Chicago Open, round 1: Hope Chess

by admin on May 28, 2010

The Chicago Open started yesterday! Bill Goichberg, the TD, said that this year’s tournament is one of the strongest tournaments that he has ever run (except for the World Open), with 23 grandmasters. That’s really saying something, because nobody runs more big-time, big-money tournaments in the U.S. than Goichberg. The reason for the big turnout may be that he is running it as a 9-round tournament this year, which makes FIDE norms possible.

In round one I played one of those grandmasters — Dmitry Gurevich, who finished last at the U.S. Championship with no victories and five draws in nine rounds. Well, his nine-game non-winning streak came to a very rapid end, as I laid an egg in the opening. This particular egg looked like this:

We’re in what I believe is called the Vienna Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cd ed 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4). I usually play 3. … d5 and 4. … Bb4 when my opponent plays 3. Nf3 trying to avoid the Nimzo. Sometimes after 4. … Bb4, lower-rated players will just play 5. e3 and accept a transposition into a Nimzo. But strong players, like GM Gurevich, almost always play Bg5, and to be honest I have never really studied this as carefully as I should. In particular, I don’t know the subtleties of White’s playing 5. Bg5 immediately versus trading pawns first with 5. cd, as Gurevich did. In the position above, Gurevich said that Black needs to play 7. … g5 8. Bg3 Ne4. I had always thought this sort of thing was kind of dubious, but apparently it’s okay if the pawn trade has been played on move 5. I’m not sure why yet, but I think it may have to do with the fact that the c8 bishop can come out and support Black’s center. Does anyone know?

Instead I improvised with 7. … O-O 8. e3 Bf5?!, which has rarely been played. After Gurevich’s 9. Qb3 Nc6 10. Bxf6 I decided to sac a pawn with 10. … Qxf6, but I got absolutely no compensation.

Unfortunately, here and in the rest of the game I was really playing “hope chess.” As in, “I’ll sacrifice this pawn and I hope I’ll get some counterplay.” And, “Okay, I’ll sacrifice another pawn and hope to get some counterplay.” And, “Now I’ll give up the exchange and hope to get some counterplay.” Needless to say, hope chess doesn’t work too well.

The one good thing about this game was that Gurevich was very nice — probably the nicest GM I’ve ever lost to. He actually seemed to want to talk with me after the game and explain to me what I did wrong. I didn’t have to ask. It was great.

Random observation: I got a very talented bar of soap at the hotel. It is ultra-smooth and ultra-flat on one side. If you moisten it a bit and then put it on any surface, it sticks because of the vacuum between the soap and the surface. At first this was annoying, because I had trouble prying it loose from the bathtub. However, I subsequently realized I could use this fact to my advantage. If I just threw the soap at the shower curtain, it would slide down a little way and then stick. No soap dish required!

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