Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CyChess 49 - Part 1 of 3

CyChess 49 in Ames, Iowa
  As part of my New Year’s resolution to play in 6 chess tournaments with time controls slower than speed chess limits, I had planned for some time to play in the CyChess tournament in Ames this past Sunday. I played in the March edition and will play in the 2 that tournament organizer and Ames chess legend Roger Gotschall holds in the fall. Those 4, along with a trip to Jackson, Minnesota for Sam Smith’s Jackson Open in August and another trip to Minneapolis in July will help me meet my resolution.

  Going into the March Cychess, I felt I was playing great but had a poor result of 2 draws and a loss. I hadn’t changed any of my chess training and was still doing 20 puzzles from Tim Brennan’s Tactics Time database daily (10 in the morning and 10 at night) along with 10 minutes of work on my Tactics Trainer IPod app every lunchtime. I think I’ve been finding more tactics in my chess but my 3 and 5 minute ratings on the Internet Chess club have been limping along at their lowest levels in years. At Thursday’s club meeting, Jaleb and 2012 Iowa Class B champion Joe Meyer (aka Joe from Waterloo) took turns playing me and taking my queen when I left it hanging for free in 3 of my 6 games.

  With my confidence nearing an all-time low, I headed to St. Francis to teach chess on Friday morning. Our yearlong ladder tournament was finishing this week and ever since I told the kids that anyone who could beat me would go to the top of the ladder, they have been lining up to challenge me for the last month. My first challenger on Friday was 8 year old Will who has beaten a top high school player from Southeast Polk High School in my last 2 youth tournaments. I quickly won a rook for a knight, but then as I was happily espousing the benefits of superior development with the other players and my co-coach Chris, I managed to drop my queen for the 4th time in 12 hours!

pgn4web chessboard courtesy of
  Luckily for me Will kept playing with only his Queen instead of bringing his full army to bear, but my confidence slipped to still further depths. I played a few speed chess games on the Internet Saturday and was pretty awful but after I won 3 games in a row, I stopped playing chess until Sunday’s tournament with my only chess activity being to watch the coverage of the U.S. Chess Championships in St. Louis. Millionaire Rex Sinquefield and his Chess Club of St. Louis is hosting the tournament and along with a $160,000 prize fund is sparing no expense to put on a top-notch event. The coverage from the club is incredible (check it out here!) with running commentary, web cams showing the players live, and interviews with the combatants after the games. Just watching the excellent coverage put me in a chess playing mood!

  I got a good night’s sleep on Saturday and woke up as usual to go with Kathy on a 5am walk with Baxter and Daisy to the Jiffy for some beef stick treats. I know it was Mother’s Day, but Kathy understands my chess ‘jones’ and after all, it wasn’t like I was leaving her to play in a tournament on her birthday like I did 2 Decembers ago. After we got back at 6, I took a nap, watched Joel Osteen’s weekly show and took another nap before going to Mass with Ben. Then I took one more nap, packed a bag with some apples and oranges, picked up Jaleb at 11:40 and was in Ames around 12:30 to register for the tournament. Including this tournament, Jaleb has come with me to 6 Cychess tournaments dating back to his freshman year in 2008 and had gained at least 50 rating points in each of his first 4 until going 0-3 in March so he had redemption on his mind this day while I was hoping to maybe stop giving away my queen…maybe.

  Unlike March when I was ranked 9th out of 16 players and had to play the top seed with black, this time I was ranked 3rd out of 10 players and got the White pieces. Strict adherence to the pairing order would have had me playing 8th seed Jaleb but Roger did us a solid and juggled the pairings so we wouldn't have to play in the first round, hopefully saving our matchup for the final round with money on the line like the December 2010 CyChess.

Robert Vance - 2012 Iowa Class D Champion!
  My first round opponent was Robert Vance. Robert is a truck driver and a Des Moines chess teacher and volunteer who I first met when he was directing some of Matt and Ben’s scholastic tournaments in 2002 and I wrote about meeting up with him at Zanzibar’s last year. I played Robert to a draw as Black in 2005 in the Iowa Class C Championships and beat him in a game/15 matchup in Pioneer Park last summer with White. Robert is a very aggressive player who loves to attack and was likely to be in top form after winning the Iowa Class D Championship 2 weeks ago in a 4-0 sweep so I knew I’d be in for a tough struggle even though I outrate Robert by 200 points. Garry Kasparov once said that when he wasn’t feeling confident he just made the moves he would make if he was confident and I tried to take that attitude with me.

pgn4web chessboard courtesy of
  I’m very pleased looking back at this game a few days later. I didn’t hang my queen, made no obvious blunders, and was able to simplify after Robert gave me the exchange to start his attack. I’m sure stronger players would have seen there was no danger in placing my queen away from my king’s defense in order to snatch a pawn or 2, but I felt then and I feel now that after getting the rook for a knight and pawn ahead the only way I was going to lose the game was a) to give Robert a position where he was attacking and b) make a mistake to let him take the victory. It made sense to me to try to stop his attack before it got started and since I had a small material advantage I didn’t need more earthly riches but rather to trade queens and get better spots for my rooks so I could win more material later on. If Robert had a passed pawn or some other endgame trump, I may have needed to try to grab the pawns to get a passed pawn for myself, but I had everything pretty much under control.

  Robert was the 4th 2012 Iowa Champion I played chess against this month. On the 3rd I played Class C champion Matt Kriegel in our weekly Marshalltown Blitz tournament, I played bughouse with 2012 Iowa chess champion Jose Gatica on the 5th, matched wits in some offhand games with Class B champion Joe Meyer in Marshalltown on the 10th, and now Class D champion Vance on the 13th. Talk about a murderer’s row! In the other CyChess games, top seed John Herr won his game, but second seed Dave the Barefoot Chess Player was upset by a 5th grader who was playing in his first Iowa tournament since moving here with his family from Arizona last month. Jaleb drew Will Polzin (the 4th seed) and 5th seed Tim Harder won so after the first round there were 4 players at 1-0 and we would play each other in round 2.