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Far West Open Update Print E-mail
By Michael Aigner   
March 22, 2008
Downtown Reno. Photo Michael Aigner
The Far West Open began as scheduled on Friday shortly after high noon like a skirmish at OK Corral, or in this case the Sand’s Regency Hotel and Casino.  The first round was delayed for 15 minutes by a group of a dozen players who showed up after the cutoff for entries.  This small inconvenience brought the total number of participants above 190—not quite 200 like I had predicted on Thursday evening but still more than last year.  Organizer Jerry Weikel and Barbara Woodward, the representative of the hotel, are quite pleased with the continued success of the sister tournament of the larger Western States Open held each year in October.

The announcements prior to the first round included the usual messages about posting the result of the game and how to set the clocks for the time control of 40 moves in two hours, 20 moves in another hour and then 30 minutes for the remainder of the game.  This seven hour time control is rare in America these days, but Jerry Weikel is an endangered species of chess organizer who prefers classical chess traditions.  In fact, years ago the final time control was 30 minutes in 30 minutes, ad infinitum—meaning a game could theoretically go on forever.  I take some credit for motivating the change to sudden death as one year my game ended after 3:00 in the morning, with the next round at 9:30am!  Nonetheless, a long evening round can still last until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, well past my bedtime.

Jerry Weikel and Barbara Woodward

One unique announcement in Reno is the introduction of all FIDE titled players.  The practice has drawn some attention in a previous column by fellow blogger IM Josh Friedel, who poked fun at Weikel’s attempts to pronounce the names. Perhaps I can help.  First there is this guy, the Yermonator, who recently moved to South Dakota after he found out that he could not be governor of California.  His partner in crime is Grandmaster Katch You Man from Armenia, now living in Los Angeles.  Among the International Masters we have Enrico the Semi Llama and John the Don from San Francisco. 

In the interest of time, the FIDE masters usually do not earn the same recognition.  However, Weikel made an exception this year to recognize the achievements of World U12 Champion, FM Daniel Naroditsky.  Danya, as his family and friends call him, has played in Reno twice a year since October of 2004, when he won the C section.  In fact, last year’s Western States Open was his final warm-up tournament on home turf before he flew to Turkey to conquer the world at the 2007 World Youth Chess Festival. 

Back in Reno, Danya walked to the top board last night, not to face some kid but rather the veteran Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin.  Far from being intimidated, the youngster from San Francisco feeds off the pressure of the moment and excels when most others would crack.  The opening didn’t go quite as planned, and by move 22, Black was close to winning with the thematic 22… f5 23.Ng5 Bb3.  Instead Black went pawn hunting and needed several tempi to extract his queen from a4, which the fearless young master used to counterattack with g3-g4 and f2-f4.  After 26… exf4, Black’s position deteriorates to the point that White even has a small advantage in the final position, still down a pawn. 


The tournament has been very competitive so far, with many upsets.  Two 9th graders from the southern Bay Area have impressed so far: Rohan Agarwal (2085) defeated John Bryant (2314) in a tactical melee while blitz champion Steven Zierk (2105) proved that he can also play slow chess by drawing against FM Vladimir Strugatsky (2450).  After two rounds, the only players with perfect scores are GM Yermolinsky, NM Sam Shankland and expert Agarwal, although GM Melik Khachiyan and IM Enrico Sevillano were still playing late last night when I went to bed.  However, a large crowd of players remains in the hunt with 1.5 points.

GM Sergey Kudrin and IM Enrico Sevillano

The Yermonator has especially impressed, winning his two games against weaker players in a combined 50 moves.  I was his round 2 victim and failed to even survive the opening with my favorite Dutch defense.  Let’s just say that it was not my best day.  Perhaps the reader can find two simple tactics that win a pawn from the game Yermolinsky-Aigner.  Hint: most combinations are based on a double attack.


Yermolinsky-Aigner, White to Move

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Yermolinsky-Aigner, White to Move

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I need to grab a bite for breakfast now and mentally prepare myself for the third round.  Hopefully my tactical vision will improve after the debacle last night.  I plan to write a brief update for Chess Life Online before round 5, but with a 9:30am start time tomorrow morning, I can’t make any promises.