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Getting to Reno Print E-mail
By Michael Aigner   
March 21, 2008
The main obstacle in getting to Reno, the Donner Pass. Photo Michael Aigner
Hello from Reno, Nevada, home of the Far West Open.  The 8th edition of the annual spring tournament in the self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World” takes place this weekend, with the first round scheduled for high noon on Friday and a total of six rounds through Sunday.  As usual, the Sand’s Regency Hotel and Casino hosts what promises to be an enjoyable chess festival.  For some people, the weekend provides a bi-annual opportunity to hang out with chess friends from other cities or states—the other weekend is the Western States Open every October.

In fact, attendance should be up this year with already 160 advance entries and the anticipated final total cracking 200.  Players come from all of the western states, from Washington to South Dakota to Arizona.  Despite the conflict with the high-powered Foxwoods tournament in Connecticut, the roster for the Open section includes Grandmasters Alex Yermolinsky, Sergey Kudrin, and Melik Khachiyan plus International Masters Enrico Sevillano and John Donaldson.  The action should be exciting!

Driving to Reno is always a bit of a challenge because of the mountain ranges surrounding the city, including the ominous Sierra Nevada lying between California and Nevada.  Previous years have seen road closures or chain controls on I-80 over historic Donner Pass (7227 ft elevation) due to blizzards and ice.  Fortunately, the weather forecast for 2008 promises spring conditions and the roads are clear—probably this factor contributed significantly to the increased attendance.  However, several feet of snow lies next to the highway at the higher elevations.  I wonder if any parents or family members will hit the slopes while the chess players spend hours and hours meditating over 64 squares.

Thursday evening in Reno offers fun and relaxation to chess players.  The weekend kicked off with a well-received lecture by GM Larry Evans reminiscing about the late Bobby Fischer.  Fifteen competitors took on GM Sergey Kudrin in a simul, but 14 came away empty handed.  Only Reno area native Jude de la Pena (1571) nicked the Grandmaster for a draw.  Congratulations!

Another twenty players chose blitz chess.  After a grueling 20-RR (all-play-all), underrated Bay Area teenager Steven Zierk (2105) won with an undefeated score of 17 wins and 2 draws.  Steven defeated both of the masters in the field: second place finisher FM Nick Raptis (2281) and NM Michael Aigner (2242). 

Steven Zierk won the blitz tournament!

The blitz tournament was so tiring that one of my opponents tried to move a knight from f6 to d4 in the opening and another forfeited after moving into check with mere seconds on my clock, when almost any legal move would likely have won soon.

My sleep schedule and sanity permitting, I intend to write again after round 2 on Friday night.  I have eight chess students playing in the tournament, which may occasionally cause involuntary insanity.  In the meantime, check out my blog http://fpawn.blogspot.com for more news and photos.