The winner of the Challenger's Cup gets to play in the Washington State Closed Championship, a feat which otherwise demands a rating close to 2300. This attracted 28 players to the top section, including last year's co-winner Viktors Pupols, and another 34 to the lower section (U1800). Quite a turnout for a weekend tournament!
I was skeptical of my ability to play well due to stress, but decided that the tournament would be a fun distraction and a way to keep in chess shape. I hadn't studied chess significantly since September. I knew this could mean a rating hit, but I'm trying to teach myself to focus on improvement rather than rating.... It was also a dual USCF/FIDE rated tournament, and I try to play in FIDE events whenever possible, if only to increase the pool of FIDE-rated NW players by donating my excess rating points to them.
The Open section of this tournament has routinely been a 4 round Swiss. There were far too many players for this format, as there have been for several years, but it's felt that having a forced round on Friday night will lose too many players, and our usual solution--G/60 on Saturday morning--can't be FIDE rated. Still, I hope that in the future it will be expanded to 5 rounds, to avoid results like this year's (three co-winners!)
In round 1 I was paired with Brian Raffel, who was playing up in the top section as usual. Brian has often been a difficult opponent for me, but this time I managed to get an acceptable game out of the Exchange French.
In round 2 I faced NM Michael Lin, an online friend. I got into bad trouble in an unfamiliar line of the Two Knights Defense, but then managed to make a reasonable fight of it.
This was a fairly exhausting game, and I arrived the next day in poor shape for chess.
I was facing Addison Lee, an ambitious teenager. I'd beaten him in the Class Championships from a bad position, and he was out for revenge.
So that was a five-hour game with a downbeat ending, and now I had to play another round. I was wondering why I'd inflicted this on myself.... I was matched with Davey Jones, another ambitious teenager; I think he's one of Josh Sinanan's students. Though I didn't recall the game at the time, my records show he beat me in the Seattle Chess Club Championship in 2015, winning a piece against my mishandled French Tarrasch.
I can't show this game, because my scoresheet totally stops making sense around move 23. It was a Delayed Alapin with an early ...d5 by Black. I hung a pawn repeatedly but Davey cautiously (probably too cautiously) didn't take it. Eventually we came down to a queen endgame in which I initially felt I had winning chances, but Davey proved able to defend all of my attempts--I had a few too many pawn weaknesses.
All the other games were over. Players who hoped to get their prizes before they had to leave were rolling their eyes at me. It was dark and rainy outside, and late on a Sunday night, and the buses were thinning out....
I offered the trade of queens, and Davey, who was in fairly bad time trouble, accepted it. No doubt he wanted to simplify his calculations. But we then had a graphic demonstration of Silman's principle "All pawn endings are confusing" and ended up in a pawn race where my pawn, queening, would control the queening square of his.
Davey played very well, except for clock handling; he made the first time control with seconds to spare, and I suspect time pressure (as well as fatigue) influenced his error at the end.
So that was 2-2, an acceptable result but not a good one--and lucky to get it, as Davey should have drawn me. The Open section was won by three of the elite teenagers: Anthony He, Derek Zhang, and Naomi Bashkansky. All three had excellent tournaments. Anthony had the best tiebreaks and will play in the State Championship, which should be a good challenge for him.