Yes I can – not post in November?!

Somehow I managed to not find the time to blog during the month of November. Pretty amazing, given that I was only playing one event in Florida during that time. Anyways, I’ll try and be more responsible about my blogging duties going forward.

My one tournament in Florida was the Pan-American Continental Championship during the first week of November. The tournament went alright for me, as I finished with 6.0/9, good enough for a tie for 4th place. GM Jaan Ehlvest took clear first with 7.0/9, while then GM-elect Josh Friedel (now a GM) and GM Alexander Ivanov tied for 2nd and 3rd with 6.5/9. I gained a few points, but nothing amazing.

I lost only one game, in the 2nd round as white against the young Colombian IM David Arenas. The game can be seen at Josh’s recap for the USCF website, Chess Life Online. I really struggled in the first half of the tournament, having to work very hard to get a couple wins as black against 2200s, while losing with white against Areans and playing a topsy-turvy game that ended in a draw against FM Alex Betaneli. These four games were rather disappointing, as I normally play much better than that.

Starting with round 5, though, I got in gear with a smooth win over FM Jake Kleiman as black. Then I crushed IM Dionisio Aldama as white. I played the same piece sacrifice I used against Bryan Smith at the Western States Open – which I wrote about here – but this time, I didn’t spend 65 minutes coming up with the 4 move sequence. With plenty of time on my clock, I managed to put Aldama away without much trouble. Only half a point off the pace at that point, I slowed to a halt by drawing my last 3 games against GMs Leon Hoyos, Stripunsky, and Lima. In all 3 games I had good/great chances to win, although in the last game against Lima, I managed to throw away my advantage and had to hang on to a draw.

Ehlvest played great to win the tournament comfortably – he was perfect with white, and while he ran into some small troubles in a couple games as black, he navigated those waters well and came out unscathed. Friedel had a chance to tie for first with a win as black against Becerra in the last round, but the endgame proved to be too tough to play during a short time control, and the game ended in a draw.

On a side note, my game with Aldama exemplified one of the strange aspects of US tournament play. Despite the fact that this tournament was FIDE rated (it was a FIDE Zonal event after all!) and that it was advertised as using FIDE rules, the tournament directors did not forfeit Aldama when his cellphone rang during a game. This happened twice, the second coming during the game against me. They didn’t impose a penalty either time either. Normally submitting an event for FIDE rating purposes means the event MUST use FIDE rules, but FIDE seems to turn a blind eye to the USCF’s use of their own rules. However, in a tournament advertised as being under FIDE rules, this was a weird incident. GM Nigel Short was forfeited earlier this year when his phone (which both players agreed was off) gave a low-battery warning beep! The story is here.

The tournament itself was reasonably well run.  It’s disappointing that a Continental Championship attracted only 60+ players, when it’s the championship of North and South America. Part of the reason may have had to do with the fact only 1 spot was up for grabs in the World Cup, when normally there are 6 or 7 such spots. Another reason is that Boca Raton is not the cheapest place to stay for a week – the regular room rent at the Marriott we stayed at was listed at $475/night! The hotel was nothing close to special, however – the area is just that expensive. The fact it was in the US, as well, meant that Cuban players couldn’t play in the event. This seemed to me to be a bone-headed move on FIDE’s part, as why disqualify a country from playing in the zonal event?

Tangentially, while Boca Raton is an expensive area, it was definitely McCain territory. We were there during the election on November 4th, and it looked at first like a victory rally for McCain was being set up behind the hotel. Of course, that victory never came to pass!

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