Saturday, August 1, 2015

Three Minute Madness

  The USCF (United States Chess Federation) has joined up with the Internet Chess Club and to offer USCF rated on line tournaments in the past year. Many years ago the USCF offered rated quick chess tournaments on the US Chess Live platform but when US Chess Live was sold to the Internet Chess Club the tournaments disappeared.

  The Internet Chess Club offers a 3 minute (with a two second delay) tournament on Mondays at 6pm and a 12 minute (with a three second delay) tournament on Saturdays at 4pm. I’m a paid ICC member but neither of those times works out for me to play. is a free site with the ability to pay for extras like computer analysis of games, more than standard month of their huge games archive, unlimited tactical puzzles, etc… In March offered USCF tournaments free of charge to any member with a USCF membership. started with tournaments on Wednesday night at 7pm (3 minutes with a two second delay) and Friday night (15 minutes with a 10 second delay). They have since added two Monday night tournaments with a five minute time limit starting at 5pm and 10pm which are too early and too late for me respectively.

  The Wednesday night tournament fit right in my schedule after work, dinner, and walking Daisy and Baxter. I linked my USCF account to my account and played in the second ever Wednesday tournament on April 1st. Three minutes is plenty of time for a game of chess and the two extra seconds added after each move made running out time unlikely as well as rendering a strategy of winning on time equally unlikely to be successful. I had a pedestrian score of two wins, three losses, and two draws. I had two awful games where I threw away pieces, two games where I was ahead in material that yielded a draw and a loss, and two games against low rated players where I easily won to go along with a short draw. The tournament was over in around 80 minutes and I had a great time despite my results.

  The USCF has added two new rating categories specifically for online chess. My tournament was rated in the online blitz section. I played again on April 8th and got three games in before being called away for other duties. One thing I dislike about the tournaments is that there is no late entry and there is no easy way to take a round off. I missed the next two Wednesday tournaments because I didn’t sign up in time. I got to play in the April 29th tournament and had a very good result with four wins, two losses, and a draw against the top seed.

  After starting the tournament with a win and a loss, I was paired against Z-N4tion. The and ICC tournaments don’t show you the real name of the people you are playing or their USCF ratings. On my username is HankAnzis. It’s no mystery to my opponents who I am if they care to google me. On ICC my username is 'InstantKarma' which sounds mysterious but since I have mentioned it in my blog many times any competent search engine user can divine my true identity. When the tournaments are rated by the USCF the users real names are listed and it is child’s play to place each player with their handle.

  After 25 moves Z-N4tion and I had traded off all the pieces except for my knight and his light square bishop. We had six pawns apiece. My pawns were compact in two pawn islands that my opponents’ bishop couldn’t attack while Z-N4tion had three pawns stuck on light squares, one of which was an isolated queen pawn that severely restricted his bishop's movements. This was a great position for me. It would be very hard to lose this game and while I didn’t know if I was winning or not I could probe for weaknesses and try to trick Z-N4tion into making more weaknesses. All Z-N4tion could do was sit back and try to prove he could hold the draw.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

  We each had sixty or so seconds left and with two seconds extra added after each move there was no question of either of us running out of time. Z-N4tion offered me a draw after his 25th move and I declined. After another move Z-N4tion again offered me a draw and I declined again. We made two more moves and Z-N4tion yet again offered me a draw and I declined yet again. At this point the comment ‘wtf?’ appeared in the chat window! After another move Z-4Ntion said ‘you’re just trying to win on time’. This told me two things – 1) Z-4Ntion doesn’t know much about endgames and 2) Z-4Ntion was getting all bothered by my insistence on playing which told me he was losing his patience. I just kept on probing the position and Z-4Ntion kept on spending time insulting my sportsmanship instead of trying to hold a draw. As you can see, Z-4Ntion gave himself more and more weaknesses by bringing his pawns forward and I eventually won a pawn and the game.

  After the game was over Z-4Ntion disparaged my sportsmanship, chess ability, and manhood until I closed the chat window. That wasn’t enough for our intrepid friend. The next day I found the following message in my inbox:

  I was tempted to reply to Z-4Ntion that my conduct couldn’t have been too detrimental to my play because I won my next two games in the exact same style by getting a small edge in an equal endgame and probing my opponent’s weaknesses until I found a path to a win.

  Thanks to this very fine three game run I found myself a half point out of the lead and playing the top seed, FIDE Master Dalton Perrine.

  A game like that is why I love to play chess. What a fight! Unlike Z-4Ntion, Perrine simply said ‘gg’ in the chat window. The draw gave me no chance to win the tournament but I did have a shot at second place until I played this awful game in the last round:

  I’ve played in a few Wednesday tournaments. They’ve all been fun and so far this April 29th one is far and away my favorite. It’s not my favorite because I drew the top seed – it’s my favorite because of the three smooth games I played in the middle rounds, my great Z-4Ntion story, and it helped my wash off the 'shame' of my 0-5 performance at the Okoboji Blitz the week before. When the tournament was rated the next day I found that Z-4Ntion’s real name is Andrew (you can find his last name by clicking here) and he is a junior player from Pennsylvania. I’ll be generous and write off his dogmatic attitude about playing on in equal positions to his youthful idealism but it should be noted that after our game he played one more game (a loss) in the tournament before withdrawing, never played another tournament, and has closed his account. I would have felt bad if I had caused Andrew to give up chess but he did play another game in the tournament and has played in an over the board tournament since our April 29th encounter. I can’t remember if I was ever that idealistic about draws in equal positions but I know I've had to prove my ability to hold a draw enough times that I can't imagine I was that idealistic for very long if I ever was.

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