The US Championship is underway in Seattle. It is a strong 12-player, all-GM field. The race for first seems to be wide open with no less than 8 former champions playing. These days in US chess if you predict "Alex" to win a tournament, you could very well be right. The Grand Prix has been dominated by players named Alexander who fill the top 6 spots (Wojtkiewicz, Ivanov, Stripunsky, Yermolinsky, Shabalov, and Goldin). Three of those are present here (Ivanov, Yermo, and Shabba). I think Wojo is still considered foreign and Stripunsky and Goldin have not been residents long enough to qualify. Who knows, one year we could have an all Alex championship (GMs Fishbein and Sherzer are in the top 25 on the rating list). It seems that the Alexes are becoming to US Chess what the Ks (Kasparov, Kramnik, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kamsky, Khalifman) have been to world chess. Nevertheless, I'm predicting that this year's championship will be a duel between the top 2 seeds Boris Gulko and Yasser Seirawan with Yaz, on his home turf, edging the defending champ. We'll see what happens, round 1 saw 6 fighting draws.
I've added position #323 to the BCE section. A couple of weeks ago at the Knoxville Chess Club, Leonard Dickerson gave a lecture on R+RP vs. R and showed how in many positions every move was crucial. Here is another example. Fine's assessment of a White win is overturned by accurate Black defense. Remembering that in the annotation scheme I'm using an exclamation point on a Black move means the only move to draw, I think it is good training to work out the how White wins against other moves.
I played in a one day Grand Prix tournament in Hendersonville, NC on Saturday. My play was a bit lackluster, I won my first two, then missed an opportunity in the endgame to press my opponent, James Mottonen, in a rook endgame.
As White I played 1.Rxf5 Rxc2 2.Rxe5 and the game was soon drawn since Black has no problem trading his a-pawn for White's b-pawn. Instead, 2.Rf7+ Kh8 3.Rxa7 gives Black more chances to go wrong since White will have a passed b-pawn and his King can handle Black's e-pawn. For some reason, I didn't really consider this line. I think it was because I had been focusing on 2.Rf2!? which will allow White's King some freedom, but then decided that my extra b-pawn wasn't worth saving, so decided to take his e-pawn. I also had an illusion that after 2...Rxb2 3.Re7+ Kh8 4.Rb7 a5 5.Rb5 that I was stopping the trade of pawns on the queenside. Of course, Black just played 5...Ra2 with equality
In the final round I played Black against Klaus Pohl, who had the only perfect score. I was looking to stir things up, but played a dubious pawn sacrifice.
After 17.Bh6 Re8 18.Rad1 I played 18...d4? Better is 18...Qd7 with a normal game. I was influenced by my game with Rodney Kinnaird in the 1994 US Open which had continued from the diagram with 17.Qe3 Re8 18.h3 Rc8 19.Bb2 Qd7 20.Qf4 d4!? 21.cxd4 Nd5 22.Qd2 c4 23.bxc4 bxc4 24.Bc3 Bxh3!? when a fantastically complicated game ensued. In this game, however, there are significant differences. The Black knight does not arrive on d5 with tempo, and the White Bishop is much better placed on h6 instead of b2. 19.cxd4 c4 20.Qd2 Qc7 On 20...Nd5 I started worrying about 21.bxc4 bxc4 22.Ba4 21.Bg5 Bf8 22.Bh6 Ba3?! Black should take up White's implicit draw offer with 22...Be7 23.Ng5 Nd5 24.Ne4 Be7 25.Bg5 c3 26.Qc1 Bf8 27.Bh6 Be7 28.Bg5 Bf8 29.Bh6(?) 1/2-1/2 I finally decided a half point was better than nothing. I'm not sure why Klaus didn't try to guarantee himself clear first since he has several strong plans such as pushing the f-pawn. Also, Mottonen was already a pawn up against a much lower rated player so he could probably be expected to reach 3.5.
Other than my result, this tournament was a pretty pleasant experience. The name of the tournament came from local player Neal Harris, who apparently suggested to the organizer, Kevin Hyde, that he should try a Saturday tournament. I think it was a successful tournament with 32 players in the open section plus a couple of large scholastic sections. It wasn't Neal's Saturday, though, when Jackie Guglielmi pulled off a 600+ point upset in round 1.
I've been sort of slacking on my Tuesday editorials, so I guess it's time to do one. When it comes to USCF politics, I guess I'm like most players: as long as the Chess Life comes and the ratings are kept up to date, I don't pay it much mind. Still, I was suprised at the lack of interest in the election of USCF delegates. For the first time, delegates were chosen by a vote of all members from a state, rather than by being handled by the individual state associations. The turnout for Tennessee was pathetic. Mark Ishee and Brad Watson won two of the three spots with a total of 7 votes! It looked to me like only 7 ballots were returned.! Any local club could have organized a write-in campaign and elected 3 delegates. The 9 state officers were on the ballot, so it looks like not even all of them voted. I'm not sure what to do about this other than raise a call that all members (myself included) start to pay at least a minimum of attention to USCF politics. There are indications that the federation is struggling financially (the US Championship was announced as cancelled until a private foundation stepped in to save the day) and that can affect us all.
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