Gareev on Winning in Vegas: Bring a Blindfold
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
December 31, 2012
TimurGoich.jpgLas Vegas – if you ask GM Timur Gareev what helped him go undefeated at the North American Open held here in the final days of 2012, he’ll give you some of the standard answers about the importance of eating healthy food and getting a fair amount of rest.

But there’s one thing he’ll recommend that’s not as easy as simply going to the fruit stand or closing the blinds to get some shuteye.

Rather, Gareev believes that participating in one of his favorite pastimes – blindfold simultaneous exhibitions -- is what gave him a distinctly competitive edge.

 “Try blindfold exhibition matches and see how you can handle one game,” Gareev said in reference to the blindfold simul he played recently in Hawaii against 27 players. “It’s much easier.”

So much easier that Gareev felt relaxed throughout the grueling nine-round tournament, held here in Sin City from Dec. 26-30 at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

 “When you play relaxed you do much better,” Gareev told Chess Life Online.

Gareev took clear first by scoring 8 out of 9 points. A combination of seven wins and two draws enabled the Uzbekistan-born GM to pocket $9,540 – including a $282 bonus for winning clear first place.

Here is the Round 9 game in which Gareev checkmated GM Giorgi Kacheishvili with a Queen-sac followed immediately by a promotion to a checking Queen.


The game was not flawless, Gareev said, and included at least one mistake.

 “I suspect it’s Bc4, which looks very natural” Gareev said.

The North American Open drew 633 players, including some from the other side of the world.

Among those who came from the other hemisphere was Orumah Oghenero Estella, of Abuja, Nigeria, who told Chess Life Online she came strictly to compete in the North American Open.

 “It’s very long, but it’s worth it,” Estella, who competed in the U1700 section, said of the trip. “It has exposed me to tournament experience. It’s made me meet new friends.”

Indeed, among Estella’s new friends is GM Gareev, who graciously purchased 64 chess sets for Estella to take back to Nigeria for a chess program in which Estella coaches.

Some of the boards were signed by grandmasters that competed at the North American Open.

Gareev, who purchased the boards midway through the tournament, said: “It’s nice to share and you find more joy in contribution than in doing something for yourself only. It’s good to develop yourself to have the opportunity to contribute.”

He said he planned to do more blindfold simuls throughout the world – potentially including Nigeria – to expand his chess and using his talents to help people.

 “I’ve been inspired to continue the blindfold simul adventure and bring it up to 64 boards next year,” Gareev said of his personal goal to play a 64-board simul.

Gareev said he did some modest preparation during the tournament but it didn’t really yield much.

 “What tends to happen is you prepare for one player and it doesn’t happen in the game but another game,” Gareev said in reference to a particular set of lines being played.

That stood in stark contrast to the experience of 15-year-old FM Michael H. Bodek, of New York, who utilized some of the time between when the pairings got texted to his phone and the beginning of the next round to look up specific games by his opponents.

The preparation paid off. Bodek earned his first IM norm.

Studying opponents’ games yields two types of benefits, Bodek said.

 “I think it’s just a psychological benefit, mainly,” Bodek said. “You feel a little more confident going into the game, even if your preparation was useless.”

But in one particular instance, Bodek said, the first 15 moves of the game played out exactly as Bodek had anticipated.

Others who earned norms: Yian Liou, who earned an IM norm, and IM Zhanibek Amanov, who earned a GM norm, and FM John Daniel Bryant, who earned a GM norm.

Whereas victors will often cite a game they won when recounting their success, Bryant, who defeated four GMs, credited his Round 3 loss to GM Sergey Erenburg for showing him how to win other games throughout the tournament.

 “I learned so much from that game and that’s what helped me in the rest of the tournament,” Bryant said, explaining that the game made him pursue a more practical style instead of a maximalist style.

 “I figured out how to play positions in my style and then combine that with practicality,” Bryant said.

Bryant, of Tehachapi, California, pocketed $4,704 for taking clear second place by scoring 7 out of nine points.

Here is Bryant’s win against GM Shabalov.


Here is a game between two young competitors that captured our attention during the final round. FM Jason Cao (2004) played black against Allan Beilin (2018).


Also look for a follow-up by Randy Hough on class winners at the North American Open and a future piece by GM Gareev on blindfold exhibitions. See final standings and information here.