GargleBlaster's Guide to Chess Mastery: Purgatory in Portland

Hello.  This blog entry is dedicated to all those out there above 2100 without a title.   Let me say first and foremost that such players are treated with nowhere near the respect they should command.  In general their ideas are scorned, opinions mocked, accomplishments ignored, pants wedgied, and all because their rating might be a few points off from 2200, a completely arbitrary measuring stick.  Trust me on this - I know, for I have long labored among these wretched souls in Caissa's most apathetic realm of purgatory.

That said, in 2010 I decided that, being fairly well into my 30's, I should try and make master before senility took over completely.  To this end I began playing in larger tournaments than my local club (detailed in my previous chapter, "Chess in the Middle of Nowhere"), starting with the Western States Open in Reno and then several events in the United Kingdom.   Actually, most of these experiences I've actually already extensively blogged about (though, again, in untitled obscurity), so let's fast forward to 2012, year of the GargleBlunder.

Chapter V: Occupy(ing) Portland

By 2012 I had somehow managed to raise my rating to about 2159, where it was when I graduated from High School roughly a billion years ago.  Things were looking up, and I had a plan - invade Portland, win a tournament or two, make Master and, er, OK, I'm not sure what after that, but nevermind, first make Master.   As it turned out, this came close to working right from the get-go after I found myself on something of a winning streak at the 2012 Portland Summer Open.   Little did I know then that I was about to came face to face with my arch-nemesis, a man who would not once, but twice thwart my ambition in the foulest of ways.   His name is Brian Esler, and, to make it worse, he seems like a pretty nice guy. 

OK, so that stung a bit, as winning it would have possibly put me at 2200.  Incidentally, right before the game someone said to me "Hey, you're almost Master.  Wouldn't it be funny if you lost and never got close again?  Heh."  Yes, hilarious.  Anyhow, I would have another shot at glory a few weeks later after having a great result in a local quad (including somehow a win against FM Nick Raptis, arguably the strongest player in Oregon).  All I need to do is win as White against local Expert/former Master David Janniro who, truth be told, is also a nice guy.


The best I can say about that game is that my opponent was kind enough to give me a ride downtown afterwards. So, twice in as many weeks I had knocked on the door to titledom only to be forcefully escorted out by my own stupidity: first by getting into unnecessary time trouble against Esler, and second by moving too quickly vs. Janniro.  Of course, much of chess for most people (and certainly myself) involves oscillating between these two ways to mistreat the clock, so it was hard to conclude much.  Alas, I would soon discover the real truth of the matter, namely that Caissa is a stone cold harpy.

Moving on, I had one more chance at 2200 before the U.S. Open in August (in Vancouver, WA,  ~30 miles from Portland), this time a G/60 tournament where a win in the final round against Nick Raptis would put me over the top.  What happened instead is painfully comical - a winning position followed by a time scramble where my opponent's flag had fallen long before my acceptance of his draw offer.  To be fair, however, this was arguably the least painful of my near misses as my position was probably totally lost at several points during our ill-fated blitzapalooza.


OK, this is enough for one Blog.  Stay tuned for next week when I detail the disaster that was the 2012 U.S. Open.


  • 3 years ago


    Gosh, I hope you make it! Forget about the rating and I'm sure you will!

  • 3 years ago


    Haha fun stuff gargle. Love the humility

  • 3 years ago


    Great games, great commentary, great blog, as always. 

  • 3 years ago


    as always. your blog is entertaining (as well as instructive). i can't vanquished the smile on my face while reading your blog. thanks.

  • 3 years ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Well, I'm probably not unique in playing worse in time pressure, and at any rate avoiding it is often easier said than done (for instance, neither myself nor FM Raptis managed it in that third game).  FWIW, I still feel that, in spite of many mishaps, that it is better for me to overthink than play thoughtlessly.  That said, there are of course times when indecision becomes paralysis and I am psychologically unable to pull the trigger without constant double and triple-checking of every line.  I've come to recognize these moments more and more as being due to a variety of possible factors:

    1) Especially tense situations (final rounds, team matches, playing a GM/IM, being near 2200, etc.)

    2) General lack of confidence

    3) Fear of losing, which I think is often an egoism of sorts

    4) Being enamoured of a fancy/"brilliant" continuation (also an egoism)

    Most of these bugaboos (#4 might be an exception) can be addressed by simply getting over oneself and realizing that it's just a silly game that hopefully on some level is played for enjoyment at least as much as for profit.  The problem is that when one approaches 2200 the fun factor takes a back seat to an absolute goal that can all too easily lead even the most laid-back of players into taking things overly seriously.

    Anyhow, getting back to time management, I think the key knack that must be learned in order to deal best with the clock is to understand when to think and when not.  Certain positions simply demand careful thought, others are more forgiving of second-best continuations.  Having a good feel for how to distinguish between these two situations is one of the hallmarks of a master-strength player.

  • 3 years ago


    "Of course, by step six or so I discovered the truth of the matter, namely that Caissa is a stone cold harpy."


    Someone, obviously a chess player, once wrote on the net, "Chess is hard, real hard, maybe even harder." and I think they too felt Caissa was a bitch.


    "The mature thing to do (and something that is truly the mark of a master strength player) would be to simply accept that I can't mate in three and calmly improve my position."

    Thus, it's clear you haven't quite become a master and you need to learn that thing which you already have mentioned (above).

    Apparently you don't play as well in time pressure and should avoid it to get more consistent results.

  • 3 years ago


    Having had the pleasure of meeting Nick numerous times, the guy is a character, and all around good guy!

  • 3 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    I know players who achieved ratings of USCF 2199, 2198, and 2195 and never made to master.  I suspect the latter two (although below 2150 atm) will make it to NM eventually.

  • 3 years ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Nick was well within his rights to offer a draw with his flag fallen, it's entirely the responsibility of his opponent (me) to notice.

  • 3 years ago


    @EN-johnpeter101 - You have to call your opponent's loss on time.  Mr. Chernoff said he didn't notice.

  • 3 years ago


    Wait one second... Couldnt u tell the ref or someone that he lost on time and that you won? He did offer a draw after the game which i dont think really counts...That Raptis, Nick guy didnt seem to have a lot of sportmanship :/

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