Joe thought that we would play against each other. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to my next opponent but then I started thinking about it. Joe was one of the eight players who took a half point bye instead of playing Friday night. There were no draws Friday night so the players who took half point byes played each other on Saturday morning. Joe played the lowest rated player of the group and won his game. There were three players with two points and seven players with 1 and a half points including Joe and myself. I assumed that as highest rated player with a point and a half Josiah Jorenby would play one of the players with two points. That would leave six players in our score group and as the third highest rated player in that group I expected to play the lowest rated player among us who would have been Amir. Amir had the half point from the first round and collected a point in round two when his opponent failed to show up. The computer did not agree with my expectations. It kept Josiah from playing one of the 2-0 players because of color considerations and then did some more color magic to give him sixth seed Amir while making Joe’s prediction come true by pairing him with me.
Sam asked me to look over the pairings which put me in a tough situation since competitively speaking playing the lowest seed would give me a chance at a very easy game and the chance for another nap heading into the last round. The thought crossed my mind because I thought that was the correct pairing but I didn’t want to write in my blog how I gamed the pairings in my favor. I did notice that Sam had put the results from the forfeits in the prior rounds as if they were played. That may have affected the color considerations the computer was using so I suggested he correct the results and do the pairings over. After all that was done nothing changed in the pairings so I sat down on board 5 to play Joe with the Black pieces. After playing my second round game in the quiet of the special room reserved for the top two boards, the main playing hall seemed like a blur of activity and noise. Actually the playing hall was quieter than most libraries but after spending my last game in the quietest room I ever played in every sharp inhale after a blunder, rustle of clothing as a player walked past my board to see the nearby crosstable, and gurgle of sipped water seemed louder than the music blaring from the passing cars during my daily walks with Daisy and Baxter.
I’ve seen Joe play at Jackson and Okoboji every year but didn’t remember any of his games. I did remember that he used to play in the open section at Okoboji and pull off some early upsets but couldn’t maintain his momentum. When I researched Joe’s chess tournaments for this post I saw that he had one of his best tournament results a few weeks ago when he finished second in the Missouri Class Championships, and gained almost 150 rating points. I also found out we were both in Skokie, Illinois for the US Game 60 and US Game 30 championship in 2008 which was years before we ever met. Before we started our game I reminded myself to be aggressive and take a minute before every move after the opening but my mind had a mind of its own.
Joe was disgusted with himself after this game. He completely outplayed me over the first 17 moves and just fell apart. I could relate because I’ve been there and done that plenty myself over the years and I’ll try to remember this game the next time I fall apart. For my part in this game I was awful and awfully lucky. I started off taking my time but as my position got worse and worse I lost my discipline and started moving really fast. I’ve been working with my students on a method of thought to help them decide what move to play. My mantra has been for them to look for ‘checks, captures, and undefended pieces’ but in this game I missed a simple double attack on two undefended pieces. Not only did I miss it during the game Joe and I both missed it again when we went over the game. I gave lessons on Saturday and showed the position to my students and they all found the double attack effortlessly.
Our game took a little over an hour which meant that I had spent about as much time on the middle two games of the tournament combined than I did in my first round game. Depending on how the other games finished I would be no worse than a half point out of the lead heading into the final round. So far the tournament had broken perfectly for me. When I needed to grind out a win against Mark in the first round I was a grinder, when I needed to be at the top of my game against Josiah I was at the top of my game, and when I needed to be lucky against Joe I was lucky. I had been focused on trying to play good moves up to now and not thinking about winning and losing but as I found my way back to the recliner in the back of the church for another nap I knew that I could tie for first if I could find one more win in the last round.