Weekend Mood Swing


More travails of a (wanna-be) improving chess player...

WARNING: This is an overly long post which contains a journal of my OTB tournament experience last weekend. There is little "chess content" --- it's mostly about my mood during the weekend. So, I've included a "mood barometer" which gives my current mood on an A to F grade (A = great mood, F = everything stinks).
Maybe you can relate to some of my emotions. If not, then you can have a chuckle at my expense Cool

Last weekend was an OTB tournament in a city 4 hours away. Scheduled for 5 rounds, with time limits of G150 d5 (except first round is G75 d5).

Friday 7:00 am

Off to work.  Planning on taking the afternoon off (if possible) to leave for chess tournament.  It will be a 3-4 hour drive. I haven’t packed yet for the trip. Too many worries at work.  Oddly, not really excited about the tournament.  Mood: C-


Friday 11:30 am

Presentation at work went exceptionally well.  My spirits are lifted. Can now head home and pack to leave.  Mood: A-


Friday 1:00 pm

On the road with my wife.  She tries to go with me on overnight trips for tournaments. She’ll spend most of the weekend reading. It works for her, and it’s nice to have the company.  It’s chilly (for this part of the world) and a light rain falling.  The drive is long and tiring.  Mood: B-


Friday 5:00 pm

Arrive at hotel.  It’s located in a really inconvenient location for rush hour traffic. Get checked in and start to think about dinner. Mood: B


Friday 6:00 pm

We go out for dinner. We find a restaurant that we both enjoy. The service is excellent as is the food.  I’m full and satisfied. Mood: A


Saturday 8:30 am

Discover that the tournament will be lightly attended.  In fact, we have a total of 5 participants. And it was announced as a five round tourney. Perfect!  It has become a round robin J  I’ve met all the other players before, and I’ve played 2 of them in a previous tournament. Out of the 5 players, my rating has me in the 4th position, but  I’m within 200 rating points of everyone.


Now it’s time for my pre-game jitters.  The thought enters my head: “You could lose every game.”  I slap myself (not literally!) and try to focus.  The jitters have me in a fouler mood.  Mood: C


Saturday 10:00 am

My first game is against an opponent rated 100 points higher.  We are about through the opening, when I miss yet another tactical shot and lose the exchange.  Mood: D


Saturday 11:00 am

Having lost the exchange I succeed in keeping the position a bit complicated. I start to see some chances because the opponent’s king has a small vulnerability.  I play Ng5 just to put some pressure on the kingside.  And I know that he can’t chase the knight with f6 because that will give me a mate in 4.  After spending very little time, he reaches out and plays …. f6.  The adrenaline is pumping now. I take a breath and go through the calculations another dozen times.  Yes.  I have a forced win. Qd5+ and it’s mate a few moves later.  Mood: A+


Saturday 1:00 pm

The second round starts.  This opponent is rated 200 points below me, but I’m nervous. Heck, I’m nervous against anyone.  I figure that if he is higher rated then he’ll beat me, but if he’s lower rated I’m afraid of an upset.  The game starts off simply, and I get a comfortable position easily, but I’m struggling to find any real advantage. Mood: B+


Saturday 3:00 pm

After spending considerable time before making one move, I start down a path that will lead to lots of exchanges, but by my calculations, I’ll come out with a much superior position.  After the exchanges start, I realize that I missed something.  My rook isn’t going to be where I had visualized it, and I’m going to have trouble holding all my pawns.  Mood: C


Saturday 4:00 pm

After making what in hindsight was a really poor move, I’m now in what has to be a losing position.  I’ve lost one pawn, and about to lose another. My opponent will be up two pawns. That’s bad. The fact that they are connected passed pawns is horrible! We each have a rook and an minor piece and I continue to play on hoping that I can get him to tangle his pieces up so I can pick off a pawn.  Mood:  C-


Saturday 4:30 pm

Turns out that I’m better in end game positions than my opponent.  I finally maneuver (and he helps out!) so that I can grab one of his pawns. Then he slips up and I can exchange pieces and pick off his other passed pawn.  That leaves us each with a rook and three pawns in a dead-even drawn game. We agree to a draw.  I feel lucky to escape with a half point; but it’s not very satisfying.  Mood: C


Saturday 6:00 pm

Round three. My opponent is rated 200 points higher than me, but I’ve beaten him in the past. He opens with the French, and I decide to play the KIA and managed to get confused and play 2. Nf3 --- to realize that I can’t really play the KIA anymore.  Soooo, I decide to play what must be a variation of the Exchange Variation. No theoretical knowledge about any of this. But I come out of the opening in fine shape.  Turns out that my opponent plays nothing but the French and has done this for decades. But at the time I didn’t understand how it was that I had used 40 minutes to make the first 15 moves and he was playing at blitz speeds, using only 5 minutes. Now I know.  I start to exchange the heavy  artillery to minimize his attacking chances, but then my pawn structure is vulnerable and I begin to fear that I won’t be able to hold everything together.   I’m getting tired. Mood: C


Saturday 9:00 pm

Three hours into the game, and I’m in trouble but it’s going to be a hard win for him. I have a pawn that is lost (and when it falls he has a passed pawn), but I’m fighting a guerilla war now, trying to pick off his other pawns and harass his King.  I’m definitely tired (at some point, I think I hallucinated briefly --- note to self:  knights can not, ever, move diagonally!).  My evaluation of the position is that I am lost, but I have a glimmer of hope because there is a chance that I can get a passer. In any case, I am thoroughly enjoying the fight! Each move it’s the same objective:  find the best move possible in a reasonable amount of time.  Mood: B+


Saturday 10:30 pm

I play my “Alamo” move.  (Alamo = last ditch defense) Turns out that things weren’t as desperate as I thought, but I have cast the die.  I try another cute trick, but my opponent is not falling for it. I have chased his King from the King side across the board, around his pawns and into the middle of the action on c4, but I can’t get to it. Nothing left to do but try to bust one of my pawns free.  But, it won’t work --- and after he delivers a couple of checks I get skewered and lose a piece. Game over.  It was a hard fought game. I lost, but I’m proud of my effort. I never gave up, and I kept trying to find the best move.  I’ll count this as a moral victory. Mood: A-


Saturday 11:00 pm

Now hunger has set in, and I’m out trying to find something to eat.  I’ll be getting to sleep way too late, and the adrenaline won’t let me get to sleep easily.  But, each of the three games today has been fun. Chess is fun!  Mood: A


Sunday 9:00 am

Time for my fourth and final game. My opponent is rated 100 points higher and this time I play the Pirc (my standard reply to 1. e4).  He begins to play an aggressive line, where he castles queen side and starts an early king side attack with h4.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned from games like this it’s to not panic when someone starts rolling pawns at you. Especially if you have enough resources available. Oh yeah, also don’t be afraid to start pushing your pawns toward his king!


Things begin to settle down and he makes a questionable move.  I’m sure that I have a clear advantage. Probably a winning advantage. But I don’t find the right way to press the advantage. And did I mention that I’m tired???  It must be poor etiquette to be continually yawning during a chess game!


I see what I think is the right plan, but he stops me more or less cold. We exchange rooks and I think I’m still ahead but I have zero idea how to convert the position into a win. We agree to a draw (Sorry, Dan!  I was tired and dreading the 4 hour drive home. So I decided to not learn anything more from this game.)  With my growing fatigue, I’m pleased that I played what I thought was a pretty solid game.  Mood: B


Sunday 1:00 pm

I get to spend a few minutes with a couple of the guys just chatting, which is really enjoyable.  I always like to talk to the other players and just visit. Then it’s time to head home.  Mood: A


Sunday 4:00 pm

My wife has to drive the last hour of the trip home. I’m drowsy. Mood: zzzzzzzzzz


Sunday 7:00 pm

We arrive safely at home, get supper and then I start going over my games. I’m greatly discouraged as in each game I see that I missed several important things.  I actually have begun dreading going over my games after a tournament. The computer exposes all my flaws.  Mood:  D-


Monday 7:00 am

Getting ready to go off to work.  A good night’s sleep has corrected my myopic outlook from the previous evening.  I realize that, yes, I made several mistakes in my games. But each of the four games was an entertaining battle.  And …. I had fun!!!  So, now I’m already lamenting the fact that I won’t be able to make any OTB tournaments for at least a month.  So, I’ll have to wait before I can go through all of these mood swings again --- lol.