Monday, December 10, 2007

Egor is going to Minsk...

Egor checking out the leader boards
The news as of the moment is that our Egor has managed to find his way into the Republic Chess Championships which will be held in Minsk next March.

Our 12-year-old played in last weekend's regional tournament up in Baranovichi and got 4.5 points from seven games and finished 9th out of 31 places, a result good enough for a ticket to the state finals.

Congratulations Egor!

His road to Minsk though was not without a little drama. We had a bit of a tragedy last week when the command from Pinsk first arrived in Baranovichi. Apparently Egor had forgotten to take his birth certificate with him and this caused some sort of a screw up with the hotel administrator. As I have heard the story via Tanya, when the boy failed to produce his papers, the desk clerk somehow decided to place him separately from the rest of the team. Actually, not only was he separated, he was actually given to share a double room with some grown up worker whom he had never met. His mother got an emotional cell call from the hotel's corridor saying that he was coming home on the next train. This led to an even more emotional call to me from Tanya. I called Egor and told him to get his head together.

"Find the trainers," I told him, "explain the situation to them and tell them simply that you do not with to bed down with strange men and would rather stay with the team. You understand?"


"This is a reasonable thing, do you understand?"


"But most of all: Do not come home. The most important thing is not to let this little head game bother you."


"Obviously this is simply gamesmanship on the part of the Baranovichi command. If they had any real talent they would never resort to these sorts of tactics. This is just a simple trap, just the same as one would set on the chessboard. You understand what I am saying?"


"Look, the solution is obviously just to make lateral move of relocating to a more comfortable space and getting refocused on the games as soon as possible. The real issue is playing the best games you possibly can. Just tell the trainers what you want to do, let them deal with the hotel and go and get ready to play. Will you do this?


And that was pretty much my part in this.

It is hard to say how much this problem affected Egor, but he did lose his first game and in the second, playing against a boy he should have beaten with ease, he only managed only a tie.

That night he bedded down with his team mates and one of the trainers took the double room. The next day though started out just the same as Egor lost the first game and found himself with just a half point with only four games to play.

I will admit that I sometimes have my doubts about Egor. I don't want to make a case against the boy and I think that any close relationship allows for a much closer examination of the negatives than you get with friends and acquaintances. But sometimes I wish that he were a bit more direct and serious about things. I get on him a lot for being lax with studies and not taking the important things more seriously. But no amount of backlogged negativity could bring down our pride at what he did this last weekend. Pulling off a 12-year-old boy from Pinsk's version of a Joe Montana fourth quarter comeback, our man Egor reached down deep and found a way to win out, in the end having just enough to gain the last available spot on the Championship team's squad.

I wish I could say that there was something he did to jack up the moment. The trainers told him nothing more than that he could play better and that probably he should. But really, Egor is pretty much a black and white realist at his core, just like everyone else round here, and inevitably he just went and sat down and played the fourth game- which he won.

Asked if there was anything special about that first win, Egor only says that it was normal and that he felt better for having won. Still, only 1.5 points with three to play was a tough spot. He says though that he wasn't scared. "I have three more." was all he told himself. He ate and hung out with his friend's on Friday night and didn't do any one particular thing to prepare for the next day's games.

Ulenitski from Brest was his first opponent on Saturday morning. Ulenitski is a strong first rank player and the game went 70 moves, but two good moves on Egor's part and one mistake on Ulenitski's had Egor up a pawn and a knight. Ulenitski resigned and Egor stood at 2.5 points with 2 to play.

The second Saturday game was later that afternoon against Chipukhin from Baranovichi. This was another close game that went to endgame basically even. But Egor made a couple of clever moves which led to the taking of two pawns and it was over. 3.5 points with the final game to play on Sunday against another first rank player: Denise Shila

Egor admits that he was a little scared and was thinking about Sunday's game in the hotel on Saturday night. He knew about Shila and that he was quickly rising up the rankings. But Shila had also had his difficulties in the tournament and both boys were at three and a half points going in. A look at the tournament standings however told the real story: This final game would be played for the 9th and final spot from the Brest region's contingent to Minsk in March. This game was do or die for either of the boys: The winner would go to Minsk, the loser would stay at home and a draw meant the end for both.

I talked to Egor about that fateful game this morning:

"So, what were you thinking Sunday morning before the last game?"


"Were you scared?"


"Were you thinking that the game was important?"


"You knew that if you won you were going to Minsk?"


"Did the trainers talk to you?"


"What did they say?"


So, prepared as he was ever going to be, Egor went into the last game and was happily surprised to find that he was in a winning position from very early on.

"He didn't understand the opening." Egor said "Shila opened e4 but didn't know all of the different possibilities of a French defense. I gained a pawn advantage early and never gave it up. He resigned after 50 moves because he was in an un-winnable position. He just stopped the clock, stood up and walked away."

Egor was going to Minsk.

After the game the trainers grabbed his hand and gave him hardy congratulations. Needing to win four in a row and doing so may not be the stuff of legends but for sure it was something at least a little special. Egor took an earlier train then we thought and showed up at the door before we had a chance to go and greet him. Over a bowl of soup and a sandwich in the kitchen, he told us all about the tournament and after, hung around just enjoying the feeing. As a present from the trainers, he is taking a day off from school today and plans to hang around the house in the morning and later will go over to his grandmother's for a while.

Asked if he was going to do anything special to prepare for the tournament in Minsk, Egor said yes.

"What will you do?"


"Anything else?"


This is a good thing. More news about the national chess championships to follow.

More soon…