Chicago Open, round 9: Van Wely wins

by admin on May 31, 2010

At most big Swiss system tournaments the last couple rounds are filled with draws on the top boards. But not the 2010 Chicago Open! In the penultimate round, Loek van Wely and Sam Shankland scored impressive victories and went into the last game tied at 6½ points out of 8. Varuzhan Akobian also had 6½. For Sam, there was more at stake than a chess tournament: all he needed was a draw against Van Wely to earn a grandmaster norm.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  As Black, Sam got stuck with a very sick bishop on a7 that had no moves. I’m not sure whether Van Wely eventually won the trapped bishop, or whether he was simply able to make use of its absence from the rest of the board. With his win, Van Wely clinched at least a tie for first place. As for Sam, he didn’t seem too down in the dumps. He still had a great tournament, and losing to a super-GM in the last round is nothing to feel bad about. It was a great way to bounce back from his tough performance in the U.S. Championship.

Meanwhile, Akobian got crushed by Michael Adams, which  left Van Wely in clear first.

As for me, I did a little bit better today. I won my morning game, although not without some adventures. I once again hung a pawn, but actually it was not a bad sacrifice. I got a lot of pressure, and my opponent eventually decided to return the pawn in order to trade down into a rook-and-bishop versus rook-and-knight endgame. My pawn structure was incredibly bad (four isolated pawns!) but my rook and bishop absolutely dominated the board, and she was never able to get her pieces (especially her knight) into useful positions. Eventually she missed a combination that won a couple pawns, but I think she was losing anyway.

In my afternoon game I played a kid and agreed to a quick draw. That’s right — while the grandmasters were playing fighting chess, I played a “grandmaster draw”! Shame on me! I had a pretty nice position but I neglected an important prophylactic move, and my center start looking really overextended and shaky. Just when things were starting to look good for my opponent, he offered a draw. What could I do? I thought he probably had an advantage, and I didn’t want to spend a few hours suffering when I could just accept his offer. So blame him, not me. Since when do kids start offering draws on move 18, anyway? 😎

So I finished with a score of 4-5, which was pretty disappointing. I was especially disappointed with the way I kept getting into time pressure, because in my last couple of tournaments it seemed as if I was finally conquering that problem.

If any of you missed the comments to my previous posts, Andy Hortillosa says that it’s now okay for me to talk about what Smart Chess (his company) is doing. Smart Chess is going to be an “app” for the iPhone and iPad. It will have a strong open-source chess engine, but more importantly it will have lots of lessons. Andy has gotten the rights to publish several existing books (including a couple of endgame books by Dvoretzky, just to whet your appetite) and he also has some writers (including me) who have agreed to develop new lessons as well. The “Bird by Bird” series from this blog will be one of the first offerings, and I am also planning to write a series of lessons that will expand on my “Eight-Dimensional Chess” lecture at

Andy’s main target is young players and players under 2000, including the many people who play chess on the Internet but would never dream of going to a USCF tournament. He wants it to be useful to ordinary players, not just a soapbox for grandmasters. I think that the iPad is a great fit for Smart Chess, because it’s like reading a book where you can flip back and forth to a board, play some moves, and go back to the book seamlessly.

If you tell Andy that you read about Smart Chess on my blog, maybe he’ll give you a discount! (Probably not, but Andy, that’s a hint.)

Random observation of the day: If you’re ever in Wheeling, Illinois, the best place to eat breakfast is Original Granny’s Family Restaurant. They have a dish called oven-baked pancakes that I have never had before. Imagine an apple pie that has pancakes instead of a crust on the top and bottom. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s fabulous. The crust is my least favorite part of an apple pie anyway, and pancakes are a vast improvement. The only downside is that normally you have to wait half an hour for the pancake to bake. But if you come on a weekend or a holiday (like today, Memorial Day), then you can order a slice and get it without the wait. The slice is a quarter of the pancake. Believe me, that filled me right up. I think you would need at least two people to eat a full pancake.

And That’s a Wrap: This concludes my busiest month ever of blog writing. I wrote 15 posts and had 5815 readers this month (with a few more hours left to add to the latter total). Don’t expect me to continue this pace! I’m expecting June to be a much quieter news month than May was.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Krooskos May 31, 2010 at 6:32 pm

That sounds like a great app!!! I just got an iPhone last week, and am blown away by the many ways I can use it as a chess tool!!!! I bought an app called tChess, which has pgn functionality…I’ve imported thousands of tactical chess puzzles into my phone database as well as famous games in my openings!! I can watch my chess lessons in the ipod section, as well as chess videos….I even found a free app that creates random chess 960 positions…anyway…cool stuff. I’d love to know when your friend’s app goes live.


Andres D. Hortillosa June 2, 2010 at 8:12 am


Yes, it was great having lunch with Dana.

I performed at 2700-level at the Chicago Open on the business side of the trip but on the chess side, I was utterly horrible. I lost too many won games. I was busy demonstrating our app to GMs and prospective writers between rounds. During actual rounds, I was more interested in passing out T-Shirts which Dana kindly wore for us in one of the playing days.

We also distributed 1,000 flyers. Folks (young and old) were very interested and some were a bit annoyed that the app is not yet available for purchase. Our new release date now is July 4th and our fall back date is the US Open in Irvine, California in August.

Even the super-GM Loek Van Wely liked the product and he kindly agreed to mention that he saw the app in action with the New in Chess publisher whom we have ongoing negotiations for licensing rights. As a consumer of chess content, I cannot wait to see NiC books or even the magazine on our Smart Chess iPad platform. The 2008 US Champion, GM Yury Shulman also expressed interest in writing new materials for us.

I also had a good lunch with GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Victor Mikhalevski. Both saw the app in action and were impressed by its teaching potential.

GM Victor Mikhalevski expressed positive liking to the idea of writing new material for us. The name Boris Abrukh was casually mentioned as he is a good friend of Victor’s and both live only a few miles away from each other. GM Akobian also let me in on secret. He said that Abrukh’s books are even good for GMs like him. Wouldn’t that be great if these two great writers on openings write for us?

The app like other apps out there has an engine for you to play against with. We also have Puzzle Packs and Teaching Puzzle Packs. The former is just straight puzzles sets for tactics training while the other is similar to Karsten Muller’s Chess Cafe Puzzle books. In fact, two of his puzzle books will be published on our app. The differentiating feature of our app is that it is also a platform from which books can be read like the classic-to-be Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual and new titles as well.

I apologize to Dana and his avid readers for posting what look like a marketing buzz but I easily get carried away when talking about the many benefits this tool brings to improving players. This creative approach of leveraging technology (touch screen and fast wireless access) will dramatically change how we deliver and consume chess content from here on.

In the Smart Chess format, no one will ever get lost following nested lines. Variations and fantasy lines can now be followed without worry of not being able to return to the main game. And there is more to follow.

I invite you to read your favorite books on Smart Chess. These books are best read (for obvious reasons) in the iPad, of which over 2 million units to date have been sold.

With regards to discounts, I am open to suggestions.

Best regards,
Andres D. Hortillosa


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