Apology to my Opponents in National Open '09
I just finished playing in the 2009 National Open yesterday. I went to the event to promote Chess.com and enjoy time with Jay (friend and Chess.com partner) and IM David Pruess (friend and Chess.com superstar) and I didn't expect to play. I was originally NOT going to play, but after playing in the Game/10 Open and scoring 4/6 (click here to read more on that), I thought I'd take my winnings and roll it into the entry fee for the main event. Why not?
What followed was an odd experience which I will outline below in excruciating detail as a chronicle of the event. I will also include an apology to every single one of my opponents (each for different reasons).
Before I start I want to say "thanks" to everyone who has been a part of Chess.com and who was cheered me on at the event, no matter the outcome. It was well organized and a lot of fun. I was pleased to meet several of our members in person as well - Enigmata, Stats_Man, BCG1, and a few others. I love the Chess.com community!
I entered the 2-day version where you play your first 3 games at time control of G/60, and then catch up with everyone else at game 4 - all following games were first 40 moves in 2 hours and then 1 more hour to finish. My rating going in to the event was 1578, so I was seeded pretty high in the U1600 section, but I also hadn't played in a tournament since 2005. That said, I had one huge advantage over most people - I've been able to hang out on Chess.com all day every day for the last 2 years and have benefited from hundreds of correspondence games, tactics trainer, chess mentor, and videos :) So while I lack tournament experience, my game has improved. I think that will show in my crazy games below.
Game 1: Don't Cry
This game was the first, and I was very very nervous. I played against a youngster maybe 11 years old. He was nervous too.
What is sad about this game is that I was winning in so many ways and never found the right moves. Very bad. My calculation is horrible. What is also sad is that my opponent should have won after my stupid Nxf5 move, but he lost in time pressure. I think that is why he was crying after the game. What is extra ironic is that he had wasted 5 minutes off his clock trying to find an arbiter about 5 minutes into the game to tattle on me for whispering "Looks like you are winning!" to the guy next to me because his opponent hadn't yet showed up. I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish, but I think that lost him the game. So to my first opponent I just wanted to say that I'm sorry I whispered to my opponent, and I'm sorry that you lost on time against my crazy 5 pawns vs. queen endgame!
Game 2: Defense!! Defense!!
I had won the first game, albeit it under weird circumstances. In this second one I played another young man, a little older (maybe 14ish).
What a lucky draw! I think I played darn good defense once I was down the pawn (though I made many bad moves as well). I guess that is the beauty of the U1600 section - some mistakes are forgiven! Anyway, I apologize to my opponent for not playing a better opening and then for squeeking out the draw when it should probably have been a win for white. Sorry!
Game 3: Pawns Go From Weird to Weirder
I was slightly disappointed with the draw, but happy to have had it after my horrible opening play and dropping a pawn. My next game I had black again! This time I wanted to be the one in the driver's seat...
That was a fun win, though a little disatisfying because of the blunder by my opponent. Sorry you blundered dude. And also, sorry for rolling my eyes at you once during the 20 moves you made me play after I was up 3 pawns, a piece, and a rook.
Game 4: From No Pawns in the Center to...
This next game I had white against 9-year-old Ryan. What a cool little dude. Seriously. So smiley and fun! And an amazing chess player to boot!
What a wild one! I was stressed out during that whole game. First to feel like you had lost by move 11, and then coming up with plans for counterplay, and then finally to grind out a win with those 3 crazy passed pawns! Ryan, little buddy, I'm sorry I swindled you in this game. I'm also sorry that I fell asleep at the board - that was unprofessional of me. I was feeling sick and exhausted. You played so well, but I tried to be tricky and it worked. You have a huge future ahead of you - I hope this game didn't make you feel bad - you're a rockstar chess player!
Game 5: Why Did I Take That Pawn??
Now I'm 3.5 out of 4 games. Remember, I thought I wasn't even going to play in the event and now it's like the gods will me to be winning. Games I should have lost I won (or 1 draw). I'm feeling crazy. Not enough sleep. Kinda sick from hotel food. And game 5 starts with Burt, who is undefeated and rightfully so! He's dangerous! :(
I'm sorry Burt! You should have won. You played better. I stole the game. I snookered you. I don't know what to say other than that there was some crazy inevitability to my games. I was being compelled to win, and it seems like the only way for me to win was to first lose. But now after 4.5 out of 5 points, I sure hoped that wasn't true for the last game!
Game 6: The Final Game!
So there I am - having played poorly the whole event but still having 4.5 out of 5. This is the final game. I think 4.5 points was already "in the money", but obviously a win here would mean 1st or second place instead of 10th place.
The top board in my section (U1600) was two guys with 5 points each. I was in 3rd seed with 4.5, and everyone else had 4 or less. If those guys tied and I won, then we would all share 1st place. If one of them one, and I won, then I would have clear second place. If I drew, maybe tied for 2nd. If I lost... who cares.
My opponent was Steven - a smart and funny dude. We talked before the game and I could tell how much he wanted the win. His only loss had been to Burt, who I have barely beat last game. I wished him luck watched him play 1. e4... and I smiled, played 1...d6 (my favorite - the Pirc!), and hoped I wouldn't blunder...
Steven, I'm sorry. You played well and deserved to win. I blundered, then blundered again. Unfortunately you made the final blunder. You are a great player and I wish you luck in the future!
After the game I was in shock. I was tired. (I had actually set my alarm clock at move 5 and went in to the corner of the tournament hall and slept for 20 minutes during the game). The game on board 1 was a win/loss, so I got clear 2nd place with 5.5 (winner had 6). It was crazy. I couldn't believe it. I had made so many mistakes, had started almost every game by losing, and yet something was compelling me to play like a madman. It felt like there was some external force pushing me to victory, but it required that I first start by losing. Maybe I needed that fire in the belly to play my best. Who knows. But that weekend I had it with me and won 2nd place. (Side story - later that night I went and played Texas Hold'em for a few hours - only my second time ever playing for money - and I turned $200 into $500!)
I had a great tournament because I won. But I also feel a little sad. My games weren't great. I had to watch my opponents lose (I know, I'm a bit of a softy in person). And I won money which probably some of the kids or other less-fortunate players could have used more than me. So while I'm happy, I'm also kinda sorry. I guess why that's I don't compete very often!
My USCF rating shot from 1578 to 1707, so it will probably be a long time before I can compete or even win again. But wow - what an event! I honestly attribute my win to Chess.com - I have played hundreds of games, done countless hours of Tactics Trainer and Chess Mentor, and seen tons of videos. I've been kinda living chess for 2 years now. But I hadn't made a dedicated study plan, which is what I'll do for the next event. Oh, and I'll also stop using the Analysis Board - it killed my calculation!!
Until the next tournament,