For the first time in seven years, I participated in a chess tournament and overall it was a pleasant experience. It was a five round rapid tournament - rapid in chess terms though with 25 minutes for each player for the whole game plus five seconds for every move you make. It makes for a rather intense game as there is just enough time to consider plans and attacks but not deeply enough for anyone to be 100% that they are doing the right move.
The first shock of the tournament for me was that the directors of play elected to use my 1999 standard chess rating as a basis for draw. Without explaining the system, that means that I started on the top board (out of around 25 boards). This helps in a way as it is intimidating. But it was quite annoying too as my first game showed.
The first game was against a young player, definitely still at primary school. The first round is a usually a massacre as the highest rated players are given the lowest rated players. This is to ensure that the final rounds are full of tough tussles and no-one is too exhausted by early round clashes. However, I struggled to defeat this young boy; in fact it was the last game to be completed. This is quite embarrassing because people were surrounding the board watching as I struggled to find a decent plan. Eventually I used a school-boy tactic to defeat him.
The second was my first over-the-board game against a family of chess players, the Maroroa family. It was the youngest - a boy still in Intermediate. He played quickly, scarcely using more than 10 seconds per move. And they were all reasonable moves that caused me problems. However, I used a straightforward yet overwhelmingly strong plan which he could not deal with in his haste. After I finally seized the advantage, he finally took several minutes to take stock of the carnage - then ripped out the poorest move possible to eliminate any doubt.
That was good for the confidence as it was a well executed win (as compared to the first game).
The third game was against a veteran of chess, finally someone older than me. We played a solid game in which I accumulated small advantages that in the end won me the game. At the end, he had only 5 seconds on the clock before he couldn't defend any longer and let the time slip away.
There was a five way tie for the lead - three older players and one junior and me. So four of the bunch fought it out with one person left over to maul someone on a lower score. I played one of the senior players who had recently won two consecutive tournaments. He faltered early in the game and I missed an obviously winning move. He hit back and my advantage dissipated leaving him in with a good chance. He missed one clear win (I saw it immediately after one of my moves) and then it was a tight endgame which could have been won by either of us. In the end, it was a draw. Coincidentally, the other game with leaders was a draw t00.
So going into the last round there was one person on 4, and a bunch of four on 3.5 points. I was to play the junior, another Maroroa, the older sister. I had destroyed her online earlier in the year - but she had improved since then - as a rule Juniors do, the inexorably improve till they're about 20. We played a solid start but I went astray in the middlegame exposing myself to a crippling onslaught. Defending against that tied one hand behind my back and halted my attack. She then swung to the other side of the board and eventually found a method to exchange pieces to a won endgame. I had lost.
Overall, I learnt a lot especially from the loss and the draw. I still have to decide whether I'll persist with chess. I may join the nearby club if I have a weeknight free in the new year.