Monday, March 29, 2010
With the quad format one never knows who will end out in their section. However it's most likely all the players will be within 100 points of one another. I much prefer being at the bottom of the higher quad then number one in the next quad. The last time I was at the top of the lower quad, it was just ugly. Though it was going to take awhile before anyone knew who was in their quads. They were having printer problems and ended out having to do everything by hand. What is it with me and this tournament? Even when I mind my own business and don't get involved with the organization of the event, something goes wrong. Murphy must love this place. The first round started about 45 minutes late.
Finally the pairings were announced. I wasn't even in the room when they called my name. I was in higher quad then I was used to. I considered it my lucky day. I was number 4 in quad 4 with no little kids in it. Of the three of us, Guy had it the worst. He had the misfortune of being in a kiddie quad with 3 noisy little kids. Even though they were at a different table, I found them to be distracting. That's when my iPod comes in handy.
In the first round I played the highest player in my quad. I played a little too cautiously, and missed a few good opportunities to win a pawn. When I finally did win a pawn, I gave the opponent too much counter play. I ended out down a bishop in a rook ending. I offered a draw, which he took. It was one of those positions where it will take time to try force anything. I had a time advantage. Here's the game.
In round two I played somebody who reads my blog. He said "I'm so honored to play you. I love your blog!" I know many people read my blog despite the lack of comments. I use www.StatCounter.com to track visits. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it seems like I have decent traffic. According to this counter, I've had 88,628 page loads since I put the counter on in late 2007. Not totally sure what that really tells me, or how many of those page loads are me reading comments or looking at older posts.
We had a very interesting game. Once again I just didn't play aggressively enough out of the opening. There were times I pushed pawns one square where pushing them two squares would have been more effective. I had one of those DUH! moments. I was looking at the possibility of playing my bishop to f4 and following it up with Rc7 forking Black's bishop and queen. He moved his bishop to a6. I figured he saw the threat so I pushed my pawn to f4, resorting to plan B. What I neglected to notice was that in reality his move Ba6 was not a defensive move after all. Instead he was threatening the exact same thing I was looking at. Some how I didn't see it coming at me. It's rather annoying when I miss the tactic in reverse.
The last round game was a rather quiet game. I had played this same kid the last time I was here, and like that game it simplified down, and he offered me a draw. Since Guy and Joshua were already done, I was perfectly happy to take the draw, and hit the road. It was a rough day for the carpool crew. Between the 3 of us we managed 4 draws. Hopefully the next time we come we'll have a better day.
Friday, March 26, 2010
A month later I'm ready to try the subway. I decided last Sunday would be a good time take my first subway ride since December 17th. I figure it was best to give it a try on a quiet Sunday morning when it shouldn't be too crowded. This way I could see how I manage with going up and down stairs and going through turnstiles without thousands of crazed commuters trying to race for their trains.
I managed fine on the way down to the club. Getting up and down the stairs was fine, and some nice guy gave me his seat. Contrary to belief, there are a few gentlemen left in New York who will give their seat to a lady with a cane. I didn't even have to shoot him dirty looks or glare at him. Once I got off the train, there was still the walk down to the club. The walk has never been a big deal for me before. There have been times I've made it from the club to the subway in under 10 minutes. Today was not one of those days. I took my time, and shot some photos on the way down.
I stopped on Fifth Avenue to take pictures of one the old churches in Greenwich Village. I was having some fun playing around with the composition using the wrought iron fence for framing.
After two times directing the Grandmaster Challenge at the Marshall, I decided I would actually play in it. It's a crazy tournament with various entry fees dependent on title or age. There are also all sorts of different prizes that from a director's point of view can be a headache to figure out. The junior prize for top scoring player under 16 years old is equal to winner's age times three. The senior prize for players 55 and over is equal to the winner's age. There's also a woman's prize equal to total entries. Then there are the normal overall and class prizes. All of these prizes are guaranteed thanks to the generosity of the tournament's creator and patron, Yevgeni Margulis.
Margulis' idea behind the tournament was to make it attractive for Grandmasters to play, and to also encourage juniors and seniors to play. Grandmasters enter for free but have $25 taken from their prize if they win something. There's $975 of guaranteed place money and an additional $325 in class prizes starting at under 2400 down to under 1800. He's also offering a $500 class prize to top over 2800 and $250 for top over 2700. He's yet to have to pay those prizes. In addition to the prizes he has a buffet of Russian food during the day. He also gives out boxes of chocolate for any 3-0 at the half way point. He also does very challenging trivia questions. The one who correctly answers the really hard one wins a Chronos Blitz clock.
Yevgeni Margulis looking for the answer to the trivia question.
(I don't remember what the question was.)
The tournament does draw a strong field. There were 4 grandmasters, and 3 international masters. There were 16 players with 2200+ ratings. Even way down on board 11 I played a 2300 in round 1. The top player in the bottom half was rated 2061. This tournament is like Thursday's "Four Rated Games Tonight!" where it takes going 0-2 before I have a chance of getting paired down.
Murderers' Row Top 4 boards in round 1.
GM Kekelidze, IM Lenderman, GM Yudasin, GM Kacheishvili
When Margulis started the tournament he wanted it to be quick chess rated only. He felt more Grandmasters would be willing to come if their regular rating wasn't on the line. Now it's been changed to game/30 which is rated both regular and quick. It's unclear whether having it quick rated only impacted attendance one way or another. Though a quick look through previous months' attendance leads me to believe having it played at game/30 is more popular. Attendance for the game/25 events hovered between 25 to 30 players. This past Sunday it was 40 players despite a conflict with the Bruce Bower Memorial scholastic. That event drew a number of the higher rated juniors who would have normally played in the Grandmaster Challenge.
With the tournament's unique prize structure there were 3 different possible prizes that I could contend for. There was the senior prize, though that would be the toughest one for me to win since there are a number of masters and experts that also qualify for that prize. My best chances lay in the woman's prize where there were only 3 of us, or the under 1800 prize where there were 7 of us. Since a player can only win one prize he/she gets the one that's the most money. All of this is easier said then done when ranked 32nd out of 40 players. I knew I would be paired up more times then paired down.
After losing the first round to the 2300 I got paired against an expert. It was probably my best game of the tournament until I made a couple of bad moves in time pressure. I had reasonable drawing chances until I retreated my bishop late in the game. Here's the game.
Being 0-2, I finally got paired down to a kid rated 1279. I can't take these little kids lightly. My last encounter with a little kid with that type of rating came to a very unpleasant end when I played 46. Qb6? in the following position.
Where's that little arrow when I need it?
Needless to say my 8 year old opponent did not need the little arrow to find 46...Qf1+. From there it was all downhill. 47. Kh2 Qxe2 48. Qg1 f4 49. Qd4+ Kf5 50. Qg1 f3 0-1
My third round opponent was playing in his first non-scholastic event. He won a pawn that I was able to get back very quickly. I did have a moment of panic when he first took it. I'm thinking to myself, "Here we go again!" The position had some similarities to a game Blue Devil Knight recently showed on his blog. The main difference was my pieces were well placed and my king side attack has a good chance to succeed. I did miss a couple good moves that would have made the win much simpler. Sometimes I'm afraid of my own shadow.
In round four I got paired up, and lost. In round 5 I got paired down and won. In round 6, I got paired against a 1790. I don't think they were doing class pairings in the last round, but this was a class pairing. Winner takes the under 1800 prize. A draw creates a 3 way tie. Loser gets nothing. Even though I have 3 prize possibilities due to rating, gender and age losing this game gets me nada. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened. A couple of small mistakes allowed him to trap a piece. Here's that game.
As I was leaving the room one of the woman asked me how I did. I started shaking my head. She said "I won the under 2000, so you can still win the woman's prize." I told her no since the other female took a last round bye, so she had 2.5. C'est la vie. It was a fun tournament. It was Thursday night "cracktion" on steroids!
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The story gets more bizarre in this Thursday's tournament. This his his 4th week in a row playing in the "4 Rated Games Tonight!" tournament. In his first tournament he scored 3-1 with his wins coming against 3 A players and his loss to an 2100. He got a performance rating of 2100+. The following week he scores 1 - 2, beating a 1600 and losing to a 1700+ and a 1900+ player. His rating goes to 1951, which is what his rating on the April list will be.
Last Thursday it was unclear what his motives were since he was ticked off that I didn't resign in my "hopeless" position, and then followed it up by lying about the last round result. This week it was clear what his motives were. He went into sand bagger mode and went 0-4. He seems to want to get his rating down to under 1800 or maybe even under 1600 for the World Open. The way he dumped the games was really despicable. Most dumpers will play well up to a point, and then "blunder" later in order to lose. The opponent will at least have an interesting game until the blunder occurs. The unwary opponent may not even realize the game was being dumped. He might just think he got lucky. Who knows, maybe he dumped the game to me. If he did, he put on an impressive acting job at the end. Besides why would he dump against me, and then report that he won the last round when he lost?
He came a creative way to lose all his games. In round 1 he shows up over 20 minutes late, so he has very little time on his clock. In between rounds he leaves the club, and then shows up for round 2 over 20 minutes late. In rounds 3 and 4 he comes to the board on time, but keeps leaving to watch other games. He wasn't even in the room when he ran out of time in round 3. He probably lost on time in round 4 too.
I would have had to play him in round 3, but I had asked the TD to avoid the pairing if possible. Last week's encounter was very unpleasant. In between the first and second round he was staring at me as if he wanted to say something. I just ignored him and kept talking to a few of my friends. He was giving me the creeps. I didn't even want to sit next to him in round 3. I took advantage of the fact that my 3rd round opponent likes to move to unused table where it's less crowded. Normally it annoys me when he wants to play somewhere else. This time, I suggested we move to another board.
Going into the 4th round we both 0-3 so looked like the pairing would be unavoidable. If we ended out playing, I seriously gave consideration to resigning after 3 moves and asking the TD to set me a game with the house player. This way I wouldn't have to waste my sitting sitting around while he lost on time, and I could stick him with a win he didn't want. I hate sand bagging, so I have actually resorted to thwarting the dump by abruptly resigning a game when my opponent was up a clear rook and kept trying to give away his queen. I was 0-3 in that tournament and winning the game wasn't getting me any rating points. I was sitting on my floor so it didn't matter to me if I lost.
Fortunately I did not have to resort to such tactics. There was an odd number so I was due to get the bye. It's rare that I'm happy about getting a bye. However Joshua's dad was available to play as the house player. Since I was going home with them again, it gave us something to do while Joshua played his last round game. As it turned out, he would end out waiting for us. Guy and I had another one of crazy games where I get into all sorts of time trouble. Fortunately I managed to stifle the counter play he got for dropping a piece for a pawn, and I didn't have one of my clock induced meltdowns.
I have to laugh at stupidity of people who decide to sandbag at "4 Rated Games Tonight!" The organizer is one of the tournament directors at the World Open. Then there are people like me who can smell a sandbagger a mile away. All this will lead to the player getting assigned a CCA rating that will be higher then whatever section he's trying to get into. This joker should have a 2000 CCA rating.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Last night we came down again, and for the second week in a row I got paired against Josh in the first round. I hate when I come down to New York City and get paired against the player I came with. (Note to self: Next week tell the TD ahead of time not pair us.) For the second week in a row Josh beat beat me. No great surprise since he out rates me by over 300 points. The other thing I hate is just making the cut in the zero score group and getting paired all the way down. I'd rather miss the cut and get paired up a second time.
I got paired against an unrated who has played in a few of these events and has done fairly well. His provisional rating based on 7 games is around 1900. I knew this would not be an easy game for me. I was prepared to have to work hard, and play carefully. What I wasn't prepared for was his really obnoxious behavior. I'm sure certain anonymous readers are thinking "Here she goes. Getting all hyped up over some kid's behavior, and going to get all preachy again." I'll admit I got a little agitated by his behavior, but not for the usual reasons.
My opponent was not one the annoying kids who slap the pieces around, and slam the clock. My opponent was an adult who played many of his moves like he was one the blitzing chess hustlers from Washington Square Park. Half the time he'd drop his piece on a square so that it would need to be adjusted. That was usually followed by slapping the clock. Fortunately since I have the Chronos with the touch switch buttons, slapping the button generates almost no noise thus negating the affect. However it's still annoying to have have keep adjusting pieces after the opponent makes a move. I guess it's better then punk kid who drops the piece part way on a square and then goes to adjust it on his opponent's time.
One problem I was having during the game was I keeping score the old fashioned way on a normal score sheet. This was not part of my writing experiment that I'm going to try in my next slow event. I thought my Mon Roi had run out of juice, so I was writing my moves down. This is slower for me, and I do have difficulty with the notation. Consequently I was falling way behind on the clock. Also my opponent quite often would bang out a move right away and slam the clock. I don't know if he was trying to intimidate me, but it wasn't working. Both of us were making mistakes, and overlooking opportunities to win material.
All the sloppy piece placement and clock slapping was starting to annoy me, but I wasn't going to get into it with him. However I was on the verge of losing it when he plays 41...Bd3 and takes his hand off and then grabs the piece again to move it elsewhere. I said "You took your hand off the piece, you have to leave it there." He continues to hold on to the bishop and says "I want to think about it." I tell him there is nothing to think about, he has to leave the bishop on d3. He puts the bishop back on b5 and keeps telling me to stop it, stop it. The funny thing was at that point I wasn't saying anything. If he wanted to use his time to think about a move he was going to have to play that was fine with me. He had about a 10 minute time advantage, so any free time would make me happy. However I was prepared to stop the clock and get the TD if he tried to make any move except Bd3. At this point we've drawn a bit of a crowd. Everyone likes a good chess argument. This had the makings of becoming a good one.
After a couple of minutes he picks up the bishop from b5 moves it to a4 without letting go and before I could say anything drops it on d3. Now I'm annoyed because he's trying to mess with me, and he's being a jerk about it. We make a bunch of moves very quickly, and I find myself banging the pieces down a little harder then before. Between my time pressure and his antics I've gotten a little agitated, and it's showing in the manner that I'm moving. Here is the game up to the point where I stopped keeping score.
He said something to me while we were both slamming out our moves. I don't even remember what he said, but I think he was annoyed at my reaction to what was happening on the board. I had been up the exchange, but had lost a few pawns and he was going to queen his g pawn. I would have to give up my rook. He would be left with a king, bishop, and e pawn. I would have my pawn on a6 that could not advance and my king. Clearly the position was resignable, but I was so pissed off with myself and my opponent I played on. I hate it when I let an opponent who is acting like a jerk get to me. It's frustrating when my emotions get to me and the opponent gets the satisfaction of a reaction, and a winning position. But....
...for a change Caissa was showing me mercy, and in the end I would have the last laugh. Here is a reconstruction of what occurred.
The starting position is correct, but the sequence of moves after his blunder aren't exact. They do represent what occurred. After he realized he allowed me to play a7 and can't stop me from queening he turned away from the board, and just made moves. I had not noticed this, but one of the spectators said "He's not looking at the board." I looked at her and said "Shhh. We're still playing." After I realized what she said, I noticed that my opponent was just making moves without even looking. Instead of resigning he was just going to play random moves without looking at the position. That allowed me to pick up his Bishop and remain pawn. Then it's a text book queen and king mate.
As I played the mating move, he says "I resigned before you played mate." That was probably one of the dumbest things I've heard someone say at the end of game. All I could say was "What difference does it make? Resignation or mate is the same thing."
He then tells me "You were lucky. I had that game won. You should have given it to me."
I had to keep a straight face and not let out some profanity filled response such as "Are you f#$%ing kidding me?". I said, "That's chess. There's no rule that says I have to resign. If I want to play all the way down to mate that's my right. It's part of the game." Regular readers of this blog know how many times I've just resigned in disgust. Truth be told, I really wanted to tell him "If he didn't act like such jackass the entire game, I probably would have resigned after Bxg1." I'm sure I would have resigned once he promoted the e pawn. I generally don't play down to mate unless my opponent has 1 second left or the position is really complex, and I'm interested in how the opponent is going to finish the attack. In fact I probably resign too soon in some cases because I respect the opponent, and trust his ability to win. There is no hard and fast rule about when is it appropriate to resign.
As Tartakower once said, "Nobody has won a game by resigning." There are times when I feel bad for an opponent who tosses away such an easy win. This was not one of those times. Under normal circumstances against a well mannered player with a little sense of decorum and sportsmanship, I probably would have resigned after Bxg1. It was a wild game with lots of chances for both sides. He out played me in the end and should have won. For a change I was the recipient of a gift from the chess gods.
Too bad the good karma didn't last very long. Another loss in round 3, and forfeit win in round 4. That really sucked. The round 3 loss was really a good game. However I lost the game of "Beat the clock." Look for that game in an upcoming post.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Often in analyzing games we don't necessarily come up with a specific move that changed the course of the game. Sometimes it's a series of small mistakes that add up. A rook placed on a wrong file, a tempo lost here or there, castling on the wrong side, pushing a pawn too soon, or not soon enough, etc. Those little mistakes on our part or the opponent's part can add up and lead to loss of material or a deadly attack. As we're looking over the game we might reach a point where we ask ourselves "Where did that come from?"
I know in my own games I have difficulties with certain openings, especially from the Black side. Often against 1. d4 I have trouble getting the c8 bishop developed, or if I do get the bishop out, the b8 knight ends out on some random square completely out of play. When that happens I usually end out losing horribly because I've spent the entire game defending basically playing a piece down. Sometimes I feel like I'm playing two pieces down if the a8 rook sits in the corner the entire game. Other times I manage to develop the queen side pieces, but the position still falls apart. Games like that sometimes more difficult to pin point the errors, and learn from.
Then there are the games that jump out at you because there's a clear turning point in the game that gives you or the opponent something that wasn't there before. Maybe a lost game turns into a draw or win. An "easy" win turns into a draw or a loss. Those "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" games are my trademark train wreck stories. Is there something that can be taken from the wreckage, and applied to future games? In real life there is always an investigation after a train wreck or other accident. The investigators look to find answers to questions such as:
What can be done to avoid a repeat?
In examining the turning point move in a game there are also questions to be answered. Some of the answers might be obvious.
Human error? YES
Mechanical failure? NO, though maybe if there was a problem with the clock we might say YES.
Weather issues? Maybe, if we take into account that the playing room was too hot or too cold.
What can be done to avoid a repeat? If there was ever a million dollar question in chess, that would be it. Is there an answer to that question? There are the standard answers;
Manage one's time better.
Etc., etc., etc.
These are answers that are written about amongst various chess bloggers. For a long time we had the Knights Errant. As longtime knights realized, there are different approaches to improving one's game, particularly as adults. The knights have evolved into A.C.I.S of Caissa. Unfortunately no matter what course we follow on the road to chess improvement, there is no guarantee that we won't make the exact same mistake again. Sometimes I think I should start my own group ADHDACIS for those of us who would like to improve at chess, but have ADHD issues that get in the way.
So allow me to share my two turning point games from the Saratoga Open. In my first game I was black against a 2000. Like me he is sitting on his floor. His floor just happens to be 300 points higher then mine. It was not the prettiest game of chess played. We both made small mistakes that gave up time or space, but none of our respective mistakes were real killers. I did win a pawn and was surprised when he let me trade off the final pair of rooks to reach a king and pawn ending with 2 against 1 on the king side. We reach this position and it's Black's move.
There are no clock issues. We've passed the first time control. I have over an hour of time left. The two moves I was considering here were 45...g5+ or 45...h6. g5+ makes the most sense. A possible continuation is 45... g5+ 46. Kg4 Kg6 47. h4 h5+ 48. Kf3 g4+ 49. Ke4Kf6 50. Kf4 Ke7 51. Ke3 Kf7 52. Kf4 Kf6 53. Ke4 Ke6 54. Kf4 Kd5. However I was also thinking about wanting to back up the g pawn with the h pawn which is why I also considered h6. In thinking about the two moves I didn't look deep enough into the possible variations, and somehow what I decided on did not line up with what I actually did. I decided I would play 45...g5+, but because h6 was the last thing I thought about, I picked up the h pawn and played 45...h6. As you will see by playing out the entire game below, that one little pawn move turned a won ending into a draw.
Fast forward to the last round. Nothing spectacular about the two games in between. In the last round I'm playing an 8th grader who decided he'd rather play in the open tournament then the NY State Scholastic Championship. He wanted the slower time limit of 30/90 SD/1 instead of SD/1 which was the time limit in the scholastic event. He got some pressure early on, but I did not get rattled by his having a knight sitting on d6 on move 14. I was able to move my knight around to force a trade or retreat. In the meantime he over extended his queen side pawns hoping to insert a pawn on d6 after the knight trade or create a passed pawn on the c file. Instead I was able to win the c pawn. I had just played 24...Rxc5. He played 25. Rxc5 to reach the position below.
I had two choices for the recapture. I can play 25...Qxc5 forming the battery with the queen in front, or 25...Rxc5 with the idea of creating the battery with the rook in front by putting the queen on c7. I was eying White's back rank since he had not pushed a king side pawn yet. I thought with the rook in front I would be able to play ...Rc1 at some point and force a rook trade. I was so fixated on this idea that I did not take into consideration what happens when I abandon my back rank. There are no back rank mate threats by White, but there is a check that I did not take very seriously. Without much thought I played 25...Rxc5?? He immediately plays 26. Qb8+. It then I realize that it's not just a simple check, but he's also attacking my knight. Curses! Forked again!
Instead of being up a pawn, I was down a knight for a pawn. At this point I'm totally disgusted with myself. I've thrown away a chance to get at least draw, and possibly win if I can convert the pawn advantage. I'm ticked off for not taking a little more time to take into consideration White's counterplay. I played a few more moves. Once he played 31. g3 to eliminate any of my back rank threats, I resigned. I was just too angry to even try to play on. Here's the game in its entirety.
So what did I learn from these two games? I'm moving too fast when it's not necessary. I'm not doing a clean blunder check before making the actual move.
What can I do differently to avoid these types of errors? Slow down. Take a few extra minutes to consider the possibilities.
How can I force myself to slow down when I have a lot of time? I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to pick up pen and paper again when playing any game with two time controls. I need to go back to noting how much time I'm using, and I need to write my move down before I play it. On the last day of the Bermuda Open I find out I was supposed to be turning in a score sheet. So for the last two rounds I kept a written score along with using my Mon Roi to record the moves. Sometimes I'd fall behind on the Mon Roi, and catch up a few moves later. I won both those games. I think keeping both scores forced me to slow down, and kept me more focused on the game itself.
I'm going to experiement with writing my moves down during long time controls. I won't do it for "cracktion" games. Any benefit derived from writing during game/30 will be wiped out by horrendous time pressure. The Mon Roi is better for fast time controls. I figure I have nothing to lose by trying to slow myself down in this manner. I'm not sure when my two time control tournament is, so it may be awhile before I can put my theory to the test.
PS. On a happier note. The weekend was not a total loss. I had travelled with and hung out with my usual team. I was not acting in any official coaching capacity at the scholastic championships, but was happy the team did win the High School Championship. They were tied going into the last round, but won one more game in the crucial last round. That helped take my mind off my own crappy play.