I AM GOING TO TAKE UP PINOCHLE…A LESSON IN HUMILITY

Whenever I have a bad experience in chess, I always joke that I am going to give it up and take up some other game. I have never played Pinochle in my life, but for some reason in the clever-clever land that is my brain, it just sounds right.

Over the weekend of August 15-17, I went down to Fresno and played in the Central California Open chess tournament. Well, maybe “played” is exaggerating a bit. Several times I sat at a table, across from another person. A chess board and pieces sat between us. I guess I moved some pieces and punched a clock. All resemblance to chess ends there.

Even in the first tournament I ever played in I got a forfeit win. Through my twenty or so years in the Class E rating basement I never before played in a contest without scoring at least one point.

Until this month.

The last two Swiss tournaments I played in (The East Bay Open and the Golden State Open) I actually placed in the money. I saw my rating go in the right direction (up!) toward my first rating goal for 1400. I was starting to feel like I had finally gotten in touch with that cosmic, ethereal, mystical force of the universe called chess skill.

All those thoughts came tumbling down in Raisinville.

Not only was it humiliating, it wasn’t even consistent. I made every possible kind of error there is. I miscalculated, I hung pieces, I played poorly in the opening. My endgame play was flawless, but only because I played so badly none of my games got that far.

I endured a kid smirking at me after he obtained a Royal Fork. I shrunk before a tournament newbie oozing joy at his first EVER tournament win. I lost round three to a teenager who I saw CRYING when a little kid beat him in round 2. Round four saw me playing the highest-rated player in the section pissed off and trying to prop up his delicate ego by trampling on my carcass.

Round Five? In a act of self-preservation I withdrew and got an early start home. Three hours to contemplate an ego thrashing of near biblical proportions!

It is easy to scoff at fear and failure if you have never experienced them, or if you are so good at what you do that it’s been awhile since these hobgoblins invaded your mind or soul. For the rest of us (I conservatively estimate 98.4632% of the population) how we deal with them is an often-defining part of our life and who we are. After food, clothing, and shelter beating back our fear is a vital concern.

But you know what? I think a dose of defeat every once in awhile is a good thing. It gives you perspective and reminds you that no matter how good or prepared you are for anything, there is always more you can learn and do. You never really reach a finish line in life. Every time you finish one race, or accomplish one goal, that spot becomes a new starting gate.

After my two great money wins I really thought I had things worked out. I half-heartedly did some tactical puzzles and went over some openings prior to this tournament. It is easy to say that I will never be a world champion at chess, that it is only a game, and what does it matter.

IT MATTERS BECAUSE IT IS SOMETHING I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT.

Life is nothing if you aren’t obsessed, and chess is one of mine. There is always the possibility I will get better, that I will gain the heights I dream of, not to mention it is a pretty fun game.

With this in mind I take my lumps, lick my wounds, and move on. Study, practice, analyze and repeat. Keep trying, forgive my weaknesses but push myself forward. Have a short memory for mistakes and a long one for lessons.

I debated whether to include my games from Fresno with this post, as they are of little use to other chess players, with no theoretical novelties or well-thought out and executed tactical combinations. In the end I decided to include them because everybody can use a good laugh.

Even at your own expense! (g)

[Event “Central California Open”]
[Site “Fresno, CA”]
[Date “2014.08.15”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Huang, Patrick”]
[Black “D’Alfonsi, Michael J”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C02”]
[WhiteElo “1449”]
[BlackElo “1245”]
[PlyCount “27”]
[EventDate “2014.08.??”]
[EventRounds “5”]
[EventCountry “USA”]
[SourceDate “2009.02.01”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Qb6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nxd4 8.
Nxd4 Bb4+ 9. Nc3 Bc5 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Bxd7+ Kxd7 12. Qa4+ Ke7 13. Nf5+ exf5 14.
Nxd5+ 1-0

[Event “Central California Open”]
[Site “Fresno, CA”]
[Date “2014.08.16”]
[Round “2”]
[White “D’Alfonsi, Michael J”]
[Black “Sturges, Devery”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B03”]
[WhiteElo “1245”]
[PlyCount “74”]
[EventDate “2014.08.??”]
[EventRounds “5”]
[EventCountry “USA”]
[SourceDate “2009.02.01”]

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Bc4 Nb6 5. Bb3 dxe5 6. Qh5 e6 7. Qxe5 Nc6 8.
Qb5 a6 9. Qd3 Nxd4 10. Nd2 Be7 11. Ngf3 c5 12. O-O Bf6 13. Nxd4 cxd4 14. Ne4
Be7 15. Qg3 O-O 16. Bh6 g6 17. Ng5 Re8 18. Rfe1 Nd5 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Nf3 Bf6
21. Qd6 Rxe1+ 22. Rxe1 Be6 23. Qf4 Bf5 24. Nxd4 Qd7 25. Nxf5 Qxf5 26. Qe3 Qc8
27. Qf3 Bxb2 28. Re7 Qf5 29. Qb3 Bd4 30. Be3 Bxe3 31. fxe3 Rc8 32. Qxb7 Rxc2
33. Qb8+ Kg7 34. Qe5+ Qxe5 35. Rxe5 Rxa2 36. Rxd5 a5 37. Rd1 a4 0-1

[Event “Central California Open”]
[Site “Fresno, CA”]
[Date “2014.08.16”]
[Round “3”]
[White “D’Alfonsi, Michael J”]
[Black “Cabantac, Oscar”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B50”]
[WhiteElo “1245”]
[BlackElo “1528”]
[PlyCount “58”]
[EventDate “2014.08.??”]
[EventRounds “5”]
[EventCountry “USA”]
[SourceDate “2009.02.01”]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d6 3. Nf3 g6 4. Bc4 e6 5. O-O Bg7 6. d4 cxd4 7. cxd4 Ne7 8. Qb3
O-O 9. Nc3 Nbc6 10. d5 Na5 11. Qb4 Nxc4 12. Qxc4 a6 13. dxe6 Bxe6 14. Nd5 Kh8
15. Bg5 f6 16. Bh4 Rc8 17. Qb3 b5 18. Rac1 Rc5 19. Nd4 Bg8 20. Qf3 Nxd5 21.
exd5 Bxd5 22. Qh3 Re8 23. Rce1 Bc4 24. Ne6 Rxe6 25. Rxe6 Bxf1 26. Qe3 Re5 27.
Rxe5 dxe5 28. Qf3 Bc4 29. b3 e4 0-1

[Event “Central California Open”]
[Site “Fresno, CA”]
[Date “2014.08.17”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Ye, Grant”]
[Black “D’Alfonsi, Michael J”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C06”]
[WhiteElo “1341”]
[BlackElo “1245”]
[PlyCount “47”]
[EventDate “2014.08.??”]
[EventRounds “5”]
[EventCountry “USA”]
[SourceDate “2009.02.01”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Ne2 Be7 7. Nf3 O-O 8. O-O
Nb4 9. Bb5 a6 10. Ba4 b5 11. Bb3 c5 12. c3 Nc6 13. Be3 Qb6 14. Bc2 f6 15. Qd3
f5 16. Ng5 c4 17. Qd2 Bxg5 18. Bxg5 b4 19. Rfb1 b3 20. axb3 cxb3 21. Bd3 Na5
22. Qe3 Nc4 23. Qf3 Nd2 24. Bxd2 1-0

One thought on “I AM GOING TO TAKE UP PINOCHLE…A LESSON IN HUMILITY

  1. Hey Mike, How are you? Wow, what a post! How do find a way to be both humble and boastful in the same breath? Ha ha ha. No, I think finding a new game is great. Maybe you can teach me how to play when I see you next. How’s family? How’s work? How’s reading? I’m in the last third of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. It’s SO ’80s! I’m also liking Chernow’s biography of Washington. Lots of unexpected funny passages. Finally, I’ve started Unbroken, which is good, but I think my mom, who gave it to me, oversold it. Either that, or I haven’t gotten to the good part(s) yet. Ha ha. Alright, well I ought to start doing some work here soon. TTYL -Owen Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2014 02:43:17 +0000 To: owenmiller75@hotmail.com

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