Riley Dosh

Learning All The Way – Tysons Corner Action Tournament

Apparently, I have stamina problems. The blitz tournament went far better than expected, but then one tough draw in rapid time control, and all my energy was zapped. I was able to rally by Game 4, but this was certainly not my best effort. 

I spent drizzly Super Bowl Sunday indoors, playing at the Tysons Corner Action and Blitz tournaments hosted by DMV Chess. I’ve been to this regular tournament often, with middling but always rewarding results. However, this was my first time also attending their earlier blitz tournament, my second ever. 

I didn’t expect to win the blitz tournament, and I didn’t, but I came within a half point hair. Instead, I ended in a 3-way tie for 2nd place, and 3rd place overall after tiebreaks. Facing opponents far more skilled than myself, including my friendly rival Don MacLean, I managed to pull out an excellent 7.0/10 points. 

The blitz tournament was double-pairing, meaning I played two games against each opponent. It started out slow, trading wins against my first two opponents, before sweeping the next two. While the games were interesting, I couldn’t tell you how I won (or lost) them, except in one notable game. Still, I greatly enjoyed the pace and casual nature of the ordeal. Faster chess favors intuition over calculation, and as such favors me. My last opponent was the eventual winner, but I still won our first game. The confidence from that win went a long way in our second game. However, just as the defensive tango started getting spicy, I hung a back-rank mate. I lost out on the $100 and settled, quite happily mind you, for third. I credit hosting the weekly Bishops and Beers open chess night for my blitz success. 

During the intermission between tournaments, Don and I went for a walk to get a late lunch. Two other players from the blitz tournament drove by and offered us a ride to a nearby restaurant. This was their first tournament ever, and it was exciting to chat with new faces. We talked about and played a game over a quick meal, before hurrying back for the rapid tournament. After talking with me and Don, the pair also decided to try out the rapid tournament! 

The first 41 moves of Round 1 (before time pressure set in)

Game one was a tense affair. I felt safe throughout the opening as white’s minor pieces tripped over his pawns, but he still didn’t give me a way in. That changed after we traded queens and I got the opportunity for a pawn to break through. We picked up the pace as my opponent’s clocked ticked lower and lower. It soon reached a scant 2 seconds on the clock to my 3 minutes. His endgame was stronger than his middlegame, even while living on the 5 second delay. We at last reached a dreaded queen vs. rook endgame, in my favor. While I had studied this very endgame before, I couldn’t figure out the method over the board. The game ended with a stalemate trap, with a crowd of onlookers watching me flail. 

The worst part about long games is that you have no time before the next round. Which probably led to game two being such a rollercoaster. It started strong, as I locked his pieces behind his pawns. To save a bishop, I threatened to sacrifice the other for a repetition. My opponent, rated 300 points higher than me, did not allow the draw. Instead, his counterattack threw me into a tight position. To exploit his advantage, he sacrificed a rook for a mating attack. However, he again allowed a chance for a repetition. Now a rook up, and holding, I felt like I could do better than a draw. I was wrong, and I lost.

Game three was a sorry affair that I am not proud of. All I could think of was how I was outplayed in last game, and distracted by a mechanical humming sound in constant one second bursts. Even with ear plugs in, or perhaps because of it, I couldn’t keep my mind off that humming and oh there goes my knight. I resigned far earlier than I would normally, because I had to admit I wasn’t giving nor could give my best. At least now I had time to rest between rounds. 

With 0.5/3, I was paired with another kid who had so far gone 0.0/3. Neither of us were having a good tournament. I got myself tangled in the opening (that mechanical humming was a Chinese water torture on my brain), but my gracious opponent allowed me to awkwardly unfold my position. By the time I was ready to attack, I noticed his isolated king’s pawn and seized on the weakness. I traded pieces, confident that I would be favored in the endgame. I was saved from defending that confidence when my opponent gave away his queen en prise and resigned. 

Not my best tournament, but learning all the way.

“Cassia Rewards Those Who Endure Her Wrath” – Riley Dosh blogs from The Tyson’s Corner Action Tournament

I have always loved Pinball. A girlfriend in high school had many renovated Pinball machines in her basement which I would play for hours on end (the Terminator-themed one was the best). I would also play the Microsoft Pinball program, which introduced me to the concept of tilt. Tilting, or slam tilting, is when a player too aggressively handles the machine. This immediately ends the round or the game, and is generally considered bad sportsmanship. The term carried through to poker, and later chess. A player becomes tilted when they become too angry or upset to properly play the game. This results in more blunders, more loses, and more tilt. 

In my last tournament, I was tilted. I had quickly racked up two wins, which earned me the chance to play a National Master for the first time in a rated game. I played into a completely winning position, against someone rated over 800 points higher than me, before one bad move caused the whole position to go up in flames. I couldn’t focus, my eyes blurred, and thinking logically became impossible. The following two games are not even worth talking about. 

That was the losing streak I was on before the DMV Chess’s The Tysons Corner Action tournament. About a year ago, I won the U1500 section, so I felt confident enough to play in the Open Section, despite qualifying for both. 

Round 1
True to my principles, I didn’t check my opponent’s rating before the round. I had a strong start, catching my opponent off balance and creating a dense pawn majority in the center. However, more tension on the board means more complications, and I didn’t notice my Achilles heel until it was too late. He found it first, and my center evaporated. Only down a pawn, I already felt like I had lost – a prophecy which is always fulfilled. An [obviously] unsound tactic lost my knight and I was forced to concede a few dozen moves later. My 4th straight loss. 

Round 2
I was buoyed by the fact that my previous opponent was rated 1900, so I wasn’t likely to have won anyways. I rallied for another game. I didn’t want to play anything too fancy, just get out some solid development and play some chess. Instead, I was met by a prepared line whose 2nd move was already a novelty to me (1. e4 e6 2. b3!?). Unlike my opponent, I didn’t know what was coming. It was a crushing defeat, which might’ve been even faster if my opponent was looking for tactics. My 5th straight loss.

I sulked back to the skittles room and sat in my chair. I wanted to quit. Chess was a dumb game, and I clearly wasn’t any good at it. My losing streak was mirroring my recent online losing streak; no end in sight. Maybe today just wasn’t my day. I was ready to withdraw and go home early. But I didn’t. I wallowed in self pity, while continuing my doodle. I hadn’t even bothered to take my ear plugs out, preferring the silence. The pizza box near me made my stomach rumble, but I just kept on doodling. Die another day.

Round 3
For the only time of the tournament, I was facing a kid. I had the bad luck of seeing his much higher rating, but I didn’t let it faze me. He played what I’m told is a London, which is silly because that’s a city. But, like all London players, he preferred his memorized development, and didn’t give much thought to locking out his dark square bishop, or my queen on b6. I sacrificed development to get him out of his comfort zone, causing him to eat up a lot of time. After every move he’d jump up and wander around the room, waiting for this stupid 1400 to discover she’d been beat. 

But I hadn’t been beat. If I had just lost two games, so had he, and he was clearly more tilted about it than me. Experience has taught me to never underestimate your opponent, no matter her rating.  He long neglected the critical push in the center, and allowed me to untangle myself. Soon enough, his passive pieces ran out of options, and more importantly, his clock ran low. I allowed him to panic into a mistake. To his credit, he played out the endgame, surviving on only seconds and his delay. He took the loss well, and my losing streak was broken. 

Round 4
This round started at 8 pm, which meant I wasn’t getting home until almost 11 pm. My opponent played fast, so I did too. He opted for an unusual line, which allowed me a central passed pawn in exchange for a 2v1 majority on the queenside. If he wanted to quickly trade down into that endgame, fine by me. He let me blockade his pawns, which freed my rook from pawn duty to attack his king. I sacrificed Abby (my A pawn) for a rook on the 7th. The coup de grace came a few moves later, when my opponent, with still ⅔ of his time on the clock, blundered a mate in 1. It was the same mating pattern that I blundered (but wasn’t punished for) during a simultaneous game at White Oaks Elementary this past week. I not only finished with a respectable 2.0/4, but also clinched my highest rated win yet. 

Losing hurts. There’s no other way to put it. Some losses hurt worse than others, and some still sting to this day. But every lose is another’s win, and Caïssa blesses those who can endure her ire. The only way to win is to lose. So, I won’t be quitting chess today, and you’ll see me in my next blogpost.

Lessons and Memories From the 51st World Open

The 51st Annual World Open of Chess just concluded in Philadelphia. It was my first tournament in several months, and I looked forward to taking one of the top places in my section. It was, in a word: humbling. As chess players, we expect to study and see improvements in the form of wins and higher game accuracy. As an instructor, I felt I was in a good position to crush opponents at the rating that I’ve held flat for 2 years. Instead, I found that Caïssa comes for all of us. Of my 14 classical games, only 2 entered what could be called an endgame. Four ended because of significant blunders: 2 were mine, 2 were my opponents’—4 more than I had hoped, but I’ll take the wins with the losses.

I finished 2.5/5 in the women’s tournament (winning the U1400 prize), and 5/9 in the World Open. A supremely average result, in my opinion. I performed poorly in the blitz side tournament but did well in the rapid one. Both were extremely fun aspects of tournaments that I had never experienced before, but that I will seek out every chance I can. I learned some things about chess, and about myself. But what will stay with me forever is not Rxe6 in Game 9 (well maybe that too) but the time I spent with friends.

At the previous tournament that I competed in, the Eastern Open last December, I met a friend who has become my primary training partner. We’re evenly matched, but play very differently, which proves useful. Every Friday we’d meet to play a long time control game and analyze afterwards. At the tournament, we shared a hotel room and excitedly called each other after our games. When we got back to the room together after the round, we’d go through each other’s games and explain our reasoning to each other like sinners in a confessional. I met other new friends as well and exchanged numbers.

 

Chess can’t be learned in isolation, as so many are inclined to do these days. Meeting other people, with wildly different backgrounds and philosophies, adds diversity to our understanding of the royal game. Some of them have bad ideas, some ingenious, and some ideas have questionable merit but are fun to explore. What I do know is, I’ll be back.