This year's edition of the Tennessee Open was held Labor Day weekend in Clarksville. I was the #3 seed behind GM Sam Palatnik and Andrei Tcherepanov. While I didn't feel I was on the top of my game, especially the first day after a restless night, I still managed to tie for second. In round 1 I had the White pieces against Emanuel Tsitseklis, and thought I had an advantage after 21...Bb7xc6
My original intention was 22.Nd5, but when the position arose on the board, I became intrigued with the exchange sacrifice 22. Rxd7!? Rxd7? He played this much too quickly, he thought that my Bg2 would be out of the game, but it can always come back around via f1. The important point to the position is that his rooks won't have any entries. The critical line was 22... Nxd7 23. Qxf7+ Bg7 24. Bxh6 Rg8 (24... Kxh6? 25. Nf5+ leads to mate) 25. Bg5 when I thought the two pawns and Black's weak pawns gave me more than enough for the exchange. 23. Qxf6 Qd8?? Complete self destruction 24. Qxc6 and White won.
In Round 2, I had a rematch with Black against David Kapley. For some reason I decided not to face the 4 Knights Game again, but got a difficult position out of the opening. His attack finally crashed through and I gave up a piece, but contiued playing since he was in time pressure and he had some weak pawns and a bad bishop. What transpired showed that this was just not meant to be my tournament. After 33. Na4-c5+
I played 33...Kb6 unnecessarily worried that my king needed to be closer to the kingside in case of Nd7xf6. 33...Ka7 was a much better chance as we shall see after 34. Re2 c3+ 35. Kxc3 Nc4 36. Na4+ with the King on a7, white would not have this resource and Black would steal a half point 36...Ka5 37. Kd3 Kxa4 37... Nxe3 38. Rxe3 Rxe3+ 39. Kxe3 Kxa4 is a lost pawn ending. I saw one more chance which he fell right into, but alas, my position was so bad that this didn't even matter. 38. b3+ Kb5 39. bxc4+ dxc4+ 40. Kc3 a5 41. a4+ Kxa4 42. Kxc4 c5 43. d5 43. c3 wins on the spot, but instead he falls for it! 43... Rxe3 With the point that 44.Rxe3, which he reached out for, is stalemate. However, almost any other reasonable move, including 44. d6 still wins for White. 44. Rd2 Re4+ 45. Kxc5 Ka3 46. Rd4 Re2 47. Kc6 Rxc2+ 48. Kd7 Kb3 49. Kxe7 a4 50. Rxa4 Kxa4 51. d6 Kb5 52. d7 [1:0]
I had White against Brad Watson in the third round. I sacrificed a pawn for the attack right out of the opening and was able to get a magnificent knight on e6. However, I think I had squandered most of my advantage by the time I played 31.Rh6-f6
Perhaps 31.b3 was a better try to keep the game going. He went into a long think here. I was worried that he would find the resource 31... Qa4 when 32. Rxf7 Qxc4+ leads to perpetual check since if the White King tries to run to the kingside, Black will have ...Qxb2+ followed by Nxf7 and the queen defends down the long diagonal. I intended to play 32. Qh4, but then 32...Ng4 renews the threat to the c-pawn as well as attacking the rook, so it would seem the game must be drawn. Instead, I got the win after 31...Qe7? 32. Rxf7 Qxf7 33. Qd8+ Qg8 34. Qf6+ [1:0]
I caught a bad break in the pairings in Round 4. There were only 4 players in the 2 point score group, Tcherepanov, myself, Chuck Lovingood, and Kapley. As Kapley had upset Tcherepanov in the first round and me in round 2, the only one left for him to play was Lovingood. So instead of getting another expert, I got Black against a 2500! This turned out to be a very interesting game. I made a difficult decision in the middle game allowing him to bury a knight deep in my position, but I didn't really see a way for him to bring more pieces to the attack. We were getting into a time scramble after 31.Bg2-f3
I went for activity with 31...Qc1+ 31... Nb6!? trying to leave the White pieces stranded on the kingside also deserves attention 32. Kh2 Qd2 33. Be2 g5? 33... Bxe2 was forced, with chances for both sides 34. Qf3 d4 I only now realized that my intended 34... Bxe2 35. Rxe2 leaves both my queen and knight attacked with my time about to run out I found the only way to keep some hope alive 35. Nxd7 dxe3 reaching the time control 36. Bxb5 Rc8?! I avoided 36... exf2 because I thought my rook would be locked in after 37. Qf6+ but in that case I would have chances at perpetual check similar to the game continuation 37. Nc5?! 37. Qxe3 should be a pretty easy win for example Qd5 38. Qd3 Qxd3 39. Bxd3 Rc3 40. Be4 Rxa3 41. b5 37... exf2 38. Kh3 I was more afraid of the blockading 38.Bf1 38... b6 39. Nxe6+ Kg8 39... fxe6?? 40. Qb7+ Kg6 41. Bd3+ Qxd3 42. h5+ Kf5 43. Qh7+ 40. Qf6 I thought this move, which allows me to draw, was forced, but the computer came up with the remarkable 40. Nf4 when White still retains some winning chances since 40...gxf4?? 41. Qg4+ 40... g4+ 41. Kxg4 Qd1+ 42. Kh3 Qh1+ 43. Kg4 Qd1+ 44. Kh3 Qh1+ [½:½]
In the final round I had White against Leonard Dickerson. I finally managed to put everything together and produced what I think is a candidate for the best game prize. The complications began after 16...Bc8-b7
17. c5!? trying to lock out his bishop before continuing the kingside advance 17... Qe7 17... bxc5 18. h5 c4 19. Qxc4 should give White an edge 18. h5 Qxc5 19. Re2 safeguarding the f2 square in anticipation of the opening of the f-file 19... f5 20. exf6 Rxf6 21. Qc4 I wanted to swap queens to ease the pressure on f2, but perhaps this could have been preceded by 21.hxg6 21... Qxc4 White is going to have a lot of activity for a pawn or two, so Leonard decided the position would be safer without queens rather than grabbing another pawn with 21... Qxh5 When White can choose between Rxe6 and Ne4 22. Bxc4 c5 23. Rd7 Bc6 24. Rc7 Be8 25. Nd5 Bringing all my pieces to the party. 25. Bxe6+ was also strong. 25... Rf8 26. Rxe6 With the idea of Ree7 26... b5 [26... Rf7 27. Nxb6] 27. Ree7 Rf7 [27... Bf7 28. Rxf7 Rxf7 29. Ne7+] 28. Nf6+! a bit more accurate than 28. Rxe8+ Rxe8 29. Nf6+ when Black is not obliged to take the knight and instead can play on with 29... Kh8 28... Bxf6 29. Rxe8+ Rxe8 30. Bxf7+ Kf8 31. Bxe8 Kxe8 32. hxg6 the final small point is that this pawn becomes a monster since 32...Kf8 is met by the skewer 33.Rf7+ 32... Bxb2 33. g7 [1:0]
There was a bit of controversy in the last round. The board one matchup was between GM Palatnik who had 4 points and Narcisco Victoria who had 3.5. Apparently Victoria thought the round started at 3:30 as it had on Saturday. However, that round was delayed in order to hold the TCA business meeting. When Victoria finally showed up, I looked at his clock and about 1:02 had run off, seemingly a forfeit. However, when Palatnik asked the TD's, they said to play as they had started the round about 3 minutes early. This ruling did not especially appeal to Jerry Wheeler or myself since we could tie for second if Palatnik won, but Victoria would be clear second if they played a short draw. Fortunately, things worked out when Palatnik got a risk free endgame edge straight from the opening and Victoria having to play 35 moves in 28 minutes did not find the best resistance. At one point Victoria offered a draw, but happily for the chase group Palatnik declined. The perfect score gave Sam his 5th undisputed state championship and 6th overall.