2015 Marchand Open: Kamsky to Apples
By Josh Rofrano   
March 23, 2015
Reigning US Chess Champ GM Gata Kamsky
The Marchand Open took place from March 14-15 in Rochester NY at the Strong Museum of Play. There were a few upsets, and a couple of notable draws. Other than that, it was a normal tournament. In the open section we had three GM's competing. Once again current US champion and, more importantly, NY State champion Gata Kamsky competed. The three GM's drew their games which led to a six-person bottleneck for first place.

The Marchand is unique because each year there are different GM's who enter. It's always exciting looking at the preregistration list to see who might be playing. It was great to have the three GM's show up. We were all grateful they made the trip north to our little slice of the tundra.

There were a few locals that sat out this year including; FM Ben Dean-Kawamura, Matt Parry and Steve Dygert. Once again the Aaron family made the trip from Albany. Deepak scored four points and shared first place.

I played some good games; and put up the best performance I've ever had in the Marchand. The Marchand serves as a jumping off point for my yearly tournaments. I took a different approach to the tournament this year. I actually bothered to sit down and study in the weeks leading up to the tournament. I made a concerted effort to focus on my chess. I had to cancel a lot of plans with friends so I could study. I stopped the daily three-minute ICC blitz binges and focused on playing rapid games.

Recently, my chess has been abysmal; and I wanted that to change. I hit the books harder than I've ever done before and it paid off. I can point to one game that I let slip away and a couple of oversights. Other than that, I was generally in control in almost every game.

In addition to the studying that I did, I also came prepared with my apples. Apples? Yes, apples.  They are becoming a dietary staple for me in big tournaments. Apples are a good source of natural sugars. As a person who doesn't drink coffee or tea they help give me a bit of a boost in the early morning rounds. I ate one apple 10-15 minutes before the start of each round.

In the first round I encountered a player that I've played a couple times before. He made a few passive moves in the opening. I smashed through his king side and won a nice miniature:


Mechanically stopping the threat of f5; but the treatment is worse than the illness. [17... Ne7] 18. d5! ed5 19. ed5 Rfe8 20. Qf2! An important moment; white needs to maintain control over the g1-a7 diagonal as well as be able to play on the a1-g8 diagonal. 20... Nb4 21. Qd4 Kh6?? I too didn't believe he could survive after Kg8 but the computer finds: [21... Kg8 22. d6 Rc4 23. Qc4] 22. Rf3 1-0

A nice way to start the tournament. We finished early and I was able to try a local bakery that I hadn't tried before. I had a Cuban sandwich for the first time... it turns out I don't like Cuban sandwiches. I then went home watched something on netflix and relaxed. This is the major benefit of having "home court advantage."  

To my delight I saw that my pairing for the next round was with the one and only GM Gata Kamsky. Merely playing in the same tournament as Gata is a treat. I recall last year when I heard he was coming I was ecstatic. The whole town was excited, there were even articles in the local paper. People were talking; and generally saying good things!

When I started playing tournament chess, I thought that a good goal would be 1700. I recall thinking that if I could make it to 1700 then I would be someone in the chess world. Imagine my surprise when I crossed that threshold into the land of 1800 and again at 1900. My latest success came after crossing the 2100 mark; a goal I worked at for the last two or three years.

To sit down and play just one game with Gata Kamsky; I mean, unreal. In the last moment before the round started I heard the unthinkable. There was a mistake; they had to change the pairings. Thanks to Caissa, my pairing wasn't affected. Our game was interesting; after move 14 I was sure I was busted. I was obstinate; and decided to press on. With my position in shambles; I sacrificed a pawn to enter a double rook endgame. This provided little relief and I was completely outplayed:


37th Marchand Open
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.f4 Nc6 7.Bb5!?


An unusual move
7...Qc7!? 8.0-0 a6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Kh1 Be7!?

This move is ok; but in retrospect I prefer 10...d5!?.
Highly annoying, and frankly not something I considered. I expected Be3 or something.
Here I was worried about Which I felt was unpleasant for Black.  [11...Nd5!? 12.Ne4!? 0-0 13.c4!?] 12.exd6 Bxd6?!
After the game Gata mentioned that he felt that black was okay after just and c5 on the next move [12...Qxd6!]
13.Ne4! Be7


So we've taken 3 moves to play the Bishop to e7; things are not going well.
14.f5! Nf6 15.Nxf6+ Bxf6 16.fxe6 Bxe6 17.Nxe6 fxe6
And my pawns are in shambles.
18.Qh5+ Qf7 19.Qc5 Qb7 20.Bg5 Qb5

I saw the game continuation until move 24 and felt that the pawn sacrifice would be my best chance to fight for a draw in the double rook ending. I saw Qxb2 but instinctively felt I wouldn't survive the onslaught (which the computer confirms).
21.Qxb5 axb5 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Rxf6 Ke7 24.Rh6 c5!?


After the game when analyzing the ending with some friends we found that was likely a better choice. The text attempts to hold the pawn via Ra6, Rc6 but it just creates more weaknesses.  [24...Raf8] 25.a3 Rad8!? 26.Re1 Rd6 27.h3 Kf7!?
28.Re5 Rc6?!

Too passive.  [28...Rd1+ 29.Kh2 Rd2±]
29.Rhh5 b4 30.a4! c4 31.Rb5 Kg6?
31...c3 32.Rxb4 cxb2 33.Rxb2±
32.Rh4 b3?
The wrong pawn! 32...c3!±
33.cxb3 cxb3 34.Rxb3 Rc1+ 35.Kh2 Ra1?! 36.Rf4 Kg5 37.Rbf3 Rb8 38.Rg4+ Kh5 39.b3 Rb1 40.Re3 R1xb3 41.Re5+ Kh6 42.Rxe6+ Kh5 43.Rg7?!


Good enough for me to resign. The computer finds the finesse: 1-0
43.Rf4!! R3b5 44.axb5 Rxb5

The next round was quite frustrating for me. My opponent played a line I believe is dubious and I obtained a better position. It was this opening that allowed me to win the tournament in Syracuse in the last round. Needless to say my confidence couldn't have been higher. Unfortunately, I misplayed the position and allowed him to sacrifice a piece. I panicked. After consecutive dubious moves he obtained a dangerous position. I offered a draw in an unclear position which he accepted.

After the third round I was quite annoyed with myself and began to doubt my own play. The next day I pulled myself together long enough to turn in a nice miniature in a line I know nothing about. It's amusing because in the opening I felt my opponent played some strong moves. I was wondering where I went wrong and began to worry. Unbeknownst to me, this is all theory. During the game I thought the position looked familiar but I couldn't place it. The game isn't much to look at unfortunately. My opponent sacrificed a pawn which I refuted and he just crumbled.

The fifth round was the ultimate test for me. You can find that game on my website.

Winning this game allowed me to share a nominal prize with everyone in my section. In addition to those games, I have some games from a couple of local players.

Local expert Abraham Glasser got a bit of a "raw" deal as he had to play not one, but two GM's in the same tournament. He was kind enough to annotate his game versus GM Kudrin:

Kudrin - Glasser:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 a6 6.Nd6+ Bxd6 7.Qxd6 Qf6

I play this defense as black often. I used it against GM Gata Kamsky in last year's Marchand, and I believe Kamsky played Qd1, so I was expecting Kudrin to move Qd3 or Qd1, and I would be comfortable playing this.

A surprise! But a good one?
8...Nge7 9.Nc3 d6 10.Be3

I'm very sure that Kudrin has won my d-pawn, as he can castle queenside, or simply move Rd1, and if I defend with Rd8, he can play Bb6 and put me into a bad position (worse than my current one, that is)
10...O-O 11.O-O-O Nd4 12.Bc4 b5 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5 Rb8 15.Qd3 Be6 16.Bxd4 Bxd5

I decided to keep my d pawn there, thinking I could save it, and make it a harder game for him to play.
17.exd5 exd4 18.Qxd4 Qg6

After this, I didn't think very much when I made my moves, I basically gave up, but I kept on trying to attack and defend against his.
19.g3 Rbc8 20.Qd3 Qf6 21.f4 Rc5 22.Rhe1 a5 23.Rd2 a4


Around here, I had maybe a hour and twenty minutes left, whereas Kudrin had less than a hour left
24.a3 g6 25.Re4 Rfc8 26.Kb1 Rc4 27.Rde2 Kg7 28.c3 Qf5
Continuing to make it difficult for him to get his easy win. Here he struggled for a while, and I started thinking that maybe I could draw this.
29.Kc2 R4c5 30.Rd4 Qf6 31.Rb4 Qf5


Here I thought about trading queens so that if it opened up, my rooks would have good places to attack.
32.Qxf5 gxf5 33.Rd4 Kf6 34.Re3 Rc4 35.Red3 Re8 36.Kd2 Rc5 37.Re3 Rec8

Here I quietly offered a draw, because I saw he was really struggling to win, and his time was dwindling, and it was easy for me to continue holding...
He declined by bringing us back to this position, but before this move, he thought for a while (~10 minutes) and repetitively made expressions of disappointment and exasperation.
38...Re8 39.Rb4 h5 40.h4 Ra8 41.Ke2 Re8+ 42.Kf2 Rec8 43.Rdd4
After this move of his, I realized "oh no," he can play c4, I hadn't thought about that before. If he gets his a and b pawns to be passed, I'm done.
43...Ra8 44.Kf3 Ra5 45.Ke3 Ke7 46.c4 bxc4 47.Rdxc4 Rxc4 48.Rxc4 Rb5 49.Rb4


Here, I had to calculate about 10 moves ahead, and I thought I saw the position where I could win, or draw with us both having queens. I was happier and more nervous at the same time.
49...Rxb4 50.axb4 Kd7 51.Kd3 Kc7 52.Kc3 Kb6 53.Kc4 Ka6 54.b5+ Ka5 55.b6 Kxb6 56.Kb4 f6 57.Kxa4 Kc5 58.b4+ Kxd5 59.b5

Deepak Aaron also shared his last round game against an expert who played well in this tournament. I recall watching the expression on horror on Gata Kamsky's face as white exchanged rooks and allowed yet another player in to the prize pool:

Bessey - Aaron:

1.c4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3

Decided not to play take on c4 like I normally do. Personally I'm not a fan of most of the positions that would follow
4...e6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Be7 7.Bd3 h6 8.Bh4 b6 9.O-O

Was thinking of doing something crazy and castling queen side to get something tactical which would be to my liking. Unfortunately the exact opposite occurred...
9...Bb7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Nxd5 Bxh4 12.Nxh4 cxd5 13.Nf3 O-O 14.Rc1 Rc8 15.Qd2 Qe7 16.Rxc8 Rxc8 17.Rc1 Rxc1+ 18.Qxc1 Qd6

The last thing I wanted to see when I needed a win, and all he really needed was a draw.
19.Qc3 f6 20.Bb5 Nb8
More peices are better, more to work with, not to mention that bishop is terrible.
21.Nh4 a6 22.Ba4 b5 23.Bc2 Nc6 24.Qd3 f5 25.a3 Na5 26.Qc3
26.g4 This move worried me at first but Qe7 is a solid response. 26...Qe7 27.Ng2 Nc4 28.gxf5 Nxb2 29.f6 Qxf6 30.Qh7+.
26...Nc4 27.Ng6

I completely missed the idea of Ng6-e5 and then either trading off the knight or getting his to c5. If the knight gets to c5 I knew it was over and there was no way I was going to win this.
27...a5 28.Ne5 b4 29.Nxc4 Qa6

Took me a lot longer than it should have but I found the winning idea. Using the backrank weakness I found a way to break through the position simultaneously activating the bishop.
30.Qd2 dxc4 31.h3 Qc6
31...c3 32.bxc3 bxa3 33.Bb3 I saw the Bxg2 idea but thought that he got enough counterplay with Qa2. This would have been a much better way to proceed though.
32.f3 c3 33.bxc3 bxc3 34.Qc1 Qc4 35.Kf2 Ba6 36.Qd1 Qa2 37.a4 Bc4 38.Kg3

Now that he's somewhat paralyzed I thought I could slowly improve my position till something good happened.
38...Qb2 39.Kh2 Kf8 40.e4 fxe4 41.fxe4 Ke7 42.d5


Not sure why I didn't take on d5 and put my king on d6. For some reason I thought I needed my queen on the center of the board but this led to many problems.
42...Qb8+ 43.Kg1 Qb6+ 44.Kh2 exd5 45.exd5 Qd6+ 46.Kh1 Qe5 47.d6+ Kd7 48.Qg1 Kxd6 49.Qb6+ Ke7 50.Qb7+ Kf6 51.Qf3+ Ke7 52.Qb7+ Kd8 53.Qb6+ Kc8 54.Qc6+ Qc7

Originally I thought if Bf5+ I could go to b8 but then he can win a pawn by force so I have to go to d8. Turns out Qa8+ would have given him the draw he needed.
I think this move surprised me as it surprised him. After that it was essentially over.
55...Kxc7 56.Kg1 Kd6 57.Kf2 Kc5 58.Ke3 Kb4 59.Kd4 Bb3 60.Kd3 Bxc2+ 61.Kxc2 Kc4 62.g3 g6 63.h4 h5


Josh Rofrano is the 2014 central New York State champion and self-appointed "mayor" of Syracuse. He is also the senior garruler and prefix enthusiast at the blog lifezugzwang.com. On his free time he can be found foraging for honeycrisp apples at area Wegmans.
Find more thoughts by Josh on the tournament on his blog: http://lifezugzwang.com/recap-of-the-37th-marchand-open/