Seattle City Championship 2018
The games, which I'd accidentally left out, are in place now....
The Seattle City Championship is really just another weekend tournament--no one regards you as a champion if you win it. This one was a decent-sized tournament in two sections. Friday night we were sharing the venue with a round of the weekly club event as well. (My friend Joseph Frantz showed up just to kibitz and then found that the TD had paired him into the weekly event. Whoops!)
I was just above the break in my section and was paired with an unfamiliar unrated player. Since most Seattle tournaments have multiple sections, I seldom play unrated players, though I had a memorable French Winawer against one a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, though I sat for an hour from the actual round start--nearly an hour and a half from the scheduled start--my opponent never appeared. (He didn't appear on Saturday or Sunday either. Perhaps he was a phantom of the internet?) So I went home unsatisfied, if slightly relieved--it had been a long day already.
The next morning I spent an hour teaching martial arts to a full dojo of confused 5-7 year old newbies, and then headed out to the tournament in time to see the end of Round 1 of the two-day event--a G/60 which I avoid like the plague. Uncle Vik was a piece up for two pawns against a B player and then picked up a piece, in a desperate time scramble, before seeing his opponent's move--and had to resign immediately. There were several other dramatic upheavals of the same kind. I was truly glad not to be playing in that.
In Round 2 I was paired with an unfamiliar adult expert:
A tough game, but I felt like I'd played credible chess overall. However, my worry going into the tournament--that I would miss my opponents' threats, as I'd been doing in blitz and Tactics Trainer--seemed to bear out. I was surprised by my opponents' moves much more frequently than I felt I should be, and while I was already lost when I missed the final tactic, it was still not reassuring to have been surprised.
I went out to dinner and came back around 6 pm to find that one game from the 12:30 round was still going! An adult B-player, Bruce Gregg, was up queen for rook against Vignesh Anand with no pawns on the board. Vignesh had 17 seconds on his clock; Bruce, surprisingly, still had around 20 minutes. He finally managed to win just as the next round was getting organized. The tournament director gave him 20 minutes' grace before he had to play me. I suspect the resulting game doesn't represent Bruce's best play, as he looked pretty tired:
I asked Bruce if he wanted to go over the game and he said, "There's not much to say. I was just outplayed."
Having just come from a 7-round tournament in which I never once got to RAR an opponent (I did win one game, but in the endgame after a long hard fight) this was extremely good for morale. I went home and showed the game to my spouse--usually a bad idea as it delays getting to sleep, but the game had been short enough, despite the late start, that I could allow myself the luxury.
My spouse asked who I'd be playing on Sunday. "I'm afraid it will be Jason Yu," I said, "or maybe Viktors."
"If you're afraid of Jason you're bound to play him."
I'm not sure the logic of that holds up, but I was in fact playing Jason. He's the number 9 11-year-old in the US and had just won a quad in which he beat an LM and an FM. He'd also laid a resounding RAR on me in the Winter Classic, and I was indeed afraid of him. I discussed his opening repertoire with the other kids; they suggested that Bird's, my backup opening, might be a better choice than 1. e4 for which he was bound to be well prepared.
During the 41-minute think I'd wandered the halls, in a reversal of our usual roles, and explained to Jason's mother why she hadn't seen him for so long.... Afterwards he took a little while to collect himself--he was extremely disappointed--and then we analyzed the game. People kept asking him to show how he'd missed the win, which surely was salt in the wound. I felt sympathetic but not at all remorseful.
Jason's disappointment was doubtless made worse by the fact that this is the second time I've swindled him for a draw in a losing position--and it could have been three, but that time he managed to regroup and win anyway. The previous swindle cost him about $120, too, as I won the section because of it. Something clearly goes wrong for him when he smells victory.
But then I was quite tired, and it turned out I had to play LM Viktors Pupols as well! He had apparently thought over our previous games and opened with the Reti, probably intending the anti-Dutch that several masters have been deploying against me. I decided against the Dutch and got a position about which I was deeply clueless. It was a difficult game in which I never felt I had any attacking chances, or any real grasp on other courses of action. He collected the bishop pair, then traded it in for a passed pawn. Uncle Vik loves his passed pawns and I knew this was probably no good. I managed to lose tactically before he could demonstrate his endgame skill, but I don't think the outcome was in much doubt.
This final round was...weird. The top boards were mostly little kids, and at one point one of them started giggling and couldn't stop, and soon everyone was giggling. The two kids next to me started pranking each other, tapping the clock when it wasn't their turn. An adult who should know better decided to deliver a mid-round lecture on the inappropriateness of adjusting pieces on the opponent's clock. (He's not wrong, but the ranting was very unwelcome.) And the construction project upstairs started drilling ridiculously late in the evening....
A point and a half was worth about +8 rating. Progress is very slow. But the game with Jason, despite mutual blunders, was worth the price of admission by itself--and not just because I got a draw with him. I truly love that kind of double-edged position, even against someone whose calculation speed and ability, in full view in the post-mortem, puts mine to shame. I have also found in the subsequent days that it's a charming game to analyze with friends; everyone finds new tactics and possibilities.
Lessons from this tournament:
Never resign when you have a cheapo! I have saved an amazing assortment of lost games lately. Now, to try to get fewer losing positions....
I don't regret the decision to play for a win vs. Jason, even though it should have cost me the game. I learned a lot more from his attacking technique than I would have from a 15-move draw.
In razor-sharp positions, especially with unbalanced material, you mustn't take anything for granted. In the game with Jason I thought I had to take h3 to deal with the mate threat "and then I'll worry about what happens next." But what happens next is that I lose my queen. If I had paused--hard though that is with only a few minutes on the clock--and looked at all options I might have found e4 while it was a saving tactic rather than merely a swindle.
I enjoy chess so much more when the position is sharp and double-edged that it's probably worth some risk to obtain such positions, and I should bear this in mind when working on my openings.
And finally, I need something to play against the anti-Dutch lines. Unless I can find a way to handle the Dutch structure versus an early e4, it will have to be a new opening. I don't take readily to new openings, though this year I've slowly made friends with the White side of the KID. I'd better get started.
I was nowhere near any prize money with 2.5/5. The winning score, due to a lot of upsets, turned out to be 4/5, shared by FM Ignacio Perez and A-player Joseph Levine. Joseph is a player to watch out for--he's studying with a GM and his rating graph is nearly vertical. He beat Ahmet in the last round. I got to analyze with him and Ignacio afterwards, which was fun. Joseph is self-assured to a fault, but had to say "Whoops!" and retract lines against Ignacio from time to time.....
Mark Trevor Smith has, like me, been looking at the probable players in the WA State Championship and notes that section 3, where he and I will likely be, has 4 adults and 6 children, mostly in elementary school, and including the ominous Joseph Levine--though he could easily end up in the section above, which is not quite full. It's going to be tough! (I need to not screw up versus Mark, that's for sure; I've done that two State Championships in a row and it's getting ridiculous.)