Monday, July 28 2014
Day starts with me banging my toe in the darkness against some piece of furniture in the hotel room. Toe looks like it was on the bad end of a heavyweight fight - bloodied and bruised. Thankfully my cursing and muttering do not appear to have been heard by Michele or John Michael - they are still sleeping.
Pairings are up for round 4, and as we expected, John Michael is at board 1 against David Brodsky from NY (2253), the only player with 3.0 points through round 3. Was going to fire up laptop and get some work in, but decided not to risk waking up JM - he didn't get to sleep until after midnight last night. Going to let him sleep as long as possible this morning.
Big day today in the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions. At the end of today, we will know if John Michael is in contention to win it all. By tonight there will be 5 rounds completed out of 6 - if JM can win both his games today he will play Tuesday morning at 10:00 AM with a chance to win the tournament. Seems easy enough - just win two games today! Elsewhere in the Rosen Centre Hotel, there are a bunch of other very talented chess kids that are going to wake up thinking the same thing - "just win 2 today". They are all capable of winning 2 today. Going to be tremendous battles today on the top boards - very exciting stuff. The anticipation is killing me - knowing that your son is one good day away from having a chance to play for a national championship is quite a rush.
Daily breakfast at hotel cafe. JM in good spirits - lots of laughs at breakfast as we recapped Michele's flying bug story from yesterday. Michele has a tremendous ability to keep things light for JM during tense times, something that is very needed at these tournaments.
Back in hotel room. Once we got back to room, it was almost as if a switch flipped in JM as he went into preparation mode. No more laughs - he is all business. Laptop open, mouse clicking furiously, Chessbase running. As the rounds go by, you can sense more urgency from JM in his prep. Without talking about it, he knows what is at stake and is leaving no stone unturned as he prepares.
I couldn't be prouder of John Michael. He has a ton of God given talent, but he also works incredibly hard at maximizing his natural talent. His crazy fierce competitive spirit is truly a joy to behold. The kid is a champ, no matter what happens today. I wouldn't bet against JM - my money is on him putting forth a big effort today and getting himself into a position to win it all on Tuesday.
Preparing before the round
For some reason, Michele has thought the early rounds started at 11:00 AM, and now JM's first coach, Hal Sprechman just texted me asking if the round started at 11:00 AM. Did I screw up again?
Checked tournament website for the 178th time this weekend - start time is 12:00 PM. I didn't screw up.
Checked tournament website for the 179th time. Still a 12:00 PM start.
JM shuts the laptop and simply says, "ok". He is ready to roll. I love his focus and intensity before the round starts - never gets old watching him prepare.
Round 4 is underway. This is going to be a long few hours.
All smiles before the round begins
JM sends me his normal text after he finishes a game when I am not outside the playing hall: "Done. I'll be up in a little bit." He never tells me in his text if he won, lost or drew - he makes me sweat. How could he be done after only 2 hours? Did someone blunder into a loss? Was it a quick draw? I head to the tournament room, and see JM hanging out with his opponent and 2 of the tournament directors having a leisurely conversation. I don't want to put either of the kids on the spot by asking who won, so I tell JM to let me know when he is ready to go upstairs and walk past them to the tournament room. I go to the scoresheet and see a "1" next to John Michael's name - he won. 3.5 points at the end of round 4 - he is back in at least a tie for first place and once again controls his own destiny. I walk back out of playing hall and see JM hanging out with a few kids. I walk down the hall and grab a seat to let JM kick back and relax with his friends. After a few minutes JM comes by and you can guess how the conversation went:
Me: "Congratulations John Michael - great job."
Me: "How was the game?"
JM: "It was interesting."
JM: "What time is the next round?"
Me: "7:00 PM"
JM: "Are you sure, Dad?"
With the extra time due to the quick game, we ventured out of the hotel down to an Irish Pub a half mile down the road. Still hot out. Got back to hotel just before the daily 4:00 PM thunderstorm started. Checked on the last few games still being played and went back to hotel room. On elevator ride coming up JM remarked how well the NJ players were doing - he said Christopher Wu was tied for the lead in the Denker and Kimberly Ding was only 1 point out of the lead in the NGIT. "Dad, wouldn't it be cool if NJ swept all three titles?" I like the way he thinks......
A little fun between rounds
Pairings are up - John Michael is playing Advait Patel from WV (2265). Advait is a top level tournament player and a very formidable opponent. John Michael played Advait at the SuperNationals in Nashville in 2013 - they played to a draw. The stakes go up every round - the winner of this game will be playing for the championship in round 6 (final round) Tuesday morning. If the game ends in a draw it opens up all sorts of possibilities for the final round - many potential contenders if this game ends in a draw. Going to be another long night!
Game has started - time for a beer!
Dad, do you have to take a picture before EVERY round?
JM and Advait sharing a laugh before round 5
Michele and I are perched at our normal seat at the bar - just waiting for news. This is torture. I have nothing interesting left to say!
Draw for JM. Not the result he wanted I am sure, but a result that still keeps him in contention to win it all tomorrow, with 4.0 points after 5 rounds. All the other top boards are still playing - many possibilities for tomorrow's opponent depending on how tonight's games finish. Most likely JM can still win tournament with a win tomorrow, but we won't know for sure until all the results are in later tonight. He definitely has no room for error tomorrow - a win will be needed. Draw and a final score of 4.5 points will most likely not be enough. Now the trick is getting him to bed as soon as possible - tomorrow's final game is at 10:00 AM - 2 hours earlier than today!
Just ran back down to playing hall to see if other games were finished. All of the top contenders are done. John Michael is tied for first place with 2 other players at 4.0. Looks like there are 9 or 10 players right behind with 3.5 points. A photo finish in store for tomorrow with a ton of players still in contention. If JM wins tomorrow he will finish no worse than tied for first (could possibly finish first outright depending on outcome of other games) and then it would come down to tiebreakers to determine national champion. A draw will most likely eliminate him from national championship contention (unless every other game is a draw), and a loss will definitely eliminate him. He will need to play his best game of the tournament tomorrow - biggest game of his career to date!