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Abby Marshall's Bittersweet Goodbye to Scholastic Chess Print E-mail
By Abby Marshall   
May 3, 2010
Abby Marshall, Photo by Shaun Smith

The best national scholastic tournament that I have ever been to was the K-12 Nationals in Orlando, Florida in 2000. My elementary school sent probably around twenty kids and parents. The fanciness of the hotel blew my mind; there were two pools, all that the parents did was party; I was super excited to draw a 987 in the first round; and we walked away with the second place team trophy in the third grade section. Nothing would beat this fairy tale. The second best national scholastic I have been to was in Columbus this past weekend. I loved being back among all the people and all the places I had known growing up. Columbus was already full of memories for me, and this tournament made it even more amazing.

Chess was important to me, but I combined it with vacation. I flew in on Wednesday night to spend time with my old chess coach, Mark Morss, who has known me from when I was six, and his wife Betty Morss, who had been my fourth-grade teacher. On Thursday I walked over to my old elementary school, Indianola Informal Elementary School, and said hi to my old teachers and friends. It felt that nothing had really changed: Clintonville was still the same; Cup of Joe, the Short North, and German Village were still there, and it was really cool to walk down the street and feel like Columbus would always be waiting for me.

As for the chess--my tournament was lackluster: I won the first three games, lost a four hour grind to William Ong and drew the rest of my games against weaker opponents. Regardless of what I said in my preview blog, I did come to this tournament to win, but after the fourth game I thought, I now know what losing here feels like. It wasn't so bad so I decided to relax and enjoy the experience. If I had won the rest of my games I would have shared the giant tie for first, but that's okay. I got to be excited for Kris Meekins who was tearing through the field with these fantastic games. We had been friendly rivals back in the day. It was cool to see Kris as well as Michael Vilenchuk, another guy I knew when I lived in Columbus, tie for first. It's great to see that they are doing so well.

Congrats also to Rochelle who won the University of Texas at Dallas scholarship in the All Girls' Nationals! Girl, you are awesome.

I want to also mention Lou Friscoe, who was a TD at the tournament and who ran a lot of the tournaments that I used to play in when I was a little girl. It was a nice surprise to see him again as well.

This was, in retrospect, a heartbreaker for me, but I remember not feeling so down after I lost since it had been a very interesting game.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6 11.Bf4 Bg4 12.h3 Bh5 13.Nf5 Bg6 14.Nxe7+ Qxe7
This is all theory so far. I was happy with this position; although my opponent has the two bishops, I have the open position that I like and active pieces.
Now I am on my own. 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Qxd5 (16.Bxd5 Rad8 17.Qb3 Nd4 18.Qc4 Nxe2+ This is clearly not what White wants to do.) 16...Rad8 17.Qc4 Nd4 18.e4 b5 Black is fine.
15...Rad8 16.Bd4 Ne4 17.a3
This wastes time to me. 17.e3 looks more useful to me.
This is pretty dumb, because White can end any threats with 18.g4, which is not really a weakening move. 17...Nxc3 This punishes White's slow play. 18.bxc3 (18.Bxc3 d4 19.Bd2 Be4) 18...Be4 This looks rosy to me.
18.g4 Bg6 19.e3 f5!?
I have mixed feelings about this move, but I don't think it is bad. [19...Nxc3 20.Bxc3 Be4 This is probably better than what I played, but it is less effective than on the previous moves because ...d4 is no longer possible.]
20.Ne2 fxg4 21.hxg4 Qh4 22.f3 Nf6?

22...Ng3 23.Nf4 This is what worried me, but if the game had went like this I would have won. 23...Nxd4!-+ 24.Nxg6 Nge2+ 25.Qxe2 Nxe2#
23.Bc3 Qg5 24.Qd2 Rfe8 25.Bxf6?!
I don't think this is necessary. 25.Nf4 Bf7 26.Rae1 I have a lot of holes in my position and White keeps up the pressure.
25...Qxf6 26.f4 Be4 27.Bh3?
This really surprised me and now I am better. The bishop is really strong on e4.

I open the position to work to expose the White king position.
28.exd4 Nxd4 29.Nxd4 Rxd4 30.Qh2 Red8 31.Rae1 Bc6?
Oh my goodness now my advantage is almost gone. I lost my sense of danger. 31...Rd2 32.Rf2 Qxb2 33.Bf1 Bc6 Black is winning.
32.g5! Qf8
I was kicking myself and decided to pick the move that looked safest.
33.gxh6 gxh6 34.Re3 Kh8

34...Rd2 This is better.
Surprisingly this is a bad move, but as a practical chance it is great because suddenly the position is really confusing, with the newly opened e5-h8 diagonal. 35.Qg3 covers the g-file.
35...Qf6! 36.Re6 Rg8+ 37.Bg2 Rxg2+ 38.Qxg2 Qh4! This is what I had missed. 39.Rxc6 bxc6 40.f6 Rg4 41.f7 Rxg2+ 42.Kxg2 Black I'm sure has a way to check and check and check until the queen gets to f8.
36.Rg3 Rde4
It's totally unclear here. I stopped taking notation because of time, and in the end I lost.

I was flattered to be mentioned in Melinda Matthews' article. I'm sorry that I was late to the round because I would definitely have liked to talk about the All-Girls' Nationals. I guess it did look strange for me to leave for 10 minutes on move 2; that round was in the morning and I had to walk 10 blocks or so from my hotel to get there, so I probably needed to get settled with my music and whatever to get in the right mindset to play. The tournament itself was run nicely and efficiently, although the location of the event was confusing. I could have used a map to get around the place; logistically, my situation was chaotic. My hotel, the Westin, was a long walk away; I was trying to eat on the cheap so food was hard to find; and my mp3 player ran out of power halfway through the tournament and would not charge for some reason. Alanna Katz, my awesome roommate who also had an awesome roommate, let me borrow her iPod. I'm not familiar with trance-y kind of music, so I listened to one playlist over and over to get used to it, and it worked. By the way, Alanna coached a team of high school boys from Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, NY, and they won fourth place in the U800 section.

I was a little surprised to see that the Girl's Nationals was being held concurrently with the High School Nationals. I disliked this because it hurts a girl who would have liked to play in both events, so to me it is implying that girls aren't strong enough to play in a national tournament for both girls and guys. On the other hand, I understand that maybe some other factors went into this decision such as money-I'm not entirely sure---and it also has the benefit of bringing together the chess girls and chess guys (since every open tournament is basically a guy's tournament). The tournament directors should have organized a dance, and I'm only half-kidding.

It was great to go back to my hometown, Columbus to finish out my scholastic career. I can't expect it to always give me the success I enjoyed as an up and coming young player, but I can still enjoy the great times that Columbus never fails to bring me.

Look for coverage onsite coverage by FM Mike Klein of the Burt Lerner Elementary Nationals (May 7-9) this coming weekend. Also see details on the FIDE Arbiters' Seminar, which will feature keynote speaker Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. 

May - Chess Life Online 2010

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