15 June 2019

Playing the FWFRCC

For the second time in my life I played in a qualifying event for a World Championship. The first was an ICCF correspondence event, which I documented in a post on my main blog, WCCC29SF14 (July 2007). The second was a preliminary event in the 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship' (FWFRCC). So far I've posted twice on this chess960 blog about the tournament:-

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't even thought about playing in the tournment. My online ('live!') playing days ended 15 years ago, except for a few hours of chess960 that I documented on this blog in How I Spent My Free Day (March 2011). Blitz has never been my strong point and there are always other things to do. So how did I end up playing in the FWFRCC?

While I was working on the previous FWFRCC posts, I came across the page 2019 Fischer Random Open Non-Titled Qualifier - Chess Club (chess.com), and tried to join. A few days later I received the message

I can't let you into the Fischer Random club as you are not registered. If you wish to play in the open qualifiers and receive a free diamond membership please pay to register at frchess.com.

I hadn't understood the purpose of the club, but fair enough -- I paid my five dollars at frchess.com and became a member of the club. I started poking around the club's page and noticed comments from other members saying things like 'This is my chance to participate in a historic event!' They were right. Here I am maintaining a blog about the subject and I hadn't even considering playing in the first large scale C960/FRC tournament ever held.

Nine rounds at 10 minutes per player per game comes to at least three hours per tournament. Given per-move increments and organizational lags, that's probably closer to four hours. Finding a block of four consecutive, uninterrupted hours for an online tournament is not easy for me, even though there were four start times every Sunday. Last Sunday my wife was gone for the entire day and I knew if I didn't play on that day, I might not get another chance.

How to prepare for the tournament? In the days when I played FIDE-rated OTB events, my pre-game preparation was to run through tactical exercises. For chess960, I added choosing the first move as White from a random start position. I would have liked to do the same exercise with Black -- after being given White's first move -- but I don't have a tool to do that.

I also wanted to play in a preparatory tournament, in order to become familiar with the time control and the Chess.com interface, but I couldn't find a suitable event on Chess.com. I settled on playing a few games against their computer: Play Chess960 (Fischer-Random Chess) vs the Computer (chess.com). In the first game I blundered a minor piece, in the second I blundered a Queen, and I knew if I didn't want to finish the FWFRCC with a 0-9 score, I would have to improve my concentration. I decided I would play in a neutral setting, away from my office and all of the associated distractions.

I went into the tournament with a 1600 rating assigned by Chess.com. In the first game I was paired as White against a 2200 player. Although I avoided blundering, I spent most of the game on the defensive and finally lost on time in an unclear endgame. In my second game I checkmated my opponent in nine moves and was freed from the stigma of a 0-9 result. After five games I had a score of +2-3=0. I had been playing for exactly two hours, which averaged out to 24 minutes per game. It was supper time, the dog was begging to be fed, I was also hungry, and since I hadn't planned for these circumstances, I reluctantly decided to withdraw from the tournament. My final result ('bemweeks') is shown in the following chart.

Fischer Random Championship Non-Titled Open Qualifier 25

I lost another game on time when I had a won position, so it's clear that my play was too slow. The time control doesn't allow for spending additional time on the first few moves, which are the most difficult in a game of chess960. If I want to improve my result, I'll need to practice. It's that simple.

The $5.00 I paid for entry entitled me to two tournaments. Tomorrow is the last Sunday of qualifying events, starting at 8 AM, 12 noon, 4 PM, and 8 PM, all U.S. Pacific time. Since I live in central Europe, that translates to 1700, 2100, 0100, and 0500, my local time. Given other commitments, the only realistic possibility for me to play is at 0500 Monday morning, but even that is not so realistic. Since I would again have to withdraw after only two hours, it looks like I'm out of luck.

Kudos to Chess.com for organizing a terrific series of events. I was worried about running into some aspect of their interface that would prove to be a blocking factor, but everything worked as I expected. The site has been a strong supporter of chess960 for ten years. Without that support we might not be anywhere near a FWFRCC. Thanks, Chess.com!

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