Downs and Ups
As everyone reading this already knows, playing chess has some very big ups and some very big downs. Winning can make you feel like the most awesome being to ever exist; losing can make you despise yourself as the most unsightly wart on the backside of a rat.
Even if you have more than average equanimity, chess is definitely a game of pleasure and pain. Even when I'm having a ball, winning my most fun game, Kayden walks by and thinks I'm in agony from the looks of my face and hands clenched around my temples. Throughout the event, he had a running joke that I worry too much, and that I should relax. In this next game, I spent 1.5 hours genuinely worrying and in quite a bit of pain:
My opponent had barely paused to think for 1 or 2 minutes in the whole game. I had been close to figuring out the variations I needed to, but just did not quite have enough time, was not quite organized enough in my thinking. It was disspiriting. I hope I've given you some insight into how a reasonable player can slip into a mighty disaster that ends up looking like it was played by a novice.
One extra note: what did I do after this? It was one of the first games to finish. Did I scream? Go outside and run around? Break something? Well, I slipped quietly into the empty skittles room. Set up the position before the move Nf5 on the board, and started calculating. Then i checked a few of the positions earlier in the game, again just calculating without moving pieces. This went on for about an hour. Then I started moving the pieces about to confirm some of my analysis. In this way, I sort of told myself that the failure was largely one of running out of time solving a problem, which was interesting to me, and with sufficient time, I might have solved. I tried to avoid any anger and disappointment about how I had been some kind of victim of prepared-- and outrageous, dubious-- moves. And instead see it as a challenge that was just difficult enough to stretch my abilities, but could have been in reach. Then I ate, and talked with friends as they finished their games, as normal.
Now my score was back to 2-2, and I would probably play a lower rated player again, but-- there had been several upsets in the tournament, propelling some of the 2200 and 2300 players to plus scores, and leaving some high rated players with even scores. And I ended up paired with one of the stronger guys in the field GM Panchanathan! When I found this out, I had no time to prepare, except mentally. Such a pairing has two aspects to it: on the one hand, the likelihood of losing with black against a strong player after such a devastating defeat with white is exceptionally high, so of course you consider that you might lose, and its a bit scary. Go down to 2-3, and you'll be guaranteed to play a few lower rated players, it'll be hard to fight back up to a good score. On the other hand, you get to play a strong player right then and there.
Well, I was not quite fatalistic about the pairing. I remembered that, seeing the player list, I had looked forward to the possibility of playing Magesh at this event. And so I decided to just enjoy the game.
I had a little trouble choosing the opening. If he played e4, I knew what to do, but I knew that Magesh had expanded to d4 and Nf3 as well now, and suspected that he'd go for closed openings against me. So what should I do? After some of my typical mood-searching, I decided a Benko was in order. I wanted to avoid the Semi-slav and Benoni, my most frequent defenses of late, to avoid his preparation. When, on move 2, he did not advance c4, I thought for 5 minutes on my next move! I decided I did not want to face some of the anti-Benkos today (eg d4 Nf6 Nf3 c5 d5 b5 Bg5), and switched to the Slav Defense I had played the day before. I guess that round 3 game had given me some confidence that I was getting the hang of the Slav better. It proved to be a really lucky opening choice, as Magesh had not yet studied the Slav much since expanding his repertoire, and did not look at it at all right before the game.
This was a very inspiring game for me; a more pleasant experience than the morning had been unpleasant. I was really focused, and I played a mix of correct chess and aggressive chess. Calculations and sense of the game were clean, and I was thinking, wow, this Slav is really working out for me!! Sam said that I was doing right by his opening, and I even got a message in my inbox from the Panda complimenting me on the game, which meant a lot to me. It was probably the best game I'd played in a while, and I wanted to play more! I couldn't wait for tomorrow... but I had to, and you will have to...
Day 4, Rd 6: " Huh? The Genesis of 'Easy Wins' "