Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hello, Larry: A View from Section 2 of the Paramount

Larry Eldridge certainly has more staying power than actor McLean Stevenson had in his short-lived Hello, Larry sitcom. Although Larry and I had never played one another until this tournament, our respective teams had played each other 20 years ago at the U.S. Amateur Team East tournament, and I'm pretty sure I'd seen him at local tournaments earlier than that.

Section 2's players were closely matched, making any game's result a toss-up. After a round one loss, Larry picked up 4 points in a row and became the sole leader. I on the other hand started out by "mistakenly" using the Swiss Gambit ("What? This is a double round-robin?"), losing with White in rounds 1 and 2 to Walter Driscoll and Larry, respectively.
Nothing like starting out with two whites and losing them both.

After my round 7 draw with Larry, he told me he had thought I might play the Cordel (3...Bc5) in our Ruy López. As I left the club, I thought to myself, "How would he have known that?", thinking that since I only took that variation up in more recent years and I so rarely play in tournaments, he couldn't have seen me play it. Then I remembered that his son Ross, against whom I'd played the Cordel a few years ago, had come by the club as a spectator the previous week. Not the family fork, but perhaps the family carving knife at work.
(3 June 2009 update: Larry reminded me that I had in fact played the Cordel against Paul Felker in an earlier round in the Paramount, which he had observed. That game was decided in my favor by Paul's early blunder, so I had apparently blotted the memory of it from my mind. Well, Oliver Stone had already rejected this blog entry for a film short....)

After round 8 Walter had caught Larry, and they shared the lead. While chatting, Walter thanked me for holding Larry, his main competition, to a draw in round 7. Then he added that he supposed he should thank me 3 times total, since I had already dropped both my games to Walter this tournament, who has turned out to be my real nemesis. After two wins against him in the 90's, I started playing him at the club, where, after one draw, he's now handed me five straight losses.

Unfortunately for me, both Walter and Larry also won in round 9, thus continuing to share the lead. However, with the following short and bloodthirsty round 9 win over Jon Lee, I retained a small hope of tying with Walter for first if Larry were to lose round 10. Please drive your trucks carefully through the holes in these hasty, skimpy notes, which are primarily from the postmortem.

(Thanks to flickr's PowerShadowX for the image)

While chatting with Jon after our game 9, I took pains to make it clear that in addition to needing to win in round 10 myself, I needed Jon to beat Larry in round 10. In an ominous sign, he told me that he had never beaten Larry, or Larry's son Ross, and I had to admit sadly that it was the same situation for me.

In the 10th and final round, Paul Felker held Walter to a draw, and Larry beat Jon to take clear first. In a reversal of our earlier game, Harold Dondis yielded me an opening advantage, which I proceeded to mishandle. Harold subsequently collected the point from me in our adjournment, in which we reached the following position after 59...Nc7-b5+ 60 Kd4-c4 (I use long algebraic notation for these moves to provide the "before" image of where the Black knight and White king started):

My squib-tastic eye abruptly slammed into overdrive, and I hallucinated that I could repeatedly check him by playing 60...Na3+ 61 Kd4 Nb5+, getting the draw for which I'd been scraping. Naturally, Harold did not return his king to d4 after 60...Na3+, which was followed by 61 Kb3 Nb5 62 Nxa6 and a straightforward win. However, even after 60...Nc7, White still wins with 61 Nxa6 Nxa6 62 b6 and White's pair of passed queenside pawns overwhelm Black's forces.

Hearty congratulations to Larry for a well played tournament. The Eldridge Welcoming Committee, headed by Messieurs Lee and Ho, looks forward to Larry and son Ross' future participation in tournaments at the club!

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