A Wrong Approach
While I was losing to Giorgi, Kayden was having a lot more fun. He capped a three-game winning streak that morning with this game:
He had played an even more awesome game in the four pawn attack against the King's Indian Defense, but that game you can see in his own blog. I was really happy to see Kayden on such a roll. Just from talking to him, I could tell that he was improving daily. It was a terrific environment for him and he was logging great experience. When someone loves what they are doing, it's amazing to see how fast they can improve in a particular skill-set.
Kayden's winning streak also meant he had caught up with my score again, so I had another chance to play him! Shortly after I finished analyzing with Giorgi he came in with his opponent-- who was very gracious in defeat-- and we all had a look at that game. Then someone observed we might play that evening. I did not hide that I looked forward to such a chance. Since I have given up my ambitions to become a GM, I am quite keen on playing up-and-coming American talents, and doing my best to give them a lesson or two on their way up-- or at least an interesting opponent to practice against. I had really hoped to play Kayden or David [Adelberg] at this event. When the pairings came up, I got my wish. Kayden and I have played a lot of bughouse together, but this was probably our first serious game, and I think it was a very interesting one; my most unusual game from this event, and thus, probably, the hardest one to play. Enjoy!
If you remember my comments from the previous blog about my bad approach to openings, of playing some old line that I knew is bad just because I have not prepared a new one, this game is a prime example. During the opening phase I was really upset with myself. Playing an opening where there was no possible positive scenario!?!?! What was I even hoping for?? I vowed to change this approach of mine. I don't know if I should change the "Wrong Attitude," but the "Wrong Approach" has to go. You'll never again see me playing lines I know to be this crummy...
I want to mention something here about Kayden's approach to the game. Kayden played a further 15+ moves in that "hopeless" rook down position. During that time, part of me wished he would just resign, I could get the point, and discuss the game, then get some rest. Meanwhile, a Grandmaster saw fit to take his mother aside to give her some much-needed advice for watching over her young chess champ: "He's too old to be playing on in positions like this. It's disrespectful not to resign."
Resigning is up to the player. If they want to make their opponent prove everything, if they want to fight to the last move to maintain their own fighting spirit, or because they still have some hope, it is their right to do so. Other players may respond by not analyzing the game with you afterwards if they feel you have wasted their time. I have certainly refused post-mortems several times with players who spent an hour at the board with me down massive material. And when you choose to play a game out to the end, you have to understand that there may be such a cost associated with it; your opponent, who apparently knew enough to get you into that losing position, may not care to elucidate their methods for you. But there are also benefits to fighting it out, and you can make a calculation for yourself of what you want to do.
I think Kayden's fighting spirit was in fact, quite praiseworthy. I was really impressed to see the bad positions he was willing to continue suffering and his imperviousness to embarrassment about having a losing position as he fought for any glimmer of scoring a point, both in this game, and in the ninth round game that followed the next day, and in a game at the National Open that followed 3 days later. Yes, he lost this game. Yes, he lost the game the next day (but barely, his opponent almost fell into a devious, devious Kayden trap, that had strong master observerss excitedly running out of the room to exclaim to each other "ooooh, that's dirty!!!" -- a compliment). But at the National Open, he got himself a miracle point. And not too many people would have scored that miracle point. So, personally, I think not only was Kayden well within his rights to play out all these games to a "silly degree," but that it was a terrific strength he showed. My expectations for Kayden grew a lot this week.
Next Kayden and I talked about the game for a while, with his entire supportive entourage (Mother, Grandmother, Brother, Sister). By the time we went back upstairs, all the games were done, and most everyone had left. Pairings went up, and I had a slightly surprising pairing: all the way up to board 1 to play GM Daniel Fridman, who was dominating the tournament to an incredible degree:
He was in sole first place, a full point ahead of the field, with 6.5/8. He had not lost a game, or been in any danger. His draws seemed to be the peaceful draws of a man who has already won so much that he is satisfied to cruise through the final rounds. He had also played all the other top players! He had played the players in 2nd-7th place I believe while racking up his score, and that's why he was paired all the way down to me with 5/8. However, I saw I would get a second white (he was due black), and I was totally confident I would win the game. Despite the fact that I'd been annihilated pretty badly in the games I lost, I felt I was playing really well, and that with white, I could beat anyone the next day. I was on fire, two hundred degrees. I imagined my opponent probably did not care about winning the next game as much as I did.
As soon as we went home, I hit the database, played through a couple hundred of his games. Things went a bit faster than usual, because I immediately knew what openings I wanted to play. I wanted to play e4; so I did not need to worry about his repertoire vs d4, c4, nf3. He would only play 1...e5 or 1...c6 vs e4. Then I knew what I wanted to do against each of those without any soul-searching: King's Gambit and Fantasy Variation!! The Fantasy Variation I had never before played in a tournament, but I had dreamed of playing for many years. I had prepared it for a game once where it did not come up, and I had started playing a few blitz games in it. So I started predicting what lines he might play against those openings, and studied. I was making great progress, finding useful ideas in line after line. The next morning I got up without as much sleep as on previous days (the final round was to be played in the morning), and continued my breakneck analysis.
How did this last round showdown go for me? Find out in the next episode: "Smash!"