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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Painful Memory

In the summer of 1962 I was a about to enter my senior year in high school and had only played in one otb tournament in my life, the 1961 Ohio Junior Championship, where I had finished +1 –2 =2 and had a provisional rating of 1667. I remember taking a bus to Cincinnati, Ohio and rooming at the YMCA where the Cincinnati Open was being held.

In the first round I met the venerable Rhea B. Hayes (note in the accompanying article his first name is spelled wrong; it was spelled as I have it). The fact that Hayes was an Expert was a big deal in those days. The USCF only had about 6000 members so there were only about 50-60 Masters in the whole country and you almost never actually saw one. (I remember one event where everybody was all atwitter because we heard a 2202 rated master was an advance entry!)

Anyway. back to my story. It was in the days before accelerated parings and class events, so I met Hayes in the first round. We played a Sicilian, Dragon Variation. I don’t know why I played the Dragon. I knew almost nothing about it and when Hayes played the Levenfish Variation I knew enough to know it was supposed to be a dangerous attacking line. That was enough to make me really nervous about facing it and I was totally on my own resources. Things got messy fast and about halfway through the game I realized there was a whole gaggle of spectators watching as some unknown kid was giving Hayes a hard time on board one. What soon happened was that I got scared because my opponent was an Expert, started seeing ghosts, made some inferior moves and finally resigned a little early but the game was lost anyway.

Immediately after the game another player, an Expert from Chicago (you had to travel a long way in those days to play in a tournament), started showing me ways I could have played better and maybe scored a big upset. Unfortunately, I wasn’t up to the challenge of taking advantage of the opportunities my higher rated opponent afforded me. But isn’t that always the way it is?

I haven’t forgotten the game where my 2500 rated IM opponent actually dropped a N to a two mover at move 10. He didn’t resign and it got to the point both of us were so nervous (me because I realized I was beating an IM and him because he realized he was losing to a rating challenged nobody) that our hands were shaking like a leaf when we moved. I eventually blundered the piece back and lost. You can’t see that game though. Both of us were so disgusted with our play we both threw our scoresheets in the trash on the way out.

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