Looking ahead to Bay Area International

by admin on December 26, 2013

In one week the Bay Area International will start, and if this isn’t the most fantastic tournament ever held in this area, I don’t know what is. It will have 68 players, including 15 Grandmasters and 19 International Masters. In other words, half of the players will be IM’s and above! IM Ricardo de Guzman, usually the odds-on favorite in Bay Area tournaments, is seeded 25th. GM Sam Shankland, who won the last Bay Area International in 2012, is the highest-rated American and is seeded sixth. This is a seriously strong tournament!

Who is at the top, you ask? Well, three of the top five seeds (Aleksandr Shimanov of Russia, Alexander Ipatov of Turkey, and Wei Yi of China) played in the World Cup this summer. Shimanov, you might remember, beat Gata Kamsky in a crazy King’s Gambit. Wei Yi is the world’s youngest grandmaster. The other two in the top five, Anton Kovalyov of Canada and Michael Roiz of Israel, are players I don’t know very much about.

If you asked me whom I would most like to play in this tournament, the answer I would give you with no hesitation would be Wei Yi. I don’t know when else in my lifetime I would ever have a chance to play a future World Champion. But it would take a miracle for this to happen. I would really need to win in round one to even get a shot at him. I’m seeded #62, which (assuming the pairings are done in the normal Swiss system style) means that I should be playing against #28 Wang Jue in round 1. Actually, this is a heck of a cool pairing, too — a Chinese Women’s Grandmaster rated 2394.

The Americans seeded in the top 20, along with their seeds and ratings, are Shankland (#6, 2602); Holden Hernandez Carmenates (#10, 2548); Daniel Naroditsky (#11, 2531); Mackenzie Molner (#13, 2516); Josh Friedel (#16, 2487); and IM Darwin Yang (#18, 2468). One thing that strikes me is the complete absence of many of the people who normally play on the top boards of the weekend Swisses in Nevada and California — people like Sergey Kudrin, Alexander Ivanov, Enrico Sevillano, Varuzhan Akobian, Melikset Khachiyan, … I’m not sure why they didn’t come, but my guess is that they looked at this tournament, saw that it took TWO weekends instead of one, figured out how many super-strong foreign players were going to come, and decided that the expense did not justify the reward. So we have a US lineup that is very strongly weighted towards the younger generation — which I think is a great thing!

As for me, the expense definitely justifies the reward, even though the entry fee for players under 2200 was extremely high (because the organizers wanted to discourage such players from coming). For me, the entry fee amounts to a charitable contribution to support international chess in the Bay Area. With all the world-leading corporations built on brainpower that we have here — Google, Apple — why can’t some of them support chess? I even wrote an e-mail a few years ago to someone in Google’s public relations department to suggest that they could sponsor a Google Open, but of course that never came to anything.

One key to attracting corporate sponsorship is to show a track record of past performance. So if organizers Arun Sharma and Salman Azhar can keep growing this tournament, maybe my dreams of a Google Open would not be so far-fetched.

Anyway, my personal goals for this tournament are as follows: 1) make at least an even score, 2) win the under-2300 prize, and 3) beat a GM, which I have never done. Those are some pretty tough goals, but there’s no point playing in a tournament like this if you aren’t going to aim high. Aside from that, I just have my normal smaller goals: don’t get in time pressure, don’t let my emotions get the best of me, do fight for the initiative in each and every game.

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Mike Splane December 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Hello Dana,

Good luck on reaching your goals!
-Mike

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