Minnesota Closed, Bobby Fischer Blitz, Okoboji Open

| 9

Immediately after returning from Iceland I flew to my home state to take part in the Minnesota Closed Championship (Mar. 16-18). The MN Closed is a six-player round-robin that determines the official State Champion. I qualified based on my performance in the MN Open in February. Everyone in this year's Closed was a USCF-rated master or higher.

I started off 3-0, albeit not without difficulty.

My opponent (Dr. OK - a frequent guest in Midwest chess events) misplayed the opening a bit, but I was unable to take advantage. Things got messy as we approached time control, but I eventually pulled it together (41...Bd6!). My opponent missed his best chance to resist (42.Rh1), and I forced a win on the next move (though 42...Qe3+! is even faster).

Round two was smoother. I found myself on the right side of a queenless IQP middlegame, gained a pawn, and began turning the screws.

Round three was a touch-and-go Benko affair.

I'll freely admit that I was sweating around moves 26-27 :)

In round four I faced FM Sean Nagle (sitting on 2.5/3), the same player I lost to at the MN Open just a couple months ago. Would history repeat itself?

Yes, yes it would Frown Actually this endgame (N vs. B) was pretty interesting, and some post-game analysis shows that Black had plenty of counterplay (I was pessimistic about my chances during the game). Can you see where I went wrong?

I won my final game againt NM Jason Drake:

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Sean won a marathon 145(!) move queen ending against NM Matt Dahl to clinch the title with 4.5/5:

A well-deserved victory by Sean! Final standings here.

The next week I took part in the Bobby Fischer Memorial Blitz Tournament (Mar. 23) at the world-famous Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan. This was a 9-round event with the traditional blitz time control (5 minutes; no delay/increment).

Fun event! 80 players took part, including six Grandmasters. I finished just out of the money on 6.5/9.  I've been living in NYC for almost a year now and hadn't ever played at the Marshall, so I was really glad to make it to this tourney. Crosstable here.

Here are a few pics: 

My starting board at the Marshall
The man himself - Frank Marshall

Manhattan at night

My most recent event was the Okoboji Open (Apr. 20-22) in Okoboji, IA. This was the second year I've made the trip to Iowa to participate in this friendly, well-organized event.

Driving from Minnesota to Iowa. Riveting, no? :)

I was the defending champion and blogged about the positive experience I had here last year.

The tournament is set in a scenic part of Iowa, right on Lake Okoboji (naturally!). This year I gave a simul on Friday, scoring 5 wins and 2 draws against some unexpectedly tough competition. Observe, for example, how I was confounded by NM Robert Plunkett's 1...h5!:

Against the fantastic organizer, Jodene Kruse. Also not an easy game!

Just like last year, I scored 4.5/5 in the main tournament. Unlike last year, I did NOT take outright first! NM Matt Dahl (who also played in the MN Closed) played an excellent tournament and also scored 4.5/5. We drew our individual game in round 4, with Matt improving nicely on our game from March.

I scored a miniature in the round prior (though my opponent resigned a bit early; he could play on with 16.Bxe6+, intending 15...fxe6 16.Qc5):

After the game he said he had only reckoned on 15...hxg4, thinking I was sacrificing a piece.

(left to right) Matt Dahl, organizer Jodene Kruse, and myself

Okoboji is an ideal atmosphere to play chess. There isn't the big-time pressure of major US opens, and the emphasis is definitely on friendly competition.

One special thing that illustrated the comradery here is the rememberance held for Russ Swanson, a Minnesota chess player and winner of last year's Reserve section. Russ died tragically in late 2011, and several people got a chance to speak about him prior to the last round. John Flores - this year's Reserve winner - also donated his trophy to Russ's wife. Really cool gesture.

Participants at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday night. This has become a yearly tradition!

If you're in the Midwest, definitely consider attending this tournament next year. Jodene Kruse and Hank Anzis (the dedicated TD - I stole a couple of these pics from him!) put on a great event. Check Hank's website for more pictures and a complete tournament recap.

Sunset in Okoboji