Aman wins the Canadian Open
In Canada, it is always a lottery as to whether we will even host the Canadian Open – a tournament which used to be a marquee event on the national chess calendar. This year the tournament was hosted in Sault Ste. Marie, a very small town in Ontario. Despite its size, the organizers managed to secure some support from the city, and boasted a $50,000 prize fund based on 300 entries – with $40,000 guaranteed. The tournament undershot the 300 projected entries by a lot.
Before going to the event, I concluded that there were no real norm chances. As I prefer to say: there was a possibility, but not a chance. Despite the Grandmaster title being my ultimate goal, the first prize was $6,000 guaranteed and the pre-registered list did not look very strong. I decided that I would participate since I expected myself to win a decent prize and I also had an unrealistic shot at a GM norm if I played extremely well.
The tournament began with an admittedly frustrating first few days. After a win in the first round, I drew three games in a row against lower rated opponents. I lamented only my draw with White over those games, since I had a big advantage and failed to convert against FM Victor Plotkin. I was in no danger in the other games, and often attribute the amount of draws I concede to my style of play and the fact that my openings with Black are not incredibly ambitious. When I play lower rated players, this can certainly be a hindrance, but against higher rated players it clearly has its benefits… I’ve grown accustomed to it.
My tournament finally started to pick up after I finally won another game and subsequently got paired up against the top seed in the event, GM Andriy Vovk from Ukraine. You can find the game below:
In what was definitely not a “smooth” game, I managed to create complete chaos around my opponent’s King as our game neared time control. The pressure of multiple mating threats combined with the time situation caused my opponent to blunder and with precise play I escaped with a win. While this game was my biggest upset of the event – and certainly an important point towards my final score – it was not my most impressive game, in my own opinion.
In round 7 I played against IM Kaiqi Yang, representing China but currently studying and living in Toronto as far as I know. After a long series of forced moves my opponent emerged ahead one pawn, but at the cost of the Bishop pair and a clear grip on the light squares. Despite computer evaluations, I never felt in danger during this game and was really waiting for my opponent to over-press. As it would turn out, that is exactly what happened! Down a pawn in an opposite Bishop endgame, I decided to play for the win, and I was very happy with my instinct to do so. It paid off as I won the game and launched myself into a tie for first place.
I drew round 8 quickly as White against GM Razvan Preotu from Canada. The final round saw me paired against the youngest GM in the world currently – GM Aryan Chopra. I decided to play 1. e4 e5 for the first serious time in my chess career, and to my surprise it worked impressively. I was a bit worse at moments, a bit better in others, and played on for the win until iI was almost the last game to finish in the playing hall. In the end, a draw was the fair result and I ended with 6.5/9 and shared first place in the tournament.
I was quite pleased with my (undefeated!) performance of 5 draws and 4 wins, which was enough to share first place in the tournament. One of the biggest changes I made to my chess recently was broadening my repertoire. During the Canadian Open I played a different opening every single game, which rarely happens for a chess player, even less so for myself. This meant I wasn’t caught in preparation as much as usual, and gave me a new-found confidence in the opening.
Check out my brief update via Facebook as I mention the next chess tournaments on my calendar. As I write this blog post, I am on a train from Zurich airport to Biel and ready to start my next event, with good chances to make a GM norm if I play well.
Thanks for all the support!