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Todd on Vegas Chess Blues Print E-mail
By FM Todd Andrews   
January 4, 2008
FM Todd Andrews.
“On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.”
        -Willie Nelson

    Nash Vegas to Las Vegas – that was my route this time around. A stubbornness inside of me, that most surely came from my mother, kept me from listening to the words of reason all around that said “fly out to Vegas, you are crazy to drive!”  I left Nashville on Christmas morning and rolled into Sin City in the wee hours of December 27th.
 My first stop was at an oasis near the Oklahoma-Texas border, where I stayed in a room that I was clearly overcharged for. If you are interested in knowing what kind of shape this room was in, then you should know the charge for the room was $30 a night. The next morning, the first beast I encountered was Mother Nature. The most foreign element in my life has always been snow and my hometown literally shut downs entirely when snow hits. Sometimes the mere threat of snow would clear every grocery store shelf and close schools for days. 

 If there is one reward that I reaped for my efforts, it was all the scenery I sucked in. There really is not much more out west than scenery. But it’s difficult to see when the sun sets and it was once the sun set that the next beast reared its ugly head. Fitting the script perfectly for some sort of zombie flick, my car slowly started to lose power and I was forced to drift off on to Ortega road. At nearly 6,000 Feet and with a foot of snow already on the ground, the only form of communication I had with the outside world was the one A.M. radio station that I was receiving. Fortunately there were a few angels around and within 4-5 hours, I was back on the road to Vegas, just a couple hundred dollars lighter. It actually only takes two roads to get from Nashville to Nevada and before too long I came to the final one and made my way to Bally’s for the 2007 North American Open. (Click here for an earlier CLO report. )

I had very fond teenage memories of this event. I tied for first in the u/2000 section when I was a young teenager and when I was a little bit older I remember a very entertaining trip with my old friends Charles Gelman, Jennie Frenklakh and Jennifer Shahade. If I was going to make this time around a fond memory, then something big was needed in the tournament. 13 Grandmasters had already entered the 3-day and 2-day schedules and five of them were ranked within the top 10 players in the country. I suppose everything happens for a reason and the delay caused by the aforementioned mishaps forced me into the 5-games-in-a-day schedule (a.k.a. the 2-day schedule). I grew quite optimistic when I read on the 2-day wall chart that I was ranked second by only 2-points. (FM) David Lucky weighed in a 2361 and I was only a few points behind him. It was this nice sacrifice over Mr. Lucky that bolted me to 3.5 points out of the first possible 4.0.
In this position, White has a destructive sacrifice that blasts open the white king.

Position after 18...h5

Show Solution

 This solid score put me onto the stage against the countries number two ranked player and eventual tournament winner (GM) Hikaru Nakamura. Hikaru beat me in 2001 when he became the one of the youngest US Junior Champions in Tulsa and drew me at the Chicago Open a few years back when he was already somewhere around 2650.
Nakamura, here pictured playing Josh Friedel, tied for first with David Pruess in the North American Open. Photo Chris Bird.

I didn’t feel nervous, but I enjoyed the privilege to be on the stage facing one of the best players in the nation and the world. I simply did not understand the resulting middle-game as well as Hikaru and, of course, he out-calculated me in the end. GMs Shabalov and Palatnik informed that allowing this e6-d6 pawn structure was a dream for black. White needed to push d4-d5 earlier in the game to deny the chances that Hikaru got. 


GM Julio Becerra. Photo Chris Bird

I was fortunate enough to receive a second GM game in the following round. In my opinion, GM Julio Becerra is one of the strongest players in the country with the white pieces. In the following game, he used a very Fischer-like restriction on both sides of the board against my favorite French Defense. 


This was basically the end of my tournament. I blundered in the final round with a complete win in hand. There was not a whole lot left of me after the punches I endured from the two Grandmasters. So was it worth it? I drove nearly 2000 miles across the country to match wits with two of the best players in the country. I spent a big chunk of cash on travel, hotels and entry to do battle with one of America’s most promising prospects to become world champ one day. On the trip home, I endured one of the worst cases of the flu I have ever had. It hit me somewhere right around New Mexico on the way back. So this sort of torture that I put myself through…was it really all worth it? Of course! No where near the South do I get a chance to challenge myself against these sort of beasts. I can’t wait for the next chance to do it again.

One comment struck me in Vegas. My good friend NM Craig Jones of North Carolina stated that nearly everyone in the tournament hall a reasonable chance of winning a prize besides those rated 2300-2400. I guess you could say I am biased-I am rated 2376- but I do agree with him. Would I rather be winning thousands of dollars or doing battle with Nakamura? That is a really tough call. But it does sting to work so hard and shell out so much of my own cash to fight off GM monsters, while 1300’s cash nine-thousand dollar checks.
Congratulations to all the big winners in Vegas, especially Hikaru and David Pruess who prevailed in the Open Section. Big-ups to Timmy Cooper for representing the Nashville Chess Center well by tying for 2nd in the u/1700! Check out the complete final standings at the official website , and the previous CLO article on the event.

“Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world be turnin' our way
And our way
Is on the road again”