Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CyChess #48 - Part 1 of 3

Life Master James Ellis

  On Sunday, I left my blogging chores to Daisy and Baxter and headed off to Ames to play in Roger Gotschall’s CyChess tournament. Roger has 4 of these a year and to me they are the best tournamenst around. There are 3 games, the time limit is 45 minutes per player for all the moves, and it’s on Sunday. Ames is 40 miles away from Marshalltown so I can relax in the morning, leave my house at 11:40, play 4 or 5 hours of chess, and be home eating dinner or playing with Daisy and Baxter by 7. Most people like more games or longer time limits, but for a guy like me CyChess is the perfect tournament. I wouldn’t mind playing in a weekend tournament where I could stay in a hotel and have a chess vacation, but 10 hours of chess in one day plus travel is a bit much for me.

  I had been studying tactics and got some good chess practice in on Thursday Night when 5 time Iowa Girls champion and fellow blogger Bethany Carson stopped by with her father Tim and sister Charity for our weekly blitz tournament. We had an odd number of players so I sat out of the tournament but in offhand 5 minute games, I managed to beat Charity 3 times (breaking my 2 game losing streak against her), split 3 games against Bethany and beat Jaleb 2 out of 2. I felt sharp, was encouraged by my good play, and even had Friday off to relax and have a 2 day weekend in addition to a ‘chess day’ on Sunday.

  I woke up at 4:30 like I do every day, and Kathy and I took Daisy and Baxter to the Jiffy at 5 for a beef stick treat like we do every Sunday. I took a nap, went to Mass with Ben, took another nap and at 11:45 picked up Jaleb and we were off to Ames to play in the CyChess. We found ourselves driving through some light snow which got pretty heavy once we arrived at 12:35. We got checked in and hung around with acquaintances like Marshalltown Blitz visitors Steve Jacobs and Hunter Yost, Eddie from Big Money Blitz, and Frank Li and his parents. Frank is a 6th grader who plays in my youth tournaments when Frank isn't battling with adults over the chessboard.

  The first round of chess tournaments are paired by dividing the players by rating into halves, and having the top player in the top half play the top player in the bottom half and so on. In all the previous CyChess tournaments I’ve been comfortably in the top half of the bracket and playing someone I have a good chance of beating. It is a pleasant way of easing myself into the tournament although I’ve given up an occasional draw and knocked myself out of the running. This tournament was unusually strong and I found myself ranked 9th out of the 16 players and having to face the top rated player in round 1.

  The top rated player at this CyChess was life master James Ellis. James is a math professor at Iowa State University. He had a stroke a few years ago and his playing strength has decreased such that he petitioned the USCF to have his rating floor removed. That being said, he still has an expert rating and also won the last 2 CyChess tournaments so I knew that I’d be facing a tough customer.

James Ellis (2027) vs. Hank Anzis (1706)
Cychess #48 - 03/04/2012 - Round 1
pgn4web chessboard courtesy of

  Up to this point, I could say that this was just a case of how a guy like James beats a guy like me, but the game in the viewer ends at the point where I got too low on time to keep writing down my moves. I got down to 20 seconds on my clock and was bashing out the moves instantaneously while Jim got down to 80 seconds looking for the knockout punch when he came up with this move.

  Jim had just played Be3 to d4 and I immediately bashed out Qf4 to protect the knight, only realizing an instant later that the rook was free. But it got even worse!!

  Here Jim continued a series of checks with Qe2?? I didn’t even notice that my Rook was under attack or that I could use it to take the Queen. I hastily played Kb6, noticed that I was losing my rook and resigned in disgust.

  This game was beyond brutal. Not only did I lose the game over the board (which happens to everyone), but I lost my head while my opponent did everything he could to hand the point to me. Good thing I've been doing all those tactic puzzles! If I had used the 5 second delay before my 20 seconds ran down to take a closer look at my opponents move (or maybe read my blog post about hasty moves!), I might have stolen this game. To help drown out my sorrows, I turned on my trusty iPod and played ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’ (both the Linda Rondstadt and Warren Zevon versions)

I'd lay my head on the railroad tracks
And wait for the Double "E"
But the railroad don't run no more
Poor, poor pitiful me

  Then I had an apple, got a drink and was off to the next round to hopefully wipe away the stink I felt I was covered with...