Day Three – 4 April
Erwin wrote out all of the pairings and to me it looked like an opportunity for the team to do some bouncing back. Robby was fidgeting about…he so wants performance! And that is how he gets it. To me the kids looked like they were ready to play a little now – we shall see if this translated into points. I needed to remember today to get Joel Benjamin to sign my copy of his book American Grandmaster, which I lugged from Tucson.
This was the big day with three rounds to play, so with a 9:00 AM start, no time for breakfast out. Erwin to the rescue – we had all sorts of fruit and chips and pretzels and soda – woo-hoo! Kevin was paired way down and was the first to win, followed by an important first win for Eli. Jacqui sacrificed a piece out of the opening but could not make the attack work and went down in flames, but hey, she had been paired up in every round. Andy’s game worried me because although he was reported to be doing well, his body language from afar was not so Andy-esque; normally he’s up and wandering but in this game he stayed seated and his opponent looked rather unconcerned. Later on I would pass him in the stairwell and he would say “terrible!”, but we later learned that he won a rook early in the game and then gave it back; he would eventually notch the point but was upset at having been sloppy and having to work so hard. Sam drew in a worse position paired down – his dad, Tom, said he is competitive enough to hate giving anything away so even avoiding what might have been a loss was not optimal. Sangeetha drew in the U1200 section, looking good with 2.5/3. Michael also made a draw but in a crazy way. Paired up against a 1900 he quickly got a bad game but then fought back and got two rooks for his queen; Robby and I thought he might be winning at some point but the half point was good, all things considered. Jacob got his first win but I could not be sure because I had not yet actually seen him. Hugh also picked up a point, but in a very weird way – he made eight moves and then his opponent left the board and did not return…oh well, nice and short! Last to finish was Jenelle, opining just that; to make matters worse she lost and looked pretty drained, but it was not long before she had her mega-watt smile turned on again as we headed to lunch.
I got my wish at the book signing and Joel Benjamin inscribed my copy of his book brought from home plus two more I purchased on the spot. He brightened when I asked him to sign one for Tal Shaked. I also get one signed for Ross Colby, who so kindly let me peck away at my computer in the Philadelphia School’s team room that morning. After dropping off the books, I joined the team for yet another pedestrian repast at Paisano’s, where I got a crummy little packaged salad and a slice of pizza for $9. The large national events always have a feedback session and I had a feeling that food was going to be one of the major topics of scrutiny. During lunch, Andy announced that he was going to take a shower so that he would feel his best up on the stage playing one of the big gun masters next round. It turned out that he would be paired against phenom Alec Getz and Robby feverishly got to work preparing an opening for him. Andy and Robby went on in the room this way several minutes past the start of the round, sacrificing a bit of playing time for an edge in knowledge. We shall see how this all panned out.
Scores after three rounds:
Andy: 3Round four had more ups and downs. Kevin continued to play back into form with another win, albeit paired down. Andy had his big moment on the stage with a demo board and all the trimmings. Robby’s prep worked like a charm as Getz played right into the line of the Scandinavian in question for more than a dozen moves. Indeed, the middle game looked promising for Andy and Robby remarked that he thought Andy “should not lose this one”. Beside the online lookup of opponent opening repertoires, Robby had other knowledge in hand, remembering how Getz had given up a draw to a much lower player in a key scholastic event in the last year, something he mentioned to Andy to bolster his confidence. In the end it was not to be. Andy played so well only to make a rather inexplicable miscalculation that handed over the game easily, although Robby did comment that by that time the position did seem better for Black. I passed Andy in the stairwell with a black storm cloud over his head – he took one look at me and muttered “terrible”; and then “I made a move that looked great – he cannot take because it is mate but then I forgot that he has his rook on that square and then I am lost.” Eli’s not-so-lucky streak continued and he would remain with just one win through four rounds. Sam and Jenelle put up points and Sangeetha lost, but she still seemed to be having a good time.
Scores after four rounds:
Andy: 3Prior to round five, Erwin and I did a bit of volunteer work, helping post the pairings and standings on the large boards in the skittles area and in front of the playing areas. This was fun and was a big help to the tournament staff in its small way. The work required a fight through the throng into the hall to post the last pairing list for one of the championship sections, and you needed another person with you just for crowd control to have any hope of getting the information up for those trying to crush the messenger. After that Erwin and I had dinner at the pub, a much appreciated hour of respite from the thrash of the tournament.
The final round of day two got underway. The first game I spied was Andy’s (paired down against an 1800 player) and it looked bad early on – he had traded his queen for a rook, bishop and pawn, but there was his opponent’s passed pawn. After Andy lost I again ran into him in the hallway as he headed upstairs to the room. He was so down it made me feel terrible. “I got bored in that game and blitzed off a bunch of moves”, he said. “I think I might not be able to play tomorrow because I will just lose every game I play”. Ugh. Kevin’s game would be one of the last to finish and he would make a not-so-satisfying draw, but nevertheless a half point forward for the team. Eli bounced back with a win, and I hoped he might be starting a little streak. Sangeetha played to a draw, keeping her hopes for a high score in the JV section alive. Sam won his game to quietly move to 3/5. Jenelle lost paired up – when we looked at her game she seemed tired to me; tough to keep stoked for the duration. Jacqui is still learning her openings, and found herself in a bad way early on in her game, but fought back to a drawish position late in the game; then came The Miracle, courtesy of her opponent, who played the only move that handed over the gladly accepted goods.
Scores after five rounds:
Andy: 3I close the recounting of the second day of play reflecting on Robby’s team meeting in which he said to the players “Yeah, we are not where we would like to be. But we still need to push and do as well as we possibly can. And if we don’t do better, then we are going to lose to Gilbert, and we better not!” None of this was said with any malice – just a little in-state rivalry at work. I have to say that I loved this tack; reminded me of the scene from The Lord of the Rings, where the king accepts that his much smaller force cannot defeat the bad guys, and he says “True, we cannot defeat Sauron’s army (pregnant pause), but we will meet them in battle nonetheless!” At this point in our story, Gilbert was in 8th place with a one point team aggregate lead over Catalina Foothills, in 11th place.
Robby's Saturday team meeting
Join us for the exciting conclusion of Paul's trip to Nashville with the Catalina Foothills High School chess team.