Playing for #1

GM KaydenTroffChess

The US Championship has been going on for the last couple of weeks; twenty-four players playing for #1 which was reduced to 4 after the first 7 rounds.  And then 2 after Onischuk declined the draw on move 41...Ne4 and ended up losing, and Nakamura was in a worse position and played 23...Rh2?? (he lost shortly after).  This past weekend, I had my own tournament for number one; not nearly as impressive as number one in the country, but I was playing for number one in my state.

Last weekend I went to Moab, Utah to play Utah's highest rated active chess player.  His name is Harold Stevens and he is a guy that lives in Moab.  Harold had been playing chess for many years, but hadn't played any rated games until recently.  How was Harold discovered?  The people in Moab are always looking for more people to be in their chess club.  Harold hangs around town and his chess abilities were discovered.  Damian Nash who was the highest rated active player in Moab played Harold and figured out that he has some talent.  Damian later set up some tournaments to get Harold a rating.  Harold played 30+ standard games and had only one draw (all the others were wins) and ended with a 2348 rating once he came out of his provisionals. 

Now considering that I was the highest rated active player in Utah, I had lots of people telling me that I should play him, and having my title of "Highest Rated Active Player in Utah" taken away, I admit that I was interested in meeting him and maybe playing some games.  Damian contacted us to see if we wanted to come down to Moab to play in a tournament with Harold and a few other high rated players.  We talked about it and agreed to come down and play.

We got down there and I have to confess that I was a little concerned.  I have not met a lot of homeless people and I was not sure what to expect.  My dad did say Harold had been fasting for two weeks (drinking only soda) and I was hoping he wasn't crazy.  But he was very nice and not crazy (thank goodness).

We had planned on two games with Harold on Friday and two games with Stephen Gordon (another top Utah player) on Saturday.  That didn't happen. Harold decided that he didn't want to play two games on Friday, because he was a little weak from fasting (who can blame him?).  We had planned on leaving early on Sunday, so it didn't really matter because we thought we could just put one more round on Saturday.

So we (my dad, Damian, and I) went back to Damian's house to go swimming.  Damian has a cool and very interesting swimming pool.  His pool was made from an old windmill and a water tank.  The pool was on the second floor, with a patio area on the first floor and then the crow's nest where you can just go look all around.  It was a cool (both figuratively and literally as they pump their water from their well), interesting and a fun experience.

After we were done swimming, we went back to the library (that is where we were playing) so Harold and I could play our first game.  It was a good game, I was black and we went into the Maroczy bind (I hope I spelled that correctly) but in the end I won.  Damian told me that Harold has an amazing memory and he can remember every game he has played or book he has read, but what he is missing out on is experience.

IM Daniel Rensch and I just recently had a conversation about what helped him the most to get to IM.  He said some other stuff, but at the end he put: "Experience is the key" and this was my reply:

"Hi Danny,
I agree some with what you are saying, but I am not sure if I think experience is the key.  I know a few people that play in tons of tournaments; I would say they have the experience.  But I think it is not having the experience, it is learning from the experience.  You can have the key, but if you don't have a door to use it on what is the point.  And if you have the key and choose to never use it on the door it goes to, you might as well throw it away.  I think you need to have the key and use it on the door to learn new things. 

Having the experience is one step or putting the key in the lock.  Learning from the experience is turning the key and then when you use the things you learned, that is opening the door.  I think the whole thing might be the key and with out one you can't open the door.

Thanks for talking with me,   Kayden"

He sent me a reply agreeing with me and telling me to not over think it, and in the end we both agreed that experience is the key.

Back to the subject!  Next day I was not feeling well (all stuffed up with either allergies or a cold), but I still played.   I ended playing an extra game with Harold on Saturday which won’t count in the actual tournament.  He seemed to be playing better, probably because he had broken his fast.  He could have had three fold-repetition but didn't go for it because he was better, and unfortunately for him ended up losing.  In that game his king was in the center, but was protected nicely.  He played this one move that looked good at first, but... looks can be deceiving.  In the third game we got in an endgame where he had two Bishops for a Rook, but I was holding him back.  He ended up going for the win, but I got counterplay with a passed pawn and won.

The tournament is ongoing and I still have to play Stephen Gordon two games. Wish me luck!!

I have learned a lot from this whole experience.  The moral of the story is: there are lots of different kinds of people in this world with lots of different life experiences.  Harold Stevens is a good player and a nice person, and I am glad that I had a chance to meet him.  Or maybe the moral of the story is: don’t fast for two weeks before playing in a chess tournament Smile.

Here is the answer to last week's blog puzzle (what PurplePuppy said about zugzwang was correct):


And here is my third game against Harold Stevens: