Chess: The Best Birthday Present
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Chess: The Best Birthday Present

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What’s the best birthday present? Money? Classic gifts, like a cake or a card? Perhaps some fancy clothes? One of those options may be acceptable for boring, normal people, but for us cool people diagnosed with Chess Addiction― an incredibly serious affliction that’s nearly incurable,  but luckily rarely fatal― the best birthday present that one can receive is the glorious opportunity to stress yourself out over rating points and potential prizes at an OTB tournament for a weekend. And on the weekend of my 14th birthday, I got that chance to participate in my very first OTB tournament! 

One of the  main ways to obtain such a glorious opportunity is to constantly scour the USCF tournaments page to discover potential tournament opportunities. After I found a suitable option, I made an expert pitch to my parents to participate (Or if you're old enough, you can register to compete in tournaments yourself). I found a tournament in Milpitas called the San Jose Chess Club Fall Championship, organized by ― you’ll never guess ― the San Jose Chess Club. But since I’m not local to the area, not only did I have to pitch my parents to register for the tournament, I also had to convince them to travel and rent a hotel for the weekend in order to participate, which would be an added expense. But since my pitches are extremely convincing, and my parents are awesome, we agreed to plan this tournament as a birthday present, since the tournament was on September 25-26, and my birthday would fall  on the first day of the tournament. I would play in the U1500 section, also known as  the “Booster” Section. (The other sections were called “Reserve” and “Open.”)

Day 1:

The night before the tournament, I was so excited that I only got five hours of sleep! Since I live two hours away, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. so we could arrive at the hotel that the tournament was being held at with time to spare. But despite these factors, I was positively giddy, and honestly had too much energy! Luckily, I was able to calm down and compose myself in time for the 1st round, against an 1136-rated player, the second-highest rated player in my division.

Crazy position, can you find the equalizing shot that I missed?

I missed this, but there were still plot twists to come!

What a game! I couldn’t have picked a more exciting way to begin my OTB career! My opponent left in frustration after that game, but we had an extremely pleasant analysis session before Round 2 (Stockfish-backed, as we inserted the game into analysis almost immediately after we finished our game), and we were both excited when we discovered that Rxd5!! was sound. We became friends on later.

For Round 2, I was paired with an adult for the only time in the tournament, and although he was one of the highest rated players in the event, I felt confident that I could get another win, and I was already beginning to fantasize about prize money. But if I could pull off a win at this match, those fantasies would become closer to reality.

Well, ouch. That was just awful. Not much to say, there rarely is when you hang a piece and lose in 20 moves. Shall we move on to the next round?

I was so glad when Round 3 came, because my second game was one of the first games to finish, and I was pretty bored and annoyed with myself for over two hours while waiting to play another match. Going into Round 3, I just hoped to play a decent game and finish the day with a win… Let's see how that hope turned out! 

Well, aside from the horrible double blindness in the opening, I cleanly outplayed my opponent, and it was a very satisfying game! After the game, we ate an amazing birthday dinner at a nearby restaurant;I really enjoyed myself, and was ready for the next day!

Day 2:

After chatting and watching some people play blitz on the computers in the lobby that morning, Round 4 was soon upon us. I was very excited, because if I won at least one more game,  I would be a serious contender for some prize money! But my opponent was the highest seed, so I was determined to not get ahead of myself.

Pardon the self-back-patting, but I was proud of my tactical awareness there, because I was going to play Nxd5 before I stopped to check for tactics, and although the checkmate wasn’t the fastest, by that time, the game was over.

For Round 5, I hoped to end on a good note, but I also had prize money at the back of my mind, so I was doubly motivated to win.

That was a great way to end the tournament, with a 98% accuracy game where I was never in trouble and stayed tactically alert.

With a 4/5 result, my rating jumped to 1270, the highest post-event rating of anyone in the tournament. I tied for second place with my Round 1 opponent, and we split the second and third place prizes for $225! So instead of being given birthday money like a mere amateur (or me at every other birthday, lol), I earned it, and had fun while doing it! Not to mention that I won  way more money than the average birthday money that I was accustomed to receiving! In all seriousness though, I was truly blessed to be able to experience this exceedingly rare opportunity of  winning money at an OTB tournament, and doing so on my birthday! The fact that this was my first tournament was the cherry on top! Did I mention that my parents are awesome?

“I am Alphaous’s mom, and I approve this message.”