Monday, December 31, 2007

North American Open Part Three: Delusions of Grandeur

I had played Eugene Yanayt a few months ago in the New England Masters. Before that game, some people (I can't remember precisely who, but let's say Dave and Josh Friedel and probably Elliott Liu and possibly others) were explaining to me that Eugene's nickname is Zen Master, because he's completely focused and undistractable, and that even if I appeared at the board wearing a bikini, he would not bat an eyelash. Notice that I was not considering doing this. But somehow it had come up because Elliott's next opponent had a strange obsession with water, so there was some distraction/amusement scheme in the works that involved multiple towels and trips to the shower. It never actually happened, any of this.

I lost that game also but it was an interesting Bogo Indian. So I was surprised when Zen M played 1. c4.

(180) Yanayt,Eugene - Vicary,Elizabeth [A30]
North American Open Las Vegas (3), 27.12.2007
1.c4 c5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.d4 cxd4
4.Nxd4 e6
5.Nc2? How strange.
5... Qb6 After the game, Alex mentioned that point of playing Qb6 is to make the knight on d4 move, so it's stupid to play it after 5. Nc2. I somehow had convinced myself that my idea was to play Qb6 and Bc5, making white play e3 before getting out the Bc1, but that's just an insane fantasy on my part since the queen is vunerable on b6 to Nc3-a4 and white can just play e3 and then e4 later or something.

6.Nc3 Nf6 [If I play 6...Bc5 first he just goes 7.Ne4]
7.Rb1 Bc5


8...d5 was my other idea. I get lots of compensation if he takes the pawn: 9.cxd5 exd5 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Qxd5? Be6 12.Qe4 0–0 13.Bd3 g6 14.b3 Bf5 15.Qc4 Ne5.

But he can play the same idea as in the game: 9. b4 and now I have to grovel with 9...Be7 10.c5 Qc7 I don't really know how to assess this, since I refuse to turn on Fritz and Dave hasn't told me what to think yet. I didn't see it during the game because I missed his idea of taking on b4 completely. If I try to take with 9...Nxb4 10.Nxb4 Bxb4 11.Bd2 Qc5 12.Rxb4 Qxb4 13.Nxd5, it's the same as in the game only worse. So why didn't I play 8...d5? I just figured I'd castle first and then play it.

Notice that 8...a5 is ugly for me: 9.Na4 Qa7 (9...Bb4+ 10.Nxb4 Qxb4+ 11.Bd2 Qe7 12.Nb6) 10.Nxc5 Qxc5 11.b3 and I have big problems on dark squares.

9.b4 Nxb4

10.Nxb4 Bxb4

11.Bd2 Qc5

At this moment Jesse Kraai walked past. He glanced at my position, visibly winced, and gave me a pitying look. Of course, I had no idea what was going on, but it was now apparent to me that I ought to be very concerned.

12.Rxb4! Qxb4

13.Nd5 Nxd5

All the lines are ugly, but one typical one goes 13...Qa3 14.Bb4 Qxa2 15.Nxf6+ gxf6 16.Qg4+ Kh8 17.Bxf8 Qb1+ 18.Ke2 Qc2+ 19.Kf3

The best try is 13...Qd6 14.Bb4 Qe5 15.Bc3 Qg5 16.h4 Qh6 17.Nxf6+ gxf6 18.Rh3 and now something like 18...e5 allows 19.Qd6 ... oh whatever... he has multiple ways to win...

14.Bxb4 Nxb4
and let's just stop here and say white didn't have too many problems converting.

On to round four, where I am paired with Rodelay Medina, who I vaguely recall knowing from many years ago.

Medina,Rodelay - Vicary,Elizabeth [B22]
North American Open Las Vegas, 31.12.2007
1.e4 c5
2.d4 cxd4
3.c3 Nf6
4.e5 Nd5
5.Qxd4 e6
6.Nf3 Nc6
7.Qe4 f5
8.exf6 Nxf6

So far I'm very happy, still in the realm of knowing what I'm supposed to be doing and not having to do any difficult (as we know, almost impossible for me) original thinking. But here I mess up.

Of course I remember immediately after this move that the bishop is supposed to be on d6 so my king has the e7 square

The correct line goes 9...d5 10.Bd3 Bd6 11.Bg5 (11.Bg6+ Ke7 12.Bc2 h6 13.Bg6 Bd7) 11...Kf7 12.0–0 h6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.Qxf6+ gxf6]

10.Bd3 0–0


I expected 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bxf6 when I was going to play Rxf6.

"What? Why not 12...Bxf6!?" -- this is Alex and Todd laughing at me afterwards: "What are you afraid of?? One check? Hahahhaha. I WANT him to put his queen on h7. HAHHAHAHA" Now, I don't want you to think I'm complaining here. Obviously any chessplayer would kill to be able to show their games to a strong player(s) whenever they want and I'm incredibly lucky etc., but man, you sure do have to get used to feeling like the stupidest person in the room basically all the time.

13.Qe4 g6 This was my intention but it's bad, or at least it's scary (13...d5 Is very good for black also, same attitude as in the last line) 14.Qe3 Qf8 15.h4 alright, I caved and turned on Fritz, who says it's good. Whatever. Fritz doesn't understand what it's like.


Alex was advocating 11....e5 based on the following variation 12.g5 e4 13.gxf6 Bxf6 14.Ng5 h6 15.Qxe4 Re8 but look what Fritz finds: 16.Bc4+! Kh8 17.Nf7+ Kg8 18.Nxd8+. Craziness.

12.g5 d5
13.Bxe4 dxe4
14.Qxe4 Qd5

Now I thought I was being hot shit with Qd5, mostly because I had seen it when I played Ne4, but really his king is so weak that I should keep queens on and play e5 instead: 14...e5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Qxe5 and I have lots of great ideas: 16...Qb6 (16...Qd3; 16...Bh3) 17.0–0 Bh3]

15.Qxd5 exd5
16.Nd4 Ne5
17.0–0 Bh3

17...Nd3 This just wins a pawn. I saw it in the game, but somehow it did not fit in with my self-important desire to punish my opponent for attacking me so unreasonably.

18.Re1 Nd3

So here I faced a big choice. The great tragedy is that I saw this beautiful line: 19...Nxf2 20.Rxe7 Ne4 21.Nd2 Rf2 22.N4f3 Rf8 23.Rxe4 Rg2+ 24.Kh1 dxe4 25.Nxe4 Rxf3, mating, but I chickened out of playing it. Why did I chicken out? I think the truthful answer is that I couldn't see anything after 22... Rf8 but I felt like I might be missing a good move for white. On top of that, I liked the line I played and thought it was safer.

Now the reality is that there is a hole in the above line, but there is also a big improvement for black before the hole. White saves himself with 22. Rxe4 Rg2+ 23. Kh1 dxe4 24. Nc4! However, 20... Nd3 instead of 20...Ne4 is completely winning.

Another pseudo attractive line was 19...Bxg5 20.Rxd3 Bxc1 21.Rxh3 Bxb2 but after 22.Nb3 Rae8 23.Kf1 Bxa1 24.Nxa1 I just didn't see why he couldn't get his knights out.
19. ...Nxc1
20.Rxh3 Bxg5
21.Na3 Rae8
22.Kf1 Rf6
23.Rf3 Ref8

So by now I'm in my normal absurd time pressure and my moves cease making any sense.

24.Kg2 Bd2
25.Nac2 Rg6+
26.Kf1 Rgf6
27.Rxf6 Rxf6
28.Nb3 Nd3 [28...Nxb3 29.axb3 a6 30.Rd1 Bf4=]
29.Ke2 Nxb2
30.Nxd2 1-0

Oh goodness. I was starting to feel like maybe it wasn't a huge tragedy, and I was playing myself into shape. Then I lost the next game, and was getting beat by Christian Tanaka when I slimed him. That will be coming up in the next post. Very chess heavy, I'm being these days, no? I'm sure it's what my readers read my blog for, right?

North American Open Round Two: Why Am I Such a Huge Baby?

So round two I'm playing IM Mezentsev. The opening confused me, of course I couldn't remember what I was supposed to be doing, and then I seemed to be in a lot of trouble. What I couldn't work out was why my position started off bad, but then I made some weakish moves, he made some quite decent moves, and suddenly I seemed to be doing rather well. It's not supposed to go like that, right?

By the time we reach the diagrammed position, things have picked up for me, but having spent a large part of the game getting glasses of water, feeling sorry for myself and considering the larger problems in my life, I am stupidly short of time.

My first thought is 38. Qd7, threatening both to take on e7 and to play Qe8-f7. But then I see he has 38...Qc5, so I panic, look wildly around, spot Qa7 and fail to notice it hangs e6. Of course 38. Qd7 Qc5 39. Ne3 is actually quite nice for me, by which I mean it's an immediate draw after 39... Re1 40. Nf5 Qxf5 41. Qxe7.

I am such a stupid retarded disgusting mindless child. Is that really so hard to see? Am I really incapable of calculating simple captures? I officially hate myself.

But enough about me. Let's talk about what other people think of me. I had two experiences lately in which people have told me how I play. That's always a strange thing to happen because it's hard to know what your own style is: it always seems to me like I'm just trying to make the best move. Each move is just an uneducated guess, a stab in complete darkness; there's no real agenda, much less style, behind any of it.

So after the last round Dennis Monokrousis comes over to where I'm analysing with my nice opponent, Robert Akopian, and expresses surprise that I'm not attacking him. I look at him quizzically, and he explains to Robert, "She's always been a carnivore as long as I've known her." Now, I'm immediately suspicious of this for two reasons:

1. Everyone always seems to think women are crazy attackers.

2. To my knowledge, Dennis has never seen me play a game of chess before.

But ok, maybe he's secretly studying my games. And maybe he's right; how would I know? It's not like I have some huge insight. In any case, when I got home I was amused to read Braden Bournival's "Player Analysis" of me.

Strengths: Eliz.. I mean Liz is very good at positions where she knows what she's supposed to be doing. She definitely does better in positional games where the pawn structure in the center is established.

Weaknesses: Elizabeth is much weaker when she needs to come up with her own plan at the board. If she gets an unfamiliar position out of the opening where she has to do this, she has trouble. This is why she does much better with fixed pawn structures because the plans don't change.

Now, this is clearly a huge insult. I'm a mindless robot who can only follow directions and gets easily confused? How sad. Even worse, Brad almost certainly got this insight into me from my coach, Dave. (Could he be angry at me because I haven't taken lessons lately? I'm sorry, Dave! I've been so busy!) Unfortunately, I think they're probably right. I wonder if there are any special exercises I can do to become an independant thinker.

Next round: I think I've out-strategized the Zen Master, but fall flat on my face.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

North American Open, Part One

Hello, blog readers! I caught the red eye last night back from Vegas, where I had a poor performance but an amusing time. I'm too tired to tell you everything now, but hopefully over the next few days ....

So round one I'm playing GM Anatoly Lein. Things are not going well for me: I forget my opening preparation as usual and so I'm down a pawn for nothing with white after 15 moves.

But I'm distracted from this because two boards over, Dennis Monokrousis is a little worse against an expert, in some time pressure, and becoming agitated. His opponent writes his next move down, and Dennis blurts out, "You aren't allowed to write the move down before you make it. It's illegal." So I immediately look away because, of course, this is a hilarious thing to say and I'm in danger of laughing. Not only is it the stupidest rule ever, but Goichburg has publicly refused to enforce it at CCA tournaments and the USCF recently repealed the change anyway. Dennis's opponent contritely apologizes, which gets me thinking: "Exactly what would Anatoly Lein do and say right now if I were to tell him he couldn't write down the move before making it?" If you don't know Mr. Lein, he's a venerable if cantankerous old Russian dude who has been playing chess for at least sixty years. I happen to like him a lot, but it would be fair to say he doesn't suffer fools gladly. So my fantasy of his reaction amused me for quite a while.

And then something strange happens. I am completely lost by this point, but Mr. Lein is getting inexplicably low on time. The position isn't so complicated; I have a few pseudo-threats, but nothing really serious. When he has 50 seconds left for five moves, the clock dies. Just goes blank. Lein furrows his eyebrows, picks the clock up, shakes it vigorously, and it starts working again as if nothing happened. I just smile at him and nod. The game continues.

And then his flag falls on move 39 so I stop the clock and he asks me what I think I'm doing. I point out that he hasn't made forty moves, to which he replies, "But you haven't either." Of course, this was true, but since I still had some time, it didn't matter. Lein didn't seem entirely convinced, but there wasn't much he could do. Later, Alex runs into him as he's leaving the playing hall: "He kept saying 'We both flagged, I don't know why they are insisting that I am the only one who lost.'"

As funny as I found the whole thing, it's not a win I'm proud of. Lein both forgot to set time delay and managed to start his clock first (he was black), so the move counter said 41 when it was really still his fortieth move. Plus I was hopelessly lost. But obviously I don't feel too bad--as someone's ICC notes once pointed out "I am not responsible for my opponent completing his moves in the allotted time."

Friday, December 21, 2007

but if he was....

Canada’s PM: Dalai Lama ‘is not a call girl’

Harper adds in TV interview ‘he’s a respected international spiritual leader’

OTTAWA - When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to explain in a year-end interview why he'd met the Dalai Lama in his Ottawa office, it was clear he wanted to show respect for the exiled Tibetan leader.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite come out that way.

"I met the Dalai Lama in my office, but I meet everyone in my office. I don't know why I would sneak off to a hotel room just to meet the Dalai Lama. You know, he's not a call girl," Harper told OMNI television....

Harper's chief spokeswoman did not respond to a query as to if the prime minister regretted his choice of words in the interview.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reminder: Chess Is Not High-Pressure.

So I was googling chess in Edmonton when I stumbled across:

Pastor busted for cheating chess team
Eric Koreen, National Post Published: Monday, December 03, 2007

While cheating in athletics is usually saved for the high-pressure world of collegiate or professional sports, it is apparently seeping its way down the educational system. All the way to the competitive world of South Carolina high-school chess. Bowman Academy had to return its second-place trophy that it won at last month's South Carolina Independent School Association State chess tournament after the team's sponsor used a home-schooled boy, his son, to fill in for another player on his team. The guilty party, Ryan Davis, is a church pastor. Davis resigned his position, while the school was fined and banned from chess tournaments for the next year. "We're dealing with young people here, and we have to send the message this is not tolerated," Larry Watt, the Association's executive director, told the Times and Democrat. In the tournament, 86 players from 15 different schools participated. At the end of the tournament, five different players finished with the same amount of points, so a computer-scoring system was used to pick the trophy winners. Bowman wound up with the second-place trophy. Davis said he did not go into the day planning to use his son. Rather, he had 13 players chosen, but one did not show up. As his son had tagged along with him, he substituted him in for the no-show. "I did not intend for it to happen this way. ... I did not intend to win a trophy. I had one kid missing and one extra kid standing by," Davis said. "We didn't take him as a ringer." Davis added that he did not know that his son was good enough to win the school a trophy. Watt said that he never imagined such a transgression taking place in a chess tournament. "It was like, 'A chess tournament?' " Watt said. "The stakes for a chess tournament and the stakes for an athletic tournament are not equitable. ... Chess is not high-pressure."
Of course it's always funny to see people getting caught for doing stupid things. But what's weird is that it isn't just the reporter who can't understand why the pastor would do this (if it was I would just chalk his reaction up to a non-chess player not understanding things), it's also the tournament organizer! And ok, he's a educrat, but still, he's running a chess tournament. You'd think he would have some idea that pressure is involved?!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Students Are Geniuses

The eighth grade team
Greg and I (both photos courtesy of Betsy Dynako). His shirt says "Rock Paper Scissors Champion."

The best part of my job is sometimes I feel like the kids I teach are great intellectuals and I'm simply lucky to have met them. The fact that I am 32 and they are 13 is just a coincidence of life which allows me to be their "teacher."
So I went with 24 of them to Texas last weekend for the National Grade Championships. The eighth graders won clear first, beating an incredible team of 4 1800s taught by my first chess teacher, the wonderful Mike Feinstein. He taught me for maybe three months when I was eleven, and I still remember how much I looked forward to my lesson every week. He wrote me out some notes once on long yellow sheets of legal paper: what to do if you are down a pawn, what to do if you are down an exchange, etc. I read and reread them until the pages fell apart.
The sixth graders tied for second but got third on tiebreaks, and the seventh graders tied for third (fourth on tiebreaks). They also won both the K-6 and the K-12 blitz tournaments. I had an amazing amount of help: Greg Shahade selflessly volunteered his time; Yuri Lapshun, Fritz Gaspard, and Shaun Smith of Chess in the Schools also worked brilliantly, cheerfully and tirelessly. Yuri in particular is an analysis machine: by round seven I could barely see straight, but he was still going strong.
So here are a couple amusing chess moments from my top scoring eighth grader, Angelica Berrios (far right in the picture).
Sidish Venkataraman 1402 -Angelica Berrios 1626
25.... Rxe3+ 26.fxe3 Qxh4+ 27.Kd1 Rf1+ 28.Ke2 Rf2+ 29.Kd3 Qe4+ 30.Kc3 Qc4#

And this I feel like is just a nice game overall, displaying Angelica's understanding, calm-headedness, and resilience.

Danny Chen 1883 - Angelica Berrios 1626

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 0–0 8.Nge2 Nbd7 9.0–0 Nb6 10.Bb3 Bf5 11.Ng3 Bg6 12.f4 h6 13.f5 Bh7 14.Nce2 Nbd5 15.Nf4 Nxf4 16.Bxf4 c6 17.Qd2 Bd6 18.Rad1 Bxf4 19.Qxf4 Re8 20.Qf3 Qd6 21.d5 Qc5+ 22.Qf2 Qxf2+ 23.Rxf2 Ng4 24.Rf4 Ne3 25.Rd3 cxd5 26.Kf2 Nc4 27.Bxc4 dxc4 28.Rxc4 Kf8 29.Rd7 Rad8 30.Rxb7 Rd2+ 31.Kf3 Rd3+ 32.Kf4 Rd2 33.Kf3 Rd3+ 34.Kg4 Rd2 35.Kh3 g5 36.Rcb4

36.... Re3 37.Rb3 Bxf5#

Funny stuff.

I'm writing a Chess Life article about the tournament, which I'm excited about: I have a number of interesting interviews and quotes. My angle is "Scholastic Chess: Why Texas??" and in particular "How come every* talented scholastic Texan player is Asian?" It should be in the March issue.
* Sorry, "almost every"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Going to Texas....

... with 24 kids tomorrow at 5 am for the National Grade School Championships. 318 has teams in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade sections. I guess we have some reasonable chance to win the top two grades, but there's an incredible team from Texas with 4 1800s in 8th grade, so the kids have their work cut out for them.

Greg Shahade is coming to help look at games, plus I'm looking forward to seeing my old friend Andrei Zaremba, who will be coaching the UTD team.

Expect some photos of kids playing chess in a week or so.