I'm So Thankful For This Opportunity - Pan Ams Day One
Me at 14 years old, playing my childhood best friend in a scholastic tournament Me at 21 years old, representing Baylor at Pan Ams playing an IM

I'm So Thankful For This Opportunity - Pan Ams Day One

| 16

Sometimes, I try to reflect on my chess growth. Where I was years ago vs. where I am right now. As you can see from the caption, the guy on the left was a naive 14-year old playing their childhood friend in a scholastic tournament at a local library. The guy on the right, 7-8 years later, is representing Baylor University on board 1 of Pan Ams, facing an International Master. Also noteworthy... the kid on the left felt like he needed to "dress to impress"... the guy on the right wears a hoodie and doesn't care!

I may not be a Grandmaster... or even a Master. However, I'm thankful for what I've accomplished in chess and the experiences that came about it. Having the privilege to represent Baylor at Pan Ams for two years will be a great memory for the rest of my life! 

So let me tell you a little bit about Pan Ams before we continue. Pan Ams (short for "Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championships ") is the nation's largest OTB collegiate chess competition. The top four teams qualify for the collegiate chess final four tournament, which decides the team collegiate champion. There's a good article breakdown HERE

I've been asked before why Baylor would participate in Pan Ams if we have virtually no shot at qualifying for the top four (and forget "you can do anything you set your mind to" when the average rating of the qualifying teams is over 2600, and our lowly team is 1600 ). Well... why would anyone play up in a section where some pairings will be very difficult to win? It's for the learning experience. Keywords. We may not be able to qualify, but we got to play some dang good schools and good players as well. 

This year was exciting because we got to bring two teams, an A-team and a B-team. The A-team played up in the Open section (we ended up being the lowest-rated team and the only complete team playing up), while the B-team (avg rating 1220) played in the U1800 section. This series will primarily be focused on my games, but I'll also let y'all know how the other teams/players did! 

Before we talk about the tournament and games, let's talk about... the journey to Pan Ams. It was in Seattle and living in Texas, I was going to have to fly out of Dallas to get there. Let's say that it was an interesting experience.

Alaska Airlines gets a 5-star review Kappa

Our flight was set to leave at around 7:30 PM on Wednesday (Texas time), and assuming it takes off on time, it would be a 4-hour trip, so we'd get there by 9:30-10:00 PM Seattle time (since we're changing time zones). Round 1 isn't until Thursday evening, so that would give us a night and plenty of time before we have to play. However, delays do happen, so it's no big deal if the plane isn't ready right at 7:30, right???

Well, the problem is that the flight got delayed. It didn't just get delayed. The boarding time literally changed by the minute. My teammates and I literally blinked, and it was delayed to 11:30 PM. Which... that's not the end of the world because we get to Seattle by 2-3 AM and just have to sleep in a little bit before our Thursday game.

The problem is that, apparently, the plane was in Seattle and had not left for Dallas yet.

And even worse... there was growing concern that our flight would get canceled... What would we do?? We thought about booking a brand new plane ticket to get there on time or just praying that our flight doesn't get canceled. It was a very stressful situation. Thankfully, my friend who was with me lives in the Dallas area, and his parents were around in case we needed help.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we talked to the flight attendant, and it turns out that if the flight got canceled, we'd be rebooked the next morning with no additional charge. That is way less stressful than booking another flight and trying to catch it. And it turns out that the fight indeed got canceled. Shocking. 

Oh, and as compensation, we got $450 in Alaska Airlines travel credits. This basically means that I get a close-to-free (if not completely free) flight next time I fly Alaska Airlines. Yay? That's actually good compensation for the stress we endured. 

I was just a little bit unhappy that we'd be flying on the same day as round 1. But it's not a big deal. I spent the night at my friend's house, and we took off Thursday morning with no or little delays. 

The beautiful yet interesting city of Seattle

Seattle is indeed an interesting city. One of the first things I saw on the railway that was going to take us to the hotel was this kid on crack or something screaming into a traffic cone. Fun stuff. 

We took the railway to the hotel where we were staying, where the playing venue was. Because of stops, it took 40-45 minutes, but not bad for $3 transportation. 

By the time we got to Seattle, at some points while we were at the airport waiting for luggage and the railway, we made some interesting discoveries about the tournament. First of all, Baylor's A-team was paired with Arizona State University's A-team. We are about 1600 on average. ASU is like 2200. Rip. 

There was also a lingering question about board position. My teammate Evan and I were close enough in rating (within 50 points) that we could switch board 1-2. My published rating was higher, but Evan's live rating was higher, as he was working hard at his game. We thought that we could alternate round-by-round, but we learned that it is OK for us to switch, but once we switch, our lineup is set for the entire tournament. Meaning that one of us has to take board 1 full-time, and the other board 2. 

It was going to be a tough tournament regardless of board position. We decided that I'd take board 1, as even if Evan is playing a little better than me, I have experience playing with higher-rated players, and we'd have a better chance at board 2 results. 

I mean... I guess playing board 1 for Baylor is an honor or whatever. However, with the potential to play some cracked players, I don't think anyone on my team should envy me. Last year, I got to play WGM Jennifer Yu, WGM Maili-Jade Ouellet, and IM Josiah Stearman. This tournament would not be any easier, as last year, Pan Ams was all one section, so we got to play some "easier" teams. Since we're playing up in the Open (instead of U1800) and we're one of the lower-rated teams, there would be no easy pairings. 

Random picture of Arizona State University... our round 1 opponent

So as previously indicated, in round 1, A-team was paired vs Arizona State University. 1600 average vs. 2200 average. We got this, right? Baylor B-team was actually paired vs University of Texas at Austin's B-team. I won't spoil that result, we/they lost the match 3.5-0.5. I will also reveal that UTA's B-team actually won 1st in the U1800 section. 

Horns Down!!

Normally, the team pairings come out two hours before the round, and the individual pairings one round before. You don't necessarily know individual pairings in advance because someone might sub out. We saw that ASU's A-team had 5 players listed, so someone would sub out. The only question as board 1 was whether I would play a 2300 FM or a near-2300 NM. And understandably, they subbed out their highest-rated player for round 1, thinking that Baylor would be an easy dub. The disrespect!! Just joking. We can trash talk if we beat them

So in round 1, I was paired individually with Lalith Abhilash Redd Mallu (2283 USCF, 2192 FIDE). My teammates, 1700, 1600, and 1300, were paired with players rated 2100, 2000, and 2000 (roughly). Yeah... someone's going to have to step up if we want the round 1 upset!

Why did I lose the game?

Sometimes, when facing a higher-rated player, the game doesn't necessarily come down to one blunder. I remember this game from two years ago when I played an NM (who I believe is FM now, if not higher)... I didn't make any atrocious blunders. I just made small positional mistakes and ended up losing. 

When reviewing this game, I realized it came down to tempi. Notably, 13. Bh2, and 20. Rd4. Those moves in themselves are not worthy of double question marks, in my opinion, but I lost at least a value of two moves, which led me to saddle a worse position. If anything, 23. Ne4 was probably the "game-losing" blunder (because I was lazy lol), but my position was already worse. 

I've realized that usage of tempi is a big difference between players, say under 1400 and over 1700. Lower-rated players will go for superficial "attacks," "plans," etc., that don't have a lot of substance to them. And when it doesn't work, their position deteriorates. Even playing waiting moves that don't hurt your position is better than worsening your position trying to "do something." Chess lesson of the day? Lol.

So... I think I was the first teammate to finish. So we were 0-1. Great start. We finished on 1/4. Our board 2 actually found a nice combination and could have won, but couldn't convert and lost. Our boards 3 and 4 were able to draw 2000 players. I think it's safe to say that we gave ASU a scare. But ultimately, the better team won.

Wow, that was some blog. And apparently, I'm a serious contender for BlogChamps. Wish me luck, lol!

Oh, and let me get you out of here with some photos. The photos are from the PAN AMS website. Scroll down to... uhh... "photos." I do want to shout out CEA (the organizers this year). I don't like to bash previous organizers, but this tournament was way better run than last year. One factor was that there were more individual pictures published. Last year, we didn't get in any pictures. They focused on the higher-rated players (as they should). This year, our team is in several photos (as seen on the thumbnail). So... enjoy, and check the link for more photos!

Benjamin Bok was here! I actually passed by him on the way to the restroom round 1. It was... a feeling! :)

So was Akobian. He was a coach, not a player lol

Hello to all, and welcome to my blog! Visit my profile for more info about myself!


(more description here coming soon)