Josh Blogs From Brazil
By GM Josh Friedel   
July 30, 2009
GM Josh Friedel , Photo Betsy Dynako
“It’s São Paulo, not Sao Paolo, you nasalize the ã cause the little tilde over it,” my roommate Vinay Bhat tried to explain to me.  Vinay seems to know a lot of Portuguese for someone who claims not to speak it.  He estimates his vocab to be at about ten words, I’d say closer to 300.  The highlight of the trip thus far has been watching him speak in Spanish to natives and have them speak back in Portuguese.  It seems like they are having a conversation, though in reality neither of them have a clue what the other is talking about.  Perhaps I should now give you a clue to what I’m talking about.

I’m currently in São Paulo, Brazil, participating in the Continental Championships.  The top six finishers in this 11-round Swiss will earn a spot into the World Cup scheduled for November.  Other than Vinay and myself, GMs Jaan Ehlvest, Alex Shabalov, Sergey Kudrin, Alex Ivanov, and FM Gregory Markzon made the trip down from the states.  Six rounds have been played thus far (see round six results here ), with GMs Gilberto Milos and Ruben Felgaer leading the pack with 5.5/6.  Shabalov and Ehlvest are part of the chasing pack of 5s, and I’m half a point back along with Kudrin.  With 11 rounds, however, anything can happen in the last bunch of rounds, so it is still anyone’s tournament.

My event has been pretty expected thus far.  I beat two lower-rateds in the first couple of rounds without too much of a sweat.  In Round three I drew as black against a 2360 in 20 moves. 

Round three was a fiasco.  Vinay and I came back from dinner a little after six to find Jaan in the lobby, just standing around.  He was joking with us that he heard somewhere the round was at six instead of the scheduled seven, and we had a good laugh.  It wasn’t so funny soon enough.  At 6:40 we got a call, I guess from an arbiter, saying that the round had started 40 minutes ago.  We quickly grabbed our things and headed across the street.  It seemed most players had arrived on time, except for the Americans, most of whom seemed to be late as well.

This seemed a bit odd to me, but at the time I had no choice but to play my game.  My play was a bit sloppy, and I was still quite a ways behind on the clock when my opponent offered me a draw on move 20, so I happily took it.  Vinay also drew fairly quickly, Shabba seemed to blow a better position, and Ehlvest lost.  The next day we checked it out, and it turns out only the English version of the schedule was wrong, the others all said six.  Up until then, the organization hadn’t been too bad, except for the first round starting two hours late.  This was pretty terrible though, at least in my view.  That they could not discover the oversight earlier is mind-blowing, but even if they didn’t, the least they could have done was give us the time back.  45 minutes is a lot of time when you only have an hour and a half to play the first time control, and this is a huge mistake in such an important tournament.

 I recovered the next day by winning a nice game as White against GM Gildardo Garcia.

I’ve played Gildardo many times, as he’s lived in the US for several years.  In fact, he was the first GM I beat, though since then I’ve had some trouble.  It was nice to finally get another win.  The next round didn’t go so well, however.

I lost as Black against GM Gilberto Milos, who has been one of the top Brazilian players for many years. 

He knew the opening better than I did, and I soon found myself in a worse position.  Then I missed the strong move 17. Qb3, and after that I’m practically lost.  I played on awhile, managed to even get a bit of counterplay, but my activity couldn’t make up for the two pawns I was down in the ending so I threw in the towel.

 This put a bit of a damper on my plans to qualify, but I certainly wasn’t out.  The next day I won a completely insane game against a 2350 Peruvian FM.

First he sacked one exchange, and just when I thought things would get semi-normal, he sacked another!  I felt my position should be good, but practically it was very difficult to play.  I haven’t analyzed it in detail, but I thought I played it reasonably.  35. g4! I was particularly proud of, as it looks completely insane, but is the best way I found to win.  Today I’m paired as Black against a Brazilian 2400, and if I can get another win I’ll be right up there again.  In round five and six, Ehlvest and Shabalov both won the following games.

They each have a shot at the lead if they can win again in round seven.

I’m sure Jenn can provide you with links to the standings , pairings, and live games , though I must warn you that the live relay is rather erratic (and the live game link seems to change every round, so go to this page and look for the "Siga Aqui" link at the top of the page ).  Anyway, hopefully the tournament will end on a positive note, but whether it does or not look for my detailed report after the tournament.

See GM Josh Friedel's official website.