tournaments I've played in and directed at the Marshall so he's gotten used to seeing me on crutches for the last month. He wasn't too shocked seeing me in a wheelchair. Various players who haven't seen me in awhile where more taken aback. Mostly the reaction was "Oh my god, what happened to you?" "Did you do that skiing?" I supposed I could have made up a fantastic story about skiing in the Swiss Alps and having to be taken out by helicopter, but I'm a lousy liar. I said that I can't talk and walk down stairs at the same time, and explained how I fell down the steps in my house. Not a very glamorous tale, but the sad truth of the step not taken. (Apologies to Robert Frost.)

We were not the only event in the hotel so there were many people checking in and heading up to their rooms. Waiting for the elevator on the mezzanine level during a busy period is like waiting for the subway during rush hour. When one finally comes it's full. It seemed like every elevator that stopped on the mezzanine had loads of people with suitcases or a bellman with a cart full of suitcases. It's one thing for a lone person to squeeze herself onto a packed elevator, it's a whole different story with two people and a wheelchair. We finally took an elevator down to the lobby and then went back up. I've used that trick a lot when attending big events in high rise hotels.

The first round was at 11:00 am. That gave me time to sleep in a bit, take a shower (a serious undertaking!), and have a nice breakfast before the first round. I was a little anxious about figuring out where I would be so I had Donna bring me down a little earlier then normal. Once we got down we went to find the pairings for the under 1900 section. Some of the sections were posted along the hallway outside the playing room. We roll past all of those pairings and none of them are for the under 1900 section. I finally ask one of my friends whose in my section where are our pairings? In the skittles room. Far away from the playing room. And I really thought I could manage this on crutches and a bum leg? What was I thinking?

As we head to the tournament room Walter tells me they had meant to put me at board 203, but put me at 205 where my opponent was already set up. I didn't think it would be a big deal since we were the only ones playing on that row. I could sit sideways and prop my foot up that way. It was a bigger deal then I thought. I had trouble getting comfortable. Various parts of my lower body would go numb depending on how I sat. I found all sorts of new ways to fidget in my chair, or perhaps I should say chairs. It was game of "musical chairs" gone bad. After awhile sitting sideways I decided to move into a normal chair and sit facing forward. I had to put my leg down and then that started tingling and throbbing. I moved back to sitting sideways with the leg propped up again.

I don't think all this switching chairs and adjusting my position was helping my concentration. After 23. Qe2 Bf8 we reached the following position.

I proceeded to play 24. Nxb5? It wasn't until 24...Qxb5 25. Qxb5 Rxb5 that I realized that I just gave up a knight for a pawn. I know exactly what happened. On move 23 I had considered playing Bf1 instead of Qe2. I rejected the move because I expected him to move his knight off of c6 to eliminate the threat of Nxb5. Adding a minor piece to the defense of the pawn makes 23. Bf1 a wasted move. When he didn't move the knight, I thought I could take the pawn. I clearly forgot that a knight and queen attacking a pawn defended by a queen backed by a rook was not the same as a bishop and knight attacking said same pawn.

The game continued 26. Bf1 Rbb8 27. b5 Nd8 28. b6 Ba4 29. Rd3?? Bc2 30. Rb2 Bxd3 31. Bd3 Rc6 32. Ba5 Nb7 33. Bd2 Bd6 At that point I knew my passed pawn was going nowhere, and perhaps it would be better to have lunch and rest up for round two. Donna had showed up just about the time I resigned with pretzels and water. At that point I didn't need the snacks, but a ride back to the room for lunch was even better.

Elevator rides were an adventure all weekend. It wasn't just crowds that caused problems. Sometimes when the doors would open the floor of the elevator car would not be level with the floor of the floor. That would sometimes make for a bumpy entrance or exit. She kept apologizing for having me sitting with my back to the door. Since there were mirrors in the elevator I could see what was going on behind me. Then there's the natural tendency to get off the elevator when it stops regardless of the floor. Several times I had to say "We're not at our floor." I joked about being dyslexic and being able to read the floor numbers in the mirror just fine.

In round two they managed to assign me to the correct board so I was able to put an extra chair at the end and prop up the leg that way. I still ended out spending a lot of time fiddling around with the position of the chair, the position of my leg and my position sitting. I was trying not to be a distraction, but it's hard to be subtle when I'm moving my leg from the floor back to the chair. I also needed to have the board and clock close to the end so it was easier to reach. That meant the clock sat at my left the entire tournament. I actually prefer it on my left particularly in short time controls. I can move and press the clock with my left hand, and at the same time score with my right hand. In fact when I'm White and I play a lefty who wants the clock on his left I'm disappointed.

My second round opponent was a high school kid who used to play in my scholastic tournaments when he was in elementary school. His rating has gone up a lot from those days of 3 digit ratings. His rating is a little higher then mine. He had a frustrating first round loss. He had forgotten to press his clock and ran down to 10 seconds before he noticed. He ended out losing on time in a position he was winning. Our game was fairly quiet until I rejected taking a pawn on move 23. I was attacking it twice and he was defending it twice. Unlike the last game I could actually take because I have a fork after he captures my knight. Maybe I was a little gun shy after blundering the piece in round 1. My insipid move 23. Bc1 allowed him a crushing attack. Here is the game.


Neither of these losses had anything to do with the time control of G/75. The games didn't last long enough to have the clock become an issue. I think my issues were physiological and psychological. I was distracted by trying to find a comfortable position to sit in. What worked at the Marshall tournaments was clearly not working here. I was going to have to fiddle around more with how I was sitting. Admittedly I was also uncomfortable with the attention I was receiving as I was being pushed around the tournament all weekend. I didn't want this weekend to be a big production, but it was hard to avoid it becoming so once I realized negotiating the tournament space on foot wasn't going to work.

The third round was the first of two merges of schedules. The 4-day and 3-day schedules would merge and we would playing round 3 together. The tournament room is one big room with a large wall dividing it in half. On Saturday morning they had the 4-day schedule on one side of the wall and the 3-day schedule on the other side of the wall. Even though I was on the back row by myself there were players from the lower sections only a row away from me. At least I felt like I was part of the tournament even though I wasn't playing with my own section. I was far away from where the Grandmasters and International Masters were playing on the top boards. However when playing a faster time control I'm not as prone to wanting to watch the games on the top boards.

After the merge the bulk of the sections played in the main room , and just a few rows were being used in the second room. I had assumed they would move me after the first merge, but they didn't. Here's my round 3 opponent and I all by ourselves in the back of the room.

Any feeling of being part of the tournament was gone. I felt like I wasn't really playing. Unfortunately it seemed like others felt the same way. There were two moms sitting in the back having a conversation like there was nobody around. Several times I would look their direction and and hold my finger to my lips as if to say "Shhhhhh!" I finally just put on headphones and listened to music. The headphones didn't help when people decided they would come to the back and start analyzing their games. They had turned the back few rows into an ad hoc skittles room. Several times I had to tell people we were playing a tournament game, and to please go to the skittles room. They looked at us as if they hadn't even noticed we were there. Perhaps they thought we were analyzing a game or playing blitz. The worst was when some parent going over his kid's game starts chewing him out for making a bad move. That I heard very clearly even with the headphones on. I flagged down one of the tournament directors and asked him to get the analysis moved to the skittles room.

In the first two rounds the game weren't long enough for me to need to take a trip to the ladies room. I knew this round I would probably need to go at some point. Donna said she would come in and check on me. It seemed like every time she came in was a moment when I was actually focused on the board. I never saw her, and after about 2.5 hours I was wondering if she had forgotten about me. Eventually she came in at a moment when I spotted her, and had her take me out. Bathroom runs were another adventure. Viewing the tournament area from a child's eye level made me a lot more aware of how oblivious people can be. People are walking and not even looking in the direction they're going. (Sounds familiar. Bottom 2 stairs. What stairs?) There were time I thought people were going to walk right into me. It got even worse on Sunday when all the kids came for the under 900 section.

If I ever had doubted the need for handicap accessibility, I would have gotten over it fast during this weekend. The ladies room has two doors that one has to go through to get in there. They're both fairly heavy doors. It was tricky getting through the doors unless there was someone there to hold them open for me. It wasn't an issue when I had Donna around to open them for me, but other times I didn't have anyone to hold them open. Forget trying to go through those doors in a wheelchair. Fortunately I did not need to go to that extreme. I could get up and walk in. There were bathrooms with handicap access, but they were on the lobby level. I didn't need that, but I feel for the person attending a function on the mezzanine level who does need that bathroom. Then again I don't understand why the hotel only has bathrooms at one end of the floor. Most hotels have bathrooms on both ends of a large floor that has big rooms for meetings or parties.

My third round game lasted longer then my first two games combined. My opponent played the Smith-Morra against my Sicilian, but I was in no mood to deal with accepting the gambit. Every since my "Morra Meltdown" I just ignore c3. Most opponents will push e5 and it transposes into a c3 Sicilian. He did not do that, but I just kept ignoring the pawn on c3. Eventually he recaptured on d4. Both of us missed opportunities to win a pawn at some point in the game. I think we were playing rather tentatively. Perhaps it was because we were both off to a lousy start with our matching 0-2 scores.

Despite my passive play at times I was holding the position just fine. Unfortunately I had one of those "touching a piece too soon" moments that I did not handle very well. Here is the crucial position.

I was anticipating Rc7+ I think I got a head of myself and picked up my queen and started to put it e5 to block the diagonal. Right before I was ready to let go, I noticed the rook is still on c5. I put the queen back on e6 and started to panic a bit. The first thought was "I can't believe you almost hung your queen there." The second thought was "Great! You touched the queen, now where are you going to put it?" When thoughts like that go through my mind it's hard to settle myself down and find the right square for the queen. I'm slightly worse in the position, but 39...Qe2 was a reasonable move since I'm attacking his rook on d1. Instead I played 39...Qe4 which loses outright to 40. Rc7+ In one move I manage to toss away almost 4 hours worth of play.

Here's the entire game.


One of the directors came over as the game finished. I gave him the thumbs down sign, and mentioned how much being in the back sucked this round. He said I would be moved to the other room because the 2-day schedule would be using this room. He mentioned board 100. I asked him to take me into the other room so I could check out a new board assignment. Board 100 was right by the door. I didn't want that board. It would be too noisy and too much player traffic. Then he suggested a board that was all the way against the far wall. Too far away. I was starting to feel a little bit like Goldilocks. I finally got up and walked over to board 88 which was on the center aisle and I could face with my back to the wall. That board is just right.

I didn't want to call Donna from the playing room so I decided I would attempt to roll myself out of there. However not being used to this new mode of transportation, and lacking the upper body strength to push my 1xx pound body in a wheel chair that by itself probably weighed 20 pounds I did not got very far. Some kind chess player asked me if he could push me somewhere. I had him take me to the skittles room and leave me by the under 1900 wall charts. I wanted to see what was happening in the section. There is a total disconnect from the tournament when you're not playing with your section and you you don't see the wall chart. I also wanted to see whether or not I was going to be in line for the bye in round 4. It appeared that way since the player right below me got it in round 3. I wasn't going to lose any sleep over getting the bye in the morning. If the numbers were even I wouldn't, if they remained odd I would.

Sunday was a new day. Hopefully things would be better with a change of scenery.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I'm Back!! Kinda...: Part II - Merger Mania

In round three both schedules came together. I no longer had a nice quiet room to myself. Instead there were 22 of us jammed onto every available table. Then there were the spectators who would wander in and out. Having come out of the first two rounds with only a half point I knew I would get paired down. I happened to get paired against Ken who I have referred to as the scariest 1300. The last time we played was October of 2008. He plays the opening very well but tends to be erratic in the middle game which is why his rating tends to bounce around between 1300 - 1400. Though almost every time I play him, he gets a decent position and doesn't have one of those middle game implosions that everyone else talks about.

Normally when I've played Ken it's been in the 4th round of one these tournaments, and both of us have a lousy score. That means we're usually in the back of the room where there is almost no player traffic, and no spectators hovering near by. In this particular case we still have the lousy score, but we're not hidden away in the back of the room. We're up in the front of the room right next to the door at my assigned table. We not only have everyone walking past us, but we also have the hovering spectators. I never realized quite how agitated Ken gets when people get near him. Every time somebody walked by to go to or from their board he would get all nervous and look around the room. A few times when the person sitting behind him would get up, he would shoot him a look, and wave him away. Sometimes he would mutter something.

My way of dealing with such distractions is to tune them out with music. Though it became difficult to tune out a hovering chess parent who was watching his son play at a board near me. He kept leaning his hand on the chair that my foot was propped up on. I was afraid he was going to lean too hard and tip the chair over. After a few reminders he got the hint. I did find another way for the parent to become a distraction. Yes, I know I should have been paying attention to my own game, but.....

I couldn't helped to be really annoyed because when the game next to his son was done he sat down in the chair right next to the his son's opponent. The he pulls out his cell phone and starts texting someone. He wasn't texting his son or anything of that sort, but I sure would be disturbed by my opponent's father sitting next to me and pulling out a cell phone. The kid's opponent is this very sweet girl who doesn't seem like the type to make a fuss. I was hoping she would say something, but perhaps her focus is better then mine.

My game was very boring which might have had something to do with why I was watching everything else going on around the room. Unlike my last two games against Ken, I was White. I had no crazy attack to fend off as Black. He played pretty normal stuff against my quiet English. After three hours of just trading and fiddling around we reached this position. I played my move and offered a draw which he took.

That still left a lot of time until the fourth round. It was good that I had found another ride because Michael got a very quick round three draw and was long gone by the time I was done. I guess the message never got to Steve that I had gotten a ride, and was retracting my last round bye. He sees me hanging out talking to some of the other players, and asks "Weren't you supposed to go home with Michael?"

"No I got a ride back with Ethan after round four. I guess you didn't get the message that I was retracting my last round bye."

I'm glad he saw me sitting there. It would have been really annoying to see the round four pairings go up with 1/2 point bye next to my name. The moral of the story is "Double check your bye status." Steve intentionally displays all four rounds on the wall chart so that players can make sure their late round byes have been entered correctly. However since the wall chart was downstairs, and I was upstairs I would not have seen that it was showing me for a 4th round bye. Normally byes can not be changed once the second round has begun. Since it was clearly a misunderstanding and not a matter of me changing my mind for prize purposes he changed it for me.

I was expecting to be Black since I had played White twice already. I even had the board set up with the Black pieces on my side. My opponent came to board and told me he was Black. I guess sometimes it pays to be lower ranked. There are all sorts of pairing rules pertaining to who gets what color in a particular round. When all other conditions are equal then the higher ranked player gets the color he is due. Though my rating was higher then my opponent's rating, his score was better then mine. Therefor he got his second Black, and I got a third White. Gee how disappointing. I didn't have to play Black against some kid who had more points then me.

It was not a beautiful win. It was more about my opponent's blunders then my brilliant moves. However a win is a win. I'll take it!


I was afraid I would have a really long game and end out keeping Ethan and his dad waiting for me. Instead it was Ethan making his dad and me wait for him. He was playing downstairs so I couldn't really go down and see how the game was going. I stayed upstairs and watched some of the games going on in the back room. He ended out losing a long tough game to Rochelle Ballantyne.

I was happy to finally get out of the house and play in a tournament. It had been really hard being stuck at home. I finally started feeling like I was part of the human race again. It's easy to take for granted simple things like being able to get on a train and go down to New York City whenever I feel like it. I can't do that right now so I depend on various people to get me to where I need and want to go. My husband and friends have been getting me up to the Bob Peretz Chess Club on Mondays and to my various classes. I'm teaching just a couple of classes at schools where I know I can manage on crutches.

I'm not driving yet. Both our cars have a stick shift. It's very hard to operate a clutch with a left foot that hurts when I put too much weight on it. I tried my car which has a very stiff clutch, and my leg felt like crap afterwards. I'll try the other car, and if I can't drive that one I'll have to resort to Plan B. The problem is I haven't figured out what plan B is quite yet.

Tomorrow I'm off to Philadelphia to play in the Liberty Bell Open. Normally I go down on Sunday and play the crazy two day schedule in order to save on the hotel. This time I'm going when my ride is going. I will be playing the three day schedule which has 5 slow games as opposed to the 3 slow games I would have on the two day schedule. My "fast" games will be a civilized G/75 intead of the insane G/40 that I normally play. I was about to write that I hope I can sit still for all those long games. Then I realized I don't have much choice. I can't be wearing myself out wandering around the room on crutches.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Back!! Kinda...: Part I (Edited)

The article is in the editor's hands now. He loved the pictures I took of various sets of twins so he's letting me do a short follow up piece to go with the pictures. I have 400 - 500 words to play with. I'll start working on that piece tomorrow.

Since my "Last Blunder of 2009" weather bummer I've managed to make it down to the Marshall Chess Club for two tournaments. It takes a lot of planning to work out how I can make it down there. Mass transit is not an option right now. Steve was running the "Happy New Year Open" the first weekend of the year. His two day weekend tournaments always have two schedules. Players can opt to play long two games on Saturday and Sunday at a time limit of 30 moves in 90 minutes followed by 1 hour sudden death. If players only want to play on Sunday or do a reentry after a lousy start on Saturday they can opt for the one day schedule. The one day schedule consists of two games at game/30 and then merging with the two day schedule and playing the last two rounds at the slower time control

I didn't really care which schedule I played. If someone from my area was going to play the two day schedule, I would do that. If they were only going to play on Sunday, I'd take the one day schedule. I could not be fussy. New Years Day I sent out emails to about eight people who either played in the tournament last year, or who might want to play. The only responses I got were "No we're not going." However there were a few people who I had not heard from. One of them I knew I probably wouldn't hear from until Saturday evening.

By Saturday after having missed the "Last Blunder" and a New Years Day party that I normally attend I was getting really grumpy. Cabin fever was raging, and I was in a totally foul mood. I spent a good part of the day sleeping or sulking. I warned my husband that if I didn't get an answer from someone that he was going to have to take me to Manhattan on Sunday. There was no way I was going to spend another day trapped in the house. I think he was praying to Caissa that somebody would call or email me.

Finally I got a hold of Michael's mom and she said they were going for the one day schedule. She said he was probably going to take a round four bye. I could live with that. Three rounds are better then none. There was also the possibility that once I got there I would find someone else who could bring me home after round four. At least I knew I was going, providing there wasn't some freak snow storm arriving Sunday morning. The only snow in the forecast was a snow shower in the afternoon. However being a Murphy's Law believer it would be just my luck that the little snow shower would be a blizzard. It was poorly timed snow on New Years Eve day that messed up my chess playing plans. Had it snowed 3 hours earlier or later I would have had no problems that day. As Chessloser would say, $@#t happens.

Sunday morning came and no snow! Going to a chess tournament on crutches takes some preparation. I made sure the night before I had everything I needed already in my backpack. Clock, Mon Roi, notebook, pens, reading glasses, iPod and Advil. I've managed to forget at least one of those items for one tournament or another. I couldn't be doing my usual running around crazy looking for stuff at the last minute. I also made a sandwich the night before and made sure I had a bottle of water. Running out to grab a bite to eat in between rounds was not an option. I didn't want to have to pester people to get me stuff.

I knew what obstacles I would face once I got to the Marshall. A week earlier I directed the Grandmaster Challenge G/25 tournament. I could write a whole separate post on that, but I digress. There are 3 small steps from the sidewalk to get down to the front door. Fortunately my balance is pretty good from my Tae Kwon Do training. (Okay I know you're wondering; So how does someone with good balance fall down stairs and break an ankle to begin with? Balance isn't worth a damn when you're not looking where you're stepping and completely miss two steps.) Once I navigate the steps then there is the front door. I have an access card so I can buzz myself in, but the door is heavy so I need someone to push it open for me. If the inner door is closed I have to push that open enough so that I can let the person holding the first door come by me and get the second door.

There are two ways of getting to the second floor; walk up the stairs or take the elevator. I have gone to the Marshall Chess Club for over 30 years. The previous Sunday was the first time I had ever taken the elevator to the second floor. To say the elevator is old is an understatement. It's ancient! It's one of the old fashioned ones where you pull the door open like a regular door, and then have to push a metal gate to the side to get on. Even if you're able bodied it's hard to do because you have prop the first door open while you pull the gate open. The gate doesn't stay open so you have to keep holding it while you get in the elevator. It's impossible for me to do by myself. To get in easily I really need two people to help. One to hold the door and one to hold the gate. Usually I have one person trying to do both. It's quite a balancing act.

Needless to say once I get upstairs I'm going to stay there until I'm ready to leave. The weekend tournaments are held downstairs, but if there's more then 32 players the overflow plays upstairs in the back room. Normally it's a bad sign when you're playing upstairs after a few rounds because it means you're on one of the bottom boards and having a lousy tournament. I've played in the back room more times then I care to admit. However in this particular event having an assigned table upstairs was the only way I was going to manage. I needed a table near the door, and away from other tables so I had a place to prop up my leg on a chair.

There were around 30 players signed up for the one day schedule so everybody could play downstairs for the first two rounds. This meant my opponent and I would have the upstairs back room to ourselves. In the first round I just made the top half split so I got paired down against the lowest rated player in the one day schedule, Sarah Ascherman. Sarah is the youngest of four chess playing siblings. I've played all three of her older brothers with mixed results. Benjamin clearly has my number. I have 1 win and 7 losses. I'm even with Jeremy. 1 win, 1 loss 1 draw. Jonathan is the only one I have a winning record against. 2 wins 0 losses, and 4 draws. This would be my first game against their little sister.

Even though Sarah and I had our own private tournament room it didn't mean we were free from distractions. After the merge of the two schedules there would be over 60 players in the tournament. Steve was busy moving tables into the back room, and trying to scrounge up enough chairs. At one point he comes into the room and takes the chair my leg is propped on and replaces it with a folding chair. About 10 minutes later he takes the folding chair and replaces that with a small step ladder. It wasn't the most comfortable set up but it would do until the game was over.

The game wasn't overly exciting. We traded down to reach the position below.

She played 38...Kg6 and offered me a draw. I had a minute and half left and she had close to three minutes. My pieces are better placed, but I couldn't see an easy way to press my advantage. I thought she might start pushing her passed pawn and I would end out giving up my a pawn for her b pawn. I also thought her knight would be able to chase my bishop and centralize on e5. Given the time situation and my physical condition I opted to accept the draw. Looking at the position later I realized that I under estimated my chances in the position. My bishop is active and, her rook is tied down on a8. I think if I had more time on the clock I would have played it out.

Bye decisions had to be made by round two. Michael decided he wanted the last round bye. It looked as though I would only be playing three rounds. I had not seen any other ride possibilities up to that point so I told Steve I would be taking a last round bye also. Then my second round opponent came and sat down. Here was a possible solution to my round four dilemma. My opponent was Ethan Segall, one of the kids from Connecticut who comes to my club sometimes. I asked him if his dad would be willing to drop me off on their way home. He said yes, so that resolved the bye problem.

Ethan and I have played each other quite a few times at the Friday WCA Quads and also at the Bob Peretz Chess Club. This was the first time we would play at the Marshall. When we first played each other I was higher rated. I won the first 3 times I played him. He's one of the kids who used to offer draws frequently when playing a higher rated opponent. Our fourth encounter he got his first draw against me. After that it's been all downhill. His rating has gone up, mine stays the same. These days I would happy if he offered me a draw, especially when I'm Black against him.

I know when I'm Black against Ethan I'm going to see the Grand Prix against my Sicilian. As usual he got a strong attack going on the king side. I managed to beat back the attack to some degree, but only because he missed a killer move. His attack fizzled down to being up a pawn.

Maybe with more time I could have held the ending, but with only a couple of seconds, I was moving quickly and hung another pawn. Eventually I ran out of time. Another way of putting it; I let the clock resign on my behalf. Here's the game. Edit: Here is the correct game. I did not lose on time up a queen!


Two rounds at game/30 with two kids as opponents. So what else is new? The next round would be after the merge. My private tournament room would be no more. Stay tuned for part two. Merger mania!

Sounds of Silence Will Come to an End!

Today is the deadline for submitting my Chess Life article on the K-12 Championships. It's been a difficult task trying to put into 2500 words or less what I wanted to report on from the tournament. Included in those 2500 words were all the moves and annotations of the two games that go with the article. That left me with about 1500 words of my own to play with. Giving me 1500 words to describe three days of chess played by 1200+ kids is like giving a guy coming out of the desert a teaspoon of water. It's not enough!! However I just need to make a few changes this morning and send it in.

Once that's done I will be back writing about the adventures and misadventures of a "mobility challenged" player and tournament director making her way through the local chess scene on crutches. Just because we set on our butts when playing chess, doesn't mean we can take for granted the ability to get to the tournament to sit on our butt for a few hours.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers. I know I haven't been too chatty as of late. It's hard to write when all I want to do is whine about how life is unfair. Breaking my ankle and being stuck inside tends do that me. It's funny how easy it is to take for granted the ability to get on a train and go down to the Marshall Chess Club for a tournament when I feel like it. Suddenly I have to depend on other people to drive me down there because I can't negotiate mass transit on crutches. If no one from around here is going down there, then I end out not being able to play.

Such was the case on New Year's Eve day when Steve Immitt held his annual "Your Last Blunder of the Year" tournament. He's held it every year since the mid-eighties. I've only missed it a few times. I had a ride all lined up, but then it was snowing in the morning and the person ended out taking the train instead. I was stuck in the house and in a really foul mood. It's annoying when all I wanted to do was be with my chess friends and participate in an annual ritual. My last blunder of the year occurred on December 19th when I fell down the steps.

I looked back at my first post of 2009, and had asked the question "What would 2009 bring?"

Number of tournament games? I did break 4400, but didn't make 4500. I ended out playing less then the previous year. Though people would argue, rightfully so, that 350 is a lot of games. I didn't break 400 like last year due to my decision to stop playing as much "cracktion". Most Monday nights including tonight, I sit at the chess club checking out Facebook, working on my blog (doing that now), or reading the forums at when there's an even number without me. I'll get to play the last round because somebody is taking a last round bye.

New states to play? I thought I'd only do two new states, but I ended out doing four instead. Tennessee and Indiana I was sure about, but Nevada and Kansas also got into the mix.

Chess improvement? I never did come up with a concrete plan. My chess study was hit and miss. All the talk of revamping my openings did not happen. I did do some tactics stuff, but not on a consistent basis. My play went from really good to really bad at times.

Tae Kwon Do? I did what I set out to do. I made it to bodan by June giving myself a year to really relearn and sharpen my technique in everything in preparation for June 2010 black belt testing. That was the plan until I missed a couple of steps and broke my ankle on December 19th. It doesn't look good for June. I'm not on the June candidates list.

So what about 2010?

Lifetime game totals? I'll definitely break 4500 games this year. 4600 - 4700? Who knows? I'm not going to even take a guess.

New states to the list this year? Maybe Minnesota if I somehow get a coaching or writing gig for the Junior High Nationals. Maybe Utah. I have a friend near Salt Lake City that I haven't seen since she moved out there.

Chess improvement? I've been following the ACIS of Caissa posts on many of the different blogs. I really do want to come up with a genuine plan of improvement. For me it's not simply studying tactics, end games or openings. I need to take a holistic approach to chess that will incorporate not only the chess elements, but also the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of my life that I feel impact how I approach and play chess. I will share details as I start to find some direction.

Tae Kwon Do? I did see the orthopedist today, and now I can start to put weight on my left leg. Hopefully if I continue healing I will get the cast off when I see him again on February 1st. Then it will be time for physical therapy, and gradually working my way back into Tae Kwon Do. My left kicks will be good because I've developed really good balance and strength in my right leg and ankle. Kicking with my right leg will be more challenging as I balance on a weakened left leg. Black belt by Fall? I hope so.

I had to interrupt the conclusion of this post to play two games in the tournament tonight. I evened out the numbers in the top section after one player opted to leave after one round. I lost both games to higher rated opponents. Neither game was a blowout, just mistakes that added up after awhile.

There you have it. My first post of 2010. My second post will about Sunday's tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. I finally got the proverbial "Get out of jail free" card, and was able to snag rides to and from the club.