Bartell & Rosen on Chicago Norm-Hunting
By Sevan Muradian   
June 2, 2013
Tom Bartell & Eric Rosen
The 29th North American Masters, sponsored by Artmill ( finished in the early evening on a cold and wet Saturday this past June 2. Two players emerged with IM norms and a share for first place in the event- FM Tom Bartell, who has completed all of his requirements and only the formality of the title application remains, and FM Eric Rosen, who scored his second IM norm (the first at the World Youth Championships in Brazil).

The 29th edition of this tournament series was held at the North Shore Chess Center in Skokie, IL with Kenneth Ballou (FA/NTD) as the Chief Arbiter. Even Ken earned a norm towards his International Arbiter title!

The event participants included: IM Vitaly Neimer (ISR) of Webster University, IM Florin Felecan (USA), IM Angelo Young (USA), WIM Viktoria Ni (USA), FM Tom Bartell (USA), FM Eric Rosen (USA), FM Kostya Kavutskiy (USA), FM Awonder Liang (USA), FM Gauri Shankar (IND), and NM Adithya Balasubramian (IND).

See a win by both co-champs below and find the full pgn and further information on the official website.



After the event was completed, the winners talked about the event and future aspirations.

How much impact to your personal life did this event have? What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to play this event?
ER: I didn't sleep well or as much. I had a nightmare the night prior to game with Awonder, where I was in a winning endgame but couldn't find how to win it. I really didn't have to make sacrifices for the event since I just finished school and live close by.

TB: I miss my wife and kid. There is the financial burden of the travel and lodging costs. But it's a small price to pay for getting a norm opportunity.

Why is the IM title important to you?
ER: I'm not really thinking about the IM title as I'm taking one step at a time. It does give you some perks like free entries to tournaments and invitations :) There is the prestige with the title as well.
TB:  At the most basic level it's a marker of an achievement.

What were your thoughts regarding how the event was organized? Do you find this format better suited for norm seeking vs open events? Why or why not?
ER: The conditions were great, quiet, comfortable. I prefer closed round robin events because you know all of the qualifications have been met for foreign players and titled players so you only have to focus on the game itself.
TB: I enjoyed the conditions, especially the Kit Kats :) Spacious playing room, the organizer kept refreshments and snacks on hand. Chicago is far from where I live in PA but it's where the event was. I don't prefer round robins for norms. The event types are total opposites. There is very little room for error in a closed event. An early loss creates many must win situations in future rounds. In a swiss if I meet up with a couple of GM's, draws are sufficient to keep your average rating up and hopes of the norm. There is the risk of not meeting foreign players though in a swiss. The players here were all out for blood since they are all competing for the norms. And it seemed like the IM's were playing harder than usual to be norm spoilers :)

You had an early loss which made the road ahead to your norm more challenging. How did that loss affect you psychologically and what did you do to push ahead? What changes to your tournament strategy did you make?
ER: It seems that every first round I lose the game in the most recent events so I just had to take one game at a time. It was a wake up call for me to do more calculation and not as much to focus on the norm itself. I told myself that I would not lose any more games. My loss against Florin was a hard one. He's a tough nut to crack and unless he takes risks he's hard to beat--I may have just pushed too much trying to get more than I should have out of the game.

TB: What happens, happens. I get the norm, I get it. If I don't, there's always another tournament. I thought I was winning in my loss against Eric but got into time pressure. Stuff happens.

When did you learn how to play chess and who taught you?
ER: Just before I turned eight. My older brother Alex taught me how to play while we were on vacation in the Bahamas. 

TB: 6 years old.

What are you future chess goals?
ER: Get the IM title. One of my dreams is to be able to play in the US Championships.

TB: Just play more chess and have fun. I have a life (wife and child) so chess goals take a back seat. If it happens, it happens.

Do you plan on making a career out of chess?
ER: No. It's a nice side job / supplemental income but no desire to make it my full occupation.

TB: No.

What advice would you give for people wanting to get better at chess?
ER: Have fun and enjoy the game. If you're enjoying the game you'll do better. Play online because you can use it to hone skills.

TB: Study your own games. Tactics and endgames. Amateur players focus on the openings so much they forget the fundamentals of tactics and endgames. Study the games of the great players - Fischer, Tal, Kasparov, etc.

What were your thoughts going in to the final round?
ER: I've never been this nervous in my life before a round. I tried not to think about it and play chess only. I had a lot of down time between round 8 and 9 so too much time to dwell on things. Once I got to the board I was able to block everything out and get into my zone.

TB: I thought my chances of getting a norm weren't that great playing black against a solid IM. I had no preconceived notions of what was going to happen but I said one of us will not survive the round, a draw gives me nothing. While playing for the win is what was necessary, it obviously increases your chances of losing also. No risk, no reward.


Additionally we interviewed former Under-8 World Champion, FM Awonder Liang. This event was his first closed norm tournament.

Awonder Liang at the Chicago Open, Photo Betsy Dynako
This was your first event. What were your thoughts and feelings?
AL: I learned a lot about my own game - my weaknesses, areas to improve, especially time management and deeper tactical calculation. Loss after loss gets hard on you but I tried to treat each game separately. Even going into the final round I made Eric earn his win. He was a great and resourceful player. I still have a lot to learn. What I did over the board was more important to me than the score of the game itself. 

What did you do to prepare for the event?

AL: Honestly nothing. I just played in another tournament which was an open swiss, but because of school commitments prior to the events I didn't have time to prepare. A mistake on my part really because the level of competition was so intense here.

What sacrifices did you make to be able to play here?

AL: I sacrificed a lot of school days and rating points :) But seriously I missed my family a lot. I'm used to my brother being around and goofing off with him between rounds but this was too serious of an event to goof around at.

What are you chess goals?
AL: To become World Champion (again!). 

Any closing comments?
AL: I'm grateful for the opportunity that was provided to me to play here. I know I was the lowest seed by a couple of hundred rating points. I hope that I'll get more invitations to events like there. When I first started playing my brother and I played at the North Shore Chess Center a lot. Now I'm hoping to play here a lot again but in norm tournaments :)

A write-up on the Skokie Patch news site by Wisconsin player Chris Wainscott can also be found here.

And so this closes another edition of the North American Masters series. This tournament series has produced IM and GM norms for multiple players across the country such as Ben Finegold, Pascal Charbonneau, Marc Arnold, Mac Molner, Florin Felecan, Mehmed Pasalic, Alisa Melekhina, and a host of others. Some like Arnold, Felecan, and Pasalic completed all three norms at this tournament series.

The North Shore Chess Center is located at 5500 W Touhy Ave Suite A Skokie, IL 60077 and hosts a variety of events such as GM lectures, weekly tournaments, and private/group lessons. Visit us at for more information.