28th NA Masters: Youngest Player's POV

28th NA Masters: Youngest Player's POV

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(Credits for the photo go to Paul Truong)

Greetings Chess.com! With this blogpost I'd like to introduce myself for the first time to the Chess.com community.

If you don't know, my name is Darwin Yang and I am a 15 year-old IM from Dallas, Texas. I know a lot (or some I hope) have been following me and wishing me luck, so I'd like to say thanks to everyone and especially to Danny Rensch and David Pruess for having me here on this site. It hasn't been an easy journey to this point and right now I'm questing for GM, and I hope that our mutual experience will be beneficial for all parties!

Of course that kind of nitty-gritty biographical/miscellaneous information isn't the most interesting, so I'll move on to the actual tournament experience.

Some background on the tournament: This is the 28th running of the NA Master Series held in Chicago and run by Sevan Muradian at the North Shore Chess Center under the auspices of the North American Chess Association (website: http://www.nachess.org/nscc). This session consisted of two norm tournament groups, Group A and Group B (I participated in Group B), as well as a 4-game classical and 4-game rapid match between GMs Georg Meier and Wesley So. Many thanks to all the participants as well as Mr. Muradian for hosting this tournament!

My tournament experience didn't begin in the best of fashions: I almost missed my flight to Kansas City (with about 5 minutes to spare) due to parking issues, and that flight was delayed by about an hour due to hydraulics, nearly causing us to miss our connection to Chicago. All in all, I was pretty exhausted by the time I arrived in Chicago at around 7:00 pm. Definitely not the best start to a tournament!

The first round wasn't a lot better. Against GM Anatoly Bykhovsky as Black, I had managed to get myself into a difficult situation when some miracles began to happen:

Looking at this position, White can simply play Bxh6 and win with the passed h-pawn. If Black plays ...Qh4+, White has no problem playing the simple Kg1. The bishop on h6 happens to cover the c1 square from the black rook, preventing Rc1+. 

Amazingly, Bykhovsky showed remarkable calm by playing g3: and gave up the bishop on g7 to ...Nxg7! This can be attributed mainly to serious time trouble on both sides due a long and hard fought fight earlier.

However, I wasn't blameless myself: I missed a win in a later position, and the final result was a draw. It seems rather fitting: karma is fair, and in return for not losing I did not win the game.



After this tense and nerve-raising fight, I proceeded to duly win my game against IM Lev Milman as White. With a sharp fight in the Nimzo, I managed to open a mating attack with kings off the board. The next morning I faced IM Rensch as Black in my worst game of the tournament...



This loss rather unsettled me, especially considering the manner in which I had collapsed. Not to diminish Danny, he played a great game and converted his advantage in near perfect fashion. Despite this setback loss for my norm hopes, a competitor has to keep a hold on his emotions, and my next game was in only about an hour or so, White against the last seed IM-elect Faik Alesgarov. Luckily, I managed to pull myself together and win the game.

Unfortunately, my troubles with Black continued. With Black against Sarkar the next day, I was greatly surprised by his 1 e4 considering that he was mainly a d4 player. Thinking that my opponent had preparation in my lines, I made the decision to plan an opening I had never employed so far in my competitive career: the Ruy Lopez.


While I was never really lost, the great difficulties I experienced once again affirmed my troubles with Black. The following round I drew with IM Florin Felecan with White in yet another hair-raising game and was out of the norm hunt. Before the tournament, the participants knew that 6.5/9 was required for a norm, and I was at 4/7 with 2 rounds left. Even so, I wanted to finish this tournament on the best possible note and prepared accordingly for my game with GM Josh Friedel. What resulted was probably my best game of the tournament:
This game, and my move f4, really gave me positive feelings in lieu of my previous games. While my final game with GM Denes Boros with Black had some more jitters and close calls, the final result was a draw. 
Ultimately, I finished with 5.5/9 and in a 4-way tie of first. This just goes to show the level of competition in the tournament: no one player was able to demonstrate their dominance over another, and every player won at least a few games.
In a critical evaluation of myself, I set out to this tournament with a specific goal in mind: not to get into time trouble. That perennial game killer was a terrible enemy of mine, and unfortunately, I was unable to exorcise it. The time control, G/90+30 sec increment, didn't help considering that I was used to the G/120 or G/90 with a 30 minute time control at move 40, but in the world of chess one cannot make excuses. As Alekhine said, time trouble cannot be used as an excuse for bad play. I only had myself to blame for wasting a few minutes every so often, lost minutes that eventually piled up at the end of the game. The consequence was squandered positions and terrible moves. On a lighter note, the "hair-raising games" filled with time scrambles that characterized my tournament seem to reiterate something I said at the US Junior a year ago: at this rate, my hair really is going to turn gray!
Anyways, thank you all for reading and supporting, hoped you enjoyed this post, and I wish you all luck in your chess and other endeavors. All that's needed is hard work and a dose of motivation! 

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