Written by Molly Coy
Nine years ago, I became a Chess Mom. In the future, I hope to write about my journey to USCF Tournament Director, Chess Coach, Owner of A Tale Of Two Kings, but this blog will focus on where my most recent stop on the journey of Chess Mom has taken me. That is as a player in the 2018 World Open in Philadelphia, PA!
I had played in a few tournaments a couple years ago, but that was solely to get a rating to promote my tournament director status. This time, I was going in for the kill. Granted it was the U900 section. Everyone starts somewhere though. My biggest fear was I would go in and lose all my games to a bunch of young kids… or at best, lose all until round 9 and finally beat the 105 rated player. I was psyching myself out and by the time I went into round 1, you would think I was walking to my demise. I was terrified.
I sat down for Round 1. I made a conscious decision not to look at my opponent’s rating and just play my game. I looked around and thankfully I was not the only adult in this group. There were about 5 of us in the room all making small talk about getting beaten by the little kids. In comes the family to sit my opponent down. They gave him his hugs and kisses and wished him luck. I played white and made my move of e4… the only thing I had really practiced. I had very few openings known and variations are like foreign dialects so I just kept telling myself control the center. To my surprise, I was not one of the first knocked out. In fact, the game was lasting a while. I wondered to myself… I may have a shot. Seventy-Five moves from the beginning, I was able to declare “Checkmate”. Thankfully, I had actually practiced this particular endgame in Chessable a week before. When I saw my son, who was playing in the U2000 section, I excitedly yelled. “I won!”. We checked my opponent’s rating and he was about 150 points above me.
Unfortunately, round 2 was not so good. While I put up a fight, I succumbed to my opponent. I then went back and forth winning as white/losing as black. Was it a curse? Finally, on day 3, round 7, I won as black. Then I won as white. I now had 5 out of 9 points. My previous record of points in a tournament was 2.5 out of 6. I had broken that record and I knew I had won more than half my points. Not bad for someone who thought they were going to lose all their games. I went into round 9 thinking I was not likely to get a top 10 Plaque if I won, but it was remotely possible. I reminded myself to take my time, control the center, etc... All the reminders I give to my students/club kids. So what happened? I lost in the quickest time possible! I knew right away what happened. I let the excitement get to me, but even worse… I tried to TD my game rather than play the game. The kid was constantly doing little things like putting his notation book under the table, adjusting my pieces on my time… and not even center pieces but pieces on my back row. I would tell him to stop and he would apologize then do something else. He played quickly and while I kept telling myself to slow down, it just didn’t happen. However, while I can make these complaints, I ultimately have to take responsibility for my play. To take from the Chess4Life program, I had five wins and four learns. And boy did I ever learn from those four games. Here are the lessons I learned from this event:
- Empathize with others who are playing. They say hindsight is 20/20. This is true in chess as well. Playing under the pressure of an actual game with a clock and hopes of winning the prize is a world of difference from reviewing someone’s game afterward when none of the pressure is there. Parents, please remember this when reacting to your child’s losses.
- Ratings aren’t everything. I won the games against my two highest rated opponents while losing to some of the lower rated ones (though all my opponents were at least 51 points above me). Go in and play a great game!
- It is great to review your game with your opponent afterwards. Not only can you look for other options for both sides, you can make sure your notation is accurate for further review later.
- Most important lesson I took from this tournament is not to let the opponent distract you from the actual game. It is a cheap way for them to get a win; but a win is still a win and a loss is still a loss when it comes to ratings and prizes.