Monday, October 5, 2015

2015 Sioux Falls Open - Part 3

  After my poor play in rounds two and three of the Sioux Falls Chess Open I didn’t get a very good night sleep at the Sleep Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The two events were not closely related. I had been fighting a cold all week and it finally won on Saturday night. I woke up Sunday with a cough, a runny nose, and a headache. The Sleep Inn had one of the better breakfast bars I’ve seen and I loaded up on sausage, orange juice, and toast with honey to give me some morning energy.

  I liked the Sleep Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Sleep Inn a lot. The room was comfortable and quiet and the breakfast bar was above average. The only problem I had was the awful internet. Despite having four separate wireless networks I couldn’t watch YouTube Videos and pictures wouldn’t come up on web pages. It took around a half hour to upload my weekly Facebook photo album of Daisy and Baxter because the internet feed continually cut out or choked while uploading a picture. I was able to get my email and check in on work so I would have to say the internet was functional and while not up to the standards of the EconoLodge I stayed in last month paying $90 for the room instead of $131 gave me 41 reasons to put up with awful internet.

  One thing I can say about the Sleep Inn is that they take security seriously. After we checked in on Friday night Sam used the phone in the room to recharge his cell phone by punching in the numbers on one of those recharge cards. Once he was done I noticed the phone blinking so I started pushing buttons to see if I had a message. I couldn’t find out if I had a message but a few minutes later there was a knock at the door. It was the clerk at the hotel wanting to know if we were alright because someone in the room had dialed 911. I said we were OK and it must have been an accident and the clerk left. A few minutes after that there was another knock on the door and this time it was a Sioux Falls police officer wanting to know if we were alright because someone called 911. We talked to the officer for a few minutes and he must have been satisfied that we were OK tourists because he left. Sam blamed the extra scrutiny on me for having a ‘Z’ in my name but I blame it on Sam because if I was some planning some caper from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Sleep Inn I would certainly use an alias like ‘Sam Smith’ so I wouldn’t attract attention.

Joe Schultz
  As Sam and I checked out of the Sleep Inn I stopped next door at the convenience store for some cold pills. Playing chess with a cold isn’t much fun and I was sorely tempted to withdraw from the tournament but I would still have hung around while Sam finished his games. If there were some recliners available at the Great Plains Zoo like there were at the Jackson Open I probably would have withdrew and slept on a recliner all day but without a recliner I decided to play in round four and see what happened.

  My opponent in the fourth round was Joe Schultz, a young graphic artist from Sioux Falls. Joe had split his first two games on Saturday with his win coming against the same Mark Hansen who I played in the first game of the Jackson Open. Joe took a half point bye for the Saturday night game and looked to be a lot better rested than me. The round started at 9pm promptly and Joe and I started our game.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

  While not at the level of a Mount Rushmore game it was certainly a smooth effort on my part. Joe spent 40 minutes for his moves while I took around 50. I was especially pleased that I took my time to try to figure out the best way to take advantage of the free check Joe gave me with his f4 pawn move with my only disappointment that I didn’t realize I could have taken his knight on e5 before checking with the queen. It didn’t hurt me in this game but if it was the only path to a big advantage I would have played a safer move and had a longer game.

  Joe and I went over the game in the skittles room afterwards and I showed him how h3 is either a very soft move if played by itself or a very aggressive move if followed with g4. Then Mark Hansen came into the room and since we had all played against each other we talked about our games like the acquaintances we now were. Mark was pretty happy since he had won his first game after playing stronger players in all four rounds. Joe left to get some lunch and since it was barely 11 o’clock and I was in the Great Plains Zoo I told Mark I wanted to see the turtles and asked if he wanted to go with me. Mark said yes and off we went.

On the left are the Galapagos tortoises of Great Plains Zoo. Mr. T. the turtle from Marshalltown Iowa is on the right. Turtles live in the water and have webbed feet for swimming while tortioses live on land and have curved feet for digging.

  When I wrote about Mark last month I said he looked like he had suffered a stroke but in reality he has ataxia, which is a disease that affects the parts of the nervous system that control movement and balance. We made our way slowly around the zoo to see the Galapagos tortoises. I saw three in their pen. They were huge but since it was barely 65 degrees they weren’t moving around a lot. On the way to the tortoise pen and back there were some tropical birds and goats and on the way back we saw some alligators, monkeys, and a large assortment of swans. The Great Plains Zoo also has giraffes, zebras, rhinos, bears, rhinos and more so why did I want to see the tortoises? When I went to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines this summer my favorite animal by far was Barnaby the 75 year old tortoise and we also have had our own turtle (Mr. T) that Kathy and Matt found at a nearby pond. Mr. T has been growing a lot and I’ve been pretty impressed with how muscular he is and how agile he is in the water. I’ve been pretty fascinated with turtles and tortoises lately and it was cool to see the most famous breed of tortoise on my chess trip to South Dakota.

Ivan Wijetunge
  I went with Mark back to the skittles room and by then Sam’s game was finished so we took another walk in the zoo, this time to the snack bar in the middle of the zoo. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to the tournament for the final round. Despite my morning win I was still feeling crummy and if I had lost in the morning definitely would have begged out of the last round but with the win I had a chance for some cash if I could find another win. When I saw the pairings the first thing I saw was that I had black for the second time this day and the third time over all. The second thing I saw was that my opponent was Ivan Wijetunge, who won two out of three games after taking a half point bye in the first round, only losing to the same Jerome Mitchell that defeated me in the third round.

  Ivan is a long time Iowa chess player who has lived in Texas, Wisconsin, and now Minnesota. He won a huge class prize at the HB Global Chess Challenge in 2005 which gave him a rating floor of 1800 whereupon he started a popular blog called ‘Getting to 2000’ about his attempts to get to the Expert rating of 2000. I played Ivan in the 2006 US Game 30 championships in Joliet Illinois. In that game Ivan met my Dutch Defense with an early Bg5 and defeated me fairly easily. From reading Ivan’s blog I knew that he can have great games and poor games and I know which one I was hoping for as I went into this this game.

  This was my longest game of the tournament. Ivan used 83 minutes and I used 80. For all that time I spent it was an awful game that was indicative of my chess play in South Dakota. When I should have been defending I threw my queen as far away from my king as possible and then retreated it to the wrong square. Ivan could have put me away a lot earlier but after 15 moves he had a winning game, played it cool and careful, and I can’t say I ever had a chance although I did my best to pull off a cheapo and get another undeserved result.

  Sam’s game was the next to last to finish. He had an advantage against a player around Ivan’s level but let it slip in the ending and eventually lost. He has the same score as I did and his 2.5 points out of 5 was good enough to share second place cash for his class. Jodene shared second place in the reserve section and took home $75 for her weekend. At around 4:30 Sam drove us back to Jackson and at 6pm I was on the road home to Marshalltown Iowa, driving through the ‘Blood Moon/Lunar Eclipse’ that happens once every 30 or so years.

  I had a great time playing chess at the zoo. The tournament was excellently run and organizer De Knudson did a great job making me feel welcomed and comfortable. I didn’t play very well at the zoo and that’s on me. I was fine against the pair of lower rated players I faced because they didn’t put any pressure on me. The three higher rated players put pressure on me from the start of each game and not only did I put up very little resistance I cracked in the face of their pressure all three times. I came to Sioux Falls to see if my fine play at the Jackson Open was a new level or a good weekend and the answer for now is it was a good weekend. I met my goals of playing all five rounds and taking my time and failed in my goal of being aggressive against the stronger players. I’ve been working on being able to calculate better and am seeing more at the board than ever but I wasn’t able to get deep enough into the positions I encountered to make the most aggressive moves and settled for second or third best moves far too often. One bright spot I took from the Sioux Falls Open is that even though I played poorly I managed to make an even score which gives me hope that even though I’m not at the new level I hoped I might be at my best chess is still ahead of me and in the words of the prophet John Rambo: