Monday, July 30, 2007

"Where'd My Queen Go?" chess tournament

Saturday was another chess tournament in Lexington. This one turned out to be a pretty significant one in my days playing in tournaments.

I've managed to get my USCF rating over the 1600 line, which in local tournaments is the line between the 'big boys' and the rest. When I returned to tournaments last years, almost exactly a year ago, I think I was about 1530, and for some reason my rating didn't go up very quickly. It also didn't help that I didn't play in many tournaments. I think it was the Kentucky Open that finally put me over 1600, and a solid tourney in June put me up a little more.

Still, in this tournament, I was the lowest rated of the Open/over 1600 section. Actually, the first couple of rounds, there was one other who was lower, but he didn't play the last two rounds.

The game in round 1 was against a guy named Baker, a guy I've known from my early days in the Lexington 64K Chess Club, and who was rated in the 2000s. I think this may have been the second time I've played in a tournament, I can't remember how that first game ended. This game was fairly even for most of the game. I did sacrifice a pawn to mess up his queen-side pawns, but he worked up an attack against my king, and then I goofed and dropped a pawn, and then with my king already vulnerable he sacs a rook and gets a convincing attack. In trying to surround my king, he made the kind of move that much more often then not would have been at least good enough, but he overlooked that his own king was vulnerable, and he wound up in a mating tactic.

The second game was a hard draw against a guy named Sword. I think I had an advantage in the middle game, but again my king got vulnerable (I'm noticing a trend here) and things got interesting. The middle and ending were back-and-forth, and with time running down we came to an obviously drawn position.

The third was against the highest-rated person in the tournament, another 2000, maybe close to 2100, named Wagner. It was, relatively speaking, a rather calm game. A few times it may have lit up and gotten interesting, but in the end we were well on the way to exchanging into a bishops-of-opposite-color endgame, which is as drawish as an ending gets. Instead of playing out everything to the inevitable half-point, my opponent offered a draw and I accepted. And we drew in only 24 moves. My first 'grandmaster draw' :-).

So, three games, two points--a win and two draws. This put my a half-point behind Sword who had 2 1/2 points, and tied with Wagner at 2. There were two other players at 1 1/2, one of whom had a bye in the last round.

So, the last round game was pretty weighty. I played one of the 1 1/2 point guys, an 1800 I think he was in rating. It was a game of getting an early advantage and grinding it out over 30-40 further moves into a win. The game closed up early, and I had a space advantage. In trying to gain some room, he allowed his pawn structure to get some weaknesses, and from that point it was manuever, manuever, exchange, manuever, exchange, win a pawn, win another pawn, win a piece through the threat of a knight fork, win the game. Maybe slow and ugly, but effective.

Wagner beat Sword in an adventure of an endgame, and with 3 points each Wagner and I tied for first overall in the tournament.

So, as lowly as it may be in the overall chess world, I actually won a Lexington chess tournament, or at least tied for first. Not just my section of it, but the whole enchilada. It was a 'wow' moment, and I'm still not completely over it.

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