Sergei Kudrin Photo JS
Hey all, it's Josh Friedel again, this time reporting from my apartment in Alameda, CA. Before I get into the results in Reno, I want to clarify something from my previous blog . During the opening ceremony for the tournament, they announced the names of all the GMs and IMs. They not only mispronounced every long Russian name badly, but all of the American ones as well. Melik Khachiyan, who was on the board next to me, started laughing uncontrollably after his name was announced. My roommate, coworker, and study partner, IM David Pruess, had his name so badly mispronounced that he didn't even recognize it! He sat baffled all through lunch, wondering how they forgot about him.
OK, enough about that, back to the chess. In Round 4 Sevillano, the only perfect score, held a draw as black against Ibragimov. Kudrin was the only 2.5 who was able to win, thus catching up with him. There were a number of people half a point back with 3, including myself after a draw with GM Alex Yermolinsky. I was White in a Classical Sicilian, and found myself worse after a sea of trades. To my surprise, "Yermo" then promptly offered me TWO draws. Or rather, he offered once, then offered a second time to make sure I heard him. Somewhat baffled, I accepted. Alex then tried to convince me he wasn't better, but I was quite skeptical, especially considering the fact I almost always err on the side of overestimating my position, not the other way around.
Round 5 had the two leaders facing off, as well as the chasing pack of 3s. Sevillano and Kudrin drew without much bloodshed, allowing them to save their energy for the last round. Three people were able to catch him: Ftacnik, with a absolute blowout of Mikhail Langer; Eugene Perelshteyn, with a complex win from a suspect position against my roomate David Pruess; And finally myself, with a long endgame grind against Israeli GM Victor Mikhalevski:
Now I'm no Eugene Perelshteyn, but I can grind when required, and I managed to win a king, knight, rook and h-pawn vs. king, rook, and f-pawn. Though my technique was far from perfect, and the ending was a bit tougher than I originally thought it would be, I won his f-pawn and the game shortly after.
Though the last time I'd been to a Weikel tournament was when I was about ten, I still remembered a few things: long announcements, late round starts, and weird pairings. The last part is particularly true in the last round, and this year was no exception. As the lowest-rated of 5 people with 4 points, I expected to play Ildar Ibragimov, the highest 3.5. Instead, they paired me with Kudrin, and gave Ibragimov to Ftacnik. The lower boards had similarly bizarre pairings. The most flamboyant and loudest protester was IM Jesse Kraai. Though this was probably no surprise to those who knew him, I'm sure his cries of "WHY AM I NOT PLAYING DOWN??" must have confused those people playing poker in the El Dorado down the street. Despite all this, the round managed to start just 15 minutes late.
The outgoing IM Jesse Kraai, here pictured with WFM Elizabeth Vicary
As was custom this tournament, my game was one of the first to finish. The opening was a closed Giuoco Piano, which Kudrin has beaten me with what seems like a gazillion times. Though for once I managed to gain pretty clear equality, we had different approaches to the resulting position. Kudrin slowly built up an attack on the kingside. I, meanwhile, decided it was best to play a bunch of pointless moves that didn't do anything. Alas, as it turned out, his approach was more successful and he finished me with an obviously-winning piece sac. Here's the game with some light annotations: (Looking at it still pains me, but it was the decisive game of the tournament.)
I tried 4...Be7 a couple times against him without success, so I decided to go with the more mainstream Bc5. 13.Kh2 is a smart move, planning Ng1 and g3, ridding himself of the pesky f4 knight. 15...Neg6 was a mistake. The knight is misplaced there, Be6 was probably best, with an even game. After 18...Ne6, I thought Black would be ok, but things didn't turn out so well. I played 20...Qd8 because the queen was awkward on f6, but on d8 is out of the action, so I'm not sure whether this was best. 21...Kh7 was way too slow. Finding a useful move proved quite difficult. After 23.Nh3, I'm in serious trouble, though I didn't realize how it was at the time, and played a5, which is just silly. I thought I had f4 covered. Still, what was I to do?I had planned 25...Qxh4 here, but had totally missed his queen was defended and could simply play f5. As I was low on time, I just decided to hell with it, and took the pawn with 25...Nh4. This lost ather quickly, however.
Hopefully one day I will learn to play more than one good game in a row. However, one nice aspect of this was that it gave me plenty of time to brood at the edge of the tournament hall and look at the other games. Ftacnik looked to be simply down the exchange against Ibragimov, while Perelshteyn appeared to have an edge in a crazy opposite bishops position against Sevillano.
After a bit, I decided I'd had enough and went into the analysis room where Kraai and Mikhalevski were analyzing. Jesse got rolled by an even lamer opening than I did (1. d4 e6 2. g3 c5 3. e3!?!?). However, he seemed to be in his usual excitable mood while analyzing, which helped me to forget my loss. Soon after, David came in and showed his loss to an amazing queen sac his opponent had been playing against Fritz for two years!
After 5. Bc4, any normal human being would have played 5...e6. David's need to refute everything that looks fishy to him took over common sense. And I must say, I'm no stranger to this notion myself. After 8.Be6+, Black should probably play Ke8, taking the draw, but that isn't David's way either. After 9.Bxg4, we arrive in a fascinating position. White has two pieces and soon a pawn or two for the queen. However, White has excellent long term compensation, not to mention the fact his position is 100 times easier to play than Black's. Add to this White having prepared this opening for many years, just itching to get a chance to play it, and Black's situation is hopeless. David fought hard, but eventually went down.
David is not the most practical of chessplayers, but he has to be given credit for taking the principled approach of taking the queen. I just hope being brave instead of smart works out better for him in the future. On the upside, it produced a fascinating game for analysis. Emory Tate praised the sac highly, saying that he lost his own game because he was too busy looking at theirs. After we finished analyzing, all the games had finished. Ftacnik lost to Ibragimov, and Eugene couldn't quite finish off the slippery Enrico in yet another long ending. Therefore, Kudrin took clear first with 5 and snagged one of two U.S. Championship spots. Well, that's all from me. See you next tournament.
The tiebreaks and elegibility for the second U.S. Championship spot haven't been determined yet, but check back later for an update-CLO
1. GM Sergei Kudrin (5/6)
2-6- IM Enrico Sevillano, GMs Eugene Perelshteyn, Gregory Serper, Ildar Ibragimov and Jaan Ehlvest. (4.5/6)
Click here for complete standings.