Recap of the 135th NYS Championship

Not pictured: Yefim's fanny pack
Not pictured: Yefim’s fanny pack

I got back from the 135th NY State Championship on Tuesday. I finished with 2.5/6 going +1 =3 -2. Overall I was fairly lucky to escape with only two losses though I had good chances in my games. I didn’t really think I was playing that well, and initially I was soaking up tons of time in the opening which left me (in some games) in severe time pressure when approaching the second time control.

Speaking of which, I would like to comment on what I think might have been the most bazaar time control I have ever played. The Open section had a time control of 40/110 (you have to make 40 moves in 110 minutes) SD:30 (the second time control, thirty minutes) with a 10s delay. An effort was made on the part of the tournament organizers to have the games done earlier and to finish the tournament earlier (apparently so we could all get home earlier, an effort that in my case failed miserably). The time control for this tournament used to be 40/2 (forty moves in two hours) SD:1 (one hour of sudden death (second time control)) with a 5s delay. I can understand the desire to want to get the games over quicker, but the time control that we played was quite frankly awkward and difficult to adjust to. 40/2 SD:1 with a 5 second delay is a cleaner time control, it just makes more sense (although the games do tend to drag on). The organizers also mentioned that the time control was also changed to be more in line with FIDE regulations. I’m not sure what the deal is with the USCF and their infatuation is with the delay (as opposed to the increment).

I suppose now would be a good time to discuss the differences between delay and increment. Let’s say you sit down to play a one hour game of chess and you are using a delay clock set for five seconds (a standard USCF delay time). So what that essentially means is that you have five seconds to make your move before your “actual” time starts counting down. Essentially it is possible to move within that five second window and never lose any time; this comes in handy when you are in time pressure because as long as you are moving quickly you can’t ever lose on time (theoretically).

Now let’s take that same situation (where you sit down to play a game of chess and each side has an hour) but instead of using delay you use a five second increment (a very low and uncommon increment form usually you would use 30 seconds per FIDE). So what the increment does is that instead of adding the five seconds before your move, it adds it after. So when your opponent hits the clock your time immediately starts to drain; but once you’ve hit your clock you are “rewarded” when the clock adds 5 seconds to your time. So it is theoretically possible to finish a game with MORE time than what you started with. The one wrinkle with using increment is that if your flag falls (you run out of time) you don’t get to make a move and have that five seconds be added on, once you run out of time that’s it, you’re done.

So essentially delay serves to delay the reduction of your time (in the beginning) while increment adds to your time (after you’ve hit your clock). So you can see that a ten second delay is fairly arbitrary because it is too much of a delay and therefor negates the original purpose of having a delay (which IMO is to give you a buffer so you don’t lose on time in a theoretically drawn position). It may seem nit-picky and nuanced but when you are playing it does matter, and having ten seconds is hardly better than having 5 because by the time it would matter you are in move immediately mode. Why we don’t just use the FIDE recommended time control of 40/90 SD: 30 with a 30s increment is beyond me.

Enough about time controls. Before I get started with the games I played I wanted to relay an amusing situation that occurred before the start of the sixth round. Ben, Jimmy and I were standing around talking and just sort of milling about when a woman approached Ben asking for his autograph. A bit befuddled Ben said, “sure” and signed this lady’s score book. It was quite bazaar and the three of us were quite confused. I personally believe that she had him confused with the super GM Hikaru Nakamura… although who can really be sure of anything anymore.

I played some fairly interesting games of chess this weekend. There was a close shave in the first round because I was almost paired with another Rochester player Ben; thankfully we managed to miss each other by one person. My first round game was a bit of a disaster as my opponent thoroughly outplayed me in an opening he was more familiar with than I was. He did let me back into the game though and at one point I thought I was better heading into the endgame (as did Ben who was sitting next to me and watching the whole thing unfold). Finally due to my poor time management I eventually made a mistake in the end which allowed him to trade everything off into a better king and pawn ending.

The second round I was paired with another master from NYC who actually happened to be the older brother of a girl from camp I know. He was able to move order me and get me into a position I was unfamiliar with right out of the opening. After we swapped off a bunch of material I (once again) found myself low on time. He was able to whip up an attack against my king in what I thought was a fairly innocuous position. I blundered and was forced to sacrifice my queen for his bishop and rook (in order to stave off mate). Eventually his queen was able to pick off a few too many of my pawns and I was forced to resign.

The third round I was finally paired down, and beat an 1800 in an opening I knew very little about. I managed to pick off two pawns thanks to a blunder by my opponent and converted the endgame but not without some difficulty.

The fourth round was perhaps the most interesting game I played all tournament. My opponent played into one of my favorite openings as white and after I sacrificed a pawn he allowed me to win an exchange. I tried to get a bit too cute and found myself having traded a bishop and two pawns for a rook; which was not ideal. After I sacrificed the rook back to him for a pawn we entered a same colored bishop and rook ending where my opponent had two extra pawns. Luckily I managed to salvage a draw thanks in no small part to my opponents inability to manage his time (a bit of a reversal from the first two rounds).

The fifth round I was paired against a player I had played before almost five years ago now. I had remembered that in that game he swindled me after he had been outplayed in the middle game. Older and wiser I got outplayed in the middle game and managed to lose a pawn; like an idiot. Thankfully after a few inaccuracies on his part I was able to find some interesting ideas and just as I felt the tide was beginning to turn I offered him a draw. He thought for a while and when it became evident that he wasn’t immediately winning after soaking up 10 minutes or so he agreed to a draw.

My final opponent played into the same opening (via a different move order) as my fourth round opponent. Once again I got a solid advantage and just as I believed I was on the cusp of winning I blew it and allowed him to exchange a pair of rooks where we entered a knight vs bishop ending which I was unable to win. Had I have won that game I would have finished with 3 which was my goal for the tournament. Alas due to my inability to finish off my opponent I only managed 2.5/6.

Questions to be Answered Next Week:

  1. What is in Yefim Treger’s fanny pack?
  2. Who is the REAL undisputed NY State champ?
  3. What the hell is a modified median?
  4. Who was Ephraim Solkoff?
  5. When will the USCF embrace the increment over the delay?
  6. What will be the topic of the next Jay Bonin lecture?
  7. Why did that woman ask for Ben’s autograph?

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