Today my nephew and I got a 6 a.m. start to drive to the chess tournament in Denton, fifty minutes away. We stopped for a doughnut ten miles out of town--I prefer a baked cinamon roll to the other deep-fried form, but either fits reasonably well with my morning "points" allotment.
We stopped at the 380 Greenbelt Trail, a wooded walking trail ten miles out of Denton. The birds were alive! So many different songs from so many different birds. I recorded a few on my voice recorder, to use as samples. I fear the birds were saying "It's cold! It's cold!", as the wind on a chilly morning drove us off the trail within twenty minutes or so.
We drove to the Denton North Library, a four year old building with a huge meeting rooms. Fifty players showed up for the tournament. In contrast to other recent tournaments, the player set was mostly adult. However, the International Master and national masters from UT Dallas was there, as well as the UT--Dallas lecturer who is an International Woman's Master and the 9 year old boy named Darwin who went to the World Junior tournament last Summer and who is now a FIDE master.
I beat Darwin once when he was eight (and dropped a pawn without the genius of age 9), and I suspect that when Darwin is a grandmaster I will still be telling that story.
I am a "B" player, and thus seeded into the Open Section. I was the 14th seed out of 24 players. My nephew, who is lower-rated, seeded into the Reserve Section. As is usual with chess tournaments, the pairings were done according to the Swiss System, in which every player plays in every round, without any form of knockout elimination.
My first round pairing was with a strong master. I wish I could report a valiant struggle, but in fact I played very poorly and was lost soon out of the opening. The loss helped me, because it reminded me to slow down and focus on my moves more.
The second and third round had a sameness about them. Each time I played a C player, one rating class below me. The first one was a high school student named Julia who personned the white pieces against my Center Counter (Scandinavian) Defense. I got equality in the opening, but could only slide out a small edge in a rook and pawn endgame. Soon we were drawn. Although I had ceded a draw to a lower-rated player, my game had been reasonably sharp, and I took my time through my moves.
In the third round, I played the black side of a Reti System against a 1400 player. Both sides traded pieces, and soon I found myself in an endgame with equality but absolutely no winning chances. After three rounds, I stood 0 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss.
My fifteen year old nephew had a better streak going. He breezed through his first three games, including a very nice finesse in the third game in which he launched an early endgame pawn storm to create a passed pawn, and used that advantage to drive home the win.
We adjourned to Quizno's for sandwiches for lunch, feeling pleased that he was in competition for the big prizes and relief that the rust was slowly shaking off my play.
In the fourth round, I drew a player whose rating was within 5 out of 1690 points range of my own. I got a pawn advantage out of the opening, when his Slav Defense backfired, a bit. He fought back, though, and through a clever combination in the middle-game, won back his pawn and ended up one pawn ahead. The endgame was a rook and pawn endgame, though, in wihch draws can frequuently result even when one player is a pawn down. I rolled up my sleeves and began to focus very hard. Some minutes later, I had not only saved the draw but actually cemented the win. I improved to 2-2 for the afternoon.
I looked forward with excitement to my third round pairing, as I calculated that I would pair down to a lesser player, and have a chance to win the prize for Class B players. I had a rude awakening, though, because I paired up against yet another master. I promised myself I would not be humiliated by my play in the same way as in the first round. I played the Colle System, the solid, slow-attack system devised in the 1920s by the Belgian mater Edgard Colle. My opponent played d5 and was not well-booked in the opening. He met the thematic e4 break with a premature e5 counter. Soon we reached a position in which I had an isolated pawn on e5 but a mountain of initiative. His time began to ebb, until he had less than three minutes on his clock. The position became rather drawish, when, through chess blindness, I managed to drop a rook. I was disappointed to give him a narrow escape (had we drawn, I would have shared a cash prize, not to mention have drawn a master), but I was thrilled to play in his league. I have played the Colle for nearly twenty five years, and it has, sometimes, served me in very good stead.
All five players I played, including both masters and my opponent who had lost a drawn position,
were genial and encouraging. The tournament room was comfortable and the director courteous.
It was, quite simply, a perfect chess day.
I almost left out the best part. My nephew finished second in the Reserve section, winning a cash prize and the most impressive-looking chess trophy you have ever seen. He finished with a 4-1 record, which eclipsed my own 2-3 prizeless status. The entire tournament was won by the International Master from UTD.
We both had a grand time, and decided to go have dinner to celebrate. My nephew's favorite place in the whole wide world is called Hibachi Rocks, a teppanyaka and sushi place. We sat at the hibachi grill along with a nice couple and an aunt and her two nieces, who were out having an evening before the teen nieces returned home to San Antonio. I had sushi, while my nephew had rock shrimp and a small steak. We closed our very long day on a high note, having gone and saw and conquered and all that.