From Patzer to...(2)

Nov 24, 2014, 3:01 PM |

As luck would have it the Virginia Chess Federation's "David Zofchak Memorial Open" would be held in Norfolk over the weekend of November 22,23, 2014. 

I had played in an open Quad tourney in Virginia Beach back in the spring, a one day thing where I'd go on to lose all my rated games between players between 1300 and 1600. It was fun in the sense it was my first competitive Chess event, but not so fun in that I routinely lost.

And while I've heard the saying "losing is good for chess improvement" a lot I will tell you it doesn't at all feel like a good thing.

With the Memorial Open in Norfolk I was presented with a great opportunity: rated games, massive amounts of opponents, a nearby location, a possibility at prize money, and 5 games of chess that act as a measuring stick to how I can really do in over the board competitive Chess.

This tourney was held in the Sleep Inn Lake Wright in Norfolk, near the airport. 38 players signed up ($45 entry fee plus $10 if you weren't a member of the Virginia Chess Federation, I wasn't so to me this was $55).

3 of those were regular players at ODU's chess club, and I really tried to get more. We have one player at ODU, a person who's account appears closed to me, who is rated above 1800 in USCF and I thought this was a great opportunity for a "Team" of Old Dominion players to appear. 

I even wore my "Rep ODU" shirt with a dark suit jacket...I tried to mimick my favorite player Fabiano Caruana.


Sadly I couldn't convince the strongest of us to play. However my young ODU rival (former rival, he only beats me now there's no back and forth) his dad (who withdrew prior to the first game) and above 1700 Chris showed up alongside me. So about 8% of the field were ODU players. 

The style of this tourney consisted of 5 rounds. It was a swiss based format. Games would be at 2 hours per side, 5 second delay. Half point byes when even number of players were present and full point when there were odd.

The first game on Saturday would be 9:45am. Then 2:15pm for the second, and 7pm for the third game. Sunday would have 9:30am and 2 pm for the games.  

Looking over the list of players is quite impressive, to me the Patzer anyway. Leading the pack is 5 time Virginia Champion, NM Daniel Miller. His USCF rating of 2339 was certainly daunting, as were the 3 Lohrs who were above 1800 each. There were 3 total above 2000 players, 4 1900 players, 2 1800 players, 2 1700 players, 2 1600 players, 2 1500 players, 4 1400 players, 4 1300 players, 3 1200 players, 3 1100 players (I being one of them), and 6 sub 1100 or unranked players. At least I'm pretty sure about that, that's 35 but the VCF website lists total participants at 38. 

Going in I was 1147, a ranking I am not particularly fond of. I was paired in match one with one of the 1700+ rated players, and it turns out that was ODU Chess Club partner in play Chris Giofreda. His USCF rating was 1723 and his ranking is roughly 1780, depending on the day.

My next game would be against Duncan Gutherie, a 1385 player going in to the tourney. If I kept losing I would keep being paired with lesser ranked players. I thought I had a good chance to win due to how long I was able to play equal chess against a 1723 player in the first round, but poor endgame technique of the first game would highlight similar play in the second game. Mr. Gutherie rang supreme in this game too.

 I left that game silent, but upset. It was near 6 o'clock, I felt it would be wise to go to a bench outside the game room and nap it off. My opponent from the first game, Chris, would play a series of tactics problems with other players. I couldn't fully get to sleep but I did rest, and the pairing that would come out next would be myself and Kyle Phillips, another kid. Remember I am more than double my opponent's age, and again they kept pairing me down as I kept losing. Kyle was 1161. My  common child opponent, my white whale, at ODU's chess club, is above 1200. Despite my tourney performance so far I was confident.

I was way too confident.

I left absolutely embarrassed. Defeated. This game gave me the feeling that I literally had no idea what I was doing, that I've wasted 99 dollars a year for two years on, wasted my membership with the USCF, wasted basically so much time of my life the past few years on chess to do what I did here. 

I went home silently listening to sports radio, and I bought both Subway and McDonald's planning to drown my sorrows in front of the television with fast food. I no longer had confidence in myself.  

Sunday morning came along and I drove to the Sleep Inn I guess somewhat refreshed. I arrived 30 minutes earlier than I thought I should be, so I sat up my board (which I remembered tobring, I didn't havve it the previous day) and played over some games I have recorded of vs. Shredder on 2600. Most of those games are pretty  even so I use them to recognize some openings and structure recognition. I'd go on to learn the 930 am game would be my bye. After the previous night my first opponent, Chris, would lose to my second opponent, Duncan, in their third game. It was the biggest upset of the tourney (won Duncan $60) and Chris would withdraw. Due to some withdrawing players this round was uneven, and it gave me my first point of the tourney. I'd take the point and play a pickup game with the white whale's father, VXXES.  

 After this game I had maybe 2, 2 plus hours before my schedule final round matchup. I put on my ipod's headphones at times and listened to the soundtrack from Interstellar, I set up my board and played over Fabiano games from the Sinquefeld cup, I read from  "The Great Chess Masters and Their Games" by Reinfeld. I went back over some notes from "The Complete Book of Chess Strategy" by Silman. I rose my Tactics Trainer score to as high as 1386. 

I didn't want to exhaust myself but I did want to get in some warm up chess. 

I would go on to find out that Kyle was only at 1.5 points going into the 5th round. I was at 1 with the bye. Another player was at 1.5. If they drew and I won my game I would take home the U1200 $80 prize. Of course...I didn't feel I earned the penny I would find on the ground...but I'd take it if I could. Knowing that I haven't really won yet again I was paired "down." Up next would be Brooklyn Smith, another kid.

I keep saying kid, I don't want to make that seem like a slight. But there was a good number of, well, children. I think the only person I'd -officially- play who wasn't younger than me was Chris, and most of them would be less than half my age. You get a sort of Beer Goggles feeling, confidence without any reason to have it. If anything I should know that any person there, ANY, can beat me straight up.

Then I read her rating going into the tourney was 316.

316? I didn't know that was possible. 316?

I remember sitting next to her in my game against Kyle and, well her game ended before mine did. It didn't look that competitive.

And I got the feeling this was a weird trap. I told myself - play simple. Play less risky. Take what is given to you.

We borrowed a standard analog clock from another player, and we began our game. I playing Black only for my second time.

After that game I got my second point. Kyle would go on to draw his 5th opponent, and the other U1200 guy with 1.5 drew. So the three of us split the U1200 prize of $80.00 - I had thought Kyle should get it as he beat me heads up. So in the end the $55 shrunk...some bit of success. But in the end I imagine I will fall down below 1100. And this really upsets me. 

I don't know how to improve.