A Quick Adventure in SoFla and My First Score against a Master
After the sixty-five degree weather in NYC in December, I found myself in the Midwest, longing for a return to reasonable temperatures. Since my brother, a poker pro living in South Florida, didn’t have any tournaments and needed a break from the cash grind, I decided to visit him. The trip was well worth it. I went unbeaten in all of my games at the classic time control, I played a hell of a game against a GM –not a simul, mind you–, and I scored for the first time in any control against a National Master, who has also been awarded the Candidate Master certificate. In the classic control, I drew against an 1873 at the South Florida Chess Club (Margate, FL) in a G/85 d5 –the game will be rated at the end of the month, when that tournament is over. After getting a piece ahead, I found myself guilty of the psychological sin of taking the foot off the gas pedal: I allowed my opponent to win the piece back by not paying so close attention on the very next move, and the Q-&-Ps ending was drawn.
At the Central Florida Chess Club, I defeated a strong 700 in the first round, who was probably closer to 1200 strength; I played a 1925 in round two, in which I was always better, but the game ended in a quick draw; and then I experienced my only real disappointment of the trip, I was a piece up against a player rated 1690, but found myself in an ending in which the piece advantage could not win the game, ending in a draw. With numerous performance ratings in the 1800’s and 1900’s in the last few months, I’m expecting a big breakthrough, and not simply cracking 1700 USCF –though that sure would be nice!
The jewel of the trip was the rapid game I played against an excellent player and gentlemen, Gaston Andretta, classically rated around 2230. GM Leonid Yudasin says that psychology is as much and more of a problem for me than my lack of experience and holes in my chess knowledge, and maybe this game is evidence of this, because I played the pieces, not the man, and I kept the foot on the gas (and the mental pressure on, at all times). Before the game, Gaston shared his café Cubano with me, a potent and extraordinarily delicious coffee, and I can’t help but think it helped me. Maybe I’m being psychological again, but the effect felt similar to drinking down two venti Pikes in under five minutes –yes, I’ve done that.
I spent a little while analyzing the ending with GM Miroslav Miljkovic, and it’s quite a puzzle. Black stands better, without a doubt, but the winning chances seem much greater than they appeared to me during the game. In fact, after about an hour of analysis so far, we have not found how white holds –though we suspect white holds just fine. This is probably an example of one of those endings that is extremely difficult to hold in practical play, despite being theoretically drawn. Despite my ability to outplay most players U2000 in endings, I still suspect I would not have been able to play optimally enough to give CM Andretta the problems that GM Miljkovic and I found in the analysis.
To close and for fun, I include the position from my blitz game against GM Sandro Pozo Vera. The position came out of the Dutch, and, yes, I attacked the GM hard, though no attack ever developed; a chuckle-worthy instance of futility. To my surprise, the game was materially even for 26 moves, though GM Pozo Vera said 29… maybe to make me feel even better, and I even got up the exchange on move 27, before facing mate a few moves later. He said I was only positionally crushed at move 25, having some chance at life before that. If the game only went 30 moves or so, that means I was probably crushed closer to move 20, but I’m not going to split hairs over when I should have resigned but wasn’t good enough to realize that I should have. Here’s the position before I met my end. White to move.