Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 New England Open

This was my first regional tournament since March 2009, and my first chess rated event/game in over 35 days.

I contemplated for a week as to whether or not I'd play in the multiple day tournament or the 1-Day tournament. Usually, I prefer the multi-day tournament schedules and make a big-to-do about the event, but as I'm just recovering from a recent surgery and just now gaining my strength to play, I opted for the 1-Day event and played in the U1700 section.

When I arrived on Monday morning, the event was in full swing. The 2009 New England Open was directed by Alex Relyea assisted by his wife, Nita Patel and MACA officials. It was held at the Holiday Inn in Nashua New Hampshire -- a convenient location for most Massachusetts chess players. And, I must say that Alex did a fantastic job once again; the unfortunate understanding I have, however, is that Alex suffered a financial loss at this tournament, even though he collected over a 100 entry fees.

If these events are going to continue, a resolution needs to be found to ensure financial stability for the organizers of these tournaments. I know that people are screaming "Don't raise tournament fees!", but something needs to be done. The CCA has a very successful model with their events and their fees are tripled in comparison to the fees that local organizations charge for their events here in New England.

But I digress...congratulations Alex and team for a job well done! The 2009 New England Open had a vibrant appeal and you could feel the energy in the competition room as chess players sat quietly entwined with their thoughts...contemplating all sorts of combinations and various strategies to outwit their opponent!

As for me, well, I just wanted to get back to playing chess and aspired to having a good tournament; good as in playing .500 or better. I went into this event with one game at a time mentality, letting the chips fall as they may. Never did I imagine that I would go on to place 1st in this tournament; especially after going through the surgery I did and not playing any chess for over 30 days!

Now, naturally when the lowest tournament section is U1700, your field of players are going to include under 1300 rated players in your section. Being one of the higher rated players, I knew that my first round game would "probably" be an easy game. But, you never know with young kids; you know the ones...being coached by Gary Kasparov and are on their way to reaching class A status by end of year and you just happen to be in their way when they start out on such a trek.

This section had 26 participants for this one day event; rather impressive I'd say. In the first round I was Black and drew a young adolescent named Rohan Shankar with a rating of 1264. For a 1200 rated player, he played quite strong. The line played in this game was the Sicilian Najdorf and 48 moves later I had prevailed. Rohan did not have a very good tournament and went on to place 24th with a score: 0.5 - 3.0

In the second round I was due White and was paired against a young teen named Edward Li with a rating of 1524. Edward decided to play the French Defense...Damn! I can not stand this opening. I find it totally boring and uninspiring! As one who dislikes the French Defense, I naturally, of course, don't play into any of the French lines. Rather, I meet boring with boring and play the KIA against this lack-luster defense.

Black was behind this entire game and it was only a matter of time before I would overcome this useless defense. It did get down to an end game, but I had 3 pawns up and an active King. Black's King was MIA. 2-0

Edward went on to have a good tournament, placing 5th overall with a score of: 3.0 - 1.0

After the end of the second round, I was feeling pretty good about my play after taking a 30+ day hiatus from chess. My confidence was returning and the games I had played were solid wins. In round 3 I was due Black and got paired up against an older gentleman named David Raymond with a rating of 1535. David was having a strong tournament and had just knocked off the number one seed in our section in round 2.

For two strong players who had just played two great games in a row, I'd say that our game was a little careless. The line played in this game was the Closed Sicilian. Personally, I have not experienced a lot of games with this line, but enough to know what strategies to incorporate when playing out this particular version of the Sicilian.

Our game was pretty even up until move 22 where I decided to open it up a little with a pawn sacrifice. This is where the carelessness on my part begins; thinking that I had calculated correctly a knight pin, I over looked White's Queen playing a "check" move to escape the fork. Thus, I was down a Rook for a Bishop. But it did not stop there, I immediately followed up with a Knight move to an uprotected square and...whala...I was down a solid piece with no compensation.

At this point, I knew my game was lost, but I wanted to give David a run for his money. My pieces were active and better coordinated, so I just dug in and fought it out. Well, to my amazement, David entered the club of careless play and made a move where I was able to pin his rook and win the piece. Next thing I knew, our game was dead even again and, eventually, it played itself out to a draw. Whew...
2.5 - 0.5

In the final round, I was in the money and a shot to place 1st in our section. The only issue was, I would not be afforded the right to play the current one seed due to our color pairings. We were both due White and therefore, the pairings would work itself into way that I would not be able to control my own destiny.

In the final round I was White and drew Thomas Laaman with a rating of 1636. Thomas entered the tournament with a first round bye and he too, was in the money if he could knock me off this round.

This game was my best game of the tournament. I played the Evans Gambit against Thomas and after playing 6.Qb3, I knew I had the game in the bag. Just watching my opponent twist and turn with that uncomfortable feeling of being in uncharted waters was enough to satisfy my intuition, that my opponent was lost and unsure of his position.

The critical point in the game came at move 30. I had just played Qxh6 and my opponent played 30...Bg5? Can you see the winning tactic?

I played 31.Bg6+ where an eventual exchange led to winning a full piece and positional advantage. I went on to easliy win this game 8 moves later and finished the tournament at 3.5 - 0.5. As luck would have it, David Raymond, whom I played in round 3, forced a draw in his final round with the current one seed, Timothy Lung.

The Chess Gods had favored me greatly this day as I found myself sharing first place with Timothy and splitting the winnings at the tournament's conclusion.