The Fire-Alarm

Round 2

Unfortunately, what happened in this game has to be explained by outside circumstance, to get a full picture of what happened in the game.

It was around 10:45 pm, I was blitzing, we were the only game still going and Clinton was watching us when suddenly the fire-alarm goes off.  I think, oh Paul still has 15 minutes, so we can’t blitz this one out for that long (the fire-alarm is loud, it’s for the whole building).  So I notice Clinton is walking away very slowly, got all his gear, I say “Clinton, can you close the door on the way out?”  He says “What?” and I say, “The fire-alarm is hurting my hears, can you close the door on the way out.”  No definite response, he walks back to our table.  We motion to my opponent Paul (who is also the TD).  He says “How long has that been going off for?” as he pulls his earplugs/loud rock-music out of his ear.  We say “like ten seconds.”  A few moments later we hear the fire truck.  I turn around and say “The fire truck is here!”  Meanwhile, Paul had made his move and walked from the table with Clinton while I had my back turned.  Bewildered, I didn’t even know what move he had made.  I yell to them “Can I pause the clock?”  “Yes.”  Meanwhile, I lost a good ten seconds in the confusion, having 28 seconds remaining by the time I paused the clock.  I looked at the board for a couple of seconds before getting up, quickly realizing I could draw with Nc7, and caught up to them as we walked out of the playing hall.

I used the restroom, then we walked back to the playing hall, realizing no fire, and closed door behind us.  I knew 100% that I had a draw.  I had been getting over a cold the last five days, tired when I got there, and the soda machine was out when I got there, so this incident had kicked in my adrenaline level, along with my time-pressure.  Anyhow, I made my move at the board, Paul responded quickly with the losing 41.Ke5.  In all honesty, this surprised me, as I thought OTB he might be losing, the he plays this, and I can’t say why I didn’t simply play 42.Nb5 straight-away, no real explanation, but I was listening to the firemen as they walked out the door, and the alarms were off, and it was peacefully quiet for the first time, and then I could feel my adrenaline leave me as if I had just survived some ordeal.  Then I looked at my clock and saw that I had flagged, and suddenly the adrenaline hit me again, not knowing to resign, or offer a draw, or make a move.  I played Nb5 hurriedly, sloppily putting it onto a square, and within a few seconds he figured out I had flagged.

I double-checked my scoresheet when I got home, to make sure those endgame chances really existed, but apparently I did miss a few opportunities there.  In 50+ games, I have never drawn Paul, and he said he would have accepted an offer because of the fire-alarms, but of course I could not have known this as he has never accepted an offer from me before.  In the final position, White is up +2, according to Houdini.

Personally, I’d rather have Zurab Azmaiparishvilli screaming in my face before every game, than to get a fire-alarm like that in time-pressure, that late at night.  Next time something like this happens, I will pause the game right away, but like some GM said “You can’t play serious chess in a restaurant!” ( I say this because TD Shirley still thinks playing at Smashburgers – with it’s loud music, is a good idea, as compared to paying more to play at Club Chess!!)  Granted, this was our club, but it’s also the ballroom of an apartment building, not it’s own dedicated building.  The weird thing is that I didn’t care about losing the game, even when I got home.  For the first time in my life, I was more relieved about something outside of chess being taken care of, while playing, than I cared about the chess game in front of me.

It’s too much too ask for to pay attention to the game and the fire-alarm situation, unless you play with this stuff happening all the time.  If it had happened earlier, okay, but somehow at that hour of the night, my body is closer to the twilight zone than the normal zone, and this is also a reason I have lost many rating points on Tuesdays nights, as I told Alex even before I left tonight.  Your body, at that hour, has a hard time-coping with crises – or at least mine does, but other people seem to act like they are 100% until their head hits the pillow, I guess.

If I am still on the board next year, I am definitely going to motion that we move our start time to 6:30, or at least try that for a while (it’s free parking on the street after, and parking doesn’t seem any worse half an hour earlier, and actually it appears better earlier.

I don’t think any strong players played tonight, except for me and Paul (Okay, Smith was there >1600), which means Paul will now win the full tournament prize.

After the game, Paul showed me his idea of 42…f4 (forced), 43.Kf3 Bd2, and he said he can play Bd2-b4-d2 endlessly for the draw, but after seeing Houdini’s eval, I figured out I could play Kf3-g5-h5 and win that h6 pawn, because he can’t hold onto everything.  Didn’t take me long to see that, but Paul calculates more quickly OTB.  Since “the better players always get lucky”, and I’m never getting that second time-control, I need to make my own luck by not spending 7 minutes on every move earlier in the game.  The more self-control I exert in my play, the more the odds seem to go toward my favor.

Paul also pointed out he should have kept rooks on the board.  It’s interesting that why didn’t he just do this in the game then?  The obvious answer I immediately got from this is that he values saving his time more than he does playing the best move, at times.  Even in the endgame, he wasn’t spending a lot of time on moves and was blitzing even more in the endgame than the opening.

In the post-mortem, we looked at 31…Re2, then I said I would have played 32.Rb3, then said I was looking at 32…f4 for him, but he wanted 32…Rc2, so I said you might as well play 32…Re4 then, so he realized he has to play 32…a6 first to do that, then 33.Ne6 Re4, 34.Rf3 Rxc4, 35.Rxf4 but from here, he somehow outplayed me with his passed c-pawn, even though it is equal.  This is the problem with not saving time for endgames with higher-rated players, they calculate more quickly, and they can tap into their endgame experience more efficiently.





4 thoughts on “The Fire-Alarm

  1. I feel for you. I hate fire alarms, their sound, once I tried to stay at work place during it because I had an urgent task, but couldn’t stand it for more than 5 minutes.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I think the lingering cold that I had finally got the better of me after the fire-alarm. If I were sharper, I would have noticed that 13.Nd5 is not winning the a5 pawn, because this combo or forced line is not with tempo. At the board, I realized, I had messed up by not playing 13.dxe5 first. OTB, I thought it might help that he gets the d6 square for his queen, but then that would again drop the a5 pawn that I was aiming to pick off.

    I played the ending weakly, but competently enough to keep getting chances. I completely missed 38…Ke5??, 39.Ng5 h6 (he should have played this move before playing ….Ke5), 40.Nf7+ wins the d6 pawn. It’s funny that he too is blundering in the excitement of looking for a win. Even at the end of the game, I lost because I thought I might still have a win, or would have moved instantly. It’s odd what the desire to win does to people, makes them play less objectively. I think most games are lost rather than won, once you get two strong enough opponents, like over 1800 usually. I had to check my scribbly scoresheet, just to make sure I hadn’t remembered wrong, as it’s hard to believe he was giving me chances, but time-pressure makes fools of us all. 😉

  3. His biggest mistake definitely was exchanging the rooks,.
    Your knight is much better than his bishop, it is very clear..

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