Reno Odds and Ends

by admin on October 22, 2014

A few final thoughts about the Reno tournament…

(1) The ratings went up today and I was surprised to see that my rating didn’t go up as much as I thought it would. Only from 2164 to 2182. This means that if I had won my last-round game against GM Sergey Kudrin instead of drawing, I still would have fallen short of 2200; I probably would have been at 2198.

I have to admit that, even though I’m a mathematician, I really don’t understand any more how the ratings are calculated. There used to be a simple rough-and-ready approximation that worked. But then they changed the formulas and the K numbers and the B numbers and what not, and I don’t know what’s what anymore.

(2) Mike Zaloznyy posted something interesting on Facebook. There was a player named Hamed Nouri in the open section who has somehow pulled off the feat of getting a FIDE rating of 2327 and a USCF rating of 1935. Remember, FIDE ratings are usually about 100 points less than USCF, and almost never greater. But this guy’s FIDE was 400 points greater! Of course, he entered the under-2200 section and even played the first round in that section until tournament director Jerry Weikel caught wind of the discrepancy and booted him up to the Open section with a 0-point bye for the first round. Even so, Nouri won 3½ out of his next four games. Going into the last round, I was under the impression that he was one of my two main competitors for the under-2200 prize.

Mike did some sleuthing on the USCF website and found out how Nouri got his low USCF rating. He has lost 11 games out of 48 against players between 1500 and 1900, while losing only 3 games against masters! Hmm, those tough class-C and class-B players.

Anyway, kudos to TD Weikel for catching on to this guy’s ruse. Also kudos to GM Melikset Khachiyan for beating him in the last round, so he wouldn’t have won the U2200 prize even if he had been eligible.

(3) This afternoon I had the chance to analyze my game with Kudrin. I learned something pretty amazing. Grandmasters are human! Did you know that?

Specifically, I was surprised by the way he crumbled over the last 10-12 moves of the game. This is not meant to be a criticism of him. Rather, it’s yet another testament to the power of the Bryntse Gambit (1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3 de 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bg4?! 6. Qxg4!!). White sacrifices his queen and in return gets two minor pieces, plus 30 to 40 moves of non-stop initiative. This game showed that even a grandmaster like Kudrin could get frustrated playing Black in this opening. It’s like battling an army of ants that just won’t go away.

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Almost My First Win Over a GM

by admin on October 19, 2014

What a finish to the Western States Open! In the last round, I almost

  • Beat my first grandmaster (a bucket list item)
  • Tied for first in an open tournament, for the first time in 20 years
  • Scored another historic victory with the Bryntse Gambit
  • Got my rating back over 2200.

But I didn’t. Instead, I agreed to a draw with grandmaster Sergey Kudrin. Hint: If a grandmaster offers a draw to a player rated below 2200, it’s pretty certain that the grandmaster has a lost game. Especially when a draw will give him no prize money.

But you can judge for yourself. Here is the final position, where we agreed to a draw. I’m White, Kudrin is Black.

kudrin finalFEN: 8/2r3p1/5q1p/1kp4P/5P2/1P1P1BP1/2P1R1K1/4B3 w – - 0 48

Position after 47. … Qf6. White to move.

I’ve listed above all the reasons why I shouldn’t have agreed to a draw. Now let me tell you why I did.

  • Although I knew I stood better here, I was under the impression that it would be a long, tedious endgame. In a sudden-death time control (where we both had about 34 minutes left), there might be some possibility of a screw-up, and I didn’t under any circumstances want that.
  • The prize money would most likely be about the same for me, win or draw.
  • Although it would have been cool to get my first win ever against a GM, let’s not forget that getting my third draw ever against a GM is pretty cool too. (My previous draws were against Walter Browne and Gregory Serper. My losses have been too numerous to count.)
  • And the main thing is, as my wife told me afterwards, “I went with my gut.” When he offered me the draw, I had such a strong sense of relief that I would not have to go through another long, drawn-out endgame that I honestly did not do any serious analysis.

However, if I had done some serious analysis, I would have realized that 48. c4+! (a move I had actually been setting up) is a killer. 48. … Kb6 is forced, and now the followup is 49. b4! If 49. … cb White doesn’t take the pawn back, instead I play 50. Bf2+! Rc5 (forced, because of 50. … Ka6 or 50. … Ka5 51. Ra2 mate) 51. Re5! Although the passed b-pawn might cause some momentary concern, it’s easy to see the White can stop it. The rook and two bishops should easily overwhelm the queen.

Alternatively, after 49. b4+ if 49. … Re7, then White simply plays 50. Rxe7 Qxe7 51. Bf2, winning the c-pawn. There’s no question that with two bishops plus four pawns (!) against the queen, plus the fact that my king is totally secure, plus the fact that three of the pawns are connected and passed, this would not be a long, drawn-out endgame. It would be easy.

So that’s what might have been. But what’s done is done. Next time, if there is a next time, I will try to control my emotions better. I have had an unfortunate tendency lately to accept draws when I could have had wins (see my game with Ladia Jirasek a couple months ago, and even my round one game with Samir Alazawi in this tournament). I need to work on that.

But regrets? No. Not this time. Every game against a grandmaster is like a free lesson, and this time I’m glad that I did some of the teaching!

In other games, there was a six-way tie for first place between IM Andrey Gorovets, GM Alexander Ivanov, GM Enrico Sevillano, GM Alex Yermolinsky, GM Melikset Khachiyan, and GM Walter Browne. The first four all went into the last round with 4 points and drew their games on the top two boards. The last two went into the round with 3½ points and won to join the crowd at 4½.

I am in a crowd with 4 points, and we’ll have to see how the prize money gets sorted out, but I think I am tied for top under 2200. I have to give a shout out to Mike Zaloznyy, because he’s a reader of this blog and he had a great tournament too. In fact, our round-by-round scores were exactly the same: draw in round 1, loss in round 2, wins in rounds 3-5, and draw in round 6. He probably won’t get as big a prize, though, because he’s not under 2200.

P.S. Yes, of course I will do a ChessLecture on my game with Kudrin. If you want to see the whole game, you’ll have to watch it at!

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How Could I Be So Blind?

October 18, 2014

This is a lament that every chess player utters at some point… some of us more often than others. My turn to utter it was yesterday. FEN: 7k/7p/P2R2p1/5p2/2p5/1K6/6rP/8 w – – 0 48 Position after 47. … c4+. White to move. Round one of the Western States Open in Reno. I’m playing White against Samir […]

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Millionaire Tournament Results

October 14, 2014

So So wasn’t so-so! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) I tried to look up the winner of the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas this morning, and it wasn’t as easy as I expected to find out who won. When I went to, usually my first source, there was nothing about the playoffs. Next I went […]

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The Agony of De-draw

October 12, 2014

On ABC’s Wide World of Sports, the late broadcaster Jim McKay used to talk about “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” But in chess we have a third possibility, the agony of de-draw. The first seven rounds of the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas are over, and tomorrow is “Millionaire Monday.” The […]

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Oh, the Shame

October 9, 2014

I just discovered that Shredder lets you see your “rating progress,” just as the USCF does. I don’t know which to be more ashamed of… the fact that I have played more than 200 games against Shredder (that’s a lot of time-wasting, and it’s just in the last three months!) or the fact that my […]

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Millionaire Chess Preview

October 3, 2014

Well, Maurice Ashley’s Ode to the Almighty Dollar is almost here. The Millionaire Chess Tournament will be held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas from October 9 to 13, dedicated to the proposition that big entry fees and big prizes will make for exciting chess. I sure hope so! So far, the tournament has gotten […]

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Mind-Blowing Endgame

September 30, 2014

I know that games played against my computer aren’t the most interesting topic in the world, but recently I had an endgame against Shredder that blew my mind. I learned something new and I think you will, too. Let’s start on move 88, when the computer played a move that totally shocked me. (Parenthetical remark […]

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(Off-topic) Fun time-waster

September 27, 2014

Today I discovered a fun new computer game — new to me, that is — called Fantastic Contraption 2. I had a great time with it, because it allows more creativity and originality than any other computer game I’ve played (besides chess, of course!). Most puzzle-type games have only one solution, or they may have […]

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If Only Magnus Read My Blog…

September 24, 2014

It’s extremely thrilling when the World Champion plays your favorite opening. However, it’s somewhat less than thrilling when he loses with it. So it was both exciting and discouraging to read that Magnus Carlsen had played the Bird Variation of the Ruy Lopez last month at the Olympiad and had been upset by a player […]

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