Bryan Smith Tests Himself in Marchand
By IM Bryan Smith   
April 9, 2009
IM Bryan Smith
I like going to out-of-the-way places, so I was looking forward to my trip to the Marchand Open in Rochester, on the shores of Lake Ontario.  The Marchand Open (pronounced in the French-style, "mar-SHAHND") began in 1978-this year's was the 31st annual one.  The tournament is named after Erich Marchand, the top Rochester player in the 60s and 70s.  Before he died, he asked for his friends in the chess world to play chess in his memory.

Before going to the tournament I talked to a friend who attended last year: "take a hat, heavy coat, and some boots.  There is tons of snow.  And you have AAA, right?  What if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere?" she warned.  Apparently last year there was a big snowstorm.  This year the sun was shining and the trip went by easily.  When I got to Rochester, I achieved my first success of the tournament by managing to reach Lake Ontario and touch a Great Lake for the first time in my life. 

I did not know what to expect as far as the participants of this kind of tournament.  With a first prize of $2000 guaranteed, one could not really expect it to be a breeze.  In 2008 two grandmasters attended.  This year, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili and IM Alex Lenderman played, as well as myself and IM Oladapu Adu.  I heard that GM Sergei Kudrin also had intended to come, but decided instead to play in the online U.S. Championship Qualifier which was held simultaneously.  Lenderman, as New York State Champion, also could have played in that qualifier, but decided instead to play in this tournament.

Last fall I had a magical time period between August and December when my results were simply amazing. 
During this time, my performance rating (using FIDE ratings) was around 2700 for twenty-four games.  I had beaten GMs Sadvakasov, Kritz, Erenberg, and Bhat; won the National Chess Congress , the King's Island Open, and the Okie Festival.  My performance in the National Congress was one that Kasparov himself would not have cause to complain about.  But this year cracks had started to appear.  Worst of all was blundering mate in one move in a rapid game against a player rated around 2250-while trying to avoid perpetual check!  So I was worried that the magic was disappearing, that I had simply been in an altered mental state last fall, maybe even possessed; and now things would go back to normal.  I therefore convinced myself that the Marchand Open was a test of that-were the universal forces still behind me?  Or had I been forsaken?  But more importantly, I really needed the prize!  

"What a Move That Kid Made Against You!"

At the end of the first round, it seemed like I had my answer-I had been unable to defeat a 2000-rated player with the white pieces and an apparently crushing position after thirteen moves. 


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 Nb6 10.a4 b4 11.Na2 a5 12.c3 bxc3 13.Nxc3 d5

Smith-Karp, after 13...d5

Already, Black had adopted a variation which is pleasant for White (it seems most strong players have abandoned 9...Nb6 in view of the move 10.a4; now 9...h6 is more common).  To add to this, he played 10...b4, which is probably not as good as 10...Nc4; then he followed up with the premature-and seemingly suicidal-13...d5.  I felt happy that the game would probably end quickly and did not concentrate quite enough.  Best seems to be 14. Bb5+ Bd7 15. g5, with a practically decisive advantage.  But instead I played the natural: 
14.g5?! Nfd7 15.exd5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Nc6

Smith-Karp, After 17.Nc6

Now I had expected either 17...Qc7 18.Qxd5, threatening 19.Qe4+; or the equally hopeless 17...Bb4 18.Nxb4 axb4 19.Qxb4.  Instead my opponent produced the move
In fact I had glanced at this move, but simply assumed my knight covered e5.  Of course 18.Nxe5 will be met by 18...Bb4, and the queen sacrifice 19.Bb5+ Kf8 20.Qxb4+ axb4 21. Bc5+ only leads to a draw.  20.Bc5+ is no better.  And 18.Nxd8 is of course met by 18...Nxf3+, and Black gets the queen back.  In fact, I could not find any way to keep a clear advantage.  Frustrated, I made a second mistake with
When in fact 18.Qc3 would force 18...Nxc6 19.Qxc6+ Bd7 20.Qxd5 Bb4+ 21.Kf2 0-0 and now with 22.Bd3 White still has the advantage although it is no longer so simple.  Now Black had a second option:
And although I still hoped to win, my attempts were futile since my opponent played well.
19.Rc1 Nxc6 20.Qxc6+ Qxc6 21.Rxc6 Bb4+ 22.Kf2 Bd7 23.Bb5 Bxc6 24.Bxc6+ Ke7 25.Bxa8 Rxa8 26.Bd4 g6 27.Ke2 Rc8 28.Kd3 Ke6 29.h4 Kf5 30.Be3 Be7 31.Bd2 Rb8 32.Bxa5 Rxb2 33.Bc3 Rf2 34.Kd4 Rxf3 35.a5 Bc5+ 36.Kxc5 Rxc3+ 37.Kb4 Rc8 38.Rf1+ Ke4 39.Rxf7 d4 40.Rxh7 d3 41.Rd7 Ke3 42.a6 d2 43.Kb5 Ke2 44.a7 d1Q 45.Rxd1 Kxd1 46.Kb6 Re8 47.Kb7 Re7+ 48.Kb8 Re8+ 49.Kb7 ½-½

Kacheishvili on the cover of the April 09 Chess Life
After this I was very depressed and started to seriously think what I should do instead of playing chess.  Then the tournament's top seed and recent CL cover star, GM Kacheishvili said to me "What a move that kid made against you!  You know he was completely winning against me in a tournament in New York!"  That cheered me up a little.  I felt it was simple-I had missed an obvious tactical blow and probably also messed up a better ending, against someone I should beat easily; but at least I was not alone. 

The next round I felt rather foggy but still won quickly in my favorite Dragon opening.  Meanwhile the other favorites also won.  I could already see what would (hopefully) happen-Kacheishvili and Lenderman would play in the last round, and I would sneak into a tie for first in the event that they draw.  Yes, we chess players are not only looking 3 or 4 moves ahead, but also sometimes 3 or 4 games ahead!  But I guarantee you, it is possible.  Whether there is any point to it is another matter.  Between the rounds, I played pool with another chess player in the excellent commons building at St. John Fisher College, where the tournament was held.  I lost three games out of three, so I was ready to return to chess!  I was paired with, NM Dennis Strenzwilk, and won quickly with a pawn sacrifice and a little combination:


IM Alex Lenderman
After three rounds, Kacheishvili, Lenderman, Adu, and NM Lionel Davis were tied for first.  Meanwhile, I played against FM Isay Golyak, who had a bye in the third round.  At 77 or 78 years of age (he was born in 1931), Golyak is possibly the oldest person I have ever played in a serious game.  I managed to blunder the exchange on move 8(!) but fortunately for me he did not see it; if he had, maybe he could also have been the oldest person I ever lost to.  Eventually I managed to win, but he fought hard-I hope to be able to play such good chess at such an age.  I found out later that Golyak is a correspondence chess IM, that he beat Gavril Veresov in 1959, and was a professor of astronomy at Rochester University.  And he played 1.b4 against me! Bravo!

At the start of the round, it seemed likely that Kacheishvili would beat Adu, and Lenderman would beat Davis, so that they would play each other in the last round, probably draw, and meanwhile I would beat someone else and split first place.    However, Adu played solidly against Kacheishvili, and made a draw.  It still seemed ok since if Lenderman managed to win they would still play.  However, I came back to the tournament room to discover that things were not so clear:

Lenderman,Alex - Davis,Lionel [D18]

Marchand Open(4)
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.Qb3 Qe7 9.a5 0-0 10.0-0 c5 11.Na4 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Bg6 13.a6 bxa6 14.Be2 e5 15.Bf3 e4 16.Be2 Rc8 17.Nc3 Nc6 18.Bxa6 Nxd4 19.exd4 Rd8 20.Bg5 Rab8 21.Qc4 Bd6 22.Qe2 Qe6 23.Bh4 Rb4 24.d5 Qf5 25.Bb5 Bb8 26.Ra6 Rd4 27.Bc6 Rb4 28.Nd1 Qe5 29.Bg3 Qd4 30.Nc3 Bh5 31.Qc2 Bxg3 32.hxg3 e3 33.fxe3 Qxe3+ 34.Qf2 Qg5 35.Rxa7 Ng4 36.Qc5 Rxb2 37.Ne4 Qe3+ 38.Qxe3 Nxe3 39.Re1 Rxg2+ 40.Kh1 Re2 41.Rxe2 Bxe2

Lenderman-Davis, after 41...Bxe2

Davis had played a good game; earlier he was probably better.  I came back to the tournament room and saw the above position.  Well it is hard to figure out what is going on specifically, but I was able to determine that the worst that could happen to Black is that he would have to give up a piece for the passed d-pawn.  Could White win the resulting ending?  It seemed like, in most cases, no-only if he kept the rooks and the bishops could white really have chances there.  If the game was a draw, I would play Kacheishvili, needing to win.  But Davis was in serious time pressure. 
42.Kg1 Bd3?
After the game Lenderman noted that this allows White to play Nc5 with tempo.  Instead 42...Bc4 43.d6 Bd5 should lead to a draw.  The black king will soon approach and it is White who will have to scramble for it.
43.Nc5 Bf5 44.d6 Nc4 45.Nb7 Rb8 46.d7 Bxd7 47.Bxd7 Nb6!

Lenderman-Davis, after 47...Nb6

A good move-White must either allow the exchange of rooks or the bishop.  Best now was 48.Nc5 Nxd7 49.Nxd7, with some winning chances (at least more practical chances than in the game), but I assume Lenderman simply missed Black's next move.  He retreated the bishop (I forgot to where) and 49...Ra8 followed.  After the rooks were exchanged, I thought it was funny that Davis dramatically scribbled "½-½" on his scoresheet.  Well of course it should be a draw, but the game is not over yet, and he had less than a minute on his clock!  But maybe he was trying to tell himself something...Black should draw easily by playing g6 and f5, but he did not.  Eventually Lenderman managed to trick him and win. 

Thus, Lenderman stood in clear first before the last round with 4/4.  Tied for second were Kacheishvili, Adu, and myself. In the final round, Kacheishvili played against Lenderman while I played against IM Adu. 


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.Na4 Qa5+ 7.c3 Bxd4 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.Nc5 Qc7 10.Be2 b6 11.Nd3 Nc6 12.Qe3 d6 13.Qg3 0-0 14.Bh6 Ne8 15.0-0 Bb7 16.Rfd1 Kh8 17.Be3 Nf6 18.f3 Rac8 19.c4 Nd7 Diagram

Smith-Adu, after 19...Nd7
Adu had played this opening against me before, and that time I had simply played 5.Nb3.  I was surprised that he played it again, since it looks kind of dubious and I thought he would have figured I had looked it up at some point.  But I had not.  Still, the position after twenty moves is not really in question-White has a large advantage with two bishops, more space, and pressure on the d6 pawn.  However, Adu is a counterattacking player and I was expecting sharp and unexpected moves at any moment.  White can make several inaccuracies and still keep the advantage here, but with lots of money on the line, it is a tense situation.  Now I played
...some shadow-boxing, hoping maybe to probe the kingside with Nh5.  But my move also incidentally set a trap, and Adu fell into it:
20...Nf6? 21.Rxd6!
Now if 21...Qxd6 then 22.Ng6+.  Black's next move forces me to sacrifice the exchange, but White gets enormous compensation, of course.
21...e5 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Nh5 Rg8 24.Qh4 Qe7 25.Nxf6 Rg7 26.Bh6 Rg6 27.Bg5 Rg7 28.Bh6 Rg6 29.Bg5 Rg7
...some repetitions to gain time on the clock; Black cannot play 29...h6 because of 30.Bxh6, and if 30...Rxf6 then 31.Bf8+; while if 30...Qxf6 there is 31.Bg5+.
30.Kh1 Nd4?


Smith-Adu, After 30...Nd4

This loses immediately; however, Black is losing anyway.  For example, 30...Qb4 31.Bh6, or 30...Qe6 31.Nh5 Rg6 32.f4!
31.Nxh7! Rxh7 32.Bf6+
He probably overlooked this intermediate move.  Now after 32...Kg8 33.Qg5+ Kf8 34.Bxe7+ White wins.
32...Qxf6 33.Qxf6+ Kg8
Now, rather than rushing a lazy move like 34.Bf1, I am happy that I calculated the most accurate way to finish the game.  With some tactics, White removes the strong knight on d4, along with any hope.
34.Qxe5 Nxe2 35.Re1 Rxc4 36.Qg5+ Rg7 37.Qd8+ Kh7 38.Qh4+
The queen gets back to guard the back rank.
38...Kg8 39.Rxe2 Rc1+ 40.Re1 Rc2 41.Rd1 1-0

Meanwhile Kacheishvili and Lenderman did indeed draw; Giorgi had White and needed to win but Alex managed to hold and after some time they agreed to a draw.  Thus, Lenderman and I split first place.  Kacheishvili, Alex Dunne, and top young Rochester player Matt Parry split the 3rd-5th prizes.

I would like to thank the organizers and directors, Ronald Lohrman and Michael Lionti, for putting on an excellent tournament with very generous prizes and conditions for IMs and GMs, which is rare in the U.S.  The tournament was run very smoothly and in a friendly atmosphere.  I hope readers have enjoyed a look into the thoughts of one of those people you see fighting for the prizes in the American open tournament circuit.

Check out MSA rated results of the Marchand Open here
. Also look for coverage of two major Grand Prix tournaments this weekend in Reno (by Michael Aigner)  and Foxwoods (by Jonathan Hilton).