Monday, February 20, 2012

Minnesota Open, 2012, part I

I have seldom taken or have had the time to write a significant blog post in a very long time. With the busy and full pace of life, I spend my down time relaxing with family, friends, television, or live music. However, I have a full day off from work today, which I intentionally chose to do after an intense weekend of playing chess in the 119th Warren Stenberg Memorial Minnesota Open.

As usual, I played in the Sophomore section for players rated U1400. (I was briefly above 1400 in 2005, but not since.) Although I often play and occasionally beat players 1600 and above at the Chess Castle, this section is competitive for me, as I don’t recall ending up higher than an even score at any tournament.

For those who don’t play chess, or for those who play casually, you need to understand the mental intensity required to play a single long game of chess, let alone five or six games over a weekend. I play often, have a moderately good understanding of the game, and have experience playing a variety of different opponents. Most of the nervousness I feel when I play is the anxiety of waiting to get started.

I planned on working a half-day Friday, but a last minute appointment on Friday left me with the entire day away from the office. I was thankful to have a generally relaxing day. Before the appointment, I studied a game from Yasser Seirawan’s “Winning Chess Brilliancies.” After the appointment, I practiced some tactics for an hour. Both the game and tactical study were very helpful in putting my mind in the proper headspace for the weekend, and I wisely did not overdo it. I relaxed the rest of the day with music until it was time for a dinner with the family before heading over to Saint Paul.

After get through a slow downtown and having a little maddening difficulty finding parking--there was a country music show on Friday night--I got to the Crowne Plaza a little before seven. After bitching about the potentially high parking price and finding that there were vouchers to reduce the cost, I tried to relax as much as I could in the beehive of activity. With over 200 chess players, families, and friends, that is not realistically possible. It only got worse as the pairings started to be posted to the wall. When the Sophomore section was finally posted, I found that I was playing the top seed in our section, a scholastic player who looked to be about late middle school age.

As was the case for games one, three, and five, I played Black, and my opponents all started 1. e4. Anyone who knows me knows that I have been reliably playing the Caro-Kann, which I did all weekend. I got a good workout with it!

In this game, we played an exchange variation. However, “Theory? Who needs theory?” We ended up with an unusual early middlegame position. Here was the position after his 14th move.

After my 14th move (f6), I had used 40 minutes of my 120. He was using about 10 minutes less time than me at this point, and he continued to gain on me. We played for over three hours and about 46 moves (my notation became very inaccurate as my time ran low). He won.

I was very tired the next morning even after a half decent night of sleep. I dreaded the three game Saturday, with games at 10, 2:30, and 7. Historically the 7 o’clock game has been exhausting for me. The coffee which I drank with more frequency this weekend than usual at times did not seem to be doing the trick. My brain felt weary, although the part that kept my analytical skills sharp and careful was working well.

(Writing this just reinforced my resistance to blogging. I enjoy telling stories, but it is just as easy to lose my sense of time while writing as it is for me while playing a chess game.)