Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Jackson Open – Part 3 of 4

  When my second round game with Sam Smith ended, I headed back to the Jackson Econolodge to see if I could find my misplaced camera. I asked at the front desk and the clerk (who was the owner’s wife) had my camera safely tucked away behind the counter. It had fallen out of my pocket when I was using the lobby computer and her 4 year old son had found it. The Midwest is one of the few places where people are this honest but my camera may have been safe in New York also. In 1991, Kathy and I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. After the parade was over we went to the world famous Lindy’s restaurant for a slice of cheesecake and headed back to our car. When we got to our car, Kathy realized she left her backpack in the restaurant. I drove through the post parade midtown traffic as fast as I could and the backpack was still in the restaurant untouched. It seems the staff was afraid to move it because they thought it was a bomb.

  I had recently transferred the pictures from the camera into my computer, but I was still overjoyed at having my Nikon Coolpix camera back. It’s not a very expensive camera, but it has proven a durable companion on many chess tournaments and family outings and I’m so familiar with it I can operate it with one hand. As I was leaving the motel, there were a group of motorcyclists hanging out. When we were leaving for the tournament that morning, I noticed one of the bikes had a storage trailer that was shaped like an egg and had a sun roof. At the time I said that I thought the container may be for a baby and Tim and Jaleb both laughed at my naivete. Since the bikers were hanging by the egg shaped trailer, I confirmed my naivete by asking them if the trailer was for a baby. When they got done laughing, they told me it was egg shaped for aerodynamic reasons and not to hold a baby. Then one of the bikers told me his bike had broken down in Arnold Park (just south of Okoboji) the night before and asked me if I knew anyone who could give him a ride there. Flushed with my good fortune at my win against Sam along with the retrieval of my camera and having an hour or so to kill, I decided to give him a ride.

  The biker’s name was Paul and he was around my age. I stopped back at the Jackson Library, saw Riaz outside, and told him where I was going and headed 20 miles south on Highway 71. I told Paul a little about the chess tournament and he said he loved to play chess at family get-togethers but no one would play him because he would beat them so bad. Paul worked in the control room of an electric plant in Indianapolis and was taking a vacation just biking around the Midwest. He had biked in all 48 states in the continental US as well as Hawaii. I mentioned that there had to be plenty of chess clubs in Indianapolis and I had even played in the US Open there in 2009, but Paul was firm in his desire to only play chess with family members. Paul’s big hobby was model trains and he was a member of a train club that would get together every month at somebody’s setup (Paul’s was in a building off his house).

  It started raining halfway to Okoboji and the trip took a little longer than I hoped but in 25 minutes I was at Arnold Park and said goodbye to Paul. Paul asked me how much money I wanted for bringing him down to Arnold Park. I said I didn’t want anything, but Paul said that wasn’t going to fly so I asked for $5. Paul said “How about 20?” and I agreed. Paul opened his wallet (one of those wide biker wallets that attached to his belt with a chain) and pulled a 20 out of a stack of at least 30 bills and handed it to me. We said our good byes and I headed back up to Jackson.

  When I got back to the tournament and told some of the guys where I was, the reactions ranged from ‘Oh, were you gone?’ to ‘That was really nice of you’ to ‘Let me tell you about the game I just played.’ to ‘You're nuts. You could have gotten killed’. If I had gotten any idea in my head that there was a 1 in 100 chance that Paul was some sort of psycho, I wouldn’t have been giving him a ride, but I felt he was just a guy like me and if I had been stuck I know I would have liked a ride. And aside from all that, it was an excellent diversion after a tense chess game and if no one ever helped each other out I’d be shopping for a new camera. The only regret I had was that even though I had my camera, I forgot to take a picture of Paul or the egg-shaped trailer.

Eric Bell
  As I was heading back to Jackson, I started to consider who I’d be playing in the next round. I knew it would all depend on who else had 2 wins out of 2 games. If all 5 top seeds won I’d be playing my friend John Flores, who was the first player to win in the morning games and would be the highest ranking player with 1.5 points (having taken a half point bye in the Friday night round). If there was one upset I’d play one of the top 2 seeds; Dane Zagar or Eric Bell. As I rolled past the Jackson Pizza Ranch 2 blocks south of the library, I saw Jaleb walking on the sidewalk and stopped and asked him how he did. Jaleb told me he drew the 3rd seed Jackson Wahl and the top seed also drew, and Tim had lost to the second seed. Jaleb went to lunch and I went to the tournament site. There was a lot of carnage on the top 5 boards. Josiah Jorenby (the brother of my first round opponent, Destiny) indeed drew the top seed Dane Zagar, Jaleb drew the 3rd seed, and Larry Jefferson from Minnesota beat the 4th seed. That left Larry, 2nd seed Eric Bell, and myself with the only 2-0 scores. The 2 top-rated players would face off and that meant that I had the black pieces against Eric Bell. I knew nothing about Eric except that he must be a good guy since Riaz brought him and I figured I’d just try to play the same way I had the first 2 rounds by attempting to keep my mistakes to a minimum and striking hard if I got the chance…

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of pgn4web.casaschi.net
  This was the next to last game to finish. At the time, I thought I played really well, but a week later I can see it for what it was – a pretty lame effort. I played some decent defense and I did find 16…Ne5 in a tough spot, but I whiffed on 3 chances to put a lot of pressure on Eric. He outplayed me, but was hardly unbeatable. I saw a t-shirt at Church this past Sunday that said ‘You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.’ Seeing that shirt made me think of this game. I went into the contest hoping for a chance to counterpunch, but during the game I was thinking mostly of defense. I defended d6 when I could have landed a knockout punch with Ne4, I didn’t take the rook on d5 because I was scared of the Queen invading my territory, and even in the beginning of the game I shied away from taking on c4 because I was worried about the havoc a Qa4 move would cause. I wished for counterattacking opportunities, but if I had been working for them, I would likely have noticed my possibilities. Having said all that, 2 or 3 years ago, I would have fallen apart against Eric’s pressure and lost to a 2 mover early on so I can see definite improvement and thanks to this game (as well as my March game against Jim Ellis) it is very clear that playing with the habit of ALWAYS looking for shots will pay dividends in the future.

  In the other contests, Jaleb beat Joe-Hall Reppen to get to second place along with 3rd seed Jackson Wahl and top seed Dane Zagar, all with 2 and half points. Tim beat Riaz to get his second win, but Sam gave up a draw and John lost to take them out of the prize money equation with one round to go…

As I left the library smarting from my loss, outside playing his guitar was none other that Austin Wahl. I was a little too depressed to catch exactly what he was playing but it sure sounded like the blues classic 'Cry Me a River' and then the Fats Domino song 'Ain't That a Shame'