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J.Hilton Blogs from Foxwoods Print E-mail
By Jonathan Hilton   
March 20, 2008
Jonathan Hilton with Jerry Hanken, who will be writing about Foxwoods for the June Chess Life Magazine.

Last Sunday the youth counselor at my church, Joe Snavely, ran down the list of services during Holy Week for the Sunday School class. After explaining the purpose of each service, the hands of my classmates flew up to signal that they would be in attendance. I didn’t raise my hand once. Someone asked if I was traveling to visit with family. “No,” I replied, “I’m spending Holy Week in a casino on a Native American reservation in Connecticut.” There was a brief moment of silence. “No you’re not!” the blonde girl next to me exclaimed.

Today, looking around the Foxwoods resort, I am truly amazed. I come from a small town north of Cincinnati. Like many other Experts and Masters in my home state, I can count on one hand the number of major opens I’ve played away from Ohio–two hands if I include scholastic tournaments. Just running down the list of names on the pairing sheet is intimidating: there are some ten GMs playing. Big-name up-and-coming players such as Elliot Liu, Robert Hess, and Daniel Yeager are also playing. I looked at my dad and told him, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

Last year I took a great deal of time off of competitive chess while I focused on schoolwork, college entrance exams, and running my Scout Troop. I came back to competitive play in November with the King’s Island Open with a first-round draw against GM Darmen Sadvakasov and soon after earned my NM title—now, with the money I earned during my year off and the opportunity to travel to major opens such as Foxwoods, I have begun to think again about my old dream of playing up there with the big guns, mano a mano.

Yesterday, however, I just got to take some time to kick back and relax. I got a call around noon from my good friend Jerry Hanken, President of the Chess Journalists of America, and my dad took the two of us out to lunch at a café in the hotel, where we passed the better part of the afternoon exchanging stories. Jerry has a power scooter now and the world is at his mercy. He puts it on “rapid mode” and can whiz across the resort at high speed, sending people left and right to make way! Jerry also said he’d try to track down someone in the USCF to get me an official certificate for being a National Master; my one official 2200 rating as of the January 2008 supplement should earn me one, but apparently they can take some bureaucratic persistence to get these days.

Come the first round Wednesday night, I had the white pieces against FM Tegshsuren Enkbhat. I remembered him from the US Chess League games for which FM Robby Adamson and I briefly provided coverage. I couldn’t remember much about his playing style, only that he had the status of a god in the USCL. I desperately wanted to hold my own with “these guys”, but I tried a bit too hard, playing artificially and getting a bad position out of the opening. By move 25, I had eight minutes to reach the time control on move 40. My opponent had more than forty minutes. Nonetheless, I managed to pull him into an exciting blunderfest.
 Hilton (2185) - Enkbhat (2434)
White to Move

23.f4!? exf4?
23...Nd4! would have killed me. If I take on d4, he takes back with the e-pawn with nearly a winning advantage. 24.Qc3 Rea8 25.fxe5?? Na4 wins the queen.]
Forcing the position I want.
 24...Nd4 25.Nxd4 cxd4 26.Rxf4
Now White perhaps has a slight advantage! Enkbhat maneuvers to hold his b5 pawn.
I had planned to meet tricks such as 26...Nd5 carefully: 27.Rf5 Nc3 28.Nb1
 27.e5 Bd7 28.Qb4 Rxa3 29.Qxd4 Na4?
29...Nc8 was necessary, but even here White's chances are preferable.

Position after 29...Na4

Winning the exchange.
30...Ra2 31.Bd5 Be6 32.Bxa2 Bxa2 33.Nc3??
With a full four minutes to reach the time control, I return the favor. This is truly a terrible move! Black now is almost winning.
 33...Rd8 34.Nxa2 Rxd4 35.Rxd4 Qb7+ 36.Ree4! h6 37.Kg1 Nc5 38.Re2 Qf3?
38...Ne6! would allow Black the coordination he needs to penetrate the kingside and win.
 39.Nc1 Nb3 40.Rf4 Qh5

Position after 40...Qh5

Enkbhat had missed this simple defense.
41...Nxc1 42.Rxc1 Qxe5 and the game was soon drawn. ½–½

For now it appears I’m holding my own, but check back later in the week to see whether I can keep it up! It’s seven minutes to Round 2, and I’m singing off.

Be sure to check Chess Life Online throughout the weekend with more updates from Foxwoods, and reports from Michael Aigner, "f-pawn" on the Far West Open in Reno (March 21-23.)