FIDE RR part 2: Blood in the Water
Piranha image by Greg Hume, from Wikipedia. All chessplayer photos by Victoria Jung-Doknjas via the Washington Chess Federation blog, used by permission of the photographer.
In round 4 I played the youngest of the Doknjas brothers ("the 'j' is silent", he said). The older two were playing in Kings vs. Princes. I had researched Neil Doknjas briefly on line, finding that he was the Canadian Under-8 champion a few years ago, is now 11, and gives lessons and simuls. When I sat down to play him I found myself mildly intimidated. Don't be, I said to myself; I'm the higher rated and probably the more experienced player. It did not help at all that we headed straight for a problem opening for me.
I like the way Neil handled this game; very smooth, very professional. But okay, I told myself, my goal is 7; I can afford to lose one.
The next round I played Vignesh Anand, an energetic young player whose style I enjoy. (Last time we met he showed me a whole new approach to the Dutch Stonewall; a banzai kingside pawn storm for White!) Unfortunately I think he tired himself out with lengthy analysis early in the game.
I felt badly for Vignesh, but I seemed to be getting back on track after the bad game with Neil. My next game was with the other tournament leader, Eric Zhang; nicely timed for maximum drama! I had played Eric in the State Championship previously; I played an unsound pawn sacrifice, he responded by sinking a knight onto an outpost square, and then he let me undermine the knight and suddenly develop a lethal attack. Could I duplicate that game here?
There was one problem; I'd had an unpleasant late-night phone call and been up for hours in the middle of the night. My ability to play chess well is fragile at best, and I know that lack of sleep is a killer.
(This was meant to be a picture of me, but it's a great picture of Eric! It shows how disconcertingly tiny he is.)
I was pretty angry with myself over this game. It's one thing to lose, but I've lost that way so many times, you think I'd know better. I got complacent in the opening and it was instantly fatal.
So that was my allowable two losses, but my confidence was shaken, Uncle Vik was looking much less worried about his 25 cents, and there were still 3 rounds to go. I was particularly worried about the evening game. If the loss to Eric was lack of sleep, another loss was looming.
In happier news, Naomi Bashkanski had by this point beaten three masters in a row in Kings vs. Princes, and was walking on air; I've never seen her so radiant. Josh Sinanan said ruefully "Don't let her attack." Good advice if you can take it!