Friday, November 30, 2007

A Noisy Draw

My sixth round pairing was against a famous youngster in these parts. Last May, there was a story at the CalChess website touting Nicholas Nip as the nation’s youngest expert.

Normally, I would fear losing to a child because of the humiliation factor. Wang summed up the emotional effluvium quite eloquently. But even if I lost this game in a disgusting manner, I had too many endorphins in the tank from my fifth game victory to let it ruin my tournament.

During the game, Nicholas seemed to be distracted by anyone who walked by our board. His eyes were all over the room and he hardly seemed to be concentrating. I shudder to think how much better he could have calculated my destruction had there been no distractions.

Against tournament hall etiquette (there were hardly any active boards around us), we analyzed a little of the opening and late middlegame, but his mom reminded him that they had a long drive ahead, so we wrapped it up. Then Nicholas cutely passed me his scoresheet like a chess professional. I haven’t gotten into this habit at the end of the game because it reminds me of excess paperwork and I’m na├»ve enough to think that none of my respectable opponents would try to game the system, signature or no signature. But it’s probably a FIDE thing that’s been taught to him as part of the good manners of the game, just like the handshake at the end. So I signed his scoresheet and he gestured as if asking for mine. After a few seconds, I handed him my scoresheet and said something like, “…since you’ll be a famous grandmaster someday.” So I’ve got his autograph. Sigh. In the end, youth must be served and we old codgers got to step aside to make way for them.

Someday, when World Champion GM Nicholas Nip comes back to the Western States Open to do a simultaneous exhibition, people will ask, “Why don’t you play in the simul?” I’ll proudly pull out my signed scoresheet and say, “Don’t need to. When he was ten years old and knee high to a grasshopper, I drew him.”

I had the worse middlegame and mostly escaped by the skin of my teeth in the ending, but I didn’t falter into a completely losing situation. The fact that I had held my own to draw against a rapidly improving youngster enhanced my overall tournament accomplishment. I left the Western States Open thinking that despite my early travails, it had added up to a decent tournament. After castling short, I had scored three points from the last four games. Even including the two losses, I had held my own and rediscovered my ability to calculate. Perhaps not in the magical manic way of my youth, but in a lesser way that was adequate to give me confidence for my next tournament.


drunknknite said...

I like Nick, he's a cool kid, we played blitz a couple years ago (before he was the youngest expert) at a tournament in Sacramento.

Unknown said...

Hi Ernie, I defeated Nicholas Nip in the Queen's Gambit not too long ago, he was in the 1900's then. I'm glad he's doing well. I remember him as very resilient on defense.

Anonymous said...

Eric, it looks like it was at the 2006 Far West Open that you faced Nick when he was rated 1670 or 1693 and playing up in Class A. Now, a mere 20 months later, he's 2113, a gain of over 400 points! Scary how fast the kids can improve.

Unknown said...

Hi Ernie, that's interesting. I took him for an A-player already since I had great trouble in pressing my small advantage for a win. I only had position on him and didn't finally win a pawn until late and even then it tough to convert it on him.

Kids absorb everything like a sponge. Perhaps if we adults had less responsibilities, we might also show a 400-point gain or failing that, at least a 200-point gain!

He'll make Master before any of us also, you can be sure of that...