State Championship 2: Adversity
After a distracted week away, we were back in Redmond for rounds 5-9 of the State Championship. I had not done much preparation in the intervening week, and I was also struggling with thoughts about score and rating which were simply a distraction from the task of playing each game well.
In round 5 I played mild-mannered math professor Damarcus Thomas. I don't know if he had prepared for me or simply happened to hit an opening I dislike....
I was reasonably happy with this game. I have been trying to study IQP positions, as I don't feel I understand them from either side. I can't say I've made great progress, but I did have a few ideas to work with.
My next opponent was the ominous WFM Chouchanik Airapetian, a previous State Women's Champion. She is known as a fierce attacker who loves to sacrifice, a quality she demonstrated in this game:
I made a lot of calculation errors in this game--even when Choucanik's attack was well underway I could have saved myself if I had exhibited the tenacity of the previous weekend. But I just wasn't in the right state of mind. At least I got to see some sparkling and inspirational sacks! I even saw most of them coming, for all the good it did me.
In the next round I played Eric Zhang for the third time: I beat him in last year's State Championship when he made a tactical inaccuracy in a very sharp position, and lost horrifically to him in the FIDE RR (which he won). He is improving by leaps and bounds. I caught a ride with him and his father after the game, and while we were discussing relative chess careers he told me that he had been playing chess for 60% of his life. That's more than I can say, unless you count occasional skittles games during the long gap from 1987 to 2013. (Yes, he really did start when he was four.)
A hard and somewhat disappointing game. My tenacity had definitely deserted me, and I also was having trouble coming up with plans. The "plan" of stranding my knight on a6 was really ill conceived: putting it somewhere else would have taken a long time, but at least it would have been...somewhere else! Almost anywhere else would have been better.
So I had won only one game, and really wanted to win another. I was scheduled to play Mark Trevor Smith, who had drawn every game so far. During the previous round he'd caused a small stir by offering Aaryan a draw extremely early in the game, which Aaryan, who was having a miserable tournament, chose to accept.
I played Mark in the previous State Championship, failed to take him seriously, got a terrible position, and then played a repetition of position which he chose not to interrupt. I had resolved not to make the same mistake twice.
This game hurt more than any of the losses, since it was so obviously the result of arrogance and stupidity on my part. There is apparently a large gap between knowing that you should not commit a particular thinking error...and actually not committing it. I fell straight into the gap and for the second year in a row was lucky to escape with a draw.
I had to go to work Monday morning, distractedly, and come back for the very last game. I was playing David Arganian, an adult Expert who had previously beaten me in an offbeat line of the French.
Oddly, this was a fun loss. Sometimes a game is just so interesting that I can enjoy it no matter the outcome. I would like to have that attitude all the time, but I don't expect I will ever be Zen enough to enjoy a game like round 8.... Still, it's something to aim for. I might play more lively chess if I were in it more for the process and less for the results.
Because really, for someone who thinks of herself as an attacking player, I did not get to attack very much in this tournament. I practiced my defensive skills with some success, played some interesting endgames, and produced just one whirlwind attack (against Aaryan). But mainly I got into trouble a lot, and ended up with a lackluster 3/9 score. My rating went right back where it's been--it oscillates between 1940 and 1970.
I hope that I am learning something new, and suffering the usual problems with half-digested (half-baked?) ideas. Only time will tell.
On the Sunday of the tournament i went to dinner with a bunch of the top players, and Nick Raptis told us confidently that he was going to win the tournament. He did in fact tie for first with Roland Feng, making them co-Champions (no tiebreak). Anthony He took third place, earning his FM title at age 12. Look for him to be winning a Championship someday soon.
The Premier section was won by Alikhan Igarliev, with Vikram Ramasamy taking an impressive 2nd place. My section was won by Timothy Maroney with a very smooth performance, losing only one game (to Chouchanik). Eric Zhang took second. And the Challengers section was won handily by Samuel Deng, who ended with 7 points while his four nearest competitors had 4.5 each.