At 54, winning at the Marshall and setting a 2270 USCF rating record

At 54, winning at the Marshall and setting a 2270 USCF rating record

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On my way to the Irish International Open in Dublin I decided to touch down in New York to play the Marshall Thursday Action tournament.  The top players playing in the tournament were Robert Perez (2497) and IM Jay Bonin (2373).  The time control was 25 minutes with a 5 seconds delay per move. Although I did not play well and my play was definitely rusty, I was able to share first prize with IM Jay Bonin and improve my rating to an all time high of 2270.

In the first round I won against Kristian Jacome (1943), whom I overplayed in a Maroczy bind. After the round IM Jay Bonin asked me why I did not win a piece in the following position after 9... Ng4:

Quite embarrassing, but the following tweet that was posted the next day made me feel a bit better.

Apparently, shared stupidity is less stupidity! 

In the second round I played against NM Eric Balck and was on the Black side of a Najdorf. After 11... Bxf6 we had the following position on the board:

Who do you think is better in this position? My assessment was that I was worse and was looking how to stop White's initiative. White can play h4, g3 and Bh3 attacking e6 or h4, g4, g5 forcing Black's bishop to retreat and attack the king. If Black wants to start a queen side attack with b5, he has take into account Nxb5 axb5 Nxb5 followed by Nxd6+ I did feel that Bxf6 and f5 by White were a bit premature but chess is concrete. To my surprise the engine assesses this position as better for Black and the principal variation is 12.h4 0-0 13.g4 Nc6. You need nerves of steel to castle into a pawn storm!
The game continued 12. h4 Bd7 13. g3 O-O-O 14. Bh3 Rhe8 leading to the following position:
Black continued now with 15. Qf2 leaving the queen unprotected and I was happy to get 15... Qc5 in, pinning the knight on d4. After 16. g4 Nc6 Black is suddenly completely winning. The only problem was that I had 8 seconds !! left for the remainder of the game so would have to live of the 5 seconds delay. That means 24 moves in max 2 minutes so a fast blitz game to convert this dynamic position into a win! In the end I managed and won the game. That happens when you are rusty and you need time to find your moves. 

In the third round I played against NM Alexander Ashok (2103)  with White. My opponent chose 2... Nf6 in the Sicilian and after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. exd5 Nxd5 5. Bb5+ Bd7 6. Ne5 Bxb5 7. Qf3 the following position is on the board:

Black continued suboptimal with 7... Nf6 (better 7... f6) and after 8.Qxb7 Nbd7 White can win by force. I continued 9.Qxb5 Rb8 10. Qe2 and was confident that the extra pawn and the weakness of pawn c5 was enough to win. Can you see you how White can basically force resignation after 8... Nbd7?

I won the game as planned and had to play IM Jay Bonin with Black in the last round. My opponent offered a draw after 7 moves. With Black I had equalized but I happily accepted his draw offer and shared first place with my respected opponent.

With this result I improved my rating from 2257 to 2270. I missed 2 forced wins and was in too much time trouble in the second game. Still, a better result as expected. I seldom play over the board anymore and focus on coaching. It was good to see I still can play chess myself!

The playing hall of the Marshall Chess Club