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Kudrin Takes Far West Open; Youngsters Shine Print E-mail
By Michael Aigner   
April 22, 2009
GM Sergey Kudrin Photo Jennifer Shahade 2006
I must confess that when I first saw the calendar for 2009, I cringed at the page for April.  How dare the organizers schedule SuperNationals IV on the very weekend before the two traditional Easter tournaments!  Just the mere thought spending four days locked up in an aquarium with 5000 fish ranging from piranhas with international titles to minnows in the kindergarten section should be enough to exhaust even the most dedicated chess nuts.  How is it that hundreds of the very same players, parents and coaches could possibly play at major events in Connecticut and Nevada just three or four days after returning home from Tennessee? 

Speaking only for myself, it was quite an inspiration to see so many young people who enjoyed the game of kings.  Even those kids who lost game after game seemed to have fun.  After analyzing dozens of chess games, some spectacular and others downright ugly, I had only one regret: I didn't actually play a single game all weekend!  While physically tired from the long trip, I was looking forward to the opportunity to push my own pawns.

This enthusiasm to push wood attracted 180 players and their families to Reno for the 9th annual Far West Open.  A number of participants come back twice every year, playing both in the spring and fall tournaments.  The friendliness of the organizers Jerry and Fran Weikel plus the relaxed atmosphere each year at the Sands Regency hotel no doubt makes people want to return.  What other tournaments offer free coffee, punch and cake before every round?  Of course, many of the players also eagerly anticipated collecting a share of the $17,280 prize fund paid out in cold hard cash on Sunday night. 

The Open section (players rated above 2000) saw 54 players compete for the biggest prizes, including four Grandmasters, seven International Masters and one WIM.  Each tournament, Jerry Weikel personally introduces each of the titled players before one of the rounds, a tradition that proves to be adventuresome considering the tongue twister of names from the Philippines, Mongolia, Armenia, Hungary and Russia.  While the majority of participants are well-known to west coast chess fans, a few flew across the Rocky Mountains: notably Grandmasters Sergey Kudrin and Dmitry Gurevich plus International Master Gergely Antal.

Most important, it was a real pleasure to watch fighting chess all weekend.  Almost every round, all five of the games on the stage would drag out at least three hours, with several extending well into the second time control.  While a draw is an acceptable result for a hard-fought game of chess, the spectators appreciate the effort that the players put into a six-hour long 60-move endgame.  Top seeds Grandmasters Kudrin and Melik Khachiyan set a great example for everyone else, playing into the third time control (40/120, 20/60, G/30) a combined four times. 

The head-to-head encounter between titans Kudrin and Khachiyan was an instant classic.  In a topical line of the Caro Kann, white uncorked an exchange sacrifice on move 19, improving on a game between GMs Ye Jiangchuan and Garcia Palermo.   The unbalanced endgame saw Kudrin press an advantage throughout, eventually promoting both his h- and g-pawns to queens. 


In another contest that thrilled the peanut gallery, IM Enrico Sevillano calmly repelled the French Wing Gambit essayed by IM Odondoo Ganbold.  Black accepted the pawn sacrifice and then untangled his pieces, taking care to avoid creating unnecessary weaknesses.  In the end, black's two bishops proved too powerful for white's two knights.  At least one scholastic coach will use this game as study material prior to the CalChess Scholastics next week, a tournament where similar gambit openings are always popular.


The final round saw co-leaders Sevillano and Kudrin play the tournament's only short draw in order to clinch their shares of first place.  With a chance to join them, young IM Gergely Antal made up for the lack of fighting spirit by sacrificing two minor pieces against IM Ricardo DeGuzman.  With his opponent's king running away, the Hungarian master studying at Texas Tech University simply transposed into an easily won endgame.


Gergely Antal and organizer Jerry Weikel
In the end, three players tied for first place at the 9th Far West Open.  A G/10 playoff on Sunday night determined the title of champion and an extra $100.  In the first round, Sevillano knocked out Antal while Kudrin, who had the best tiebreak score, watched patiently.  Then Kudrin defeated Sevillano in the second round.  Therefore, Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin of Connecticut became the official champion of Reno!

Far West Open Winners

Open: GM Sergey Kudrin, IM Enrico Sevillano and IM Gergely Antal
Top U2400: IM Ricardo DeGuzman and FM Daniel Naroditsky
Top U2300: Romulo Fuentes
Top U2200: Alexander Balkum, David Adelberg, Dana Mackenzie and Alan Naroditsky
Class A: Arthur Liou
Class B: Michael Jones
Class C: Benjamin Tong
Class D: Stephen Mixsell
Top Unr: Alan Khazan
Top Senior: Glenn Wood
Top Club Teams: Mechanics' Institute #1 and #3
Winner of Thursday blitz: Yian Liou

Click here for USCF rating report.

Of the four players who shared the U2200 honors in the Open section with a score of 3.5 out of 6, one name stood out for me: chess blogger Dana Mackenzie.  As a former (and future) master, he takes pride in analyzing his games in great depth, sharing his conclusions with readers on his chess blog.  In round 2, Mackenzie found this combination against IM Vladimir Mezentsev with two minutes left on his clock.

After 35.Rf1

35... Qxf1+ At first, this move looks like a desperado, but there's actually more behind it. 36. Kxf1 Rxc1+ 37. Ke2? Better was Kf2, stepping out of a future pin.  Now white's queen, needing to defend the bishop on c2, runs out of squares.  Click on this link for more analysis.  37... Bg8! 38. Qd3?? As is often the case, it is the second blunder that throws away everything.  Black had to accept a draw by repetition after 38. Qg6 Bf7 39. Qh7 Bg8. 38... Bc4 0-1

My games in Reno were not that great.  As a player who hates draws, you can imagine the torture that I endured after four draws in five rounds, all to lower rated opponents.  I was a bit weary from the trip to SuperNationals, but more significantly, the 12+ hours of play on Friday took its toll.  While I will not become younger, the rise of scholastic chess means that the competition is younger every year.

Looking around the playing hall, I realized that, although I just turn 35 in a few weeks, I am already one of the veteran players at most tournaments.  Amazingly, five players in the Open section were under the age of 13, including one 8 year old!  Former World U12 champion FM Daniel Naroditsky, all of 13 years himself, can consider himself experienced compared to some of the competition.  If that's not enough, there was a 7-year old playing in the A section!

Troffarticle.jpgThese kids do not just play in the Open section for the experience; they actually come to win games!  David Adelberg (ranked #2 for age 12 in country), Yian Liou (#4 age 11) and Luke Harmon-Velloti (#2 age 10) have already proven their ability to beat masters.  Newcomers Kayden Troff (officially #10 age 10, but moving up to top 3 soon) and Samuel Sevian (#1 age 8) took full advantage of their opportunities in Reno, both scoring 2.0 versus opponents rated over 2000.  The maturity demonstrated in following games clearly proves that the youth movement in west coast chess is not just child's play!



Samuel Sevian

Luke Harmon-Vellottiin a photo from a previous CLO article on his training routine.

The next Reno tournament will be the 27th Western States Open held on October 23-25.

April - Chess Life Online 2009

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