"The Real Ones" Win a "Real" Team Championship
This time I completely outplayed him throughout the game - but he showed that he is good at fighting back. The ability to fight back from losing positions is a trademark of strong players. I missed a complicated way to trap his queen early in the game but was able to reestablish a winning position. However, I used too much time and was down to around two minutes when I made the touch-move blunder. I automatically touched my knight and then realized that I would be forked - but there was nothing I could do....
On move 52, he sacrificed his knight (with check) to earn a draw but I threw in a check to his king, which was an illegal move! He instantly claimed a win, which puzzled both myself and the spectators. The tournament director came over and explained that since it was not blitz, the rules were different. Instead of losing, Terry added two minutes to Kustar's clock and we tossed out a few more moves before he offered me a draw and accepted.
The entire match was a nail-biter for both teams. On board 2, Kaveen faced Micheal Marmorstein and both players went after each other's kings. On board 3, Bruce and Mark Derby ended up getting a funky postion with Bruce having a queen vs. Mark's rook and two minors. On board 4, Kody won a pawn but Arthur Marmorstein created counterplay.
Kody ended up drawing, Bruce managed to use the maneuverability of the queen and his pawns to beat Mark, and Michael managed to somehow save his king from the attack and beat Kaveen. My game was the last one to finish and I was kicking myself for messing up the win. As a result of my blunder, the two teams ended up drawing the match and our first place aspiration were now in serious jeopardy.
I got some sleep and some breakfast and prepared myself to play some decent chess.
In the third round, I was facing Nick Rasmussen. He is "only" rated 1516 but I knew from playing him in the past that he is very underrated. Indeed, it turned out to be a fun, tough battle:
Nick's troubles started when he gave me the bishop pair. After that, I was in control. He did a very good job of stirring up counterplay but as usual, I counterpunched instead of defending and brought home the full point.
The rest of my team also preformed phenomenally. They all won fairly smoothly and finished before I did.
My friends and I then took off to go eat at a resturant before the final round.
The food at the resturant was wonderful but we ended up getting stuck there as they took a long time to process our payments. Therefore we ended up getting back to the tournament hall ten minutes after the round had started.
We found ourselves facing Terry's team. I knew we were favorites on paper but I also knew things would not be so easy. I also was planning to keep an eye on the match between the team leading the pack, led by NM Truelson ("The Heat") vs. Derby's team ("Badland Pawns"). If the "Badland Pawns" won we had a chance at first place on tiebreaks but it would be very close. I planned to keep a particular eye on the matchup between Nels and Kustar. If Nels won, his team would have a big chance of winning the event ahead of us. Also, he was the only first board with a perfect score, so a win would cost me a board prize.
Thankfully I had white pieces vs. Terry and since I was late I played at a quick pace:
Both of us played sloppy chess. I played 11.Bf4? without thinking and began to kick myself when I realized how bad of a move it was. However, Terry then proceeded to make two very bad moves (he made the moves very quickly) and I was winning!
The game lasted less than an hour and the game was one of the first to finish. I spent the next couple hours watching the games of my fellow teammates and the games of the other critical match between "The Heat" and the "Badland Pawns."
Things started to look bad for my team. Kaveen had a worse position on board two, Bruce was a piece up against Jill but then lost a rook, and Kody was only equal against David. I started to become nervous for my team. Kustar was also worse against Nels. Nels gained a dream Queen+Bishop battery on the long diagonal against IM Kustar's king. With such a crushing attack, I thought that Nels would surely notch a win against the higher rated master.
Indeed, Bruce ended up resigning - still scoring an impressive 3 points out of 4 games on 3rd board. Kaveen's opponent decided to trade down and allow Kaveen a beautiful outpost for his knight. Kody's opponent started giving him pawns and then an entire piece!
Kody's opponent resigned and then Kaveen offered his opponent a draw to seal the match victory - which his opponent surprisingly took.
At that point I stopped watching the other big match. I checked the games occasionally but did not watch them as intensively as I had. Showing the same resourcefulness he did in our game, Kustar managed to turn the game versus Nels into a winning rook endgame! Nels had 3 seconds left on his clock when he decided to resign. Michael Marmorstein lost his game but Arthur Marmorstein and Mark both won their games to help their team win the match and causing a tie for first place between our two teams!
However, the tiebreaks were on our side! We had accumulated a mere half-game more in points then they did. The margin of victory was razor thin - the change in the outcome of a single game by either team could have changed the result. Every other tiebreaker was also in the "Badland Pawns" favor. Due to Kustar's effort in turning a defeat into victory, we both earned a board prize for first board. Kody also earned a board prize for his efforts.
The other team with members from my chess club earned a trophy for being the top performing team under 1400. Overall, it was a very successful tournament for our chess club!
I always like to end my blog posts on tournament games with a reflection on the status of my chess. Last year, I described myself as a fighter. I would get into bad positions out of the opening and fight back. I had to take advantage of every mistake to earn a win. However, in my past couple of tournaments I have played well, usually never getting into any trouble. At this tournament I was never worse in any of my games except for one moment against Kustar when he could have played 20...c4. I am also coming up with my own ideas in games (e.g. Ng4-h6-f5 in the Bergan game and Rb5-b3 in the Kustar game). The reason my opponents have struggled in the past couple tournaments to gain an advantage against me is because I have changed my chess approach. In the past, I would see a move I liked and play it, while crossing my fingers and hoping my opponent would play a certain move in reply. Now instead of trying to convince myself that a move I like works, I try to convince myself that it doesn't work. I put myself in the shoes of my opponent. That change in my approach paid dividends in this tournament.
In closing, I have posted a short video I recalled watching, which I feel highlights just how slim the margin of victory was for "The Real Ones." It was likely the closest margin of victory in the history of SD team chess. The ending of this basketball game is analogous to the paper-thin victory that "The Real Ones" earned: