The U.S. Championship Qualifier got under way today. The final turnout was 104 people, with 10 grandmasters. The top-rated player in the tournament is Julio Becerra. There were no big surprises yet that I know of, but we did have our first mini-controversy. InÂ the game between Todd Andrews and Alexander Ivanov on board two, Ivanov stopped keeping score during the time scramble. Andrews claimed that he had to keep score because it’s not a sudden-death time control. In a time control like this one, where both players get 30-second time increments every move, the usual rule (which says that you don’t have to keep score when there are less than five minutes on your clock) does not apply.
I had never heard of thisÂ new variationÂ on the scorekeeping rules. In fact, in my second-round game I stopped keeping score with less than five minutes left, and thought nothing of it. I didn’t realize I was breaking a rule. My opponent did the same in the first round. My feeling is, what difference does it make? The real reason for requiring people to keep score is to make it possible to prove claims like threefold repetition, the 50-move rule, etc. OnceÂ you stop keeping score,Â you forfeit the right to make that claim. If this is a “crime,” the only victim is yourself.
Nevertheless, Andrews protested to the TD, who told Ivanov that he had to keep score. But he did not forfeit Ivanov, which is apparently what Andrews wanted. Eventually, Ivanov reached a won position in the endgame. Andrews tipped over his king, said “Cheater,” and stomped off in a huff.
Who’s in the right? I don’t know. I overheard Alex Yermolinsky talking about it with a couple other people, andÂ he wasn’t buying Ivanov’s innocent act.Â ”He’s played in enough international tournaments, he knows the rules.”
As for me, I got off to an 0-2 start. My first-round game was a real see-saw affair. I had White against Jake Kleiman, a 2375 player from Tennessee who nearly won the U.S. Junior Championship a couple years ago. (He was 20 then, so I guess he is 22 now.) I played a rather dubious pawn sac and we reached this position:
Here is where the game started to turn around for me. I figured that the only way I could save this game was toÂ go for maximum activity, so I played 25. Be4. According to the computer, Black’s best is 25. … Bxh3, butÂ Kleiman was reluctant to give away the two bishops. So he played 25. … Bd7?! 26. Bd5! Rxb2. I was glad to see him take a second pawn. That’s one more tempo for my pieces to get into action! After 27. Nhg5Â my pieces are really starting to come to life. Now there are threats like Nxf7 for Black to worry about.
According to the computer, Black’s last chance to keep an advantage was 27. … Bxg5. But once again, KleimanÂ was reluctant to part with the two bishops, and instead played 27. … Nc7. This stops 28. Nxf7, but after 28. Ne4! White threatens to win the bishop with Nf6+. Kleiman defended with 28. … Nxd5 29. cd Nb8 and offered a draw.
Well, naturally I declined — he had only one minute left to my 9 minutes, plus my position is now much superior! After 30. Be7 Rc8 31. Bxc5 Bg7 32. Bxd4 I really thought I was going to win. In fact, Black soon had to give up the exchange for a pawn, and we got to this position:
And now we get to the move I really, really regret. Until now I’ve been doing fine, butÂ at this pointÂ the time situation really started to get to me. I was under five minutes.Â One thing I’ve noticed many times isÂ that when I get into time trouble, I start playing unnecessarily passive moves. Here Black has a weak pawn at f4, so I should attack it with 35. Ng5! As Jesse Kraai would say, “simple chess.” Psychologically, though, I could no longer think aggressively. I was worried that if I moved my knight, his rook would come to d2. But that’s no worry; if 35. … Rd2 I just take on e6 and I’m winning. Remember, he’s got a problem on his back rank!
Instead I played the lame, passive 35. Rac1, and after this the computer shows that most of White’s advantage is gone. Worse, I was now losing psychologically. I was more worried about the clock than the position on the board, and that’s always a recipe for trouble. About twelve moves and a couple of blunders later, I hung a rook and resigned.
This was exactly what I was afraid might happen in this tournament. I’ve never played with this time control before, and I was just a bundle of nerves once I got under five minutes. Even though I was actually ahead on time!
I won’t give a lengthy description of round 2. As Black, I got an isolated queen pawn, gave away the pawn in order to liquidate everything on the queenside, and reached an endgame of R+N+4P versus R+B+3P with all the pawns on the same side of the board. I thought the endgame should be defensible, but my opponent, a master from New Orleans named John Bick, played it very well and won.
So,Â a disappointingÂ start. Good thing it’s a long tournament, and I still have a chance to conquer my time-pressure demons!
By the way, Andy Hortillosa is here, and I got to meet him. He’s a real nice guy, with a little more gray hair than I expected, but then I probably have a little more gray hair than he expected, too! He went 0-2, too. Oh well, not such a great day for “dana blogs chess” fans. For ChessLecture fans it was a pretty good day, though, as both Eugene Perelshteyn and Jesse Kraai are 2-0. I hope I’llÂ have a little time to watch them tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more!Â