GM Friedel on the Bay Area International
By GM Josh Friedel   
February 3, 2014
darwin_yang.jpgSeveral of the nation’s top players descended on Santa Clara, California at the start of 2014 for another international chess tournament.  Despite last year’s hiatus, the 2014 Bay Area International came back as strong as ever with its most impressive field yet.  14 GMs, 20 IMs, 12 FMs, 2 WGMs, 2 WIMs, and a WFM headlined a truly international tournament. 

This included a large Chinese delegation, led by the youngest GM ever to cross 2600 FIDE, Wei Yi.  He was one of the eventual winners of the tournament, along with GMs Anton Kovalyov, Sam Shankland, Bartlomiej Macieja, Daniel Naroditsky, and IM Darwin Yang. 

In addition to tying for first, Darwin collected his final GM norm, so he certainly got his money’s worth on this trip!  Arun Sharma organized the event as he had in the previous few editions, this time joined by Salman Azhar and Bay Area Chess. 

The tournament was a first class affair, with many players commenting how it was one of the best organized events they’d attended.  The location seems to improve each year, and this year it was held at the luxurious Hilton Hotel in Santa Clara, conveniently located 10 minutes from San Jose Airport.  Rounds started on time, sets and clocks were provided, as were numerous soft drinks and snacks.  I stayed with Arun during the tournament, as is my tradition, and every day it looked like he was packing enough stuff to ensure the local dentists would never go out of business.  Another unique feature of the tournament was the mixed doubles prize. 

Six teams (each with one man and woman) competed for $600, which was given to the team with the highest combined score.  In the end there was actually a tie, with the teams of Wei Yi/Wang Jue and Tatev Abrahamyan/Alex Ipatov sharing the spoils.  Not only does this add a fun twist to an event, but it gives men and women another excuse for yelling at each other. 

jeffery_xiong.jpgAs is typical in such a strong event, there is a lot of emphasis on title norms.  Due to the great number of international participants, the tournament qualified to be a “Super Swiss,” which means that all players have to worry about it getting the performance rating they need.  I can tell you from past experience that this is a huge load off for a norm seeker, as otherwise you can have a strong performance but still not get a norm due to not playing enough players with a foreign federation.  

In a Super Swiss, this requirement is waved, which means that no norms would be denied!  Apart from Yang, there were three other title norms achieved. 

FM Jeffrey Xiong picked up a spare IM norm, which will come in handy if he gets a flat before reaching 2400 FIDE. 

tatev_abrahamyan.jpgWGM Tatev Abrahamyan showed that her strong results in 2013 were no fluke, and achieved her final IM norm with a round to spare.  One of the visiting players from China, Ni Shiqun, snagged both an IM and WGM norm.  Hopefully this will encourage her to return to the states soon!  While these were the only norms achieved, the tournament was certainly not short of surprise performances. 

Brandon Ashe, rated just below 2200, started off with two losses, but stormed back to win four games in a row and was holding his own for most of the game against Israeli GM Michael Roiz.  Despite falling short of a norm, he did win the best game prize for his win against Damir Studen in round four.  Norms come and go, but the Ipad he won will probably last at least 6 years.  

Congrats to all the winners, and as always, a big thank you goes to the organizers, TDs, and helpers who made this event possible.  People who volunteer to be put under insane amounts of stress for little to no compensation are few and far between, and it is important to be thankful to them in the hope it will delay their return to sanity.  Enjoy some of the key tournament games!
Darwin showed some bravery this game, playing this 3. f3 system against Victor again despite having previously lost to him in it before in just 18 moves! At first I thought White didn't get much from the opening, but after the Bg4–d7 maneuver by Black Darwin got a very pleasant position. Victor blundered with 22... Ba4, although his position was already quite bad, and after that Darwin mopped it up quite easily.


After the opening, it looks like it'd be a demolition by Wei Yi. After a couple inaccuracies, however, Bryant was totally back in the game. 20... Qe7 was a horrible blunder, unfortunately, and after 21. Qc4! Black's kingside falls apart.


Kovalyov was definitely the escape artist of the tournament, and he had to use all of his skills to survive in this game. Black got a promising opening, and converted it into a strong advantage. Despite a topsy turvy time pressure phase, Giorgi maintained a decisive advantage until he allowed the shot 42. Rxe5!, after which White had just enough activity with his rook and knight to stop Black's pawns. Quite an entertaining game!


Shankland got an advantage from the opening, which transformed into an extremely pleasant ending. Macieja defended well, however, until the time pressure blunder 38... Nd4 which made his situation hopeless. Props to Sam for applying the pressure required to provoke such a blunder.


Chen tried to throw Tatev off with an odd choice of opening, but it backfired as he got an extremely unpleasant and passive position out of the opening. He was put under pressure all game, and eventually traded into a hopeless ending which he was unable to save.


It looked like White's position was solid enough, but after 21. Ba3? Black uncorked the somewhat surprising Ndxe5!! After this White's position unraveled completely, and Black won in crushing fashion. Kudos to Brandon for earning the best game prize for this effort!


Shiqun had an excellent event, and this win over Kiewra was key toward achieving her norms. Black's position was a bit worse, but after the questionable 23... Rc3, his position fell apart after White's queen penetrated to e8.


White sacrificed the c4 pawn in typical fashion, and at first it looked like he had reasonable compensation. Victor was never able to create concrete play, however, and his position fell apart once Jeffrey achieved 31... c5.

Finally, here's one of my own games, vs. GM Daniel Naroditsky. 


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Be2 d6 8.0–0 Be7 9.f4 0–0 10.Kh1 Bd7 11.Nb3 b5 12.Bf3 Rb8 
Maybe this was a slightly strange move. 12...b4 13.Ne2 e5 was also considered. 
13.g4 b4 14.Ne2 d5
14...e5 15.f5 h6 deserved consideration.
15.e5 Ne4 16.Ng3 Nxg3+ 17.hxg3
Danya thought he was much better here, while I thought Black was completely out of danger. It is likely we were both wrong.
17...f6 18.exf6 Bxf6 19.Rb1 I liked white.; 17...h6 escaped my attention completely. 18.Kg2 a5 19.Rh1 a4 20.Nd4 looks kinda dangerous.; 17...a5
18.g5 is what I expected. 18...Nc4 19.Bd4 a5÷
18...Nc4 19.Bd4 Qc7
19...f6 20.exf6 Bxf6 21.c3 bxc3 22.bxc3 I thought was about =, and is probably a bit safer than my move.

20.g5 a5 21.Rh2 a4 22.Qd3 g6 I was worried about this, but maybe it isn't so bad. 23.Kg2 axb3 24.axb3 Nxb2 25.Bxb2 Bb5 26.Qd2 Rfc8
20...f6 21.exf6 Bxf6 22.g5? 
22.Qd3 g6 23.c3 bxc3 24.bxc3 Rf7 and maybe White is a bit better here, but I thought I was holding my own.
 22...Nxb2 23.Qg1 Bxd4 24.Nxd4 Qc3!

Now Black is clearly in charge.
25.Re1 Rbe8
25...Nc4 26.Rd1 and I thought I'd have nothing better than repeating.
26.Rhe2 Na4
26...g6 27.Qd2 Qxd2 28.Rxd2 Na4 29.Rde2 Nc5

29...Nc3 30.Re5 Nb5 31.Nxe6 Rxe6 32.Rxe6 Bxe6 33.Rxe6 Nd4 34.Re3
30.Kg2 Rc8 31.Re3 a5 32.c3 bxc3?!
32...Rb8 and Black is still clearly better.
33.Rxc3 Ne4?!
This was based on a rather sad miscalculation, although at this point most of Black's advantage had dissipated anyway.
34.Rxc8 Rxc8 35.Bxe4 dxe4 36.Kf2! 
I missed this move, and now White is completely out of danger.
36...Rc3 37.Rxe4 Rc4 38.Ke3 Ra4 39.Ne2 Rxa2
 I've won a pawn, but White's pieces are much better than mine, and therefore the position is completely equal.
40.Rd4 Be8 41.Nc3 Rg2 42.Ne4 Bb5

42...Bc6 43.Rd6 Bxe4 44.Kxe4 Rxg3 45.Rd8+ Kf7 46.Rd7+ is a dead draw, and since a win was necessary to tie for first, I decided to avoid this line. Even so, objectively this would be more logical than what I played.
43.Rd8+ Kg7 44.Ra8 a4 45.Ra7+ Kf8 46.Kd4 
I have to be careful now.
46...Bc6 47.Nc5 Rd2+ 48.Ke3 Rg2

 I'm clearly playing to draw now, but I'm already a bit worse and have to find only moves.
49.Nxe6+ Ke8 50.Kd4 Re2 51.Nc5 Rd2+ 52.Ke3 Rg2 53.Rxh7 a3 54.Ra7 Rxg3+?
54...a2 was a fairly simple draw, and I can't recall why I avoided it. 55.Ne4 Kf8 (55...Bxe4 56.Kxe4 Rxg3 57.Rxa2 Rb3 is also a draw.) 56.Nc3 Rxg3+ 57.Kd4 Rf3=
55.Kd4 Rf3 56.Ke5 Bb5 57.Ne4 Kd8 58.Nd6 Bf1?? 
The final blunder. [58...Bd7 59.Nc4 Rc3 and I should still be in the drawing zone.]
59.f5 gxf5 60.g6 Rg3 61.g7 Bg2 62.Nxf5 Rg6 63.Nh6
Trying to win an equal position is a risky proposition, and Danya punished me without mercy. Congrats! 1–0