Playing the Whale: Seattle Chess Classic Rounds 2-3
Photo is of the beginning of a 5 board bughouse game. Joseph’s taking the picture, so you can’t see his board. Photo Credit: RAR Master
[Since I’m paid the same amount every week, I like it when Joseph doesn’t make more blogs, and I’ve been able to convince my boss to stop writing blogs for a long time. It was to my dismay when today he decided to contribute back to the chess community. I tried, but there was no stopping him. I had to waste 3 hours putting together this blog, which, still, he gets to claim that he wrote. How unfair!]- editor
Its been a while, so unfortunately I don’t remember everything that happened on this day of the event. Some quotes and facts might have been altered, and the truth will be quite hard to find. Only the most intelligent of us will be able to filter out what is lying and what is the truth.- the editor as Joseph
“RAR, RAR, RAR, RAR!” I still remember the loud and ear-breaking noises that came from several prodigies at this event. And to think that it was more than a month ago is amazing. It feels like it happened just 48 days ago.
Indeed the day was August 17th, 2017. For those of you who don’t remember, which might be all of you since you must be out of your minds if you’re reading this, I was playing in the Seattle Chess Classic, a 9 round event with a high prize fund and an even higher entry fee (at least it felt that way, I had to pay the $200 myself). In round 1, I had lost to the evil Daniel He, whom, propelled by this amazing victory, went on to tie for 2nd, make over $500, break 2300, retire from competitive chess, get accepted into some “good” college, and get a high paying job (in the future). Players that beat me are often successful in life, almost as much as I am.
I was very annoyed to see Daniel finally become a truly happy person, and I really wanted to stop that from happening to anyone else. That night, after a ride home another player who offered me rides each day, (Thanks a lot! I know you’re reading this Alex!) I was determined not to lose another game, and to come back stronger than ever.
And after what seemed to be several hours, I finally got to bed.
“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP”, The clock said to me. It was 7am, much too early for me to be awake.
“Be quiet, I’m just getting up”, I told the clock. “Show some compassion, or else it wasn’t worth spending $10 buying you at Goodwill”.
“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP”, the clock barked back. How unemotional and uncaring! I fumbled and pressed every button I could feel. Finally one of them turned it off.
Yes! I didn’t need to leave the house until 9:30am, so I can get more sleep,
10 minutes later though, the alarm rang once more (Some “snooze” setting). I knew then that getting more rest would have been impossible, so I rolled out of bed.
As the normal teenager does these days, the first I did when I woke up was check my iPad. First, I responded to all my fan mail on chess.com (well, half of the people I ban since they sent me hate mail, but you get the point), then reply to any comments left on anything I posted (negative comments deleted, positive ones praised). Then I checked my email, and I noticed an email titled “Pairings: Round 2”. I found that I would be playing Anshul Ahluwalia. I remember him.
I had an online match with him once that I didn’t win, which is of course unthinkable. Also, in the comments to this post by my biggest fan, in which players gave tips on how to avoid playing the invincible me, he said: “What you could do is be paired against him and beat him!”, referring to me.
I said in reply: “You're the last one who should be saying that, as you are the biggest victim of my RAR attacks”, since I’d beaten him in both our previous encounters. Still, I wouldn’t have minded getting another win.
Since I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of not losing to me, I decided to do what was once unthinkable: Prepare for a specific opponent. Being that I would play Black, I prepared my Slav lines. Anshul usually plays 4.Qc2 in the Slav, a mediocre line, so I didn’t prepare it, instead figuring he had moved on to playing better moves. I read GM Repertoire: The Slav on the bus ride on my iPad, and was excited to get a likely win.
When I arrived at the chess club, I saw a player who claimed that my chess.com account had been closed for some reason. I asked him why, and I double checked to make sure my chess.com account was open, and sure enough it still was. He said that I had spammed chess.com, leading to my account closure. This didn’t make any sense. I intimidate chess.com, and I don’t spam anyways (except if you count these extremely long blog posts as spam).
I was also asked about my round 1 game. I told them it was a Swiss Gambit. The Swiss gambit is basically losing a game in the hope of getting paired against easier players later on. They all understood, and quickly realized how lucky Daniel He had been.
“Every game that I don’t win in this is a Swiss gambit, or sandbagging, and all my losses are intentional”. Saying this pretty much gave my rivals nothing to criticize my chess skill by.
After some more small conversations with my fans, I entered the playing room and seated myself at the board. Not too much longer my rival Anshul Ahlu-whale-ia came. He had brought his name card with him, prompting me to look for mine, (everyone was provided with one) but I wasn’t able to find mine for some unknown reason.
“I don’t need one though, I’m already so famous”, I said after giving up the search. “Since I’m a celebrity, someone must have stolen it from me to keep as a souvenir. That’s fine, these kinds of things happen, people loving robbing my stuff”.
Anshul laughed a lot when I said this, as well as some other nearby players. But I knew that his smile would be gone after this game, if everything went to plan. So after a typical “Good Luck, except if you play me!”, I started the clock and the game began.
So, this game was OK I guess. Some room for improvement, but I’d played solidly, with no blunders.
After the game I questioned some of his decisions, no, all of them, including showing up, and he said that he messed up a lot because he was low on time. Fair enough. If only all of my opponents did that!
My game ended early relative to the other games, so I waited in the skittles room for other prodigies to finish their games. I offered to show my one win from the tournament, since I obviously wasn’t going to show my loss. But no one was interested. Instead, I was interviewed, had photos taken with me and posted all over the Internet, and hung out with guys like Garry KaspRARov.
Many of the world’s elite came between the rounds to hang out with me, but to be honest, it got kind of boring. All they wanted to talk about was chess, and they keep bragging about their 50 move deep preparations, and they continually asked for my autograph.
Doing that type of stuff can get boring pretty quickly, so I was happy when the games from the round were over. Now we were able to be as loud as we wanted in the playing rooms and could play bughouse, which always gets loud. At first it started typical. My team won 80% of the time since I was the highest rated player, and everyone fought to be my teammate. But eventually, things started getting out of hand.
As I mentioned at the beginning, my friends all started saying RAR! The new movement that I started a year ago has now become commonplace, and no one even dares to ask “What is RAR?” anymore since they know they’d get a reaction they wouldn’t want (normally, everyone will scream “RAR” back at you if you ask what it is).
The RARers were quite loud, but luckily the door was closed and the main tournament room was a whole hallway away, so no one complained. I had realized that my own movement was in a way, getting out of control.
There’s always some controversy in bughouse, which I suppose, is what makes it fun and makes you remember what’s going on. Occasionally players who are “out” in bughouse (losers are kicked out and rotated while winners can keep playing) cause trouble. One of them, the evil Kabir, kept turning off the lights. This got so annoying that I figured that I had to lock him out. Unfortunately, I ended up not thinking and I locked myself out as well. I knocked on the door, asking everyone else to let me back in, but they laughed a while before doing so.
As the hours went by, we gained more popularity, and soon we had enough players for 2 separate games of bughouse. Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea, 8 player bughouse, 4 players on each side! There will be an infinite amount of pieces! So we did it, 4 board and 5 board bughouse was played. However, there was a significant amount of cheating. After a game ended, when rearranging for the next game, it was often found that there were extra pieces. This was because someone had snuck some pieces from another set onto the game.
Sometimes players would push clocks when it wasn’t their turn, and watch their opponent’s times tick down, while they would say that their opponents forgot to push their clocks.
An even funnier case was when a player, needing a knight to continue his attack, reached over and took the knight from his opponent!
Playes often got upset at each other since there were arguments over who needed a knight more, board 1, 3, or 5? This burned a lot of time and probably costed some games. It even got a little too crazy for me eventually, so I let someone take my place, and I recorded and took pictures of the whole mess. (One of the videos was screenshotted to produce the cover picture).
Some good people complained that the cheating was making the game less fun and it was unethical. "Since when was that a problem?”, I told them. They promptly left.
The madness and hours of bughouse didn’t stop until we intimidated the tournament director into making pairings for the next round. I was paired against “the Whale”, as he is often referred to- a once 1500 player that started playing at Expert or Class A strength.
At first, we thought that he was a cheater (I love accusing all improving players of doing this). He did go to the bathroom during his turn (If you don’t want people to think you’re cheating, don’t do this!) and he had scored a victory against a 2200. The tournament director was summoned during the next round and he watched to see if anything suspicious was happening. Nothing appeared suspicious, but once the Whale got up to leave for the bathroom 3 of us followed him. Suddenly, I had a good idea. I ran to the bathroom, and held the door shut. He was unable to use the bathroom, until he left and I opened the door, laughing. However, he wasn’t cheating, he had somehow improved at chess legitimately, something me and my fellow RARers still fail to comprehend.
Back to the present, now I have to play him! I felt like I’d lose, he had upsetted Naomi Bashkansky, a prodigy expert in the first round, and even though I knew he wasn’t a cheater I was still unnerved. That, and my general uncaring attitude toward my games, lead to the following:
(The game is so bad I can't review it much. It's just awful.)
I’m still disappointed with myself for this loss, as I am with all my losses. Like my round 1 exchange sacrifice, this really didn’t make any sense, and I deserved to lose. Simply put, I wasn’t putting in expert level play, and as a result I wasn’t getting expert level results.
I know many players, once breaking a rating barrier (for me, 2000) or after a few great events, plunge 100+ points as they try to discover and fix their weaknesses before coming back stronger than ever. Would this be the case with me? Maybe I hadn’t studied enough. Maybe my opening prep wasn’t good enough. Or maybe I simply wasn’t good enough. A loss can easily bring such negative feelings, especially as you see prodigies and players you once thought yourself to be better than playing much better than you.
But I knew that this wasn’t the end. I had 6 more rounds to go, and could improve. I could still redeem myself, I’d get to prove myself against more lower rated competition, and after all, it’s just one event. My whole career doesn’t rely on one tournament, right?
But the losses were still painful, and it was a huge struggle to even write about this, I certainly was embarrassed of some of my games from this event.
My dad even told me that it would have been fine if I had withdrawn since I’d been doing so badly, but I knew I shouldn’t, and that chess tournaments aren’t all about the results, it’s about having fun, right? So the next day, when I saw I was playing “the prodigy”, Advaith V-longlastname, I was confident that the worst of the event was over.
And so, Day 3 began.