Sunday, December 18, 2011

Light At The End of The Tunnel

I told you it wouldn't be three months before you would hear from me again.  In fact it's actually less then three weeks.  When I last posted I was bemoaning the fact that I seemed to have totally forgotten how play the game.  From September 12th to December 1st I made it down to the Marshall Chess Club four times to play in the Thursday Night "cracktion" tournament, otherwise known as "Four Rated Games Tonight!" or once a month "10 Grand Prix Points Tonight!" I played a total of 13 games, and I won a total of zero games. Yep, you read that correctly. Zero wins! 13 losses! Not a draw in sight.  Most of the games were miserable games where I got a lousy position early on and get crushed either very quickly or slowly grounded down. 

If anyone is half-way decent at math he might notice that 4 rated games tonight x 4 = 16.  So what happened to the other 3 games?  One night I opted for the pre-emptive last round bye since I was the lowest rated player and didn't want to deal with possibly getting a bye in round 2 or 3.  The other two times, I dropped out so I could make an earlier train.  What happened to the woman who refused to drop out when having a bad tournament? She left the building in disgust.  One night I resigned after dropping a pawn early because I didn't feel like playing out a long drawn out game down a pawn. Instead I made the 10:32 train.  That's two hours earlier then if I stayed and played the last round.

On that early train ride home I seriously started asking myself "Why are you doing this? You spend $11 on train fare, another $4.50 on the subway, and a $25 entry fee. Why travel into Manhattan to get abused over the chess board? You can stay home and play Monday evenings in White Plains.  So why?"

I concluded there were several reasons why I needed those trips to the Marshall Chess Club.  I don't need them every week like I was doing the last few years. I needed them at least once a month to remind myself  what it's like to see and attempt to play real chess.  I need to spend time hanging out with chess players over the age 30.  When one spends her days teaching chess to kindergartners, first and second graders after awhile it's easy to forget what real chess is. The other big reason to go to the Marshall is, I'm not in charge.  I don't have to deal with the players whining about which ratings are being used, or why they got two blacks in a row, or one player calling another player an @$$ #%!*.  I can simply show up, pay my entry fee and let Steve deal with the knuckleheads.

It's been a strange year for me chess wise.  I skipped the US Open and the New York State Championships for the first time in years. I spent Labor day weekend in San Diego celebrating my niece's 30th birthday.  I could have played in the Southern California Labor Day weekend tournament. It was in San Diego.  I actually contemplated playing the two day schedule, but decided just hanging out with my nieces and nephew would be be more fun.  After my last trip in October with my sisters, I decided I had taken enough plane flights.  There was nowhere I wanted to go.  The thought briefly entered my mind to find a state that I haven't played in, but that will have to wait.  I'm stuck at 26 and counting.

Although I'm doing a lot of non-chess activity.  I've gone back to riding my bike and contemplating a triathlon comeback for next year.  I'm working towards my Second Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.  That also will probably come next year. 

I will end this post by sharing a game played a few Mondays ago.  It was another case of muddling through the opening and trying to hang on for dear life as my opponent tried to attack the crap out me from the Black side. On that particular night I ended every game with one or less seconds on my clock.  Unfortunately it's not a complete score sheet, but I do have a diagram of the final position.  Don't ask me how we got to that position from where the notation stopped.


Having survived an unsound sac with one second on my clock, I managed to bang out another who knows how more moves to arrive at this final position. A flurry of rook and queen checks allowed me to arrive at this lovely finish.

Despite going down to the Marshall that same week and losing another three games, I felt perhaps there was a little fight left me.  Also knowing why I wanted to be there helped make peace with the inner demons who ask "Why bother?"

The answer to "Why Bother?" came in a most surprising manner. Stay tuned....

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Let's see, I think I remember that game.  That's the one with the little horsey that moves in an L shape and can jump over other pieces, right?  Bishops are the pointy headed guys that move diagonal, and rooks are those castle like things that move straight?  The queen can move like the castle and pointy headed guy?  The king...that's the piece that can't get captured?  Then there's those round headed guys that cheat because they move one way and capture another way.   Pawns?  Okay I've got my games squared away.

Sometimes I feel like I've totally forgotten how to play chess.  I know how the pieces move, but lately I just don't know what to do with them.  Have I been overexposed to six year old kids that no matter how many times I tell them only knights can jump, still move bishops without moving any pawns?  Maybe it's the kid who no matter how many times I tell him to move the e or d pawn first, insists on playing 1. h4 followed by 2. Rh2.  I suppose it's fitting that I lost last night to someone who opened 1. a4.  I think he really wanted to be black so he wasted a move to let me be "white".  Not that I can blame him.  The two games I played as white were just butt ass ugly.  Maybe he figured he have an easier time against me if he just tossed the tempo and pretended to be "black".  I didn't disappoint.  I tossed the exchange on move 23, and by move 25 managed to turn my disadvantage into a full rook.

Right now I'm wrestling with what I want from chess.  I've got some ideas.  I think I finally figured out why I subject myself to trips to New City to get smashed by experts and A players on Thursday nights.  More on my midnight musings on Metro North in my next post. Yes there will be a next post, and it won't take another 3 months for it to appear.  I just wanted get a few words out to let people know, I am amongst the living.

Friday, September 16, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering......

....where my blog posts on the US Open are, there aren't any.  It's not because I didn't feel like writing about my usual US Open agony.  There was no US Open agony because instead of agonizing over whether or not I should take a bye in round 7 after cramming in six games on Thursday and Friday, I was doing this....

Celebrating Uncle Charlie's 90th birthday

Instead of spending Saturday and Sunday trapped inside sitting in delegates meetings I was doing this...

 Swimming in Lake Massiwhippy
And this...

Listening to jazz on Sunday afternoon.

The only agonizing had been in May when I found out my Uncle Charlie's 90th birthday celebration was going to be the same weekend as the US Open.  There really wasn't that much agonizing.  Let's see....  Orlando, Florida or North Hatley, Canada in August?  Let's see... Sitting in a hotel at the Orlando airport for 5 days playing chess and attending meetings, or spending 4 days at a charming inn in Canada on a beautiful lake hanging out with family and friends.

Yes dear readers, I do have a life outside of chess.  The US Open comes around once a year.  A 90th birthday only comes around once in the person's lifetime.  That's assuming he or she lasts that long.  Sadly I did not get to celebrate a 90th birthday for either of my parents, so when I still have relatives who reach that milestone it's worth traveling far away from the chess scene to celebrate with them.

In case you think this is just a filler piece while I work on my  New York State Championship posts, let me set the record straight.  You'll have to wait until 2012 at the earliest for my next report on the New York State Championship.  That's because when I was in Canada with my sister, I decided I would spend Labor Day weekend in San Diego with her, instead of in her empty house in Albany while playing in the state championship. 

This was the summer of all things not chess.  I played at my club here and there.  I made a token appearance at the Marshall for Thursday cracktion.  Almost a year later I played Black against Scot Mc Elheny again.  Although the result was the same, it was a much longer game.  Maybe this should be filed under Freaky Friday.


Alas summer chess vacation is over.  I direct my first scholastic tournament this weekend, and I start teaching my first chess classes next week. Last night I showed my face at the Marshall once again.  I think they wondered if I was still alive.  Rumors of my chess death are greatly exaggerated.   Expect to see more blog posts as I try to figure out if I really can play this infernal game called chess.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On the Road, but Not for Chess!

I leave shortly for Brussels in about an hour.  No great chess plans on the agenda though one of my readers did give me a few suggestions of chess cafes.  One I've been to on my last trip to Amsterdam, and I was not successful in getting any games.  Maybe this time I'll have better luck if I visit there again.

A lot has happened in the chess world that I was not part of.  I skipped this year's Thursday Night Action Championship.  I was in no mood to deal with the angst of which section to play in.  The previous Thursday got me fed up with chess.  I realize I'm not going to improve until I do some work on my game.  Right now I don't feel like working on my game.  I have too much else going on.  Read this post at my other blog and you'll understand.

The week before  I went down to the Marshall for Thursday's 4 Rated Games Tonight!  It had been a month since I last played down there.  I figured I should show my face before people thought I had died.  Since Josh and dad weren't going I had to take the train down to Grand Central and then catch the subway down to Greenwich Village.  $5.95 for the train and $2.25 for the subway each way.  On top of that there's the $25 entry fee.  $16.40 + $25 = $41.40 for an evening of "entertainment".

My evening's entertainment featured getting smacked around in round 1 by a 2100.  In between rounds I got into a bit of a heated discussion with a player who had dropped out a tournament at my club.  I wasn't the director that night.  When I run tournaments at my club I either play or don't play depending on whether it's odd or even.  I can either put myself in if the number is odd or take myself out to keep it even.  I was rather annoyed that he withdrew that night because it caused the number to be odd so someone got a bye.  I was even more annoyed that it was him because I had put a rule in requiring players over 1900 to play all the rounds.  I did that because this particular player ended out getting a bye in the last round when a kid took a bye in the last round.  He was pissed off because he wanted to play all 3 rounds.  I let him know that I did not like the fact that he dropped out of the tournament causing someone to get a bye. 

He took offense at my criticizing him for dropping out.  This was not the first time we've exchanged words under not such nice circumstances.  So what happens? I have to play him in the next round.  I hate when I have to play someone who I've had a dispute with.  It just makes things a little uncomfortable.  Outside of the perfunctory hand shake and "good luck" at the beginning nothing else was said.  The game did not get off to a great start.  I managed to lose the exchange early.  However some how I managed to battle back and draw the game, but not before losing a piece.  That part of the game did not get recorded because we both had seconds left on our clock.

Here's the game.


I was happy to pull out the draw under those circumstances.  Yes it would have been nice to beat the guy, but a draw against a higher rated player was also acceptable.  Round 3 I got paired up again and lost.  I was also paired up in round 4.  That game was particularly annoying because the opponent gave up a pawn early. It didn't seem like he was getting any huge jump in development from the pawn gambit.  In fact I felt I had an excellent position with passed a and b pawns.  Somehow I let the position slip away and he got all kinds of counter play and went on to win.

Here is that game:


For $41.40 I got to lose three games, draw one, lose another 13 rating points and get into an argument.  Who needs that crap?  On the train ride back I realized that I'm making myself crazy with this kind of play.  I'm making the same mistakes out of the opening and I'm missing simple tactics.  Why do I need to do this to myself?  Until I invest some time into my game things aren't going to change.  The time limit isn't necessarily the issue.  Many of the mistakes are coming before the clock is a factor. 

I decided unless I'm getting a ride  down to the Marshall I'm not going to play.

To be continued....

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reflections on Deflection

I mentioned in my last post about my two wins in Fremont using the same tactic.  In a rather different style of posting for me, I'm going to do an instructional post.  Lately my games have been rather blah.  I fumble through the opening, muddle through the middle game, and depending on how I survived the middle game, I may or may not been able to hold the position for a win or draw.  It's been rather depressing to watch my games unfold in a similar pattern game after game.  It's also been rather boring.  I really need to shake up my chess if I want to get out of this rut I've been in.  However at the moment I'm not overwhelmingly motivated to do so.  Perhaps a separate post on life as a "Jack of all trades, master of none" is in order, but I digress.

For the entire month of April I did not play one single game of "cracktion".  Every single game I played in April was at a time limit of G/85 or slower.  I played in the Bob Peretz Chess Club Championship and the Westchester Chess Club Championship.  The latter just finished a couple of weeks ago.  Sad to say it was nothing like the 2009 championship.  Losing rounds 5 and 6 to the two guys who who end out as co-champions did not help matters.

In mid-May I ventured down to the Marshall Chess Club for the weekly "cracktion" tournament.  In the first round I was paired against IM Ilye Figler.  This was my 13th game against him and like 11 of my previous encounters with him, I lost.  My only draw with him was back in 1997.  He got the IM title last year at the NY International at the tender age of 63.  Yes there is hope for those who are not under rated little munchkins.  I felt like I was holding my own out of the opening.  However things fell apart after I played the rather insipid move of 15...c6.  Looking back at the game I don't even remember why I played the move.  Was I afraid of 16. d5?  More to the point, was it one of those "I don't know what to do so I'll just make a random pawn move and see what happens" moments?

Position after 15...c6?

I totally missed 16. Bxh6!  I chose not to play 16...gxh6 allowing 17. Rxf6.  I felt if I was going to play down a pawn against an IM I should keep the pawns around my king somewhat intact so I opted to play 16...Nh5, a move that would have been better then c6.  The game continued 17.Bf4 Nxg3 18.Bxg3 Rad8 19.Rae1 Bh5 20.e5 Bg6 21.Bxg6 Nxg6 22. e6 to reach the position below.

I guess I didn't get quite get the tactical idea of deflection down the first time so I foolishly accepted the pawn he offered. 22...fxe6? 23.Qxg6 Qd5 24.Be5 Rd7 25.Rxf8+ Kxf8 26.Rf1+ Kg8 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.Rf8 Black resigns.

Many a wise chess teacher has said "Learn from your mistakes."  This not so wise chess teacher has told her students the same thing.  Do I always follow my own advice?  We won't go there.  However I did manage to use this very same tactic, not once but twice a few weeks later.

In the first round of CalChess State Championship I got paired against the first of four opponents under the age of 13 that I would face over the weekend.  She was only 8 years old.  She played very solidly and I had to wonder if I was going to cough up a 1/2 point in the very first round.  I had played 27...Nf4 with the idea playing 28...Nxh3 if she didn't play 28. Kh2 or moving the knight.  She played 28. a4 to reach the position below. 

I took my time to make sure there was no counter play if I took the pawn on h3.  Noting that I'm taking with check and can retreat to f4 afterward I play 28...Nxh3+.  I'm up a pawn, but I still had a lot of work ahead of me.  Just like I did in the Bob Peretz Club Championship, I had to grind out a rook and pawn ending. She offered me several draws which I turned down.  She was going to have to prove to me that she could hold the ending.  She couldn't hold and finally on move 65 I mated her in a queen and king ending.

I could have mated her on move 64, but I think I was fixated on avoiding stalemates and missed both moves that mate in the position below.

Black to move. Mate in one.

I missed 64...Qe2# and 64...Qc1#. Instead I played 64...Qc2. 65. Kf1 Qf2#.  Good thing there wasn't a 50 move rule claim in the making.  That would have been very embarrassing. 

The next two games would two exercises in ugliness.  The total number of moves in the two games combined was less then the number of moves played in the first round. Since neither game falls into the theme of this post I'm not bothering to show them. 

In round 4 I finally get to play someone who may actually be older then me.  If I had added up the ages of my first 3 opponents and multiplied by 2 the total might have come close to my age.

Once again I came across a position where I could take a "protected" pawn for free.  We reached the following position after Black played 25...Re8.  

Once again an advanced h pawn was just begging to be taken.  The position was very similar to the one from the first round.  However there were a few differences.  First, there were a lot more pieces on the board.  Second, at first glance it appears Black can counter with 26...Nfxd5.  In reality there is no counter play for Black because moving the knight off of f6 opens up the long diagonal for White's queen.  I played 26. Bxh6 expecting the game to continue 26...gxh6 27. Qxf6 and then face a long grind trying to convert the pawn advantage.  Much to my surprise Black countered with 26...Nfxd5??  I had to double check and make sure I wasn't imagining things with the move 27. Qxg7# Yes it really was mate. For a change I would be the beneficiary of a very short game.

I would like to say that winning in such a manner inspired me to go 2-0 on Monday and limit the damage of my rocky 2-2 start.  Monday morning I started off by hanging a pawn on move 7 because I reversed the move order. 41 moves later I squeezed out a draw against my young under rated opponent.  Round 6 I still could salvage a plus 1 or even score with a win or a draw.  Unfortunately I was done in by White's very active rooks and the game came to an abrupt end with my playing 40...Kh8? in the following position.

After 40...Kh8? White has mate in 1.

I presume my readers can do a better job of finding the mate then I did.  I suppose the bright side of getting mated on move 41 was not having to try to hold the position after 40...Kf8 41. Rxg6.

The one thing I learned from this tournament is play up a section.  Northern California has even more under rated kids then Southern California.  However Northern California chess parents aren't psychotic like some of the Southern California chess parents I've encountered.

That's it for my chess travels for the time being.  My next trip will be with the chess widower of my life.  We cashed in a bunch of frequent flier miles and will be spending time in Belgium and Netherlands.  Perhaps my Belgium readers can steer me to a chess cafe in Brussels or Bruge.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where Do I Start?

Let's see since I got back from Victoria I've had my hands full.  I got back on Tuesday April 26th.  On Saturday April 30th we had our school's big Tae Twon Do tournament where I was competing in several events and also taking pictures.

Here I am in the forms competition. 
A rare moment of a decent side kick.

The following weekend I traveled to Dallas for the National Elementary Championships.  I wasn't coaching or directing.  I just decided to go, hang out, possibly play in the Parents & Friends, and visit my uncle and cousin who live in Dallas.  As it turned out I ended out getting work once I got down there.  I took pictures and would be writing an article for Chess Life for Kids, and I also ended out coaching a private student whose regular coach had his hands full with his team.  He asked me if I would work with the kid over the weekend.  That worked out well for me, but my relaxing weekend ended out not being so relaxing.

I barely caught my breath from the weekend in Dallas when I get an email from  the editor on Tuesday saying he needed the article that night because his typesetter was going out of the country on Thursday.  How the heck was I going to pull off this feat?  Normally I have plenty of time to do research, contact parents/coaches, come up with a theme and write the article.  I had a flashback to my college days when I was the queen of procrastination.  Quite often I would wait until the day before a term paper was due and start writing. I'd be up all night fueled by caffeine laden soda and junk food, and somehow manage to put together a paper that would give me a passing grade. (barely)  In this particular case it was not procrastination it was a ultra-short deadline that I wasn't expecting.

To make a long night short, I pulled it off.  I had enough information that I was able to cobble together a story that was a little light on story but loaded with pictures.  After spending over an hour trying to write an introductory paragraph I finally gave up.  I just started writing about each section and putting in as much information as I could about how each of the championship sections played out.  I had some background info and one email address.  That was enough to get things going.  At 6:00 am Wednesday morning I was able to submit and article and lots of pictures.  The article came out in the June issue of Chess Life for Kids.  Despite the short turn around time on it, I actually thought it came out pretty well.

The club championship from hell finally came to an end, but not without more complications.  We did have a clear winner, but there were a number of forfeits in round 6 and I ended out withdrawing to keep numbers even after somebody dropped out for round six.  Argh!  The good news is I picked up 97 rating points.  The bad news is that was 3 points short of breaking 1800 for the first time since 1992.  The worst news is I gave back 43 of them to under rated kids from Northern California.  That tournament was the last of my three trips I made between Easter weekend and Memorial Day weekend.

That's the short version of how things have been going.  I have some interesting games both good and bad.  The two games I won in California were won using the same tactic that I lost to a few weeks earlier in New York City.  Perhaps I finally managed to learn something from one of my losses.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grand Pacific Open - Very Delayed Recap!

I'm alive and well despite possible rumors to the contrary.  I got back to New York on Tuesday after a rather uneventful flight back from Seattle.  However that's the way I like flights to be.  The only excitement I like on flights are surprise upgrades or meeting someone interesting on the plane.  Neither of that happened.

The ferry ride from Victoria to Seattle was eventful.  We mere mortals of the tournament had the pleasure of sharing ride back with tournament winner, WGM Nino Maisuradze.  She was leaving from Seattle to head back to France.  We had a delightful time talking about the tournament and other things.  Nino is originally from the Republic of Georgia.  She knows my friend IM Rusudan Goletiani who also was from Georgia.  We also celebrated Nino's perfect 6-0 score with a few bottles of wine.

Troy Pendergraft, Hanniegn & Sharon Pitre, Mike Schemm, WGM Nino Maisuradze, and moi.

The second half of my tournament was much like the first half.  One win and two losses, so I finished with a 2-4 score.  I didn't feel like I played horribly, but I was a little disappointed in how I handled the ending in two of the games I lost.  More on my games later.

 Organizer Brian Raymer, WGM Nino Maisuradze,  Mark S. Dutton, IA
 The traditional "Show me the money!" pose.

As to the rest of the winners; The biggest surprise of the tournament was the strong play of 2nd place winner,  Loren Brigham Laceste.  He scored 5.5. He's an upcoming junior player from Vancouver who came into the event rated 1923.  He beat 3 masters including IM Lawrence Day.

 Mark Dutton, IA and Loren Brigham Laceste

 The tournament had a number of sponsors including Godesschess who gave $250 for the top five women scorers in the tournament.  This was in addition to any other money women players won.  The winners of those prizes were:

1st: WGM  Nino Maisuradze  $70 6 points
2nd: WFM Valeria Gansvind $60 4 points
3rd: WCM Alexandra Botez $50 3.5 points
4th: Sarah May $40 3.5 ponts
5th: Alice Xiao $30 3.0 points

Other sponsors included; Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut  who provided the chocolate Easter eggs that were at each board on Easter morning, Hotel Grand Pacific who hosted the event, MonRoi who had live game coverage on their site (you can find my rounds 4-6 games), and Bard and Banker Scottish pub where we had a get together between rounds on Sunday.  Also sponsorship was provided by Imax Theatre, Orca Spirit and Downtown Victoria Business Association

In addition to the 86 player Open section there were an additional 18 players in the Under 1400 section.  The Under 1400 section was won by Leo Stokes with a perfect 6-0 score. Complete results of the tournament can be found here.

Leo Stokes, Under 1400 Champion

My 2-4 score wasn't worth anything in the tournament, but I scored high in the style department with my chess themed Easter outfit.  I won best dressed player.

Polly and her "not ready for the Royal Wedding" hat.

Was I glad I made a return trip to the Grand Pacific Open? Yes! Will I be back in 2011?  I sure hope so.  The tournament has a true European flair to it.  All equipment and clocks are provided.  The pairings go up well ahead of schedule.  In fact the morning round pairings are posted the night before.  Those who are inclined to prepare for the next round opponent can do so.  The hotel is very nice and close to the ferries that come from the United States.  How often can one get off a boat and walk to his or her hotel?  Free Internet and free use of a fabulous health club are wonderful benefits to one's stay.  My biggest complaint with many hotels is having to pay extra for Internet and use of the gym.  Score one for Hotel Grand Pacific.

For anyone looking for a wonderful alternative to the usual mega-bucks weekend Swiss should really consider this tournament next year.  Make a little vacation out of it by spending a few days in Seattle, Victoria or Vancouver before or after the event.  Maybe we can have the Castling Queen Side tour.

Games to follow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grand Pacific Open - 1st Half

Three rounds down, and three more to go.  The trip from Seattle to Victoria was much smoother then last year's trip.  Literally and figuratively.  The weather was beautiful so it literally was smooth sailing.  We could actually see the Seattle skyline as we pulled out.

Space Needle - Seattle

During the trip the weather cleared up very nicely so we could actually see the mountains.  There still snow on them.  I don't recall actually ever getting such a nice view on past trips to Victoria.  

I met a few people who were also on their way to the tournament.  Last year in the chaos I had no idea if there were any chess players on the ferry or not.  I did spend the time on the ferry chatting with one of the players from Portland, Oregon who was playing in this event for the first time.  There are more Americans playing in the event this year.  Then again there are more players period.  They got over 100 players which is the most ever.  

The nice thing about how the tournament is scheduled is the fact that the first round is not until 6:00 pm on Friday.  The ferry from Seattle arrives in Victoria around 10:30 am which leaves a nice chunk of time to do some sightseeing before hand.  I chose to do a bus tour of Victoria and a trip to the Buchart Gardens.  I've visited the gardens several times before, but the flowers in April are very different then what I've seen in June visits.

Sunken Garden - Buchart Gardens

Spring flowers at Buchart Gardens

 Breakfast of Champions?

I got back in time to walk up to the super market and do some grocery shopping.  I like to eat my usual type of breakfasts when I'm traveling.  Cereal, milk and fresh fruit.  Somebody please explain to me why I can find better organic strawberries in Canada then in the United States?

When I check into at the tournament one of the organizers told me there was another player from New York.  I had seen the name on the advance entry list, but he wasn't somebody I was familiar with. He's played at The Marshall on Thursday night occasionally.  However I'd never met or played him.  Paul told me the he'd make sure to introduce us.  However no introduction was necessary as we ended out playing each other in the very first round.  What were the odds that the top half/bottom half would be such that we would actually get paired in the first round?  They even used my Canadian rating instead of my USCF rating.  It's a little strange seeing a rating under 1700 next to my name.  It was an interesting game, but I did lose.  He did out rate me by 400 points.  I will post some games later.  My first three rounds did not end out on the Mon Roi website.  Maybe things will get working right for my last three games.

In round 2 I played one of the players who I met at the ferry in Seattle.  He had recently left a comment on my blog asking when I was going to put something up about this tournament.  So once again what were the odds of that happening.  It was just one of those ugly games where I never quite got my pieces coordinated.  I tried sac'ing pawns to free up my position, but my pieces still were a mess and I was down two pawns.  I had a two choices.  I could play out the agonizing position down two pawns and maybe last another hour, or I could resign and have three hours to enjoy the lovely Victoria sunshine.  Unlike Bermuda when the weather sucked when I debated over an early resignation, this was a no brainer.

 Hotel Grand Pacific  - Tournament Host Hotel and Sponsor

 Provincial Government Building

Castled King Side (0-0) after Two Rounds?
What me worry?

One of the charming aspects of Victoria is that it's a very compact city.  Everything is within walking distance of the hotel.  Even last year, cane and all I was able to get around without much problem.  This year it was even easier.  There are lots of wonderful shops along Government St.  How does one recover from a rough game?  Retail therapy works wonders.  Tea, chocolate and wine were on my shopping list.

The harbor area is it's own shopping mall with lots of local artists selling their work along the promenade that circles the harbor area.  There one can find beautiful pieces of hand made jewelry, sculpture, wood carvings, prints, etc.  Most everything is of high quality and pretty reasonably priced.

What would a beautiful sunny spring day be without a few street performers?  Probably some folks would say "A whole lot better...."  Each to their own.  I have a friend from my cycling club who does street performances in sword swallowing and juggling so I always like to see how the locals compare to my friend.  I like my friend's work better.

After a nice afternoon of walking around, shopping and relaxing I was ready for more chess.  I finally got paired down.  I guess I learned something from my painful round two loss, because I was able to inflict similar pain on my round three opponent.  His pieces weren't well placed so I was able to keep him boxed in while I maneuvered my pieces around and came in on the king side.  He had castled queen side, but I was able to do more damage coming in on the king side.

In the meantime on the top boards the women were coming through in fine fashion.  WGM Nino Maisuradze of France and WFM Valeria Gansvind of Estonia are both 3-0.  NM Alex Yam is the other 3-0. He's paired against GM Igor Rausis of the Czech Rebublic who has 2.5.  The two women will be facing off in round 4. (Edit: When I first reported this I thought GM Rausis was the other 3-0. As a TD I should have figured that out because it would have made no sense having the two women playing each other if Rausis had 3 points.)

         WFM Valeria Gansvind                                  WGM Nino Maisuradze

Round Four is beginning in a few minutes so I am off to see if I can even up my score.  I am getting paired up again and have Black so I will have my work cut out for me. Stay tuned for further updates.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Road Trip!!

Time for Polly's traveling chess circus to take to the skies and waters and head to the Pacific Northwest for an Easter weekend of chess.  I am making a return appearance to the Grand Pacific Open in Victoria, British Columbia.  Hopefully this year I will have smooth sailing from Seattle to Victoria, and not a ferry long side trip.  Being that it's late April the weather should be better.  However with the Pacific Northwest you just never know.

I hemmed and hawed over whether I wanted to make the trip again.  The other option was the Philadelphia Open which would have taken less time to get to, but it's too much like playing in New York.  I'm sure I would have played several of the usual suspects from the Marshall Chess Club that I inevitably play when I go to Philadelphia.  I don't need much of an excuse to jump on an airplane and travel across the country.  However playing chess is as good an excuse as any.

This is the first of three chess trips planned between now and Memorial Day weekend.  I can't tell you where I'll be playing chess from June onward.  I can tell you one place I will not be returning to.  I am not going back to Las Vegas.  As the old expression goes "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  This year what happens in Vegas is staying in Vegas without me.  I'm not knocking the tournament itself.  The National Open is top notch in terms of organization and directing staff.  However after two straight miserable tournaments out there I've come to the conclusion that all the noise and lights of the casino atmosphere is too distracting.  The first year I blamed it on jet lag and playing the two day schedule.  Last year I came in earlier, played the three day schedule and still my tournament sucked.  Trying to decompress between games was too difficult with the cacophony of ringing bells and whistles of the slot machines, the bright lights and the cigarette smoke.

Victoria, on the other hand is Old World charm at it's best without having to go to Europe.   One can do afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel pictured below.  It's a beautiful old hotel.  No the tournament is not held there.  However I don't think I could even get a closet in that hotel at the chess rate.

 A three tiers of delicious tea sandwiches and pastries.  A meal in itself.

The Empress sits at the head of the harbor. There are all sorts of boats that go out for sails around the harbor.  There are also whale watching tours.  Being the intrepid one I got on one those little Zodiacs and went to see whales.   I did see whales, but that won't be a journey  I'll be taking on this trip.  Whale watching in late June is one thing.  Whale watching in April is a whole other thing.

Life on the high seas? I had a whale of a good time!

Old ship at dock.

Provincial Government Building at dusk.

Spring in Victoria.  Beautiful flowers in bloom.

However it's not just the city itself that draws me back.  It's really nicely organized tournament.  Having learned from last year I will be traveling much lighter this year.  I have my Mon Roi, a notebook, and a few pens for chess equipment.  I didn't bring a board, set or clock because all of that is provided.  For my European readers that's a given.  However if I showed up in Philadelphia or almost any other weekend Swiss in the United states without all my gear I might be running around trying to borrow a set and board if my opponent didn't bring one.  Even worse I might be at the mercy of the kid who shows up with pink and purple chess pieces on a neon pink board, or the old guy with the ancient BHB analog clock and a plastic chess set from 1969 with a broken cross on the king.

I'll be providing periodic updates throughout the weekend, and perhaps some games if time allows.  If you can't wait for me to post games they will be live on the Mon Roi website.  In case you didn't notice I did post some games from the club championship.  I must have left everyone speechless because neither game has evoked one single comment.  :-)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Games! Spoiler Alert....No Train Wrecks.

It’s Monday night and it’s the make up round.  5 rounds down, one to go.  There’s only one game to be made up, but it’s not happening tonight because it’s the first night of Passover.  One of the players involved in the make up game is Jewish the other is not.  When I initially set up the schedule for the tournament this was the scheduled date for round 6.  I had wanted to finish before Easter.  When I had to redo the entire schedule because of so many late entries, I thought perhaps I need to check the calendar before setting up new dates.  It's then I discovered that this was the first night of Passover, and perhaps I should not have a regular round. 

I’m not sure what it is about the players in this tournament, but there seems to be communication breakdown. I send out emails asking the players to figure out when they’re going to play the game since they’re not going to play tonight. I see a wall post on Facebook from one of the players to the other saying “Where do you want to play our game tomorrow?” No response. I guess that’s because the response was showing up tonight and asking “Where’s Alanna?”

“She was planning to play you tomorrow. I’m running a game/30 tonight. Do you want to play?”

Fortunately he said yes, and that got me off the hook. I had already entered myself into the tournament to even out the numbers. I was perfectly happy to take myself out of the tournament. This means I am going on three weeks without playing one single game of cracktion. My last game of Game/30 was on March 31st. For the month of April I have played four games of “slow” chess. Slow is relative since the time limit was G/85. That may be fast to those accustomed to playing 40/2 G/60. However for this cracktion addict G/85 is slow. Having the extra time helped me in rounds 2 and 3.

In the first round I drew with Alanna Katz.  In the second round I played her father.  There are three sets of family members playing in the tournament.  I have two father and child combinations and a set of brothers.  Thankfully the results of the family members have differed enough that I haven't had to adjust pairings to avoid family members playing each other.

It was a tough game.  I had burned a lot of time early on, and found myself very pressed for time in the end.  It also didn't help that I had a pounding headache.  The YMCA moved us out of the after school program room into the kitchen.  Often there are smells from a strong disinfectant.  I think the smell gives me headaches.  I won two pawns and headed into a rook and pawns ending with 12 seconds on my clock.  Fortunately the 5 second time delay gave me time to work things out.  When I got down to be so short on the clock my opponent offered me a draw.  It briefly entered my mind to take the draw and gain the half point.  However I felt despite the lack of time, I should be able to push one of the pawns through and force him to give up his rook for one of them.  I knew I just needed to avoid checks.  Here's the game.


Our game had drawn a crowd since we were the last game left.  I don't recall whether we played any moves beyond what I had recorded.  The following week I would have a similar type of ending with lots of time pressure.  That game I did stop keeping score, but I also diagrammed the final position.  In this game I did not diagram the final position which leads me to believe maybe my opponent had resigned where my notation stopped.  Although I do find it hard to believe he resigned with my pawns so far back and me being so short on time.  Even me who tends to resign too early would not have resigned in that position.

In round three I got paired up again.  That was not surprising considering I had 1.5 points out of 2 against the Katz family.  It's too bad Ben Katz isn't playing.  Maybe I could have gone for three Katz in a row. Instead I'm playing Mike Amori who I've played a number of times before with not such stellar results. 1 win, 1 draw and 10 losses.  It looked like loss number 11 was coming after I lost the exchange on move 27, and it really should have come by move 42.  Thankfully he missed the killer queen sac on move 39 that leads to mate in 4.  Neither of us had seen it. 

I had another pounding headache and there were a number times that I just wanted to resign and go home.  However when I'm the tournament director that's kind of hard to do.  I could just have someone send me the results, but with the group I never quite know what to expect, so I play on and hope for the best.  In this case Caissa showed me favor for my persistence.  I managed to get the exchange back and end out in another rook and pawn ending up three pawns.  I felt like I had seen this position before. 

Here is the game up the point I stopped keeping score:


Below is the final position when White ran out of time. 

White to move. 
There is no defense for White.  He can try 1. Rxf3+ Kxf3, 2. Kh2 Ra1 3. Kh3 Rh1#.

Reality would set in the following week when Joshua Colas would kick my butt badly.  That game isn't even worth posting.  The next game I'll post is my round 5 draw that I really should have won.  However being up two pawns in a minor piece ending of knight versus knight wasn't so easy for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum! More directing headaches!

I think I must have jinxed myself when I made the following comment a few weeks ago: "I find directing a 200 player scholastic tournament in one day easier then directing a 26 player tournament that is spread out over the course of 9 weeks."  This past Sunday I directed a scholastic tournament that ended out being the chess tournament from hell.  I had players in wrong sections, or in no section at all.  There were the no-shows and switching pairings to take care of the no-shows and the late arriving players.  It seemed like I had to redo the pairings in the top sections at least two to three times in the first round alone.  Any changes I had made in between repairings would get lost. When I would go to pair the second round all my changes had gone into a black hole, and I would have to put the changes back in and start over again.  It also doesn't help when people are telling me things that impact the pairings, but because it wasn't given to me in writing, it didn't get done. I can only remember so many things before my brain goes into overload.

Because I have the computer set up in the playing room, I not only deal with doing pairings, but sometimes I have to make rulings on the floor when there are touch move disputes or other problems.  I don't know but there was something in the air on Sunday.  There were more disputes and temper tantrums in that one tournament then the other 5 in that series combined.  The most common dispute occurs over touch move.  Did the opponent touch a piece or not?  Touch move is one of the most frustrating claims to make a ruling on. 

If one goes to the rulebook to look up the rule she will find herself reading the following paragraph before even reading the rule itself.

TD Tip: Without a neutral witness Rule 10 depends on the reliability of both the claimant and the opponent.  If they disagree then the TD should strongly consider denying the claim. In most cases, by denying the claim the TD shuts the door to all false claims.  Upholding a false claim usually does more harm to more players than denying an accurate claim.  (page 20 USCF Official Rules of Chess)

Now to the touch move rule itself.  10B: Touch-move rule: Except for 10A (adjustment of pieces), a player on move who deliberately touches one or more pieces, in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be captured or moved.  See also 10E, Accidental touch of a piece; 10F, appearance of adjustment.

 I underlined "deliberately" and "reasonably be interpreted" for emphasis because these are key to dealing with claims.  A kid will often try to call touch-move on his opponent when the opponent's hand hits a piece while reaching for another one.  He claims touch-move even before the opponent gets his hand on the piece he's intending to move.  Sad to say there are kids who will try convince the opponent that he's required to move the piece even though it was an accidental touch.  This is where the tournament director gets called over.  In situations like this it's fairly easy to to make a ruling denying the claim.

There are situations where the opponent will admit he touched a piece, but that it was an accident because he was really intending to play a different move.  "I didn't deliberately touch the bishop.  I was planning to play Qb5 the whole time." Yeh, right!  Actually there is a whole TD tip devoted to that particular scenario.

TD tip: "Touch-move rule" claim without a witness. After talking to the claimant and opponents, TDs will find that opponent often insist that they did not "deliberately" touch a piece.  Often, after some further discussion, the TD will find that some of the opponents really dis physically touch the piece in a way that they intended to move it (not an accident); however they will explain that they really intended to move another piece; therefore, believe that since the "touch" was not literally "deliberate" (since they intended to move another piece), the rule was not broken. The TD will have to uphold the claim in this instance.

Those instances are pretty easy to deal with.  It's when both players are very insistent about what they did that it becomes tricky.  If the TD asks the same question a number of times he will often get at the truth.  I recall Steve Immitt dealing with two adults in a letting go of piece dispute.  The way he continually asked the claimant's opponent to him what he did with the piece, it became clear that he had let go ever so briefly.  This is a slightly different situation since the claim was about letting go of the piece in question.  The players could agree on the fact that the piece had been touched.  In dealing with kids it's often a matter of not understanding the rule.  That was the situation in most of the incidents I had in the scholastic tournament.

What happens when adults have this kind of dispute?  Adults understand the rule and are not as prone to trying to misapply it in situations such as accidental touches or touching one piece while planning to move another.  The latter I refer to as "thinking with one's hand".

After my scholastic tournament from hell on Sunday, I had the club championship from hell on Monday.  I was really hoping all the pairing problems were behind me.  I had not gotten any frantic emails or phone calls with messages saying they couldn't make it that night.  I thought I would get through a round with all 26 players in attendance, and be able to make round 5 pairings based on actual results.  The good news; all 26 players were there.  The bad news; I may have been there in body, but my chess brain wasn't there.  I made a dumb decision not to trade off my opponent's knight.  That knight then came in and busted open my king side, and within a few moves I was lost.  I was very disappointed in how I played that round.  However losing was the least of my problems.

I was putting my equipment away when I hear two players having a heated discussion.  I come over to see what the problem was.  One player was claiming that his opponent picked up his knight, started to move it, put it back where it was, and make a completely different move.  The opponent claimed he did not touch the knight.  I tried the "Immitt technique" of asking the same question, and have each player show me what happened.  I was having no success with this method because both players were emphatic about what happened.  The claimant demonstrated that the opponent picked up the knight and started to move it.  The opponent demonstrated that he reached for the knight, did not touch it at all, much less pick it up and start to move it.   It was a case of "he said/he said".  The players at the adjoining board said they didn't see anything.

Everyone was getting annoyed at the ruckus so I asked the two players to leave the room so that we could discuss it without disturbing everyone else.  I'm totally annoyed that these two players are acting like children and that one of them is lying.  The problem is I have no way of telling which one is lying.  It's not a case of someone reaching for a piece and not realizing that they may have touched it.  It's the claimant saying that the opponent actually picked up the piece and started to move it before realizing that moving it is a blunder, and the opponent saying he didn't pick it up.  The claimant tells the opponent that's "Bull $h!t" What's a TD to do?  Follow the TD tip on page 20, and hope that denying the claim doesn't impact the result of the game.

The claimant was so pissed off. Later on he came out of the room and told me "I'm so pissed off. I can't believe he can lie like that." I told him"You know the rule.  You've seen it with your students.  There is nothing I can do.  Calm down and try to beat him." He tells me he can't concentrate because he's so angry.  I would have liked to see him win so that non-decision wouldn't hurt.  It looked like that's what would happen. He was winning pretty much until the end when he messed up the ending and lost. 

What can I say? Another strange night at the chess club.  After 4 rounds I have  a score of 2.5 - 1.5 where the average rating of my opponents has been 2024.  Wins against an 1890 and 2025, loss to a master and a draw with a 1950.  Despite the craziness I've played well for the most part.

I know I keep promising games. They're coming!

Friday, April 1, 2011

WaCkY wEdNeSdAy!! April Fools! It's Freaky Friday!

It's been awhile since I've posted any games that were Wacky Wednesday worthy.  Thankfully it's mostly because I haven't had any of those totally absurd games that left me scratching my head and saying "What was I thinking?". Unfortunately that streak came to a crashing end with this butt ass ugly miniature played on Monday.


I wish I could end this post with "This didn't really happen. Aprils Fools!", but unfortunately it really did happen.  I don't know where my brain was at that point.  Maybe I was too busy thinking about Sunday's games or the Club Championship make up games that were being played that night.  I can't blame it on time trouble.  As the expression goes "$4!# happens!"  I guess every once in awhile I need one of those types of games to remind me that I need to work on my openings and tactics.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bob Peretz CC vs CC of Fairfield County - Rd. 2

The first round was closer then I thought it would be considering the rating differences from board five on down.  Maybe having White in the first round helped us out.  Instead of simply changing colors and playing the same player over again, we had a little different format.   Our board one would play their board two. Their board one would play our board two. Board three played board four, etc.  This switching would go all the way down to board eight. Since there were an odd number of boards in the match we had to change things a little more, otherwise board 11 would have played the same person again.  For boards nine through eleven CCFC tournament director, Melvin Patrick and I set it up so nine played eleven, ten played the other eleven, and the other nine played the other ten.

Melvin Patrick
Fellow TD, and Team Captain for CCFC

Despite the fact that a mere two rating points separate Melvin and me, we did not end out playing each other.  Instead I played their board six, Hanon Russell the man behind the excellent website Chess Cafe. Perhaps I'd be better served spending time on his website reading Bruce Pandolfini's most recent column. Pandolfini gives some excellent advice to the father of a kid who loses on time a lot.  Dan Heisman also has a timely article in his Novice Nook column.

Hanon Russell
Chess Cafe

Hanon and I had a very closely contested game that probably would have been a draw had I not run out of time.  It was knight versus bishop ending.  I had the bishop which was not quite as active as his knight.  Unfortunately in games where there are clock issues the knight can be a real thorn in the opponent's side since there is always the possibility of forks.  I managed to dodge any potential fork threats or any other time pressure implosions in this game.   Flagging leads to the same result as imploding, but it doesn't necessarily make for such an exciting finish. Here's the game.  I was satisfied with my overall play.


 I still can manage a smile despite my 0-2 day.

I wish I could report that the second round was as close as my game.  Playing Black didn't reap such good results and we lost the round 8-3. 

Bd     Res  White (CCFC)                Res  Black (BPCC)

1         1    Harrison Wheeler (2254)   0    Michael H Bodek (2277)

2         0    Daniel L Lowinger (2265)  1    Oliver Chernin (2243)

3         1    Benjamin Katz (2122)        0    Michael Amori (2027)

4        ½    Ian Harris (2231)               ½    Jason Shi (1969)

5        1    Hanon W Russell (2057)      0    Polly P Wright (1700)

6        1    Alex Eydelman (2060)          0    Hubert Herring (1665)

7        1    Melvin B Patrick (1698)       0    Anthony Lawrence (1632)

8        0    Alanna Katz (1958)              1    Noah Rutkovsky (1465)

9        1    Aman Karunakaran (1509)  0    Michael Morin (1336)

10      1    Druha Karunakaran (1577)  0    Jose Leon (1322)

11     ½    Joshua Blanchfield (1529)    ½ garrett washington (unr.)

The final score of the overall match was:  CCFC - 14.5 BPCC - 7.5. The stake of the match was losing club submitted the results and paid the rating fee.  $5.00 was a reasonable cost for a day of good chess.  Hopefully a rematch with a longer time control can be set up in the near future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bob Peretz CC vs CC of Fairfield County Match - Rd. 1

The East Coast version of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has recently opened in Norwalk, CT.  The Chess Club of Fairfield County opened its new building in the winter.  It's quite an impressive space.  They challenged my club to a match at their location.  I've been so busy it was actually my first chance to go there since they opened.  A number of players from my club also members of their club so there was a bit of case of divided loyalties.

Main playing room.
Players from both teams warming up.

Trying to get this match organized had its aggravating moments.  The original format was two game at a time control of game/90.  I had 14 people who expressed an interest in playing and said they were available.  It turned out CCFC had scheduled a lecture by Danny Kopec for 4:00 pm that same day.  They wanted to shorten the time control to game/60 so that we would finish in time for the lecture.

International Master Danny Kopec

A week before the match I email everyone to confirm whether or not they were going to play.  Several people now had conflicts and had to drop out.  Another player replied that he had no interest in playing game/60.  Of the five people who now weren't coming, four of them were rated over 2100.  There went most of the meat of the BPCC line up.  I knew CCFC had a number of masters that would be playing for them.

After everything was said and done I had 11 players for our team.  CCFC had 13 players so they gave us one of their players to even out the match.  They gave us Oliver Chernin who's rated 2243.  That would help our depleted line up somewhat, but still once we got to board five the rating difference was heavily weighted in CCFC's favor.  In round one we had board one vs board one, board two vs board two, etc.  We also would have White on all the boards in the first round.  On board five I would be playing their board five, Alex Eydelman, a 2060 who I've played a number of times at my club.  We've always had some wild games where both of us have very little time left on the clock.  This would be one of those rare games where we started with more then 30 minutes on the clock.   Despite the game/60 time limit I would still have severe clock issues.  The game was pretty close until I got under a minute and then all hell broke loose.  It wasn't a pretty picture at the end.

Here's the game.


The first round was actually pretty close with CCFC winning the round 6.5 to 4.5.  The results looked like this:

Pairings for Round 1. BPCC vs CCFC Match

Bd   Res White  (BPCC)                 Res       Black (CCFC)

1       1    Michael H Bodek (2277)    0        Daniel L Lowinger (2265)

2       0    Oliver Chernin (2243)        1         Harrison Wheeler (2254)

3       1    Michael Amori (2027)        0        Ian Harris (2231)

4       1    Jason Shi (1969)                 0        Benjamin Katz (2122)

5       0    Polly P Wright (1700)        1        Alex Eydelman (2060)

6       0    Hubert Herring (1665)       1         Hanon W Russell (2057)

7       0   Anthony Lawrence (1632)  1         Alanna Katz (1958)

8       0   Noah Rutkovsky (1465)     1         Melvin B Patrick (1698)

9       0   Michael Morin (1336)        1         Druha Karunakaran (1577)

10     1   Jose Leon (1322)               0          Joshu Blanchfield (1529)

11     ½  Garrett Washington (unr.)   ½       Aman Karunakaran (1509)

Top boards
Harrison Wheeler and Daniel Lowinger of CCFC

With colors reversed things would not be so close in round two.  Stay tuned.....