First, I'd like to apologize for the lack of posts last week. My modem was giving me trouble, but seems to be working OK again. This past weekend, I returned to the site of my worst tournament of the year, the Nashville Chess Center. I chose this tournament over the larger LPO in North Carolina because they have moved what was already a long trip to Winston-Salem even further east to Burlington (and I hear they're thinking of moving even further east). This time the NCC was better to me as I continued my recent run of success with a perfect 4-0 score to win the open section. I think 4 first place finishes in a row is a new personal record for me. Three of them being Grand Prix tournaments makes it even nicer since I haven't had a whole lot of success in the Grand Prix over the years. All of my games had some interesting point, here are fragments.
In the first round, I equalized pretty easily with Black against Wally Jordan, but could probably only claim the slightest of advantages in the endgame. However, he played some indifferent moves and allowed me a breakthrough
27...g5 I was reminded of the move 34.b4 in the game Martinovsky-Bereolos . 28.hxg5 28.gxh5 is met by 28...gxh4 and White's h-pawn should soon be rounded up. He maybe should have tried not taking either pawn with 28.Kg3 28...h4! Now Black stands much better. He has an outside passed pawn, White's pawns on e4, g4, and g5 are all weak, and his bishop is hemmed in by his own pawns. Wally didn't find a way to put up much resistance. 29.Rd1 Bg6 30.Ke3 Rh8 31.Rh1 Ne6 32.Bf1 Nxg5 33.Bd3 Ne6 33...Bf7 intending to redirect the attack to the g-pawn is better, but I was able to correct this next move 34.Nb1 Ng5 35.Nd2 Bf7 36.Nf3 Nxf3 37.Kxf3 Kf6 and Black won without difficulties.
In Round 2, I again had a complicated game with White against Martin Nilsson. This time I finally got the better of him, although there were some hairy moments. I thought I had a great position out of the opening, but may have played in a bit too patiently. By the time I got around to cracking the whip, he was ready with some counterplay.
23.g4!? Kh8 24.Rh3 Nd4 25.Nxd4 cxd4 26.gxf5 Qf7 27.Ng4 Qxd5+ When entering this attack, I hadn't realized that my d-pawn was going to fall with check, now an extremely complicated position arises with both kings in danger 28.Kg1 Rac8 Somewhere in the next few moves Black should probably try either Qxf5 trying to get to the ending or Rg8 with the idea of Bf8 instead of forcing White's queen into the attack. 29.Qd3 Nc5 30.Qg3 Rc7 31.f6 Ne4 32.fxg7+ and White was able to consolidate his extra piece.
In the third round, I had Black against Bill Melvin. I've had two disasters against him in double king pawn games (lost positions after 10 moves), so this time I went with the Modern and we went into the sacrificial line 5...Nf6 that I've discussed here in my games with GM Ivanov and Dickerson. I think I got an edge out of the opening, but may have not transposed to the most favorable ending I could have reached. He got counterplay and things were looking like they were headed for a draw when he decided to take his King on an ill-fated journey.
33.Kd5 Rc5+ 34.Kd6 White should just play back to d4 with equality 34...Rc6+ 35.Kd7?! It was time to back up with 36.Kd5 again with perpetual check 35...Re6 Now Black has a significant edge despite being down a pawn. White's g, e, and a pawns are all weak. White's "active" King is cutting off the communication of his rooks and has to constantly be wary of skewers and mate threats. 36.Kd8 Rcxe3 37.Rbf7+ Kg5 38.Kd7 He actually offered me a draw here, but it's a little late for that. 38...Rb6 39.Kc7 Rb2 40.h4+ Kf4 41.h5 Rc3+ 41...g5 should also win, but the single rook ending is easier 42.Kd6 Rd2+ 43.Ke7 Rc7+ 44. Kf6 Rxf7+ 45.Kxf7 gxh5 46.Rxh5 Kg4! not 46...Rxg2? 47.Kf6 picking up the f-pawn. Now, White must lose both of his pawns and soon resigned.
This put me a point clear of the field going into the final round. Brian Smith had to try to play agressively with Black since a draw would probably put him out of the prize money. We reached a fairly typical 4 Pawns Attack position
15...Qb4?! more typical is 15...c4 16.Qc2 b5?! I expected 16...Nb6, which I don't think causes White much trouble. It's probably best to bail out with 16...c4 when Black will probably reach a normal position a tempo down, although in a sharp line like this, that tempo is precious. 17.a5 Now, Black must take care that his queen doesn't get trapped. 17...c4 18.Qf2 I didn't like 18.Ra3 Nc5 19.Re2 Nd3 20.Na2 Qxb2 21.Qxb2 Nxb2 22.Rxb2 Nxe4 when I thought Black's connected passed pawns gave him compensation for the piece. Looking at it now, 22...Nxd5 is even stronger. Now, Ra3 and Na2 is a threat, so Black's next move is probably forced. 18...Nc5 19.Bxc5 dxc5? Black is still much worse after 19...Qxc5 20.Qxc5 dxc5 21.e5, but now his queen will not find safety 20.e5 Nd7 21.d6 in addition to Bxa8, White also has the killing threat of Nd5. The sacrifice 21...Nxe5 22.fxe5 Bxe5 threatening ...Bd4 brings no relief after 23.Rxe5 21...g5 22.Nd5 Qb3 23.Ra3 finally snaring the wayward queen 23...Qxa3 24.bxa3 Rad8 25.Ne7+ 1:0
I've added the correction of position 309b to the BCE section. Fine had the assessment of this R+P vs. R ending correct (draw), but erred right on the first move of the analysis.
I've added my game against Kudrin from this past weekend and my 1997 game against Serper, which I discussed in my June lecture at the Knoxville Chess Club, to the GM games section
The great experiment in Dortmund is over and the human race is still safe. Computer chess program Junior 6 exceeded my expectations and finished with an even score in Dortmund. While I can't call its 2700 performance unimpressive, I will say it was uninspiring. The machines two wins came when Hubner resigned rather than make the machine show some technique, and when Leko pressed too hard in the final round trying to catch the leaders, Anand and Kramnik. The machines two losses against Kramnik and Piket were complete wipeouts. I think the machine also caught a break in playing Anand in the round after he lost a tough game to Kramnik. Anand tried to get the type of closed "anti-computer" position that was so sucessful for Kramnik. When that didn't happen, he offered a draw after only 18 moves, which was accepted. So overall, I wouldn't say Junior 6 plays at a 2700 level. Even if we give it the benefit of the doubt, that would mean that in a best of 16 game match against Garry Kasparov, the machine would only be expected to score 3.5 points. I think most people will agree that Vladimir Kramnik will score more than that in October. As soon as I figure out the html for a poll, I'm going to set one up. In any case, it's safe to say that the human race is still the king of the chess world and should continue to be into the forseeable future. The organizers have promised another event like this next year with Fritz replacing Junior. I'd like to see them invite some GMs like John van der Wiel, who are not rated as highly as other GMs, but have the reputation of "computer killers."
I had a crazy weekend in Kingsport, Tennessee. For the first time, I played in the Vulcan Materials Company Fun Fest Open, which is part of the Kingsport Fun Fest. I had avoided this tournament in the past because it conflicted with the Murfreesboro Grand Prix. It conflicted again this year, but since the Kingsport tournament had upgraded itself to Grand Prix status this year, I decided to give it a shot.
I was suprised at the relatively small number of players. Despite being a 10 point Grand Prix event, only 4 players over 2000 entered the Open section, including the tournament's special guest GM Sergey Kudrin. The organizer announced that because of the low turnout, the Open and Amateur(U1400) sections would be combined into a single section which had about 30 players. He also announced that GM Kudrin would be late (I think he was flying in all the way from Moscow) and would get a bye in the first round.
The schedule was somewhat strange for a G/60 tournament. There were 2 rounds Saturday morning and 3 Sunday morning and afternoon. I presume this was to allow people to do other activities at the Fun Fest. A simultaneous exhibition by Kudrin was also planned for Saturday evening.
There were some strange happenings in the Saturday rounds. One player was over an hour late to round 1 and should have been forfeited. For some reason, he was allowed to play his game in full (he lost anyway). Even with this delay, round 1 was complete and round 2 past schedule and still no GM Kudrin. Now the organizer announced that whoever was paired with Kudrin would have the choice of having the game played 1)as part of the simultaneous or 2)playing him Saturday morning at 7 AM. Not a great choice if you ask me and also somewhat disrespectful. It turns out that his opponent for round 2 was former Knoxville player Mike Abron. Here's where the story becomes a little fuzzy since I wasn't present. Mike played in the simul and at least some people understood that this was to count in the tournament. Mike is a dangerous player to face in a simul, he got Irina Krush's scalp in one last year. In this simul, Mike drew with Kudrin. Now, I don't know for sure what the situation was, Mike just told me that it wasn't fair to Sergey to play the tournament game as part of the simul, so he played him again Sunday morning. I agree that it probably wasn't fair to Sergey, but it wasn't really fair to Mike either to have his schedule bent all around.
With the long delay between rounds, I did what at the time may have looked like a ?! move, but may have turned out to at least be !?: I let my friends the McWilliams', who I was staying with, talk me into running the Crazy 8s 8K (~5 mile) race at 10 that night. I do run a little bit, but usually only 2-3 miles and my running schedule had been curtailed recently because of high heat/humidity and heavy rain in Knoxville. But I guess I was in a crazy mood and went ahead and did it. From the results you can see for yourself that I am not much of a runner (page WAY down to find me). On the roughly figure 8 course, the halfway point corresponded to the finish line. The Kenyans who were there attempting to set a world record finished before I made it to this halfway point. I actually didn't feel too bad at the 5K point, but then the 4th mile was a brutal hill that I thought was never going to top off. That was the only point I thought about stopping, but knew if I did, I would never get going again. The hill finally crested and after 4 miles the clock stood at 47 minutes. My goal was pretty modest, to finish in less than an hour. I was pretty sure I could make it then since the tough 4th mile I had completed in 13 minutes. I actually found some strength in the last mile, passed 3 people, and had something left to "sprint" down the stretch with the clock ticking 57 and change in view.
Of course, running was probably not a bright idea since I had chess to play the next day, but I arrived at 9 the next morning wondering if Sergey ever showed up. That's when I talked to Mike Abron and heard about his draw and loss. I was a little annoyed that the pairings weren't up, even by 9:15, since I was sore and just wanted to play. Finally, around 9:20, the pairings went up and there was yet another controversy. The top 4 players (Kudrin, myself, Klaus Pohl, and Leonard Dickerson) along with two 1600s had perfect scores. Normally, the pairings would be Kudrin-Dickerson with me and Pohl playing the two lower rated players. Instead, it was Kudrin-Pohl, and Pohl questioned why. To me, it looked like a simple switch for colors, but the weak explanation they gave Pohl ("The computer made the pairings") wasn't good enough for Pohl (good for him). I stayed out of things, I guess I've had enough arguing about pairings for one year (BTW, this tournament did not use the infamous PairPlus program). I was also wondering what had possessed me to run 5 miles the night before. Eventually, the organizer stated that in the tournament announcements it said all byes were half point byes, so he reduced Kudrin's bye in round 1 to a half point! I guess Sergey was OK with this since I didn't hear him raise a fuss, so the pairings now went Bereolos-Pohl with Dickerson and Kudrin getting the 1600 players (note again that Pohl and Dickerson were switched for color, which is what started the whole thing to begin with). Finally, about 45 minutes late round 3 got underway. Instead of playing a 1600, I had to face a master. I won an exchange early in the middle game, but started falling into time pressure. Finally, with about 4.5 minutes to go I blundered the exchange back. I followed that up with another blunder which should have cost me the game, but he was blitzing me and picked up a pawn instead of playing a combination that would have won another exchange. He continued to blitz in the rook ending and gave me a couple of pawns. I gave one back to get a strong passer, but the ending should have been a draw. That's when I got a nice gift.
I played 56.Ra5+ and after 56...Kh4? 56...Kg6= 57.Kg2! Black suddenly found himself in zugzwang. 57...f3+ 58.Kf2 doesn't help since 58...Kh3 is met by 59.Rh5#. He tried 57...g3 but after 58.h3! f3+ 59.Kxf3 Rf8+ 60.Kg2 Ra8 61.Ra4+ I won easily.
Dickerson and Kudrin both won, so in the 4th round I played Dickerson, since we had the only perfect scores. I was a little bit better for most of the game, and we both ran short of time. Near the end of the time scramble my position was starting to look much better when Leonard lost on time.
Finally, in the last round, I had my 4th meeting with GM Sergey Kudrin. I played a miserable opening and around move 12 most of those present had written me off. Maybe because of that 4th mile the night before, I dug in and didn't give up. I was still much worse for a long time even into the endgame. Plus time pressure again reared it's head (I think the constant time pressure I got into may have been partly caused by the race. Probably my brain was just turning off trying to rest, then I'd wake up and see less than 5 minutes on my clock 8-). Somehow, in a knight ending a pawn down, I managed to find all the right squares for the knight and finally gave it up to eliminate his last pawns. So, draw, and I'm clear first thanks to Kudrin's half point bye. My third tournament win in a row! I think this is the first time I've done that since I went on a tear in 1996 when I pushed my rating over 2400. I'm going to try to keep it up! This was also a little bit of revenge for Sergey's win over Todd Andrews in the US Open team that kept our team from finishing first (see 11/21/99). I promise to get the Kudrin game posted in the GMs section in the next day or two even if it is just with light notes since many people present asked to see the game.
The Dortmund tournament is now in full swing. The main interest this year is the participation of the program Deep Junior in the top group. After 4 rounds the computer is doing its best to make my last place prediction for it look foolish. So far, the beast has scored a win and 3 draws. Still, it is difficult to gauge the strength of this program. In round 1, Bareev played a passive opening, but managed to get a locked "anti-computer" position. Then, he suddenly sacrificed a pawn. The computer took it and Bareev seemed to have very little compensation. The program seemed to then struggle to find a winning plan. Eventually, a knight ending was reached with the computer still holding an extra pawn, but it was unable to convert it. Round 2 was the strangest game. Dr. Huebner made an inaccuracy early in the middle game which could have led to a disadvantageous position. Instead, he elected to give up a pawn, the abruptly resigned one move later. This isn't the first time Huebner has given up a fight prematurely, but after the computer's difficulty in converting the point against Bareev, I would think one would want to test it's technique. In round 3, Michael Adams played quietly as White steering towards an early endgame and the computer had no difficulties holding a draw. In round 4, FIDE champ Khalifman, sacrificed a couple of pawns then took refuge in an opposite colored bishop ending where he held the draw in a long game. So what to think? The computer hasn't really been in danger of losing a game yet, but hasn't been the overpowering monster that everyone had expected. I'll say the verdict is still out until it plays the big boys: Kramnik, Anand, and Leko.
Speaking of Kramnik, Round 4 had the sensational result: KRAMNIK LOSES! Adams beat him to end Vlady's undefeated streak in slow games at 82 games and over 18 months. This should further certify Adams' status as one of the "Linares guys", as Kasparov says. This may be a blessing in disguise for Kramnik since if he had kept the streak intact he may have entered his match with Kasparov feeling invincible. Hopefully, this loss will spur him to prepare even harder for that match and we'll see some exciting chess.
I had my second straight tournament success on Saturday in Crossville. Unlike the spring tournament (where my 4-0 score was good enough to pick up only 1 rating point), there was one other master (Neal Harris) and 2 A players (Brad Watson and Emanuel Tsitseklis) in the field this time. I managed to go 4-0 again with only one near miss in the third round with White against Watson.
My middlegame attack had petered out to an even endgame, but now the clock took its toll. I had 5 minutes left and Brad had less than 1 minute with a 5 second per move delay in effect. 1.Ke4 Bh8 simpler is 1...Bf6 in order to have easier access to the c1-h6 diagonal. 2.Bf8 c3 I thought this was the losing move and was more worried about 2...Ka4 3.h6 Kb3 4.Bg7 c3= 3.Kd3 now White's King stops the Black pawn and Black looks like he is unable to stop h6 and Bg7 winning. 3...Kc6? the move that finally throws away the draw. 3...Bf6 4.h6 Bg5! 5.h7 Bf6! holds the draw since White can no longer block the long diagonal. 4.h6! Kd7 5.Bg7! 1-0
I'm back from (non-chess playing) vacation. I see the new FIDE rating list is out. Garry Kasparov is still The Boss. His performance in the first half of 2000 only cost him two rating points, down to 2849, still well ahead of the pack. His challenger, Vladimir Kramnik, has taken over the number 2 spot at 2770, displacing Vishy Anand at 2762. Mikey Adams(2755) jumped from #7 to #5, which could shake up next years Linares lineup a bit. Peter Leko(2743) gained rating points, but now finds himself 7th instead of 6th. The big suprise in the top 10 is Polish GM Michal Krasenkow, who jumped from 26th at 2661 to 10th at 2702. Looks like he should get an invite to some of the elite tournaments next year. I see that Gata Kamsky(2717) is still listed as inactive despite playing in the FIDE championship last year. He would have been number 9 on the list.
Outside the top 10, Anatoly Karpov(2699), gained 3 points, just enough not to crack the 2700 barrier. The Chinese continue to climb up the ranks, with 3 players in the top 30: Jiangchuan Ye (2670, #20), Jun Xu (2668, #22), and Xiaomin Peng (2657, #29). We'll probably be seeing one of them in one of the elite tournaments soon, too. On the other hand, we probably won't be seeing any of Burmese players in supertournaments any time soon. Their dismal performances outside Myanmar and the decision of the FIDE rating committee to take 100 points from each of their players took them out of the top 100 as quickly as they had appeared. However, glancing at the list, it looks like they just reduced these players by 100 points and did not take into account games they had played in the first half of the year. I can't tell if the games they played were rated for their opponents at the old or new rating. FIDE champ Alexander Khalifman(2667) picked up 12 points and rose from 31st to 25th. Judit Polgar(2656) remains the only woman in the top 100 at #32. Yasser Seirawan(2647) continues to be the top US player at #36, but Boris Gulko(2643) is right on his tail. The two Alexes, Shabalov(2601, #84) and Yermolinsky(2596, #92) are the only other US players in the top 100.
Way down the list, I find myself, number 164 among active US players at 2308. This is unchanged from January with 0 games played. I thought that was a bit odd since I had played some FIDE rated players at the Kings Island Open last November. That tournament is usually FIDE rated, but I never saw it listed on a rating report. Also, my number of games played on the previous list was consistent with that event not yet having been rated. Looks like another one that FIDE may have missed.
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