Sunday, July 27 2014
John Michael's Dad here (that is my identity these days) reporting from Orlando. Going to be another hot day. JM and Michele peacefully sleeping (as any sane person should be at 6:00 AM on a Sunday morning!). Standings and round 2 pairings are not online yet, so no idea who JM is playing in round 2. Two games today - 12:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Yesterday was a good start - a win in a little over 3 hours is a good way to start tournament. On days where there are two games, you always root for a short game to be played at night, and if there is going to be a long game, you hope that it is played during the day. These tournaments are exhausting for the players - sleep is at a premium especially in the later rounds.
A few years ago, after JM had been playing for a couple of years and was showing that he had talent, I decided to start playing in tournaments myself. I was drawn to the game, but I also wanted to learn first hand what it was like to play in a chess tournament. I will never forget my first tournament. JM was around 9 years old and playing in one of the top sections against all adults. Being an unrated player, I was in the lowest section, and played my first game against a 6 year old, who was moving with lighting speed and attacking me like his life depended on it! Sitting in my kiddie chair, I never felt so much pressure in my life! I ended up squeaking out the win but it was a nerve wracking experience. Watching my son methodically take apart a 35 year chess veteran while I struggled to keep pace with a 6 year old was a humbling experience. I started taking chess a little more seriously, started studying, played a few more tournaments and had my rating top out around 1300. I will always remember the nervousness and pressure I felt when playing in tournaments, and I had nowhere near as much at stake as JM. It was a good experience that gave me a lot of appreciation for what he goes through. JM puts everything he has into every game he plays - he holds nothing back. These tournaments are grueling, and each player goes through enormous stress. Best thing I can do as a parent during a tournament is to just give him space and enjoy what he does. I remember speaking with a top United States scholastic player at the World Youth Chess Championship in Brazil. I asked him what advice he would give to a parent of a top scholastic player. He said a big thing for him during tournaments was to be given space after a game, win or lose. He needed time to decompress after a game. 4-6 hours of intense concentration, competition and focus is taxing, and what he needed after a game was not a pep talk or encouragement, but silence! Good advice from a top player, although hard for a parent - we always think we can help - sometimes we just have to let our kids deal with life on their own.
Where the heck are the pairings? Isn't everybody awake and ready to go? Note to self - no energy drinks before 7:00 AM for the rest of the tournament.
Pairings are up - and we had a shocker in round 1. Joshua Sheng, the number 1 rated player (2316), lost his first round game to a player rated 1990. Stark reminder that upsets are the norm at these tournaments, and that these kids are not machines. A 2321 would probably beat a 1990 8 times out of 10, but all that matters is what happens today. Good news for JM is that he is at board 1, which is where you want to be. If you are at board 1 you are at the top of the tournament standings going in to that round. Destiny is in your own hands - if you win, you stay in the lead no matter what anyone else does in their games. You also get to play in a special roped off area! JM is playing Yoon-Young Kim from CT (rated 2121). No games in Chessbase for this opponent. Games are going to be tougher and tougher as we progress......every game will be a battle! Going down to breakfast - I hope JM eats enough!
JM asks me what time next round is. I tell him 12:00 PM, and he answers with "are you sure Dad?" Back story to this question that JM now asks me before every round: At the World Open in Virginia a few weeks ago, I totally screwed up the start time for one of JMs games. Game was scheduled to start at 5:30 PM, but for some crazy reason I thought his game started at 7:00. Normally I am obsessing over every little detail during a chess tournament to make sure there is zero chance of anything going wrong - I have no idea how I messed this up. Now this was bad for 2 reasons:
1) If you show up more than an hour late for your game, it is an automatic forfeit - you lose.
2) JM is a creature of habit - he has a set routine that he goes through before every game when gets to his board. Normally we get to the board at least 10-15 minutes before the round starts so JM can get set up and settled in.
Back to the World Open in Virginia - it is 6:15 PM, JM and I are leisurely finishing up room service dinner and tossing a ball around the hotel room, hanging out before what we thought was a 7:00 PM start. Meanwhile, several floors below, hundreds of chess games have been going on for 45 minutes or so. For some reason I check the tournament website and to my horror I see that the round start time was 5:30, not 7:00! I tell JM - we both start running around the room panicking. JM starts grabbing his chess set, phone and bottled waters. I think he may have gotten both his sneakers on, but I am not 100% sure. We bolt down the hall to the elevator, and sprint to the playing hall. Luckily he got to his board on time to avoid forfeit. His opponent apparently also got to the board late, because only 20 minutes had elapsed on JM's clock. Disaster avoided, but I never was more nervous during one of JM's games. The thought of me possibly costing JM a game by him not having time to go through his pre-game routine was a rough thought to bear for the next several hours. I went back to the hotel room and stared into space for what seemed like forever - just like those chess parents I referenced yesterday. Maybe that is why they are staring into space - they know they did something stupid to their kid before the round.......
3 hours later, JM enters the hotel room and utters the magic words: "I won". He then says "It was easy - I had tons of time left on my clock". With the pressure off, we both had a major laughing fit remembering how crazed we were when we thought he might forfeit the round for being late. Ever since then, before each round JM asks me what time the round starts and then asks "are you sure Dad?"
I have a feeling I will be hearing "are you sure Dad?" several hundred times over the next few years - chess players have a good memory.
In hotel room, going down to playing hall in a few minutes. Michele watching a home renovation show on HGTV. Are there more home renovation shows or cooking shows on TV? Seems like every time Michele puts the TV on there is one of those shows on. She probably says the same thing when I put on the TV and inevitably find a sports show.
Round started promptly at 12:00. This is a very well run tournament - organized, rounds start on time, pairings put up well in advance of round, standings updated quickly. Kudos to the organizers and tournament directors!
Spent the last 15 minutes at the pool in the sun. Real hot. Surprised I lasted 15 minutes out there. Going back to air conditioning, which in my opinion is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Michele still by the pool, soaking in the sun.
Just found another benefit of JM being on board 1 - his game is being broadcast in the back of the playing hall. I finally may be able to see one of his games being played! JM doesn't like it when I am in the playing hall - maybe I should go buy fake glasses and moustache so I can sneak in and out of the room......
This is why I am kind of glad I don't watch his games - just snuck a peek at the position and it looks like JM is getting killed - he is down a piece and a pawn on move 16. Thankfully I am only a 1300 rated chess player - usually I have no idea what is going on when I watch a game between two top players. You can usually take my assessment of a game and go the other way to find out what is really happening. Hopefully I picked up the position in the middle of a long combination that will end up with JM in good shape.
Went to pool to tell Michele that JM is losing. Felt the need to get her worried too - no use me being the only one stressing out! We really are too uptight - we have issues!
Still looks like JM is losing. Looks way too complicated for me to figure out. Staring at this position for 5 minutes is already giving me a headache - how can someone sit there for hours on end without their brain frying? These kids are truly something special, every one of them.
Another Michele bug event just occurred while I was in the playing hall. For those who do not know my wife Michele, she has a very strong dislike/fear of bugs. I think we chronicled a couple of bug events on this blog from the World Youth Championship in Brazil a few years ago. Anyway, Michele was sitting by the pool reading a book when all of a sudden a bug flew right at her and hit her in the mouth (good thing her mouth was closed). After impact, Michele saw no sign of the bug, which led her to believe it was stuck on her somewhere. The inevitable panic started to set in, and Michele ran up to a group of strangers to ask them if a bug was on her anywhere. To the strangers' credit, instead of running away from this crazed woman they calmly told her that there was no bug in sight. Hopefully Michele will be calmer by dinner time.
Now JM is only down 2 pawns and it looks like his opponent's position is all disjointed. I really have no idea what is going on. JM is going to laugh when he reads my analysis after the tournament.
Now JM is down a pawn and looks like he has a serious attack brewing. The more I watch this game, the more I am glad that I don't usually get to watch his games - there is no way I could take this stress if I watched every one of his games! This is why I bring my laptop and work - takes my mind off the game.
Don't most hotels skip the 13th floor? Not this one. Gotta ask someone about that.....
JM has a queen and 4 pawns - his opponent has a bishop, rook and 3 pawns. To my uneducated eye it looks like a position JM can (should?) win. Who knows - I thought he was losing earlier, I think he is winning now - it will probably end in a draw!
And just like that, it's all over. JM won. When I asked him how the game was he gave his usual response, "it was interesting". I told him my analysis, and he laughed, telling Michele, "Mom, don't listen to what Dad tells you about the game - he doesn't know!" How could he be so calm when I was a wreck for the last 3 hours? Plenty of time to eat and relax - 3.5 hours until round 3 at 7:00 PM.
Pairings are up for round 3 - JM is playing Angel Hernandez-Camen from PA (2231). JM played Angel once previously and lost. Time to look up that game to see what can be learned and improved on. JM definitely going to use the time to prepare. Hoagie and buffalo wings for dinner for JM - hopefully we can stuff some fruit into him in the next hour to take him through the evening. Michele watching yet another home improvement show.
JM is tied for first with 7 other kids at 2.0 points. The next couple of rounds will go a long way to determining who the top contenders are. There will be no easy games from here on out.
There is also a state vs. state competition spanning the three tournaments (Denker, Barber, NGIT). After 2 rounds, all 3 New Jersey players (Kimberly Ding in the NGIT, Christopher Wu in the Denker, and John Michael in the Barber) have perfect scores with 2.0 points. Go New Jersey!
Here we go - round 3 is underway. JM decided he didn't want to use Monroi device (handheld device that records moves and transmits games). He felt it was too much of a hassle to use - he prefers the old school pen and scorebook. Good news and bad news for me. His game won't be broadcast in the hall, so I won't be able to watch, but now I don't have to run in the playing hall every 15 minutes to try to see what is going on!
JM still playing - almost 3 hours and counting. Michele and I hanging out at the bar again for the last couple of hours. I am now camped out outside the playing hall - Michele is back upstairs in hotel room. No idea how JM is doing - time to just sit and wait..........
Still playing. 3 hours 20 minutes and counting. Could be another late night JM special.
JM once played a 6 hour game on this time control. I could be here until 1:00 in the morning. Do I go back to the bar?
I overhear another adult say "I just saw the number one player in the Barber get checkmated". My heart literally stops beating. The person he is speaking to asks who the player was and he says a name that is not JM - he must have been referring to the Denker tournament perhaps? I peek into the room and JM is still sitting at the board, so I guess his game is still going.
JM comes out of playing hall: "Draw". He is now at 2.5 points after 3 rounds. Looks like there is 1 player with 3.0 points, and 6 tied with 2.5 points. Lots of draws in round 3 on the top boards. As the highest rated player with 2.5 points, I believe JM will be on board 1 tomorrow against the player with 3.0. Going to need a win tomorrow in round 4 to get his destiny back in his own hands. Going back to room - JM is hungry - going to have the rest of the wings and then we will try to get him to bed - always a challenge after a late night game. This is my second attempt at publishing this post - I somehow deleted the one I had with all the pictures. Going to have to post the pictures tomorrow. I'll be back tomorrow night (Monday) with Day 3 recap. Rounds 4 and 5 are Monday at 12:00 PM and 7:00 PM.