Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CyChess 49 - Part 3 of 3

The final round! (Picture courtesy of
Dave the barefoot Chess Player)

John Herr
  I headed into the 3rd and final round of the May 13th CyChess tournament in the unfamiliar position of being the sole leader with the only 2-0 score. There were 4 players a half point behind: Jaleb, who was taking on my second round opponent, Milind Jetty; Will Polzin and Tim Harder, who were going to play each other; and the top seed John Herr who would be my opponent this round. I played John once before in the final round of a Des Moines tournament in 2008. I had the White pieces and had a decent position with a Queen, Knight, and 6 pawns vs. John’s Queen, Bishop, and 6 pawns when I sloppily lost my knight to a queen fork. I had taken Jaleb and Aaron Anderson and Andrew Smith (2 members of Marshalltown’s 2005 co-championship High School team) to the tournament and was asked all the way home “How could you lose to HER?”. I’m not making fun of John’s name - I’m just saying what happened.

  John is a doctoral student in Mathematics at Iowa State University by way of Nebraska and was easily the best dressed player in the tournament with a white dress shirt and tie, the same garb as he wore to the March CyChess. I knew one player who always dressed in a suit, tie, and wide brimmed hat for tournaments and so I asked John why he was wearing a tie. He said he was one of those ‘silly religious people who dressed up for church’. I mentioned that I had also gone to church that morning and otherwise I’d be wearing a T-shirt, but the knit shirt I was wearing was just fine at St Mary.

  My strategy going into the game was very simple. A win would be great and I wasn’t going to shy away from any tactical adventures, but a draw at any point was acceptable as long as I didn’t have a stone cold win. I had won the 33rd CyChess in May of 2008 (Kushan Tyagi and I had 3-0 scores) and to date it was the only tournament I’ve ever won in Iowa (not counting our weekly Marshalltown speed chess tournaments). I came very close to tying for first in May and December CyChess’s in 2010, but I always felt my win all those years ago was a fluke until I won a second time and I didn’t care if I shared first place with 2 or 3 other people as long as I could say I was a winner. At the same time, I also knew that any draw offer on my part would have to come from a superior position where not accepting would entail serious losing chances since John would clinch a tie for first place with a win.

pgn4web chessboard courtesy of
  When I made the aesthetically pleasing and very menacing looking Qc2 move, I offered John a draw and after a couple of minutes he accepted. Even though John was only half my age and not a fifth of my age like my round 2 opponent he’s probably still too young to have known he was heeding the advice put forth by the Carole King in her treatise on human relations ‘Smackwater Jack’ when she sang “You can’t talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand.” I think Qc2 gives the visual impression of a double barrelled shotgun aimed at h7 and c6. At the time it didn’t register to me that after Nd7 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24. Bh7 Ke7 I could win the g7 pawn with my queen or I may have not have made the offer, but I was happy to secure a tie for first place and be the leader in the clubhouse.

Waiting for the last game to finish!
  Almost as soon as my game finished, Jaleb took a draw with Milind to secure his class prize money and an undefeated day with his win and 2 draws in a near 180 degree turnaround from the March CyChess. I had planned on leaving right away after the tournament, but talked Jaleb into hanging around so I could see if I would be the sole winner or co-winner with the victor of the Will Polzin – Tim Harder matchup, which was the last game in progress. I was in the last game to finish in the second round and there is something about the last game of a round that draws the other players over like a magnet. I dislike being stared at while I’m playing and try to avoid staring at the last game of a round, but I will admit to taking a gander at this last game once or twice. I spent most of my time hanging outside talking to Jaleb and Roger and after 20 minutes Will won the game to be my CyChess co-champion. I collected my $14.50 share of the first place prize from Roger, talked to some of the other players for a few minutes and left. Roger was by his car talking to Robert and he had Cypher with him. Cypher is Roger’s Boston Terrier and an occasional visitor to the Marshalltown Chess Club. I gave Cypher a pet or 2, got on the road, dropped Jaleb off and was hanging out with my own dogs, Daisy and Baxter, by 7pm.

  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Roger’s CyChess tournaments are the perfect tournament for me. They occur on Sunday and never interfere with my youth tournaments; are done in 5 hours so I’m not involved in 10 or 12 hour marathons where my eyes start to bleed from playing morning, noon and night; and the $5 dollar entry fee ($3 for Cyclone Chess Club members) is by far the most affordable adult tournament in the state. The CyChess tournaments are a great service for the area college kids and adult players who want to play competitive chess but may not have the budget for some of the more expensive tournaments around.

  A week and a half later, I’m still feeling pretty good about my CyChess co-championship. I played really well, especially considering that less than 72 hours before I couldn't hold on to my queen. People who win tournaments all the time probably think I'm being silly, but I've been a winner so few times in anything that I'm thrilled to win and don't find it old hat at all. Was I lucky there were only 10 players there? Sure! Was I very lucky to have won my 2nd round game against Milind? Of course! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tournament where the eventual winner didn’t benefit from their opponent’s mistakes and in most of the ones I’ve run, the winner had a dead drawn or even a dead lost game at least once but wriggled off the hook to get a win. The thing I'm taking away from this tournament is that I only made one big mistake in 120 or so moves, took advantage of all my tactical shots and even though I've turned the corner on 51 and am barreling towards 52 years of age, I’m playing very close to my best chess and still have room for improvement.

Happy memories of Cychess 49: (left) Co-Champions Will Polzin & myself
(center) Collecting my prize winnings from Roger
(right) Bidding Roger and Cypher goodbye until our next meeting!