State Championship 1: Tenacity
The Washington State Championship consists of four ten-player round robins, with the winner of the top section taking the title, and winners of other sections gaining automatic entry to the next higher section next year. I was, to my surprise, in section 3 ("Invitational") along with seven other adults and two kids. The average rating was 1988.
The event was held at Microsoft, I caught an early bus to help with setup, noting in passing some interesting metal plates on the sides of buildings in the research campus. Last year there were little holes in the buildings with woodpeckers living in them. This year--patches. A very Microsoft solution.
I had tried to prepare for the tournament, but other pressures in my life prevented me from accomplishing very much. Also, as will be seen, I prepared the wrong opening in several cases. This started with my first game vs. my rival Travis Olson. I knew I would play Bird's Opening based on our previous games, but I prepared for the From Gambit he tried last Championship. That game was a draw: he sacrificed a piece, got into trouble, then found a clever rook sacrifice to force perpetual.
Afterwards Travis fired up his phone and showed me two points at which he was winning. I don't think this really made him feel better. I wasn't overjoyed with the result either; it was an interesting game but my experiment with b4 got me into rather a lot of trouble.
In the evening I had to play Aaryan Deshpande, a rapidly improving young player. I was worried about this game.
During Aaryan's long think I wandered up to the top section and got to see Ignacio Perez crush IM Kaufman in his characteristic hyper-tactical style. When I asked Ignacio to show me the game the next day he was dismissive--just an opening trap, he said. But the opening in question had everything en prise. Bryce Tiglon came by and asked "But what if he'd done--" and they made a flurry of moves on the board, far quicker than I could follow. At the end Ignacio, who had been insisting that this was totally won, was down a pawn. "Lots of compensation," he said, which was probably true.
It is such a cool experience to watch the top players analyze. Just as at my first tournament, around 1978, I am blown away by how good it's possible to be. (I don't really understand this, but that's why I stuck with competitive chess. If I had won my first tournament I might have stopped playing.)
On Sunday I had to play Alan Bishop, an adult player from whom I expected a double KP opening. That's not what I got:
Alan is a strong player and I wasn't distraught over this game, but I was concerned that every game I seemed to be fighting back from a bad position. I was also spending a lot of time thinking about scores and rating points, which is a bad idea for me. I should have spotted this and tried to quash it, though that's easier said than done.
In the evening I played Tim Maroney. Online friends had shared some 1. e4 e5 games of his with me, back when he was playing in Spokane; he told me he was now in the Seattle area (good news) and had changed his openings up (whoops). So far preparing for specific opponents was a complete bust.
I was very smoothly outplayed in this game, so ended the weekend +1 =2 -1. Not what I had hoped for, of course, but not bad. I resolved to do better the next weekend.
It was hard to concentrate on work over the intervening week due to chess, but hard to put any time into chess due to work! I occasionally wonder what life would be like if all I had to do was play and study chess. But I decided in 1987 that this was no way to make a living, and of course that's even more clear now. I hope I have some brain cells left when I retire....