Odd pairings, odd game: Seattle Chess Classic Round 1

Odd pairings, odd game: Seattle Chess Classic Round 1

NM Joseph_Truelson

[Everyone that played in the Seattle Chess Classic is looking at the camera. But where is Joseph? He's the one everyone is starting at. As you can see, some people are happy about this, and others are not. Still, it shows how famous and well-known Joseph is, whenever he enters a room everyone has to acknowledge his presence. Joseph's opponent in this game is the one farthest to the left, in a red shirt, and smiling, which he never stops doing- editor]

This blog starts by being fake-dramatic during the last round of the tournament 

Why had I underestimated this master? Didn't I have a good position half an hour ago? I stared sadly at the poor placement of my pieces, doom, death, and destruction for my king certain to occur. (A lot of alliterations) The whole tournament flashed before my eyes. All the bad moves, "brilliancies", water fights, and sandbagging attempts had led to this moment. The consequences of my nonchalance was again showing, and I knew that I would surely lose the game. 

But did I have to resign? A good number of players I've faced never would agree to anything with me. They never agreed that "Joseph is the best", and they'd fight to the end. How many times did I have to checkmate them, with 3 knights or two bishops, one queen or five, and even then they'd take 5 seconds to realize it was actually checkmate. Or when I had played Brendan Zhang, and the 50 move rule was what forced him to accept my never ending draw offers. 

Still, for some reason I never seem to be like those prodigies. Why waste my time when I could spend it with other people? Or yelling at my opponent for beating me? I looked with fury in my eyes at my opponent, the evil master John Doknjas. Then I tipped over my king, smiled, and resigned. 

Now we go back in time again. I'm not sure why Joseph thought this would be a good idea, he said he read some book where they did this and he wanted to try it here as well, but I'm just following orders- editor

Just 5 days earlier though, everything was looking different. I had high and unrealistic hopes of winning the tournament. I'd had an amazing year (chess and non-chess) so far, and with some pretty decent recent performances, was prepared to keep on winning, and this time some money too. 

I'd understood the need to study for the tournament, so I studied more than I ever had before. (Not saying much, but still, I must be doing something!) I attempted to solve as many tactics as I could (on chess.com, lichess.com, the website that keeps lying to you, and chesstempo.com), solved puzzles in some book by some grandmaster named Yusupov, who, according to the back cover of the book, has "won everything there is to win in chess except the World Championship" (isn't that a bad way of praising someone?) and worked really hard on my openings as Black. I decided that unlike my other events, that I was going to play the same openings for a whole tournament, and not make up my openings as I play, which I've been doing for most of this year.

It took a while for me to find an opening I was happy with, however. Because in addition to the opening being fully sound, I wanted my opening to be something that my opponents hadn't prepared extensively. Against 1.e4, I found my choice to not be very difficult- play the Caro-Kann! RookSacrifice, or Samuel, however you prefer to call him (he never does RookSacrifices, so Samuel is more appropriate) loves to play the Caro-Kann, and somehow gets good positions. Inspired by this lower rated player (I'm tired of GMs, lower rated players are my real inspiration to get better), I decided to play the Caro Kann. 

Against 1.d4 though, I struggled a while. At first I was going to play the Grunfeld since it's completely sound, but there are tons of sidelines for white, and in my opinion probably the most theory intensive opening, although you need to know ideas, theory and variations are more important. Same problem with the King's Indian. I didn't want to play against the Catalan, since I like playing that as White, so in the end I decided to play the Slav. In my pre-1600 days, I used to play this, and while I was a little concerned about my winning chances in the Slav exchange, I decided to go for it.

So, after some good opening preparation, and hoping I'd learned a lot from my 1-2 hours a day on chess, I felt confident and ready to beat a lower rated player in the 1st round of this event. I was ranked something like 25 out of 55 players, so it was obvious that I'd play down. 

Saying my goodbyes to my family, I left my house to take the bus to the tournament. I ended up missing it, since I thought I was supposed to pick it up at a different location, so I had to wait half an hour for my next bus. I was a little disappointed, so I was hoping to come early to the tournament. Now I would come after 6pm (the posted starting time for the 1st round). 

It was announced on the tournament flyer that there was going to be a player's meeting 15 minutes before the 1st round. They were going to take a group photo as well as tell us other regulations. I guess that probably meant no cell phones, you can only use the bathroom after your move, and you can't leave the tournament area during your game. Since it was a FIDE rated tournament, they were going to use the insensible FIDE Laws of chess, which no one knows, since they change every few months. Actually, I wasn't disappointed. I was hoping that I could use the rules to my advantage, or just make a rule up, and have my opponents believe me. Luckily, this caused the event to start a little late.

The group photo wasn't taken before the event, since the photographer who was going to do it couldn't come, so it was taken before the last round.

I rushed in the Seattle chess club a little after 6pm, concerned about losing a few minutes off my clock, since I'm always up on time against my opponents, and ran into the tournament room before checking the pairings.

"Hi Joseph!", VigorousViggy exclaimed as I entered. The previous day, I'd gone to his birthday and had a blast. We had fun playing bughouse (and cheating, of course as well), playing 4 Square (and cheating in that as well), and eating anything we could find.

Many other players were excited to see me as well, and I could see that chess players were finally happy that they came. Sad kids, forced by their parents to play, were finally realizing that their parents had done something right. But before I could talk to them more, I decided I should check the pairings.

The pairings themselves were a shocker. I was paired against Phiona Mutesi, who was featured in a recent movie (Queen of Katwe). I found it nice that I'd get to play someone almost as famous as me, and seeing that she hadn't showed up yet, I wasted no time in starting her clock. Maybe, if I beat her, I'll get worldwide recognition like she did, I thought. But then, I made a horrendous blunder. I left the tournament room to talk to people. After waiting in the skittles room for a while, talking to anyone who came in (after I started talking, everyone seemed to leave quickly, odd) I ran into Daniel He (not literally, although maybe I should have), a strong master. From what I know, you can call any GM a strong GM, so I assume the same applies to master.

He was waiting for his opponent as well. I had no problems with a forfeit win, but it appeared he did.

"I just want to get a game", he told me, smiling sinisterly (he is always smiling). 

Unlike me, he hadn't came here to win, instead he had came because he enjoyed playing chess. I tried arguing with him that it's much better to win by forfeit than to lose, but he wasn't buying it. After a while, to my bad luck, news got out that the Tournament Director had paired players that had withdrawn from the event, and that included Phiona Mutesi and Daniel's opponent. 

So what would that mean? After some fierce arguing, it was determined that Daniel and I would have to play each other. 

Daniel kept smiling. As I complained about having to play against a master, he again said something about "just wanting to get a game". Initially, I was hoping that we'd get double wins for the tournament, and that this game was rated but didn't count for the tournament. But the WCF as well as the TD don't like me (and yes, they do have good reason), so the game would count for the tournament as well. 

Thus, the pairings looked a little weird. 1900s were playing down, but here a 2000 player was forced to play up. 

And even though Daniel had said he didn't care if he lost or won, he nevertheless tried his hardest to beat me. 

After every game I play, I usually try to pick up a few ideas of what I did wrong and how I should improve. I guess a few things from this game would be:

1. Calculating more variations. I've always been a lazy chess player, and only calculating when "I need to". I rely heavily on my intuition, which although is pretty decent, isn't enough. I've been having this problem for a long time and need to work on that. In this game, missing that Qxc3 actually worked was a key error.

2. Focusing. This is sort of similar to above, but I don't tend to care enough about my games. I leave the board after most moves, and I don't try hard enough to ensure that my moves are the best ones. If I did, I might be a better player...

3. Openings as White. This will become clearer as the tournament goes on. My opening preparation as Black was surprisingly good, I got 3/4 with Black, but when playing White I'd either be reckless or simply mess up in the opening. I thought it was only important to study your openings as Black, and with White you can just wing it, but that was incorrect. The one game I did win as white was one of the luckiest games in my life

4. I'm tired of saying my faults, so let's move on. 

After the tournament, I contacted him on chess.com. He had went to Rochester, New York for college, and on his chess.com profile said that he was "retired from tournament chess".


And his reply was quite insulting.


So I warn you, you may see this smiling master from time to time, but in reality he is a cold person who beats players and then retires from tournament chess. 

Round 1 was over. I had failed- and drastically. But that was expected. I realized that this loss could be viewed as a "Swiss Gambit"! The Swiss gambit is a concept that by losing the 1st round, you'll get easier pairings, and thus better chances to win a prize. So while I wasn't very disappointed, I still should have put a better fight so I could have learned more from this game. 

But would I find myself, and come back from this defeat? Would I prevent the flaws in my play and by solving them make less mistakes? Find that out... when I'm ready to write again.