New Year Championship — Results!

by admin on January 4, 2015

The New Year Championship has just wrapped up, and the victor in a runaway was the Chinese grandmaster, Xiangzhi Bu, who beat IM Andrey Gorovets in the last round to finish with a score of 5½ out of 6. There was a four-way tie for second at 4½ points, including the guy I wrote about in my last blog post, Emilio Fiora. After our draw he won his last three games in a row. In fact, the Argentinian connection had an outstanding tournament, as his compatriot Alexis Ferrara scored 4 points and will win a prize too.

It was also an outstanding tournament for me, as I won both of my games today — as Black! — to finish at 4-2. I don’t want to say this too loud because I don’t want to jinx myself, but this tournament may have finally put me back over 2200 again. It will be close. I am not getting my hopes up too high yet. If I should fall one or two rating points short, it shouldn’t matter in the big picture. As long as I keep the process going well, the results should take care of themselves.

And was the process good in this tournament? Yes, yes, yes! I really got “in the flow” in both of my games today, even though I had somewhat suspect positions. In round five, against a class-A player named Ivan Ke, I lost a pawn in the middlegame but in order to take the pawn, Ke had to leave his kingside undefended. I immediately sacrificed a bishop on f2, a move that I’m sure caught him totally by surprise. It was a massively unclear sacrifice, but I just had so many pieces swarming in the vicinity of his king — a queen, two knights, and a rook — that I couldn’t resist. It will be very, very interesting to analyze the attack. In the end I won my piece back and his king was still caught in no man’s land. I let my time dwindle uncomfortably low, down to under 4 minutes in the sudden-death time control, but aside from that the outcome was never in doubt.

In the last round, against an expert named Steven Rand, I also got a rather awkward position. There was an obvious way for him to win a pawn, but the consequence of that was to free my pieces and completely solve all my positional problems. I think that a strong master would have declined the pawn and kept the positional advantage, but he couldn’t resist the opportunity to be ahead in material. Once again my pieces started swarming all over the place, and he was not able to muster a defense.

All three of my wins in this tournament followed the same pattern. When you sacrifice a pawn and it’s obvious that you’re sacrificing it, many opponents will decline it. But if it looks as if they are winning the pawn as a result of their own good play, a lot of times they will not think as hard about the consequences.

Another interesting factoid: I was behind in material in all five games I played this tournament! Under those circumstances, three wins and a draw were a pretty good result.

Well, sorry about all the boasting, but I’m pretty pumped up right now. Congratulations to Bay Area Chess for organizing such a terrifically strong tournament. It looks as if they benefited from good timing — all these Chinese, Mongolian and Argentinian masters came to Las Vegas for the North American Open and then evidently decided to stay a few more days and play in the Bay Area, too. We’re glad they did!

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