Houston Open #4: The Thief of Time

There’s a saying among certain populations of white America: “All those Orientals look the same.” (Annie and Caroline, I have a confession to make. I can’t tell you two apart…usually, I just guess.) And this would be my first match with one of the multitude of non-descript Asian schoolchildren.

Mr. Diao seemed to be 12 or 13, with good humor. He got to the table early and already had the board and clock setup. Sort of.

Although the clock said 2:00:00 for both of us, he claimed he just bought the clock and had to test it. So we punched the clock a couple times to make sure it was working. And before either of us could pause it, my time went down to 1:59:59. My heart start to flutter as Mr. Diao explained he wasn’t sure how to reset his new clock–and the TD was about to start the round! That sort of time advantage could influence the rest of the game!

Clearly, he was trying to throw me off by getting an “accidental” one second time advantage. As the game started, I exclaimed “I want my second back!”

Fortunately, I was able to regain my composure. By move 20, I had a time and material advantage! But slowly, the position deterioriated over the next 15 moves until I was almost at the point of offering a draw. Mr. Diao deserves a lot of credit for fighting it out and finding ways to give me problems. A tactical shot caused the game to end before it really deserved to.

(In all seriousness, losing the second wasn’t a big deal–the kids at the next board, Mr. Diao and I were all joking about it before the game started. It wasn’t worth trying to figure things out on the fly.)

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Houston Open #3: the 1252 kid

Third time’s a charm. Maybe this would be the game I didn’t go down a Bishop. It would help if I played a tactically poor opponent.

Looking at my bespectacled, Indian opponent, I could see the bloom of new life in him. He couldn’t have been alive for more than eight or nine years. Knowing he started 1.5/2, I fully expected him to play a few hundred points above his rating.

He seemed a bit shy, but not so much that he wouldn’t talk at all. I asked him about the tournament so far; it turned out his first “game” was a full-point bye. It was a bit of a relief to know he wasn’t simply having a monster tournament.

As usual, we shook hands before the game started, but he gave this really limp handshake. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because he was young and shy. But it felt like one of those weak, awkward handshakes some women give, because they think you’ll take it as a sign of sexual attraction if the hand contact lasts a tenth of a second more than absolutely necessary.

As the game went on, I noticed Mr. Jacob looking at other games. A lot. It didn’t seem like he was ever looking at our board when it wasn’t his turn. It’s almost like he didn’t have the attention span to play a G/120. Once I actually started playing with a plan (after noticing “Wow, I can expand on the Kingside!”), there was very little reason to doubt victory. Black never had a serious threat the entire game.

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Houston Open #2: Sweating it out

A new hope. A new day. Saturday. Started out by being 5 min late to the tournament.

So in Friday’s game, I misplayed the opening and ended up going down a Bishop. A great motivation to play better.

So what do I do the next game? Misplay the opening and end up going down a Bishop.

This time it happened early, and I was absolutely disgusted. Would this be my first ever rated loss to a sub-1400 player? The first game was already my worst ever (a 196 rating point difference).

But I had a few advantages: a strong Bishop, a half-open file. Plus my opponent was taking geologic ages to make his moves. If I could string out the game long enough, maybe there was a chance…

Red shirt addendum:

CMoB wondered what was wrong with my shirt (see picture at the end of the post). What happened is this: it’s summer in Houston. It’s hot and humid everyday, around 95F/30C with 75% humidity. And the A/C in my car is broken. Even with the windows down, I was sweating signficantly–it’s not usually an issue because mostly I drive short distances. But the tournament was a good 40 min drive.

Between rounds 2 and 3, I realized I had some powder in the car, so I tried to use that to dry off my body. Of course, some of the powder ended up on the shirt. (On Sunday, I wore an undershirt to soak up any sweat, preventing this problem.)

Houston Open 2009 #1: Aloha

As many tournaments do, the Houston Open had the option of playing on a 2- or 3-day schedule. Going with the 3-day schedule would give me an extended break on Saturday, so I went with that, meaning game 1 was Friday night.

My opponent that night was one Mr. Wilson. He was an old white guy with glasses, a demographic not very well represented this tournament (Asian schoolkids were easily the most numerous.) Later, we found out he came all the way from Honolulu.

He was rated 1400, but had a great tournament, going 4.0/5.

In this game, he ended up dominating my Queenside with some mighty pawns and was clearly in control throughout the game. But still, at the class level of play, there are often ample opportunities to recover. However, I don’t find a way. Eventually ending up going down a Bishop, and resigned before fruitlessly trying to get a Pawn promoted.

Houston Open 2009

If you don’t like chess much, sorry. This is probably going to be a boring week on LEP for you. Over the weekend, I played 5 games in the Houston Open, which works out very nicely for posting one game a day this week.

However, I’ll try to fit in some usual LEP inanities during the week.

A big motivator to play in the tournament was that Ivan of Getting to 2000 was going to be there. He’d be only the second person I’ve met from the chess blogosphere, so of course I had to go! He took a picture because I forgot my camera.

As far as the chess itself, there were two opposing forces at work:

Why I would stink: I haven’t been playing much chess the past year, certainly no games longer than G/20. There was no way I would play as strong as my rating. My last tournament was Nov 2007 and last rated games in June 2008 (which, strangely, were a win against an Expert and a near-upset of a 1934. And I was supposedly “out of practice”. Go figure.)

Why I would rock-n-roll: I was rated 1596, the highest rating in the U/1600 section. People look at you differently when you’re the “top dog”, so there would probably be a bit of a psychological edge. The average rating looked to be a shade below 1400, which at least should be good for a couple “easy” victories.

Now if I had some foresight, I’d have played in the U/1800, a section higher. This way, if I layed an egg, people would just chalk it down to having a hard time against tougher competition. But in the U/1600, no one would care that I hadn’t played tournament chess for almost two years. I’d look like a fool.

Games upcoming.

Hot chess player alert!

This is what I’m trying to get through Donnie’s thick skull. He posts this strange article about chess dice. Meanwhile, I’m finding out about the hot female chess players and where you can find them on the web.

This is the kind of stuff you guys really care about. Natalia Pogonina. Hmmm. She’s hot.

Because “management” said this post can’t just be bunch of her pictures, I have to type some stuff. Like mention she’s over 2500 FIDE (whatever that means) and #14 rated female player in the world. And she’s got a few polls on her site. Like this one:

I think they forgot the last choice, so I added it in manually. I sent them an e-mail letting them know, so maybe it will be fixed by the time you see it.

But this poll question I think is very relevant and important:

Now, I don’t go to chess tournaments. But I asked Donnie about the type of chicks you can meet there. He said they are usually either in school, or the moms of the kids. So then I asked if he meant high school or elementary school. He said usually elementary or middle school. So that meant once in a while, a high schooler, right? He said yes, but they are still underage.

So, for me, the whole “practicing sex” thing wouldn’t be lack of desire so much as lack of opportunity.

But if Natalia Pogonina’s there? Yeah, I’ll be like “Hey, babe, I could use the practice!” (not that I need the practice, of course, I’m already so good at it.) Meanwhile, all those stuffy white guys will be too busy studying the Gohraveinchezhumuzhicz Opening to even notice her.

The Art of War and Chess

Many of you have heard of the ancient Chinese military treatise The Art of War, by the famous general Sun Tzu.

The wisdom of this work is lauded, even in the West (where we’re probably missing half of the important points due to the limits of language translation). Books have been written on how to use the Art of War in business, investing, and even romance.

Why not chess?

For example, the Art of War has the following to say:

“It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus
ensure secrecy….by altering his arrangements and changing
his plans, he keeps the enemy without definite knowledge.
By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes,
he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.”

Pretty good advice. But if Sun Tzu were alive today, he’d rolling in his grave looking at today’s chess scene. Chess players using an opening or two they like. Games publicly available, so you can easily find out what those openings are. Players even telling other people what openings they use! They’re giving opponents “definite knowledge” of their plans–no wonder they aren’t moving up the rating scale!

For example, someone might make a big announcement on his chess blog that he’s now going to be using the Open Sicilian. So you find out you’re in a tournament with this unnamed blogger, who you will probably be playing against. No problem, you just look on the Internet and prepare an anti-Open Sicilian line. Easy win.

The remedy for this problem is as easy as it is brilliant: your own set of Chess Dice.

A pair includes one White die and one Black die, with the sides engraved with the following opening moves:

White: e4, d4, c4, Nf3, f4, g3
Black: e5, d5, c5, d6, Nf6, g6

The best part is this system is easy enough for a beginner to use! Just roll the die and make that your first move. Since it’s random, your opponent can’t possibly have “prepared” a line to take down all your hard study. Add in that you will rattle your opponent by being confident enough to play a random opening. See, you completely win the psychological game there.

The best part is that these dice will be only $5.95 plus shipping and handling, once we get around to manufacturing them.

(Pictured below: The Mascot completely shattering Kasparov’s confidence by using the Chess Dice.)