Saturday morning I drove twenty minutes to nearby Plano to the Ed Gurukul Learning Institute. I wanted to play in the Mid-Summer Knights Quick Open Chess tournment. When I arrived, I found that the tournament director was Rob Jones. I had been to tournaments he directed before, and found him a decent fellow. His collegian daughter Julia was helping him get things going with the tournament. Julia and I are roughly the same strength, and have played to draws three or four times in tournament games.
The Ed Gurukul Learning Institute was a nice place of small classrooms. I am not clear if it is an elementary school or an after-school education program. Soon roughly 16 people [the ratings report read 19, I believe] arrived to play in the tournament, most of them kids. One entire group from a chess club of kids, the Saddle Creek Chess Club, from nearby Fairview, came in cool-looking T-shirts, with a focused chess coach who set up her personal computer in a separate skittles room and dutifully encouraged her kids and logged in their clock times.
When everyone had checked in, I found that I was the second-highest rated player, after Julia. The time control of the game was Game/10, which means that each side gets just ten minutes to make all of her or his moves. This very short "quick" time control makes for imprecise but fun chess.
Soon after I began playing my first game, I realized that I would have an easy time with my opponent. I set up a simple Colle system development of my pieces, while my opponent developed his pieces more idiosyncratcically. Soon I was significantly ahead, and the win was not much problem to achieve.
I was really proud of myself when I sacrificed my queen to achieve a near-smothered mate with a knight (a "smothered mate" is one in which one's knight puts the king in check, and the king cannot move because he is "smothered' with surrounding pieces and pawns and squares under attack). Then the nice kid I played against showed me that the mate-in-two I elegantly achieved could have been replaced by a much simpler mate-in-one, and I felt less like a grandmaster.
In my second game, I set up a Pirc defense to his 1. e4. I almost never play the Pirc, a hypermodern opening, in tournament play, but I often play it in blitz play. It's good for quick play because so long as one understands how to head off the bluntest of white's ferocious attacking schemes, most of the positions are simpler for black to play quickly than for white to play quickly. When both sides have lots of time, the situation is probably reversed, because a player of the white pieces with ample time and a lot of space and initiative can find her or his way much more easily than the black player striving to equalize.
After I had a fairly even opening, I missed a simple knight fork of my rooks, and was soon down the exchange, that is, he was able to exchange a knight for one of my more valuable rooks. In a slow chess game, this is quite a disadvantage, but in quick chess it's much less of a big deal. Soon I developed an attack on his f pawn, and next thing you know, I'd won his queen.
Julia lost her first round game to a 600 player, and drew her second round game, putting her out of competition for first place. My third and fourth round games went forward without any real hitches. In round 3 I set up a Stonewall Attack and won easily. In round 4, I played Philidor's Defense. We got into that "small initiative for white" position that results after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. de N x e4. Though my opponent got pressure on the e-file, I figured out how to win material and won.
Round 5 brought my biggest challenge of the morning. My opponent was a 10th grader whose rating, I believe, was comparable to mine [actually he was an "A" player, while I am only rated "B"]. Against his King's Indian Defense, I set up the inaggressive but solid "reversed French-against-the-King's-Indian-Attack"
Rather than just consolidate his advantage and simplify the game, my opponent sacrificed his knight to try to get a quick mate. The sacrifice was unsound, and I was roughly equal. Then I got a pin against his pieces, and soon entered a bishop and pawns v. pawns endgame, which I easily won. I had turned back my first serious challenge.
My sixth round opponent had 4 points to my 5. I was guaranteed by this time at least a share of first place. I decided to play the "small center system", an unorthodox opening I have used for years. In this system, one plays one's king and queen pawns forward one square, and then plays one's knights into the spaces those pawns vacated. This system is not a good opening, but it is easy to play. One almost always transposes into something else once one sees the "lay of the land". In this case, the other side made some waiting moves as he developed, and I soon had an Old Indian formation with a few improvements over an ordinary Old Indian. He continued to play inaggressively, and I was able to win material. His counterplay along the e-file, where my queen sat, though real, was insufficient. Then he dropped his queen. Soon it was over--and I had won the tournament with six straight wins.
I collected my 25 dollar first prize (the entry fee was 10), shook Rob and Julia's hands, and headed off.
My wife and I then drove a neighboring rural town to pick up my young friend for an outing. We drove down highway 380 just east of Denton, to the 380 Greenbelt Trail. The afternoon temperature topped 100, but the greenbelt trail, deeply shaded due to the cross timbers woodland, provided a cool place to hike. We saw tons of butterflies, and a summer tanager bird. We heard trains cross the nearby railroad bridge. We had a very nice time. We ate lunch at Fuddrucker's, which made me a great turkey burger, fruit cup and bbq beans. We also drove to the Isle du Bois unit of Lake Ray Roberts. What a great park--hiking trails, biking trails, a fishing pier and a swimming beach. My friend and I resolved to return there.
I was disappointed to see that someone had caught a gar at the fishing pier, and then left it on the ground to die. This kind of superstitious treatment of gar, reputed to be a predator of game fish, really makes me unhappy. I think gar are lovely. I fish, but I catch and release.
Last night my wife and I ate pizza from Il Forno. We watched "Happy Endings", a witty film with two fine actresses in the lead roles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lisa Kudrow. We liked the movie. I thought to myself that life is full of small miracles--who would have thought that it would turn out that Tom Arnold could really act? I feel the same way about Greg Kinnear, but in this particular film, Tom Arnold played a muted character role with a quiet deftness, which I enjoyed seeing.
This morning I watched a Belorussian women's grandmaster singer "23 cows" in a video from a rather cheesy foreign entertainment show, and then watched a Belorussian dance with recorder-like instruments, which was not cheesy at all but odd, lovely and fascinating.