Noel Skelton Open

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Earlier this month I played in the Noel Skelton Open (Sep. 1-2) in Plymouth, MN. This is a new tournament sponsored by the tournament's namesake: Mr. Noel Skelton. Noel is a USCF expert and businessman who wanted to do something unique to support local chess. Thus, he put on a five-round Swiss over Labor Day weekend with extremely generous prizes: $1,000 for first, $500 for second, $250 for third, plus class prizes and lower section prizes. Noel also arranged for the participation of a visiting Grandmaster, Ben Finegold, who gave a simul at the Chess Castle on Aug. 31 to boot (our local players are tough: Ben lost two games!).

I had no trouble getting to 2-0, but in round three I hit a wall against the dangerous NM Andrew Tang (highest-rated 12-year-old in the country):

I obtained a good position with the exotic Dzindzi-Indian and held a slight advantage for much of the game. Andrew defended extremely tenaciously and chose a great moment to alter the flow of the game with 30.f4!? Somehow I couldn't adjust to the changing circumstances, and when Andrew found the strong knight maneuver 40.Nf1! and 41.Ne3, I sensed that I was in big trouble. Sure enough, I blundered a piece with 44...Qe7??, and the rest was trivial.

A great achievement for Andrew. Watch for his results when he begins to hit the big Opens!

At 2-1 there wasn't a great shot at first (five rounders are unforgiving!), but I resolved to win my last two games and see where I stood. This I managed to do:

A tidy Samisch King's Indian where Bill's queenside counterplay wasn't nearly fast enough. 20...fxg6? is the last straw; I was most afraid of the paradoxical 20...hxg6, when I didn't see a forced win for White.

A fun game! Kyler is a student of mine, so I wanted to play something interesting with him. I got frisky with my h-pawn in this one with ...h5-h4-h3 (GMs do this all time, so why not!?), and Kyler erred with 17.g3?. Taking the piece with 17.exf6! was mandatory, but in the post-mortem Kyler told me he rejected this because he didn't think I would sacrifice a piece unless I had a forced win. In reality, I couldn't make head nor tail of the position after 17.exf6 hxg2 18.Rf4 g5 19.fxe7 gxf4 20.Qg4! (this is what I saw during the game). An important lesson: NEVER trust your opponent - even if he happens to be your coach! Kyler is a fast-improving player and a good sport, so I know he took this to heart.

Finegold drew his third-round game and won in the final  two rounds to take clear first with 4.5/5. I ended up tying for second with Andrew Tang and expert Zach Tverstol at 4/5. Ben played a brilliant game in the US Chess League shortly after the tournament that is definitely worth playing through (it won Week 2 Game of the Week):

Top finishers: (l tor) Andrew Tang, me, Ben Finegold, and Zach Tverstol

Tournament sponsor Noel Skelton presents Ben with his first place trophy and winner's check

A HUGE thanks to Noel for sponsoring this great event! Noel is already planning a bigger-and-better version in 2013, and, having some inside info, I'll say it's something you definitely want to be a part of if you're in the MN area.

I've got an exciting schedule over the next few months:

  • Oct. 16-20: SPICE Cup Open (St. Louis, MO)
  • Nov. 7-19: World Youth Chess Championships (Maribor, Slovenia) - Really excited about this one! I'm going as a USCF coach, of course Smile Hope to help the US kids bring home a lot of medals.
  • Dec. 1-9: London Chess Classic FIDE Open (London, UK)

As always, I'll keep you updated here on Good luck and good chess to all!