Photo Jennifer Shahade
by IM Josh Friedel
So as of the end of my previous report, I was on a bit of a hot streak. Though the US Championship was a disaster, I had two fairly decent results at both Chicago and National Opens, and felt my play was getting increasingly better and cleaner. Because of this I was feeling pretty good going into World Open. It would be an especially strong tournament this year, due to the inclusion of the U2400 section. To me this was quite a positive thing, as it meant my field would be stronger, and also increase my chances for a norm. This year the tourney wasn't in Downtown Philadelphia, but in King of Prussia, some place in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a huge shopping mall. It reminded me of Oklahoma, only with different accents. It was not one of the worst places to play, but not one of the better ones either.
On to the chess. I beat two masters to start with. My first round win over William Aramil was a relatively smooth crush, but my second round vs. floored master Stanley Fink was abysmal. I played ridiculously at the start of the middlegame, miscalculated badly, and was lucky my position held together at all. Then a dead drawn ending resulted, where I outplayed him until I got reasonable winning chances, though it was still a draw until the very end where he just collapsed. Not a pleasing performance. After the game he wouldn't even shake my hand, only saying, "you were so fortunate " The next round I lost to Julio Becerra. I tried an experiment in the opening. Well, let's just say if it were a chemical experiment, I would have to find a new apartment. Then next round I lost an almost unloseable opposite bishop ending to GM Borki Predojevic of Yugoslavia.
If 1...Bxa5 2.Bd3 Kf6 (2...e4 3.Bxe4 fxe4 4.Ke3=) 3.Kf3=
2.a6! Bb6 3.Kd2 Kd6 4.Ke2 Ke5 5.Kd2 f4 6.Ke2 f3+ 7.Kd2 e3+ 8.Ke1 Kd4 9.Kd1 and White draws, as the white king can follow black's to prevent it from escorting his pawns, with the bishop stuck defending against the a-pawn.
Position after 3.Bf1?
The losing move. a6 still drew.
3...Bxa5 4.Bg2 Bb6+ 5.Ke2 Kg5
So my bishop is in front, but I can't force the f-pawn to advance, and my bishop simply runs out of space. This is what I missed when I first traded into the ending.
6.Bh3 Bc5 7.Bg2 Kg4 8.Bf1
8.Kf1 Kg3 9.Bh1 Kh2 10.Bg2 Bb6+
Payback for round two, I suppose. The ironic part is that I composed a similar ending in the shower!
The Shower Problem
1.Ke4? Ba5 2.d5 Bc7=
Once the bishop gets in front, the white king can never support the d6 advance as its stuck defending the e-pawn.
1...Kd8 2.Kc4 Bb2 (2...Ba5 3.d5+-) 3.Kd3 Ke7 4.Ke4 Ba3 5.d5+-
3.Kd3 Bb2 4.Ke4 Ba3 5.d5
Position after d5
The bishop on the side won't do, as it can't attack the e-pawn and stop the d6 advance at the same time. Once the pawn advances to d6, the win is trivial.
5...Bc5 6.Kd3 Bb4 7.Kc4 Ba3 8.Kb5+-
Next I played two top youngsters, Ray Robson and Marc Arnold. I drew Ray as black in a Lopez, and I beat Marc in a Najdorf. What was interesting to me was to see the contrasts between them. Both are friendly and short, but otherwise they are complete opposites. Ray is 100% focused, at the board almost the whole time, while Marc is up almost constantly. Ray calculates a lot, whereas Marc seems to rely more on intuition. It will be interesting to see where both of them end up. Then next round I beat Alaskan Bryan Smith in a tricky Archangel, giving me hope that perhaps I could finish strongly despite a somewhat rocky start. It was looking very good against English GM David Howell. I got a crushing position against his Open Ruy, and was up over an hour on the clock. I played one innocent-looking move that turned out to not only give up the win, but also make me worse! I was lucky, as without his time trouble I might have lost. Then in the last round, I lost badly to Alex Ivanov in a Berlin. While I'd like to blame the opening, really a couple bad miscalculations were the culprit.
Josh Friedel, second from left, with friends and competitors at the World Open.
So that was World Open. Not a complete disaster, but nowhere near what I'd have liked. However, I got a chance to try to redeem myself a few days later at the 2nd Konig Memorial. It spanned from the 9th of July to the 26th, and there were ten rounds. The tournament ran as "Scheveningen" style, in which two teams of five players play each of the other team's players twice. The GMs were in one group, while five local IMs played in the other, making this an ideal norm opportunity.
My schedule was one game on the 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 19th, two games on the 24th and 25th, and one game on the 26th. I started out disappointingly, getting 1.5/4 (3 draws and a loss to Fed) against GMs Baburin and Fedorowicz. Other than my loss to Fed, where I blundered, I didn't feel like I played so badly, I just never managed to get much of anything. In fact, I probably would have lost to Baburin in my game with black if not for his time trouble. Time played a major factor, as expected with a control of 40/75, with only 15 minutes added in sudden death. I think most everyone played quite a bit faster than they would have liked. In any case, a norm for me seemed quite unlikely after that start, but I was determined.
I crushed Ekaterina Atalik in a Lopez, getting my first win finally. Then I held the highest player in the event, her husband Suat, with the black pieces. It was a long game, and I was probably losing at some point, but eventually I managed to get a fortress with R, B, and 3 vs. Q and 3. Then that night I had white against Yermo. I played terribly in the opening, and soon found myself worse. I defended well, and got into a drawish ending, but then he grabbed a pawn he shouldn't have. His thieving rook got imprisoned on h4, and by the time it got out I had one my pawn back and my pieces were too good. Not my favorite way to win a chess game, but a win is a win. So I was on +1, which meant I'd need 2.5/3 for the norm. A tall task against the Ataliks and Yermo, but I wasn't entirely without hope.
My first challenge was Black against Mrs. Atalik. While I felt quite good in my previous game against her, she seemed to be quite a bit better with the white pieces, and just the look she gave me before the game freaked me out. She meant business. It started out well, as I achieved a comfortable opening position. However, then I spotted her body language perk up. I was confused, as my position still seemed good, but then I saw what got her going. There was a trick in one of the variations I had calculated. At first I was going to sidestep it, but then for some reason I still can't recall, I decided to allow it! I soon found myself down two pawns, my king stripped of defenses, and I lost in short order. I still have no clue what made me play into it, as I had at least a couple alternatives, which would have given me a pleasant game. One of my DOY moments I guess.
That night I drew Yermo as black. I was a bit worse in an isolated pawn position, but nothing really came of it, and eventually he decided he had enough. Normally I'm sure he'd play it a bit longer, but he looked tired, and after the game he remarked that he didn't want to repeat his "previous performance."
So I was out of the norm. However, the next day was the last round, and I was determined to make the most of it. Suat had a plus record against everyone in the tournament except me, and had no losses. I hoped to give him that loss, or at the very least put some pressure on him with the white pieces.
The opening seemed promising. In yet another Lopez, I felt like I had some pressure, and got to play one of neatest looking moves I've played in awhile. I put a knight on g5, he attacked it with h6, and I then played it to h7 where it wasn't defended and was attacked by his knight and king!
Position after 25.Nh7!
No, I don't do drugs; I won back the pieces by tactical means. However, my pressure got diffused, and then after a few careless moves it was he who was better in a rook ending. There were mistakes from both sides which I detail below, but unfortunately I made the last one, and he was able to win. Overall it was a fascinating and instructive game, and I still have yet to figure out the whole thing. Suat finished with 8/10 and no losses.
Position after 59....Kc7
60.Rg6 Ra1 61.Kf3 draws according to tablebase.
60...Ra1 61.Kxg5 Rg1+/+
61.Rf7+ Kb6 62.Rf6+ Kc7 63.Rf7+ Kd6 64.Rf6+ Kc5 65.Kxg5 Ra1 66.Rf2?
Position after 66.Rf2
I was trying to approach the pawn, but this is the wrong strategy. 66.Kg4 a5 67.Rf5+ Kd4 68.Kg3 a4 69.Kg2 a3 70.Rf3 is a book draw. I check the king if it approaches the pawn, and if it advances I put the rook behind it.
66...a5 67.Kg4 a4 68.Rf5+ Kd4 69.Kg3
Now I try it, but its too late.
70.Rf3 a2 71.Ra3 Rg1+/+
71...Ke4 72.Rf4+ Ke5+
Position after 71...Ke2
72.Rb3! (or Rc3) 72...a2 (72...Rg1+ 73.Kh2 a2 74.Rb2+=) 73.Rb2+ Ke3 74.Rg2! (the move I missed) draws. I check my king if it approaches the pawn, and otherwise he can't his rook out.
Now I should draw.
74.Kh3 Ke2 75.Kg3
75.Kg2 also draws.
76...Ke3 77.Rf3+ Ke4 78.Rf4+ Ke5 79.Ra4 Kd5 80.Ra8 Kc4 81.Kf2 Kb3 82.Rb8+ Ka2 83.Ke2 Rb1 84.Ra8 Rb3 85.Rd8 Kb2 86.Rd2+ Kc3 87.Rd3+ Kc4 88.Rd8 a2
Final position after 88...a2. If 89.Ra8 Rb2+ (89...Rh3! may be even cleaner.) Ke3 Kc3 and White cannot prevent Black's king from coming to b1.
Not the cleanest rook ending ever. However, when both players are low on the clock, its difficult to play such positions perfectly. 0-1
My next tournament is the New England Masters, which is held outside Boston, and starts this Monday. I've found that I've been making way too many oversights lately, so I'm drilling myself with calculation exercises and even basic tactics. It was hard for me to believe that was really a problem, as they used to be my key strengths. Don't get me wrong, I can still calculate a nice variation or two, but my consistency just isn't there. Anyway, be sure to catch my next report to find out what happened at NE Masters, what my future tournaments/training will consist of, and if I've composed any more problems while showering.