Tag Archives: US Open

Rd 9: A Deserved Hiding

I got to sleep in on Sunday, since the Delegates – miracle of miracles! – had managed to finish up all their business on Saturday.  After a late breakfast with John Watson, I tried to clear my head and get ready to play some chess.  The round time, as is common, moved up on the final day to 3pm.  My opponent came ready to play.  I did not.  This game is the result.


Multiple flaws in my game are on display in this little disaster.  My bishop belongs on e7 and not c7; I got carried away with ideas of pushing …e6-e5 and breaking up White’s center, but even there, the bishop should be on e7 to hit the c5 pawn.  My calculative abilities, if one can call them abilities, were shocking.  I just don’t seem to have the sense of danger that I should.  If any readers have ideas on how to train that, I’d be much obliged.

The silver lining is that while Team Hartmann had a miserable event, Team Watson had a very good one.  John went 6-1 (plus two half pt byes in rds 1 and 2) to finish at 7-2 and grab a share of the U2400 money.  More important than the money was the quality of his play, which was very strong indeed, and all the more impressive given his time away from the competitive arena.  There is only one of his games in TWIC, but it’s a fairly good one, and well worth your time to track down.  Below is a picture of John analyzing with his rd 9 opponent and other future members of the US Chess Olympic team.


Rd 8: A Professional Job

I’m home after a long drive yesterday, and after some much needed sleep.  (Who knew chess tournaments took so much out of you?)  Now it’s time to catch up on Rounds 8 and 9, and then I’ll cap things off with a recap, review and reconsideration of my game.  I’ll return to book reviewing shortly thereafter with a review of Christian Hesse’s book.

Saturday was Delegate Meeting day.  Oy.  I’ve been told it was Kissinger who once said that academics argue so much because there’s so very little at stake.  I’m sure, however, that if he’d attended the Delegates Meeting, he’d want to modify that statement.  Chess players just love to hear themselves argue over the smallest things, and while I’m sure it’s part of my training in informal logic that makes me say this, I heard some of the dumbest arguments imaginable on certain barely consequential votes.

That said, I did rather enjoy being a Delegate, if only because I could tune out and look at things on Chessbase if the discussion went sour.  I learned quite a bit about the state of the USCF and its finances, which, all things considered, are decent and perhaps even on the upswing.  Michael Khodarkovsky gave a report about FIDE and Americans in international play.  We learned that Franc Guadalupe is actively working to get some kind of online play for USCF members and, perhaps more importantly, is bargaining with Random House to publish the long-awaited 6th edition of the Rulebook.  Guadalupe seems incredibly competent, which naturally means we can’t induce him to stay on as full-time director.  Oh well.  A boy can dream.

Two motions were actively debated.  The first dealt with the introduction of an age-limit for Delegates.  This makes sense, and legal opinion apparently was on the side of age-limiters.  But youth prevailed, if only because (1) there was a 14yr old Delegate already seated with whom the majority of the grandparently delegates were smitten, and (2) people were convinced by some of the least well-thought speeches I’ve ever heard.  So we can seat toddlers as delegates… because states rights.  (Seriously.)

Second, Jim Berry tried to introduce a plan to allow scholastic players up to the age of 12 to buy life memberships for $500.  Sounds great, right?  Most scholastic players drop out, so that has got to be a cash grab for the Federation.  But it would seem that no one actually did any cost-benefit analysis to determine how many players drop out and come back, what percentage of players would have to disappear as adults to make such a cheap price point feasible, etc.  I was moved to make my one and only comment from the floor here, telling the delegates that most of them were far older than me and that I (and my coming governing cohorts) might have to deal with the consequences of a plan that apparently wasn’t worth their doing basic math or anything.  Luckily reason – or non-insanity – prevailed here and the motion failed.

It turns out my evening game was against another delegate, this time a woman from Wisconsin.  After some dodgy opening play, I was able to tie her defenses down to a backward c-pawn and then open up a second attack on her kingside.  I probably could have won faster, but in the end I’m basically pleased with my play here.  The resistance could have been stronger, but it wasn’t a blowout and I had to actually, you know, do something to win.  This left me at 4.0/8 heading into the last round.


Rd 4 & 5: Doubleheader

Yesterday was my long day, my day of unending chess labor, my two-a-day.  I’ve never played in a large national event where multiple rounds of 40/2 SD/1 games are on the cards, and now I know why.  It’s exhausting, even if – as I did – you luck out and get a fairly quick win in the late game.

I started the day at 1.5/3, so I expected to be playing someone fairly decent in round 4.  My opponent was a 20ish 1977 player, and to be honest, he flat-out beat me.  They don’t call the Ruy ‘Spanish Torture’ for nothing.  If Black plays inaccurately in any number of lines, White just builds up a powerful kingside attack and wins.  Had I kept my light squared bishop, I think my chances would have been better, but in the end, the ‘kid’ (I can say that at 37, right?) just outplayed me.  Hats off to him.  (I will note, however, that begging out of a quick postmortem because ‘you might have to eat’ is a little sketchy when the next round starts in 3.5 hrs.  Just say you’re not interested.)

After some muttered profanities, I cooled my jets in the bookstore and then went off for dinner at the restaurant across the street.  It was then time for pregame coffee and chess prep!

Some of the discussion at chesspub about these posts led me to reconsider my overly zealous pregame habits, so I tried to take it easy, only looking at a few variations to remind myself of key points.  It might also have been a small blessing that pairings didn’t go up until perhaps 20 minutes before the round, as I couldn’t obsess over my opponent’s repertoire if I didn’t know who he or she was.

My round 5 opponent turned out to be a very nice 11 yr old from New Mexico rated around 1500.  This is his second US Open, he told me, and his brother played in the Barber.  I’d looked at a lot of d4 openings in the weeks before the Open, and my thinking generally is that older folk such as myself should strongly consider playing things besides 1.e4 against talented kids.  He played a variation of the Slav where he takes …dxc4 early, and I was a bit befuddled.  Eventually I sac’d my b-pawn and got a lot of play against his exposed queen.  Surely he resigned too early, as there was plenty of play in the position, but White is vastly better in the final position.

I ended the day at 2.5/5, and with my half pt bye in round 6, I’ll be at 3.0/6 when the schedules merge tonight.  Today I’ll return to downtown Madison for awhile, and then I’ll attend the Chess Journalists of America meeting before eating and preparing to play tonight.  I should also have more pictures tomorrow!

Here are my games, presented with my thanks to those who would take the time to view them!


Preparing for the US Open

This blog is, ostensibly, devoted to the review of chess books and literature.  Part of its conceit is that it is written by an active class player, by someone who is striving to improve, and who is more often than not using the books he reviews to do so.  What happens when all that reading reviewing is put into practice, and the reviewer does battle over the board?

I’m writing from my hotel room in MIddleton, WI, where I’m playing in the 2013 US Open.  I’m playing in the 6-Day section, and with a couple of judicious half-pt byes, I’ve created a playing schedule that is mainly one round a day.  This leaves me enough time to see friends, explore downtown Madison, and ogle all the chess books on sale at the tournament bookstore.  (I only bought two, Anna!  Only two thus far, anyway…)

Each morning, time permitting, I will post lightly annotated accounts of my previous day’s play.  The notes won’t be Huebner-esque; there’s not time for that in the midst of the event, and I’m more interested at the moment in noting what I saw (and missed) during the game than I am discerning the absolute truth.  Final analysis comes after the event.  For now, you get sketches.

In this post I’d like to talk about my preparation for the tournament.  Because this is the largest tournament I’ve ever played, and because – let’s be honest – it is an expensive undertaking to pay an entry fee, stay six nights in a hotel, eat, drink, and buy chess swag, I wanted to come into this event as well prepared as I could.  My strategy, therefore, was threefold.  First, I needed to sharpen my tactics.  Second, I needed to work on endings and positional play.  Third, I needed to get some rated games under my belt to hopefully play myself into shape.

The third of these tasks was easier said than done,  It wasn’t hard to get rated games played.  What was hard was playing well in them.  My rating has dropped sixty points over my last two events, and I seem to be in some kind of chessic funk.  Oy.

I tried to work on the first task – tactical study – by solving problems at Chesstempo.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that this was the most productive avenue for tactical sharpening.  While you get to solve lots of problems on this website, I feel like such solving perhaps leads to a kind of shallow tactical vision during OTB play and an overreliance on tactical thinking during games.  I’ve noticed that I’m not playing solidly right now, trying to blow lower-rated players off the board with brute tactics instead of solid, building attack.  Most likely it’s just ‘noise’ instead of real data that is making me think this way, but I’m probably going to mix in more complex tactical study from books with my Chesstempo work in the future.

(Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for.)  Endings and positional themes were treated via books!  I used Jonathan Hawkins’ Amateur to IM (reviewed here and here by yours truly) to work on some basic endings, and I looked at a lot of examples from Pal Benko’s Chess Endgame Lessons (out of print, sadly) for both fun and practical study.  I also studied Jacob Aagaard’s Grandmaster Preparation: Positional Play extensively, solving a number of the exercises, etc.   I’ll be reviewing this book after I return home from the Open, but I can already tell you that the review will be very positive.

Now, let’s be clear: my play, good or bad, can’t be attributed to what I’ve been reading.  Still, it will be interesting to see (1) if my preparation was at all helpful, and (2) if anything specific I read or studied will bear fruit.

On to the games!  And perhaps some pictures from the event?