On Sunday, June 23, I competed in the Minnesota Blitz Championship in St. Paul, MN. This was the second year I played this 18 game (9 double rounds) event, having won it last year with a score of 16.5/18.
This year's tournament was somewhat weakened by the absence of FM Sean Nagle, but IM Victor Adler (2411), NM Matt Dahl (2275), 13 year-old NM Andrew Tang (2258), NM Robert Plunkett, NM Wilson Gibbins (2233), myself (2488), and a host of experts and class-A players made for a decently strong field (I think the average rating was north of 2000). The time control was slightly unusual, G/5 + 2 second increment.
Why blog about a blitz tournament? Well, because blitz gives rise to all sorts of absurd fun, and blunders are fully expected!
"Deux ex machina"
IM Victor Adler is well into his sixties, yet he remains a dangerous and alert player. He beat me with Black in our first game, and now - following a mutual time scramble - I'm down a queen and dead lost. But hey, it's blitz: why not throw in one more spite check before resignation?
Victor had just promoted his pawn on c8 (don't ask) but had yet to trade it for a "proper" queen. After I gave the check, he looked around wildly saying "queen, queen?", unable to locate a suitable replacement. Within a couple seconds a spectator jumped to his aid(?!) and plopped a White queen down next to him. Seizing the shiny new empress, he banged out 2.Qe6???, hanging his king! I of course replied 2...Qxf1, and that was that: in blitz, an illegal move loses! An early 2-0 loss to my main rival would have been disastrous, so this was a fortunate split.
I defeated NM Matt Dahl 2-0 in round four to move to 7-1, but in round five I traded wins with the young phenom NM Andrew Tang (readers of my blog will know that I've struggled with him in the past) and was unable to pull away from the pack. I blanked Arkady Shemyakin (2112) in round five, then things got ugly in round seven:
"Protect yourself at all times"
Working my advantage in this double rook ending, I ripped the pawn without much thought: 1.Rxa7??. As soon as I let go of the rook, I realized what I had done! For a moment my opponent appeared dejected, but his body language soon changed. Punishment was swift: 1...Rxa7 2.Rxa7 f5+! and I soon resigned. Oops!
My tournament had a happy end, as I went 4-0 against the MN high school state champion, Samarth Chakrasali (2123), and Daniel Jing (1863) in the remaining two rounds. My first game with Samarth featured a typical blitz "bluff":
In blitz, confidence is key!
Black has just played ...Rf8-d8, preparing the convenient defensive move ...Nd7-f8 ("a knight on f8, there is no mate!"). White is probably a bit better after this, but my opponent had been playing somewhat timidly and I wanted to take him out of his comfort zone. Thus, after a 1-2 minute think, I confidently played 1.e6?!, envisioning the spectacular 1...fxe6 2.Bxh7+ Kxg7 3.Rxe6, when the rook is immune from capture in view of 4.Ng5+. Actually, I had a feeling this idea was unsound, as 3...Qf8 4.Ng5+ Kg8 5.Qh5 is met by the calm 5...Nf6, and White's attack fizzles out. There are some ways I can aim for compensation, though (e.g. simply 4.Rxc6), and - most importantly - he would have to make some tough defensive decisions under pressure.
As it turns out, after 1...fxe6 2.Bxh7+ my opponent responded meekly 2...Kh8?, and I backed the bishop up and won routinely.
Adler suffered some setbacks, so I took first with 15/18, 1.5 points clear of Andrew Tang (13.5/18). Not my 2012 score, but I certainly won't complain!
July will be a busy month for me. I was delighted to receive an invitation to teach at the US Chess School in NYC on July 9, so I'm very much looking forward to that. From New York I'll travel to Tucson, AZ, to teach the Western Invitational Chess Camp, and I'll round out the month with another camp, the OleChess Camp in Northfield, MN. My next tournament will be the Twin Ports Open (Aug. 17-18) in lovely Duluth, MN.
Good luck with your summer chess adventures!