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Evans Memorial 2019:  No Dice
Photo by Lvtalon, from Wikipedia

Evans Memorial 2019: No Dice

mkkuhner
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11

In my previous two visits to Reno I'd been within striking distance of the hefty Class A prize both times.  This time, though, I couldn't shake the memory of multiple bad tournaments in a row, and I wasn't optimistic.  I might have chickened out completely, but I'd already bought the tickets, and I needed a break from work....

To enjoy the break from work to its fullest, I had arranged to arrive a whole day early and play in two simuls:  a clock simul against GM Sergey Kudrin, and a regular simul against GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez.  They were an interesting contrast in styles.

Kudrin played slowly and carefully despite the clock, often pulling up a chair to park at one board for a few minutes.  He analyzed all the games with us the next day, and showed that he had missed a lower-rated opponent's counterplay and come close to getting into bad trouble.

Sergey Kudrin
Sergey Kudrin. Image by Jaapvanderkooij, from Wikipedia.

Corrales Jimenez played a blitz simul, dashing from board to board despite the absence of clocks.  It was quite terrifying.  Our game became very sharp, and at one moment I sincerely thought I was mating him.  He calmly (but extremely rapidly) played Kf1 and sidled away from danger, and shortly thereafter the fact that all of my pieces were hanging suddenly became untenable.  "Fun game!" he said afterwards, and it certainly was. 

Fidel Corrales Jimenez
Fidel Corrales Jimenez. Photo by Georgios Souleidis, from Wikipedia.

So that wasn't as auspicious a start to the tournament as last time, where I managed to draw GM Sevillano; but it was fun, and I hoped it would be a good warmup.

In round 1 I faced a young player who was playing up a section, a familiar experience from Seattle events.  I managed to win an attacking game, though not without signs of trouble.

In round 2 I was facing a young adult who seemed familiar, though my records say I hadn't played him before.  This game did not go as well:

It's in the nature of the Dutch Defense that when it goes wrong, it really goes wrong.  (I had a Dutch a while back where I managed to drop FIVE pawns in the opening.  That takes something special.)  People have been trying to convince me to play something different for, well, nearly my whole chess career.  But I haven't yet found an opening I prefer. 

I'm beginning to think that as well as not knowing my chosen openings as well as I should, I have some basic opening-principles issues.  I know several players who can pick up a random opening and play it adequately, but I definitely can't.  If I'm right, changing openings will just bring my problems with me....

My third opponent was a familiar face; we'd played to a draw in a Washington Open some years previously.  He taught me the expression "going down the rabbit hole" for an apparently aggressive advance that goes nowhere.  This game became extremely tactical, and I lost my way in the complications.

So after only three rounds I was clearly out of the money, and concerned about my quality of play--it looked like being another in the series of poor performances.  Also I was quite tired.  I found myself paired against a tiny 1500 player.  As of November 2019 Sophie Wang was the #24 13-year-old girl in the US, so she was probably 12 when this game was played.  She treated me with remarkable ruthlessness.

After this I was fairly depressed.  I went for a long nighttime walk along the beautiful Truckee River, which cheered me up a little, and tried to get some sleep.  The next morning I found myself playing an adult who, like me, was not having an easy tournament.

I had just time enough to grab the dinner buffet and it was time to play the final round.  I didn't feel at all ready for it, though it was nice to have finally won, and an interesting game too.  I was paired with another very young player, and again got into gross trouble in the opening:

After this game my opponent and I went out to analyze it, and were intercepted by his mother.  She seemed bemused by our interactions--he and I, having been playing for many hours, were in the mindset of chess peers, not adult and child.  Both of us felt strongly that we'd been losing, and were saved by the draw.  Perhaps that means it's a good draw!  Unfortunately I left my scoresheet on the table after that analysis, and though I tried the next day, could not quite reconstruct the game; so unless Lucas has analysed it, I guess we'll never know.

I stayed up late to help pack up hundreds of chess sets, and got to see the playoff between Josh Grabinsky and GM Sevillano for the top section trophy.  The section itself was a three-way tie between Grabinsky, Sevillano, and GM Corrales Jimenez--quite a coup for the young Oregon player!  Unfortunately Sevillano trounced him in the first game and then graciously took a draw in the second.

That should be the end of the tournament adventure, but in fact there was drama still to come.  When I arrived at the Reno airport I found that my plane was delayed, and in fact every flight to Seattle was delayed--SeaTac Airport was badly fogged in.  I called my spouse and let him know, and settled in to analyze with a group of stranded chessplayers.  We went through all six of FM David Bragg's games from the Open, which were pretty interesting for the first hour or two...but I wanted to go home.

The chess crowd started to thin out, though it was alarming that they were being put on various indirect routes--Seattle via San Diego, Seattle via Spokane.  My flight was still "delayed."  Around 8 pm it became clear that this should have been "canceled."  They told me that I should come back at 5 am the next day.  (Alas, my spouse had believed "delayed" and taken the hour-long train trip to the airport, only to find nothing but fog.)

I got a room at Motel 6, set up an unreasonably early wake-up call, and managed to sleep fitfully until around 3:30 am.  Back at the airport, I found that there was no flight for me due to backlogs up and down the entire West Coast.  There might be one around noon....

I camped in a restaurant and typed in all of my games from the tournament.  A friendly waitress brought me tea and food periodically and otherwise left me alone.  I have never sat in a restaurant for 6 hours before!  But it was better than sitting in the airport chairs, and I'm glad they let me do it.

Around 1 pm I learned that they had badly overbooked my flight and not everyone would get on.  At this point I'd been waiting for around 24 hours.  Among the other people in line was a businessman who threw a tantrum--how dare they not have a seat for him after he'd waited for an hour!  I pointed out that many of the people there had been waiting for 24 hours or more, and got the reply "Nobody asked your opinion."  I think the airline staff noticed this too, because when a seat opened up they offered it to me, leaving the businessman stranded.  I finally got home about 27 hours late.  I'm just glad this was on the way home and not the way to the tournament.

So I'd played some interesting games, but it was a sharp comedown from my good performance of the previous two years.  I just did not seem to be able to shake the stress and exhaustion that was dogging my play.