Special preparation
By Joel Benjamin   
May 12, 2007

How do you prepare for the U.S. Championship? Do you prepare for specific opponents before the tournament or do anything else special?

For me, U.S. Championship preparation has generally been a scramble to get my openings in shape. The task has been much more difficult in recent years because I play far fewer tournaments than I used to. Obviously one needs to have at least one e4 defense and one d4 defense in working order. It also pays to look over the field, judge which openings are more likely to come up, and study them. [In a round robin the preparation will naturally be more specific to particular opponents] Last year I prepped for a weekend with Larry Christiansen. Larry showed me a Najdorf variation he had been working to death; in the tournament he was rewarded with a beautiful win over the late Alex Wojtkiewicz.

I don't know what most other players do, but I think it is quite sensible to keep a dossier on the "usual suspects" year-round, so when the Championship rolls along you have a few ideas to work with against whatever opponents come your way.

Personally, there were only two years where I went in feeling very well-prepared: 1987, in the midst of my Samford Fellowship, and 1997, after I had studied openings for months with Deep Blue. Both times I won the Championship.

Joel Benjamin