The Canadian Open Championship took place in Toronto in the middle of July (9-17). After reading briefly the history of the event, and discovering that my personal hero Bent Larsen won the event twice I started dreaming of adding my name to winner’s list. However, a shock was waiting for me at the start. My first game in Canada turned out to be a disaster. I lost as White against an opponent who was rated 500 points less than me! The happy Brad Willis took home the prize for a major upset, and was kind enough to say that this was one of his greatest achievements in chess.
On the second day (10 July) the blitz tournament took place. It was a double-game, six round-tournament, with thinking time of 3 minutes, and an additional 2 seconds per move. GM Viktor Mikhalevski from Israel started viciously with ten straight wins, and claimed the title with an 11/12 result. Second place was tied between GM Bator Sambuev, IM Nikolay Noritsyn, GM Vitali Golod and GM Luis Manuel Perez. Naturally, I ended up a half point behind the prizes, and my mood significantly “grew”.
Things got even worse when I could not win in round three. Minus fifteen rating points, and with only 1.5/3, the next six rounds stretched before me like a real torture. I tried to recall if I had ever had such an open tournament in the past 20 years, but could not. I was briefly even considering taking my plane back home. But then stayed for what the locals later called the “Swiss gambit”.
Towards the middle of the event it became apparent that none would claim the bonus for a perfect score. Laszlo Witt was the only player ever to claim this prize back in 1962. 9/9 was out of the question, but some of the players were still in the battle for the additional 750 $ which would be won if someone achieved 8.5 points.
There was also a huge stream of chess-related events. Each day there were at least two lectures, on various themes. Some of the lecturers promoted their books. GM Eugene Perelshteyn presented Chess Openings for White/Black Explained, and GM Joel Benjamin spoke about his-- American Grandmaster: Four Decades of Chess Adventures. I was also very active on the first days, with a lecture and a simul, as well as participation in a Chess 960 event.
More spicy events also took place. Such were the tandem simuls, and the blindfold simultaneous exhibition by GM Benjamin Finegold who won five and drew only one game in his remarkable performance.
It is difficult to mention all the events, but it was definitely a feast for the chess player, and a good sample of what should be done for chess to become more popular! I use this chance to congratulate the tournament organizers David Cohen and Ted Winick for their efforts!
Back to the tournament-- things started to get better for me after the third round when I finally got a good twelve-hour sleep (yes, twelve!) Wins were still coming reluctantly, but I had five more in a row. The last one, against the top-rated Canadian player:
Then with a short draw in the final round against Joel Benjamin I accomplished my “Swiss gambit”. I did not know this expression, but my new Canadian friends explained to me that this is when you lose (presumably on purpose) in the first rounds to face weaker opposition and speed up later and catch the leaders at the end. Still, I would rather prefer Swiss chocolate instead…
As for the co-winners, both Joel Benjamin and Walter Arencibia made great tournaments. Despite our short draw in the final round Joel probably made the most moves in his games of all the participants. He won good technical games, and produced a masterpiece against GM Golod:
Arencibia was also very steady, did not lose a single game, and showed rich games. He won some interesting tactical encounters, but I loved best this positional effort:
The chief organizer David Cohen made an interesting observation-none of the winners stayed in the comfort of the hotel. All the three of us stayed with families, and had to travel each day for about an hour to the venue. “But those who want, will”- was his comment.
I believe though that the secret lies elsewhere. Mine were three actually. Michael, Evan and David-- the kids in the Kanter family that I stayed with. Michael taught me how to play baseball and took care of my physical shape. Evan was my greatest fan, and already "“reserved” me for the next year for their guest. Finally, coach David (who is seven years old) arrived in my room in the evening before the final round and sent me to bed as I had an important game in the morning, and a tournament to win…