The Berkeley Fight Club

As named by Jesse Kraai back in 2006, the Berkeley “Fight Club” is holding its almost annual international event. The first was run in 2005, when Josh Friedel won the tournament and made a GM norm. In the second edition in 2006, Jesse Kraai and Lev Milman tied for first and made GM norms. No event was run in 2007, but it’s back to its usual time in December this year.

The tournament is small, but quite strong – the 17 player field features 6 GMs, 5 IMs, 4 FMs and 1 WIM. To make it an even number for the first 4 rounds, we’ve had two house players (Salar Jahedi and FM Shivaji Shivkumar) who have graciously volunteered to play and avoid having a player get a bye.

The website is at:, while pairings go up at: Games begin every day at 2 PM, except for this Friday (when it’s at noon – the wiring problem means that to use the same room, the round must start earlier). Spectators are welcome! Dana MacKenzie, who visited for the first round, blogged about that round at his blog. His blog contains writeups and annotated games from rounds 2 and 3 as well.

The previous two editions were held in the East Bay Chess Club, but as that is now defunct, the playing site is the Berkeley Chess School at 1581 LeRoy Avenue. The playing room is alright, but due to widespread electrical problems in the building, we had to switch playing rooms and the current room has virtually no heating system. Today, the weather was alright, and so it was comfortable in the playing hall. However, for the first few days, when it was cold outside (about 44 F), it was as cold or even colder inside. That’s not a very comfortable to be thinking at for 4-5 hours, but we all have to manage one way or another.

We’re now 4 rounds into the 10-round event, and the two top seeds (GMs Izoria and Kacheishvili) lead with 3.0/4 along with FM Daniel Rensch. They are followed by a few players on 2.5/4 (GM Friedel, IM Krush, and FM Esserman). I’ve played rather poorly and currently sit on 2.0/4.

In the first round, I lost as black to Rensch. I achieved an equal position after the opening, but I hesitated to make a pawn-break at one key moment, and after that passed, I was struggling the rest of the way. In the following position, I should have played …f6!, but instead, I played …c5 first, which allows White to safely castle queenside and then bring his knight back into the game via b2.


In the second round, I drew as white against FM Daniel Naroditsky (the World Under-12 Champion in 2007). I got a better position after some strong opening play, but then I couldn’t calculate properly and missed my chance for a clear advantage. In the following position, Bd8! would have secured an advantage, as the c7- and d6-pawns can’t be saved. Instead, I played 18.Re2 Qa3 19.Re3 Qa2, when not only can I not trap the queen, but because my rook is on e3 instead of e1 (where it would have helped protect the rook on b1), I can’t play the following line: 20.Bd8 Bd7 21.Bxc7 Bxc6 22.dxc6 Rfc8 23.Qxd6?? Qxb1 and Black wins. With the rook on e1 instead, Qxd6 restores material equality, but with a much better position for White.


In the third round, I won as black against IM Sandor Kustar. It was an offbeat opening, a King’s Indian Attack of sorts, where I played a theoretically dubious setup with my bishop on d6 instead of on e7 or c5. However, the position seemed about level anyways, and when White tried to break through the center, he opened himself up a bit too. The resulting complications seemed to favor Black, but then a hasty piece sacrifice allowed the following finish:


I played 24…Ng3+! and White resigned. If 25.Nxg3, then 25…Bg5! traps the White queen. If 25.Kh2, then 25…Nxe4 26.Bxe4 Bg5 27.Bxg6 hxg6 is the most efficient way to win.

In the fourth round, I got the black pieces again against FM Marc Esserman. Esserman has been on a tear of late, playing very well in the Miami Open and the USCL (amongst other events). He made a norm In the Miami Open, he had a 2600+ performance rating, while in the USCL, he scored 8/10 with a 2600+ performance rating again. The game was rather uneventful as Marc played a very rare move in the opening (12.Bd2 in the main-line French Tarrsch with 3…Nf6). However, his idea failed to dramatically change the assessment of the position – after some prophylaxis and natural developing moves, I equalized and a draw was agreed after only 19 moves.


One response to “The Berkeley Fight Club

  1. Pingback: Knocked to the Mat « An Unemployed Fellow

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