Rising Stars Camp Tournament
Free image from Pixabay. If only summer camp could look like this....

Rising Stars Camp Tournament

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This blog entry covers the camp tournament:  for the camp lessons, see the previous installment.

The instructions for participants  laid out the camp tournament protocol in detail.  For each of the seven days, we needed to organize our own game times; play a G/30 game; and then annotate it, without using an engine, and submit it for GM comments before 6 pm my time.

We had players on the US East and West coasts, and this caused some conflict:  the East Coast players wanted to play their tournament games before camp started, but that would have been early in the morning for me and I refused to do it.  Some games got squeezed in very close to the 6 pm deadline. As the tournament went on it became apparent that some campers were not succeeding in playing a game each day, which really complicated the tournament pairing process.

I have not played much G/30 and found it exceptionally difficult.  It's too slow to be blitz and too fast to be anything else.

In all of these games I wrote annotations and sent them in for GM analysis.  GMI has graciously given permission for me publish the resulting annotations, in which the notes by GM Gilberto Hernandez are marked "GH".  Unmarked notes are by me.  They have not been edited from what I turned in for camp, so some are quite panicky and rushed--reflecting the mood in which the games were played.

In round 1 I played Leo Yang, USCF 1558.  (The ratings embedded in the .pgn files are from the chess site on which the game was played, not USCF.)  Of course kids' ratings are pretty much meaningless right now. 

My opponent chose to play on a different site.  During the pandemic there's something to be said for learning and practicing the interface on all of the major sites used for tournaments, because unfamiliarity with the interface can be a killer (just ask IM Winslow, who failed to castle correctly in 2 games out of 6 in one event....) especially at faster time controls.  Luckily I have played enough there to be fairly comfortable.  (The learning process gave me my funniest blitz win ever.  My opponent had mate in one, and I looked around for "Resign" but couldn't find it.  I decided it was easier to just get mated than look for this button, and not only did my opponent fail to mate me, I actually won!)

A very scrappy game, but I am pleased with the decision to let g2 go with check.

In round 2 I played the only player I had previously interacted with, fellow blogger Roger Shi (USCF 1914).  This game was a total nailbiter, and only partly because of the fast time control.

A spirited counterattack by Roger.  At the time I was critical of his decision to keep playing with a forced draw on the board and seconds on his clock.  Ironically, I was to do exactly that myself a few rounds later.  I guess that there's an emotional factor when you think you are winning and it's hard to bail out, especially when there is no time to calmly reconsider your evaluation.

In round 3 I played the young CM, and eventual tournament winner, Marvin Gao (USCF 2125).  FIDE informs me he's 12 or 13 years old and has had the title for 4 years, which means he earned it by winning a tournament when he was quite young.  However, it was apparent in the camp sessions that he was probably the strongest of us--I believe he won the Friday middlegame solving competition handily--though he did not have things entirely his own way in the tournament. 

In round 4 I played Kyle Wang.  This game went badly for me due to the clock:  I had a good opening and then became flustered, floundered, and went under.

I also had only 10-15 minutes to write the annotations, which may explain the breathless tone....

My fifth round opponent was a national Kindergarten champion a few years ago.  I was supposed to use my one-on-one session with GM Moradiabadi to prepare for her, but was able to find only two games, both fairly old and neither very informative.  She almost surely put her GM-coaching session to better use as she played a highly technical line of the French Tarrasch impeccably for many moves. 

Whew!  I was very close to losing that one, first on lack of knowledge of the hyper-sharp line, and then in another time-control panic.

I thought that Katherine may have been a little out of her depth in this camp.  We almost never heard discussion of her proposed moves in the lecture sessions, which leads me to suspect she just sat quietly and didn't participate much.  I know nothing of her personal situation, but sometimes parents make the mistake of thinking that a higher-rated section is somehow better than a lower-rated one--we had issues with that in the last camp I attended.  If it's the kid who wants to be in a higher section, I'm all for letting them try; if instead it's the parent, they should, in my opinion, reconsider.  Katherine had a tough time in the tournament and later on, her games were not showing up in the results sheet.  She might have had more fun in the next-lower camp.  She's certainly a promising player, from what can be seen in this game.

I asked GM Leitao for advice on G/30, and he suggested blitzing your opening, slowing down for moves 15-20, and then blitzing the rest.  I tried this advice in the next two games.  Perhaps it helped, but in both games things just kept getting more complicated after move 20 and I really couldn't afford to speed up too much!

Here I am trying it against Vincent Tang, USCF 1960, in round 6.  In this game I had received some one-on-one coaching in the Italian from GM Lenderman, but I didn't have time to ask, "What if Black does not castle when White does, and launches a pawn storm instead?"  I should have asked....

So I survived the attack, but that was a LOT to give Black and it didn't cost him even a pawn.  Not an experiment I would be quick to repeat.  This reinforces my feeling that playing other peoples' openings is not for me:  I need to work them out for myself.  Outside sources can help, sure, but in the end the work has to be done by me, so I own it.  That's how I've become comfortable with my lunatic Caro-Kann line--I read it in a book, watched part of a video (I STILL have not watched the rest!) and then just pounded it in games until I could more or less handle whatever Black thought to try.
In the last game, after the camp was effectively over, I played Jayden Wu (USCF 1636). This is my favorite game of the tournament:  I got to play my best opening, and I felt relatively confident throughout.

I will say, though, that I think the GM's praise for this game is overly colored by the fact that I'm pretty sure, while several of the kids are better players than me, I'm a better annotator.  So I can sell you the idea that I understand the position:  whether I actually do or not is another story!

The tournament was won by Marvin Gao with 5.5/7.  Bowen Liu and Roger Shi tied for second with 5/7, and I was fourth with 4.5.  It is not clear that all of the lower-board games were actually ever played.  Since the event was not rated I guess it doesn't matter too much, though it offends my sense of tidiness.

Lessons from this event:

--G/30 is a strange beast, not classical, not blitz.  It rewards knowing your openings cold (as the last game shows) and having a quick grasp of tactics. 

--My style is absurdly high-risk and scrappy, but if I keep my head and don't panic I can do quite well with it--I don't mind playing sacrifices on intuition.  However, I am prone to panic:  I'm terrible in my own time trouble and not too great in my opponent's.  (I find my opponent's time scramble incredibly distracting, and too easily find myself blitzing in imitation.)  Making a good transition from non-blitz to blitz mode could help.  (I recently broke 2000 in blitz for the first time.  Will that do me any good in time scrambles?  Well, I can hope.)  The fourth-round game where I won the exchange and then feebly lost the game is a particularly nasty example of what goes wrong for me at faster time controls.  (Though, to be fair, I have lost exchange-up games several times, memorably to Anthony He once--it is my least favorite material advantage by far.)

--If I knew all my openings the way I know the Poisoned Pawn Winawer I would win more games, not because of opening traps, but because I play better--and faster--when I have a comfortable understanding of the position and know the basic plans.  It's a worthy goal, but alas, I still don't really know how to study openings.   That's my biggest disappointment with Rising Stars, but I suspect the answer will actually be idiosyncratic to me, and it's no use looking to others to solve the problem.

I am an adult player trying to make a comeback after 27 years away from competition.  This blog mainly covers my tournaments, with occasional forays into other topics.