Back Home … and Musings on Strange American Tournaments

We all got to have, a place where we come from
This place that we come from is called home
We set out on our travels, we do the best we can
We travel this big earth as we roam

We all got to have, a place where we come from
This place that we come from is called home
And even though we may love, this place on the map
Said it ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at

–          Mos Def in Habitat

I’m back in the Bay Area after my two tournament trip to Montreal and Philadelphia. I wasn’t able to get online much in Philadelphia, especially once the schedule shifted to include two games a day.

In the end, I finished with 5 points from 9 games – not a particularly inspiring performance – but I did play a lot of good players and some interesting games. In the first round of the 7-day schedule, I played up against GM Vladimir Potkin. The last time I played up in the first round of a swiss was in 2002 in China when I was much lower rated! Actually, I played up in the first 3 rounds, which was quite a surprise. The rest of my field was over 2400 FIDE on average, so it was a pretty strong tournament. I squandered a couple opportunities in rounds 5 and 9 that would probably have improved my final position. I did get quite lucky, though, in round 4 against FM Thomas Bartell (I should have taken the draw he offered when I was worse!).

Thanks to that save, I only lost one game, to IM Ray Robson (the most recent Samford Fellow). If this were Shakespeare, the moment would have been rife with imagery and symbolism, but for now, I’ll just say that on the first day of his Fellowship, he beat the 2008 recipient. Then on the following day, he beat the 2007 recipient, GM Josh Friedel!

I’ll post more details about my games in the coming week, but for now, I’ll make a few comments about the tournament in general. First, Mark Crowther’s comment at TWIC:

“I’ve always found the World Open a bit odd. Multiple schedules, re-entries allowed and so forth. So what to make of Hikaru Nakamura’s tournament? Turns up one day plays 5 g/45 minute games to get in contention, plays two proper games the following day (quick draw and a win), then takes two half point byes in the final two rounds to share first place and is already flying to [San Sebastian, Spain] before the tournament ends. I guess my main reaction is ‘What kind of tournament is this?’”

This is no knock against Nakamura, who played quite well and took advantage of both his strengths and the scheduling quirks. However, it is kind of silly in my view to have a tournament that gives you the opportunity to win like this. The 4-day Open Section schedule was a farce, with only 3 players showing up, so everybody got a full-point bye. The 3-day schedule Open Section only had 2 GMs, and with 5 rounds amongst themselves at G/45, it was almost like a different tournament than the more popular 5- and 7-day schedules. The 7-day and 5-day schedules, by comparison to the 3-day, were much stronger – the 7-day featured a GM-GM pairing in round 1! Najer played 8 GMs, and as some consolation for a more brutal schedule, he won the tournament title on tie-break as Nakamura wasn’t there to contest the blitz playoff.

Of course, Goichberg runs his tournaments in the purest capitalist sense, so he probably won’t change his ways. Multiple schedules allow for more re-entries and a few extra bucks in his pocket. For a few players, it also helps avoid taking time off from work and cutting down on hotel costs. But when there are such prizes at stake, it difficult to imagine another sporting event where this is possible – there are amazingly different schedules with different fields and time controls and a co-champion doesn’t even show up for the last two rounds and gets something more than a zero-point bye for those rounds. Foxwoods is a rather strong open tournament, but the Open Section there has only one schedule. I would think the World Open should adopt the same format.

As a side note, what happened with GM Leonid Yudasin in round 8? The wallchart at the time said he had withdrawn, but when I walked around, there he was playing Robert Lau around board 80 in round 8! Yes, the same Robert Lau who was not playing in the Open Section until that round! Yudasin won that game, and then won a marathon game against GM Kacheishvili in the last round to claim $2160 in prize money. How is this possible? He received a ridiculous pairing, much easier than his fellow 4.5 pointers in round 8, and it counted? I’m not sure how the pairings would have shaken out had Yudasin been paired correctly, but GM Josh Friedel, who is right around Yudasin’s rating, played GM Gata Kamsky in that round. I wonder which is an easier pairing: a 2200 with black (who isn’t even in the section), or Kamsky with black? I’m not sure if there was any debate at the tournament about this, but it seems rather odd to me. Here’s a link to the wallchart, and I’d appreciate if someone could explain this one to me.

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7 responses to “Back Home … and Musings on Strange American Tournaments

  1. > I wonder which is an easier pairing
    Well, I hear Kamsky has a couple of holes in his White repertoire, so it’s really a toss up. NOT. That’s really weird.

  2. I know that Lau was the recipient of a forfiet in Round 8 in the U2400 section, and I’d guess that Yudasin’s original opponent in the Open also did not show up.

    However, I’m not sure why the game counted for Yudasin’s score in the open but not for Lau’s score in the U2400.

  3. Yeah, Lau received two forfeits in rounds 7 and 8. But nobody in the Open Section lost by forfeit in round 8, so I’m not sure who Yudasin would have been playing. The 4.5 pointers that round were also all on the first row, behind the table barriers, and I don’t remember Yudasin ever being there during the round.

  4. Here’s what happened:

    There was a mix up about Yudasin’s withdrawal and he was never paired in round 8. Because of this, Yudasin was set to play a 2100 house player. But then the TDs decided I would be a better opponent because of my forfeit win situation and my higher rating. The point counted for Yudasin because he was owed a game, but it didn’t affect my score because I wasn’t even in the open section.

    For the record, Yudasin beat me in 70 moves in a queen and pawn endgame that lasted 5 hours, so at least he had to earn the point.

  5. Thanks, Robert, for the explanation. It’s a bit odd that they thought Yudasin withdrew, but now I see why you guys ended up playing each other.

  6. Mr. Yudasin was asked by a TD about the result of his prior game. He said: “Draw.” The TD understood it to mean “withdraw.” When he showed up for round 8, he was very surprised that he was not paired. The TDs have had to do what was practically necessary. GM Yudasin could have chosen to earn the point by getting a bye but instead chose to earn the point by playing for it.

    Andres Hortillosa

  7. Winning a major tournament with final byes is ridiculous! It’s not the fault of the player who got the byes, it’s the fault of the organizer to allow it to happen.

    Goichberg may be capitalist but he is very sensitive to others’ opinions. He often distributes questionnaires to improve the format of his major events. In former times, it was not possible to win his major tournaments with byes in the last rounds. It was specifically not allowed in his tournament announcements. It is indeed absurd that in 2009 this occurred. I think a public petition/movement/outcry could and should lead to this not occurring again in the World Open; after all as Crowther noted it makes a travesty of this “important event.”

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