Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Continental Open

This event is organized by the Continental Chess Association (CCA) and was hosted in Sturbridge Massachusetts.

This is a popular and strong tournament, generating a good attendance of chess talent from all over the north east corridor of the United States. For me, this was my first time as an attendee, and I was both excited and anxious to play. I had just come off of two consecutive tournament wins and felt confident going into this one. It would be a good test to help me correctly gauge my true playing strength and uncover weaknesses in my game.

However, before I get into the actual tournament, I need to say that the Sturbridge Host Hotel for this event was not all that spectacular. I know that writers for Chess Life and MACA praise this place; probably more so because of convenience and the "amenities" that the hotel offers, and of course to help maintain a good rapport for future events.

Personally, I found the rooms disgusting! Damp and moldy carpets in desperate need of replacement, spiders in two of four ceiling corners, a half cleaned shower and an odor that lends itself to a damp environment. I did try to get a different room, but, with such a popular event, there were no other available rooms. I will not be staying at this hotel in future events.

The tournament itself is a good one and the facilities that accommodate the event are excellent; plenty of well ventilated space for the games and chess vendors to set up shop, rest rooms easily available, food vendors and quick access to the exit doors for a breath of fresh air.

So, lets talk about the tournament. Right from day one, there was plenty of excitement and energy permeating throughout the hall space as chess players gathered and mingled with one another, anxiously awaiting for pairings to post.

I was playing in the U1500 section and my first opponent gave me a game that foreshadowed the coming temperaments of games to play in this event. Once again, I begin the tournament playing White against an older gentleman, Brian Clark, from New York; a provisional player playing in his second tournament.

The game played into a Ruy Lopez Exchange with 5. ...f6. A common line of play and one I face often with great success on my part. My opponent played a strong game and it was an even game throughout. But at the beginning of move 22, I liked my position better than Black's.

Position after Black plays 21. ...Rh5. My thinking at this juncture was not of the right mind set. I placed too much emphasis on protecting the weak h-pawn and not enough on taking advantage of White's king position and the open d-file; not to mention that White's pieces are better coordinated to gain some significant space on both wings of the board.

Here I ended up playing 22. Rg2. It's an OK move and the position remains even, but it allows black an opportunity to strengthen and evaluate his current strategy with the possibility of gaining tempo. Better was Rd8+ or Rd2 freeing up the g-file rook to put pressure elsewhere, rather than serve as a protector. Needless to say this game was a slug-fest to the end where White eventually blunders and Black takes advantage for the win.

After the first day of tournament play, I was down 0-2. The following day, I regain some focus and pull off a draw and two straight wins. After five rounds, I had enough and did not play the 6th round to finish the tournament at 2 1/2 points.

I learned a lot at this tournament and discovered a lot of weaknesses in my game. In that respect it was a good tournament for me and I realized that forcing something to happen in chess is an ill-fated attempt to rush the game to a hopeful finality that only serves notice to eventual failure. Patience and understanding positional play is paramount at this stage of my chess ability, if I'm going to become a better player.

Rating Watch: 1428