The July FIDE rating list has been issued. It was probably better that I didn't comment on the initial release because, as usual, there were corrections and a revised list a couple of weeks later. The missing tournament this time was Vishy Anand's win in Mexico. Anand picked up a couple of points there, but it still left him 3 points short of 2800, placing him 3rd behind Garry Kasparov(2838) and World Champion Vladimir Kramnik(2803). It doesn't look like Anand will become the 3rd member of Club 2800 anytime soon though. He took a beating in the recently concluded Dortmund supertournament finishing dead last with only 3/10. #4 Mickey Adams(2744) also had a rough time of it in Dortmund with 3.5/10, even managing to lose to the drawing machine that is Peter Leko (that was Leko's 2nd win of the year if you're keeping count), so #5 Alexander Morozevich(2739), who finished with an even score in Dortmund is likely to move up. The big winner in Dortmund was the lowest rated participant, Veselin Topalov (or Weselin Topalow as the German's have it) who tied with Kramnik for first with 6.5/10. Topalov(2711) was back in the top 10 after dropping to #11 in April. Dropping out of the top 10 and out of Club 2700 is #14 Alexei Shirov. Two new faces cracked the 2700 barrier as both #11 Rustam Kasimdzhanov(2704) and #12 Ilia Smirin(2702) picked up 11 points.
The Alexes are still representing in the top 100 with a total of 16 players including newcomer #57 Alexander Delchev(2629) and the return of #95 Alexander Chernin(2601) and #100 Alexei Federov(2599). However, #47 Alexandru Crisan(2635) of Romania will probably not be long for the top 100. He made a big leap of over 100 points in 1998, but none of his games were published. He recently played for the first time since then at the Category XIII Vidmar Memorial in Slovenia where he scored 0.5/9 including losing this position as Black in the final round.
Instead of the immediately drawing 57...Rxe3+, he played 57...Ra5, which is still an easy draw (maybe he was playing for a win!?), but later managed to find a way to lose. I wonder if FIDE will take action against him as they did a few years ago when the Burmese players tried to manipulate the rating system.
#86 Thomas Luther(2604) became the 7th German in the top 100, but France now also has 7 players in the top 100 (Lautier, Bacrot, Tkachiev, Fressinet, Andrei Sokolov, Degraeve, and Dorfman). Of course, both countries are still far behind Russia, which still represents a quarter of the top 100.
The US remained with only 3 players in the top 100: #41 Yasser Seirawan(2644), #84 Gregory Kaidanov(2605), and #94 Boris F. Gulko(2602). Alexander Goldin is now listed as USA, and is just outside the top 100 at 2594. I remained at #153 among active US players at 2313 with no games rated since the Chicago Open finished too close to the deadline to be included on this list.
Here, Kurt suggested 38... Na5 menacing both Nb3 and Nc4, but I think White can carry out his plan anyway with 39. Ne3+ Ke4 40. Nc4 since the fork 40...Nb3 is not dangerous because of 41. Re2+ Kd3 42. Kf2 (or Rcc2) threatening 43. Ne5# Instead he went 38...Rcb7 which allowed me to break his pawn duo with 39. b4 Rxa3!? At first I thought I missed something, but then realized that yes, indeed, that is a whole rook. This was probably his best try to complicate since 39...cxb4 40. axb4 with the idea of Rcd1 40...Nxb4 41. Rxd4+ Kc5 42. Rxb4 leaves White two pawns up in an easily won ending.40. Nxa3 Nxb4 41. Nc4 d3 42. Ne5 Kd4 43. Kf2 Ra7 White has many ways to simplify the position, I decided to give back the rook to eliminate both his pawns 44. Rc4+ Kd5 45. Rxc5+ Kxc5 46. Nxd3+ Nxd3+ 47. Rxd3 and White won the rook ending easily.
In the evening round I faced GM Gennadi Zaichik with the Black pieces. I probably couldn't have asked for a better opening to play for a win with when he repeated the same variation of the Scotch that Daniel Rensch had played against me the night before. However, I also allowed him to sacrifice a pawn for the initiative under much more favorable conditions for White than in the Rensch game. I still hung in for awhile and I thought he played some second best moves, but just when it looked like I might be getting out after 22...g7-g6 he put me down hard
23. Bc5! Rd7 This seemed better than 23... Rd2 24. Bxe6+ fxe6 25. Qe3; but the rook is on a very unfortunate square. Probably 23... gxf5 24. Bxd6 cxd6 25. Qxd6 Bb7 26. Qe7 was the best chance for survival, but White is still clearly better 24. Rb4 Qd1 else 25. Rfb1, but now his queen takes advantage of the abandoned a-file 25. Bxe6 fxe6 26. Qa3 [1:0] 26...Bb7 27.Rxb7 Kxb7 28.Qxa7+ Kc8 29.Qa8# highlights the poor placement of Rd7.
The battle for first place was more interesting than the previous couple of years. There were only 4 players in the top score group, so there were no short draws. Eventually, Shulman and Smirin agreed to a draw, leaving Onischuk and Benjamin with a shot to take it all. Onischuk had a small edge in a double rook ending, but Benjamin defended accurately to hold the draw. These 4 were joined by Goldin, Ivanov, and Yudasin who all won from the trailing score group.
After my disappointing results on Day 2, I fell into drawing mode on the third day, drawing rather uneventful games as White against Samson Benen and Black against Jim Dean. Just when it looked like I might have to change my last name to Leko, I finally broke back into the win column on the 4th day with White Viktor Levine. I had won a pawn, but there were still some technical problems to solve after 26...a7-a6
Here I was able to calculate a long combination, although the main line did not manage to see the light of day 27. Nc7! Ra7 28. Nc6! (28.Nxa6 Rda8 would give Black drawing chances) 28...Rxc7 29. Nxd8 Now, White remains up the exchange after 29... Bxd8 30. Rd4, but since the White knight is trapped, Black can try moving his knight out of danger first. 29...Ne5 30.Rd1 Nd7 31.Rxa6 Bxd8 32.Ra8 +- My main line was 29... Nc5 30. Rc4 Bxd8 31. Rd1! (not 31. Rfc1 Ne6) 31... Be7 (31... Bf6 32. Rdc1; 31... Ne6 32. Rxd8+) 32. b4 Ne6 33. Rxc7 Nxc7 34. Rd7 +- He tried a different knight move, but that one didn't pose much of a problem either 29...Nb2 30. Rxa6 Bxd8 31. Rb1 Nd3 32. Rd6 and White won.
In the evening I had a rematch with Daniel Rensch, who I had faced in Chicago. This game was more of a slugfest than our first encounter. He sacrificed a pawn in the opening and looked to be developing a dangerous initiative after 22. Rf1-b1
I found a cold-blooded plan involving a piece sacrifice 22...Bd4 23. Ra3 (23. Ra5!?) 23...Rde8 24. Rab3 Bb6 25. c5 Rxe5 26. cxb6 axb6 Now, Black has 3 connected passed pawns for the piece, his king is much safer than it previously had been and White must deal with the duel threats of ...f5 and ...Rxe4. He had a big hallucination here with 27. Rc3?? and Black comes out 3 pawns ahead after 27...Rxe4 since 28.Qc2 is met by 28...Re1+ and 29...Qxg2#. It looks like the only move was 27. f3 and after 27...f5 28. Qb2 Black should probably just play 28...Rhe8 since 28...fxe4 29. Qxe5 exd3 30. Qxg7 looks like it could favor White.
As in Chicago, I was right on the split for round 2, but here I was just above the cut (probably because I was due White). I played Lev Milman, and unsoundly sacrificed a couple of pawns in the opening. I did manage to restore material equality, but he was left with a strong passed pawn and I had back rank problems. Still, I thought I might perhaps still be holding after 34.Bc1-f4
Now, 34...Bb2? 35.Be5+ wins for White and 34...Qb1 35.Kg2 or 34...Qb2 35.Rc1 looked like they still might offer some resistance. Instead, after long thought he found a queening combination. 34...Rxf4! 35. gxf4 35. Qa8+ Bf8 leaves the Rook on f1 unguarded and 35.Qxf4 Qd5+ 36.Kg1 Bd4+ 37.Rf2 Bxf2+ 38.Kxf2 Qc5+ covering the mate on f8 followed by c1Q also wins for Black 35...Qxf1+! 36.Qxf1 Bb2 and queens next move. The presence of a-pawns prevents White from escaping into a wrong-colored rook pawn ending against the bishop. I fought on about 30 more moves looking for perpetual check or to capture his a-pawn, but my opponent brought home the point with accuracy.
In round 3, I had Black against Pappu Murthy. I equalized without to much trouble out of the opening, but then spent alot of time trying to make something happen. I finally did manage to get weave a mating net in the endgame, but spoiled it with less than a minute left on my clock after 39.Bd2xg5
I had played to this position with the idea of mating him with my rooks along the g- and h-files. First, I had to get the bishop out of the way and played 39...Bc8? and after 40.Rd6 I realized that my intended 40...Rg3 lost to 41.Bh6+ so with only a few seconds left I played 40...Rf5 and we eventually split the point. Instead, 39...Bf5! would win for Black since in addition to the plan of ...Rg3 and ...Rh8 he also introduces the threat ...Be4+. For example, 40.Re1 Rg3 -+; 40.Rg1 Be4+ 41.Kh2 Rf2+ -+; 40. Rxd6 Be4+ 41.Kg1 Rg3+ -+; 40.Bh4 Rh3+ -+;
I played the traditional schedule, which starts with one game Wednesday evening. I had Black against Faliachi Nabil. We reached an interesting position with both sides attacking the king after 23.Nc3-d5
Since my rook is in the attack, while his is in a defensive mode, I continued forward with 23...Nd4 24.Qg8+ Ka7 25.Nxc7 Now, it looks extremely dangerous to take the c-pawn on account of 26.Qa8+ Kb6 27.Nd5+ and Black's king is taking a walk that does not look like it will end on a good note. Instead, I took away his knight's outpost with 25...Qxe4 He now played the dangerous looking 26.Qa8+? The only move was 26.Qc4 I intended to meet it with 26...Qe5 stopping check on c5. Black is still much better for a variety of reasons: awkward knight on c7, weak h-pawn, passed f-pawn, and a more active rook. After the text he has no chances. 26...Kb6 27.Qd8 Menacing all sorts of discovered checks, but Black has the calm 27...Rxc2 and Black's discovered check with his rook is going to be devastating. 28.Ne6+ 28.Nd5+ Ka7 29.Qb6+ Ka8 -+ 28...Rc7+ from the look on his face, my opponent only now realized how brutal this was 29.Ka1 Nc2+ 0:1 White has his choice of how he would like to be mated, back rank after 30.Rxc2 Qd1+ 31.Rc1 Qxc1# or smothered with 30.Kb1 Na3+ 31.Ka1 Qb1+ 32.Rxb1 Nc2#.
I'm back from the annual World Open in Philadelphia, the crown jewel of Continental Chess Association tournaments. This year it attracted over 1300 players in 8 sections, including (by my count) 23 GMs. There was once again a huge tie in the open section, with GM Alexander Goldin taking the title and an extra 1% of the dough in a blitz playoff.
My own performance was slightly better than the last time I played in 1999. I again scored +4 =3 -2 to finish out of the money, but did manage to make it to +3 after 8 rounds, so I had a chance to have a nice payday in the last round. Alas, I was gunned down by GM Gennadi Zaitchek from Georgia (the country, not the state) in the final round. On the FIDE rating front (I'll also review the new FIDE rating list some time in the near future), I think I managed to keep my FIDE rating above 2300 and remain qualified for the FM title. I played either 4 or 5 FIDE rated opponents and scored either 2/4 or 3/5. The confusion seems to be that somehow the FIDE database turned one of my opponents, Kurt Walter Stein, into Kurt Walterstein and stopped rating his results! Anyway, it was a pretty good tournament, but very exhausting. I'll try to post some game fragments over the next few days instead of full game scores.