Tag Archives: Kudrin

“Please, a little respect, for I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots!”

The US Championships ended a couple weeks ago (on May 25th), and I apologize for being a bit slow for writing about that event. It took me a while to come up with the correct title. =)

I’ll start with the finish, and then work my way there from the beginning. I ended up with 3.5/9, tied for 18th place with GM Melik Khachiyan, GM Alex Lenderman, and IM Levon Altounian. The minus-2 result was a big disappointment, as I had been generally playing well leading up to the event, and I had higher hopes for my first US Championship.

The title was taken in tiebreaks this year by GM Gata Kamsky over GM Yury Shulman. Both finished the set of regular games with 7.0/10 (5.0/7 in the main event, and then 2.0/3 in the quad), and by holding a draw with black in the sudden-death tiebreak game, Kamsky won the title.

I knew I would be playing Shulman in the first round (in a closed field, it’s not difficult to figure out where the cut is made), but the colors were up in the air. When Nakamura drew the black envelope at the opening ceremony, it was clear Yury would have the white pieces against me. Not ideal, but so it goes. Shulman and I share a lot of the same openings – as white we both play 1.d4, while as black, we both play the French and Semi-Slav Defenses. Thus, I was a bit wary of walking into some home-cooking and surprised him right away in the opening with the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

There were some interesting middlegame moments, but one of the key moments was when we reached the following endgame:

(FEN: 2r3k1/p4ppp/4n3/p6b/8/P3PN1P/R3BPP1/6K1 b - - 0 24)

White has just played 24.h3, creating some luft for his king. However, there is a second idea behind the idea, which explains why Yury chose that pawn move instead of 24.g3. After h3, White threatens to sideline Black’s bishop with 25.g4 and then 26.Ne5. Black’s bishop could come out to e4 then (or f7 if he plays 24…f6), but the real problem then is that while White’s knight can be used to target the queenside, Black’s bishop has no real active prospects. Thus, while 24…Bxf3! might look a bit unnatural (giving up the bishop for a knight in an open position), it is definitely the right move. After exchanging off the bishop, I activated my rook and knight, fixing the weakness on a3 in the process. Eventually, to save his a3-pawn, Yury had to give up his bishop for my knight and then an exchange of a3 for a7 ensued.

(FEN: 8/4kp2/R5p1/4P1Kp/7P/p5P1/5P2/r7 b - - 4 44)

It’s a rook and pawn endgame with equal material and no obvious weaknesses. Furthermore, Black has an outside passed pawn. So what kind of trouble could he ever be in?

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Here and there – the Western States Open

In between the Week 8 and 9 USCL matches, I went to Reno for the Western States Open. I would need a very long post to go through the games one-by-one, so I’ll stay relatively high level for the discussion here. Maybe I’ll look at them in more detail later.

I finished with 4.0/6, beating 4 much lower rated players, while losing to GM Jaan Ehlvest and IM Bryan Smith. I thought I played pretty well in some of my wins, notably against NMs Dana MacKenzie and Gregg Small – I had lost twice previously to Dana (albeit in games some time back) and had failed to beat Small’s QGA opening at the North American Open in 2005. Actually, that opening will be linked to that tournament for me for some time as I had only recently begun playing 1.d4 then. I hadn’t done any preparation for the QGA, but then 3 people played it against me that tournament! All of them made draws as well, although I had some chances in a couple games. Since then, nobody has dared to repeat the opening! Anyways, it was good to finally beat the QGA, and also to win a pair of Exchange Frenches after I failed to beat a lower rated player in that opening in Miami.

The loss to Ehlvest was an unfortunate one, but I can take some solace in the fact I defended a worse position for 7 hours. Actually, the game took about 6 hours and 55 minutes, but who’s counting? The final 3 hours of the game can be replayed in the USCF’s article about the event, available here. The real disaster came in the evening round, against IM Bryan Smith. I played a brilliant piece sacrifice (if I may say so myself) in the opening and reached what I considered to be an absolutely dominating position. However, the 7-hour morning round seemed to take its toll on me, and I simply couldn’t calculate any variations at the board. The same line would just replay through my head over and over again. In the end, I got into horrible time pressure and blew the win and lost the game.

GM Sergey Kudrin took clear first with 5.0/6. GM Ehlvest headed a group of 3 players who finished on 4.5/6. I came in tied for 5th with 6 other players, including Smith.

I think this was my first time playing the Western States in Reno, and I would say the tournament is well-run in some aspects and rather poorly run in others. The organizers do a good thing by providing a quiet playing hall, boards and pieces for everyone (and often clocks for a number of players), having demonstration boards so people can follow the top 10 boards from afar, and putting together a games bulletin at the end of the event. However, the pairing system (both in philosophy and application) falls short of the mark in my view. Also, unlike the bigger events in Las Vegas, the playing hall is not on the casino floor, so there’s much less smoke around. In Vegas, I feel like you always leave the event smelling like smoke.

On the bad side, for starters I’m pretty sure they still do pairings by hand at this event. This means that virtually every round starts late, up to 30-40 minutes late in fact.

Secondly, Chief TD Jerry Weikel is unique in his pairing process – when there is a score group with an odd number of players, he drops the middle rated player to play the highest rated player of the next score group. This is the only tournament in the world where I’ve seen this system, as normal USCF rules mean you drop the lowest rated player of the odd group to play the highest rated player of the next. Color alternation is also thrown out the window in his tournaments, so it’s not only common to get a 4/2 color split in a 6-round event, it’s quite possible to get 3 colors in a row!

Maybe part of the reason I’m annoyed by this is that after losing a long game to Ehlvest, I came back after a short break to see I was playing a strong player in Smith (and then lost that one too), when the people around me got much easier pairings. But logically and by the letter of the rulebook, I don’t see why he does it this way, and after the event, GM Alexander Ivanov concurred, explaining that he’d been trying to convince Jerry for years that this pairing system does a dis-service to everyone involved.