Roaming the Halls in Indiana
By Macauley Peterson   
August 7, 2009
IM Ben Finegold in Indiana, Photo
When I met perennial IM Ben Finegold fifteen years ago at the U.S. Open in Chicago, I didn't realize, at first, how young he was. Ben's son Spencer was just a tyke, running around in need of constant supervision from his teenage step-sister.

While Spencer was hanging out at the pool, Ben was busy winning the tournament. He started with 8 out of 9, and then drew several of the leaders to coast into a six-way tie for 1st.

That was the 95th U.S. Open in 1994. In the 110th edition here in Indianapolis, little Spencer is now eighteen, bearded, rated 1760 and playing in the tournament, along side his father, and grandfather! Jonathan Hilton and Alex Yermolinsky are leading the Traditional schedule, but the 2600-rated Finegold is hanging around  the top score group in the six-day schedule. No surprise there, but get that guy a GM title people!

Heading into the final weekend, the U.S. Open side events have nearly run their course. Wednesday saw the G/15 tournament, smoothly won by GM-elect Alex Lenderman, who conceded just one draw to GM Larry Kaufman.

Kaufman was the last to finish the fifth and final round, after getting into miserable clock straights against expert Alexander Balkum. Kaufman had the better end of the rook and pawn ending, but with just nine seconds left to Balkum's minute, he had very few chances, even with the tournament's three second delay. Kaufman's nine seconds quickly turned into one, but rather than offer a draw, which might have been accepted, he continued another several moves playing solely on the delay, until finally flagging.

"Oh [expletive]!" Kaufman seethed, understandably exasperated after Balkum called "time." But rather than shake hands and lick his wounds he observed that Balkum neglected to stop the clock, and his time now read 00:00 as well. The fact that Kaufman had flagged while Balkum still had five seconds had been clearly witnessed by a crowd of spectators including the Tournament Director. But the grandmaster wondered if perhaps the game would be ruled a draw under WBCA (World Blitz Chess Association) rules.

FIDE Arbiter Walter Brown quickly put the kibosh on that appeal, giving Balkum the win, and clear second place behind Lenderman.

Shortly thereafter, the first grandmaster simul of the week began with Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, who took on seventeen players. Unlike Kosteniuk's Supernationals exhibition, this field was comprised almost entirely of adults, with a few experts including Denker Champ Abby Marshall and me.

Abby Marshall in her game against Alexandra Kosteniuk, Photo

Kosteniuk still managed to win all but three. Marshall scored a draw, as did Chuck Unruh of Oklahoma, and Pete Stringer from Indianapolis (by way of London), who's recently come back to chess after a long absence.

Abby's game is in her blog, along with reflections on the Denker. I played rather feebly, but here's a fragment:

Macauley Peterson vs. Alexandra Kosteniuk, Photo

Kosteniuk, Alexandra- Macauley Peterson

I had been pretending to have some counter chances with my passed a-pawn, but in this position, with the e6 breakthrough hanging in the air, 40. Qb7 Rc7 41.Qb6 and I'm forced to trade queens, and so resigned, in light of the hopeless ending that would result. E.g.: Qxb6 42. Rxb6 Bh6 43. Rf6 a5 44. Kf2 (with a7 guarded, the a-pawn is not dangerous, so White just marches her king up.) a4 45. Kf3 a3 46. Kg4 Bf8 47. Ra6 Be7 48. Ra8 and e6 will soon be decisive. 1-0

Today, U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura, fresh from his Chess960 win in Mainz last week, plays a simul of his own, before jetting off to Japan for an open, and then to the NH Tournament in Amsterdam just a few days later! (And I thought my jet-lag was bad!)

That reminds me of a joke, told late last night, by a certain jovial international master (who may-or-may-not have been mentioned above). Hikaru's recent string of successes makes the joke all the more appropriate:

Emmanuel Lasker, Bobby Fischer, and Hikaru Nakamura are at the gates of Heaven.

God asks Lasker, "why should I let you in?"
Lasker says, "I was the world champion for 27 years."
God deliberates. "No, sorry, not good enough, you go to Hell."

Fischer steps up. "Why should YOU be allowed in," says God.
"Well," Fischer replies, "I single handedly defeated the Soviet Union."
"Nyah," God says, "you go to Hell too."

Then God turns to Nakamura. "So, Hikaru, why do you deserve to be in Heaven?"
Nakamura says, "screw Heaven, you're in my chair!"

Macauley Peterson is a journalist and media specialist for the Internet Chess Club, and edits the Chess.FM blog. You can find his cover story on the U.S. Championship -- "Hikaru!" -- in the August issue of Chess Life Magazine.