Last week I took a trip back home to play in the 119th Minnesota Open (Feb. 17-19). This is a tournament I've grown up on (my first Open was in 2000 at age 13), and it's always a real pleasure to play. People come and go in the chess world, but here you can expect to see familiar faces and old friends alike.
This year's five-round event attracted 260 players - the largest field since 1991! I came in as the number one seed at 2442 FIDE, but with FM Sean Nagle (2385 FIDE, 2 IM norms), IM Victor Adler, (2388 FIDE, a fixture of MN tournaments), and many other masters and experts in the field I definitely didn't take anything for granted.
I was fortunate to get off to a 3-0 start. I won a relatively smooth game against Prashantha Amarasinghe in the first round:
Things got tougher in the next round when I botched a winning position with 54.f5+?. While my opponent was thinking over his response, it dawned on me that after 54...gxf5 55.Rb5+ Ke6 my intended 56.Nxf5 would just lose to 56...Nc3+. Thus, I changed course with 56.Rb5+ Ke6 57.Rb6+ Ke5 58.Nc4+ Kd4 59.Nd2 and was fortunate to pull out a win in mutual time pressure. Black flagged in the final position, though at this point he doesn't have an answer to 80.Rh8 or 80.Nc6
Round three also featured a miscalculation:
In round four I faced off with Sean Nagle, the only other player on 3-0. Sean is a good friend of mine who I've known for many years. We used to run the chess booth together at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, playing people in simuls for 10 hours per day in our "peasant" costumes! Nowadays he is an attorney in Minneapolis who still plays very strong chess, as evidenced by this nice game:
A pretty disappointing loss for me. Things went wrong right out of the opening, but I really messed up with 12.b4?, a move that is way too optimistic in the given position. I REALLY wanted to keep his b7 knight out of play with 15.a3, but after 15...axb4 16.axb4 the maneuver of the queen to a7 with Qb8-a7 did not look pleasant (I missed this when playing 12.b4). Subsequent analysis indicates that I could possibly hold the position later, but Black is really having all the fun after 15.b5. I hope Sean can find the time to play norm tournaments because he is (in my opinion) pretty clearly IM strength.
I did manage to bounce back in the final round:
Hence, I finished tied for second on 4/5, breaking about even on USCF and FIDE points.
The Open was won by Sean and NM Jason Drake, who played to a draw in the last round. Congrats to both! Jason (one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet) was the real surprise of the tournament, having beat IM Victor Adler in a crazy round four game. Full results can be found here
by typing in "2012 Minnesota Open".
The top four finishers in the Minnesota Open qualify for the Minnesota Closed Championship next month, so I hope to improve on my performance there.
My next tournament is in Iceland! I'm playing the super-strong Reykjavik Open
March 6-13. I'll definitely be posting an extensive trip report.