How I lost 40 rating points, without playing very badly

A really terrible night. I went to the Marshall Chess Club, having calculated that my rating was 1980. I consider it to be a tremendous embarrassment and humiliation to have a rating less than 2000. My rating first went over 2000 in 1964. There were a few dips, but since 1978 my rating had never been below 2000, not even once. Then, two years ago, on April 8, 2000, I played a filler game as a courtesy at the Marshall Chess Club because there were an odd number of players and somebody needed a game. My opponent was Marcus Mairena. I lost that game and that dropped my rating down to 1995. I wrote an article about that entitled "How I became an A Player".

After that, I went on a losing streak and I have never been able to get my 2000 rating back.

I would have gotten back my 2000 rating, had I won my last round game against a player named Chris Bush in the World Open. I was easily winning but blundered and lost. Later, I would have gotten back my 2000 rating had I won my last round game against Ben Johnson last week at the Marshall Chess Club. However, again I lost.

I was hoping that this week would finally be the time that I would get my 2000 rating back. All it would take is one win against a player rated a bit higher than myself. Instead, a disaster occurred and I lost 40 points, without even playing badly.

My first round opponent was Jayson Gonzales. He is a player near IM strength who often wins these tournaments. I played my usual 1.g4. I got a bad position in the opening, but then seemed to fight my way out of it. Finally, it looked like I had at least a draw. At one point, he reached over to pick up a piece. Had he moved that piece, he would have been checkmated. However, he saw that mate just before touching the piece. Then, I thought that I had a draw, but he had a way out and I lost. I believe that instead I could have traded into either a queen and pawn ending or a rook and pawn ending, with both sides having three pawns. In practice, this would probably have been a draw, although he had all the winning chances. Several of the spectators were strong players who thought that I had him. A draw would have given me 12 rating points, bringing me very close to my goal of getting my rating over 2000.

My next opponent played poorly. He made a lot of bad moves. I queened a pawn. This meant that I had two queens and he had only one queen. However, my king was exposed. He started checking my king. I am sure that there were many ways to stop the check and to end the game, but I had only three minutes left. I should have stopped keeping score, but I always keep my score and had I not done that you would not be able to see what happened next.

Finally, after about 30 more moves of running my king around the board, I was able to force an exchange of queens. However, this was a SUDDEN DEATH TIME CONTROL game. I started to move my king up to deliver checkmate, but he called my flag down. I had lost the game on time, even though a queen up. Since my opponent was rated 238 points below me, I lost 26 points on that game!

My third game was against a player named Dmitriy Dorfman, from you-know-where. He sported a rating of 1405. He was not a kid, either. Everybody knows that there is no such thing as a player with a name like Dmitriy Dorfman who is only 1405 in chess strength. Even the weakest players from the great former Soviet Union are at least 1800 in strength.

Sure enough, Dmitriy Dorfman outplayed me completely. He did not make a single bad move. True, he could have won the game quicker. I think that he could have trapped and won my bishop at one point.

Finally, I managed to create some complications. Then, he just started staring at the board, while his time got shorter and shorter. Finally, his flag fell. I saw it fall, but I was not going to call it. I wanted to play a few more moves to see what would happen, and then to call his flag down. But, that was not to be. He looked at the clock and gestured, showing that he knew that his flag was down.

What saved me from the humiliation of losing to a 1405 rated player, which would have cost me 30 more rating points, was that he is obviously in training, preparing to win the $10,000 first prize for players rated less than 1400 at the World Open. Since he lost all of his games in this tournament, he is closer to his goal of getting his rating down below 1400.

However, because his rating was so low, I only gained one rating point by beating him. This is really a hard way to win one rating point.

My last game was against Polly Wright. I was paired white. Since I had beaten her with white last week, I did not feel like playing her with white again. So, I offered to reverse colors and play her with black. To my surprise, she refused.

I got a good position in the opening. I seemed to be crushing her. I reached a position where I could win a pawn easily and trade queens. However, I did not want to win a pawn. I wanted to break open her king position and go for checkmate.

There was no way for me to do that. Finally, I just had to win the pawn and trade down into an endgame.

The endgame was not easy to win. I had one pawn more plus a bishop for a knight, but I played some inaccurate moves. She was able to blockade one of my pawns with her knight. We played about 50 more moves. The time limit was not a factor because this time, unlike round two, we were playing with a time delay clock and we got five seconds more for each move. We could both easily move within five seconds. Finally, the game could have gone for another 100 moves but there was no way for me to make progress, so I offered a draw, even though I still had one pawn more.

Polly Wright is rated 272 points lower than me, so I lost 11 rating points in this game.

Throughout this tournament, I never played a bad game, except for the game that I won. If you look at my games, I am sure that you will be able to find a few better moves that I could have played but, except for a slip where I let Polly Wright blockade my extra pawn, I do not think that you will be able to find any move that I played that was truly bad.

Altogether, I lost 40 rating points. I lost four points to Jayson Gonzales, 26 points to Brian Miluev, gained one point from Dmitriy Dorfman, and lost 11 points to Polly Wright, for a net loss of 40 rating points, and all without playing very badly.

This tournament resulted in a three-way tie for first, between Ron Burnett, Jay Bonin and Boris Privman, with 3 1/2 - 1/2 points each. Since Burnett had taken a last round bye, Privman and Bonin had to play a blitz game to see who gets a free entry into the Marshall Tuesday Night Master Tournament. Larry Tamarkin asked me to keep track of the game and post it on the Internet. It seems that I am just about the only person who has the capability of correctly writing down a five-minute game as it is being played.

My question is this: Since it seems that I am just about the only person who is capable of doing this, why is it that I cannot play chess very well?

In this play-off game, the rules were: White gets five minutes, black gets four minutes, and black gets draw odds. Bonin won the coin toss and chose to play black. He won all of Privman's pawns, thereby guaranteeing at least a draw, so Privman resigned. Here is the game, plus my games from the event.

Sam Sloan

[Event "Marshall 4 Rated Games Tonight"]
[Site "Marshall Chess Club New York"]
[Date "2002.09.05"]
[White "Privman,Boris"]
[Black "Bonin,IM Jay"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A53"]
[WhiteElo "2252"]
[BlackElo "2391"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.g3 c6
7.Bg5 Nbd7 8.O-O-O Kc7 9.f4 Ng4 10.Nh3 f6 11.Bh4 h6 12.f5
Nb6 13.e4 Ne3 14.Re1 Nxf1 15.Rhxf1 Nxc4 16.g4 Bb4 17.Bf2
Bxc3 18.bxc3 b6 19.Ng1 Rd8 20.Rd1 Ba6 21.Rxd8 Rxd8 22.Rd1
Rxd1+ 23.Kxd1 Nd6 24.Be3 Nxe4 25.h4 Nxc3+ 26.Kc2 Nxa2
27.g5 hxg5 28.h5 Nb4+ 29.Kd2 Bd3 30.Nf3 Bxf5 31.Bf2 Bg4
32.Nh2 Bxh5 33.Nf1 Nd5 34.Ng3 Bg6 35.Nf1 c5 36.Ne3 Nxe3
37.Bxe3 Kc6 0-1

[Event "Marshall 4 Rated Games Tonight"]
[Site "Marshall Chess Club New York"]
[Date "2002.09.05"]
[Round "01"]
[White "Sloan,Sam"]
[Black "Gonzales,Jayson"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "1980"]
[BlackElo "2381"]

1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 c6 3.h3 e5 4.e4 h5 5.gxh5 dxe4 6.Bxe4 Qh4
7.d3 Nf6 8.Nf3 Qxh5 9.Bg5 Nxe4 10.dxe4 f6 11.Be3 Qg6
12.Nbd2 Rxh3 13.Rxh3 Bxh3 14.c3 Na6 15.Qb3 Qf7 16.Qc2 Bc5
17.O-O-O O-O-O 18.Bxc5 Nxc5 19.b3 Nd3+ 20.Kb1 Nxf2 21.Rg1
Be6 22.Nc4 Bxc4 23.Qxf2 Bd3+ 24.Kb2 Bxe4 25.Nxe5 Qd5
26.Nc4 Bd3 27.Qxa7 Bxc4 28.Rxg7 Qd2+ 29.Ka3 Qd6+ 30.b4
(30. Kb2 Qb8 (30... Rd7 31. Qa8+ Kc7 32. Rxd7+ Qxd7
33. bxc4) 31. Qxb8+ Kxb8 32. bxc4) 30...Rd7 31.Qa8+ Kc7
32.Qa5+ Kb8 33.Rh7 Rxh7 0-1

[Event "Marshall 4 Rated Games Tonight"]
[Site "Marshall Chess Club New York"]
[Date "2002.09.05"]
[Round "02"]
[White "Miluev,Brian"]
[Black "Sloan,Sam"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C40"]
[WhiteElo "1752"]
[BlackElo "1980"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nf3 fxe4 6.Ng5 d5
7.Nc3 c6 8.Be3 Bd6 9.Qd2 h6 10.h4 Bg4 11.Be2 Bxe2 12.Qxe2
hxg5 13.hxg5 Rxh1+ 14.Kd2 Qg6 15.Rxh1 Nd7 16.f4 O-O-O
17.Kc1 Ne7 18.g4 Nb6 19.f5 Qf7 20.Kb1 Nc4 21.Bc1 Bb4
22.Nd1 Ba5 23.b3 Nd6 24.Rh7 Qg8 25.g6 Rf8 26.Ba3 Bc7
27.Ne3 Nb5 28.Bb2 Bf4 29.Ng2 Bh6 30.a4 Nd6 31.Ba3 Kd7
32.Qe1 Rf6 33.Bc1 Nexf5 34.gxf5 Nxf5 35.Bxh6 Rxg6 36.Nh4
Qxh7 37.Nxg6 Qxg6 38.Bf4 Qg4 39.Be5 e3 40.Qb4 b6 41.Qf8 e2
42.Qf7+ Ne7 43.Qf2 Qe4 44.Qe1 Qg2 45.Kb2 Ng6 46.Bg3 Qe4
47.Bf2 Nf4 48.Qg1 Ng2 49.Qh1 e1=Q 50.Qh3+ Qe6 51.Qxg2 Q1e4
52.Qxg7+ Qe7 53.Qg8 {The game continued for about 30-40
more moves and then Black lost on time. This was a sudden
death time control game.} 1-0

[Event "Marshall 4 Rated Games Tonight"]
[Site "Marshall Chess Club New York"]
[Date "2002.09.05"]
[Round "03"]
[White "Dorfman,Dmitriy"]
[Black "Sloan,Sam"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B36"]
[WhiteElo "1405"]
[BlackElo "1980"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 g6 6.e4 Bg7
7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng8 9.Bf4 Qa5 10.Qe2 d6 11.g3 dxe5 12.Bd2
Be6 13.Bg2 Qc5 14.b3 Nf6 15.Rd1 O-O 16.Na4 Qa3 17.Bc3 Rad8
18.O-O Bg4 19.f3 Bf5 20.Bxe5 h5 21.Bd4 e6 22.Bxa7 Nd7
23.Bd4 e5 24.Be3 Qe7 25.Kh1 e4 26.Bg1 Rfe8 27.fxe4 Nf6
28.e5 Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Bg4 30.Bf3 Qxe5 31.Bxg4 {White lost on
time, while a pawn up.} 0-1

[Event "Marshall 4 Rated Games Tonight"]
[Site "Marshall Chess Club New York"]
[Date "2002.09.05"]
[Round "04"]
[White "Sloan,Sam"]
[Black "Wright,Polly"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "1980"]
[BlackElo "1708"]

1.g4 c5 2.Bg2 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d3 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3
Nf6 8.h3 Bd7 9.Be3 Qb6 10.Qd2 O-O-O 11.d4 cxd4 12.Nxd4
Nxd4 13.Bxd4 Qa6 14.O-O-O Kb8 15.g5 Ne8 16.Bxg7 Nxg7
17.Qxd6+ Qxd6 18.Rxd6 Nh5 19.Rhd1 Kc8 20.e5 b6 21.R1d4 Ng3
22.Bb7+ Kc7 23.Ba6 Nf5 24.Nb5+ Bxb5 25.Rxd8 Rxd8 26.Rxd8
Kxd8 27.Bxb5 Kc7 28.Be8 Kd8 29.Bb5 (29. Bxf7 Ke7 30. Bg8
{Since both the black king and the white bishop are stuck
on the king side, White can try to win by c3 followed by a
queen side advance, but it is not clear whether this can
succeed. }) 29...Ke7 30.Kd2 {After about 50 more moves in
sudden death time control, White was never able to take
advantage of his extra pawn and the game was a draw.}

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