Hey everyone! I had the chance to play in the U.S. Open this past week (July 30 - August 3) and wanted to share my experience and some of my interesting games, positions and pictures from the tournament
The tournament was originally supposed to be in St. Louis, Missouri but ended up switching to Orlando, Florida after the hotel in St. Louis happened to close down. And as it happens, Orlando is near where I live! So now I knew I would have to play in this tournament no matter what. I previously played in the U.S. Open back in 2011 when it was also in Orlando and scored 6/9 (only losing to 2 GM's and 1 IM!) so I was determined to improve on that score this year.
As I'm driving to the Rosen Hotel, my heart is thumping. This will be my first tournament in 4 months and even though I have done plenty practice online, nothing can replicate live tournament conditions like playing over-the-board can. Despite being very busy recently with planning for my wedding (coming soon! August 16th!), I've been able to fit in a lot of prepartion for this tournament. Working on openings? Check. Tactics? Check. Teaching students (which also helps me to improve)? Check! I was looking forward to putting a lot of the new things I had worked on into practice in this tournament and having a great time with my chess friends from around the country.
The first day I played was Wednesday July 30 in the G/15 side tournament. I was the 3rd highest rated in the field behind Grandmaster Fidel Corrales Jimenez and another player 2 rating points higher than me. In this side tournament I figured I had a good chance to play some tough games and win some money. I also viewed this tournament as a warm-up for the real U.S. Open that started for me the next day. On to the games!
Let's see if you can find the tactic I played in my first round game:
So after winning my 1st round, I was able to win my 2nd round against Alex Marler (2058) in a position where I had a Queen + Knight against his 2 Rooks + Bishop. He declined a draw offer of mine, won my knight but later blundered into checkmate in time pressure. Not the way I would prefer to end the game, but a win is a win! In the 3rd round I played an interesting (probably somewhat unnecessary) exchange sacrifice against Daniel Brashaw (2148) who told me before the game that we have played against each other a lot on Chess.com. He claims he is "TheBestMan" on Chess.com but that he deleted his account a while ago. After looking up the account, his story checks out. But at the time I didn't remember any of the games we had played, so I was going into this game a bit blind:
My next round was against the 2nd highest rated player (only 2 rating points above me). Winner of this would most likely play against GM Jimenez in the final round:
So now I was 3/4 and would have to win my final round to win any kind of money. My final round game ended up being a very easy technical win after I went up 1 pawn. So I finished with 4/5 which allowed me to tie for 2nd place with two other players and we each won $54. At least I got my entry fee back and a little bit more Not a bad way to warm-up for the real U.S. Open schedule starting the next day. GM Jimenez ended up having a quick draw in his final round and won with 4.5/5
The G/15 tournament winner: GM Jimenez! (Photo taken by Dalton Perrine)
Once Thursday rolled around, then it was the big day! The first day of the 4-day schedule for the U.S. Open. I would be playing my first 6 rounds with the G/60 time control then the final 3 rounds would be 40 moves/2 hours + 1hr for the rest of the game. From previous experience I was going to have mostly easy rounds on the first day with the 4th game being the toughest one of I won the first 3. That's exactly what ended up happening again! I won my first game easily against a ~1650 rated player and played a nice second round game as well:
In my 3rd round game, I used a semi-opening trap in an opening that my opponent played but didn't seem to know the best way to play it. The finishing tactic is very nice and I'll give it you as a puzzle here as well:
So that ended up being a pretty easy and quick win which was nice. This gave me time to prepare for my next game against none other than the G/15 winner: GM Jimenez!
So after this game, the first day of the U.S. Open was finished for me. With a 3/4 score, I was happy knowing that I had played one of the highest rated players in the entire tournament and held my own for much of the game. The next day would be back to easier pairings. In my 5th round I played an interesting opening idea that I found over the board:
In the sixth round I played very bad in the opening and was soundly punished. Not much to say in this game. I wavered between different plans too many times within the first 15 moves in an opening I was not very familiar with. Looks like I need to study this opening a bit more! A lesson to everyone reading: Always have a plan in mind during the opening! Don't waste moves!
Not a well-played game by myself at all. Carl did end up having a terrific tournament though, scoring 7/9 and sharing the u2400 prize money. Congrats to him! I was disappointed about this game but knew that I still had a chance to play well the rest of my games and still score decently. The next game was against William Brock (2009) with myself playing the Benko Gambit (one of my favorite openings). He played the opening very smartly though and neutralized any counter-play I had. Down a pawn, I went into a line that guaranteed myself a draw and got it. Not happy with this result either, but not much I could do about it. He also had a very good tournament, picking up ~80 rating points! Wow! With 4.5/7, I was not performing very well. But at least I had two more rounds to play the next two days and could still end up with 6.5/9 possibly.
On Saturday there was the side blitz tournament. I ended up scoring 9/14, losing my last 2 games against Kazim Gulamali (2397) so my 9/12 at that point that could have ended as 11/14 didn't happen. Ah well.
In the eighth round I played against Alex Marler (one of the players I beat in the G/15 tournament). I employed another interesting opening idea that I have used in the past and it worked out perfectly!
This was the only round for the U.S. Open main tournament today. On the final day I played my ninth round as black. We played another Benko Gambit where I got a good advantage and was up a pawn at one point. But I misplayed after that and he found a nice combination to force a draw despite being down a full piece. I am now looking for a new black opening against d4!
So I finished the tournament with 6/9, the same score as in 2011 despite playing only one GM this time. I feel very good about some of my games (all of my wins were very clean and technical or quick knockouts using interesting opening ideas), while my loss to the other master was very bad and my two draws in the Benko Gambit were not what I was hoping for. I will have to find a new black opening against d4 very soon to avoid this new trend of draws against lower rated players!
Here are some pictures taken at the tournament:
The winners trophy that everyone is fighting for! (Photo taken by Andres Hernandez)
GM Illia Nyzhnyk vs Daniel Brent Gater. GM Nyzhnyk is only 17 years old and already one of the top players in the world! He ended up tying for first in the tournament but didn't win on tiebreaks (Photo taken by Andres Hernandez)
My friend Toby Boas vs GM Alonso Zapata. Toby lasted for a long time but eventually lost this game
Earlier in the tournament he had defeated Ruifeng Li (2410) by checkmating him in a Bishop+Knight vs King mate! (Photo taken by Andres Hernandez)
GM Conrad Holt vs IM Michael Mulyar in the tiebreak blitz match to determine the winner of the U.S. Open (Photo taken by Andres Hernandez)
Conrad Holt ended up winning! (Photo taken by Andres Hernandez)
My friend Vlad Yanovsky deep in thought (Photo taken by Chess Broward)
We always find time to play bughouse in between tourament rounds! (Photo taken by Chess Broward)
At the same time the chess tournament was going on, there was a "Miss Teen America" Beauty Pageant in the next ballroom over. All 50 states were represented as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico (Photo taken by Chess Broward)
So if you add it all up (5 G/15 games + 14 blitz games + 9 U.S. Open games) I ended up playing 28 games in 5 days. Wow! Despite now having a fried brain, I had a terrific time at this tournament! It was probably one of my most enjoyable tournaments ever (aside from my actual tournament result) because I got to catch up with a ton of friends from all over the country, make new friends and play chess at the same time. What more could you ask for?!?!
Here is the rating page for the tournament:
Also, don't forget to check out www.NextLevelChessCoaching.com if you are interested in affordable, online chess coaching, videos and articles that will accelerate your improvement!