2014 Sacramento Championship Results

by admin on July 7, 2014

I’m back from my three days and two nights in Sacramento. For me, the tournament was a Learning Experience. That’s another way of saying that it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

Strangely enough, though, I enjoyed it and I will definitely consider playing in this tournament next year. I really liked the idea of playing in a tournament that isn’t dominated by IM’s and GM’s but instead has good strong competition at the expert and national master level. As I said, the tournament was definitely winnable for a player like me, and this was proved by the fact that one of the two people who entered with exactly the same rating as me (2171) tied for first in the tournament.

That brings me to my first order of business: announcing the winners. Uyanga Byambaa and her boyfriend, Bryon Doyle, tied for first with a score of 5-1. This led to perhaps the most irrelevant tiebreaker in history (at least since the first Survivor All-Stars season, when Rob Mariano proposed marriage to Amber Brkich in the season finale, thus making it irrelevant which one of them won the million-dollar prize). Uyanga probably won the tiebreak, but the TD (John McCumiskey) did not have to be in any hurry to work out the math, because the trophy was going home in the same car regardless!

Tiebreakers are generally pretty random. I’ll admit this as a person who once won a state championship on a tiebreak. But in this case I think that Bryon would agree that Uyanga deserved the trophy a little bit more than he did. He was just plain lucky in this tournament, winning two crucial games in rounds four and five where he had been completely lost. Here is one of them, his round four game with Ladia Jirasek.

astourndingBlack to move.

FEN: 2R5/8/2K1k2p/6p1/3p4/4p3/6PP/8 b – – 0 1

Doyle was White, and Jirasek was Black. Here’s the $500 question (the amount of the prize that Bryon eventually won): How does Black win this game? There is only one correct answer.

The usual rule is that connected pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook. But here Black’s king is, unfortunately, in exactly the wrong place. If 1. … d3? 2. Re8+ Kf5 3. Rxe3 d2 4. Rd3 and White wins. Or if 1. … e2? 2. Re8+ is also an easy win.

Ladia figured that the pawns just needed a little help, so he played 1. … Kf5? But this also loses! After 2. Re8 Kf4 3. Kd5! he resigned. After 3. … d3 it appears that he has successfully gotten two pawns on the sixth rank, but once again his king is in exactly the wrong place. After 4. Re4+ Kf5 5. Rxe3 White wins. I’d especially like to point out the remarkable job that White’s pawns on g2 and h2 do as defenders! Who would have thought that they would play a crucial role in this game?

So how does Black win? The answer is the stunning and unintuitive 1. … Ke7!! Retreating to victory! The simple threat is 2. … d3, creating connected pawns on the sixth rank. If White plays 2. Rd8 to stop that, now 2. … e2 wins, because there is no x-ray check any more. And finally, if 2. Rc7+ (hoping for 2. … Ke6 3. Rc8 with a draw) Black plays 2. … Kf6! Now the king is no longer on the exact worst square, and so Black wins.

Bryon gained about 80 rating points this weekend, so I’d say that it was for him a once-in-a-lifetime (so far) tournament.

As for Uyanga, I don’t have any positions to show but she rode her aggressive openings to victory. She plays the White side of the Two Knights (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5?!) which I’ve said that I do not approve of, but she apparently likes being a pawn up. It worked out very well for her in the last round against Kenan Zildzic, who played the unsound Fritz Variation (4. … d5 5. ed Nd4). Also as I’ve written here before, I used to play the Fritz but it has basically been refuted by the computer, and apparently Zildzic hadn’t gotten the memo. As Black Uyanga is a King’s Indian devotee, and that also gave her at least one impressive victory in this tournament.

Uyanga’s rating gain was not as spectacular as Byron’s — “only” 35 points — but they were the most important 35 points, because she has broken the master barrier for the first time! She went from 2171 to 2206. Congratulations, Uyanga!

As for yours truly, it was not a great performance. I scored 3½-2½ and lost 10 rating points. I left way too many opportunities on the board: two wins that turned into draws and one draw (with winning chances) that turned into a loss. That’s at least 1½ “karma points” that didn’t go my way. But I will not say that I “should have” scored 5-1 and tied for first. If I had won those games, I would have played different opponents, and who knows what would have happened.

The loss, in round five against Andy Applebaum, was especially bitter and ironic. In a perhaps slightly better endgame, I walked my king right into a mating net. This in spite of the fact that I recorded a ChessLecture two weeks ago called “Checkmate in the Endgame.” Looks like there needs to be a sequel: “Checkmate in the Endgame II”!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

www.linkedin.com July 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I
clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…
well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless,
just wanted to say great blog!

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