Reno report — round four

by admin on October 25, 2009

After the first four rounds of the Western States Open, the two biggest stories are upsets and youth. Both of the two top seeds went down to defeat in the first two rounds. In round one, GM Jaan Ehlvest (seeded #2) blundered a piece against veteran master Andrew Karklins and immediately resigned. In round two, GM Loek van Wely, the top seed who was making his first appearance ever at the Western States Open, ran up against junior superstar Steven Zierk. You can see the game in Michael Aigner’s blog. There’s a good chance that I will lecture about this game for ChessLecture, too — especially if Zierk somehow wins the tournament. This was just a beautiful game. Van Wely got a space advantage in the opening but played just a bit too slowly. Zierk smashed the position open with a piece sacrifice, then sacrificed another piece and a rook to force mate. Welcome to the States, Loek!

There is absolutely a generational tidal wave in this year’s tournament. Usually the lower sections have a higher proportion of young players — but this year, the Open section has been overrun by kids and teenagers. In round three, each of the top three boards featured a teenage prodigy! Darwin Yang was on board one, Daniel Naroditsky was on board two, and somehow Steven Zierk was only on board three in spite of his brilliancy against van Wely. This is such a refreshing change. I have nothing against Russian emigres, but it does get a little bit tiresome to see the same old faces on the top boards year after year. But this year, it’s a different ballgame!

The standings after four rounds:

1-5. Ildar Ibragimov, Melikset Khachiyan, Alexander Ivanov, Eugene Perelshteyn, Steven Zierk — 3.5/4

6-11. Loek van Wely, Jaan Ehlvest, Sergei Kudrin, Mikhail Gurevich, Amun Simutowe, Darwin Yang — 3/4.

As for yours truly, I started out okay with a draw as White against Gregg Small. Then came a disappointing loss as White against IM Edward Formanek. I have beaten Formanek twice previously — in fact, he was the first IM that I ever beat. However, in this game I got confused in the opening, had a dreadfully passive position in the middle game, somehow pulled through to what I thought was a drawn double-rook endgame, but then in time pressure I wandered into a mating net. That’s surprisingly easy to do in double-rook endgames; it has happened to me before.

Yesterday was much better, as I had two wins with Black. I might post some positions and analysis of them later. In round three I went up against IM Walter Shipman, always a tough guy to beat. He won a pawn and could have easily drawn, but of course he was not interested in a draw — he wanted to win! He pushed his pawns too fast, and I won a pawn back and we went into an even material B-versus-N endgame (I had the bishop). It came down to a pawn race where we both queened but I was able to win his queen with a skewer. A very exciting endgame!

Finally, in round four I played my first junior of the tournament, Adarsh Jayakumar. It was a seesaw game. I thought I came out of the opening with a slight edge, but then one or two stupid move turned it back around and I was in great difficulty, with his Catalan bishop on g2 and his other bishop on e3 bearing down on my pitiful queenside pawns (a7 and b7). However, I kept finding creative threats to keep his monster bishops at bay. He finally did win the b-pawn, but I was able to demolish his kingside pawn structure and catch his king in a mating net. An old, old tale — chasing after a pawn but forgetting about your king. Penny wise, pound foolish.

So after four rounds I’m pretty happy with where I am — 2.5 out of 4, with all four games against masters. I couldn’t ask for more.

Stay tuned for final results tonight!

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