Monday, November 30, 2009

it takes me a while, but I settle in

I played in the National Chess Congress this weekend. I scored 3.5/6 in the under 2200 section. It was my first big tournament since Amateur Team East. I had stopped going because I didn't want to see my ex-boyfriend, but really, what am I going to do, quit chess?

It was really fun: I had forgotten why I liked long away tournaments, where you get in a rhythm of just chess, all day: no email, no phone, no nonchess friends, no errands, no work, no computer. I really love that state when it feels like playing rather than work, you feel light and enjoy the long endgames because they are fun.

It takes me a little while to get used to sitting at the board again. I felt very antsy in the first rounds and got up every few moves. Then Saturday evening I was playing a caro against a 1900, when I thought I was being principled, but hung an exchange.

I was angry and entirely determined that I would not lose, that I would fight hard and trick this guy somehow, and I did, and then by the Sunday rounds I was content to sit still and let my face melt into my hands.

here are some puzzle moments from my games:

1) This is round four: Johnson Pau (white) just played the unfortunate retreat 28. Qd1. How did I win material?

2) Last round: I had just played the ambitious 12... a5. I'm desparate to do something on the queenside before he checkmates me. What tricky positional idea can white play to show why ...a5 is bad?

3) I'm 9.5/11 with the caro kann! How do I win here? (round 2 vs Philip Selis)

4) Kevin Mo was black against me here and simplified to a winning pawn ending. how?


dfan said...

This 1800 player was happy to get the first and third positions right (I didn't try the other two).

I've never tried playing in a long nothing-but-chess tournament. I'm always worried that I'll be totally exhausted after a day or two, but you're the second person I've seen say that you totally get into a zone by the end of it.

Anonymous said...

I never play only chess tournaments either.

I think position 2 is from Shabalov Stripunsky Latvia 1997. Am I right?

anjiaoshi said...

I just never know what I'd do with myself in between rounds. I go stir crazy in hotels, and they always hold these things in the middle of nowhere, not someplace where you could get outside for a while and take a walk.

Ron Young said...

I can't solve the first position. Also kinda curious where White's queen just came from.

Anonymous said...

I once took my blood pressure after a major tournament game. It was approximately 500 over 350. After that I decided I would limit my chess to casual games at the club.

I figured out the first one - but only because I knew that there was something to find. I never would have gotten it during a real game (or a casual one at the club). Impressive!

Ron Young said...

Ok I figured it out now but only because you didn't correct the position when I said I couldn't solve it so I knew you hadn't set up the wrong position. Still, White can perp at the end, can't he? Not that that invalidates the quiz or restores my entire face.

Ron Young said...

Ok I am not sure about the perp either but I haven't given up yet. Anyway, you made the first one too hard; I ought to be able to find a groove and settle in.

Gurdonark said...

I haven't played in a "go away for the weekend" tournament in years.
I tend to play in short time control events these days, except for on-line over at, when I play long time-control postal.

I used to love to head to a nearby but not home city or two to play all weekend. I stopped this kind of travel when I could not imagine doing a taxing week at work followed by a taxing weekend of concentration on chess. But I can understand how another perspective might see the qualitative nature of the mental 'tax' of chess as much more palatable than the tax of daily work stress.

I love that feeling of "flow" that comes with intense chess.

I think it's good to set aside an ex-boyfriend as a reason to go or not go to a tournament. I think you're right--surely giving up chess is not the rational alternative.

That's a great photo of you at the heading of this post.

Congratulations on your great record in the Caro! Perhaps you'll be adding the Slav soon, now that you're apparently at home in those pawn structures.

Ron Young said...

Ok, I am now confident that diagram one should end in a draw. I am going to follow Botvinnik's advice and put myself out there by publishing my analysis.

Ok, from the starting position: ... takes, takes, checks, up, takes, takes, checks, back, checks, blocks, checks, up, takes, checks, over, checks, up, takes, up, back, and now either:

(a)... up, checks, over, checks, back, checks, etc., or

(b)... over, checks, over, checks, up, checks, back, checks, etc.

Anonymous said...

Ron - Lizzy said she could win material. She didn't say anything about winning the game :-)

PS - Your analysis looks good to me.

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I've played a weekend-trip-style tournament too. I'd like to, but there aren't a lot around where I live, and I'm afraid of the big CCA events because a) they're really expensive and b) I think there will be cheaters.

The expense I can deal with, but can anyone enlighten me on whether I'm unduly afraid of cheaters?

Also, congratulatoins on your Caro success. I won something like my first six games with the Modern and I thought I was set for life. I crashed back to Earth hard; I hope that doesn't happen to you.

Rick Massimo

P.S.: I actually find that I do really well with a new opening, so I switch fairly frequently. Anyone else find this? Or the opposite?

Leon Akpalu said...

Ron: translating your line into algebraic,
29...Rxe1+ 30.Kxe1 Nd3+ 31.Kd2 Nxc5 32.dxc5 Qd3+ 33.Ke1 Qe3+ 34.Qe2 Qc3# 35.Kf2 and here I would improve your line a smidge by taking the d-pawn with check: 35...Qxd4+ 36.Kg3 Qza1 37.Qe6 Kf8 38.Qc8+ Ke7 39.Qxc4 and now Black can re-centralize the Q while protecting the a-pawn with 39...Qe5+.

If the 36.Qe3 instead of the king coming out, there are other checks available. Sure, there is some danger of a perpetual, but that's lots better than just being down the exchange, right?

Bill Brock said...

I was looking at disdaining Mr. Rook with ...Qe3+, Qe2 Qg1+

Black is formally down material but has all the practical chances

Ron Young said...

Leon A: the pawn is no longer on d4 to be taken. You can take on c5 with check but then you can't have the rook. Bill B's idea looks interesting after Qf1 Qxc5. Anyway, no argument with Miss Vicary's movements; I was just trying to salvage a little amour propre after my initial faux pas.

Anonymous said...

Who is your ex-boyfriend?

Elizabeth Vicary said...

1. yeah, I can’t take the exchange—not such a great problem, sorry. The game finished

28.Qd1 Rxe1 29.Kxe1 Nd3+ 30.Kd2 Nxc5 31.dxc5 Qd3+ 32.Ke1 Qe3+ 33.Qe2 Qc3+ 34.Kf2 Qxc5+ 35.Kf1 d4? [35...h6] 36.Qd2? [36.Qa2+] 36...a4 37.Rc1 Qb5+ 38.Kg1 d3 39.h3 h6 40.Kh1 Kh7 41.Ra1 Bf7 42.Qf4 Bb3 43.Qe4+ Kg8 44.Qa8+ Kf7 45.Qa7+ Kg6 46.Qd4 Qc4 47.Qd6+ Kh7 48.Qd7 Qc3 49.Rxa4 Bxa4 50.Qxa4 Qe1+ 51.Kh2 Qe5+ 52.Kh1 Qd5 53.f4 h5 54.Qd1 d2 55.Kh2 h4 56.Kh1 Kh6 57.f5 Qd4 58.Kh2 Qf2 59.f6 Qg3+ 60.Kh1 Qe1+ 61.Kh2 Qxd1 62.fxg7 Kxg7 63.g3 Qe2+ 64.Kg1 d1Q# Line

2. White can play 13. a4, and the point is that whatever I do, he gets a pawn on b5 (13... bxa4 14. b5! or 13...axb4 14. axb5!).

3. 24... d3 25.Ree1 Qc2+ 26.Ka1 d2 Line

4. 44… Bxe2 45.Rxe2 Nxd5 46.exd5 Rxf3 47.Rxe5 Rf5 0–1. If I trade rooks, his f and h pawns protect each other, his king runs and gets my e pawn and comes back to help them. If I don’t trade, I’m just losing another pawn.

Anjiaoshi – It’s definitely a lot more fun if you are there with someone, or at least know some people.

Ron—thanks for solving! The queen came from b3, where it had been attacking d5.

Gurdonark—it’s definitely exhausting; I took Monday off. But it also helps me as a teacher, to keep playing actively, and figure I should get to do some stuff I like. I started playing the Slav actually—I taught it so much that I ended up knowing it much better than the nimzo.

Rick --cheaters? If you play in the world open and do well, maybe you find some, but a cheater with an even score in the under 2200 section of the national chess congress is a not someone to be scared of.

Philip Sells said...

The closest I came to meeting a cheater at this event--and it was a long way away at that--was in round 4, when my opponent showed up 42 minutes late for the game, blitzed off his first 8 moves (well, say G/8 rate, more or less), then while I was contemplating my eighth move, went off and left the board. So I decided on my move and waited. Since he'd taken his jacket with him, I thought he'd gone out for a smoke.

But as his clock ticked on, I thought maybe he might conceivably be looking up something. So I started to get concerned and said something to the TD at about the 20-minute mark. Some more time passed, and it came out that he was actually playing backgammon down the hall. So much for the cheating worry. The TDs got him back to our game, and once he actually sat down to play, he turned out to be a beast. He was very generous in offering me a draw in a position where I was getting crushed. I think he can't have used more than about 5 minutes of actual thinking time for the whole 30-odd moves.

Elizabeth, I don't know if you'll be happy to know this, and maybe you don't even care, but I ended up trivially hanging a pawn not just in our game, but in three of the next four after that. Only on the last occasion did I manage to squeeze some real compensation out of the position. (The even funnier thing, I suppose, is that in round 3 my opponent gave me the very same line of the Caro that we had, and that was the only game I won all weekend.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm probably just being paranoid.

Elizabeth, I hope you don't think I was actually accusing you.

Rick Massimo

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Rick- it didn't occur to me. :)

Anonymous said...

I also like long away tournaments. I imagine it gives me a hint of what its like to be a chess pro (I'm not - I'm Class C). You live and breathe the game from when you wake up until you sleep. And everyone there is for the same thing - the love of the game (and to win). There's also added exhiliration for me because I'll have been prepping for the big one for a few months and I'm finally seeing the results of my training (which includes playing in smaller tourneys). There's nothing like it.

Good luck on your next tournament Elizabeth.

Chicago, IL