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While I like internet chess, in particular sites such as chess.com and FICS, it will never have the atmosphere of an actual tournament with all of its intrigue and sometimes drama.
Last weekend I played in the ANU Chess Festival, Minor Division. There was a good field of 57 players in which I was the fourth seed.
Round One came and went with only one result going against the top half vs bottom half split. I had won my own game reasonably early and took the opportunity of watching some of my opposition players plus sneaking a peek at some of the top boards in the Major division.
Round Two and still on the fourth board, even though I am rated +300 points on my opponent, he is putting up a stern fight. Game goes right down to the wire, winning a pawn, exchanging into a won endgame. Check the results, whoa........ both the second and third seed have lost their games, this makes it interesting.
Round Three comes and I am on board two against a 20 something old fellow who is rated 100 pts lower than me. By this time, ratings aren't what I consider, I consider we are both 2 and 0 for the tournament, so fair chance we are both in reasonable form. He plays the French, I play the Korchnoi Gambit, he accepts and then varies at move 12 with ...Be7. Long think now, Qg4 is the logical step for White, but I am struck by the idea of playing Bd2 and tempting him to win a second pawn. It looks like I trap the Queen if he does, but must be sure, as I will be two pawns down for nothing if it doesn't work. I convince myself that it is all good and play 13 Bd2 my opponent takes the pawn then is startled when I play 14 a3! During his long period of realisation that he is in a predicament, I spot the salvation for him, give up the Queen, play a very quiet looking King move and it nets a rook, 2 Bishops and 2 pawns for the Queen and Knight. He also has a protected passed pawn, and White will probably have to play for a draw from there. Oh well, that isn't so bad, was a time when the lines like this that I played for a win led to a loss! Now he thinks for an unbearably long time and I am beginning to think that he has either seen the saving move, or is considering resigning. Then he plays ...Qb6 trying to escape with the Queen and I breathe a sigh of relief. After spending near fifteen minutes analysing lines in the resulting position from his saving move, I know quickly refresh the lines of the Queen trap and the game is over in five more moves. That was a nice short game, gives me a chance to organise some tea later on and catch a glimpse of the other games happening. The top seed looks to be in for a tough time in his game, six, seven and eight all appear to be on track to joining me on 3-0, the ninth seed is in a perilous position against a young boy of around 12, make a note to keep an eye out for this young fellow in the coming rounds. I go and organise for a late dinner after the next round and return in time to hear that the top seed did indeed lose his game to a six year old! A big win for an up and coming six year old to knock off the tournament top seed! But this kid is one we all fear, he has added over 1000 pts to his rating in something like nine months and the only thing we can be sure of is that he won't be playing in the Minor Division for too many years to come. Also in a rather bewildering state, I see that the second and third seeds both lost their second game for the tournament. This is the peril of playing in these limited tournaments where you are one of the big guns, there are plenty of new gunslingers around that are just looking for another notch on the ratings table!
Round Four and now sitting on board one. My opponent is one of the few players that I can safely say is older than me, but is rated only 70 pts below me but we are both 3-0 and I have the Black pieces. I settle in for a good hard game and am not disappointed. I got down to less than 10 mins to play, my opponent was a little shorter with around 3 mins to play. I am a pawn up, but no clear winning line is evident, I see a subtle play that if he accepts, wins clearly. Check the stronger lines, they are drawn, so play in the hope of success. Bingo, he plays into it and then is quite astounded to see his knight trapped three moves later. Quite pleased with that result. But it was another longish game and I am need in of a good night's sleep. First time I have ever gone 4/4 on the Saturday of a weekender.
Sunday morning and present myself at the tournament venue to find that I am playing one of my co-leaders, the 12 year old boy I had noticed earlier in Round 3. This will be a decisive game and I am prepared for a good fight. My opponent from Round 4 greets me with a nice, "Just go to board one and see who turns up to play.", after I have read the draw. He then says that he had looked at our game and felt that I was winning anyhow, I smile and say that I couldn't be that sure, I felt that there were plenty of drawing chances for him. To the game at hand, the young fellow looks to be selecting a quiet opening, quieter than I expected, I proceed with good simple developing moves and then he unleashes his surprise. I knew it would be interesting, but this interesting looks frightening. To sum up, I made one move that was a positional error that ended up costing me two pawns, though I tried hard to salvage what I could from the game, and at one point thought that I may get a draw from repetition, my young adversary realised the correct way to win the game and I experienced my first loss of the tournament. We were very fortunate during our analysis of the game later in that a 2200+ player took an interest and gave us both some valuable insights into our deficiencies in the game and showed us possibilities that neither of us has seen during it. Then we got to go over a loss of this fellow's son with him. This would nearly be the equivalent of a training session with a FM player and here we were getting it for free, another bonus of OTB play.
Time to regather myself and see if I can keep myself in contention for a podium finish. Round Six pairings, back on board two, and I am playing Black against a young girl who I have played twice before. When I first played her in 2005 she was rated under a 1000 pts, now she is around 1250. I have two wins against her, but again, here we are, she is on 4.5 and I am on 4, so cannot expect an easy game. I played the French and find that she still prefers the Exchange variation. Play proceeded rather tamely till she pushed her f-pawn. I calculated that I was holding my own and started looking at my own attacking options. She continued to pursue her attack, I calculated a line where I was at least an exchange up, she erred to make it a piece up for me and it was in the bag, a few exchanges, won endgame. Then a check on the top board clash. A draw, well that made it possible for me to be right in contention again. I knew that I would play the young girl from that clash. Who my conqueror from the fifth round would play would be most crucial.
Round Seven the determining of who gets what share of the prize in this case. Two leaders on 5.5, two on 5, four more sitting just behind on 4.5. I am to play the young girl who was co-leader, so I was able to be the master of my own destiny in who finished higher in that case, but, my fellow player on 5 needed to win or draw if I was to finish equal first, so my tournament placing rested in his hands. My own game was proceeding nicely, I played a Rossolimo against her Sicilian, it turned into a bit of a Maroczy Bind position which I was liking, s it was stifling her play whilst allowing me to create little threats here and there. Then she erred, I cashed in to get two pawns up and then exchanged down to a won endgame whereupon she resigned. During the game, I had looked over and noticed that the other co-leader was actually down a piece with very little compensation, I fleetingly thought for a moment that equal first was on the cards, then looked at the clocks and noticed that while he had over 40 minutes remaining, his opponent was down to one minute and thirty four seconds. I then knew that regardless of how good his position was, he would never hold with that short a time remaining.
Anyhow as I summed up afterwards with someone that was enquiring about my feelings on the tournament, "Do I feel unhappy about one loss, or happy about six wins? I prefer to be happy about the six wins!"
This and all the other amusing little incidents that occur at these events, i.e. two young kids are playing a skittles game between rounds and I stopped to watch, one young fellow looks at me and says how can I win this, I proceeded to play with him the next half dozen moves to turn his game into an easy win and he admiringly looks at me and asks "Are you a GM or something?" I laughed and said "I only wish!" or the young fellow being consoled with that age old advice of "Welcome to the world of chess!" when he was lamenting a stupid mistake he had made during a game, is what makes OTB play so much more attractive than the internet in spite of how good Erik and co do make the internet chess scene.
The full results of both this tournament and the Open Division can be viewed at http://www.ianandjan.com/ian/results/weekenders/2008anu-open.htm
Great stuff, Phil. You've captured the magic.
I started to respond here about an hour ago then realised I'd written too much for a post ... so I put it on my blog instead.
Very good blog. Well done on your good performance!
I noticed in the results that there is a WIM with rating 1711. I know a WFM who is around 1700. I dont know why such low rated players should have such titles. Do they give these titles if a price tag is paid or something!? Surely it does more harm to womens chess than anything! Although i dont mean to take it away from these female players as they just play chess but FIDE shouldnt give out titles so easy imo.
The lady in question has suffered a form lapse, she has previously been up near 2000 rating.
You are not alone in questioning the rationale behind FIDE's improvised solutions to the questions of how their titles should be awarded. Here in Aus, debate still rages over how some people can pick up a FM title with a single good performance at a Zonal Tournament allowing them to bypass the usual work that is associated with such a title, yet insist that for IM and GM norms to be earnt, there must be representatives from 3 or 4 foreign Associations. The latter is a major hurdle to Australian chess.
I have never attended a chess competition or tournament, but I would like to one of these days.