Kostya at the 2016 Calgary International

Kostya at the 2016 Calgary International

IM hellokostya

A few weeks ago I traveled to Calgary for the second time to play in the 2016 Calgary International, a nine-round open tournament with a strong turnout, held at the Calgary Chess Club. The tournament was organized and run well by Vlad Rekhson, along with Jim Daniluk and other members of the club. The surprise winner was GM-elect Razvan Preotu, who won clear first with 7/9 and is apparently the first Canadian player to win the tournament. But for this blog I wanted to share an interesting story that was captured by the following photo:

The above photo was taken in Round 4 (I believe by Vlad Rekhson). I'm in the middle, and playing to my right is FM Michael Langer, who was my roommate for the tournament. Before the event started I gifted Michael a copy of my book, Modernized: The Open Sicilian, which was co-authored by IM Zhanibek Amanov and released in February of 2015.

Michael is an 1.e4 player and in Round 4 was paired against FM Ian Findlay, who's been playing the Sicilian Dragon for quite a few years. In their previous game, which took place in November 2015, also in Calgary, Michael played 9.Bc4 in the Yugoslav Attack and ended up winning quickly, thanks to his strong opening preparation. But figuring Ian would be well prepared for that line, in this game he wanted to try something new, and I gently suggested 9.0-0-0 instead of 9.Bc4, as recommended in my book .

He analyzed the line for a few hours and ended up winning the following game:

Now here's where it gets interesting. If you refer back to the photo, playing on my left during the same round was Brian Timmerman, an untitled local player who got paired against GM Lazaro Bruzon of Cuba. Based on seeing a few of Brian's games, it was clear to me that he is highly underrated at 1524 FIDE, but nevertheless being matched against a player rated 2643 must have been pretty intimidating! Their game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 (the Kan Sicilian) 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3, and I chuckled to myself because 6.g3 is the variation that Zhanibek and I recommended in M:TOS against the main 2...e6 Sicilians, (Kan & Taimanov).

Then their game continued on a very familiar path. Both players soon castled kingside and Brian launched a thematic attack, playing f2-f4 and g3-g4-g5, followed with Rf3, lifting his rook to h3, and then transferred his queen to the h-file. I started paying more attention to his game than my own (!), because the plan he was confidently executing against a 2600+ GM was the exact same that we had recommended in our chapter on facing the Kan Sicilian! And I mean the exact same

I quickly started to wonder if Brian knew of my book and had read it or had simply discovered this middlegame plan on his own. After the round he found me in the skittles room and confessed to owning the book and using it in his preparation! A very pleasant surprise. Although he ended up losing, the game was very interesting and I've analyzed it here:

So there you have it, I happened to be "sandwiched" between two Open Sicilians!

After the tournament was over most of the players partcipated in the blitz event. In Round 2 I was paired against the tournament winner, Razvan, and found myself in a completely winning endgame up a piece. What happened next was...embarrassing...well see for yourself  :