Sunday, April 11, 2010

Riding the chess roller coaster

  On Thursday, the Carson Family from Ackley came to the chess club for the weekly blitz tournament. It was nice to see them and great to have them at the tournament, which has had 6 to 8 players lately. This week we had 13 players. The best player of the Carson family is 3 time Iowa girls champion, Bethany Carson. I’ve played her a few times and I’ve found that her chess game tends to the passive side (retreats when attacked and readily trades pieces). I can take over the board a little at a time and eventually turn my space advantage into a large endgame edge when we trade the pieces off. I beat Bethany’s sister Sarah Faith using this strategy in the first round. I had an unexpectedly easy win over Bethany’s dad Tim in the second round and was paired against Bethany in the final round. I was rolling along with my strategy when she unexpectedly gave me a pawn. The move after winning a pawn, I missed a threat and not only lost the pawn back, but got my king’s castled position wrecked and dealing with the threats to my king cost me another pawn. Bethany played well after that and won the game. I was disgusted with myself for not taking the time to reorient myself to my unexpected good fortune. If I had, I would have realized that I should just keep to my play and my win would be easier than usual.

  I accepted an invitation to direct the Okoboji Open next weekend. Okoboji is a 5 hour drive from the rest of the Iowa chess players so we offered the players the opportunity to play the first round in either Ames or Minnesota and then not have to leave to get to Okoboji as early next week. Yesterday was the Ames satellite tournament and I agreed to play in case there was an odd number of players to make sure everybody had a game. Only 1 player showed up and so I found myself playing Dan Vasto. Dan is a psychologist from Adel, is an expert chess player, and was the Iowa state chess co-champion in 2004. I saw Dan last week when we were both helping at the Des Moines Chessathon. He is enjoyable to talk to and a great friend of Iowa chess. I’ve played Dan in tournaments twice before. Both times I had Black, lost a pawn in the opening, missed some chances to get attacking chances for my pawn, got in time trouble, and lost. We drew for colors and I had black again. Dan strikes me as a player who wants to dictate the terms of the battle and is willing to invest material to do so. My confidence was down after losing to Bethany 2 days prior, but I was ready for battle. Statistics say I have a 1 in a hundred chance of even drawing Dan, so I had nothing to lose.

  A lucky win, but I don't think I was ever really losing the game. It's amazing that I can lose to Bethany on Thursday and beat Dan on Saturday, but that is life on the chess roller coaster!! You can read all the chess improvement books you like, but I haven't seen a book that teaches how to get your opponent give you a piece.

  This was the highest rated player I’ve beaten since 1983. Winning the game will push my rating over 1690 and means that for the 4th consecutive year, I will have a new personal high rating (2007:1662, 2008:1684, 2009:1687, 2010:1690+).