CHAMPION OF PEOPLE'S PARK

by NM Kerry Lawless



On my recent travels, I came upon a group of chess players while passing People's Park. As I joined the group of kibitzers around one game that had just concluded, the victor looked up at me and asked if I played chess. I said that I did, but hastened to add that I hadn't played tournament chess for many years. Maybe it was that I appeared somewhat older than the other onlookers or perhaps it was my evasive answer, but I could feel his suspicion as he asked me for my rating. When I admitted that I had a master rating, he identified himself as the champion of People's Park.

Having thrown down the gauntlet, he led me to a tabled area near the middle of the park. On this gorgeous day the park overflowed with aging hippies and other park denizens listening to a minor rock concert. It's times like these I'm thankful I'm almost deaf in one ear. Kibitzers and the pungent smell of cannabis started drifting over as he set up his chess equipment. After about half a dozen games and his growing awareness of the real difference in strength between us, we agreed upon one last bout.

Berkeley People's Park 10/20/2002

White: Kerry Lawless Black: People's Park Champ

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

My next move produced a great sigh from my opponent. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that he didn't know that line. Since I offered to make another move, he asked if I would play the Advance Variation instead. So we continued...

3 e5 c5

4 c3 Nc6

5 Nf3 Qb6

6 Bd3 Bd7

7 0-0 cd

8 cd Nd4

9 Nd4 Qd4

10 Nc3 Qe5

11 Re1 Qc7?

When the small group of spectators became more animated, I thought they had noticed the mistake. But, then I realized that they were just reading my body language. (Later, Richard Shorman told me that the book move here was 11...Qb8.)

12 Nd5 Qd6

13 Qb3 Bc3

14 Bc4 Ne7?

Again, 14...Qb8 is better.

15 Bf4 Resigns

After answering the usual questions on how to get better (tactics, tactics, and more tactics), I continued on my way, the momentary chess champion of People's Park.

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