Chesapeake Open, Part 1

Jan 17, 2015, 7:30 AM |

After a disappointing Eastern Open just two weaks earlier, I had my best tournament since 1992. Despite playing a section up (under 2000), I tied for second place with 4/5, won prize money, improved my rating by more than 100 points and, most importantly, earned my second Category 1 norm. (Three to go!) The quality of my play has improved too, though it is still inconsistent. In one of my three wins I was worse most of the game, and in another I was briefly worse just before my opponent made a desperate sacrifice.

The latter thing happened in the first round. I got a good position on the white side of the King's Indian, playing a solid system that's not very ambitious, but makes it hard for black to find a good plan because there is no big white center to attack. My opponent played for a typical KI break ...f5, but that doesn't work well here. 13...Nc5 was a mistake that gave me a pawn and a more active position. The game was decided abruptly when he sacrificed with 25...Rxg2?!? and 26...Bh3??!? The sacrifice is unsound, but we both thought it was a good practical decision as it gave me the opportunity to go terribly wrong. (27. Kxh3 walks into mate, and even after Nxh3 the defense is somewhat tricky.) The problem with this assessment is that my 23rd and 24th moves had been bad, and after them black did not need desparate measures.

Game 2 was a hard fight in which neither side ever had a large advantage, and a draw seems like a fair outcome. This time, I was the King's Indian player struggling to find a plan against a solid, unambitious white setup (the London system, also known as "the boring game"). White emerged slightly better from the opening, but after  mutually inaccurate exchanges on c4, black was equal thanks to white's permanently weak b pawns. As I was playing the middle-game, I was aware that I had no idea who was better, but at least I correctly identified the strategic goal: get my central pawn majority rolling while neutralizing his threats on the 7th rank. When the dust settled, I had a better endgame, but not enough for a win.

Coming in Part 2: my worst game, my best game, and a "grandmaster" draw.