Seattle Chess Club October Quads
Autumn in Seattle is rainy. Image by Chulmin Park, from Pixabay.

Seattle Chess Club October Quads

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Quads are four-player round robins.  They're a common way to hold a one-day tournament in the US:  you make as many foursomes as you can, starting at the top of the rating list, and put the remaining players into a small Swiss system tournament.  For the October quads, held at the Seattle Chess Club's temporary location on Green Lake, we had a perfect 16 players.

Unlike with a big Swiss, where you will sooner or later play opponents roughly on your level, in a quad you have no way to know what you're signing up for.  One extreme, I figured, would be a quad with an FM, an NM, and an Expert; the other would be a trio of C players.  As it turned out, we were pretty close to the upper limit:  Quad #1 was three Experts and me. 

I've faced worse--I played a double round robin against an FM, an NM, and an Expert, some years back. (Managed half a point, though that was such an interesting game it made up for a lot.)  But this looked like a tough set of pairings.  Also, one of the Experts was my study partner Joey.  It's awkward playing against your study partner, especially when your openings have more holes than Swiss cheese....

I spent a fun half an hour chatting with newcomers.  We had several players trying out OTB for the first or second time, and being bemused at the G/120 time control.  If you've been playing G/10, it must be hard to imagine what you're going to do with all that time!  I also looked at a game of Joey's from the Friday night tournament series.  He'd gotten into a lot of trouble in what he described as his least favorite line of Petrov's Defense.

For round 1 I was paired against local teen Eddie Chang.  To my surprise, the game went straight down the main line of my French Winawer, Poisoned Pawn Variation, all the way through the pawn sack on move 12--except I was playing White instead of Black!  I have decided I like these positions from either side, though, and was fascinated to see how someone else would handle the Black pieces.

I genuinely don't feel bad about this game.  It was so interesting and rich, and in the end Eddie just played a hair better than I did.

This game took a while.  I stopped writing down times a few moves from the end:  I had just 13 minutes left.  (Yes, you really can use all that time.)  Joey and I dashed out and ate a hasty dinner, or lunch or something at the Mexican restaurant next door.  Unfortunately they served me a dish that contained a number of things I shouldn't eat, so I started the next round wondering uneasily if I was going to be sick midway through.  (Fortunately, it wasn't too bad.)  I was playing Brandon Jiang, who stopped the tournament leader for me at the Fall Open.

I am abashed to say, my only previous game with Brandon was in the line we're about to see, in the 2019 State Championship.  He beat me, and I made a mental note to study this line.  Sophie Tien played it against me in the Women's Championship, and I made another note.  Did I ever actually study it?  NO.

Wow, these young Experts have a nice eye for finishing tactics.

We had a little time before the next round, and Joey showed me his first-round loss to Brandon, in the same line of the Petrov as his problematic Friday night game.  "I knew I was in trouble," he said ruefully, "but I didn't realize it was a mate in three sort of trouble."  He had made up for it by beating Eddie in a game where he won a rook quite early--and spent the next 10 moves trying to save his queen before finding a way to give her up for rook and bishop, leaving him with a ton of extra material.  (Watching that game I thought he missed many easier wins, but in post-mortems my thinking was shown to be much too shallow.)

Joey Frantz.
Joey Frantz. Used with permission.

By this point I was quite tired, and I had to play Joey, who usually beats me (score 3.5-1.5 in his favor).  He was even more tired, and suggested we should both withdraw (after all, no one else would be affected) and go out for coffee.  "But," I said, "I've never lost every game in an event.  Not once in my whole life.  So I don't want to withdraw.  Uh...would you be interested in a draw?"

Joey seemed to chew on that, noted that he was the higher-rated player and would be donating me points (about 4 points, in fact) and then seemed as if he was agreeing to the idea.  I asked him afterwards if we had ever had an agreement.  He said, hazily, "I kind of thought so too, but I guess we didn't agree hard enough."

This led to the following, which is  the most weirdly meta game I have ever played.  Joey played the Petrov, and I simply rattled off the same line Brandon had played.  Since I don't have an acceptable line against the Petrov myself, it seemed like the thing to do, and I was pleasantly surprised that I actually remembered it.  I spent the opening waiting for Joey to offer a draw--I figured as the higher rated player he ought to be doing it--and feeling like a bit of a heel for my opening choice.  Then I won some material, and felt like even more of a heel.  It was almost a relief when his counterattack set in....

The thing I consistently notice about Joey's play is that he looks at more moves than I do, often with tactically decisive effect.  But in general during this tournament I was surprised inordinately often.  I am not sure how to fix this without playing even more slowly than I do.  In the last round, I was so tired that I kept saying to myself, "Your intuition is fine, just play" as a substitute for calculation.

I am startled that I managed to play a completely unfamiliar opening so successfully.  This will definitely be my new line against the Petrov--it's a lot better than ending up in a sullen, lifeless Three Knights or Four Knights, as I have generally done in blitz.

Brandon Jiang won our quad 2.5-0.5; apparently he was tired too as he took a last-round bye.   I didn't see all the results of the lower quads, but the two little girls (Emma Li and Michelle Zhang) were mopping the floor with their unrated opponents in the parts I did see.  Better get used to being beaten by small children, newcomers:  it's a fixture of the Seattle chess scene....

Thoughts about this event:

(1)  Was it mean of me to use the games Joey showed me against him?  It sure felt mean at the time....  But there are really only two approaches to playing your buddy.  You can do as a few local pairs do, and quietly draw the game.  Or you can play your best and let things fall out as they may.  --In any case, if you're going to agree to a gentleman's draw, you should make sure you really agree! 

(2)  I have an uneasy feeling that I played the opening against Joey better than usual because I thought we were going to draw, and was somehow more relaxed and spontaneous as a result.  Of course it could instead be that I was so tired, I had nothing left but intuition.  Playing three games in a day is hard; doing it on the back of a work crisis is even harder.  Worth thinking about, though:  could I improve my results by worrying about them less?  And, even if true, is this a practical course of action?

(3)  I'll play the Poisoned Pawn Winawer all day long, with either color!  I just love the weird positions it leads to, and I also feel like I have a decent understanding, despite the final outcome of this game.  If I could make friends with other openings the way I've made friends with this one, my opening problems would be hugely reduced.

(4) I still haven't lost every game in an event.  Whoohoo!  (Or maybe I'd be better off if I did--a little less stressed at the prospect?)

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.