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.