Saturday, August 28, 2010

Joshua Colas Simul at Westchester Chess Club

Even though many of you have not met Joshua in person, you have met both him and his dad through this blog.  My first encounter with Joshua was when he was 7 years old and rated around 1100.  He gave me a good scare before blundering in my time pressure.  I knew this was a kid with talent, and sooner or later he would go sailing right past me.  It was less then two years later when his rating crept by mine.  Then it just flew by me.  The last time I beat him was August 26, 2008.  That ended a 6 game losing streak against him.  Two weeks later on his birthday a new losing streak would begin.

In the mean time his rating has risen substantially and in October he will be representing the United States at the World Youth Championships in Halkidiki, Greece.  Qualifying participants have to pay their own way.  Between airfare, meals and hotel for his dad and him it's quite an expense.  The chess coordinator from his school has been spearheading a fund raising drive.  The Westchester Chess Club helped out by hosting a simul at the club on Wednesday, and asked participants to make a donation towards his expenses.  He played 15 people who ranged in rating from 1100 to 1750.  Participants contributed over $600 and the club contributed another $200.  He had 10 wins, 4 draws and 1 loss.  His lone loss was to Jacob Spitzer, rated 1719.

I decided I was not going to play in the simul, but would come and take pictures instead.  I figured I've played him enough times in tournaments.  I did not need to play him in a simul too.  I have very little patience with simuls.  It's hard enough sitting still and staying focused in a game where I have the opponent's undivided attention.  It's even harder in a simul when it may be several minutes before the player gets back to my board.  Little did I know that my next opportunity to lose to him would come the next night at the Marshall Chess Club.

Here are some pictures from the simul.

Young and old played against Joshua.
Joshua going head to head with his dad.
Yes he beat his dad.
Thinking about his next move.
Jacob Spitzer, only one to score a full point.

If anyone would like to contribute towards Joshua's travel expenses and coaching tax deductible contributions can be sent to:

White Plains Foundation for Public Education
3 Milford Close 
White Plains, NY 10606.

Write "Joshua Colas — Chess" in the check's memo line.

I have made a financial contribution.  I also contributed a few more rating points with this game on Thursday night.  


I would like to say that beating me in the first round helped inspire him in his second round win against a 2200 and his third round draw against a grandmaster.  Somehow I don't think the former had anything to do with the latter, but one can hope.  The loss sure didn't do anything for the rest of my evening, but that is a whole different story.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Riding the Orient Distress Right Out of Town

Normally when I play in a tournament that I have flown to, I spend Sunday night at the hotel.  That way I don't have to worry about how long my game is going to be, or whether I'll make my flight on time.  There have been times when I've taken a red-eye flight back home.  With 11:30 pm departures, games running late are not an issue.  However I wasn't leaving California after the tournament.  I was heading down to San Diego to spend a few days visiting my nieces.  It's great having family out in California.  Makes for a good excuse to spend extra time out there.

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm not the most organized person on the planet.  At times I'm "Last Minute Molly" when it comes to little details such as how will I get from Irvine to San Diego.  My original intent was to rent a car in Irvine and drive down to San Diego.  I was going to need a car in San Diego anyway.  However when I went online to try to book a car the prices for a one way rental were insane.  It was going to cost over $100 a day even for a little rinky-dink economy car.  I even tried where I normally have really good luck getting a reasonable price.  I had gotten an excellent deal on a one way rental from Hilton Head to Savannah last fall, so I figured I could do just as well.  Wrong!!!  California is not South Carolina and Georgia.

Time for plan B.  What was plan B? Could I get a ride from someone heading to San Diego after the tournament?  Was there a train to San Diego?  Amtrak has train service to San Diego.  Next question.  How often and how late do they run?  It turns out they run a number of trains and they run one as late as 11:09 pm.  I would only need that train if I played the full 6 hours from 3:00 pm to past 9:00 pm.  Not likely that would occur, but at least I had late options if necessary.

The problem with leaving on the last day of the tournament is having to check out of the room ahead of time.  That means having everything packed and ready to go ahead of time.  I was a little slow getting up on Sunday because I had stayed up late playing hearts with friends.  It was the renewal of an old tradition from the 80s.  Consequently I found myself running around the room throwing stuff in the suitcase as I'm eating breakfast on the the move.  Eat a few spoonfuls of cereal, throw a few things in the suitcase,  eat a few strawberries, pack up my assorted chargers for my various electronics, so on and so forth.  Also I was getting bombarded with instant messages from someone who was upset about one the decisions voted on by the delegates.  I don't type really fast, and when I'm trying to do three things at once, eat, pack and message I slow down even more.

Fortunately I didn't have to check out until 1:30, so I would have time to clear out of the room after the delegates meeting was done.  I finally got my computer and headed down for the second day of the delegates meetings.  As I got there they were discussing suspending the rules in order to go back and reconsider one of the decisions voted on the day before.  Yes it was the decision that I had gotten bombarded about via Facebook messenger and my email box.  It was decided to hold off implementing the rule change until January of 2012.  

Here is how John Hillary of Western Chess described it:  "Motion by Mike Atkins to suspend the rules to delay implementation of abolishing the 5-minute deduction. Steve Immitt in New York has apparently been haranguing everybody who will take his IMs, and and we get to waste a lot of time on this to placate him. Lots of smoke and mirrors. Since I've spoken against this, it would be unfair for me to summarize everyone's argument. We're up to 9:45 now, no real progress. Several claims that the Delegates "didn't understand" what they voted on. I certainly did. Motion to delay passed implementation for a year. Idiots."

I guess I'm an idiot since I not only voted to delay, but I spoke in favor of delaying.  If that was the most idiotic thing I did all day, then Sunday would have been a good day.  However there's still this matter of playing another under rated kid from California later that afternoon.  Despite Hillary's perception of no progress in the meeting, we actually breezed through the remainder of the agenda.  The meeting adjourned at 12:05 which was 55 minutes ahead of schedule.  

I stayed in the meeting room to finish up my round 4 train wreck post.   I had not paid for additional internet time in my room, so it was finish the post in the meeting room or wait until I got to San Diego.  Considering that I did absolutely no blogging in San Diego, it would have been back in New York when I'd finally get around to finishing my round 4 post.  Since it's the only one of my US Open posts that has generated any sort of comments, I'm glad I got it up in a somewhat timely manner.  My remaining posts have been rather late and very out of date.  Perhaps my readers enjoy my train wreck stories more then those moments when I play decent chess.

To make a long story short, I manage to clear out of the room on time, go out for lunch and make it back in plenty of time for round 9.  I had forgotten to write down the train times for getting to San Diego, so before the round I asked Kim Cramer to look up the times for me.  Kim runs the registration table and chess control at all the big nationals, so I knew she would still have internet access.  She gives me the times starting with 5:09 pm.  I wrote the time down, and said to her "That's rather early.  If I can make that train then something has gone horribly wrong."  You would think after "me and my big mouth" remarks on my part I'd know better then to say something like that.  

I grab a piece of paper and make a list of train times:

5:09 (WTF happened? or Gift from Caissa!)
6:11 (Oh crap! or Somebody played too fast?)
8:17 (4 hour game with an hour to spare.)
9:31 (5+ hour game, and/or extended good byes.)
11:09 (Last game done.  Miss this train, spend the night in the station.)

Now at least I knew how I would get to San Diego.  The only question that remained was how would I get to the station without taking a taxi.  The taxi ride would cost more then the train ticket.  I figured depending on what time I finished I could find a ride with someone who was heading out at that point.  However before I could figure that all out, I still had a game of chess to play.  So what happens when my score is 3 out of 8?  I get paired down again!  Not only do I get paired down, I play another kid, and another female.  I'm not sure if I've ever played another woman in the US Open, but I've certainly never played more then one, much less three in one US Open.

I had Black which actually I was very happy about.  I was even happier when she opened 1. e4.  In fact I was very pleased with how things were going until I noticed on move 14 that I was down a piece!  How the hell did that happen?  She walked into a line where Black wins a pawn.  Unfortunately in this case Black had a serious brain fart, and totally misplayed the line.  After White plays 10. Nxc6 Black is supposed to simply recapture.  Instead I played 10...Nxd2.  It wasn't until her 14th move I realized I had misplayed the moves and was down a piece for the pawn I "won".

I finally noticed when she played 14. Nbd5.  She has all these really annoying threats, and I'm thinking to myself "Wow she's gotten a lot of play for that pawn.  She might trap my rook on a8.  I haven't developed my light squared bishop....Hey wait! Why do I only have  two bishops and she has two knights and a bishop?  Where did my knight go?"

That is probably one of the most sick feelings to have in a game.  I'm worrying about losing the exchange or giving back the pawn, and then realize I'm already down material.  WTF?  She launched a vicious attack, won pawns and forced me to make trades that I didn't want to make.  By move 24 she was forcing a pair of rooks off the board, and I was going to lose more pawns.  I resigned at that point.  I was shell shocked.  Totally crushed by an 11 year old girl.  Don't let anyone tell you that girls play more positional type of games.  Not true.    Why I played the opening that way defies logic or explanation.  However I give my young opponent credit for how methodically she forced trades and made threats.  Here's the game:


My snarky comment about not needing information about the 5:09 train had come back to haunt me.  It was just after 4:00 pm.  We played less then an hour.  I could make that train with no trouble if I could find a ride to the station.  I was ready to get out town, and go down to San Diego for my real vacation.  Dewain Barber was willing to give me a ride as he was getting ready to leave.  I just wasn't sure if my niece would be ready to pick me up for that early an arrival.   I also wanted to say good bye to a few people first. Skulking out of town on Amtrak was not how I wanted to exit the scene.

I took the 6:11, which was still way earlier then I anticipated.  I had not planned to lose the last round in an hour.  However bad things happen, and one has to find the silver lining.  What was the silver lining behind the black cloud?  Views that I've never seen on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line. Views that I would not have seen in the dark on the 8:17 or 9:31 train.  This is what I saw from my seat on train #784, Pacific Liner to San Diego.

My early arrival in San Diego also allowed me to enjoy some outstanding pizza and local brews with my niece.  Losing horribly doesn't have to be too horrible.

So where do I go from here? One anonymous poster asked me what has happened to my chess?  I don't have an answer yet, though a few wins since I have gotten back makes me feel that all is not lost.  I have a lot going on as I prepare for my black belt test this fall.  In a future post I will discuss some of the challenges I'm facing, and how I might be able to apply them to my chess. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

US Open Round 8

Despite a few crappy games in rounds 2 and 4, overall I was satisfied with how the two days of multiple games went.  I felt I spent my time well, and I wasn't moving too fast.  The transition from G/60 to 40/2 went smoothly despite my opponent's annoyance with my finger fidgeting.  I think trying to take it easy in between rounds, and not go jumping into the various workshops helped.  It's too easy to get sucked into all the political stuff that comes up at the workshops.  Unfortunately it was hard to avoid the politics once the weekend came.  I'm a USCF delegate for New York, and delegates meeting is held over the weekend at the US Open.

Back when the US Open was two weeks long it would start on a Sunday evening.  We would play 6 rounds from Sunday through Friday.  There would be no round on Saturday evening.  The delegates meetings would run on Saturday and Sunday.  On Sunday evening the second half of the tournament would start.  I recall that sometimes the delegates meeting on Sunday would run up to shortly before the evening round.  I also recall that almost every year I was a delegate, I would lose that Sunday evening round.

With the 9 round schedule we now play on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.  Fortunately they have made it a point to end the meetings a few hours before the scheduled start of the round.  That gives delegates who are also playing a chance to eat and unwind before playing their Saturday and Sunday rounds.  At least that's what's supposed to happen.   I got the eating part down right, but not sure about the unwinding and refocusing on chess part.

The meetings weren't quite as brutal as last year's.  The room where we had the meeting this year was fabulous.  It's an amphitheater meeting room with built in desks, really comfy chairs, power outlets at each seat, and internet access.

Delegates Meeting.  Doesn't everyone look excited to be there?

A portion of my round four train wreck post was written during a boring part of the meeting.  John Hillary was posting live updates of the meeting on his Western Chess blog.  If one is really curious about what we talked about for two days, check out John's posts.  He has a concise and somewhat snarky way of presenting the proceedings.  I won't reinvent the wheel to give my take on the meetings.  There wasn't much that I was particularly passionate about.  I only got up and spoke once during the entire two days of meetings.

At the mike.  That's Bill Goichberg standing behind me.

On Saturday we went to 5:00 pm, which gave me 2.5 hours to relax and have dinner.  I had dinner with one of my old friends at this soup and salad buffet place.  Nothing spectacular, but I still managed to eat too much.  Buffets are dangerous, especially when I find something I really like.  They had a number of different breads that I kept going back for more of.

 I'm not sure why I was having so much difficulty playing with White in this tournament.  Every game it seemed to be a struggle to get my pieces developed and coordinated.  I did mange to get my pieces out, and I did not throw my queen out early.  However I went too deep into enemy territory with my knight and it got trapped.  Unfortunately I got no play for the piece, and things quickly went downhill from there.  Here's the game.


That loss assured me of another US Open with a negative score.  The best I could do would be 3 (w)-2(d)-4(l) if I could win on Sunday.  Unfortunately Sunday would be no better then Saturday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Very Belated US Open report: Rounds 6 & 7

I know this is over a week after the fact.  That's what happens when I continue on with a vacation after the US Open.  Thoughts of the tournament get pushed to the side as I enjoy the true vacation part of my trip.  Considering the ugly ending to my tournament, there were good reasons to put it out of my mind, and enjoy my time in San Diego.  Details will follow in a separate post.  A few pictures from San Diego and then chess.

Beach at Torrey Pines

Up close and personal with giraffe on photo caravan tour

She looks like she wants a belly rub, but who's going to volunteer?

I could fill up several weeks worth of posts with pictures from the Wild Animal Park, but I will resist the urge.  However if one would like to see more of my pictures click here.

Back to chess:  Having squeezed out the long win againts the 8 year old 600, I still had two more games to play.  One more at G/60 and then round 7 at the normal time control of 40/2.  Once again I played a lower rated kid though at least her age was in double digits.  She's 11.  The game was very quiet.  No big mistakes on either one of our parts.  I played 30. Rfc1 to reach the following position.  I offered a draw which she accepted.

One my friends saw the position and made the comment that there was a lot of play left.  I didn't really see a clear cut way to gain some advantage.  I had around 11 minutes left and my opponent had 21 minutes.  Considering the clock issues I had in earlier rounds, I didn't want to risk getting even further behind on the clock.  Also knowing I had another round to play, I felt getting a draw at this point would give me more time to relax before round 7.

Little did I know how wise it would be to conserve energy for the 7th round.  I was paired against a much older woman who took a lot of time on many of her moves.  Sometimes I've had difficulty with the transition from the fast time control to the much slower 40/2 G/60 controls.  There have been many times where I've played too fast because my mind is still thinking in "fast mode".  I was not having that difficulty in this particular game.  I think part of it was due to how much time I did use in most of my G/60 rounds.  Two of them I flagged and one game I had a minute left when I won.  Given those games I was happy to have more time to think things out.

Sometimes I'm not sure whether it's worse playing hyper kids or elderly adults.  My last game against a much older opponent did not turn out well for me. This time I was hoping the rating difference and the time of day would work in my favor.  She opened with 1. d4 which made me groan to myself since I'm not particularly fond of playing against d4, especially if it goes into some sort of Colle or Stonewall type set up.  It ended out be neither.  It was sort of a Queens Gambit-Kings Indian Attack hybrid.

There were going to be queen side development problems if I wasn't careful.  I played 8...Na6 since c6 was occupied by my c pawn.  She played 9. a3.  I guess she was concerned about my knight coming into b4 and attacking her queen.  That wasn't really my plan at that point so when she wasted a move with a3 I decided I would take the pawn on c4.  I knew I was allowing her e4 with the threat of e5, but I wasn't overly concerned since the threat was easily defended.  She should be able to get the pawn back relatively easily, but she wasted time by playing a4 which allowed my knight to come to b4 followed by d3.

The first 25 moves took a little over two hours.  She was using more time then me, but I had managed to not be bouncing off the walls.  Though I had stayed seated that didn't mean I was totally still. Sometimes I bounce my legs up and down when I get really nervous.  I wasn't at that stage, but I had started fiddling around with the captured pieces.  I wasn't tapping them on the table or making noise with them. I just would pick one up and fiddle with it between my fingers.  I guess it may have been in my opponent's line of sight because she got really annoyed with me and told me to stop it.  I put the piece down and regretted the fact that I had left my beaded bracelet at home.  Often I will take the bracelet off and hold it in my hands under the table.  The beads have a nice texture and gives me something to do with my hands while I'm thinking.

By move 28 I was up 3 pawns, but she was defending tenaciously.  It took almost an hour to play the next 10 moves.  I was getting increasingly antsy because I had a protected passed pawn on c3, but she had blockaded it, and I was having trouble coming up with a plan to bust through.  One of my other little quirks when I'm restless is playing with my Mon Roi stylus.  I used to chew on it, but after a couple incidents where I bit on it wrong and launched it I decided perhaps that wasn't such a good idea.  I like keeping it in my hand because sometimes I end out dropping on the floor.  I try to make sure I don't tap it on the table.  I've had to tell a few opponents not to tap it on the table or pieces.  I'm not sure what I was doing with it this time, but once again my opponent snapped at me.

I was getting frustrated with myself because I'm up 3 pawns and I can't make progress.   I'm almost afraid to make any sort of motion lest I incur her wrath again over my quirky fidgeting.  I resorted to tapping my stylus on my leg to resolve the twitchy hands issue.  Finally after 4 hours I come up with a plan to chase the rook off c2.  She resigned when she saw my knight was coming into a3.  Once her rook vacates c2, I can push the pawn.  She'll end out losing a rook to stop the promotion.  After the game is over I whispered something about how well she defended.  At that point she tells me I need to speak up because she's hard of hearing.  I guess it wasn't that I was making noise when I was fiddling with the piece and stylus.  I wonder how she fares against the little hyper kids who are far more restless then me.

Here's the game.


Next: Chess and chess politics don't mix.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The 4th Annual US Open Round 4 Train Wreck

As I mentioned in yesterday's post I felt good and relaxed heading into Friday's rounds.  Friday is a brutal day on the four-day schedule.  Three more games at the G/60 time limit, followed by the merge into the main event for round 7 with the 40/2 followed by G/60 time controls.  I went into the fourth round not thinking about previous years' disasters.

Thursday's 2nd round game with White was pretty ugly.  I was lucky to scrape out a draw in that game.  Here is that game:


That game was in the back of my mind, but I knew that I had to avoid wasting moves in the opening.  I had been happy with my third round play despite losing, so I felt like I could bounce back.  Overall I had been satisfied with my play on Thursday.

After getting through 3 rounds with no kids, that streak came to an end with my 4th round opponent,  a little kid rated 1247.  I had the White pieces.   I stayed with my English Opening despite Thursday's ugly game.   When he replied with 1...e5.  I was perfectly happy to play an Accelerated Dragon in reverse.  Sometimes when I'm playing my Black opening as White it's easy to try to stay "in book" or go back to book.   The problem in trying to with trying to stay or revert to book, is sometimes it's easy to overlook better moves.  When I play the Accelerated Dragon as Black I play 7...Qa5 in the main line.
In this particular game I opted to play 8.  Qa4, however I missed 8. Nxe5 Nxe5 9. d4.  Ultimately playing 8. Qa4 caused many problems as the game progressed.

Sometimes I've had problems with behavior issues when playing little kids in Southern California.  This was not the case.  With the exception of the occasional foray to look at other boards, he was very focused on the game.  I was also happy to note that there wasn't the crowd of friends, coaches and parents coming over to watch.  Mom brought him to the board, and I didn't see her again until after the game was over.

Sometimes things happen that defy explanation.  Mentally I felt alert and calm.  I wasn't anxious, and I certainly wasn't taking the kid lightly despite the rating and the young age.  However all it takes is one bad move and things can go to hell quickly.  I was so the most annoying aspect was every time he gave check he announced it in a voice that could be heard beyond our board.  He was not being obnoxious about it.  He was just letting me know it was check.  I did not need the reminders.  Each pronouncement of check make me want to sink further and further into my chair.  I was being totally crushed and each check was a reminder of the checkmate that was inevitable.  Unlike many of his previous opponents who probably play all the way to mate, I chose to resign.  I asked him how old he was.  7 years old.  At least he wasn't 6 years old.  I've yet to lose to a 6 year old.  I'm sure that day will come.

Here's the game.


Solomon Ge with his coach Joe Hanley

Often when I get smashed by some little kid I take consolation in that his real rating is probably 200 points higher.  I was quite distressed to find out he had dropped almost 200 points since National K-1 Championships. So his pre-event rating is 1077.  Oh well!  One of my friends who was following the game live on Mon Roi told me "He didn't play like any 1200 I know."

I didn't sweat the blow out much.  It left me over 2 hours before round 5.  The advantage of being in a nice location is there is life outside of chess.  I borrowed a bike from the hotel and went out for a nice bike ride on the Mountains to Sea Trail.  It was not a fancy bike, but it served its purpose.

The problem with going into the 5th round with .5 - 3.5 is getting paired way down.  Welcome to the back of the room in the children's zone!

Paired with another little kid was inevitable.  This kid was 8 years old and had a 637 rating.  His September rating is 910, but even so he played way better then that!  It went all the way down to a rook and pawn ending with me short on time.  I did manage to win, but it took 66 moves.

Do I look scared??

Here's the game.


I'm running out of time.  Qick recap of remaining games on Friday.  A draw in round 6 aaginst a young girl, and a long win in round 7 against an older woman. Details in another post.

Friday, August 6, 2010

US Open: Day 1 Summary & 1st Round Game

It's Friday morning and I'll be playing round 4 in less then an hour.  I got paired up again in round three.  Once again I totally outplayed my opponent out of the opening with Black, but couldn't hold my positional or clock advantage.  I over extended my queen side pawns and then ended out in a good knight versus bad bishop ending.  Unfortunately I was the one with the bad bishop.  Games like this remind me of why I like knights when I have them.

After three rounds I have a score of .5 - 2.5.  Slightly worse then the last two years at this same juncture.  The fourth round is a crucial one for me.  I'll get paired down this round.  If I can avoid being victimized by a lower rated player then I will have the hope of decent pairings for the enxt few rounds.  If I lose then it will get ugly.  However I'm not sweating it.  Even though I only have a half point, which BTW I did not deserve, I'm actually satisfied with my play for the most part.  I'm taking my time, albeit sometimes too much of it.  More importantly, I haven't had the overwhelming desire to be bouncing around the room looking at other games.  We'll see how long that lasts when I play the slow game tonight.

I'm taking a little more holistic approach to the tournament.  Yesterday morning I went out for a walk.  I had a manicure and massage, and then did some grocery shopping.  I brought back lots of fresh fruit and milk.  I'm also making an effort to come back to the room between rounds, relax and eat a healthy snack.  It's easy for me at this tournament to get totally overstimulated by the reunion atmosphere of the event.  I actually came back to the room after taking some pictures in the tournament room and ate a little bit, relaxed and meditated before bed.  I know if I had gone to the skittles room I would have ended out staying up until 1:30 am.

I also have not been running from one workshop to another.  The workshops are sometimes interesting, but depending how involved I get in the discussion they can be draining.  I'll have my fill of meetings and hotly debated discussion when I attend the delegates meetings on Saturday and Sunday.  This hotel is nice and quiet so I don't have to deal with all the noise of a casino in the lobby.  This is not Vegas!

While eating my breakfast of cereal, fresh strawberries and green tea I went over and analyzed my first two games.  Round one was a good game.  However after spending much of the game with a positional and time advantage, both managed to disappear at the worst possible moment.  I didn't all the moves down, but here is the final position when I ran out of time.

Black to move

It's unclear whether I can actually hold the ending.  White is probably going to win my h pawn. Then becomes a matter of whether or not I can pick up his b pawn.  I looked at one possibility using Fritz, but I don't think Fritz plays ending very well.  The analysis pointed to me holding the position.  However the clock was too big a factor. 1... Kc6 2. h4 Kb5 3. Ne3 Kxb4 4. h5 Kc5 5. Ng4 Kd6 6. Nxh6 Ke7 7. Ng4 Kf7 8.Kg5 Ba7 9. Nh6+ Kg7 10. Nf5+ Kh7 11. Kf6 Be3 12. Ke5 Bg5.

Here's the game up to where I stopped keeping score. 


Almost time for round 4, so I'll sign off here.  To be continued.....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

US Open: A Quick Recap of Rounds 1 & 2

I've played two rounds so far.  I have another round in 40 minutes.  Yes I'm playing the crazy 4-day schedule with 3 games today at game/60 and 3 more tomorrow followed by 1 at 40/2 g/60.  After my colossal meltdown in Vegas playing all slow games I decided I would just play the fast schedule and get 6 games in at game/60.  That time control suits my temperament better.  My ADHD brain can deal with staying focused for 2 hours at a time.  Maybe by the time I get to play the regular time control I'll be ready to sit still for more then two hours.

In the first round I played a 2300 who unbeknownst to to me until afterward was playing in his first tournament in 20 years.  I gave him a good game even after I lost a pawn, unfortunately things got complicated.  After winning the pawn back I lost it again in wild time pressure.  I lost on time, but the ending was probably lost anyway.

In round two I played a rusty 1200 who hasn't played in a tournament in 13 years, but he does play on ICC so an old 1200 OTB rating is rather meaningless.  I played stupidly out of the opening and struggled to get a draw.  It seems like he did have a win if he didn't trade off the last pair of rooks.  I haven't had a chance to look at it with Fritz, but someone who was kibitzing our analysis showed a way he could have won.  Phew!!!

If you're curious about the games or want to follow me live you can go to the MonRoi website and follow the live broadcast or look at other games from the tournament.  I will have more detailed analysis at some point.  It depends if I escape to my room after the game, or catch up with the latest US Open chess gossip.  More likely the latter then the former will occur.

Greetings from Irvine & An Airline Happy Story

I would like to believe that when something good happens on the way to a tournament that it will bode well for the whole trip.  Many travel blogs are filled with airline horror stories.  In fact when I Googled airline horror stories it came up with 241,000 hits.  I've had my share of misadventures when traveling, such as the La Guardia bomb scare that delayed my departure to Chicago last year.  However I've also had airline good stories.  If you read my final National Open post you may recall my narrative about my good fortune on the return trip.  So here is another case of "What did you step in?"

When I finished yesterday's post from DFW it was 2:21.  I know the time stamp on the post says 3:21.  My computer was still on EDT.  My flight was scheduled to start boarding at 2:20.  If I have a suitcase that I'm going to carry on the plane then I make sure I'm at the gate and ready to board when I'm called.  There is nothing more annoying then getting on the plane with tons of people in front of you and finding no space in the overhead bin near your seat because some knucklehead has decided to put his stuff in the overhead bin over seat 9A, but he's sitting in 25B.  He's put his carryon items there because he doesn't feel like dragging his somewhat oversized suitcase back to his row.  Also he assumes that there won't be any space back there because the back rows boarded first.

Since I only had a backpack and purse that both could go under the seat if necessary I didn't rush down to be one of the first people in coach to get on the plane.  I calmly finished the post, and went to grab a sandwich and bottle of water for the flight.  Trying to pay for the items I got in a line with a slow cashier and some person who was trying to purchase something where he had some card that would give him a discount or for free.  This took several minutes to take care of.  I almost just left the stuff, but I didn't feel like paying $10.00 for the same sandwich on the plane, assuming they didn't run out by the time they got to me.

Finally I pay for the stuff and get to the gate expecting to find a bunch of people still standing in line on the jetway.  There were 4 or 5 people who look like they were standby passengers hoping to get on the plane.  The gate agent sees me coming and says you must be "Mrs. Wright, we've been looking for you."  As I hand her my boarding card I hear over the PA "Last call for Flight 1285 passenger Wright".  Any time I've heard those announcements I've thought to myself "What knucklehead didn't leave enough time to get to the airport and to the gate on time?"  Now the good folks from American Airlines are wondering where I am.  Oops! Stupid cashier!

The gate agent takes my boarding card and hands me a new one and tells me I'm now in seat 3B.  Sweet! Instead of being tossed off the flight because I was late and they gave away my seat, I got upgraded.  Bulkhead window seat in first class! How nice is that? The sandwich that nearly caused me to miss the flight now has become irrelevant because I will be served a hot lunch.  As I'm standing on the jetway to board I texted my husband to tell him I was late to the gate and got bumped to first class.  His response was "What did you step in?"

Good question, but I think the answer is; it pays to be loyal to an airline and accumulate enough miles to get elite status in your chosen airline's frequent flier program.  In this crazy "make flying as annoying as possible" age having elite status makes flying less annoying.  With my frequent flyer status on American I don't pay bag fees, my bag comes off first, I can check in on the first/business class desk, I can choose any seat in coach including exit rows when making my reservation, I get to board early, and at many airports I get to go through a shorter security line.  These are the things the airline touts as benefits to being in their program, but there are the unwritten benefits that arise in situations such as mine yesterday.

They have some empty seats in coach including mine that they want to fill with the waiting standbys and they have yours truly who is late, but has platinum status in their frequent flier program.  What to do?  Do they give away my seat because I'm not there within the time set by their rules?  Yes they could do that and if there had not been any empty seat in first class I might have been SOL and ended out spending another 2 hours in DFW.  I suspect they're not going to put a standby in the empty first class seat, but they can move me because if I had been on a full fare ticket I would have gotten the upgrade automatically.  They win on all counts.  They fill up the plane and they make a loyal customer very happy.  When things like that happen it affirms why I prefer to fly American even if there is a cheaper fare out there on the competition.

It was nice to arrive in style.  John Wayne/Orange County airport is a nice little airport.  Easy to get through and close to the hotel.  The hotel has a free shuttle to and from the airport.  I wasn't even sure American flew in there since I know it's a very popular spot for Southwest Airlines.  When making my plans I thought I might have to fly into LAX (gasp, gasp) or San Diego and rent a car.  Fortunately I won't need a car until I leave on Sunday to drive down to San Diego for a few days to visit my nieces.  I love having my nephew and nieces in California.  They're a perfect excuse to come play chess in California.

As I mentioned yesterday one of the things I do love about the US Open is seeing old friends.  It's like a gigantic family reunion where you see the cousins that you haven't seen ages.  Every year I go to the US Open I come across somebody that I wasn't expecting to see.  Yesterday I ran into friends who I had traveled to Budapest with for Susan Polgar's chess and culture tour of Budapest.  They weren't playing in the tournament, but they wanted to visit and see who was there.  I also ran into one of my friends who were part of our US Open late night hearts games.  I haven't seen him at a US Open since 1991.  I have seen him a few times since then, but it's been a long time since we've attended a US Open together.  We had a lot of catching up to do.  I'm sure before the week is over I'll meet up with some other old friends and make a few new ones.

20 minutes until game time for me.  I need to pull myself away from the computer and get ready for some chess.  I haven't seen an advance entry list for the 4 day schedule so who knows whether I'll get the 2600 who will have me for lunch, or the 900 who hopefully I'll have for lunch.  I'm not really concerned about it.  It's times to play some chess!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

US Open Bound

Greetings from DFW airport.  I'm on the road again.  If you've been following my rather intermittent posts on this blog of late, you're probably surprised to see that I'm playing at the US Open this year.  It's been on my schedule from the get go, but I must admit I have very mixed feelings about this trip.  One side of me looks forward to seeing a lot of my friends at the tournament, the other side of me is anxious about the quality of her recent games.  At least on Monday evening I redeemed myself with a score of 2.5 out of 3 in the tournament.  One tournament doesn't necessarily mean a major turn around, but at least I can come into the US Open knowing that I can win won games, and can hold a draw when needed.

The other source of my angst is my taekwondo training and preparation for my black belt test in the fall.  This was something that originally was supposed to be done by now.  Unfortunately an unplanned trip down the stairs changed my entire schedule.  The original plan was to be training during the winter and test in the spring.  That would have put all of this behind me and then I could have spent the summer actually enjoying my chess travels.  Instead I find myself in the midst of a serious panic attack as I think to myself, "Ack!!! I'm going to be missing all those days of classes while I'm out in California!  Why did I decide to take this trip? I should be staying home, and training."

So why did I take this trip when conventional wisdom says I should be home working on my taekwondo?  There are several reasons.  Some of them are valid, some perhaps not so valid.

Reasons to make this trip.

1. It's the US Open.  I love going to the US Open.  Okay, okay I admit I hate the extreme pairings of playing a 2600 one round and a 1000 the next round, or visa versa.  Yes and I hate getting the string of under rated little kids that I tend to play after I get upset in an early round.  Other then that I love the tournament.  Maybe one year I should just go hang out, socialize and play in side events only.

2. It's the Jerry Hanken Memorial.  How could I miss it?  Where ever he is, he would be saying "Polly how could you not be there?"  My trip to last year's American Open was a small tribute to a good friend.  This is the big tribute.  Besides they're using one of my photographs of him.  The one they had in the advertisement was pretty bad.  They asked me if I had a better one. The answer was yes.

Here's Jerry being Jerry at the 2006 US Open.  
Hand him a mike and he comes alive!

3. It's California in summer.  I'm going to San Diego for a few days after the tournament to see my nieces who live there.  San Diego is one of my favorite US cities.  If I could afford it, I'd move there in a heart beat.

Those are good reasons to go.  I have to wonder if I still would have gone if I realized just how difficult it was going to be to prepare for my black belt test in the fall.  In May I got to see what the test was like.  I even did much of it along with the candidates.  The difference was, the testers weren't paying much attention to how well or poorly I was doing on various components of the test.  This time around they will be paying attention.  What I'm discovering since getting back from Korea is that I don't know as much as I thought I did, and I've forgotten more then I realized.

Progressing through the various color belts in taekwondo is much like progressing through various levels of chess.  I discussed this topic back in April 2009 when I did my promotion test to red belt.  In some ways I find learning new forms is similar to learning new variations of a opening.  There are similarities in the sequence of steps in each form, but there are also distinct differences.  It's possible one is doing the same block, but the stance is different from one form to another.  At times I find it difficult to remember the differences between the various forms.  Sometimes I will start doing one form and then find I have transposed into a different form because a stance was the same in both forms, but I went into the other form.  It may not be as bad as reversing moves in an opening and giving away a crucial tempo, but when you're being judged on how well you know the form, and how cleanly you're performing it then it can seem as devastating as messing up the move order in a chess game.

What I'm experiencing right now is the feeling that everything is getting jumbled up in my mind, and I'm having trouble coping with it.  I have to find a way that's going to help me keep one form straight from another.  It's not only important for the test, but I'm also starting to assist in the peewee and children's classes.  A few weeks ago I had to show a purple belt the first eight steps of his form.  I was having one of those mushy mind moments when I was having trouble remembering the form.  I think I confused the kid, and confused myself.  However I think there is wonderful benefit from doing this type of instruction.  It forces me to make sure I really have a handle on the forms I'm having to teach.  It doesn't matter whether I'm dealing with a 5 year old or 12 year old, I better know what I'm showing them or helping them with.

When I'm teaching chess to beginners or inexperienced players I don't find a benefit that carries over to my own game.  I'm not going to be showing them the openings I play so it doesn't really carry over in my own game.  The running joke amongst chess teachers and scholastic tournament floor directors is that every time they watch kids leave their queens hanging for moves on end or miss a simple mate on move that their own ability drops another 50 rating points.  I've met very few chess teachers whose rating goes up when they start teaching.  Most of them have their ratings go down.  I will say I've gotten really good at executing the king and queen checkmate with 2 seconds on my clock due to the number I've times I've shown it to classes.

Why is teaching Tae Kwon Do different? I think it's because I'm doing the moves in front of the students which reinforces them for me.  The question is can I make my Black Belt testing preparations and teaching translate into something I can use in chess?  I don't know.  All I know is I have my hands full with Tae Kwon Do at the moment so chess study is not on the menu.  (Not that it's been on the menu much anyway.)  I will see if I can find ways to make it translate from the one to the other.

Signing off.  It's almost time to board.  BTW Dallas seems to have its own alphabet order.  I figured taking the Sky Train from Terminal C to Terminal D would only take a stop or two.  Nope in the Dallas alphabet the order is C, E, D. Oh well at least I had plenty of time between connections despite the delay out of New York. See you in California!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Jeju Island

I guess I wouldn't make such a great travel bog writer since here it is over a week since my last post, and two weeks since I got back.  Then again I don't get paid for this stuff and life has a tendency of getting in my way at times.  Then I have another chess-related trip coming up Wednesday.  So this post is "Korea trip light" with the emphasis on pictures and not so much detail.  Jeju Island is beautiful, but is known for its crazy tropical weather, and is the rainiest part of Korea.  Needless to say when one travels there during the rainy season, expect to see rain.  We actually got pretty lucky in terms of rain.  We left rainy Busan, and arrived to cloudy weather.  We visited Sangbangsan and walked up to a cave where there is a simple stone Buddha.  The views on the way up and down are beautiful.  Here are a couple of them.

Buddha in cave.

After our walk up to the Buddha cave and back we then went to Jusangjeolli Rocks. This is a 2K stretch of coastline known for hexagonal rock formations.  Click on the images to see the rock formations in more detail.

It was rather overcast and grey.  When I was previewing the pictures on my camera I thought they were coming out in black and white.  There is color, but it's hard to see.

This was near our hotel.  The beach was down the road a bit so I never made it down that far.

Lava formed rock.  

We did a site seeing cruise around different parts of the island.  We got lucky with the weather during the cruise.  It was beautiful and sunny.  That would not be the case later on. Below are some of the interesting sites we passed on the boat.

By the time we got to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall it was pouring.  I felt as though I was standing under the waterfall itself.  It was beautiful, but difficult to photograph when I'm trying to keep the camera dry.  

Rain or waterfall?

The rain would continue into the next day.  Needless to say there weren't any people hanging out by the hotel pool!!!  It was not only raining but the wind was blowing hard too.

Not a tanning day!!!

We only had one place to visit before we would have lunch and then catch a flight to Seoul.  We visited Seongeup Folk Village.  Unlike the folk village we would visit near Seoul, this one is still home to a number of people.  Many of the villagers have added modern conveniences, but not all.

The thatched roofs have ropes to hold them in place.
Strong winds could blow them off.

 Happier then a pig in $#!+
Yes that pig is sitting in village sewage.

Surprisingly enough despite the weather our flight to Seoul went off on time.  It probably helped that the weather in Seoul was actually nice.  Once we got to Seoul we visited the Kukkiwon, world headquarters for taekwondo.  There wasn't anything happening when we got there, so we pretty much wandered around and did some shopping for taekwondo gear.

Arena at Kukkiwon

After our visit there we would be taken to the Seoul Palace Hotel for a banquet hosted by Taekwondo Promotion Foundation.  There was no time to shower, freshen up or change before this dinner party.  Here comes this group of tired and sweaty tourists tromping through this very elegant hotel for a very nice dinner in the grand ballroom.  It might have been nice if the dinner was at the hotel we were staying at so that we could at least change clothes.  However I learned that when it comes to planning meals, dinner always occurs before check in.  Otherwise probably half the group would go up to their rooms and collapse!

It was actually a really nice dinner with lots of food choices.  After the dinner we got back on our busses and headed to our hotel which was over by the COEX convention center in a completely different part of Seoul. There is no such thing as a short bus ride through Seoul.  I've experienced traffic in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Seoul's traffic is just as bad if not worse.

I will post some pictures from Seoul, but I am going to post some chess before that!