But the most disturbing end came in the normal tournament. The horror of horrors befell me in the seventh round. In a winning position, the exchange up and poised to mop up Sebastian Hermann's pawns, I was suddenly checkmated. Just a few moments before that, I was thinking to myself: OK, so I hide in this little corner right here; I should be safe, after all, he's got the wrong coloured Bishop. But out of no more than 3 possible moves I played the most disastrous choice. Bang! Bishop a5-to-e1: checkmate! I'm sure Kotov has a lesson for it. And Rowson probably has a sin for it too. It's all well and good to remember general principles but never forget the details - like the placement of your pawns. In that particular context yesterday I somehow overlooked that my own army actually entrapped my own King.
It was just awful to be honest. After my lousy King move, Hermann (a mathematics PhD student at the University of Sydney) responded with a conviction full of happiness and relief. You know what I mean, we've all done it. You're hoping against all hope, a final rally, waiting to see what happens, then there it is - the poor bastard just blundered. Except in this instance, the poor stupid bastard was me. Even the sympathetic pat on the back from Hamish Selnes wasn't quite enough. There's only one word for it really. FUCK!
The previous day, the Saturday, I arrived on time but there were no boards, no sets, no clocks. It seems that all these were still locked away. Norm Greenwood, the NSWCA man was running late and only he, apparently, knew how to operate one of those combination locks. Several people tried but none of them, would you believe, couldn't open the thing despite having the right combo of numbers. It was hilarious watching ourselves trying to unlock what must be a century old piece of technology. Enter: The Closet Grandmaster! After a couple of tries, yours truly did it.Easy peasy. It's just the Pinoy in me, you know, dear readers. We're good at this sort of thing. (Almost immediately, the post headline formed in my head: TCG Saves NSWCA Event!)
Actually, I must admit I didn't even know what these types of locks were called. When I asked a group of players what you call them, one replied: "They're called bastards!" You can understand, he was getting more than a tad frustrated.
So we all proceeded to our fifth game some a half-hour late. First up was my fellow GM, Jason Chan. He's a funny guy. For his first move, on the black side, he spent some 3-4 minutes, I think, in reply to my usual 1.d4. I never understand why people do that. Just a bit of psychology you think? I just get on with it myself. Even when faced with some esoteric shots like 1. a4 (Bolens tried this out against Zirdum), I'll just quickly bang out a move myself. "Let's see what you got" is my attitude. Anyway, it was a tough game that I was lucky to draw. Jason seemed unhappy about that - which is understandable since he outrates me by a couple of hundred points. Still I did one better in our blitz game, for the CoS Blitz Championships. I beat him.
For the sixth game, I faced Norwegian visitor Emil-Lion Normat. This guy's 1461 rating is a bit misleading. He's actually a competent player and way better than his rating would suggest. After another one of my careless moves, he found a brilliant reply - just a subtle repositioning of his Knight. And with that, I could have just resigned but grovelled on anyway to a painful choking. Luckily Normat is quite a nice fellow himself and we got along fine quickly. In some ways, I felt a little sorry for him. He's here ostensibly for a holiday but spends 5 days a week in the library to study for his Masters degree back in Norway! It's only on weekends that he can relax playing chess. Poor guy. I guess he hasn't really seen much of Sydney's bright sunny weather. That's a real bummer since, normally, he lives within the Arctic Circle back home where the nights can be very, very long! I hear he's making a quick trip down to the Melbourne CC for their Anzac Weekender. I'm sure our friends down there will show him the appropriate hospitality. He'll also be playing in the Doeberl.
And here's a bit of side news about our good friend Jose Escribano. Our friends in Mexico (that's the state of Victoria for our foreign readers) will be happy to know, I hope, that this former world title challenger has got himself a job down there. He withdrew from the CoS last weekend and should be there by now. We'll miss Jose in New South Wales.
After such a poor finish as I had, one needs some time to reflect. All the better if we can do this over some fine beer. In my case, it's a glass of Duvel. It just so happens that just a short walk from the venue is the Belgian Beer Cafe - a kind of specialty joint where they serve all things Belgian. God I miss Duvel. One of the best. The 8.5% alcohol was what I badly needed. Last time I had it was in that chess cafe, The Greenwich, in Brussels. But who should disturb my few moments of self-reflection over a drink but none other than Johny Bolens. The guy was on a roll and when he gets going, there's no stopping him. He was telling me all about the important things in life. Like how to pick up women, for example. But one must be careful, he said, during ones attempt at wooing the opposite sex. Once he had apparently approached some poor unsuspecting woman not realising that her male companions were just nearby. Before he knew it, Bolens says, he was roughed up pinned against some wall or something rather. I couldn't make out the rest of what he was saying. Sometimes it's hard to understand his accent. And that got me thinking: where do you come from Bolens, I asked him.
"I'm a united nations", he answered.
I'm not satisfied. I've always been curious. "But where were you born?"
He says he was born here. In Australia! What? I couldn't believe it. He added, "Life is complicated". Sure is.
Ronald Yu and Polish visitor Dariusz Swiercz jointly won the event with 5.5 points apiece. In their individual match-up, however, Ronald (currently a university student) defefated the 12-year old using his pet Bird's Opening (1.f4) - the same system he used to wreak havoc in the 2003 UNSW Australian Young Masters tournament.
The blitz side event was won by Jason Hu on 10/11 - an absolutely domineering performance by him. Mendes da Costa threatened to also hit top honours when he steamrolled the opposition for a 6-game streak after dropping the first two rounds. But that was that him and he fell to settle for just 6 points.