Evans Memorial 1: Luck is with me
Given that I don't drink, smoke, or gamble, it felt quite strange to be living in a casino. We were truly in the casino, too: my hotel elevator came down into a maze of slot machines, and if the maze was successfully threaded (it took me a day to learn how!) a set of stairs led up into the tournament hall. I am not used to smoke anymore and found the constant thin haze troublesome. One player had a coughing fit remarkable enough to be mentioned in the next round's TD speech. Other than that, it was a comfortable enough site, with plenty of room for the 230+ players.
There would have been more, but it snowed violently Thursday night; no snow stuck in Reno itself but the mountain passes were blocked. Still, it was an impressive field with five GMs. I had decided to play in class A in hopes of taking home some prize money and possibly regaining my Expert rating. I also had a scientific question of which this was an informal test: are NW players really underrated compared to players from elsewhere? If so, I might do very well in class A.
In round 1 I was paired with an elderly player who seemed slow and a little uncertain in the opening. I might have evaluated him differently if I'd seen his even score in the previous night's blitz tournament.
What is it with the move b4 (or b5 with Black)? I am getting myself into trouble with this move so often! But the reasons for playing it always seem good...at the time.
After the game my opponent said he found my play deceptive--superficially simple but with nasty details under the surface. Me, I just think I got lucky. I was going to be down a pawn again.
In the next round I played a nervous adult player. It's an unusual game in that I made a general plan very early, based on a nuance of my opponent's reaction to the opening, and it simply played out as planned.
So this was quite satisfying, and also, very importantly, fast. I got to go up to my room and laze around while my competitors were just getting started. (I fed the game into Stockfish and found out my attack wasn't entirely correct, but this didn't dim my mood too much.) --However, it's not news that I can often beat 1800 players. Things were bound to be harder on Sunday.
Round 3 was a very strange game. I was playing an unfamiliar Oregon adult in an unfamiliar line of the French. Partway through the game, I saw that I had a nice position with a space advantage.
To understand what happened next it's important to know that I've been annotating my games from the 1987 US Women's Championship, when I was 24 years old and a highly attack-focused Expert. While Younger Self's issues with endgames and quiet positions are very apparent, wow, she sure knew how to attack--bold, energetic, and confident. While doing the annotations I found myself sad that I now play more cautiously.
So I was looking at my nice position, and Younger Self said, "Look at the attacking chances! Let's go for it." (I am not being metaphorical here; that was really the internal dialog.)
Older Self: "Are you sure? It's pretty committal."
YS: "Come on, you've gotten too cautious. I can handle this."
OS: "I hope you know what you're doing."
Just a few moves later:
OS: "You know, after ...Qd5 your attack will be gone."
YS: (calculates furiously for about 20 minutes) "Oh no, you're right! What do we do?"
OS: "Trade queens and win the endgame."
YS: "Really? Can you do that?"
OS: "I think so."
YS: "I hope you know what you're doing...."
After the game I went to IM John Donaldson's game clinic and he analyzed it with me, giving Younger Self a well-deserved chewing out. But I was still quite happy to be at 3-0. We'd formed two teams of Seattle-area players to make a try for the club prize, and I was definitely holding up my end.
In round 4 I faced another adult--it's been a long time since I played four adults in a row!--this one higher rated and with 3 points under his belt as well. I felt this might be the critical game of the tournament.
So that was 4-0. I staggered through the casino to my room and flopped down to sleep. At 4:00 am I woke up with a start thinking "What if he'd had perpetual on f2?" I pulled the game up to check and found this was not a problem, but then I was awake. The next game was at 9:30. I was sole leader, looking at a potential first prize around $1300: certainly if I could get 1.5/2 in the final day, possibly if I could get 1/2.