Seafair Open 2016: Bambi kicks again
[image from disneyclips.com]
This tournament marked my two-year anniversary of returning to competitive chess. I hoped to get back to Expert, but alas, that's not how it went.
My round 1 opponent didn't show up. I think the Seattle Chess Club has not worked all the kinks out of online registration yet, and my opponent probably never intended to play on Friday evening. (Local tournaments normally have a 2-day and a 3-day option: for round 1 you either play 40/2 on Friday evening, or G/60 on Saturday morning. Many players like the Saturday option, but I'm terrible at G/60 and also struggle to play more than two games in a day, so I prefer Friday.)
I could have asked the TD to pair me with someone else who didn't have a game, but I didn't realize this in time: instead, I waited for an hour and went home frustrated with what was effectively a full-point bye. I did get to watch Jason Yu blitz a young opponent right off the board in his tournament game--I would never dare play that fast no matter how confident I felt!
Saturday morning I walked into obvious home preparation. I don't know if my opponent had prepared for me specifically, but he played his opening moves at a speed that definitely suggested I was in over my head.
That was a fun middlegame bookended by a rather unsatisfactory opening and endgame. I resolved to do better in the next round, especially as I was paired with a 1500 player.
One factor that may help explain (if not excuse) this game: We had an amazing turnout for the Seafair with 93 players, forcing many games into an overflow room as well as totally filling the main room. I was stuck in the main room, which was hot and stuffy with so many players squeezed together. I tried to get up periodically and get some fresh air. It's been suggested that next year's Seafair should be in a hotel or school setting--it's a victim of its own success and just doesn't fit in the club anymore.
I am of two minds about this game. I played the opening terribly and hung my queen on a fairly obvious tactic (though my position was already ghastly). I also think that I should have taken the c6 pawn at some point, since by pushing it to c3 he could have forced immediate resignation. On the other hand, I didn't give up! (I'd contrast this with dropping a piece to Josh Grabinski in the Oregon Open, where I basically curled up and died.) I managed to make things very difficult for my opponent; more shamefully, I kept him up way past his bedtime; and it turned out I had an edge in endgame theory and was able to save the half point.
There were a lot of half points flying around. Our 2300+ teenagers Roland Feng and Bryce Tiglon, obvious favorites to win the tournament, were held to draws by Brendan Zhang and Vikram Ramasamy. (Don't get into a rook endgame against Vikram, that's my advice!) Cale McCormick (2200) was held to a draw by Joseph Truelson as well. I'd thought this tournament might have multiple players at 5-0, like last year, but I was dead wrong.
So I went home somewhat chastened and very late at night, resolved to do better the next day. I was paired with an unfamiliar 1600-rated adult who played extremely quickly and with seeming confidence. In the end, however, this game could be captioned "Black gets everything she ever wanted out of the Stonewall Dutch."
Not a difficult win, but I enjoyed it. Any tournament where you get to play 3 queen sacks can't be all bad. (Too bad Samuel wouldn't take the queen!)
After round 4 I had 3 points (counting the forfeit). BIll Schill had the only 4-0 and a pack was chasing at 3.5-0.5. Oscar Petrov and I tried to do the pairings in our heads, as we could see that we were in reach of prize money depending on the last round outcome. I called Oscar's pairing wrong, but my own right: I had to play FM Curt Collyer.
Curt had found our Washington Open encounter somewhat stressful. He was clearly not going to repeat that experience: rather than the Hippo he played a very tactical sideline of the French, and I rapidly got into trouble. It's nice seeing the French do so well; but I would have preferred to see it from the other side of the board!
After resigning I watched the key board 1 game, Feng-Schill, which would determine whether Bill Schill could win the tournament outright. Things looked tough for Bill, who had never managed to develop his queenside pieces. I wandered off and played a little blitz, came back and found that the queenside pieces were more or less developed but an endgame mate with rook and knight was looming. Back to blitz, and the two of them came in to analyze the game, which had ended in a draw. I managed to get in on the analysis, which was fascinating.
Things I learned:
(1) In much the same way I can glance at a K+P endgame and see that the king's not in the square of the pawn, FMs can glance at many rook endgame positions and immediately know the outcome. At one point in the analysis I said, "Couldn't Black drop his rook back one mover earlier and get it behind the pawn?" and Roland responded immediately with "Right, that wins" and pushed pieces back to a previous variation. I was left gaping as I'd just begun to calculate it! They also made statements like "All of the rook endgames from here are draws" which I couldn't begin to check, but every time we looked at a specific rook endgame, they were correct.
(2) I'm fairly good at coming up with ideas, but far below their level at evaluating positions. Probably as a result, I calculate when I should evaluate--I don't trust myself to know if an endgame is winning unless I can crank it through. That might work for K+P but not for rook endings, which are often very lengthy.
(3) There is more stuff in many "simple" positions than I can see. I couldn't find a save for the undeveloped-queenside problem, but one existed (and kudos to Bill for finding it); I also couldn't find a way out of the rook+knight mate patterns, but that existed as well.
There is so much to learn about chess. I emerged from this tournament somewhat shaken, especially by my opening problems, but still enthusiastic. There was a lot of talk about the FIDE Round Robin in August. I had better be ready for well-prepared and hungry young players.
I've developed a new strategy for studying openings, worth a test at least: make a list of very specific concrete questions and tackle them one by one, with periodic reviews to make sure I know the answer. Question #1: what does White do vs. ...Qb6 in the Fantasy Caro-Kann?
I have also realized, sadly, that I don't dare post about my answers: dear reader, you will have to wait until I have another tournament game in the ...Qb6 line to see what I've found out.