A Return to OTB .. or God Help Me! What am I Thinking
A return to the game.
Against my better judgement, I’ve decided to chronicle my return to OTB play. Not having played more than two OTB games in the last 25 years, I believe qualifies as saying I haven’t play OTB in 25 years.
My last game was against one of my favorite opponents. His first name was Welsh and he shared the same last name as my maternal grandfather. My grandfather came to America as an immigrant from Wales in 1905. So the irony of playing Welsh repeatedly over the years was not lost on me.
The first time Welsh faced me, he was rated about 500 points (USCF as an A flight) higher than me. He greeted me with disdain, booted his rook about 18 moves in and complained bitterly about losing rating points to an idiot like me. At our second meeting, he began by greeting me with a warning that I wouldn’t be lucky this time, he was now about 300 points higher than me. When he was mated in 35 moves, he snarled and stormed away. Our next meeting, he was still 300 points higher than me but he greeted me by saying, “My arch nemesis! We battle again.” I confess, I was becoming fond of him, also.
My play was so irregular back then. I might beat an expert and lose to someone rated 500 points below me. My lack of tactical skill was maddening and I realized that I would never be willing to memorize openings to 15 and 20 moves deep. I remembered playing a Lopez against a high rated expert and when I played my 20th move he said, “Ah, finally, something out of opening book.” I had been out of my opening book for 15 moves at that point.
Anyway, my final meeting against Welsh took place on a Tuesday night. The local club held a seven round Tuesday night tournament. The entire tournament required nearly the whole of the winter to play. Welsh played the black pieces and had a storm of bishop, knight and pawns assailing my castled position. I missed a game winning knight fork and a few moves later I resigned. It was the only game that I recall Welsh being victorious against me. He was delighted beyond reason as I shook his hand. It was the last time I played OTB until now. A few months after his win, I was talking with a local master that I had taken some lessons from and I mentioned Welsh to him. “He died,” Bill said. “He got cancer and died unexpectedly.”
I was glad I’d lost that game.
The first game returning to OTB could have been the beginning and the end. The young man I was playing against was fidgety and inexperienced. If I lost this game, it is doubtful I would have continued. I was so nervous about the game, I actually set the board up with the dark square to the right.
“You know the board is wrong, don’t you?” The young Indian gave me the culturally normal, weak handshake. Two things I hate at once; looking stupid and those annoying handshakes. We reset the board and we were off.
I was glad to get the first one/win under my hands. I wasn’t thrilled that it took 39 moves but I did finish the entire game in 15 minutes, leaving two hours and fifteen minutes to spare on the clock.
At move 14. Ra1d1+ , this was a critical point. I thought I could not survive playing Kf8. That would cramp everything and cost tons of time to remove the blockades. The analysis by stockfish says that it is the better line. But it felt weird. So I played the king up into the badlands and survived.
Okay. So it’s been a month. I’ve just found out that the local city league is “in fact” the oldest in the country. My team captain has the longest continuous team. They lost the first round before I joined up. In the olden time days, I played for the same team and captain for-ever ago . Back in the days when nothing hurt and I was ruggedly handsome. Men admired me and women loved me (to borrow a line) .. Be quiet! This is my story.
So Messr. Shaeffer .. with the look of a crusty sea captain wanders up and extends a thick paw. I liked him immediately. He was wearing a cap with the name of the ship he served on for a decade. Thank God we have men like him and my uncle. They are out there, preserving our freedoms. Naturally, I gave no quarter and none was asked. (I’ve always wanted to say that ... ridiculous .. I know.)
At this point I got up from my seat for the second time. I explained briefly that I need to get something to drink. My opponent had used about one-third of his two-and-a-half hours .. and I had used fifteen minutes.
When I got back to my seat, black resigned.
At move 12. Ng5 Nxe5 ... which I had expected, I saw that if I captured the knight with the d-pawn, he could capture my e-pawn with check and pick up the knight at g5. So I was fully prepared to be even in pawns but up in position, as I did not expect him to capture the bishop back with the king.
Once again, stockfish alerts me that I would have been up by 3+. If I had only looked a little further ahead of that capture. I believe Qa4+ would have returned the favor and won the game.
Isn’t that the story of life though? Don’t we all wish that at some point, that we had just “looked a little further ahead?” Well... not me.. Of course .. I’ve been so crazy fortunate.. Had everything a person could want out of life and a ton more .. Undeservedly blessed beyond all reason. And for those of you out there that might say, “ Well what about your lungs or your eyes or “ blah blah blah blah. I say, “we all get something. If your fortunate enough to live long enough, something you don’t like will eventually kill or maim you or maim and then kill you.” When I see really old, ancient guys out roaming around on a golf course I always look at my companions and say, “I’ll be glad if I’m just not sucking dirt at that age, let alone swinging a club.”
Okay. And maybe if I had known I’d be run over by a car when I was six, I wouldn’t have run out between two cars chasing a cousin playing tag. I’ll never forget the ashen look on my mother’s face when she got to the car and peered under it. Stunned by the impact, I had no idea where I was at the time. I’ve never seen anyone so frightened. How the wheels missed me and how I survived, unscathed, only God and my guardian angel knows. A friend told me once that when I do finally die, I’m going to get a lecture and severe butt kicking several days long about how I over worked my angel. I do apologize to her in advance, but I still think I’ve a terrible ear beating in my future.
Well not quite yet. I’ve a week at least before my next game. I wonder if I’ll be so free an easy to tell the truth when I lose a game. It’s easy to massage your ego when you’re winning, pompous ass that I am. But how will I be when I lose... and certainly at some point I will lose. I do it every day. Practically every moment, we lose something, even if it is just another few moments of our lives. Some dumbass NM left me a comment because I had the audacity to ask why anyone that was not born with great natural talent and time and money for the best teaching, would put out the effort to become a GM; knowing from the start that it is an almost impossible task. His rating on this site is about 2200. He jeered at me telling me how I had wasted another tem minutes of the “last ten years of my life,” for daring to have an opinion. What a complete moron. The funny thing is, I would have gladly complimented him for his own skill and ability, but the difference is, when someone is that low on the scale of human evolution; the ability to play chess well, but not great, will garner him a life of poverty and loneliness. So, if God decides that I have ten years or less of life remaining, at least they will have been wonderful years; years filled with life and love and happiness. Whereas he, on the other hand, is almost certainly condemned to a life of despair and deprivation. A 2200 rated player should know that they are as much nothing in the world of chess as a 1000 rated player. Fifty years of serving a mistress that will not love you back. A mistress that will suck the life from you and offer little to nothing in return is what I see in store for this young man..
I play this game for the love of this game. I expect nothing from it but the enjoyment of the challenge. Because, after a lifetime of witnessing the grand game, I have seen none do well, except the few top hundred in the world.
So Mr. NM, I pity you. I pity you for your lack of civility and lack of heart. I pity you for your having condemned yourself before you have barely lifted your eyes from childhood. An NM? What a joke.
Not that I’m jealous or feeling slighted or anything.
To be continued...