Tuesday, May 30, 2006

An A Player's View in the Open Section, Mass Open 2006

The 2006 Mass Open, which serves as our state's championship, served up a number of interesting chess stories for yours truly (Jason Rihel). As the 2nd lowest player in the Open section, at USCF rating 1903, I certainly wasn't expecting to win any money. In fact, I was just hoping to avoid the inevitable lowest rated- player bye. As you shall see, not only did I avoid the bye (sort of), I ended up with a split of the Under 2150 prize. I also ended up with a new player to publicly excoriate on this blog-- Matthew Davey.

Here is a quick round by round account. I encourage other players to also post their experiences-- it is fun to hear what happened to other people, and more than one lesson can be had.

Round 1: In a back and forth game, I finally secured a drawish endgame against a near-master (2190). My rating finally kicked in, however, as I proceeded to trade into an inferior rook endgame, which I thought was also an easy draw. Wow, that assessment was wrong, and I soon toppled over my own king.

Round 2: I got a second black in a row, only this time I braved my new opening-- 1.e4 c5. I have played this about 5 times, and I was afraid to use it against these strong players. It was clear that both me and my opponent were playing through the fog of fatigue, and many mistakes were made. I finally won when my opponent made a serious tactical error. My quest to avoid a bye lasts another round.

Round 3: I have white against Josh Bakker, rated 2144. Josh ultimately shared the Under 2150 prize with me, in a sort of cosmic justice. After a difficult tactical game, I repeated a position 3 times. As I was moving my piece into position for the 3rd time, I declared, "This is a three fold repetition of the position," and I reached to stop the clock. Josh immediately said, "No, it was only twice," and he immediately played a move to break the repeat. As the clocks were both dipping under 30 seconds, I panicked, looked at my scoresheet, couldn't tell what was going on, and then stupidly made a losing blunder. After the game, Josh admitted he didn't properly know the 3-fold rule-- it applies to the POSITION not the MOVES. He wouldn't have allowed it if he had realized. Of course, I should have just calmly stopped the clock and got a TD. Also, instead of making my move, I should have left the piece in place, stopped the clock and said, "I am about to make this move, which is a 3 fold draw", and grabbed a TD.

Round 4: I catch a strong player in my favorite tricky opening. He is tactically lost by move 10. A little theory can go a long way sometimes, and I was happily sitting at a 2.0 even score.

Round 5: I struggle in a position where I am worse for about 50 moves. I lose a pawn to a 2100, and then he trades down into a Knight and king endgame. I hate games like this one-- losing the whole time, and yet there is a glimmer of hope for a draw that keeps the blood flowing. The end result didn't seem in doubt, but I would bravely fight on to the bitter end. But suddenly, I have a dangerous passed pawn, and now his extra pawn disappears, and now *I* have the winning chances! I think I will analyze this endgame here another time-- I found it very instructive on the power of an active king, and it wasn't clear during the game where my opponent went wrong. In the end, it petered out into a draw, but it was very exciting!

Round 6: Matthew Davey. Matthew Davey! Matthew Davey? He was to be my last round opponent, but he put his tail between his legs and fled, giving me a forfeit win. I guess I got the full point bye after all! Now, this breach of chess morality happens all the time, but Matt Davey put an extra special spin on it. He actually WAITED to see who he was going to play before he left, because he wrote it on the pairing sheet-- FORFEIT. Perhaps to his surprise, he was playing a lowly 1900, who happened to have a better score than he did and would have white. Looking up Mr. Davey, I see he just made 2100 with his results, so I imagine he didn't want to risk his rating to me, but if he had a pairing against a stronger player, then he would have stayed. Oh sure, I was then handed the under 2150 prize, but I would like to earn it. Not only that, a loss to Mr Davey would not have impacted my big rating gain, but a win or a draw would have pushed me very very close to 2000, because of bonus points I would get. If he just would have told the TDs, I would have gotten a new opponent.

OK, so I am speculating a bit on Davey's cowardice. There are other possibilities-- while checking the pairings, he has a massive heart attack, he only has time to write forfeit on the sheet, no time to find the TDs before being rushed to the hospital. Instead of a heart attack, maybe it was a rabid dog attack. If something like this happened, then I take back my hex.

In the end, a very fun tournament for me. GM Ivanov won, Chris Chase recovered from two tough draws on day 1 to take clear 2nd place, and a bunch tied for third in the Open section.

I encourage people from other sections to share their experiences. I *know* there are other stories to be told....

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