Multitasking is never an easy task, and that's the problem I face everyday splitting my time between college classes in Lindenwood University and chess. So,I decided to devote all my summer break for chess, which led me to plan to play in five tournaments in USA, with an aim to get 50 fide rating points and three grandmaster norms, which would take me closer to the elusive Grand Master title.
My first tournament in the summer trip was the Annual Chicago Open held at Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, Illinois from May 22-26, 2014. The tournament was organized by the Continental Chess Association, who have been running similiar tournaments around the USA for many many years. I think that they have lot of scope to improve in the way, they run the tournaments, as every round starts atleast 1/2 hour late, due to the very long and boring announcements of their new cell phone rule, which is very complicated and doesn't make any sense to me, as the simplest thing to do as an organizer is to ban cellphones completely from the playing site. The way they distribute the prize money was also highly time consuming and inefficient as it takes hour to write a single check, and I had to wait 2 hours to get my paycheck.
(The Grand Ballroom in The Westin Chicago hotel, which was used as the playing site. Photo Credits: The Westin Chicago Hotel)
Now, let's get back to the tournament. I was paired against Karthik Ramachandran(fide rating:2109) in round 1. My opponent erred in the middlegame, giving me a very pleasant rook endgame, and I was on the driver's seat throughout the game, only to err in the end, and allow him to force a draw.
My opponent in Round 2 was Daniel Aldrich(fide rating:2066). I had the white pieces and we played Ruy Lopez, where my opponent went for a dubious Nb8 plan and was outplayed in 37 moves. Then came the grandmaster pairing for me, as I was paired against University of Texas at Dallas student and GrandMaster Conrad Holt(fide rating:2555)
As I was at 1.5/3 at this point, I was hoping to get paired down, but I got paired with one of the top seeds in the tournament. University of Texas at Brownsville Student GM Anton Kovalyov(fide rating:2637). I made a huge mistake in this game, of spending too much time, calculating every single variation, which led me into time trouble, where I erred in a very interesting game, to suffer my first and only defeat in the tournament.
Round five was quite easy for me, as my opponent Iskandar Aripov(fide rating:2231) chose a wrong setup against my b3 sicilian, and lost in 25 moves. In Round six I was paired against FM Dennis Monokroussos, a very popular chess journalist, who was inactive for a long time, and recently started playing chess again.
After I played 33...a5, I left the board, to look at other games, and returned to my board few minutes later to find my opponent, having left the board put his king down, without shaking hands, or signing the scoresheets, which I found a bit rude.
Having a score of 4/6, I was quite confident, that this tournament is shaping up well for me, and then I was paired against former US Champion Alexander Shabalov, who is well known for his aggresive style of chess. We played the Moscow Variation in the Sicilian, where my opponent chose a dubious Ne5 setup, leading to his defeat in mere 24 moves.
(Playing against GM Alexander Shabalov in Round 7 of the Chicago Open, next to me is IM Alexander Ostrovskiy. Photo Credits: FM Eric Rosen)
Round 8 was a very tense matchup as I was paired against GM Julio Catalino Sadorra(fide rating:2611). My opponent miscalculated on move 26 and played Rf1, which was a horrible blunder. I used the oppurtunity to get an advantage and win the game. This was a very memorable game, as it was my first win against a 2600.
Going into Round 9, I needed a win to secure my first GM norm, and the standings after round 8 was (1)Gabriel Sargissian 6.5points (2-6)Anton Kovalyov, Yury Shulman, Giorgi Margvelashvilli, Kayden Troff, Priyadharshan Kannappan 6points. There were lot of people in 5.5 points. The final round pairings were 1)Shulman vs Sargissian 2)Kovalyov vs Margvelashvilli 3)Kannappan vs Troff.
The top board game was a very solid one, and both sides failed to breakthrough into the other's camp, so they agreed to a draw in 21 moves. Board 2 was a very long game, which ended few minutes after I finished my game. where Kovalyov was pressing very hard for a win, but faced very stiff resistance from Margvelashvilli, and the game ended in a draw after a marathon 88 moves.
My game against Troff was a Sicilian Moscow Variation where he played 3...Bd7. I offered him a draw on move 6, and it was more of a psychological decision, to inform him, that am not going to go all out for a win, to secure my GM norm, and that am fine with a draw too. As I expected, my opponent refused the draw offer, only to offer me draw by move 12, which I refused, as I had a very pleasant position by then. This was a very long positional game, where white had the upper hand throughout the game, and cashed in on the advantage during my opponent's time trouble to win the game in 58 moves.
After a very slow start of 2/4, and finishing the second half strongly with 5/5. I managed to tie for the 1st place in Chicago Open with GM Gabriel Sargissian, who had the better tiebreaks to officially win the Chicago Open. Getting my first GM norm, was also a very special moment for me.
You can find my games from rounds 7-9 annotated in the US Chess Federation page. I will meet you soon, with the tournament article on the St.Louis GM Invitational.
Till then, Bye!!