Saturday, September 08, 2007

Breaking the cone of silence

I’ve got to stop going to the N.E, Open. It’s a tough weekend for the blunderprones in general and I never really score well. This year was no different from previous year (s).
I had to take a bye for round one as I was taking our one of our daughters up to college with a car load plus a trailer full of furniture for her apartment ( this one’s a junior). Our son, who usually accompanies me to the chess events was going up the following day with his mother. This was a pre-agreed upon arrangement because freshman entering in dorms at the State university have to arrive on a different day than the “upper classman”. Mrs. Blunderprone felt it was a good split and gave me the reluctant green light to go ahead and play in this event. Remember this, because in my experience, women do change their minds as often as I blunder.

After traveling over 180 miles round trip out to western Massachusetts with a full load and back in an old car… that I had recently serviced in the past 30 days, the car started to overheat ( again) on my way to the event ( now 50 miles away from home). I was in Merrimack with 10 minutes before the round to start driving with the heat on and the windows down looking for a car parts store that was open.. because… I KNOW.. the little piddly-ass convenient centers MIGHT have coolant… but not the pre-diluted kind… the kind you have to dump out half and find a faucet etc… I wanted the pre-mixed stuff. I was chess-survivor man... "must make round".

The Napa store was closed… a couple miles later a consumer-Auto was still ( barely) open… closing at 6… the same time my round was to start. My youngest daughter was with me. We rushed in and found the right stuff. Threw money at the clerk and dashed back to the car. I instructed Blunder-daughter to sit in the car because “this could get dangerous”. Yes. The warning on the radiator cap CLEARLY states “ NEVER OPEN WHILE HOT” in two different languages… but this was desperation calling for the same measures.

I pulled a handy towel/rag like cloth out of my overly used “cargo” area of the tired Subaru and proceeded with much caution and fast reflexes to remove the radiator with an extended left hand…. Because I am right handed and in my hasty justification as a chess-survivor man if I was going to get scalded that night, I decided to sacrifice my left hand so I could still carry on. How sick is that? I need help.

Mount fuji erupted but I narrowly escaped the hot “lava” and poured more green syrup down its throat. Now, if I was in my right mind, I would have bagged the tourney and headed home…. But NO! I am blunderprone the tenacious ( read: stubborn) and I still had 5 minutes before the round started. I put the cap back on the radiator and slammed the hood and drove off to the event.

Now… like my last rant at the NE open… I must digress a bit. In an effort to save $$ ( four kids in college and all… why am I even thinking about going to these events???), I decided that NH was close enough to commute back to Massachusetts. Since the next round was going to be at 10 AM and this round starting at 6-ish with 40 in 2 hours and SD in 60 as a secondary time control… my calculations were about as accurate as some of my tactical follies.
I was happy to have arrived only 5 minutes after the round started and my opponent not even set up. Little did I know my game was going to be a long drawn out 6 hour slug festival with the Slav. A little after midnight I won the point and drove back home with blunder-daughter asleep. I made record time and the car was not feverish. Nor did I see any blue lights...phew.

The next day, I told Mrs. Blunderprone that it made better sense ( like I was making any at that point) to do an over night at the hotel rather than risk the car breaking down and another sleep-deprived night. Again she agreed…. As I was getting dressed and ready while lacking sleep, I heard a *CRASH* in the kitchen.

The *CRASH* in the kitchen was a resentment landing in full armament like a troop surge in Iraq ( not that I approve of either… but you get the picture). “Why is it these tournaments always end up on Holiday weekends? You’re never around” and then “ I HAVE A RESENTMENT.”

A few more things were said by Mrs. Blunderprone who also refers to herself as a chess widow. Risking castration by a dull antler, I sheepishly said we would have to continue this “discussion” when I get back. Now, that will help me stay focused on my thought process in NH…. Again if I were in my right mind….

Another 6 hour marathon as Takchess mentioned was awaiting me in NH. I ventured a Scotch Gambit and only mustered a draw in a tough endgame with me having two rooks and fewer pawns against a rook and bishop with more pawns. That took the wind out of sails. Had it not been for the wonderful Knight-hood dinner encounter with Jim ( Takchess) the weekend would have been a total waste.

The next game, my brain was turning into a gooey substance often seen with salt-water taffy left out in the sun too long. I lost to someone who I’ve beaten time and again. The next morning I lost rather quickly to a 1300 player in a miserable game where I should have paid more attention. But my mind was back in Massachusetts trying to salvage the rest of the weekend and my poor wife’s state. After the first two children went off to college, she fell into a deep depression that winter. I should have known… with the fourth heading out that things weren’t about to change.

I finally came to my senses and put an end to the madness in NH and withdrew for the rest of the event and was home by Noon. I didn’t even go to the club on Tuesday. The first time I looked at a board was when I was watching the USCL games on Wednesday evening.

One thing is for sure, I realized I need to right my priorities and not get too carried away with this game. After all, its only a game. So, for the rest of the year, it will be only one night a week at the club…I’ll maintain that. I’ll wait until next year before I see a weekend event. Plus I need to tone down my practicing… I have diminishing returns as I am still on this plateau... and as my wife points out... quite bit... there are others who need my attention... and she is at teh top of the list. Balance... I was never good at that.

As for my car dying on Labor-day weekend, Tuesday morning at the shop I was looking at a blown head ga$$$ket. Long story short on this epilog… I have a new car. That was the most expensive tournament I went to.


Temposchlucker said...

That's why I learned my wife to play chess.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Great story. I can relate to it all. I don't know if I'll play in any tournaments OTB they are so expensive, given that I could just play at home on ICC. Chess is a demanding mistress, always trying to get me to neglect my marriage. I can't imagine having kids with this game!

If you are ever in Merrimac again, go to the best burger joint in the country (and hence the world), Skip's. It's on the 110 in Merrimac a couple of miles out of Amesbury. You can't miss it.

I eat three cheeseburgers when I go there, as they are only open in the summer, and I am up there only every four summers or so. My only regret after eating three is that I don't have a larger stomach.

Anonymous said...

Hey George - my condolences :) but it is a great story and probably most of us can relate.

On the highway early one Sunday on my way to a Cincinnati tournament, my dad's Dodge Omni dropped the muffler, which bounced up and got sucked into the wheel well, producing copious amounts of black smoke and scary noises. I stopped and found it smoking hot and wedged securely 'twixt tire and well. Wouldn't budge. I ran down an exit ramp to a pay phone and called my dad, who listened calmly and said "Back up." Of course when I ran back to the car and put it in reverse, the muffler fell out instantly. I grabbed a rag lying on the side of the road, wrapped the muffler and continued to the tournament with it in the back seat.

I can also relate to having a tournament so bad & so distracted that you eventually just go, this isn't my month, and you drop out and try again next time. Memorial Day weekend in particular is when I tend to lay an egg.

You'll get 'em next time.


Blue Devil Knight said...

"Back up." LMAO. I could see the Car Talk guys having fun with that story.

Robert Pearson said...

Super post describing some of the "non-chess" concerns that affect us married-with-children chess players, indeed. I need to write one about trying to play and improve while raising a two-year-old...

takchess said...

Nice to see you two. I agree that it would show good judgement to miss the next NE open. Did you ever run that Scotch Gambit throught the computer and was it a draw? your opponent was tenacious.

BlunderProne said...

Thanks all.

Tempo... my wife doesn't want to be one of "THEM"

BDK: Fuddruckers is a nice burger place ... I'll have to check out Skips next time I break done in Merrimack.

Derek: Muffler story is priceless.

Wah: Yes, so much more going on the 64 squares than you realize. Oh to be a kid.

Tak: Its going to be a while before I scribe that game into fritz and such... I ask for your patience... but I will forward to you when I do.

Still trying to settle back into the new routines with the kids at school and such. Plus I had a root canal today. I guess its all Kharma. ( wife is happier)

Bungerting Baloner said...

The comment that chess is only a game is one to remember and heed, to which I add my favorite corollary: it's supposed to be fun; and my bottom line conclusion from these statements, that if it isn't fun, you should go do something else. So, BP, I admire your decision to back off for a while. Clearly your weekend wasn't complete fun, to say the least. A break will bring back the enjoyment while solving the home-front problems at the same time.

But the break maybe shouldn't be too long. As one other responder said, he didn't know how you could have kids and play chess too. Well, I didn't! That's why I quit for nearly forty years and only started to play again when the kids were just about all grown and gone. A bit too much of a break, though, and I'm documenting my attempts to play again on my own blog.

But it is fun, and as per my first paragraph, that's a necessary and sufficient reason to play chess.

Temposchlucker said...

my wife doesn't want to be one of "THEM"

What in particular does she deem so low?

likesforests said...

I happened upon your Lucena blog entry and noticed that you say position 45 is a draw with Black to move. Actually, it's still a win! There are some subtleties in the Lucena position that most endgame texts don't bother to go over.

likesforests said...

"I was never good at that." Sorry to hear your weekend was so crazy. Yes, the wife and daughter probably belong ahead of chess on the priority list, along with keeping your job! I've had the same problem, really. I used to work until God knows what hour to make a few extra $$$ and it just wasn't worth it. I would much rather spend time with my family, exercise and eat right, and play some chess.

Polly said...

Maybe we should switch tournaments. I'll come play in the NE Open where maybe I can win a game or two, and you can come play in the NY State Championship.

I didn't have car trouble or any six hour games. It would have been nice if some of my games had lasted more then 2 hours.

There are advantages of having no children and a spouse with his own hobbies to keep him occupied on holiday weekends.