2011 Western States Open — Round 4 Report

by admin on October 23, 2011

Two-thirds of the way through the 2011 Western States Open, and the leader is no surprise. Sergei Kudrin is always such a reliable presence at these Reno tournaments that it seemed strange when he wasn’t here in April. (I think he was playing in some other tournament called the U.S. Championship or something.) But this weekend the Western States didn’t conflict with any other big tournaments, so the Prince of Reno is back.

(I hope he doesn’t mind my calling him that. He just always has such a calm and magisterial air at the chessboard, win or lose, that it seems like an appropriate moniker.)

The only people with 3-0 scores after three rounds were Kudrin and David Pruess, so they faced each other on board one. I didn’t see any of the game because I was too busy with my own game, but from the final position it looked as if Kudrin ground Pruess down in a king-and-pawn ending. So Kudrin now stands alone atop the leaderboard at 4-0.

I chatted with David Pruess before the round. David is, of course, one of the nicest people around in California chess, so I’m always glad to see him. I asked him if he’s still living at the GM House with Jesse Kraai et. al., and he said no, he’s moved to San Francisco for the first time in his life. He misses Berkeley, but San Francisco has its benefits too. It’s close to where his partner goes to medical school, and it’s close to the Mechanics Institute.

Speaking of the Mechanics, I asked David how the U.S. Chess League was going this year. He said that he’s feeling a little discouraged because they just can’t buy a win. They have had three draws and a loss in their last four matches. They are still in the running for a playoff spot, but he isn’t very optimistic, because “we would have to win a match to do that.”

I asked him if their problems had anything to do with not having Sam Shankland any more, and he said that I hit the nail on the head. For the first five years of the USCL they had Sam Shankland and they were statistically the best team in the league (though they won the title only once). Now that Sam’s gone, they are only average.

As for my results, so far in this tournament I feel like a Mechanic: I just can’t buy a win. I lost to FM Alexander Kretchetov in round 1, drew with IM Edward Formanek in round 2, drew with expert Daniel Liu in round 3, and lost a really hard-fought game to national master Carl Haessler in round 4. Maybe I’ll blog about those games later, but I don’t really have time now. I haven’t been blown out in any of my games, but on the other hand I have never had a clear advantage in any of them either.

Finally, let me mention that I had a Michael Aigner sighting. My fellow chess blogger has been struggling with health issues and has not played in a tournament in over a year. (Except for a blitz tournament at the Mechanics where he won a game against Walter Browne, who tied for first at 9/10. Michael’s win enabled Daniel Naroditsky to tie Browne, prompting Michael to say that “Danya owes me one.”) Michael was thinking of playing at least three or four games in Reno, but he felt too sick on Friday and couldn’t play. I hope that his coming to this tournament and his increased blog activity in recent weeks are at least signs that he is making some progress on his medical condition. It’s better than being in the hospital!

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