USCF Home Chess Life Online 2008 May Happy Press but Little Space in Tulsa
|Happy Press but Little Space in Tulsa|
|By Tom Braunlich|
|May 16, 2008|
The first three rounds out of nine in the 2008 Frank K Berry U.S. Championships have been like the opening third of a chess game. The players are starting to settle in for the key middlegames, and the organizers are making adjustments and trying to deal with complaints.
The championships have received good local media coverage. Whenever the TV reporters ask for a player to interview my policy is to throw “The Fed” at them. I don’t know what they were expecting in a chess grandmaster — a studious quiet contemplative type perhaps — but when the Bronx Battler comes on he soon has them laughing and shaking their heads. Anchorman: “Do spectators have to be quiet?” Fedorowicz: “Yeah, they should be quiet but you know if they do make some noise it’s not like we’re gonna get as upset as Tiger Woods.” His story about what happened when he told his high school guidance counselor that he wanted to be a professional chess player is another one of his many “colorful anecdotes” that go over well. Fedorowicz had the local PBS reporter laughing so much she blurted out, “You’re terrific!” even after he dropped the S-bomb on her at one point. Fortunately it was a taped interview. His Bronx accent seems very exotic out here on the edge of the Ozarks.
One of the great things about putting on a major chess event in an area that normally doesn’t see them is that it brings out a lot of interesting chess personalities from the past, whom you may not have even known were around. One such example occurred when Beth Cassidy, 81, visited the tournament. (Pictured here talking with Susan Polgar.) Ms. Cassidy was a member of the Ireland chess team and a journalist with British Chess Magazine. She knew many of the classic GMs from the 40s and 50s. While a manager of the Manhattan Chess Club in the 1960s she wrote extensive detailed articles on the great masters that hung out there, including Fischer, Lombardy, Kmoch, Steinmeyer, etc. She worked for Shell and when she retired chose to live in Tulsa.
There is a USCF policy board meeting this weekend here as well, and the participants have already arrived and started going at the various political controversies facing them. At one point while I was in the commentary room a guy game in and said the most interesting game of the round is happening now out in the lobby between four of the board members! Unfortunately we were not able to get that game up on our MonRoi projection screen and follow along!
Defending champ Alex Shabalov started badly with a blunder in round 1. In a nine-round event there is plenty of time to fight back. However his comeback attempt was derailed a bit by Daniel Ludwig in round 3, who earned a draw. Ludwig has been impressive to me, drawing with Perelstheyn (2626), Finegold (2613) and Shabalov (2709), and he was nursing small advantages throughout all those games. His post-mortems show that he has an excellent understanding of the game, and perhaps soon he will be winning those edges against such grandmasters. In their round 3 game, Shabba went for an IQP style attack, but the kid pushed it back accurately with Bh5 + Qf3 + Bd4. Black had to sacrifice his isolani and barely had enough pressure to induce drawing exchanges.
Another impressive young player to me has been IM David Pruess. In round 3 he played what I thought was a very creative game against IM Dean Ippolito — a King’s Gambit with what appears to be a new move on move 4!
After 1. e4, e5 2. f4, Bc5 3. Nf3, d6 David thought awhile and played 4. Bb5+!? on the spur of the moment.
He said later he believed it was worth a try because he liked the clarity of the pawn structure that soon would arise after …c6 and the exchange on e5. Dean believed he must have a good game, since …c6 is an unprovoked move in some similar lines, so he reacted aggressively and indeed seemed to be winning material after 9…Bd4. But Pruess’ 10 Bb3 and 12. Qd2 showed it was all just an elaborate pawn gambit … Black has to trade queens (12… Qxa1 13. 0-0 and the queen is trapped). In the resulting endgame white has two bishops and a lot of activity for the pawn; although perhaps no more. However Dean played an inaccuracy and soon his kingside was shredded. (The players thought 14…Nc5, giving back the pawn, was an improvement.)
In the women’s championship, the two expected leaders, IMs Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih have jumped out to a 3-0 lead as expected. In round 3 Anna traded a queen and pawn for three pieces against Courtney Jamison. Usually this is good but she had an offside knight she was worried about. She was eventually able to get it back into play and coordinate her pieces effectively. Meanwhile Irina played very provocatively against Tuvshintugs, but her 20… Bh6! turned the tables positionally:
The two favorites will meet each other in round 8, and it may be the deciding game of the championship.
Overall the event is running very smoothly. The Radisson hotel here in Tulsa is not only very nice, but has an excellent restaurant (I took my mother there on Mother’s Day). But one controversy has arisen that is causing a lot of consternation. I’ll only give a brief account of it here, as to some extent we are still trying to find a good solution. The gist of the story is this: the playing hall is a little bit cramped. We were aware of this, but thought it would be okay. In case the players complained, as a backup plan we had reserved another room down the hall to be able to move the women’s tournament into there if needed.
As it turned out, no one complained — except one, the top-rated player, who was nice about it but said it was so seriously bothering him he would withdraw if some kind of change was not made. Many other players I talked to said he was totally out of line. A few others agreed that the room was cramped.
TD Frank Berry’s first reaction to Onischuk’s threat was to ask him if he needed a ride to the airport! But it was eventually decided to implement our backup plan. But in this case it was the women who complained, feeling that it demoted their event to second-class status. So for round 3 we decided to instead move the 5 lower boards of the regular championship into the other room. Well, you guessed it. Although the other room is comfortable, the players in there felt isolated and were miffed that they couldn’t easily see what is going on in the other games, which of course is part of the fun of chess tournaments. So after the round they were complaining, and of course they have a point as well. They wanted the room back the way it was and said we should call Onischuk’s bluff about it.
Obviously we are still hoping to find a solution that will be satisfactory to everyone — a variation that will complete development and get us out of the opening and into the middlegame.