This tournament was only two weeks after the Washington Open, and further conflicted with the State Champion's simul at Microsoft, so it was nearly guaranteed to be small. Still, it was startling to be on board 4 on Friday night (as the upper-rated player) and even more startling when non-arrivals led to having only two players above me. Still, I reckoned that more players would arrive Saturday for the two-day schedule, which was indeed the case.
I was playing 11-year-old Vignesh Anand. NM Sinanan, who coaches a lot of the young players, says that this is one of the hardest times to be an adult in the NW. Vignesh's USCF record clearly shows why:
With a rating graph like that, of course one can't trust the player's current rating to be accurate; indeed, Vignesh played confidently and aggressively despite the rating difference. A player after my own heart.
I couldn't be unhappy about this result, despite the ratings loss: it was a sharp and exciting game, and the dynamic balance between the two attacks seemed to make a draw the fair outcome. (And the rating loss may be less than it looks: Vignesh was paired as 1633 but the graph suggests he's actually 1755.)
I wasn't present for the Saturday morning G/60 round, but when I arrived for round 1 there were a lot of unexpected results on the scoresheet, starting with a loss for Bryce Tiglon (2300) to Tim Killian (1900). "Blunder," Bryce said tersely when the kids asked him what happened: I later learned he'd been suddenly mated in a winning endgame. I also found that the top boards were mainly players very familiar to me: NM Curt Collyer, Jason Cigan from Oregon, Vikram Ramasamy, and the ominous Naomi Bashkansky and Anthony He.
None the less I was playing someone I didn't know, an adult:
So far so good. Before Round 3 the TD, Fred Kleist, made a little speech. He noted that Swiss system first rounds usually resemble Bambi vs. Godzilla, but that this time Bambi had forgotten his role and started to kick. Ten upsets in round 1. Killian won the $20 prize for the best one. This describes the tournament very well, actually, as the upsets, blunders, and reversals continued throughout. I don't know why this was. The playing room was hot, especially on Sunday, despite cloudy weather outside; but this doesn't seem like a sufficient explanation. (Kerry Van Veen told me of her key last-round game: "I was up a piece, but Catherine started to unwind a little, and then she took a piece and for some reason I didn't take it back. And then she took another piece the next move!" There were a lot of stories like that.)
I came back from my sushi an hour before the evening round was to start, and found I was playing Naomi Bashkansky, who had taken a half-point bye in round 1 and won her round 2 game. I moped around the club for an hour wondering what to do. She'd studied me for our State Championship game and trounced my Dutch. I had Black again. I scoured the shelves and found only two books on the Dutch: a repetoire book on the Leningrad and a pamphlet on the Anti-Dutch Spike. A quick flip through the Leningrad book convinced me that playing it cold would be a fatal mistake. I talked to the teenagers, who rolled their eyes and suggested random openings. I talked to Brent Baxter, who told me stories of GMs varying from their standard openings in key games and going down in flames. "If you do vary," he said, "don't go too far afield."
I bummed a ride home and stomped around ranting at my husband. There's a lot to like about this game--I solved my opening problem satisfactorily after all--but I really would like to beat Naomi.
Sunday morning the weather was erratic and threatening, which also describes what was happening in the tournament hall. I was playing another unfamiliar opponent:
Tactically inaccurate again, but I was happy with my opening play--I got a playable game out of my most-feared line of the Delayed Alapin, with no IQP--and with the rook endgame.
Upsets continued everywhere. Vikram drew FM Curt Collyer, having been 2 pawns up with a position he assessed as winning. ("Better than I managed," I said ruefully.)
In the last round I was to play Tim Killian, an adult, and the winner of the first-round upset prize--a bit worrisome! We had some amusement with the other pairings as Revanth Pothukuchi found that he had to play all three of the Velea sisters, one after another. (I believe the eldest got her own upset prize at his expense.)
Here my relatively good management of my opening weaknesses came to an abrupt and spectacular end:
To my surprise, I won the $120 prize for Best Under-1950. (In fact my rating after the WA Open was 1949!) I have not yet seen the USCF tournament report and it's even possible I tied for 2nd (with a lot of people). Update: the tournament was won by Bryce Tiglon and Naomi Bashkansky with 4.0; five players including me had 3.5 so tied for 3rd-7th.
A truly strange tournament. My play was tactically inaccurate but I feel happy about fighting spirit, and mostly (except the last game) about openings. More sleep, as always, would help. We put up Venetian blinds in the bedroom to reduce intrusive early-morning sunlight.
I am thinking seriously of approaching a coach, perhaps Josh Sinanan, and offering money for a one-time session on how to study openings. I truly have no clue, and it shows. In high school and college I was a non-studier all the way up to Biochemistry: after flunking an early quiz in Biochem I had to scramble to develop a study strategy, and it was rocky. I think that's exactly where I am now with chess. I don't know how to study, so I wander about, picking up a bit of info here and there, but don't really solve my problems.