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Dreams and Local Heroes at the Southern Rocky FIDE Open Print E-mail
By Chad Schneider   
March 2, 2011
 It was Sunday morning and I was setting up featured boards 1-4 in the open section, I heard a child no older than 10 say to his mother, “Wow, do I get to play on these boards?” The mother told her son that those boards are where the grandmasters are playing. “Cool, I want to be grandmaster some day so I can play on these boards.” She proceeded to tell him that he'd have to work really hard to become grandmaster. “That’s ok. I love chess,” he replied as they walked together out of the hall. This subtle moment helped me realize that at least in a small way I had achieved my goal for the Southern Rocky FIDE Open: to bring a high quality event to players in my community who might not have otherwise experienced it. It started as a “dream event” for an organizer of small club tournaments and it turned into a dream for at least one local hero. 

Most dreams are built off of memories and this explains most components of the Southern Rocky. We brought in our favorite memories from other tournaments including, hand carved boards and demo boards to showcase the elite players from a tournament such as National Open, a prize fund constructed similar to the Philadelphia Open, two days of separate scholastic tournaments similar to many tournaments in Arizona, and the local hospitality I felt when I attended the Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, SD. These were just a few of my favorite low-cost components from large chess festivals in America and were to be duplicated in the dream tournament the Wired Kings Chess Club brought to New Mexico.
The level of talent, however, in a high quality chess event cannot be duplicated and does not come without cost; this, I estimated would be the hardest obstacle to overcome. The easiest way to attract GM-caliber talent would be to generate $10,000 for first prize; however, finding necessary sponsorship money in depleted economy was probably impossible. In addition, if I were to charge $200 for entry fees, it would make participation impossible for some players I hoped to introduce to the experience. Instead, I personally contacted grandmasters on the Internet Chess Club and at the National Open with proposals that packaged revenue-generating bundles such simultaneous exhibitions, meet and great events, and private lessons. I was also able to find enough sponsor money to safely offer a solid guaranteed prize fund; $1,000 went to first place. My offer was sufficient to attract GM Melikset Khachiyan and GM Mikheil Kekelidze, both proved to be excellent players, true chess professionals, and excellent pieces to advertise a high quality chess event. 
GM Melikset Khachiyan playing “A” player Sam Dooley in one of his last simul games of the night. The two GMs combined for a 31-0 record in their individual simuls.

The advertising for this tournament didn’t start as most tournaments through chess life or local publications; while these media were ultimately used, the Southern Rocky started over a year before the tournament with the most modern and inexpensive means possible, a facebook event page and a tournament website. Over 500 were invited through facebook, invitees were given the option of selecting “attending,” “maybe attending,” or “not attending.” As the tournament approached, I sent personal messages to many of the 200 players who showed any interest with their selection of “attending” and “maybe attending,” offering any help necessary for their travel plans. Of the players to accept my assistance was current World Junior Champion IM Steven Zierk.

New Mexico High school champion and Denker Rep John Flores facing off against IM Steven Zierk

I arranged housing and activities to pay for IM Zierk’s flight to Albuquerque. Many others were also helped with a broad range of questions from where to stay, and if norms would be available, all the way to the type of food that would be served at the grandmaster breakfast event. I notified potential players of noteworthy players who would be in attendance and reminded them of upcoming early entry deadlines. Perhaps the most exciting news was that the tournament acquired sponsorship from BBVA Compass and Industrial Technologies, LLC to purchase 100 boards and sets for use at the tournament. After use at the tournament, these board and set combos were donated to schools and clubs in the region that could not otherwise afford them. Through this and other correspondence, the tournament was able to give the boards to several schools and clubs in Albuquerque, NM; Lubbock, TX; Colorado Springs, CO, and Gateway, CO. I found the chess boards to be a triple win: the players were able to experience the first class feel of having boards in place, the sponsors were able to reach out with durable advertising, and new chess equipment went to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have them. 

I also used facebook to contact Sr. Tournament Director Damian Nash to join as the chief tournament director on an accomplished staff that included Sr. TD Arthur Glassman and local TDs Scott Kerns and David Poston. This tournament staff was able to run the tournament professionally while maintaining a local feel with an occasional pre-round joke and a constant attention to player needs. The tournament bulletins also listed a number of local volunteers who helped with setup, transportation, and demonstration boards; however, it could not capture the incredible number of locals that offered help for services ranging from housing players to setting up boards in the morning, even to pick up food for the directors in the afternoon. The tournament had gone from a distant dream of a few to a delivered reality that many New Mexico players helped with and were genuinely excited about. 

For only a brief moment did I fear that the dream would turn into a bit of a nightmare when I realized that we had two rounds remaining with five undefeated players remaining including GM Khachiyan, GM Kekelidze, IM Zierk, IM Istvan Sipos, and NM Lior Lapid from Las Cruces, NM. It was possible from this point to complete the tournament with two perfect scores. This possibility is an unfortunate circumstance possible in many American Swiss events and one I hope to remedy at our tournament in future years with an additional round. Thankfully, the penultimate round prevented this result in 2011 as GM Kelelidze and IM Zierk fought hard and drew while IM Sipos managed an upset win over top-seeded GM Khachiyan, NM Lapid was able to secure a full point versus a lower rated player that had 2.5/3 at the time. 



These results left IM Sipos and NM Lapid as the only undefeated players heading into the final round of the tournament. Prior to the tournament, I would not have imagined that any player from New Mexico would have a realistic shot at winning in the end. I have respect for the local players; however, at a tournament that has multiple GMs, IMs, and NMs from 4 countries and 10 states, it seemed unfathomable at this stage. This was additionally surprising considering that it was less than one week ago that I convinced NM Lapid (rated 2223) to even play in the tournament. He had stated that he had not touched a chess board or studied chess in over three months. Despite pre-tournament odds stacked against him, he was on the final board in the final round. 

The two masters on first board battled through unforgiving time pressure with at least 50 players in the audience watching move after move on the demo board; although, I am sure there is 500 watching as Lior dreams it. The crowd inside and outside of the playing area seemed to be cheering for the untitled local player the same way you’d cheer for your neighbor if Evander Holyfield were fighting him in your backyard. The champion is well liked and you are excited to have him over; you appreciate his greatness, but your neighbor in some way reflects yourself and the story of his success would become local legend. As the players battled on, whispers were heard outside of the tournament halls typically in the nature of, “Have you been watching Lior’s game?”

Someone would usually reply in a somber voice, “Yeah, I’m not sure, but I think he’s lost.” 

 “Yeah, dead lost,” or “He’s in real bad shape,” were often offered in agreement.
NM Lior Lapid (left) and IM Istvan Sipos (right)


Little did they know, we were now all spectators in Lior Lapid’s dream world and here is his annotation of his game: 


The winner of this last-round game would win the tournament, and considering that my opponent is an IM and considerably higher rated, I was a little nervous but somehow much less nervous than I expected to be.  I knew the pressure was on him since I was expected to lose.  I told myself that if I played him ten times he would win nine of them, but I just hoped that this one time would be the exception.  As it turned out, luck was on my side.
1.e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 d5 8. exd5 O-O
This caught me by surprise.  I briefly considered 9.dxc6, but didn't want to lose too much time thinking about it.  I figured if an IM offers a pawn in the opening, it's probably better for my health to give him the benefit of the doubt.
9. O-O cxd5 10. Bg5 c6 11. Ne2
A sideline, maybe not best but I've used it before with some success.  The knight feels well placed on d4, where it can pressure the c6 pawn and jump to the f5-square if need be. 11. Qf3 is the main line. 11. Na4 {is also more common and has been used by current Wijk aan Zee champion Nakamura against Karjakin and Gelfand.
11... Bd6 12.Nd4
Here Sipos thought for a very long time. He was probably considering ...c5 when I was intending 13. Nc6, though in analysis I discovered that Black is doing well here too. (13. Nb5 Be7 14. c4 is a better alternative for White, which the computer evaluates as roughly equal.) 13...Qc7 14. Bxf6 Qxc6 (14... gxf6 15. Qh5 f5 at which point I planned to just take a draw by perpetual 16. Qg5+ Kh8 17. Qf6+ Kg8 18. Qg5+ Kh8 19. Qf6+) 15.Qh5 h6 White's pieces look menacing but Black's central control with the c5 and d5 pawns give him the more comfortable game.  White has no breakthrough on the kingside.
12... Bd7 13. Qf3 Be5 14. c3 Qc7 15. h3 Rab8 16. Rab1 Rfe8

Black is making natural moves and White is just having to respond.  I was already feeling outplayed, right out of the opening.
17. Rfe1 Ne4
This move may not be the best objectively, but over the board it's very hard to find the equalizing line for White.  I thought it over for around 20 minutes but could not come up with a good defense.
18. Bxe4
18. Be3 c5 19. Nf5 Rb6 and White's position is highly unpleasant
18... dxe4 19.Qh5
a mistake.  I wasn't happy about my position at all, but it was very hard to figure out what to do here. immediately after the game Chad Schneider told me I could have just taken the e4-pawn with my rook here, but all I remembered was that during the game I had thought this loses the exchange.  As it turns out 19. Rxe4 c5 20. Rxe5 salvages White.  I had glanced at this but didn't see that after Rxe5 White has 21. Qg3 , which not only gets out of trouble but renders some advantage cxd4 22. cxd4 Re1+ 23. Rxe1 Qxg3 24. fxg3 Rxb2 25. Re7 Rb7 26. d5and Black must
fight for the draw.
19... c5 20. Nb3 Bb5 21. Rbd1 Bd3

Black's pieces are dominating and White finds it difficult to even breathe.
22. Bc1
not fun but I knew the b3-knight would be kicked out and couldn't afford to lose my b2-pawn.
22..g6 23. Qh6 f5 24. h4
not really with aggressive intentions, but my position was so cramped that it felt great to move one measly pawn forward, if only one square.  Sipos was creeping towards time pressure and I was hoping to give him some nonsense to think about.
24...a5 25. Qe3 Rbc8
in fact 25... a4 is even stronger, as White cannot respond 26. Nxc5 due to f4
26. f4 Bd6 27. Qf2 a4 28. Na1
I felt like I was on a sinking boat and that I was instinctively trying to stay on board as long as possible, which wouldn't really help, it only meant I would sink a little bit later . Sipos outplayed me the entire game and my only hope was that he would play imprecisely now that he had less than 20 minutes remaining on his clock.  But I knew I needed miracle to avoid losing, especially with the thirty-second increment.
28...Qf7 29.a3 Rb8 30. Re3 Bf8 31. Rh3
hoping to stir up some "counterplay" with h4-h5 immediately or later, but it's not as if my pieces are in any position to take advantage.  Just to be safe,  Sipos shuts that door immediately.
31...h5 32. Nc2 Qb3 33. Ne3 Kh7 34. Rh1

Both players are regrouping.  Black's advantage remains but it's questionable whether he has made any progress.
34...Rb7 35. Kh2 Reb8 36. Rhe1 Bg7 37. Nf1
The position is not fun for White, to put it mildly, but I was starting to have a glimmer of hope.  I noticed that Black hadn't really improved his position in the last fifteen moves; in fact my pieces seemed slightly better coordinated than before. My opponent clearly had the better game with his two bishops, better pawn structure, and huge space advantage, but I figured if he had found a winning plan I probably would have lost by now.  Throughout this torture I knew that the worst thing for me would be to try to force counterplay in desperado mode, so I was just digging my heels in and forcing him to prove that Black could somehow break through.  

At this point Sipos had only four and a half minutes left and I made my best move of the game: I offered a draw.  I hoped it was not perceived as disrespectful -- of course we both knew Black's position is better and that he is the stronger player, but still I thought the offer might tempt him due to the significant time trouble he was experiencing.  If he accepted, good, I was co-champion.  And if he declined, at least there would be increased pressure on him to prove in front of the crowd that he had found a concrete way to win.

Sipos declined the draw but only after pondering it for three full minutes. Now his time trouble was a critical factor in what transpired.
37...Qd5 38. Ne3 Qc6 39. Nf1 Rb3 40. Nd2
Here I decided to give Black something to think about, whether to go for the exchange on b2 through which he'd lose a rook for bishop and two pawns.  I knew that things looked bleak in that line as well, but at least it unbalanced the position in such a way that I could dream of activating my rooks someday.  I also thought that given his time trouble, complicating the position in any way would be to my advantage. 40...Rxb2
Sipos played this move almost instantaneously, and his intuition was spot on.  White's game is as lost as ever.
41. Bxb2 Rxb2 42. Rc1 Qd5 43. Red1
but now, finally, a big mistake, and it proves costly.  Chess is a cruel game; one can outplay his opponent for over forty moves, and yet a single bad move changes everything. 43... Ra2 and it's only a matter of time before White's position falls apart completely.
44. Nxe4 Qxe4 45. Rd2 Bxc3 46. Rdxc2
I generously return the favor. 46. Rd7+ Kh8 (46... Bg7 47. Re1) 47. Qg3 and somehow Black's king is not laughing anymore. Bd3 48. Rxc3 Bf1 49. Qf3 Qxf3 50. Rxf3 Bxg2 51. Rfd3 White should win.
46... Bd4 47. Qf3 Qxf3 48.gxf3 Rb3 49. Kg3 Rxa3 50. Re2

Neither of us had very much time but decent moves were easy to find, at least for White.  I knew I just had to activate my rooks behind the enemy pawns and pressure Black's exposed King as much as possible.
Perhaps because he was in the driver's seat for so long, Black is not playing with the necessary sense of urgency.  Perhaps he hopes to bring the king into the game, but this backfires. 50... Rb3 is better, e.g. 51. Re7+ Kh6 52. Rce1 a3 53. Rf7 Be3 54. Rd1 Bd4 with a draw.
51. Re7 Ra2 52. Rc4 Kf8 53. Ra7 a3 54. Rca4
I felt like a caged animal that, after years of suffering, was finally released back into the wild.  After making this move it struck me for the first time that I might actually win the game.
54...Bf2+ 55. Kh3 Re2 56. Rxa3 Re8 57. Rc7 Re7 58. Rc6 Kf7 59. Raa6

Black's kingside pawns collapse and his position is no longer tenable.
59..Bd4 60. Rxg6 Re3 61. Kg3 Re1 62. Rgc6 Rg1+ 63. Kh2 Re1 64. Rh6 Re2+ 65. Kg3 c4 66. Rxh5 c3 67. Rxf5+ Kg7 68.Rg5+ Kh7 69. Rd5 Bg7 70. Rc6 Re7 71. Rdc5 Bd4 72. Rc4 Bg7 73. Rc7 Re3 74. R4c5 Kh6 75. R5c6+ Kh7 76. h5 Kh8 77. h6 Bd4 78. Rd7
A very lucky escape.  Caissa was smiling on me throughout the tournament. 1-0
Chad Schneider, NM Lior Lapid, Sr. TD Damian Nash (Left to Right) at the final check presentation.
NM Lapid provided to the Southern Rocky FIDE Open the storybook ending that cannot be organized or planned, even in a dream tournament. At the beginning, it was supposed to be a dream event but I never had imagined that in the end we would all be spectators in someone else’s dream. Who knows, maybe in a couple years, the Southern Rocky will have that 10 year old boy on first board in the final round surrounded by adoring spectators. Perhaps someday he will even be the featured grandmaster; and yes, when he’s there, he’ll be playing on a wooden board.


Open: 1st – NM Lior Lapid (5/5), 2nd Tied – GM Mikheil Kekelidze & IM Steven Zierk (4.5/5); U2400: 1st NM Alfonso Rascon Vega (4/5); U2200: Benjamin Coraretti (4/5); U2000: 
NM Alfonso Rascon Vega (Chihuahua, MEX) 
Reserve: 1st Tied - Leroy Quintana & Jim Johnston (4.5/5) 
Back: Leroy Quintana and Julian Trujillo, Front: Jim Johnston and Dean Brown (left to right). 
Booster: 1st Tied – Gabriel Maestas, Arthur Byers, Harsh Bhundiya, & Mario Diaz (4/5)
Blitz Tournament: 1st – IM Steven Zierk, 2nd – GM Melikset Khachiyan 
John Flores & tournament blitz champion IM Steven Zierk (left to right).
Saturday Scholastic: 1st Tied – Dillon Tidmore, Erik Cisma, Ian Lawrence Aarons (4/5)
Sunday Scholastic: 1st – Dillon Tidmore

Additional winners and tournament information is available at www.SouthernRockyOpen.com & www.WiredKingsCC.comsee the USCF rated results on MSA. 

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April - Chess Life Online 2011

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