January is the busiest month

by admin on January 11, 2011

Here’s my joke for the day.

Q: What did Gilligan say when the other castaways fought over places on the raft?

A: “Why can’t we all just get a log?”

Somehow I think this is relevant to the current world of politics — i.e., if we can’t all get a log, we’ll all end up with nothing — but I will let you come to your own conclusions.

Now let’s get back to chess. There are two fantastic chess events taking place in my part of the country this month — and I can’t play in either one of them! From January 2 to 8, Arun Sharma ran the fabulously successful 2011 Berkeley International at the Berkeley Chess School. Last time, this tournament attracted only 20 people. This time, there were 58 players, with 11 grandmasters and 13 IM’s. When you throw in the FM’s and WIM’s and WFM’s, more than half of the competitors had international titles. Here is a chessboard with the signatures of all the participants (photo by Inga Gurevich, reproduced with permission from Arun Sharma).

Of course, one of the main points of the tournament is to enable people to earn new titles, and from that point of view also, the tournament was an outstanding success. There were three GM norms and three IM norms. All of them are big news, but I suppose that the biggest news was that Sam Shankland finally got his third GM norm. As you might remember, last summer he decided to quit chess after throwing a hissy fit over the rules for getting a GM norm. He said at the time that he would play in all the events he had already committed to — the US Junior, the US Chess League, and the Berkeley International — but after that it was going to be sayonara. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind now that he has gotten his three GM norms and, presumably, will receive the GM title.

The other two GM norms were scored by Denys Shmelov and Keaton Kiewra (2337!) and IM norms were achieved by Daniel Naroditsky, Conrad Holt, and Roman Yankovsky. All of the last three earned their third IM norms, so they only need to make the minimum rating requirement to get the IM title.

Interestingly, the tournament had a clear 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner, making it quite different from typical tournaments that usually end up with a logjam of players at the top. GM Loek van Wely, the top-rated player, justified his rating by scoring an impressive 8-2; GM Sergey Erenburg took clear second with 7½-2½, and GM Magesh Panchanathan took clear third with 7-3. All three of them won in the last round, so there were no draws on the top three boards. Again, a welcome change compared to many large Swiss system tournaments.

Man, I wish I could have played in that tournament. In fact, I even entered it but then I had to withdraw when I realized it conflicted with the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society.

Another attractive tournament, with similar top prizes but more runnerup prizes, will take place this weekend in Concord, California. The second annual Golden State Open is a Bill Goichberg tournament, which means of course that it will be huge. I suspect that a lot of the people who played in the Berkeley International will want to play in that one, too.

Alas, I have another conflict with another math meeting! Tomorrow I will leave for Austin, Texas, to attend the IGA 2011 workshop. “IGA” stands for “Isogeometric Analysis,” which is a new approach to computer-assisted design (think sports cars and jet aircraft) that may make it easier for engineers to make sure that your airplane wing stays attached to the plane. To be more precise, it means that Boeing won’t need to employ as many engineers to make sure that your airplane wing stays attached, because the design phase and production phase will be better integrated. I guess that’s a good thing, although to be honest I’m not completely sure. Anyway, your trustworthy reporter will be there to find out all about it. Which means I won’t be at the Golden State Open. When it comes to chess this month, I’m Johnny-not-on-the-spot.

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