Tournament Adventures: Marchand Open 2014 - The Year of Gata
Note: Annotated games at bottom.
Sometimes when one is in the midst of an event, one can tell it is a special event. Gata Kamsky playing in this year's Marchand Open in Rochester, NY was one such occasion. Naturally, everyone was talking about Gata's presence, and there were always plenty of spectators around his board. For my own part, I found it very inspirational to see a super grandmaster like Gata play in a "weekend warrior" open. In the US, weekend opens are generally the strongest tournaments available, but it is very rare to have a super grandmaster compete. It is a wonderful thing for us mortals to be able to play and observe such great players first hand.
I really admired Gata's composure. I was a little amused that Gata was the only player who wore a suit for day one, a very regal look As expected, I saw many people ask Gata for pictures or autographs, and as far as I saw, he was always very kind and obliging. The one particular rudeness I observed was people taking pictures of Gata during the games. Alot of people were using flash, and it was pretty distracting. During round 1, I saw one older gentleman pose just behind Gata's shoulder while a friend stood behind Gata's opponent and snapped a picture of him and Gata "together." That was pretty egregious
Otherwise, the tournament proceeded about as expected. Gata was on board 1 for the entire tournament. He won his first 4 rounds, playing GM Keklidze in round 4, but he ceded a draw in the final round to GM Alex Lenderman who had drawn GM Paragua in round 4. I believe Gata played the Benoni as Black, and he looked to have some advantage in the middlegame, but things simplified and Lenderman looked ok in the ending. Gata was caught by NM Ben Dean-kawamura in the last round when Ben (with 3.5 points) managed an exciting upset of GM Keklidze. This is certainly a fantastic result for Ben; hearty congratulations to him! Gata and Ben split 3300 dollars. GM Paragua had a shot on board 2, but he only managed a draw against Igor Nikolayev. There was a large tie at 4 points between GM Lenderman, GM Paragua, FM Nikolayev, GM Ivanov, and NM Matt Parry. They each took home 340 dollars. I was desperately hoping to make it into that tie, but I came up just short in the last round with a draw to finish on 3.5.
All in all, the tournament was a blast. The event site, the Strong National Museum of Play (shown at top), was a really fun locale. All credit and thanks to Ron Lohrman and tournament director Ken McBride for running a fantastically smooth tournament.
A writeup with excellent pictures is available at http://blog.rochesterchessclub.org/.
My Games and Results
I was mostly happy with my play in the tournament. As previously noted, I finshed with 3.5 of 5 and came up short of the money. My performance was about 2150 so I lost a few points. I was rather dissapointed to be paired down in all 5 rounds; my average opponent rating was about 2000 (+- 100). I only get to play in a few tournaments with GMs, IMs, and non-Buffalo NY masters in a year, so I really want to be able to test my metal against my superiors when I get a chance. Still, I thought all my games had interesting moments and except for a really egregious and silly blunder in round 2, I thought I played relatively well. I was also very happy because I fixed some things that I had been working on. I managed my time much better, and I had promising positions in all the openings. Both had been serious problems for me in all my tournaments in the last several years.
Interestingly, I had played Aaron's father in round 1 of the NY State Championships. His father is an expert, and the three of us were able to look at the game after. I got a very nice advantage in the opening, but the game reached an opposite colored bishops position where I had to strike through with my attack or the psoition would be quickly drawn. Just as my opponent could have equalized, he blundered, missing a small tactic. I think this game is particularly instructive in terms of both the attacking and the drawing potential of opposite colored bishops. I also think my pawn sacrifice is instructive. Despite not having a direct mate, I am able to really tie Black up and get a large advantage.
This was clearly my worst game of the tournament. I had a promising opening, but I drifted, and ended up getting in trouble. White missed a clear win on move 20, but then I was able to gradually build up some pressure. I had a large advantage in the end but my opponent found a very resourceful idea. I completely missed his point, and played one of the worst blunders of my life. This one will hurt for a long time. I must give credit to my opponent though. He found several interesting resources in the game, and he dodged many back rank traps that I was hoping to land. There are lots of fun tactics in the side variations here.
Round 3 was a bit of a breather after round 2. I got a good position out of the opening, and my opponent lost the thread with a few moves and then hung a knight to a simple fork. Still, I thought I played the opening very well. This is a fun line of the French. There are many tricky knight sacrifices for Black (a la the famous and beautiful masterpiece Reshevsky - Vaganian). I managed to dodge these, and he ended up really struggling for counterplay against my space advantage.
I played Joshua in the NY State Championships last year. He played a sacrificial line against my Benoni and had a serious advantage, but I gave an exchange back and built up a clear advantage. I went up two pawns, but I was very frustrated not to win. My engine had me at about +2 through the end of the game, but I couldn't find a way to break through. I completely missed Joshua's knight sac here. I had glanced at it on the previous move, and I just forgot the Nd7 blocked the bishop from defending f5. Still, I think this is an instructive example of the difficulties of attacking. Many people hate defending and avoid it at all costs; it's important to remember that the attacking player can make mistakes too. Joshua had a clear, but not simple, win on move 19, but he let me off the hook. In the ending, my piece is simply better than the three pawns.
I had now made it back to 3 of 4, and I was really hoping to be paired up against a GM. Sadly, that didn't happen. However, I did get my highest rated opponent with White, and I knew I would probably tie for some money with a win. I came very, very close to a win. However, I really missed my opportunity on move 24. I think I was blind to the possibility of retreating the knight. After that, the ending was very interesting, but objectively drawn, still there were lots of opportunities for Black to go wrong. This game was one of the last two to finish in the Open, and there were plenty of spectators because of the interest of the position and the prize implications. I understand GM Ivanov reported the result, and someone asked him if the position was really a draw, and he said he had no idea. I felt the same. Despite, being dissapointed not to win this game, I thought I played on a high level for most of the game. Except for move 24, my moves are nearly all the computer's top choice or negligibly different.