Photo Jennifer Shahade
by FM Todd Andrews
Ah, yes the World Open…it is our country’s largest chess festival, gathering, tournament, circus. When I was a teenager I fondly recall the eager anticipation that crept up on me as the tournament approached and the Fourth of July holiday did the same. Back then I was struck with the chess "fever" and it would take something exceptionally special for me to miss the World Open or any event for that matter. As I got older, this fever gradually tapered off, but you could always feel it tingly just a little bit in the back of your neck. Then, 2007 came.
An opportunity for me to give back to chess came when I took over adult operations at the Nashville Chess Center in January. With this came a new type of chess community in my area with some great club members driving themselves crazy to improve at chess. I suppose this triggered something inside of me and I was once again bit with the fever.
The chance to make a significant earning was also laid before my eyes as I read that for the first time in my existence as a player, the rarest of birds was being offered in Pennsylvania - an under 2400 section. Amateur players (those rated under 2200) have always had the opportunity to compete against players of relatively equal strength for tens of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, national masters, life masters, IMs and FMs have had to dig deep down in the trenches to scratch and claw their way into a decent prize against the world’s elite grandmasters. There is kind of a see-saw action in most open sections with a 2300 beating someone below, losing to a GM, beating somebody below and so on. This year stringing together a series of victories was quite feasible. With this level playing field, the regular, ole’ masters seemed to be putting together better games too, rather than some FIDE top 100 smashing you because you haven’t kept up with the newest informant. So for the last six months, I trained long and hard in with some of my fellow Nashville NMs. We all had big dreams of coming to King of Prussia, PA and walking away big winners.
Members of the Nashville Chess Center: Back - Charles Mcmillan, Jerry Wheeler, Frank Ashmun, Todd Andrews, John Bick, Front - Bin Li, James Wu and Tim Cooper
The realization of my dream can be best described as a bumpy roller coaster ride. The kind that clink-clink-clink their way slowly up at first, catch a little speed, get faster and faster – then send you plummeting to your death as the track has not yet been completed. I started off like a ragged mule with only a half point from the first two games (0.5/2.0), but then I was able to string a couple of nice victories together and even with a plus score I took up the option of re-entering.
Typically in a Continental Chess event, participants in the open section aren’t even given the chance to re-enter. One of my good chess buddies despises re-entries and claims that you are now just an unfair zombie walking amongst the living. I disagree. I enjoy the re-entries for the opportunity to play more and more games and get sharpened up. So I re-entered into the insanity known as the 3-Day schedule. This schedule requires you to play five games at a forty-five minute time control per player. It will make your head hurt for sure. I came out of this about the same as my 7-Day schedule. With only three points out of five, I had to turn on the jets or my dream was out the window early. So that’s just what I did, putting together three nice victories in a row. In round six, I played the Danish teenager, Martin Hansen:
I won against the talented US Junior invitee Corey Acor in round seven. But I saved my best for the second to last. In round eight, I played Miles “the Chess Doc” Ardaman, who I am quite familiar with as a fellow southern chess master.
The Final Round
William Morrison and Ilya Figler led with 6.5/8 going into the final round. They took a quick draw, giving me (and several other players including my opponent Zlotnikov), a chance to share in the big money.
William Morrison tied for first in the U2400 section. Check out a full story on his accomplishment on the chessdrum, which includes an interview from the scene.
Unfortunately, my jet went down in flames. My first blunder of this game was 13...Qe7? Luckily, Zlotnikov did not see the crushing 14.Be5, allowing me back into the game. My second blunder was 17..Bxg2?? Instead, 17...Nxg2! was necessary. A sample variation is 17.... Nxg2 18. Bxg2 Bxg2 19. O-O-O! Rxe5 (Bxh1? Ng4! wins) 20. Bxe5 Qe5 and now White has to choose between Rh2, Rhg1 and Rhe1 all of which seem promising. Still, Black is fighting and there is no clear path to victory for White.
Inside of my head and my heart I was ten stories high and suddenly I just fell out of a window. Everything came crashing down and I grew numb, as I had just blown a game that was worth about six grand.
It took about 30-minutes of sitting in the pouring, Pennsylvania rain (which seemed like an eternity) for me to gather myself enough to show my face back inside. It was sitting there in the rain that I realized that it wasn’t really that bad. I got close and I came up short, but I played some really interesting games, learned a lot and made a lot of nice friends. It was sitting there that I figured out that chess wasn’t about dollar signs or victories to me anymore. It was about creativity, socializing and the gaining of knowledge. Of course, this realization is still not enough to stop the stinging still present as I put this blog together. I walk away from the 2007 World Open happy that I got to participate in this great section and play so many strong opponents. But like John Lennon said “the dream is over.” Congratulations to those whose dreams were realized.
The co-winners of the U2400 section with 7/9 each were: Mikhail Zlotnikov, Anton Paolo Del Mundo, William Morrison, Tegshsuren Enkhbat and Ilya Figler.