Two weeks ago, I played in the US National G/30 Championship held in Santa Clara, California. These were my first USCF-rated games since a quick-rated quad in 1998, and my first standard-rated games since a quad in 1993. But really, I haven't played USCF-rated games with any regularity since 1988, when a demoralizing loss when I was a rook up sent me into retirement as a freshman in college.
Looking up some of my old foes on the USCF website, I can see that many of them also quit the game in the late 80's or early 90's. Life takes over, you start work, get married, have kids, and there's just no time for chess. That's not to say I lost interest in the game entirely. I did miss it, even trying to start a lunchtime chess club at Apple, my first employer. It didn't take. I had better success later trying to start something with some mailing list I was on in the late 90's, but that lasted just a few months before it died. I missed the competition, but didn't feel I had the time to devote to long games, not to mention practicing.
So, what was I doing in Santa Clara two weeks ago? There's a simple explanation. My 8 year old son was playing in the scholastic tournament going on at the same time in the same place. I figured that since I'd be there anyway, I might as well "come out of retirement".
I did have some misgivings about having to play in the 1800+ section. My old 1844 rating meant that I would be one of the lowest-rated players in the section. Someone else in my position might have been worried about "protecting" his rating. And I definitely thought it very likely I would lose rating points by playing. But I decided there was no point in sitting on it and not playing. Whatever happened, would happen.
When we got to the tournament, we found out that the scholastic tournament was being held downstairs, and the adults upstairs. This led to some anxiety on my part as I battled with a sea of parents to read the pairings before each round and escort my son to his table, then race upstairs to find out my own pairing and find my own table. Three times I ended up arriving late to my own game because of this, though I don't think I lost any more than about 2 1/2 minutes on any one game. The hassle didn't put me in a great mindset at the start of each game, but I can't blame my performance on that because my mistakes came later in each game.
My first game was against Uyanga Byambaa (2074). Here's the annotated game:
I could tell that I was winning this game, not just by the position but by the mannerisms of my opponent. She stopped writing down her moves with about 12 minutes left on her clock, even though we were supposed to keep track until 5 minutes left. I probably should have mentioned it to her at the time (I think she was out of the room when they mentioned the 5 minute rule), but didn't bother. Maybe it affected me psychologically, but it didn't appear to help her moves, as she ended up hanging her rook. Unfortunately for me, I didn't see it!
After going over the game I was kicking myself for a lost opportunity. It would have been my best win ever by rating (my best win was against someone rated 2026). Even after missing the hung piece, I should have at least drawn. But no. Well, at least my next opponent would not be as highly rated. It would be David Baran (1925). I showed up almost 3 minutes late. Here's how that game went:
It wasn't until I analyzed the game back home that I noticed I'd missed yet another opportunity for a win here. Discouraged but still hoping for good results, here's my next game, against Michael Ho (1818).
I just didn't find the right moves in this game. I fell horribly behind, and then when my opponent threw away his advantage and gave me a chance to salvage a draw, I didn't see a fairly obvious move and blew it. Afterwards my opponent seemed a bit flustered by my clock, saying that he couldn't see the 5-second delay it was supposed to be set to. I tried to show him, but I don't think he got it. I wasn't sure why he was complaining since he won the game, but I probably should have just told him that it was set to Bronstein delay so that he would have understood how it worked.
My next opponent was Ashik Uzzaman (1821).
I'm not really sure what was going through my mind during this game. I think maybe I was a bit too happy with my position, thinking I was ahead (which I was), but then trying to force an attack that wasn't there and getting into trouble because of it.
Now I was 0-4 and was still kicking myself for losing in the first round. I certainly didn't want to go home with nothing. Since my next opponent, Tony Phillips (1826), was also 0-4, I felt decent about my chances.
So after that sorry ending to my tournament, I finished 0-5, dropping 47 rating points to 1797. I can't even call myself a class A player anymore.
On the bright side, after going over my games, I decided that I wasn't outclassed like I thought I might be. I definitely had my chances. These were not games where my opponent always made better moves than me. I just missed a few things. Maybe G/30 is not my thing. Maybe G/45 or G/60 would be better for me. In actuality, most of my USCF games have been at a time control of 35 moves in 90 minutes. But I certainly don't feel like I have time for that anymore.
So, will I be back? I'm not sure. It's a rare tournament where kids and adults both play. In fact, I don't see any near me in the near future. Still, I feel like I have to play again to redeem myself, to show I'm not as bad as my 0-5 performance says I am.
So maybe I'll play in another tournament on my own, or maybe it will have to wait until my son is good enough to play in adult tournaments. That would certainly be nice, not having to go back and forth. Oh, in case you are wondering, my son finished with 2 wins and 3 losses, and was very encouraging to me when he heard that I lost each round. He also wants to keep playing, so I'll be at more chess tournaments, even if I'm not playing in them.