Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Saratoga Oops!!

It's that time of year again. Time for another trip to Saratoga Springs for the NY State Scholastic Championships and the Saratoga Open. I've had my ups and downs in that tournament. I wasn't so convinced whether or not I was going to even make it. Thursday we had one of these insane snow storms that never seem to stop. In addition they were forecasting that the snow wouldn't stop until Saturday. Looking at the snow and the weather maps on Thursday night, my husband says "There is no way you're going to Saratoga Springs tomorrow. The roads are closed. They declared a state of emergency in Orange and Sullivan counties." "Blah, blah So on and so forth." He can get very dramatic about the weather. Truth be told I was nervous about the prospect of driving by myself with a newly uncast ankle. However I said I'll deal with it the morning after I talk to Donna and some of the other parents from the team.

Friday morning it's still snowing some, and this is what our trees in the backyard look like.

I hope they'll survive all that snow piled on them.

There is a car under all of that snow.

My first venture outside during snow. Look ma! No cast!!!

After multiple phone calls and going back and forth about who was going, and who wasn't and when, I finally determined we were going. I was able to get a ride so that I didn't drive myself. After all the weather hysteria it wasn't such a bad ride up there. Beautiful scenery on the side of the road. I took this picture below as we stuck in a little bit of traffic at one of the tolls.

Just missing a sleigh being pulled by reindeer.

In terms of road conditions, it was good. Most of the drive looked like the picture below. There were a few snow showers, but not so bad.

We made it in good time and arrived before dark. We got checked in before the crowds. The kids went out for pizza. Donna and I had a nice quiet dinner. After dinner I decided I would go register for the tournament. I wasn't 100% sure which section I would play, but I was leaning towards playing in the Open section, not Under 1800. I decided I would see who had entered so far before making a decision.

When you play in the same tournament for a few years in row, you just kind go into auto-pilot. I didn't even look at the tournament announcement. I knew when the tournament was, what else did I need to know? It turns out I didn't really know when the tournament was. I saw Walter Brown, one of the tournament directors. I asked him where Steve was. He wasn't sure, but he mentioned that he'd be up until midnight. I asked if there was a blitz tournament tonight. No. The first round of the open tournament.

Huh? I asked him if there was a two day schedule. No. They changed the schedule and time controls. Instead of G/60 with 6 rounds identical to the scholastic schedule it changed to 5 rounds 30/90 G/60 starting Friday night instead of Saturday. While I was having my nice leisurely dinner the tournament was starting without me. I would have to take a half point bye for the first round. I was kind of annoyed, but nothing I could at that point. The only good thing about missing the first round, I could see who was in the sections. After looking at the two sections I decided I would play up. There are few players close to my rating playing up, and I avoid unrateds and 3 digit ratings.

You know what they say when you assume. You make an ass out of u and me. Hopefully I won't make an ass out of myself in the tournament.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last Round at USATE

As I mentioned in my previous post, just because I had .5 out of 5 didn't mean I'd get an easy pairing. In fact I got to play a 2250 who had 4.5 out of 5. It was probably one of my better played games in the tournament, but losing a pawn to a master doesn't usually lead to good things. I missed a big opportunity to get the pawn back. I saw the move, but didn't look deep enough to see that it actually does get the pawn back.

After that there were no more chances, howeverI felt like I put up a decent fight right to the end. It's very instructive in how he won the rook and pawn ending. If nothing else I got to see how to convert since so often it's difficult to win those endings.

Here's the game


This is the final position. It's too bad it's my move. If it's Black's move it's a draw.

Here's a possible continuation if Black is on move. 57... Ke6 58. Ke2 Kf7 59. Kf1 Kf6 60. Kg2 Ke6 61. Kf2 Kf6

Now if Black makes the mistake of 61... Kf5?? 62. Kg3! he would be the one in zugzwang.

The opposition is a powerful thing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

USATE - Tales from Table 59

After a brief interruption by the Brooklyn reports, we will resume our normal programming. The long awaited US Amateur Team - East report.

In my temporary disabled state I was not able to get around the tournament as easily as I would have liked. So this year's report is not loaded with lots of details of what else was happening in the tournament. I had no idea how many teams were 5-0 going into the last round, or who was even playing on them. There would be no last minute post from the lobby trying to be the first one to report who won. I went to the USCF website and got the results there.

I had intended to email Steve Doyle and ask for an assigned board for the entire tournament. It's too difficult squeezing into a middle board in the ballroom. I wanted to be able to sit on an end and prop my leg up if necessary. I didn't want one of the assigned tables by the door in the ballroom (too noisy) or one in another room (too isolated). I could visualize where I wanted to be but didn't know how to explain it in an email, and I didn't know what the specific board number would be. I figured I'd try to get down there early enough to request it before the round one pairings went up. However I had gotten a little bit of a late start leaving. By the time I got there the 1st round pairings were already up.

Fortunately in round one our team happened to have been assigned to board 74 which was on the aisle, so I could sit on the end. That made it easy for me to get in and out, but it didn't prevent a pack of teenage kids to constantly bump into me as they crowded around the board on the table right behind me. I asked them several times to not crowd around the board, but you know how well kids listen. One kid kept leaving on my chair and bumping into me. The only way he got the hint was to elbow him out of the way. I finally got up get a TD. However by the time I walked out to get a TD to come in and break up the crowd the game they were watching was done. This was happening as I was reaching a difficult part of my game.

Before round two I requested a table where there would not be a row behind me. Usually the specially assigned tables are closest to the door. However I can't cope with the noise and traffic by the doors so I requested table 59 which was on the the far side of the ballroom away from the door. Here I am with my teammates at our spacious board that would be our home for the rest of the tournament.

The usual suspects from the Bob Peretz Chess Club
Silvio, Alan, Guy, and me.
Yes that's the Silvio I've played 101 times!

I traded the noise from the "chess nuts boasting in an open foyer" for the noise from the catering staff working in the back. That noise was more manageable. I would also have to walk a little further to get to and from the board. I didn't think it would be such a big deal, but by Monday my leg started to really ache. As much as I didn't want to negotiate the crowd on crutches I finally gave up and used them for the last round. In hindsight I should have used them more. People actually cleared a wider path when I came through on the crutches.

At the USATE there are many people I only see once a year at the tournament. I also run into people who I haven't seen in a number of years. Everyone who saw me walking with the cane or the crutches asked "What happened to you?" I felt like I should have passed out a flier detailing my December 19th mishap, and the prognosis from my orthopedist. After awhile I got tired of answering the question.

The one thing I had to make sure of was that one of us got to the board before the other team came and set themselves up on the outside row. If given the chance to sit with no one behind them players are going to grab those seats. The last thing I wanted to do was find an entire team seated and set up and have to say "Excuse me I need to be seated on that side. Please move." If that had happened I probably would have just asked the board 1 player to switch with me. All the spectators would be confused, but it might have been easier then making everyone change places. Fortunately it never came down to that. I just had to ask a lone player from our second round opponents to take the other side.

In the second round I had White so I had put the clock to my left. It was covering the board number so people kept picking up the clock to see what board this was. The numbering sequence can be really confusing. Board 58 is on the row closest to the doors, and then 59, 60, 61 are on the row on the other side of the room, so people find 58 and then ask where is 59 or 60? They eventually make their way to this side of the room, and look under my clock to see what board this is. I figured I'd make easier for players in round three. I put the clock on my right since I was Black. I thought that would solve the "Where in the world is board 59?" problem.

Unfortunately it created a new problem. My opponent's teammate kept pressing our clock instead of his. That was fine if I was on move, but was a problem if my opponent was on move. Suddenly I would find my clock running. The first time it happened I just thought I forgotten to press the clock. Though I had left the board, came back thinking my opponent had moved, and realized he hadn't. When I pressed the clock the move counter was off. So we fixed the move counter and continued. This happened several more times. Finally I suggested we just move the clock to to the other side and reset it. It was my clock, but my opponent took the clock and started started fiddling around with it. I'm try to say that I can fix it, and he's acting as if I I don't know how to set my own clock. Typical high school kid who doesn't seem to think this old lady can reset her own clock! He goes through great machinations to reset it, and then chooses the display option that I don't like. I tell him I don't want that display. He starts fiddling around finally I just take the clock and set it myself.

All of the messing around with the clock has me side tracked, so I took about 5 minutes to simply compose myself and reacquaint myself to this position. White had just played 16. g4.

After my composing moment I spent about another 10 to 15 minutes trying to figure out what to do with this mess. I didn't want to trade knights and undouble the pawns. I couldn't figure out how I was going to get my light squared bishop into the game. After much deliberation I played 16...Rd8. The poor bishop would not get out until move 32. By that time it would be too late. This was another one of those 1. d4 games where I can't figure out what to do with my queen side pieces. Either the bishop doesn't get out, or the knight ends out on some random square totally out of play.


When you're playing on an assigned board, it can be very confusing for the opponents looking for their pairing. The opposing team will be looking through all the pairings for their name. The pairing sheet has the score next the team name, and they're looking through all the 1s and can't find their pairing. (I had the same problem last year trying to find our pairing in round six.) That's because our board number falls within the range of the teams with 1.5. What team with an 1129 average and 1 point is expecting to find themselves in the ballroom on board 59 in round 4? We would not have been in the ballroom for that round either.

The kids and their parents were absolutely delighted with the chance to play in the ballroom. Sunday night is a great night to play there because you get to see all the skits and costumes. Once again the team from Long Island that did the winning "Parsippany's only Chess Club Band" last year had an encore this year . The Village Pieces doing USATE to the tune of YMCA. Edit: No there is a video on YouTube.

Here are some photos of the skit.

US - A -T -E

The Village Pieces cast and crew.

Runner up in the gimmick contest
The Mighty Queen (sung to the tune of The Mighty Quinn)

We were paired against a team of kids called "Young Guns". They were certainly ready to take aim at us. They had already taken out a higher rated team in round 1 where they drew on boards 1-3 against players rated 1941, 1513 and 1500 and got a forfeit win on the last board. Yes the forfeit won the match for them. However it's still impressive with their ratings being 1531, 1371 and 1106 on their top 3 boards that they scored 3 draws against their higher rated opponents. We didn't know any of this coming into the round. I know I just assumed they had started 0-2 and then beat some other lower rated 0-2 team.

Having this information doesn't change how I approach the game. I figure when I'm playing a young kid rated 1500 that in reality he's probably closer to my strength, and that I can't take him lightly. Alan and Silvio won their games fairly quickly so that left Guy and me to get another 1/2 point between the two of us to win the match. Easier said then done. Guy's position was just ugly. His bishop hadn't moved off f8, and the opponent had all sorts of annoying threats. On the other hand I had won a pawn out of the opening. After the queen trade he did have some play with the bishop pair. However I was able to trade off his dark squared bishop for one of my knights. At that point I felt at worst I should draw, although I wanted the full point. I was playing for the full point.

Sometimes it's easy to become hung up on positional concepts such as a bishop being superior to a knight in an open position, rooks controlling open files, or not having more pawn islands then the opponent. These were the things I was wrestling with when we reached this position after 25...Nd4.

My dilemma was how do I respond to the threat of 26...Nxe2+ winning the bishop and forking my king and rook. The simplest response is 26. Kf2. It defends the bishop and eliminates the fork threat. The problem was I started thinking, "I don't want to give up the Bishop for the Knight. Also he can play Rxc3 which gives me two isolated pawns." The other choice for me is 26. Rxc8. If he plays 26...Nxe2+ I play 27. Kf2 and after 27...Rxc8 I play 28. Kxe2 I didn't like that line for two reasons. One is very valid, and the other just shows how little confidence I have in my analysis. I didn't like the idea that he can come down to c2 and attack my b pawn and pin my knight. Those are reasonable concerns. My other concern which was totally baseless was that after 26...Nxe2+ 27. Kf2 that there was some in between move that I was missing that saves the knight before he plays Rxc8. There wasn't such a move.

Not liking either 26. Kf2 or 26. Rxc8 I come up with 26. Bc4?! This move seemed to resolve the two issues I was concerned with regarding giving up the bishop for the knight or having my pawns split up after the rook trade. He immediately played 26...b5. With almost no thought on my part I played 27. Bd5?? with the thought that I'm blocking the d file from his rook and avoiding any potential discovered attacks on my knight. He instantly responds with 27...Ne2+ forking my king and rook. After all the energy I spent on weighing the merits of the the positional issues of the minor piece trade and the isolated pawns after the rook trade, I had completely forgotten about the fork threat. Now I had bigger problems then playing with isolated pawns or knight versus a bishop. Now I was not only giving up the exchange but I also give back the extra pawn and then some.

At this point I'm berating myself for my stupidity. "How could you have played that move?" What were you thinking about?" "Why did you move so fast?" "Blah, blah, blah, etc." I looked over at Guy's position which had gotten even worse since that last time I had looked at it. It was very likely he would lose, and the match would end out being drawn. If you think I'm hard on myself when I lose a position where I'm better, I'm even more brutal on myself when I do it in a team match. I felt like I let down the team losing a game that at worst should have been a draw. One could point at second board, and ask what about him? Isn't he also responsible? It was hard to see it that way when he was losing the entire time, and I was actually winning until I blundered.

Fortunately I didn't get much time to dwell on it. Our 10:00 pm dinner reservation had been moved up to 9:15. I figured that was all the reason I needed to resign and get out of the room. My anger and frustration was starting to show at the board. As we were walking through the lobby to the restaurant, I was ranting and raving over my stupidity. Alan and Silvio basically said "Forget about it. Let's go enjoy dinner." Good news. I did enjoy dinner.

I hate Monday at this tournament. The round is at 9:00 am and check out is at 11:00 am. Unless I have a quick round in the morning I really have to clear everything out of the room before hand. There have been times where I've left my stuff in the room, and gone out between moves and put it my car when I see that the game is going to last more then two hours. That was not a viable option this time around. On my way down for breakfast I put the suitcase in my car, and left my computer and coat in the room. If worst came to worst I could get one of my friends to retrieve the rest of my gear.

Even though the hotel is a low rise building the elevators can be an issue when going down for the round. Everyone is trying go down at the same time. Normally I'll just bypass the elevators and walk up and down the steps. I get some exercise that way, and I avoid the crowds. That wasn't going to work this year. My room is on the 6th floor, so at least I know I won't be trying to squeeze onto an elevator filled with people. Also there were signs in the elevator lobbies saying "No more then six people in the elevator." The elevator comes and I get on with other people. By the time we get to the 4th floor we already have 6 people. Two more people get on, the doors close and nothing happens. The elevator isn't moving, and the doors won't open. One kid says "Oh this happened to me yesterday. We have to hit the emergency button so they can send somebody up to open the doors."

The kid is so blase about it, and I'm starting to lose it. I'm trying to get down to our board so that I can make sure we get our side before the other team arrives. I call up Alan and ask him if he and Silvio are at the board yet. They're still in their room. I call Donna to see if she's come down with Alexander yet. No she is still upstairs. Oh swell, I'm stuck on an elevator and nobody is downstairs to make sure we get our side of the table. It wasn't too long before the engineer arrives and gets the doors open. Now I know why they only wanted 6 people at a time on the elevator! I wasn't getting on another one, so I slowly made my way down the stairs.

Fortunately I still managed to make it there before the other team arrived. Since we only had 1.5 points we got paired down. I was happy to see a group of four adults arrive to face us. I was getting tired of kids, having played them in 3 out of the first 4 rounds. Guy finally ended his 4 game losing streak on board 2. Alan and Silvio continued to hold their own on boards 3 and 4 with a draw and a win respectively. My losing again on board 1 did not damage the chance for us to win the match. I didn't feel so bad about losing this game. I got outplayed on the Black side of a Nimzo-Indian. I lost a pawn on move 37 and another one on move 43. By move 51 he had a pawn sitting on d6 that was going to cost me a rook to stop.

Having won our 5th round match guaranteed us a tough last round pairing. This is where playing in team event can be hazardous to one's chess mental health. In a normal Swiss event if I was losing so much I'd be getting progressively easier pairings. However in a team event my pairings are based on how the team is doing, not how I'm doing. Having lost 4 in a row I didn't get to play some poor sap who also had .5 - 4.5 . I got to play a 2250 who had 4.5 - .5. Ouch! Actually it was probably the best game I had all tournament. He won a pawn, and then I received a terrific lesson on how to take that edge to the ending, and convert for the win. The ending deserves its own post because of how instructive it was.

In the past I've had my little superstitious rituals with the lucky chair or board in a tournament. Maybe after the ugly 4th round loss I should have recognized that I was sitting in an unlucky seat at an unlucky board, and requested a new board assignment. I went 0-5 after we were assigned to board 59. Hopefully after this I will never need to request a special table assignment again. I'm out of the cast and ready to start physical therapy and restart my journey to black belt.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Battles in Brooklyn

As I mentioned in Wednesday's post I played in the quads that were being held at the same time as the Justus-Joshua match. The first day I was the bottom of the second quad, and my score matched what often happens when one is the lowest rated in a section. I didn't have much success defending against the Grand Prix. I even ended having to defend against it from the White side when my opponent used the same set up against my English. Here's my round two game where I had White, but felt like I was playing Black.


Shaun Smith getting quads set up.

What to before the tournament? - Chess anyone?

The second day of the match drew more players for the quads. There were 10 sections. I got pushed out of the second quad and dropped to the third quad. I had decided after the previous day's thrashing I would play a little differently, and try to avoid going into the exact same lines. No, I did not go home and whip out the opening book and learn some new line. I would play 1. d4 as White. I wasn't 100% sure what I would do about the Sicilian. I would get to put my plan into effect in the very first round.

Coincidentally in round one I would end out playing Black against David Kim who beat me the day before in round three. I was Black in that game too. I had considered replying to 1. e4 with something besides 1...c5. I even considered playing e5, but after about a minute I wimped out and played c5. Once again he played 2. Nc3. I opted to play 2...a6. Instead of facing the Grand Prix, I faced the Closed.

In reality it wasn't the opening that was giving me problems. It was my perception of what was happening in the opening. I felt like White was attacking, but I actually missed a move that would have won material in the middle game. Since I had not looked at the game until today I didn't really have a true picture of what happened. Perhaps if I had gone over the game before Thursday's tournament, I wouldn't have been so concerned about White's opening. Both games were lost because I overlooked simple attacks and tactics.

Here are the two games.





Looking at these two games with the same opponent made me realize I need to have more confidence in my ability to defend and to look for counter play in these types of positions. The opportunities were there. I just didn't take advantage of my opponent's mistakes. I need to figure out what it's going to take to be more positive about my chances in positions where my opponent has the initiative. There's too much negativity going on.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big Battle in Brooklyn - Day 2

Morning comes too soon when I've stayed up late watching the Olympics and blogging. When the alarm went off at 7:00 am, I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. However another day of chess awaited, so I did drag my tired body out of bed. With no snow to clean off the car, Guy got to the house earlier then the day before. Having made the trip on Wednesday we had the route down pat, and got there earlier then the day before. It also helped that we knew where to go this time. No chance of ending out on a school field trip.

On the way down we discussed whether it would be more advantageous to have White or Black in the first game. The player with White had the upper hand in each game. So would it be better to take White in the 3rd game and hope to repeat the success of the day before, or take Black and try to break the spell or hold a draw? Given the choice, I would take White and try to win to have the upper hand going into the deciding 4th game. There is merit to taking Black and trying for put some psychological hurt on the opponent by breaking the trend of White winning. No which color the players took, whoever could win the critical third game would have a big edge going into the final game.

All the games were being broadcast on ICC. Organizer and tournament director Shaun Smith would go back and forth between the office where Justus and Joshua were playing and one of the other offices where there was a Internet connection. He would then post the moves on ICC where a number of people were following the action. On ICC people can watch the game and chat about what they're seeing. Josh's dad sat at another computer in the same office and followed the play that way.

Shaun Smith inputting moves.

Guy watches the action unfold.

Justus had White in the third game and won a pawn on the 15th move. The extra pawn held up and Justus went on to win the game. (All the games can be viewed on the USCF website.) Now all the pressure fell on Joshua to win the last game. When I saw Justus after the third game it was very apparent he had won. He seemed a lot more relaxed then he had been Wednesday afternoon. He was smiling and enjoying his lunch. I didn't see Joshua and Guy between games. I think they may have opted to go out and grab a bite to eat, and get away from the frenzied lunch scene downstairs. With all the kids from the quads having lunch, playing blitz or just talking non-stop it was not the place to be if one wanted to clear his head before the last game.

Joshua had White for the last game but Justus could afford to play safe and go for a draw. Joshua played a different line against Justus' Sicilian Defense then he had the day before. I guess he figured Justus would have prepared something overnight for the line played the day before. It did not look like Justus was playing for the draw. He got nice pawn play on the queen side and kept his king safe from any play Joshua was trying to get on the king side. (I wish I could get positions like that as Black against the closed Sicilian.) Being down 2-1 Joshua had to take chances, that unfortunately didn't work out for him. Justus won the last game and won the match 3-1.

In my previous post I made an observation about the "home field advantage" that Justus possibly had. I wasn't sure whether the pressure of performing in front of his teammates and the documentary film crew was a distraction or not. I think it definitely helps in match like this. Even though the games themselves were played in an office far from where his teammates and friends were playing, I'm sure he drew some energy from having teammates and friends around. There's also the familiarity with the venue, a certain comfort level of being at his own school, and not having to go far. It will be interesting to have a rematch at Joshua's school. We'll have to wait to see if home field advantage is all it's cracked up to be. Joshua wasn't using that as an excuse. His dad guy left the following comment at

"Congratulations Justus! We really enjoyed the struggles in games two and three. Obviously, when Josh was down 2-1, the psychological pressure of a must win caused him to try too hard. Josh told me he felt that Justus was more prepared for this match and deserves the win."

Both Joshua and Justus are examples of what chess is all about. Both have a sense of pride in the game, and are fine young sportsman. I think much of that has to do with the family support that both get. Let's hear it for the moms and dads who work hard to make sure their children are doing their best, being considerate of others and have a healthy approach to life.

Latisha Williams with Justus

Yanick and Guy Colas with Joshua and his siblings.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Big Battle in Brooklyn - Day 1

I'm interrupting my USATE reports to write about the Justus Williams - Joshua Colas match that's being played today and tomorrow at IS 318. Justus and Joshua are friends and rivals. They were on the same team this past weekend at the team tournament. They are the 2nd and 4th ranked 11 year olds in the US. Both of them could possibly be the one to break Kassa Korley's record of becoming the youngest African-American master. Kassa became a master at the age of 15.

Even though they play in many of the same tournaments they've only played each other once. They drew in the 5th round at the 2009 New York State Scholastics. They played a blitz match back in the fall that Joshua won. After the blitz match Shaun Smith of Chess in the Schools wanted to put together a four game match at a slower time control. The match was finally arranged and scheduled during the mid-winter school vacation break. At the same time as they were playing their match, Chess in the Schools hosted a free tournament at IS 318.

Shaun Smith had given me a flier for the event and suggested that I come down with Joshua. This chronic chess addict could not resist the chance to play more chess. I guess six games over the long weekend wasn't enough for me. Besides I wanted to be there for Joshua. I've known Joshua since he started playing back in 2005. I've watched him go from 600 to over 2100 over these last 5 years. I remember the first time I played him. He was totally winning, but played too fast in my time pressure and I pulled it out. I would beat him a few more times, but eventually that changed. In our last 13 games, I've only won once.

Joshua's dad picked me up around 8:15 this morning. The entire family came down so it was little crowded in the back seat. We were supposed to get there by 9:00 am. Driving to Brooklyn during rush hour is an adventure, especially when one isn't 100% sure where they're going. We missed one exit, but fortunately there are multiple bridges that lead to Brooklyn. We were getting a little nervous as to whether we would make it on time.

We did finally made it. However just because we were in the building, didn't mean we were in the right spot. They sent us to the cafeteria where there were a bunch of kids sitting around. I didn't recognize any of the kids, but that didn't concern me. However after awhile we were wondering where Justus was. Finally we find out these kids are not there for chess. They're going on a trip. Somebody finally pointed us to the right spot.

IS 318 has an outstanding chess team and has won many national championships. They take pride in their chess teams and have banners for each of their championship teams. It's pretty impressive walking through the hallways and seeing how many different events they have won as a team.
Home of chess champions

Chess mural in the hallway.

Originally Justus and Joshua were going to play downstairs in the teacher's lunch room. However Shaun was having trouble with the internet connection downstairs so they moved the match upstairs to Assistant Principal John Galvin's office. It was nice and quiet up there.

Not a bad day to be sent to the Assistant Principal's office.

Justus and Joshua in their first game.

Joshua Colas

Justus Williams

While Justus and Joshua were upstairs there were 31 players in 7 quads. We played 3 rounds of Game/45. I ended out at the bottom of quad 2. Shaun asked me if that was okay. I was fine with that. He said he figured that would be okay since he reads my blog, and knows where I like to be in be in a quad.

I had a rough outing. I ended out seeing the same attack whether I was White or Black. That's the problem when I play the English. They just play against it as if I'm playing the Sicilian. I got a little tired of 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O Nf6 7. Qe1 O-O, etc. I defended fairly well, but somehow they kept managing to win a pawn and then finish me off in the endgame. Tomorrow I'm playing 1. d4

We were set up in hallway, that was nicely lit. Lots of windows with the sun shining and good lighting. It did get noisy at times, but Mr. Galvin tried to keep the kids quiet. I used noise canceling headphones to resolve the problem.

The quads. That's my first round opponent in the foreground.

Quad 1 included 2009 6th grade champion, James Black.

Getting ready for my last round game.

Mr. Galvin shows off his end game technique against Randy Rivera

Quad winners

Quad 1: Matheu Jefferson 3
Quad 2: Rahwaiz Abdul-Rahman 3
Quad 3: Randy Rivera, John Galvin, Aleem Awan 2
Quad 4: Talitha Santana 3
Quad 5: Kamil Chmielewski 3
Quad 6: Roberto Jimenez 3
Quad 7: Jessy Ramirez 3

In the battle of the J's Justus won the first game with White. Joshua rebounded to win the second game also with White. Josh seemed pretty relaxed even after losing the first game. Justus seemed to not be quite a relaxed after losing the second game. At first I thought Justus might have the home field advantage playing at his own school. But I think in some ways it adds extra pressure, especially when he's being followed around by the people doing a documentary on the IS 318 chess team. As we were leaving Justus was getting ready to do an interview.

Our car ride back was also and adventure. Josh's mom came to pick us up. She had come down in the morning so she could see how to come and get back, but that didn't prevent us from missing another turn and having to fumble our way through Brooklyn. Fortunately there are signs pointing to the various bridges and highways so we eventually to make our way to a road where we actually knew where were going.

Josh and I talked a little bit about his games, and then he was content to goof around with his older brother and younger sister in the backseat. It reminded me a little bit of the road trips I took with my family as a kid. I think about all the times my sisters and I would drive each other crazy in the car, and then in turn drive mom and dad crazy. I like how Joshua can play two intense games of chess and then just turn it off, relax and just act like an 11 year old kid.

Tomorrow will be rounds 3 and 4 of the Justus - Joshua match. I will take another crack at resolving some of my issues against that damn Grand Prix Attack. Look for more pictures, hopefully maybe a short interview with the boys and some games. It should be quite an interesting day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

USATE - A very brief update

The chess playing hordes. A small part of them.

Sometimes I just can't make heads or tails of how I'm playing. I had two good tournaments in a row both on Monday night at G/30 followed by the nice weekend in Bermuda. Chess Tiger left the following comment on my last Bermuda report: "Good luck at the UState!

Lets hope that the slump is over and that with the Bahamas a periode of wonderful results has come to the horizon. At least at your new tournament you have teammates to do all the running to the result boards and such. :-)"

Here's the short summary. Round one our team is paired down. Boards 3 & 4 win, board two loses and now I'm desperately trying to hold a draw against a kid rated 1450 on board one. I do hold the draw so we win the match.

Round two we get paired up and we lose the match 3.5 - .5. I lost to 2273 who was some what intoxicated, but could not take advantage of his impaired state so I lost.

Round three we get paired up again. I lose a painfully torturous game where my bishop finally moves off c8 on my 32. We lose that match 4-0.

Round four we're paired against a team of kids. Once again boards three and four win. Board two is losing. I'm up a pawn, but then go into chicken mode, and ghost spotting and blunder. I made one move too fast. It was annoying because I was staying pretty focused, but one move tossed the game. When given the choice of playing out a lost game or making it to dinner on time, I decided a strategic resignation was called for. Here is the game with some notes.


I will discuss some of what was going on mentally in another post. All I know is I've seen to hit another rough patch, and it's very frustrating. I'm not dealing with it very well. Two more rounds. Maybe I can recoup a bit of my wounded pride.

I have no idea what's happening on the top boards. They're playing on the other side of the ballroom from where I am. It's a bit of an effort to walk over there. I try to save my walking to the water cooler, and the bathroom. I still have the cast and my leg swells up by the end of the day.

I did get my team assigned to permanent table so that could avoid get mashed by the hordes and can prop my leg up. It makes it easier to show up and know where we are every round instead of looking at pairing sheets trying to find our name.

Best seat in the house.
Our team's permanently assigned board

I'll post more pictures in another post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bermuda Open: Round 5

It's so hard to believe I've gone from that....

(The closest I got to an ocean swim on this trip!)

on Monday. To this.....
on Wednesday.

I'm ready to go back to Bermuda. Maybe we could move the US Amateur Team East to Bermuda. Okay Bermuda is not part of the US, but it is east! I suspect the good folks in New Jersey would not like to relocate their pride and joy to Bermuda.

Since I physically can't go back there, I might as well go back there via this post. What better is there to do a snowy Wednesday then to blog about a sunny Sunday? As alert readers may have picked up from my results post, I had a very good Sunday. I have edited my round 4 post and included the very short game. I left the date as Sunday, but probably appropriate that I added the game today. It is Wacky Wednesday worthy.

Having such a short game gave me a chance to catch up on my other posts. I'm not sure if I'm having an extended case of writer's block or just tired, but I can't seem to keep up with blogging on the fly. Tournament reports tend to be several days behind. I also got outside for a little bit and sat by the pool. Though it was rather frustrating sitting there knowing full well I couldn't take a swim even if I wanted to. Though you got to love the crazy weather when one minute it looks like this.....

....and 10 minutes later it's pouring! Fortunately I had gone back up to my room to do some more catching up on the blog. I'm glad Donna had given me a call around 2:55 because I had totally lost track of the time, and had no idea it was so close to round time. Fortunately they do not use the draconian FIDE forfeit rule for arriving late at the board. If they did everyone would forfeit in one round or another.

Just as I figured, I got paired up and had Black. Everyone else in under 1800 also got paired up, so my chances were as good as any one's. I got paired against Gordon Richie who demolished me in blitz on Thursday night. I figured after the butt kicking he gave me when I was Black, that I better not go into the same line again. I guess that's one good thing about my losing to him in the blitz tournament. I could play something different in the game that really mattered.

Sure enough it's going to go into the exact same line if I play 5...cxd5. I decided I would play 5...Qa5. I had no idea whether it was book move or not. I figured I couldn't do any worse then what happened in the blitz game. Nothing like winging the opening when I'm trying to win my class prize. I guess we both were winging it because I managed to win a pawn on move 13. From that point onward I would not only be battling my opponent, but I would also be battling my distraction demons.

I was very determined to hold on to my edge and not lose focus. It was rather nerve wracking as I found myself having played 10 queen moves in the first 20 moves of the game. I'm thinking to myself "How long can I get away with my knight sitting on g8 and my king on e8?" I was getting away with it because I provoked him to move his king. I probably will not show my students this game since I was breaking every opening rule in the book. I didn't really want to castle since he would probably just shove all his king side pawns down the board and he already had the queen and bishop battery aimed at h6.

I decided my best course of action was to try to trade queens and simplify. It was a cautious route, but seemed to be the one with the least complications. Since this was a long time control I could take time to make sure there was not some cheap shot lurking somewhere. After awhile I started to notice that a number of the games around me were done. What had happened? Who won? Who lost? These were questions that I wanted answers to. However I also need to make sure that I didn't get distracted by the possibility that I was going win the under 1800 prize. On the other hand I needed to know where I stood.

Eventually I did go look at the results sheet and saw that every 2 pointer rated under 1800 had lost except the two games going on right next to me and at the next table. I had to just keep working on my position. I was still up a pawn, and I had gotten the queens off the board. Now we were down to having both our rooks, a knight and my 6 pawns versus his 5 pawns. Both knights were dancing around the board and a "game of chicken" happening on the open h file. Neither of us wanted to initiate a rook trade on the file. I knew if I traded 1st he would be able to penetrate my king side where my king no longer was. Eventually I would get to double my rooks on the h file.

I couldn't help but to look at the two remaining games. The one right next to me ended out in a draw. Now one of the under 1800 players had 2.5 points. One down, one to go. I still had to do my part and convert my advantage into a full point. I felt good about my chances since I had doubled my rooks on the h file. I saw the possibility for mate in two, but my opponent defended against that one. What I missed was I had actually had two different mate threats and he can only defend one. The problem was I didn't see the other one so instead I went into a line where I won another pawn and traded off everything. That still didn't stop me from being afraid he would create a passed pawn on the queen side if I wandered too far away with my king. Visions of round four of the American Open were haunting me. Fortunately as soon as I started pushing the king side pawns my opponent resigned.


Now all I had to do was wait on the remaining game involving a player rated under 1800. Charles Green was still slugging it out with his higher rated opponent. However his opponent had two passed pawns deep in his territory. I felt my chances of clear first were very good at this point. Charles had a few long games in this tournament. He was the player who Googled the Bermuda Open and found my blog. He and his wife traveled from Ecuador to come to Bermuda. This tournament is the chess widow's dream come true.

Patty and Charles Green with me at the closing party.

As I mentioned in my results post the awards ceremony got off to a very late start. It was around 11:30 by the time the two blitz playoff matches were done. However it was worth the wait. Last year I had tied for 2nd in the under 1800 and I remember drooling over the beautiful blown glass Bermuda Longtails awarded to each class winner. I was delighted to receive my own this year. I think I was more excited about the "trophy" then the cash. Though I was happiest about overcoming a few of my demons while playing.

Brianna Conley and I receive our awards from Jamal Hart of the Department of Tourism

This picture doesn't show the beauty of the glass longtail. Go back to this post to see how beautiful it really is. I started that post with the words "Sigh.... It's snowy cold afternoon in New York, and I'm stilling thinking about Bermuda. 'Hey Gary Cooper, can I come down this weekend for a rematch? I want a do over on our round one game. ' Since that is not going to happen I guess posting pictures and writing about the closing ceremony party will just have to do in the meantime."

Reading that first paragraph from last year's post, I have to ask myself "Why does seem to always snow when I come back from Bermuda in winter?" Maybe I need to not come back until spring.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bermuda Results - The Short Version

This is going to be a short post since the awards party started rather late. Last year we had the blitz matches, dinner and awards first and then watched the second half of the Super Bowl. This year we watched the Super Bowl and had dinner. The blitz matches didn't start until after the football game was over. There were ties for 1st overall and 1st under 2200. Since those winners get a trip back for next year, normal tie breaks are not used to determine who wins the trip.

Andrei Moffat and Aleksandr Ostrovskiy Under 2200
GM Nick de Fermian and GM Alexander Ivanov 1st overall

Both blitz matches came down to to a third game of Armageddon with black having draw odds. I didn't see who took black in the individual matches. GM de Firmian won his match for first overall. Aleksandr Ostrovskiy won his match to take top under 2200.

After blitz games were done it was on to the awards. Once again 1st in each class received the blown glass Bermuda Long Tail in addition to the cash prize. This is a trophy worth keeping!

1st under 1600 - Kennedy Simmons
tied for 2nd Hal Sprechman, Daniel Iwaloye, Anthony Moffat, F Leon Wilson (pictured below)

F. Leon Wilson receiving his 2nd place money a little late.

1st Under 1800 Polly Wright (Who Dat?)
2nd Brianna Conley

Under 2000 - A 7 way tie for 1st Anatoly Ostrovskiy won on tie breaks.

Traveled the furthest - Garry Forbes of Scotland

Larry and Natasha Christiansen

Pascal Charbonneau presenting 1st place to GM de Firmian and GM Ivanov

Nick de Firmian receiving the new Bermuda Cup
It is now named the Larry Ebbin Cup

I apologize for the poor captioning on many of these pictures. The under 2000 I couldn't keep track of everyone. As you might have noticed in passing, I had a very good tournament. I won my last round game against a 1924. This was the one the people who smashed me in the blitz tournament. I was ready for him this time. I will do a separate post about my Sunday games.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bermuda Open: Round 4 - Edit: Game posted.

It's a beautiful day though we keep having a few tropical showers where it's sunny one second and raining the next. In the shot below it's during one of the sunny moments. Why am I smiling?

I'm smiling because I had a very quick game this morning. Less then an hour and done in 16 moves. I was on the winning end for a change. I don't think my opponent knew quite what hit him. I was rather surprised how quickly it ended. I had a nice mate threat that involved a knight sac. He can defend against it easily enough, but instead he resigned. Here's the game.


I have two points, but so does everyone else in my class. We all will get paired up in the last round. I don't expect that anyone in the class will make the cut, but one never knows. I'll probably be Black. I keep getting Black when paired up, and White when paired down.

On the top boards GM Christiansen and GM Charbonneau drew, and GM Ivanov beat IM Cummings. Ivanov is the only perfect score. At the top it now looks like this.

1. GM Ivanov 4
2. GM Christiansen 3.5
3. GM de Firmian 3.5
4. GM Charbonneau 3.5

Results later!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bermuda Open: Rounds 2 & 3

So I didn't quite wake up to lovely weather of the day before. In fact it poured and was windy on Saturday. However things could have been worse. I could have been in Baltimore digging out of 30 inches of snow! I'm sure Dennis Strenzwilk (all 26 Bermuda Opens) and Ed Westing who are from Maryland were greatly relieved that occurred after they got here.

A lousy day in Bermuda is better then
a lousy day in New York.

Lighthouse comes on early!
I've climbed up to the top of that lighthouse,
but not happening on this trip!

The first round on Saturday is at 9:00 am. It comes way too quickly if you've been up late the night before. If you read yesterday's report and looked at my game from round 1 you know I wasn't up playing chess until 2:00 am. However some of my friends were, so I did hang out for awhile until I finally couldn't take it any longer.

In the second round it would be my turn to have the marathon game of almost 6 hours. Admittedly I made a lot harder on myself then necessary. I had a crappy position out of the opening and then my opponent so graciously hung a knight for nothing. He didn't even get a pawn for it. However he did have a passed pawn, and then I gave him a second passed pawn. So for many moves he had these two passed pawns sitting on b2 and c3. There had been a point where I almost repeated the position to take a draw. Reflecting back on all those drawish positions that I wouldn't play out in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to work this out. Using my bishop and queen I controlled his two passed pawns and then made my break and create a passed pawn of my own.


Unlike the first round where there were no upsets, there were a few in round two. Gordon Richie of Canada, rated 1924 beat Michael Khodarkovsky rated 2353. Garry Forbes of Great Britian rated 1925 held WIM Ester Epstein rated 2209 to a draw. Natasha Christiansen rated 1849 held FM Joel Salman to a draw. Other then that the top seeds went through the round unscathed.

My game finished right before round three was scheduled to start. They gave me a bit of break to grab something to eat. Sometimes the service can be a little slow at the lobby restaurant, but I asked them to make me my sandwich as soon as possible. They actually brought it pretty quickly and I did manage to eat and get back in time for my 3:20 start time.

I think the morning marathon took a lot out of me. My idea of a long game is 3 hours and I played over 5.5 hours. I got paired up against a 1960 in round 3. I got another one of those horrible positions on the Black side of one of these random queen pawn openings that I hate playing against. As usual I had difficulty getting anything going on the queen side. tried to free things up on my king side, but all I managed to do expose my king and give him lots of play. Eventually I was down a full rook and my king was just getting hammered. Enough was enough!


At the top, things were starting to thin out in terms of perfect score. GM Larry Christiansen beat FM Adnan Kobas. GM Pascal Charbonneau beat CM Aleksandr Osrovskiy. GM Nick de Firmian drew with Andrei Moffat. GM Alexander Ivanov beat Sylvester Smarty. IM David Cummings beat Gordon Richie. Going into Sunday's round 4 there are 4 perfect scores. Those will be down to two at the most since round 4 match ups amongst the undefeated are:

GM Christiansen - GM Charbonneau
GM Ivanov - IM Cummings

Still in the hunt are Salman, de Firmian, Moffat, Epstein and Ho all with 2.5. The 5th round should be quite an exciting round.

As is the custom here what does everyone do after the afternoon round? Eat and drink together! Here's a number of the players at Bocci an Italian restaurant on the hotel grounds. Very good food and wine.