Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just In Case You're Wondering.....

.....I have not been abducted by FIDE space aliens.  I've been away for a few days and the space between tournaments was 11 days.  My mind has not been on chess lately.  I'm busy trying to get a handle on all the stuff I need to do for my November Black Belt test.  Here are a couple of pictures from our 5 hour boot camp last Saturday. What I love about Tae Kwon Do is being able to yell at the top of my lungs, and not have people look at me like I'm strange.

Start of a running drill.  Sometimes I would like to scream like that when I blunder.

Can I kick my opponent under the table like that?

 3 tapes down, one to go.  

Tonight I did the 3rd of 4 preliminary tests before the Black Belt test in November.  Each of the yellow tapes on my belt represent a test leading up to black belt. The first one I got a year ago.  Then I had the hiatus due to my inability to talk and walk down stairs simultaneously. When I fell on my back month I could help to think "Here we go again! It will be another 6 months."  However the back is doing better.  When does it hurt the most? When I'm sitting atbthe chess board.

I will be glad when this is done.  Between having to read books, write a book report, and write an essay, I feel like I'm in school again.  At least I'll get a break from that stuff.  However becoming a Black Belt doesn't mean it's really over.  I'll start learning new things the moment I'm promoted.  However I won't be stressing so much over everything I'm trying to do right now.

I will get back to some chess games in a bit.  I realized I never did finish up my NYS Championship report, and then there are the misadventures of another Thankless Thursday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Even Score After Four

Spoiler alert! My title gives it away.  I did get a win on Sunday.  In round 3 I got paired against a 1790.  I couldn't get paired any higher in the section since he was the number one seed in the section.  He had 1.5 points, but since there were only 4 of us in the 2 day schedule I had to play him despite only having .5.  He had beaten my 2nd round opponent and had drawn with the other player in our little foursome.  I'm thinking to myself that I have my work cut out for me.  I'm also thinking that if I lose again I may just shoot myself.  Not really, but I might just not come back after my 4th round bye. (More about that later.) 

I did tell Steve if I lost again in the Under 1800 I would want to go back into the Under 2000 section with all the 1/2 points byes I'd be entitled to.  I figured playing in the Under 2000 section with 1.5 points worth of byes would be better then staying in the Under 1800 section with 1 point worth of byes. Fortunately that became a non-issue.  The game was a back and forth affair with both of us missing chances to gain a material or positional advantage. 

At one point I was convinced I was going to get my queen trapped, but he didn't play the move.  As it turns out the queen doesn't get trapped, but White will have a strong position.  It got a little hairy towards the end as we both were short on time.  I mated with 9 seconds to spare.  He missed the defense that puts mate off for 5 moves.  hopefully with 9 seconds I would find all the correct moves.  However one never knows when the clock is running down.  Here's the game:


In past years I've had timing issues with round 4 when trying to make plans to meet up with my sister.  This year that was not an issue since she left Sunday morning to visit a friend and wouldn't be back until late Monday or Tuesday.  However I did have a conflict.  I had been invited to a party that was near where I live.  3 other people in the tournament were attending this same party.  At first I thought they would play three rounds, go to the party and not come back.  I didn't want to play half the tournament and go home, so initially I declined the invitation.  However I noticed all of them had requested 4th round byes, but not byes for Monday's rounds. I found out they were planning to come back and play on Monday.  I decided I would attend the party and come back with them to play on Monday.

Why was I willing to attend this party over 2 hours away, spend the night at home and come back on Monday to play the last two rounds?  Am I nuts?  Perhaps, but there were two good reasons to attend.   The main purpose was to inform people about Chess for Change, a charitable organization that is bring chess to children in South Africa.  This is something that really interests me because I would love to go to Africa for chess or to volunteer for a Earthwatch project.  These are things on my "bucket list".  The other reason to attend was Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles was coming.  I'm a big baseball fan, and grew up in Baltimore watching the Orioles.  I still root for them even though I'm in New York.  I can't be a New York Yankee fan.  Hating the Yankees was all part of growing up as an Oriole fan.

It was a nice party. I saw a lot of my chess friends and it was a "Who's Who" of chess coaches with Bruce Pandolfini, Sunil Weeramantry and GM Maurice Ashley in attendance.  It was funny when our host introduced me to Maurice Ashley.  We both laughed and Maurice said "We don't need an introduction.  We go back a long way."

Bruce Pandolfini Dvid Berman (party host) FM Sunil Weeramantry and GM Maurice Ashley

Jeremy Guthrie was a big hit at the party. He talked about playing chess as a kid and attending two National Elementary Championships in 1990 and 1991.  I was at both those tournaments.  I volunteered and observed in 1990 in Hollywood, Florida, and then we organized the 1991 championship in Rye, NY.  Needless to say I don't recall meeting him as a 4th or 5th grader at those tournaments.  He hasn't played in any tournaments since then, but he has a rating of 1472 from that time.  That's a pretty good rating for a 5th grade kid.  He still loves to play, and when the Orioles are in New York he likes going to the Chess & Checker House in Central Park. 

Only 3 people in that picture are lower rated then me!

Jeremy was one of the last ones to leave.  He played a game with Joshua Berman, and won.  It was an interesting game that went down to the ending.  For a guy who makes his living throwing 95 mph fastballs, he plays a good game of chess.  It would be interesting to see how he'd do in a tournament after a very long lay off.

Sunday was a long day and Monday would be a long one too, starting with the two hour ride back up to Albany for rounds five and six.  Fortunately I did not have to drive.  How would a two hour commute affect my 10:00 am game?  Stay tuned.....

Friday, September 10, 2010

2010 New York State Championship Switcheroo!

The report on how the big guys fared can be found at the US Chess Federation site Labor Day Madness I.  My pictures are included on the New York portion of the write up.  My name appears on the photo credits, but you will not see me listed amongst the winners.  Just one of those weekends.

All I can say about this tournament is, it was a weird one for me.  There are inherent dangers when one plays in the same tournament year after year.  I should have learned my lesson in February when I just assumed that the Saratoga Open would have the same format and schedule as previous years.  Instead I discovered late on Friday evening that the tournament started already.  This wasn't a scheduling mishap, it was just not knowing the section formats had changed.  Usually there has not been an Under 1800 section, but there has been an Under 1800 prize in the Under 2000 section.  Last year with a good Monday and a lot of right things happening, I managed to take a share of that prize.

Out of habit I entered the 2 day schedule of the Under 2000 section.  It was only after this exchange on facebook that I found out there was an under 1800 section.

  • Meghesh Pansari im gonna be one of the bottom seeds. my published is about 100 points lower than my current rating xD hopefully i can perform well and i just wanna place with 5/6
    September 2 at 4:00pm ·

  • Matt Slomski so a low seed? sounds like we might get paired since you will make an "upset" win over a low 1900 guy the first round and then I might have to play you the second or third even. lets hope we don't get paired so we can both have a shot for 1st without having to knock one another out
    September 2 at 4:48pm ·

  • Meghesh Pansari yeah im gonna be a very low seed :D mwahahahaha. so i should get some "upsets" like you said in the first couple rounds. hopefully this time i play more consistent that last year tho. 2.5/3 with good upsets...then 3 losses in a row smh
    September 2 at 4:57pm ·

  • Polly Wright ‎1818 isn't REALLY low seed. @1726 I'm a REALLY low seed.
    September 2 at 6:09pm · ·

  • Meghesh Pansari you know there's a U18 section right?
    September 2 at 6:10pm ·

  • Polly Wright No. In past years there been Under 2000 with an under 1800 prize. Last year I actually tied for 1st under 1800 in the under 2000 section.
    September 2 at 10:35pm · ·

  • Meghesh Pansari there is actually in under 1800 section this year
    September 2 at 10:35pm ·

  • Polly Wright
    LOL I entered under 2000 out of habit. The way I've been playing lately it may not matter which section I play in. I can get clobbered by 1800s or by 1600s.

    I may switch depending on what the various sections look like. If there are bunch of little kids rated 1400 who are playing up I may just stay in under 2000.
    Being rather disgusted how I played the previous week, I didn't really feel like it mattered what section I played.  Sunday morning I arrived at the playing site for our annual state association meeting.  I told Steve he could leave me in the Under 2000 section or switch me if there was an odd number.  He left me in the Under 2000 section.  In the first round I got paired against Robert Campbell.  This is the second year in a row we've been paired in the first round.  It was also the 4th time in the last 5 years we've played each other in this particular tournament.  I drew with him last year.  

    A draw was possible this year. Unfortunately I spent most of the game slightly worse, and had clock issues.  Just when I thought I could hold, I made a couple of marginal moves and let his king get in.  A rook pawn wins when there are other pawns on the board.  Unfortunately as one can see from the position below, there were other pawns.

    Position after 60...Ka3. Mate in 3
    Too bad White has that f pawn that can move.

    Here is the entire game that leads to the final position.

    At the time I thought I played alright, but in looking at the game later I realized my play was indecisive and overly cautious at times.  My opponent probably could have taken advantage of the position earlier.  However I felt as though choosing the Under 2000 section was an alright choice.  However the tournament director had other ideas at this point.

    When there are 3 different schedules to choose from and 6 sections sometimes there are weird section configurations.  The Under 2200 section started with only 2 players.  If 2 more players couldn't be found then those two players would have to play a 3 game match for their 3 rounds on the 2-day schedule.  Steve offered Evan Rabin a free re-entry on on the 2 day schedule with a 1/2 point bye for round one.  This actually worked out well for him as he went on to tie for first in the section. 

    Steve also drafted Anatoly Ostrovskiy to fill in as the house player.  Anatoly is always available for house player duty while his son Aleksandr is playing.  I've played Anatoly on more then one occasion when he's being house man so that I didn't get a bye.  Now with 4 players Steve could make somewhat sensible pairings until the merge.

    The Under 2200 section wasn't the only section with pairing issues.  The Under 2000 section had 5 players including me after a late arrival made it an odd number.  The under 1800 section only had 3 players.  One player had to take the full point bye as the low rated player in the section.  At this point Steve offered me a free re-entry to move to the Under 1800 section.  Me re-entering?  It's certainly not something I would pay to do, but since I had not really cared about which section I was in, it's was worth a clean slate with a 1/2 point bye in lieu of the loss incurred in the other section.  The loss still counted for rating, but no big deal.  I played up 200 points and I'm on my floor.

    Having to playing little kids with 1400 ratings was not going to be a problem.  Of the 3 players who had entered the 2 day schedule, two of them were higher rated then me.  I would end out playing both the higher rated players.  My second round opponent was a 6th grader from Burlington Vermont.  That's my old stomping grounds, and he and his father know many of the people that were there when I was playing chess up there in the 70s.  It was a fairly quiet game and we got into an ending with 6 pawns, a queen and bishops of opposite colors. 

He just played 35...Bd4.  We both had under 3 minutes.  Since we were playing the two day schedule the time limit for the first 3 rounds was game/40 with a 5 second delay.  I thought the position was rather drawish so I played 36. a4 and offered a draw.  He turned it down immediately.  That didn't surprise me since I find most kids like to play these positions out with not much time left.  What did surprise me was the real reason he turned down the draw.  I had missed 36...Bxf2 winning a pawn.  36. Bd3 or 36. Bf3 eliminates that threat, and then drawing chances are more realistic.

What a sick feeling when I offer a draw after playing a random move that loses a pawn.  I suppose worse would be offering a draw, and getting mated on the next move.  At that point I was rather annoyed with myself, and starting thinking "How could you have missed that? What a stupid move." etc.  The problem when those thoughts cross my mind it's hard to focus on the position itself.  I wasted time trying to find a way to perhaps get the pawn back.  It didn't take long to determine that:
a) I'm not getting the pawn back any time soon.
b) Don't play 37. Qxf2 since that will be followed by 37...Qxe4+ and picking up at least one more pawn after I move my king. 
Keeping the bishops on the board would be my only hope for holding the position.  The game continued 37. Kh3 Bc5 38. Bg2 Qe5 39. Bf3 b6 40. Kg2 f5 White loses on time.  It probably would have been difficult to hold even with enough time, but it would have been nice to have the time to try.

So now I've managed to lose a game in each section.  So much for the fresh start with the re-entry.  It's games like that one which reminds me why I don't re-enter.  Why throw good money after bad by re-entering and losing again? However since I didn't have to pay for the privilege of losing in two different sections, it wasn't a terrible thing.  I still would get a decent pairing for round 3.

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Polly's NY State Championship.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

From Monday Madness to Thankless Thursday!

Anyone who works a Monday through Friday 9 to 5 job knows what it's like to have the Monday morning blahs.  Great weekend followed by having to go back to work Monday morning.  Since I left the corporate world in 1992 or I should say the corporate world left me, I don't experience the Monday blahs like most people. If I have to get up early on a Sunday to go direct a tournament, then I might have the Sunday morning blahs.  All that being said, it doesn't necessarily mean I love Mondays.

This particular Monday it was rather dreary and a bit of rain.  I woke up around 7:00, and then rolled over and went back to sleep.  Before I knew it, it was 10:00 am.  Had my weekend of Tae Kwon Do training wiped me out that badly, or was it just the weather?  Perhaps if I knew how the rest of the day would go maybe I would have just stayed in bed.

I had a bit of a mishap at Tae Kwon Do.  We were doing a kicking drill, and somehow while trying to execute a roundhouse kick I landed flat on my back.  I've fallen plenty of times when my balance has been off, but not as hard as this landing.  Also I fell squarely on my back, and it went into spasms. Fortunately since I happened to have had with my doctor that day, I was able to have him check it out and give me a physical therapy referral.  He felt it was best to not mess around with it, and start PT as soon as possible.

It was kind of ironic given that one of the main reasons for having the doctor's appointment was to get him sign my medical clearance for Black Belt preparation and training.  He did sign the form!  I must say my road to Black Belt seems to be filled with potholes.  First the broken ankle and now a cranky back.  Hopefully this will not entail another delay.  I just want to get past this hurtle and move on to the next challenge.

Every week I send out an email announcing the next tournament being played on Monday night at the Bob Peretz Chess Club.  I try to get people to let me if they're coming.  That way I can get names into the computer ahead of time.  I got about 8 people who told me they were coming.  I figured I would have another 6 to 8 people who would just show up.  With my back barking at me I was hoping it would be a simple tournament, and that I would not have to play.  I guess my buddy Murphy had other plans in mind for me.   I had 22 players that I put in four quads and one 6-player Swiss.  At least that's what I thought I had.

I starting moving the players into their respective sections and announcing pairings.  Quads are a nice format because the players know who their opponents are and what color to play.  Once the sections are set up, they pretty much direct themselves.  The problem was I got to the 4th section and realized I had forgotten to put one of the late arrivals in.  His rating would put him into either the 2nd or 3rd quad, so I had to undo some of the sections and figure out where he belonged.  This also meant I had 23 players, thus making it an odd number.  This meant I needed to play.

I quickly switched people around and set up 6 quads.  I know the club has grown and gotten stronger when I find myself playing in the 5th quad.  I managed to get all the 1st round pairings out, and hoped that I would have time to write out the pairings for the 2nd and 3rd rounds.  Even though I do everything on my computer, I don't bring a printer.  Parking is too much of a crap shoot  to bring a printer.  Sometimes I'm parked several blocks away.  Most nights it's not such a big deal to have  handwritten pairings.  This particular night, especially with the delay hand writing the pairings slowed things down.

Fortunately my first round game didn't go the entire hour.  Silvio and I played for the 108th time.  I beat him for the 59th time.  He's beaten me 32 times and we have 17 draws.  Every time we play he does something different in the opening.  If I'm Black against him I never know what he'll start with.  This time I was White and opened with 1. c4.  We had one of our typical games where he plays a bunch of random moves in the opening, and I waste time responding to the randomness. Here is the game.


This gave me time to write out 2nd and 3rd round pairings so that everyone could mark their results and find their next opponent without me making lots of announcements.  Not having to do pairings in between each round gives me the chance to concentrate on my own games.  Not that it helped me in round two.  I had one of those games where it went down to an ending that probably could have been held, but the clock eventually caught up with me.

In round 3 I played Guy Colas, Joshua's father.  Guy and I usually have very close games, but more often then not he gets a big advantage on the clock.  The result being, I often lose on time or have a time pressure induced implosion.  It looked like I was just going to run out of time in a position where material was even.  He had a passed pawn on h3, and a potentially troublesome queen side majority.  We reached the following position after I played 55. Qf2.

I had a little over a minute left, and he had 10 minutes left.  Black's best move here is 55...Bxf3 followed by 56...Qf5. Taking the h pawn and allowing Black to trade queens would allow him to convert the queen side majority into an unstoppable passed pawn.  Instead Guy played 55...Kf5.  After he let go of the king he flinched.  Guy doesn't have a very good poker face.  At first I thought "What's the big deal? We're going to trade bishops, I'll get a couple checks and win the h pawn but I'll still have clock issues."   The game continued 56. Bxf4 Kxf4 57. Qg3+  At this point I realize that no matter what Black does he's in big trouble.  57...Kh5 leads to 58. Qg5# He played 57...Kf5.  I played 58. Qxh3+ winning his queen on d7.  That was a big break for me.  A potentially ugly evening turned out to be a modest gain of 9 rating points.

However the rating points would not last long after a horrendous Thursday at the Marshall Chess Club.  It started off with my having to play Joshua Colas in the first round.  We went through a period where we played each other two straight weeks in the first round.  After that happened I had asked the director to try avoid pairing us in the first round since we come to the city together.  Since I had not had to play him in a long time I kind of forgot that there was always a possibility we would get paired.  We had not played since March when we had the back to back weeks of playing. It was kind of ironic that we ended out playing since I had chosen not to play him the night before in his simul.

On Thursday nights my second round opponent is often Jay Bonin's first round opponent.  Often he gets my first round opponent in the second round.  I figured that would not happen this time because his opponent Black in the first round just as I had.  If there aren't many upsets and the rating differential isn't too big the pairing program can usually make it so colors alternate.  However for the second week in a row, I would end out getting Black twice in a row.  I was paired against Scot Mc Elheny.  I hate playing Black against him because he plays an annoying line against my Accelerated Dragon.  I decided I would play a little differently.  However as this Wacky Wednesday worthy miniature demonstrates, sometimes "it's better to deal with the devil you know, not the devil you don't know."


Ouch!  However despite losing in less then 10 minutes, I was not the first one done.  Grandmaster Michael Rohde won his game in even less time.  That's not supposed to happen on board two!  I finally got White in round three, but that did not make things any better.  The game lasted a lot longer, but clock issues cost me in a drawish ending. 

This was one of those nights that I would have been perfectly happy to get the bye in the last round.  I would have taken the train back instead of riding back with Josh and Guy.  As it turned out the number was even so I had a last round game.  What I didn't know before the start of round four that Josh was tired and withdrew.  Guy told me they would be waiting for me to play my game.  If I knew he was withdrawing, I probably would have withdrawn too and we all could get home earlier.  However once the pairings went up, I wasn't going to tell my opponent "Sorry I'm not going to play."  If I had withdrawn before the pairings went up, my fourth round opponent would have been the one to get the bye.  However I didn't feel it was right not to play.

One side of me wanted to play 5 or 10 moves and offer a draw.  However I can't bring myself to do that even if the situation would excuse such an action.  My opponent was playing in his first tournament so the least I could do was play a real game and see what happened.  I ended out getting a third Black because he had played Black in rounds two and three.  One never knows how weak or strong an unrated opponent is going to be.  He played solidly and we ended out drawing anyway.  However I felt better about the game being a legitimately played draw.

I took this entire week off from playing chess.  I was away on Monday and Thursday we went out to dinner with one of our neighbors.  This weekend I'll be playing in the New York State Championship.  Because I play every year, I tend to do things on auto-pilot.  I didn't even look at the format for this year's tournament.  I just automatically entered the under 2000 section because there's never been an Under 1800 section.  However after a little exchange of comments on Facebook I found out there is an Under 1800 section this year.  The question is, should I switch to that section or take my chances in the Under 2000 section?  I'll make up my mind once I see whether or not the Under 1800 section is loaded with under rated little kids playing up a section or two.

Stay tuned....