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Washington State Championship part 2:  Draws, but far from dull
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Washington State Championship part 2: Draws, but far from dull

mkkuhner
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12

I had left the first weekend of the State Championship with a disappointing 1.5/4, but thanking my lucky stars I didn't have to deal with the rules dispute.  Unfortunately, a few days later I received an email asking me to serve on an ad hoc Players' Committee to...deal with the rules dispute.  (The goal was apparently one adult player from each section other than the one with the dispute, and an even balance of genders as the dispute was between a male and a female player.)

We debated the matter by email, but it was difficult to decide.  To recap, the clock had been set incorrectly, without delay.  A spectator pointed this out to the TD, but Player A's flag had fallen before the TD could intervene.  He added 2 minutes to both clocks, and Player A then won.  Player B appealed.

You can make two arguments about this.  One is that the game was over--neither player complained of the flag issue, and now it's too late.  The other is that the game was not over as the required time had not elapsed--this was the TD's argument--so the TD correctly intervened.

A committee member suggested that we split the difference and declare the game a draw.  I could see no support for this in the rules at all, but I also couldn't make up my mind between the two arguments given above.  Player B noted that they had passed up a repetition draw based on the time shown on the clock, so the game could, in fact, have been drawn.  And a draw would disturb the competitive situation less than a win/loss.  So we eventually ruled it a draw.

Saturday morning the TD named the committee members and explained our decision in a brief players' meeting.  However, Player A arrived late, after clocks had been started.  The TD took them aside and told them of the ruling.  I closed the door of the tournament hall but we could still hear the resulting argument.  I went out and insisted that they move into the skittles room, but even this didn't stop the noise.  After maybe ten minutes Player A stomped in, sat down--and proceeded to lose to the lowest-rated child in the section.

This was incredibly distracting.  I was once run out of a chess tournament at gunpoint by a player angry at a TD ruling (fortunately no shots were actually fired) and I had trouble not dwelling on that.  I couldn't help being angry that Player A was yelling at the TD, who had consistently ruled in their favor; on the other hand, if I'd gone out there and made that point I felt sure they would yell at me, which was unappetizing.  And I was playing one of the Northwest's many alarming young Indian players, Advaith Vijayakumar.  He crushed me in our first encounter, when he was rated over 500 points below me.  Our second encounter was an extremely exciting, double-edged draw.  At least his rating has caught up with his skill....

That evening Player A did not appear, and was removed from the tournament.  Several players in the top section therefore got unexpected full-point byes in the rest of the event.  I could have used one of those...I was tired, and facing an unfamiliar adult Expert.  He told me that he'd hardly played for the last two years.  --Are we still enforcing the rule that you have to play two events a year to qualify for the State Championship?  Probably not, not when we didn't have enough players in the first place.

At this point Section 4, which was short-handed, had completed.  Erin Bian, who was probably quite surprised to find herself playing in the State Championship with a rating of 1677, totally dominated it.  She gave up just one point, losing to Felicity Wang in the final round, for 5/6.  Second place was a three-way tie between Felicity, Stephanie Velea, and veteran adult player Dan Mathews. Girl power!

Sunday morning I was playing another frighteningly tactical youngplayer, Ryan Min.  I fell into a planless position in the Italian and suddenly found myself down a pawn and fighting for my life; but the hard work with my coach on rook endgames paid off in the end.

Sunday night I was pitted against yet another young player--these are the realities of tournament play in the Northwest.  I had beaten Alec Beck a few times, often capitalizing on his dislike of castling to catch his king in the center.  I'd also lost a game to him where he didn't castle, I chased his king across the board, and then found to my horror that he was the one with the winning attack.  Sometime between then and now he seems to have become a teenager.

I took Monday off work and tried to kick back and relax before the last round--it is always weird to be playing one more round Monday night.  At this point I had drawn 6 games in 8 and was puzzled and somewhat annoyed with myself.  I am not usually a draw-prone player, but except for the game against Alec Beck, they were hard-fought draws--I just couldn't win my winning positions, and neither could several of my opponents.  So I was feeling quite hostile to the idea of another draw, which may help to explain the following game.

Yu-Chen Liang is a teenager; I had seen him at an event or two but never played him.  He appeared to be ill at this game and coughed constantly.  (Of course I went home and got sick afterwards.  Foreshadowing, I guess.  Later we wondered if this could have been COVID-19--Seattle was near the initial US epicenter.  I was tested by the Seattle Flu Study but they soon had much bigger problems and didn't return any results.  In June they finally told me that I had not had flu in February, but whether it was COVID we will probably never know.)

One more long bus trip home, and a very strange result to mull over.  I have never drawn so many games in my life.  Usually when I'm overstressed and playing badly I just lose--I lost all five games in the first weekend of last year's State Championship like that, which was pretty painful.  So, maybe a good thing not to lose?  But it sure would have been nice to win one!

At tournament start it looked plausible that women could win every section, and in fact they won every section but mine:  WIM Megan Lee won the Championship, WFM Chouchanik Airapetian won section 2, and Erin Bian won section 4.  I felt like I'd let down the team; a silly reaction but hard to shake.

I'd had hopes for this event, as I'd won my previous outing and felt I might be over my slump.  But I was also tired and stressed and in the process of losing my job.  I knew from day 1 that I probably wouldn't play my best.  As it is, there were several very interesting and exciting draws games, which is really all I could ask.

Over a month later I received an email informing me that the Players' Committee decision had been appealed by Player B, and that USCF had given Player B the full point.  So I didn't have to decide it after all.

A note to readers:  Of course local players know who Player A and Player B are, but the purpose of telling the story is not to rag on either player, but to give an idea what the tournament was like. Please don't add the names in your comments or I will delete them.  Thanks!