Friday, February 25, 2011

US Amateur Team East - The Results Are In....

...and we didn't have a very good Monday.  We were paired up in round 5 and lost the match 0-4.  In round 6 we were sent back to the Heritage Ballroom away from all the action.  We were paired down with a chance to achieve an even score, but lost the match 1.5 - 2.5.  If one went strictly by rating we should win the match 3-1.  I was the only one playing a higher rated opponent.  He didn't out-rate me by all that much, but losing a pawn is tough to overcome when the opponent plays solid chess.  Our 3rd board suffered a loss against a player he out-rated by a good 300 - 400 points.  That was the match there.

Meanwhile in the main ballroom the action was rather intense as West Orange Krush won the battle for top honors.  The final score was 2.5 - 1.5.

West Orange Krush -USATE 2011 Champions
Jose Fernandez, Peter Radomsyj, Victor Rosas, IM Mikhail  Zlotnikov

I can't take credit for having them pose with the oranges.  That was Al Lawrence's idea.  I was just tagging along for the ride and taking pictures along side him.  He was covering the tournament for Chess Life Online.   Since the team is from the West Orange (NJ) Chess Club they came up with the idea of Orange Krush (Krush as in Irena) for their team name.  Al thought it would be fun to have them pose with oranges and squeeze them as if they're actually going to crush the oranges.

Their win did not come without a little controversy.  The deciding game came down the opponent's player running out of time on move 39.  Even though the player's score sheet indicated only 39 moves had been made, he thought he had made 40 based on the fact that the clock added the extra hour for the second time control.  A "move" counter setting had been used.  I use quotes for the word move because the clock is not really counting moves.  It's counting how many times the button has been pushed.  The number of button pushes may not necessarily coincide with the number moves actually made on the board.  This particular incident demonstrates how that can happen.

For those readers not familiar with the clock used I will attempt to explain the different ways of being programmed for the time controls of 40 moves in 2 hours, followed by 1 hour for the rest of the game.  These were the time controls for this particular tournament. 

One setting does not make use of specifying any number of moves that need to be completed in the first time control.  The clock will count down from 2:00:00 to 00:00:00 and then additional hour will be added.  It doesn't matter how many moves have been made on the board, the clock will keep running until all three hours have elapsed for a player.   If a player has not completed 40 moves it's going to be apparent he overstepped when the clock goes from 00:00:00 to 1:00:00 and counts down from there. The opponent will be able to claim a win on time as long as he has a reasonably complete scoresheet. A reasonably complete scoresheet is defined as one that has no more than three missing or incomplete move pairs. The USCF rule differs from FIDE rules.  FIDE rules don't require a complete scoresheet and the director can call the time.

There are several settings where a "move" counter is set.  When the prescribed number of "moves" for the first control have been made, the clock will add the the additional hour for the second control.  I use quotes when writing the word move because the clock program isn't really counting moves.  It's counting clock button presses.  If someone forgets to press the clock or if White starts the clock first before moving the counter will be off by a half "move" or more.  When using the "move" counter setting one has the option of having the move counter displayed as shown below, or as shown in the second picture. 
White has completed his 4th move, Black is on his 4th move.
Move counter is displayed at all times. Time displayed in hh:mm

White has completed his 4th move, Black is on his 4th move. 
hh:mm:ss replaces move counter while player's time is running 
after 5 second delay has elapsed.

In this particular game Black was late.  White started Black's clock without making his move first.  Rule 16I and 16J discuss the procedure for starting the clock at the start of the game.  This can be found on page 65 of USCF Official Rules of Chess, 5th Edition.

"16I. Starting the clock. At the time determined for the start of the game, after the board and pieces are set up, the clock of the player with the white pieces is started."

"16J. Black not present. If Black is not present for the start of the game, White shall start his own clock, make his move on the board, and start Black's clock."

After these two rules there is a rather lengthy TD Tip discussing what should be done if White pressed the clock before moving.  "If a director observes that White has started Black's clock without moving, the director should remind White to make a move immediately.  If, upon arriving, Black observes that White has started Black's clock without moving, Black may immediately start White's clock or stop the clock and make a claim.  Either way, if the clock has a move counter, it may be necessary to adjust it before the game continues. The director may access the standard penalty (IC2A), or other penalties, if appropriate, against the player who improperly started Black's clock without moving."

"If White makes a move before the clock is started, the move counter may be off by a half-move. If White starts Black's clock without moving, the counter may be off by a half-move or full move. The director should, at an early stage in the game, verify the setting of the move counter, and ask the players to correct it if necessary."

In this situation Black most likely arrived at the board and pressed White's clock.  This will make the move counter be off.  Black's side will display 01, and White's side will display 00 until he makes a move.  The clock will "think" Black is White and White is Black.  Black's clock will always be a move ahead of the number of moves Black has actually played.  When Black played his 39th move the clock "thought" White completed his 40th move so it added 1:00 to the remaining 00:08 seconds.  When White made his 40th move the clock "thought" Black made his 40th move and added the time.  The player playing Black thought he had made his 40th move and spent more then his remaining 8 seconds on what was really his 40th move even though he only had 39 moves recorded on his scoresheet.

White claimed a win on time when Black's clock ticked off to remaining 8 seconds of time.  Needless to say, Black wasn't happy with this claim and vigorously protested.  Part of his complaint was that the clock indicated he had made 40 moves.  However regarding move counters rule 42B2 states: "Players rely on the count at their own risk"  Given that, Black doesn't have much of an argument.  He and his teammates felt perhaps White had deliberately started the clock first without moving in order to throw off the move counter.  Though one would think during the course of the first 40 moves one would notice the move counter was off by a move.

Having had my share of mix ups with Chronos settings on my opponent's clock, I've become far more vigilant in making sure I know how the opponent has set it.  I've also seen the move counter get out of sync when someone has forgotten to press the clock.  Depending on the situation sometimes the opponent or I have stopped the clock and adjusted it.  Other times when it's clear there will be no time pressure issues on the first control, we've just ignored it.

About 3 weeks before the tournament there had been a discussion on the USCF Chess Tournament forum about move counters.  Click on the link if one wants to read the entire discussion.  The original poster had started the discussion with the following post:

"This year, as a change of pace, I ponder setting my Chronos with no move counter for the USATE.

The more I think of it, the less I like move counters on digital clocks. This belief was reinforced by a game at our club last week; the players started late, thus played by mutual agreement at a faster-than-announced time control.

In the rush to re-set the clock---an Excalibur Game Time II---the move counter was set to "Off"....and as I watched the time scramble at the end of the first time control, (40/75 in place of our standard 40/90) I thought to myself, "This is a Good Thing." One player made the control at move 40 with two seconds to spare---but he could not take an educated guess that was so by glancing at the clock. (Yes, you take a chance on the move counter being wrong, but still.)

Here's my question: Has enabling the move counter---by far the most common approach, in my experience---been anointed with official "preferred" status? (If so, would that make the Saitek less -preferred than other digitals?) I expect at least one opponent to complain if I show up in Parsippany with my Chronos set sans move counter.

At least we are clear on deducting five minutes from the main clock time to compensate for least for this year. "

There were varied opinions. On Jan 31st NTD (National Tournament Director) Harold Stenzel gave his opinion.

Based on my years of TD experience, move counters create more problems than they solve. At the 2009 National Chess Congress I counted 6 different games in which I was called to the board because of questions/problems created by the move counter. Although I solved all of them to the players' satisfaction, they also were unnecessary. I point out to the players that they count clock presses, not moves and therefore cannot be trusted. While I don't require them to be turned off, when asked, I recommend the game be played without it.

Ironically enough he would be the one to have to rule on this particular dispute. He ruled in White's favor, upholding the claim. When I asked him about it on this thread he posted the following:

The ruling was quite simple but also unfortunate for the loser. He relied on a move counter that added an hour after 40 clock presses even though both score sheets indicated 39 moves had been played by Black. Rule 42B2 states: "Players rely on the count at their own risk."
My only question is why did it take the player until move "40" to see the discrepancy between his score sheet and the move counter? Correction: Clock button push counter.
The Chronos' setting used did not display the "clock press counter". Even so, Black (and his teammates) recounted that at the start of the game White had started tardy Black's clock without making a move. When Black arrived he started White's clock. No one complained about the improper starting of the clock to any TD until after Black's flag fell almost 4 hours later. I felt that to allow the game to continue would be to permit Black to play with a primary time control of 39/2 while White would have 40/2. Black's team appealed my ruling to NTD Carol Jarecki who, after hearing all of the evidence, stated that she "could not disagree with Harold's ruling".

This case was very similar to a ruling I made at Foxwoods in 2009 about an Excalibur's move counter. The Foxwoods loser then appealed to that tournament's chief TD (NTD Bill Goichberg) who also supported my ruling.

On a personal note, I, and most or all other TDs, would prefer that games be decided without TD intervention and not be required to make a ruling that could determine the winner of the tournament, but it had to be done.

The ruling was appealed by Black, but Carol Jarecki the chief tournament director and also an NTD upheld the ruling.  I don't think there was anything else that could be done at that point.  The clock indicated the time had gone past two hours, and the score sheets both showed 39 moves completed by Black.  Even if White had concocted this evil plan to deceive Black there was nothing to be done.  Any complaints or claims would have to be made before the game was over.  Time exceeded, game over.  Game over, no claims against opponent. It's the same thing I tell kids when they complain to me after they've lost.

I've always liked the move counter because I like to see the next time control added after the first one has been reached.  However having watched the heated discussion and seeing the tough spot the directors were in, I think I'll pass on the move counter. It's too much like work to keep track of.

This weekend I'm in Saratoga Springs to direct at the New York State Scholastic Chess Championship.  I'll probably be directing in the Primary section.  I'm sure I'll have some interesting stories to share.  I also have a few more games from the USATE of interest.  I already added one to my previous post that neeeded editing anyway.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

US Amateur Team East - Castling Queen Side To Start - Edited

It's the end of two days at the team tournament. Once again I'm playing board one with Guy, Alan and Silvio.  The tournament got off to a rough start for me.  It had nothing to do with playing super lousy chess or having some awful meltdown in a winning position.  The first round we got paired down. The guys managed to win their games within the first two hours. We're winning the match no matter what I do.  I had the misfortune of playing an under rated kid.  His rating for the tournament was listed as 1428.  In reality his rating is 1543.  He just completely outplayed me and I lost the exchange and a pawn.  After started forcing trades, I decided I would conserve energy and not prolong the agony.  We had played for over 3 hours and I had another match.  Having won our first match we were going to get paired up.  That means I would play someone higher rated then me.  Another game that went over 3 hours! Another loss.  However I didn't feel so bad about being 0-2.

I thought we might get paired down in round three.  Had I read my posts from previous years I would have realized that we were going to play up.  Way up!  We played a team with a 2184 average.  This team won the tournament last year.  However they were upset in some round so we had the pleasure of playing the defending champions.  I had the pleasure of getting crushed by a FIDE Master in 25 moves.  The game took less then two hours.  The only thing good about losing so quickly is I got a free chess lesson out of the deal.  He gave me some suggestions on some of the opening moves.

My line on the wall chart read 0-0-0. Indeed I was living up to my name.

The first three rounds we managed to stay in the main ballroom.  However being 1-2 relegated us to the Heritage ballroom.  That's like being sent to triple A minor leagues.  We no longer were playing with the big boys.  However it's still preferable to being across the hall in the Symms rooms, or heaven forbid in the Morris rooms down the hall.  That's where all the lowest rated teams with very few points end out playing the entire tournament.  Friends and I would refer to that part of the hotel as outer Mongolia.

With no physical issues requiring an assigned board we had to go where our score put us.  We played a team of high school kids.  I was wondering if I would be facing another under rated kid.  Would my line on the wall chart look like this? 0-0 0-0 (Castling King side twice).  Fortunately my opponent allowed me to transpose the position to my playing the white side of a Maroczy Bind.  Having been on the black side of it, I know how agonizing it can be.  I also know many of the pitfalls facing black if he tries to break in the center too soon.  My opponent was not familiar with it, and paid dearly.  The game was done in just over an hour and half.  We won the match 3-1.  Hopefully this will put us back into the ballroom.

Here's the game.  (Note when I first published this post I had not done the analysis.  After editing the post to include a caption for the picture, I decided to add the game.)


The unfortunate part of not being in the ballroom for round four is not seeing the skits and costumes.  The group from Long Island won again.  This is the third year in a row they've won the contest.  I didn't get into the room in time to watch it.  Silvio, Alan and I had an early dinner at Ruth Cris, and barely got out of there before the round was scheduled to start.  One of the teams participating in the contest was playing near us.  Thanks to Ken Ballou for giving me the team name.  I don't know if these were the same people who were on the team when I played the woman 4 years ago.  I caught grief from my team mates for agreeing to a draw against her with her 950 rating.  She played well, and we were winning the match 3-0 at that point.

3 Squares and a Lady

Tomorrow we should be back in the ballroom.  That also means I'll have my work cut out for me again.  However with two rounds to go I have twice as many points as I scored last year.  2 x .5 =1.  More games to follow in a few days.  I'm afraid my coverage of the tournament is sorely lacking.  I don't seem to have the energy to run around and take lots of pictures and research all the top scores. Updates to follow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bermuda Wrap Up

Sun sets on another Bermuda Open

Tomorrow this road warrior is off to Parsippany, New Jersey for the 41st Annual US Amateur Team - East.  Once again I will be playing 1st board for my team.  The good news is I don't have any physical issues plaguing me.  The bad news is I don't have any physical issues that would give our team an assigned board in the ballroom all tournament.  That means we will most likely bounce around between the ballroom and the outer rooms, depending on how we're doing.

Enough about the team tournament.  Inquiring readers want to know about how Bermuda went. The good news is, I won $50.  The bad news is, I was in a tie for 2nd Under 1800 after a butt ass ugly loss in the last round.  In the last round I got paired against someone from my own club.  Like I really need to travel all the way to Bermuda to play someone from my club.  However in the last round they really don't want to be shifting pairings around to avoid such a match up.  I really didn't want to play him, but I wasn't going to ask the director to change the pairing.  Unfortunately I think I let the pairing upset me too much because I ended out losing a piece on the 11th move.  It just went downhill from there.  I'm not even going waste my readers' time by showing the game.  There was nothing entertaining about the loss.  There isn't even a good train wreck story behind it.

 No Bermuda longtail for me this year.

Saturday's games combined took less time then Friday evening's game.  Round two's ugly loss took an hour and 41 minutes.  It would have taken about 40 minutes if the weather had been better.  My ugly win took even less time. One hour and 35 minutes.  Winning ugly and quickly sure beats losing ugly and quickly.  Here is my ugly win.  Both of us moved too fast.


After the fast loss on Saturday, I said to someone "Knowing my luck, Sunday I'll have a four hour game when the weather is better."  I know my luck.  Sure enough we played for almost four and half hours.  I got paired against Ken Sloan who I've known for a very long time.  We've been at many of the same tournaments but this was the first time we ever played.  I won a pawn, but got sloppy in my attack.  I sac'ed the exchange thinking I was getting it right back.  It was one of those cases of not visualizing what the board would like like after I moved my rook.  With no rook on d7, e6 is now covered by his queen.  I had a lot of play for being down the exchange, especially after I picked up a second pawn.  I didn't see the h4 break so I ended out just repeating the position and taking the half point. Here's Sunday's marathon.


As usual the tournament ended with dinner, blitz playoffs and awards.  There were 5 players tied for 1st.  The top player wins a trip back the following year.  That gets settled by a blitz playoff.  With 5 players in the tie it ended out being a round robin.  GM Larry Christiansen won the playoff for the return trip.  GM Alexander Ivanov got the Bermuda longtail on tiebreaks.

GM Larry Chistiansen and Larry Ebbin

In tiebreak order the top 5

GM Alexander Ivanov
GM Pascal Charbonneau
GM Larry Chistiansen
GM Nick de Firmian
IM Dmitry Schneider

The top scoring non-titled player also wins a return trip to next year's event.  There was the potential of an 11 way tie for that prize but thankfully Martin Huba won his game to take clear 1st in that category.  It would have been brutal having a playoff with 11 players.  We wouldn't have gotten out of there until the wee hours of the morning.  At that point I probably would not have gone to bed since I had to leave for the airport at 6:15 am.

Martin Huba
Bermuda longtail and a return trip

There are various special awards including one for the player traveling the longest distance.  This year the winner of that award was Stephen Kisuke of Uganda.  He received a glass angel fish.  The hand blown glass pieces they give out are just beautiful.  Maybe I'll have to move to Australia and then come back for the tournament.  I'm sure never going to win distance award flying from New York to Bermuda.  I got the walloping 1500 frequent flier miles for that round trip.

Stephen Kisuke of Uganda

Next report from beautiful Parsippany, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bermuda Blitzed (I mean blitz)

It's Saturday.  In the 3rd round today.  It's been a rough start for me.  Played tough game against an expert last night, but losing a pawn is not healthy for one's winning chances.  This morning I just played horrendously against a 1900, and ended out resigning after about 17 moves.  At a long time control like this I just couldn't see trying to prolong the agony.  I was rather discouraged and just felt it was better to walk away from that game, and try to get over it.  It would have been better if the weather had been nicer, but I did venture out for a walk in the howling winds.  At least it didn't rain on me.

I managed redeem myself in round three with a crazy win.  It wasn't pretty.  I gave away a pawn, but a few moves later he gave it back.  Then I had a nice little combination that forced mate.  I will post a few of these games later.  I just wanted to post a few pictures from Thursday and post some results from the blitz tournament.  As usual Larry Ebbins hosted his Thursday evening party at his house.  He claims his rum swizzles weren't as good as usual, but I thought they tasted pretty good.

Alexander Ivanov and Ester Epstein enjoying the food.

I'm with Larry Ebbins, Martin Huba and Stephen Kisuke

After the party we went back to the hotel for the blitz tournament.  No big surprises there as the standings at the top were as follows:

1st GM Alexander Ivanov 9/10
2nd/3rd GM Pascal Charbonneau 8/10
2nd/3rd GM Larry Christianson 8/10

GM Ivanov
GM Charbonneau

GM Christianson

As for myself, I scored 5/10.  Very disappointing when I missed mate in 1 against an expert, and went on to lose the game.  Blitz is not my strength.  I got lucky and won a few games on time that I should have lost.  Also chucked a few winning positions, so pretty much a wash.  One game that I won on time my opponent was griping about my Chronos clock.  I'm not sure what his gripe was.  C'est la vie.

Last round match.  

I had chance win class prize going into last round.  However I split 1-1. 2-0 gives me under 1800 prize. I guess I shouldn't complain since I was toast in 1st game and won on time by giving a bunch of checks.  Made him burn time trying avoid the checks.  Next game with him, I'm two pawns and just hung a knight.  That's blitz for you!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alive and Well in Bermuda!

Greetings from Bermuda.  I'm here for the Bermuda International Open. 

To answer Chess Tiger's question.  I am alive, and blogging will resume.  I've had an incredibly busy January.  Lots of chess.  Some of it good, a lot of it ugly.  (So what else is new?)  I never did get back to reporting on the Liberty Bell Open.  It was an interesting event both chess-wise and psychologically.  I got off to an excellent start playing up a section.  Started out 1.5 out of 2.  In round 3 I got paired up against one of my former students.  I was up two pawns out of the opening. However he got a lot of counter play, and I messed up.  It was a quasi-train wreck.  I didn't think it was a terrible loss until I started analyzing the game later.  Unfortunately I had made the mistake of looking at that game right before round 4.  I went into that game not in the best frame of mind, and got smashed.

I then lost two more games in a row and was horribly depressed.  I did bounce back in the final round, but overall I was a bit discouraged.  I realized that getting off to a good start may have not been the best thing for me.  When I play up and start off with a string of losses my mindset tends to be "It's okay.  I'm playing up and I'm not expected to win many games."  I'm relaxed and don't put pressure on myself.  However if I start off well then my expectations go up.  I put more pressure on myself and I tense up.  If I have one of the moments where I've lost focus and lose a winnable game, then I get down on myself.  That feeds on itself and then I hit a miserable losing streak.  It's hard to get out of that rut.

Hopefully I will avoid such pitfalls this weekend in Bermuda.  The social aspect of this tournament makes it enjoyable regardless of the quality of my play.  Last year I did win my class.  We'll see if I can repeat that feat.  I will settle for not playing like a moron, and not blowing a won game.