Last Legs: Seattle Chess Classic 2017, part 2
Eclipse image by Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel. Tournament images by Victoria Jung-Doknjas.
Saturday morning, round 6. I was paired with NM Luke Xie, who USCF says is the #19 player aged 14 in the US. (I would have thought he was older than that; I'm terrible at guessing ages.) I recently got a creditable draw with him, and figured he'd be out for revenge.
So I'd just beaten my fourth master ever, but instead of delighted I was embarrassed and disappointed. I said so to various bystanders and got a lot of sarcastic responses along the lines of "a point is a point" and "wish I had your problems."
I am negotiating to give chess lessons to Lois Ruff, whose chess ambitions are not dimmed by being in her eighties. As part of the discussion we played two G/15 training games on Saturday afternoon. I can't resist giving the second, which shows the naked aggression so typical of women players:
The upside of beating Luke was that I was paired with IM Ray Kaufman, only the third IM I've ever played (John Donaldson, many years ago, and Nazi Paikidze this summer were the other two). The game was much more exciting than I had expected! Here's Ray (in cap) at his first-round game with Liza Orlova, which was also very spicy.
I slept, not enough, and arrived rather tired for round 8 to find I was playing Benjamin Mukumbya from Uganda. (We were disappointed that his countrywoman Phiona Mutesi, the protagonist of Queen of Katwe, was not able to play; she's been unwell.)
Benjamin is known for his aggressive risk-taking style and sometimes unsound sacrifices, so it sounded like it should be an exciting game. But calculation was beginning to sound onerous rather than interesting. I think I handled the first four days of this tournament better than I've handled long tournaments in the past, but by Sunday I really was on my last legs.
I have tried and failed to annotate this game: it's just a bit too raw. So here it is unadorned:
Benjamin's first words after accepting my resignation were "You missed a mate." So frustrating! Instead I gave him just the kind of game he loves, with predictable results. And there was still a round to go.
I learned that I was playing Brendan Zhang in time to go over our previous games. We have a history of playing late in tournaments when we are both tired. He got a complete crush against me once, then allowed a queen trade "into a winning rook endgame" which led one of my two best rook endgames ever: it featured an impudent h-pawn which was en prise the entire time as it advanced h5-h6-h7-h8=Q.
Alas, I knew as soon as I sat down to play that I was in trouble: I simply could not think clearly. Brendan looked horribly tired too. The two players next to us agreed to a draw around move 5, and we both, I think, envied them. But I didn't think Brendan would accept a draw due to the rating difference, so I had to play....
Evidently this tournament was just one day too long. I need to work on ways to conserve energy if I am going to play in nine-round events, and I kid myself that I ought to learn how so that I can compete in norms tournaments when I'm ready (presumably, for WIM).
So, in the spirit of RookSacrifice's blog, lessons from this tournament:
(1) I need to manage my energy better, as I play badly on the last day of most tournaments, especially long ones. My calculating ability, my strategic judgment, and perhaps most importantly my self-discipline all deteriorate.
(2) I was able to play aggressive and confident chess vs. an IM, which is good. One of these days I'll get a win out of a game like that. But I need to work on following up the attack once I get it, which has been weak lately. Conversely, when I am pretty sure what the opening calls for, I ought to play it (the exchange sack vs. Luke, the IQP vs. Brendan) rather than chickening out or indulging a whim. There's a lack of professionalism, for want of a better word, in my opening play.
(3) I have a bad problem with hope chess versus lower-rated opponents, especially when tired. The line of reasoning that goes "I'm much stronger and should win, therefore there must be something here" is pernicious and needs to be stomped flat. (For more proof of this, see my next two tournaments.)
(4) The people I would like to compete against know the openings much better than I do. When they don't use this knowledge, as in the game with Ray or a past Hippo with Curt Collyer, I can get a very nice game. When they do, as with Roland, I get into bad trouble. Sooner or later I have to find the right way to tackle this, or I will remain stuck.
The following day was the famous eclipse. We were not able to go down to Oregon for the totality due to a doctor's appointment, but my housemate had a piece of filter plastic for viewing, and we got a good look at Seattle's 90% eclipse. I had not known about the crescent-shaped leaf shadows, and was charmed by this detail and by the strange quality of both indoors and outdoors light during the peak. I hope I'm able to see the 2024 totality, though, as the stories my friends and relatives are telling are so cool.