Friday, May 16, 2008

My Final Tournament Game (at This Time Control), Plus Some Other Announcements

Last night's game at the Reno Chess Club marked an important turning point in my chess career.

I was originally scheduled to play Eric Shoemaker (aka Green Hornet) in the 7th and final round of the Club Ch. Swiss Qualifier. However, when I was all set up (score sheet even filled out and sitting across from him) the Director asked if I would consider dropping out of the round; several people who didn't have a shot at qualifying had not shown up, and the bye might have to go to Vern Young, possibly affecting his chances. I really wanted to get a game but I could see the logic of it, so I said I'd consider it, especially if someone else would play me a rated game. After a bit more delay they found me an opponent, Hadi Soltani, for a "rated side game." Okay, fine.

Now instead of having White as originally against Shoemaker, I drew Black and we played into a King's Indian as he and I have before, this time a sort of Gligoric Variation. I got a bind on the queenside and played some pretty artistic positional chess, which culminated in my coming out two pawns ahead in a rook ending. He had been ahead on the clock quite a bit, but now of course he started playing slower trying to find chances, and the game dragged on; everyone reading this knows how it can take many moves to make progress in this kind of position (rook and far back g- and h-pawns vs. rook). And the game dragged on; by now we each had 7 or 8 minutes left to sudden death, and due to the late start it was well after midnight, it looked like it would still take many moves to win the position, I had been enjoying the process, mostly, but at some point it occurred to me that "man, I'm still sitting here and I've got to get up and get ready for work in less than 5 and 1/2 hours!" and that just struck me as ridiculous, you know?

And a few minutes later I just hung the effing rook, just moved it to a square where he could take it, there went the game, it was effing embarrassing, there were some other players still there, by now almost all the other games were finished, people were calculating tie breaks for the qualifiers out loud nearby and which kind of says where this game fell in the grand scheme of things, he snatched the rook off with a decisive motion, I resigned and I had a moment of acute embarrassment, a few players had been watching and of course I had been exposed as an idiot, a patzer, a pretender and a fool, a clown, a dolt/dope/dumbkopf, a fish, a guppie who had made a mistake that the average 8-year-old rated 1000 wouldn't make. All the ratings gains I'd painfully made since last summer were now up in smoke, all the tactical books and the chess blogging and the study had produced this.

And then the clouds, so to speak, parted.

Before I walked out of the club I realized that this was the last five-hour game of chess I would play, ever. No more bleary Fridays at work on a few hours sleep after unwinding from the intensities of the Thursday evening death-struggle; no more worries about rating points. Screw rating points, the game was probably a lot more fun and less stressful when no one cared, they just played to win.

AS far as I'm concerned, I'm never playing another game of chess longer than three hours, max (G/90). A lot of clubs (Kenilworth, for example) play all their championship games at this time control. Seems about right for me, and I'm only talking about me here. The Reno Chess Club has a lot of nice people and a lot of good players; apparently there is a long-term tradition and consensus that 30/90, G/60 is what the most people want for rated tournaments, which is what most club nights are devoted to. Unlike some clubs there aren't many quickplays, blitz nights or other types of events. That's cool, but at this point I'm opting out.

What I really like are games that last 1-2 hours, with some increment so there's no sudden death. The first Tournament of the LEPers used 15 +30, fast but fun and most games take about an hour. For blitz I like 2 5, you need never lose on time and a few really quick moves can buy some decent thinking time when needed.

One more thing, on this post a few days ago Francis W. Porretto (Eternity Road) commented:

Robert, are you sure that elevating your rating is that important to you?

I think at 56 I'm a little older than you are, so our positions in life aren't exactly parallel. But maybe this perspective will be worth it to you anyway.

As you move into the second half of your life, you'll find that it's more important to preserve your pleasures than to maximize your achievements.

I teach chess to young folks. I don't get anything for it other than the pleasure of having conveyed a bit of knowledge to someone who wants it. Those kids are delighted to learn, and eager to make use of their knowledge in combat, just as I was when my uncle Karl (an international master in his day) deigned to teach me something about the game.

It took a while, but I learned soon enough that tournament results and USCF ratings are less enduring than the sense of heightened understanding. The results and ratings are ephemeral; the sense of understanding is something you can enjoy forever.

These days, I don't enjoy playing the game nearly as much as I enjoy introducing new players to its mysteries. Not many of them ask to see my tournament results, or ask what my rating was when I stopped playing competitively. They're just happy to have the attention of a "gray head" who has some knowledge to impart.

Whatever you decide to do, stay with it only as long as it makes you happy.

Yeah, I've found these words of wisdom bouncing around inside my thick skull from time to time ever since I read them. Everyone has different wants, needs and goals in an endeavor like chess; for the last two years I've been trying to get back to my "glory days" in the 1800s USCF, I've enjoyed playing and analyzing and blogging, I've especially enjoyed reading about others' chess experiences and triumphs and struggles, I still enjoy all of that, but I'm officially out of the grind-my-way-to-A-player business, I'm gonna quit formal studying with all the weekly goals, timetables and problem sets, I'm gonna play me some chess, especially at FICS, definitely in the next Tournament of the LEPers (YOU, get over there and sign up), and maybe someone wants to play a rated match at the Club at a fairly quick time control eventually, I'm up for it.

I'm gonna keep playing with my three-year-old, he's already learned quite a bit thanks to the Windows built-in chess game that shows all the legal moves, he has a tendency to move his king right up the board but hey, there's still time to get him playing the Catalan...

Chess ain't supposed to be work. It's a game. Chessloser knows this, even when he's at a tournament. I'd forgotten for awhile. If it took a "most embarrassing moment" in chess and the loss of some rating points, so be it.


transformation said...

my absolute singularly last read of a very, very long day. thank you. you are to chessBlogging what sun is to weekenders. thank you so much for being.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, interesting you say that as I too have had little interest in chess for the last 4-5 months. I haven't studied much in that time.


Now that I have graduated, and have two degrees, the B.A. in both English Literature and History; there are other things I want to do. One of them is to write and the other is to direct a film.

My friend Gordon and I have been working, somewhat clandestinely on the latter project. I'm still writing the screenplay at the moment while studying for my GRE Exam.

I have also noticed that the club, while it has been getting stronger; which I appreciate, has also been getting the undesirable element of "arrogance" on the part of the players who have improved. This doesn't sound like fun to me and so I will make my tournament appearances rarer until next February (My wife and I are moving from Reno), when I will hopefully have a better club available to me.

I didn't like losing to Young, since I could beat that guy at will, when I am serious and am not tired. But realistically speaking, he has gotten better and it would be better for him to advance than me for the simple reason my heart is not in it anymore.

I had lost interest after my win over Simanis, which in my opinion was very unsatisfactory. Fleming pointed out an easier win for me, a win I too knew was there and simply missed it!

After months of bad decisions at the board, I need a break and want to work on different things. For me, the Expert title would have come at anytime I was willing to put the time "in"; but that is just the very problem, I no longer feel like putting time in to this game or any other game.

I just want the fun back, but I hate speed chess, so I will probably play occasionally, but my days in Reno are numbered.

As my friend Mark Brooks used to say; "There's things I want to do." And he's right, none of us is getting any younger and because that is a fact that no one can escape, one has to balance the idea of what one wants to accomplish with the "probable" time available to him/her.

I'll still see everyone around from time to time, but "There's things I want to do." I do enjoy my chess friends, but I have many other friends who do not even play the game or can even push a pawn forward.

For years, I never played at the club, David Peterson was instrumental in me coming back and then I soldiered on like "George Fischer" and rarely missed a tournament. I did my part and now I want to do less.

I think I will play in the next tournament or two and then I will move onto other things.

I'm thinking of writing in the horror genre and so I have spent many hours reading the greats at it and have viewed over 37 horror films from the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's and so forth.

I feel ready to write my own. I hope you will not quit chess or this time control, but I do understand that there are other things to be doing.

I look at it this way: Before chess, I was a damn good Baseball player, getting my tryout with the Reds in 1985. Then came my interest in chess, then Education, and now possibly Film Directing (I'm too shy to be in front of the camera) and writing.

In other words, go do something you have always wanted to do. Chess will always be there and will not go away.

I already know this and I have "other worlds" to conquer! Good luck and keep in touch...


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I mispoke a little. When I stopped blogging about chess, my interest was probably waning then, but the win over Simanis was the last nail in the coffin so to speak.


wang said...

Well Robert, the important thing is that you're happy. If improving and getting rating points isn't important to you, then why do it? It's a lot of work, and I can tell you as I start playing more class B players it gets harder and harder to win games.

I absolutely agree with you, this should be fun, if it's not then it's work. Don't you already have a job? Why would you want another one, where you don't get paid???

Play chess, have a drink and when not at the board at a tournament, be like chessloser, party like a rocksta!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, you aren't going to get better at chess anyway unless you enjoy it, so I don't see why it matters what your declared goal is or isn't.

Matthew said...

I love chess, just not the long games.

BlunderProne said...

Dude, you haven't played chess until you do a 6 hour marathon only to lose because you're stomach is digesting itself.

Hope you still have fun!

ChargingKing said...

I'm sorry to hear that you wont be participating in these tournaments. Sometimes I get sick of the late nights too...I take the bus home after the game!!

Maybe we can have a match sometime soon, at a faster time control.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Chris, I didn't know you took the bus. Why didn't you tell me? I would have driven you home.

It turns out that my friend Gordon and I can't work on my project until things settle down with his personal life.

So I probably will be playing a little more anyway save the occasional bye I am going to need from now on.

I'll run you home myself as long as you're not out in the boon docks somewhere.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I like long games, but come on why do they have such torture at your club?

Polly said...

I must say I agree with you about the 5-6 hour time controls. As I've gotten older I've gotten less patient with those type of controls. G/90 is pleasurable for me. It's slow enough to allow time for serious thought, but not so long that some opponent is going to spend 20 minutes on some obscure pawn move.

As much as I bitch and moan about my rating bouncing around my 1700 floor so much, truth be told I don't care. Sometimes I dream about getting back over 1900, but it's probably not going to happen. Besides what does it really matter? I'm beyond caring about being on the top 100 women's list. 1700 doesn't crack 100 anymore. It doesn't matter. I just enjoy playing. Yes I'll still get pissed off at myself for playing like an idiot, but life goes on.