American battles blindfolded Bulgarian
By Macauley Peterson   
May 8, 2008
Jason Juett and Veselin Topalov, both deep in thought.
Photo Macauley Peterson

Sofia, Bulgaria, Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Jason Juett, of Marion, Iowa, scored a draw against former FIDE champion and
world No. 4, Veselin Topalov, on Tuesday, in an exhibition game to kick off the 2008 M-Tel Masters tournament. Juett faced a blindfolded Topalov at the Central Military Club, in downtown Sofia, and managed to steer the game into a fairly equal minor piece ending. Topalov offered a draw after both players had under one minute remaining on their clocks, with no increment.


After the game, Topalov praised Juett's play, saying, "he never made any big mistakes," and called the draw "a normal result.


Juett earned his all-expenses-paid trip to Bulgaria by winning an annual guess-the-move contest called "Play Like Topalov," during last year's M-Tel Masters tournament. He correctly guessed some 250 of Topalov's moves throughout the 2007 tournament, besting the second place finisher by a wide margin. "I could probably have not played the last day and still have won," explained Juett, a PhD student in mathematics at the University of Iowa, who woke up before 7:00 AM each day to participate in the contest. His grand prize trip is his first time traveling solo outside the state of Iowa, and his first time in continental Europe.

"It's amazing. Even the day before I left it hadn't really sunk in that I was going to Bulgaria. It was something, when if finally hit me -- what I was doing," he mused.

Juett, a Class-A player, prepared slightly for 1...e5 or 1...c6, but not at all for the Pirc Defense, one of Topalov's weapons Juett hoped to avoid. "I tried to transpose to the King's Indian Defense, because I knew a little bit about this unusual system with Nge2 and I thought that maybe it would take him some more time in blindfold," Juett said, adding, "I didn't get to do as much preparation as I'd wanted to."

Juett regularly follows international tournament coverage on the Internet Chess Club, where he goes by the name "
NimzoCapa," but he only began playing the game himself during his undergraduate studies at Iowa State University.

"I'm really happy...I was just really hoping I could last longer than last year's guy. I thought I'd have to play on all the way until mate to make it past move thirty, but I was pretty determined."

Macauley Peterson is a media developer and foreign correspondent for the
ICC. He is currently in Sofia covering the M-Tel Masters tournament for Chess.FM and may be reached at