Saturday, April 14, 2012

WereRihels of London! Ahooo!

Dear Boylston Chess Club,

After months of globe trotting, lab building, and flat finding, I was finally able to play my first European chess tournament.

To start off 'easy', I decided to play a one day quick chess event, 6 rounds of Game 30. Because of my US based rating, I was put into the Open section, with the 2nd section being roughly U2000. Why an estimate? It turns out the English use a very funny rating system, on a scale of roughly 1 to 300. To calculate from the FIDE rating, it is approxomately FIDE rating - 600 points, then divided by 8. That put me at 174, just over the 170 cutoff.

So, let's get right to the differences. First, these Game 30s don't count towards your regular rating here at all, which is a good thing, beause of difference #2-- for this event, I was the only player (about of about 75 people) with a digital clock. That means there is no increment and no delay. Have a great position but only 2 seconds left? Too bad.

Not for the faint (time trouble) hearted.

The second big difference is the number of rounds. We played 6(!) games today, with very little break in between. They had a modest sandwich/hot dog consession in the tournament site, but I was still going hungry most of the day.

The third big difference is that we didn't have to keep score, not even a little bit. US players of course are used to keeping score, even in the G30 matches.

The fourth difference was that they are still using pairing cards and doing all the pairings by hand! They were quick and on-time, however, and I didn't see any of that endless griping about the way the round should be paired, so typical in the US. Related to the lack of computers, they only update the English ratings twice a year, since they don't have the nice national rating computations like in the States.

OK-- on to my games!

In the first 3 rounds, I lost, mostly due to time pressure. In at least two of those games, I got so far behind on the clock that I had to go crazy, as without time delay, it was either mate or flag. In at least one of these games, having delay would have allowed me to save at least a draw, by trading down into an even ending.

Another more subtle difference-- the no writing moves down affected the cadence of the game for me. Normally, there is that little pause when either you or your opponent writes down their moves. Also, it lends an air of casualness, almost like playing blitz in Harvard Square. Crazy combination that will be great if it works? Why not, it is street chess! Except it isn't street chess.

After this return to chess debacle (against strong players in the Open section, true), I told myself I needed to get this time business under control. Playing much more rapidly, I got this promising position. White to play and win (ignore that arrow).

White wins with 1. Nxc7 Qxc7 2. d6 Qd8 3. dxe7+ Rxe7 4. Bc5 (a nice intermezzo) Re8 5. Bxb6 Qxb6 6. Qxd7 and White is up a piece.

After finding that combo, I felt I was on my way to improving my tournament, and I finished the last 3 games with 2.5 out of 3. Not too bad after a chess deep freeze.

Hope all is well in Boston!



Ken said...

Interesting tales of how things are over there. The latest Chess Life's cover story is about how analog clocks may be on the way out ("Winding Down: Are the analog clock's days numbered?"), which would seem not to be the case in the UK.

Rihel said...

Everyone did gawk and enjoy my clock, and every opponent preferred it. They use digital clocks in a lot of events, but the Chronos clock was new to most of my opponents.

Unlike in the States, it is unusual to need to bring your own set, so I suspect people just have gotten used to showing up and using what they are provided.

Chris said...

Actually the conversion from ECF to USCF is (rating-700)/8. The conversion from FIDE is (rating-600)/8, which is what they used for you.

If someone plays in a USCF event with a FIDE rating it is common to add 100 to the FIDE rating to get an equivalent.

Given that you only have a USCF rating and not a FIDE rating it looks like you should have been able to play in the Under 170 section.

Rihel said...

Based on how my opponents at various rating levels played, I would say the conversion does not seem accurate-- people with 170 ratings were not playing at an expert level.

Then again, I probably should have been allowed to use my quick chess rating, which is much lower than my USCF one.