Tag Archives: Shankland

“Now we’re colleagues!”

Last Tuesday, January 27th, I gave a short talk about my trip to Delhi. The game I talked about was my game against Rahul Sangma (which I described here), which I considered to be my best effort from Delhi. The audience wasn’t too big at the start (maybe about a dozen people?), but then grew to be quite large as the Tuesday Night Marathon crowd came in. I ran a little over the time limit, and so all the games started a few minutes late because of me. Oops.

Prior to that lecture, Sam Shankland, Josh Friedel, and I all received our official FIDE title certificates from John Donaldson. Sam got his IM title by tying for first in the World Under-18 Championship in Vietnam in 2008, while Josh and I both got our GM title certificates.

Here’s the picture, to commemorate the occasion:


After we received our certificates, Jesse Kraai, who completed his GM title in 2007, welcomed us to the club by saying “Now we’re colleagues!” I guess we’ve finally been accepted into the GM House …

End of the road for the for Mechanics

In other November chess news, the SF Mechanics were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the defending champion Dallas Destiny. We lost the match by a score of 2.5-1.5, after I lost the final game as black to my apparent nemesis – IM Davorin Kuljasevic.

After stumbling in the last two weeks of the regular season, we dropped to the #2 seed and faced the #3 seed Destiny with black on boards 2 and 4 (by Dallas’ choice). This made sense as Kuljasevic and Zorigt are both clearly stronger with the white pieces, while Zivanic is tough to beat on board with either color. Still, we liked our chances as IM Sam Shankland was back from the World Youth (fresh off tying for first and automatically getting the IM title!), as was FM Daniel Naroditsky.

On boards 1 and 3, we probably went in with small advantages (Josh and Sam both out-rated their opponents by a bit and had the white pieces), while on board 4, Naroditsky vastly out-rated Zorigt, so despite having the black pieces, was probably a small favorite. While Kuljasevic is still only an IM, he’s higher rated than me by USCF and FIDE standards, and with the white pieces, was also probably somewhat of a small favorite going in.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite play out as we had hoped. On board 4, Danya got slaughtered when he failed to find a good plan after a dozen or so moves of a King’s Indian. He fought on for a while, but the result was not in doubt for a while. On board 3, Sam seemed to get a clear advantage out of the opening, but then after a couple inaccuracies, was probably only about equal. However, the complications had taken a lot of time off Schneider’s clock, and that cost Igor later on as he blundered the game away. On board 1, Josh was maybe a little worse out of the opening, but he came back to be a little better. However, a small mistake or two gave up any hope of an advantage, and the players agreed to a draw.

That left me defending as black against Davorin. The opening was a small surprise (the 6.e3 Slav, rather than the main-line 6.Ne5 Slav he normally plays), but I got a reasonable position from the opening. The game can be replayed here.

I wasn’t especially familiar with the resulting middlegame, though, and I spent some time coming up with a good plan. However, I lashed out with 22…g5?!, hoping to kick the knight away before it got to the nice d3-square (from where it could hop into c5). This created a hook for White to attack, which Davorin figured out with the very nice 24.Rf1! Instead of 22…g5?!, I could have simply sat tight, as White doesn’t have a real weakness to attack. Black is passive, but his position remains super solid.

After 24.Rf1, we were not too far apart on the clock, but the position was clearly better for White. I played what I think is the only good defensive idea for Black in that position with 28…g5 and 29…Qh7, as otherwise, Black has no communication between the kingside and queenside. The position looked dangerous for me, but the hasty 33.Nh5 threw away White’s gains after 33…Qg6. By the time I played 39…Ng6, I thought I was close to being out of the woods, and was only down a minute or two on the clock.

But the position was still dangerous, as my king was still exposed on h8. 40…R8c3? was the first mistake, as Black had a host of better moves, the simplest being 40….R1c3. After 41.Rdg3 Rxg3 (as in the game), Black has a rook on c8 instead of c1, which makes a huge difference. For one, the rook is not a target on c8 (as it is on c1, where White always is threatening Qd2, hitting c1 and h6). Secondly, the rook on c8 can swing over to the kingside to help out on defense, say to the g8-square. Anyways, after 40…R8c3, the game slipped away and Davorin put me away nicely. The game garnered him Game of the Week honors for the playoffs.

The loss also meant that the book was closed on the 2008 season for the Mechanics. I finished the season with 4.5/8 (2.0/4 on board 1, 2.5/4 on board 2), my worst performance in 4 years in the league. Still, I guess I out-performed my rating, playing at a clip of 2558 FIDE. Over the previous 3 seasons, I scored 12/16 with a performance rating of about 2662 FIDE. Sam was the star of the team on board 3, scoring a massive 7.5/9.

Strangely enough, my score against Kuljasevic is a dismal 0.5/4 since I first faced him in the USCL in 2007. I’ve lost all 3 times as black, and only drew as white. He’s a strong player, and still improving rapidly (he’s up to 2530 or 2540 FIDE now), but I can take some solace in the fact that I’ve achieved decent positions against him only to screw them up later on. The last two people I remember to have such massive scores against me in the first 3 or 4 games were Jordy Mont-Reynaud and Dmitry Zilberstein, and I can happily say that I turned those negative scores around against them. After losing 4 times to Dima (3 times as black), I have scored an undefeated 5.0/6, with wins in my last 4 games. Against Jordy, I went 7.0/10 after struggling to put a full point on the board at first. Hopefully I can say the same thing about Davorin in a couple years!

Dallas has since went on to beat the top seed Miami Sharks, and will now face off against the Boston Blitz in a rematch of the 2007 Finals. As in 2007, I expect Dallas to come out on top of this match.

Derailed on Labor Day

This is a few days overdue, but I played in the CalChess Labor Day tournament this past weekend. It doubles as the championship for North California, a state unto itself in the US Chess Federation (Southern California holds it’s own, separate championship on the same weekend).

I was largely playing to get some practice playing 2 rounds a day again, as most European events have one round on every day. It was my first time back at the State Champs since 1999, when there were very strong players like GMs Roman Dzindzichasvili and Walter Browne amongst the participants. This year, I was the top seed with about four or five 2400s behind me.

Nevertheless, it was an unmitigated disaster for me.

In the first round, I had the white pieces against Jimmy Heiserman. He played a Grunfeld against me, and I was rather happy with the game, as I got a small edge out of the opening and started to expand across the board. He tried to complicate things, but I cut my way through the complications to get an easily winning endgame.

In the second round, I had the black pieces against NM Steven Zierk, who I played in a 20-board simul in Los Gatos earlier in the year (writeup at: https://vbhat.wordpress.com/tag/los-gatos/). He played extremely passively, but I guess he just wanted a draw from the game. I struggled to squeeze something from the position, and I was making great progress until I made a bad miscalculation around the time control on move 30 and was left with a worthless advantage in the endgame. The game petered out in a K+B (for me) vs. K (for him) draw …

Annoying for sure, but it was the 2nd game of the day, and as I was trying to prepare myself for the rigors of playing a pair of 5-hour rounds a day, I wasn’t overly upset at that one. The next morning, though, I drew again with a much lower rated master, this time NM Gregory Young.

I got a clear advantage out of the opening, but immediately took it into an endgame which offered few practical chances for me due to the opposite colored bishops. This was a bad practical decision, as had I kept more pieces on the board, I may have kept more chances of outplaying my opponent. As it was, the endgame was not so hard to defend, and although he gave me a few chances, I never got close enough to win the game.

The real disaster struck that evening, in the fourth round as black against NM Drake Wang. I emerged from the opening with a clear advantage (extra pawn, pair of bishops), but then was so overjoyed with such an advantage that I played a little loosely for the next few moves. I saw a winning line after he played 18.Nxf7, the only problem being that I mixed up the order of the moves. Thus, I incorrectly played 18…d4, when 18…Bxc4 19.bxc3 d3! was winning. He immediately took advantage by sliding his knight away with Nce5, after which I was reeling. I tried to fight, and the game went on for another 2.5 hours, but I was again in no danger of winning and in fact was in no real danger of drawing the game!

With that loss, I was dropped to 2/4 and decided to withdraw from the tournament. I had done a great job against lower rated players in general since playing more seriously in 2006 – before this tournament, in my previous 64 games against lower rated opposition (since the start of 2006), I had 55 wins, 7 draws, and 2 losses. In this tournament, I left with 1 win, 2 draws, and 1 loss. A clunker like that was bound to happen at some point, but it was disappointing for sure. However, I think I’ve learned a couple things from those games and will hopefully not let that happen again.

The tournament was also costly from a FIDE rating standpoint, as I essentially threw away all my gains from Balaguer 2008 by losing 12+ rating points. My next rated tournament will be the Miami International, from September 10th to the 14th.

As a stand-in for a wrap-up of the tournament, my former student FM Sam Shankland won the tournament convincingly with 5/6. He thrashed IM Andrei Florean in round 5 before holding a draw against IM Dmitry Zilberstein in the final round to secure clear first place.

HT to my former teacher Richard Shorman for the photos. There are more available at his Chess Dryad site.