Wednesday, March 14, 2012

CyChess #48 - Part 3 of 3

Hunter Yost, Drake University Law School student

  Heading into the final round of the CyChess tournament March 4th, I was sitting with a half point out of 2 and no chance of earning even a portion of my $5 entry fee back. The snowstorm outside was looking pretty thick and a chess player who was in town from Minnesota visiting his son decided to skip the final round and get an early start on the drive home, leaving an odd number of players. I offered to also skip the last round to make an even number even though I’d still have to stick around since I drove over with Jaleb, but tournament director Roger Gotschall wouldn’t hear of it and decided to sit in for a game in order to make an even number. For the third and final round, I was paired against Hunter Yost, a law student at Drake Law School by way of New Jersey. Hunter had played New Jersey scholastic chess up to 2006 and then took 5 years off from tournament chess before tying for first in the Iowa Open Reserve section last year.

  I played Hunter in Marshalltown last September when Steve Jacobs brought him to a Thursday Night blitz tournament. Hunter and I squared off in a final round matchup for that week’s championship and more importantly to determine that week’s best chess playing New Jersey transplant in Marshalltown, Iowa. Hunter had the White pieces and was intent on attacking. He played a wild gambit from the get-go against my Dutch Defense, sacrificing pawns and pieces to get at my king. I weathered the storm but with victory in sight, made a poor move that left my queen free for the taking because my planned recapture would lead to a checkmate. Hunter missed the sequence and I won the game and the mythical championship of New Jerseyans in Marshalltown, Iowa. I was inspired to write the blog post ‘Lucky Afternoon’ about that day since not only was I lucky on the chessboard, but I found a dollar bill on the elevator on the way home from work and my next door neighbors (and not me) had their house robbed.

  Hunter is from farm-rich South New Jersey (it IS called the Garden State for a reason) and I’m from violence-rich Northern New Jersey, but when he asked me in his untainted New Jersey accent “SO. We gonna do this?”, I was immediately homesick. My accent has degraded over a third of a life time in Iowa to the point that I sound like an outsider no matter where I am, but Hunter’s accent is still the real deal. Hunter had the White pieces and with a grin played d4 just like he did in Marshalltown. I shot him a smile and played f5 to start my Dutch Defense. Hunter gave me a big smile and played his crazy-man g4 gambit and we were off to determine the best transplanted New Jersey chess player in this Ames, Iowa tournament on March 4th, 2012.

Hunter Yost (1486) vs. Hank Anzis (1706)
Cychess #48 - 03/04/2012 - Round 3
pgn4web chessboard courtesy of pgn4web.casaschi.net

  I could have and probably should have tried for a win with Kd8 and I did have a time advantage, but I didn’t like the idea of facing Hunter’s onslaught with all my pieces huddled on the back row so I took the draw. I’ve played Kd8 against the computer a number of times and haven’t won once, but since Hunter isn’t a computer either I would have made a mistake and lost or he would have gotten impatient and sacrificed a knight or 2 and I would have won. At the time I thought it was an incredibly fun game and the 10 days in between hasn’t changed my opinion in the slightest. It’s too bad that Hunter and I couldn’t have been on TV playing this game so maybe when people from the rest of the country think of New Jersey they could think of the two of us battling on the chessboard having a great time instead of having an image of a New Jersey composed of the Soprano’s, Snooki and the rest of the Jersey Shore crowd, and the cartoonishly brash Governor Christie.

  After the game, Hunter and I were joined by Frank Li and Jaleb while we analyzed all the twists and turns of our battle. That scene would have been a great advertisement for parents to get their kids playing chess. Where else can a 6th grader and a high school student be on equal footing with 50+ year old computer programmers and law students? And yet when most people find out I like to play chess, the first name they bring up is the late mentally deranged Bobby Fischer.

  After going over the game, I got to spend a few minutes talking to Roger, who was in a great mood after winning his game with a nice tactic. We talked about some of my more recent blogs, the resurgent Iowa State men’s basketball team, his Ames scholastic chess teams, and former IASCA President Steve Young’s visit to a January Thursday Night blitz tournament 2 weeks before his death from a heart attack. It was a good talk but it was getting late so Jaleb and I said our good byes and left.

  I had a great time at the tournament despite not having the results I hoped for. It’s always fun to spend an afternoon playing chess and meeting up with familiar faces. In 1986, the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship and had a regular season record of 67-15. They lost their first home game and then won the remaining 40 home games on their schedule. The next year they won 39 of their 41 home games with one of the losses coming at a nominal home game in Hartford, Connecticut instead of the Boston Garden. These 2 years led to a number of streaks for Celtics victories at the Boston Garden against conferences, divisions, and teams, some of which lasted for years. I remember when the Celtics would lose a home game, the sports shows would lead by noting that so-and-so beat the Celtics in Boston for the first time in 5 or 6 or 10 years. With my performance of no wins, 1 loss, and 2 ties I broke a number of personal non-blitz tournament streaks. I lost my first game since August 2009 (4 tournaments), had my first losing record in a tournament since August 2008 (10 tournaments), and had my first tournament without a win since that same terrible August 2008 tournament. I’m sad to see all these streaks end, but I wasn’t expecting them to last forever and I’ve found a number of things I can work on to get better. And now that those streaks are over, I will hopefully start some new ones.