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A Tale of the Queen City

Last weekend I competed in what I’ve come to fondly dub my “anniversary tournament.” The appropriately named Queen City Open was my introduction to the world of competitive chess a little over half my lifetime ago at age 16. I still remember how nervously excited I was. With so many butterflies, all I could stomach for breakfast that morning was a muffin and juice to which my grandmother treated me at the hotel before the first round. I’ve made it a point not to miss a year since!

My first round encounter with the Expert Leonard Morrissey promised to be one of the best games I’ve played in some time. As it was, after a brilliant series of moves that exemplify the adage “the best defense is a good offense,” I slipped and let it all go in one fell swoop.

In college, I had a roommate on the tennis team. He dabbled in chess, but finally concluded it was too unforgiving a sport for him. You see, after many hours of effort, even a “won” game can be lost in a momentary lapse. He liked that, in tennis, with each point and each game a fresh slate, you almost always have a chance to come back.

Black has just played 22…Bc6 attacking the knight on f3, the key defender of the h2-pawn. 23.Rfd1! Rh3 24.Ra3! b6! Giving his King breathing room. 25.Bxb6 Basically forced, but it works beautifully, as 25…Bxa3 is answered by 26.bxa3 Rxf3 27.Qc5! and despite being a rook down, White is winning. 27…Qb7 28.Rad3! Kb8! 29.exf6 gxf6 30.Qf4+?? Hoping for 30…e5 31.Nxe5 fxe5 32.Qxe5+ and White crashes through first. Alas, the simple 30…Ka8 turns the tables for the last time. Rybka gives 30.Ne5, continuing the fun. A truly heart-wrenching way to end this pretty slugfest.

You’ll recall I went coffee-free for over a week in preparation for this event—an experiment I’m happy to say I’m still continuing. I did get a little tired during this 3.5 hour contest, but I also felt concentrated.

The next round, I had a full-point bye and kicked back in the hotel room watching the Presidential primary results roll in. Regarding coffee, as a calorie restrictor, finding a similarly robust replacement is difficult. I really like Teeccino and all its flavors, but it’s actually rather calorific (20 per Tb), especially when replacing an 8-12 cup a day habit.

In the morning, I was ready to kick butt, feeling good about my overall play, if not the result, and fueled by an all-fruit breakfast of a couple apples, an orange, and a banana. I had the Black pieces against the young Class A player Kevin Ma. Apparently, I played a new move as early as the eighth—rare these days in the ultra-booked environment of modern-day chess.

My Theoretical Novelty in the Accelerated Dragon

8…Bxf3 Previously, only 8…Ne5 had been played. Now White has to take 9.Bxf3, retaining a slight edge. Instead he fell into the trap and continued with 9.dxc6 Bxe2! 10.Qa4? The mistake must be admitted, and the damage minimized to the loss of a pawn, by recapturing on e2. 10…Bxc3+! 11.bxc3 b5 12.Qd4 e5 13.Qd5 Bc4 14.c7 Bxd5 14…Qc8 15.Qxd6 allows too much counterplay. Better to return the piece and head into a relatively easy endgame without all the risk. 15.cxd8/Q+ Rxd8 16. exd5 Rc8 etc..

In the final round, I achieved a better position in the early middlegame against the legendary Master, 76 year old John Curdo. I then sacrificed a pawn for an attack that unfortunately came up short. He gave back the pawn and in the resulting equal late middlegame / early endgame with rooks and queens, proceeded to outplay me. My opponent took a share of third place for his efforts, and I missed out on a portion of the Under 2100 prize by half a point. :(

On the whole though, a most enjoyable tourney and much needed vacation. I didn’t even do any work on the internet! I can proudly say I read a few emails and that’s it. :) Waiting for me at home was a ton of shoveling. Indeed, the drive home was treacherous and slow, with at least a dozen cars off the road along 293 out of Manchester. Yikes. Even at 20 MPH, my anti-locks felt the need to kick in on occasion.

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