Results — CalChess State Championship 2014

by admin on September 1, 2014

This weekend I played in the CalChess (i.e., northern California) state championship, which was well organized and well attended. We had in the neighborhood of 250 to 260 players, which means among other things that we trounced southern California, which had “only” 160 or so.

Bay Area Chess, which organized this tournament as well as most of the tournaments in this area, has come a long way. When I first played in a Bay Area Chess tournament, about ten years ago, it consisted of 96 kids and 4 adults. It took a very long time for adult chess players to warm up to the idea of playing in these tournaments that had so many kids. But they have finally come around. This tournament had a stellar field with 4 grandmasters (Ioan Chirila of Romania, Jesse Kraai, Oliver Barbosa, and Mark Paragua). And yes, there were lots of kids as there always are in Bay area tournaments, but it’s not such a huge proportion that you would feel as if you have come to a scholastic tournament by mistake.

This preamble was a cover for the fact that I actually don’t have the final word on who won the tournament. GM Barbosa went into the final round in the clear lead with 4½ points, after winning GM Chirila’s rook with a knight fork in a time scramble. It was no surprise that he agreed to a quick draw with NM Arun Sharma in the last round, giving him 5 points. Meanwhile, GM’s Chirila and Paragua battled it out to see if either could catch up with Barbosa. When I left, the game was still far from over, but it looked drawish to me.

The biggest news to me, however, was who tied for second (or third, depending on the Chirila-Paragua game). One of the group with 4½ points was National Master Arun Sharma. Arun has had a very unusual chess career. He is one of the few players I know who started young but had a huge rating surge after he was an adult. I knew him when he was a kid in Ohio back in the early 1990s. Then I moved away and heard nothing about him for a long time. In fact, he did not play any tournament chess from 2000 to 2009, during which time he was “just” a low master. In 2009 he started playing again and hung out at the “GM House” with Jesse Kraai, David Pruess, Josh Friedel, etc. The GM House was sort of an experiment at living in an all-chess, all-the-time environment. Ratings-wise, it didn’t seem to make much difference at all to the GM’s, but it made a huge difference to Arun! His rating took off from around 2250 to around 2450.

The other player tied with 4½ out of 6 was an even more remarkable story. It was Paul Richter, who went into the tournament as an expert. (Coincidentally, I just recorded a ChessLecture about a recent game where I beat him.) He went into today’s action with 2½ points out of 4, which was already pretty good, but then he had the kind of day you only dream about. He beat two International Masters in a row, Ricardo de Guzman (who is almost impossible to beat) and Vladimir Mezentsev. Note: Richter had never beaten an IM in his life before today. And then he got two in one day! He’ll gain at least 100 rating points, and will probably take home a check in the four-digit range. Oh. My. God.

Richter has always struck me as a pretty stoic type over the chess board. But after his win over Mezentsev, his face was flushed and he had a big smile. Well deserved! Even if you didn’t win first place, Paul, you are still the story of the tournament. His comment: “Even IM’s make mistakes.”

Now let’s talk about the expert section, which I played in. Teemu Virtanen and Joshua Cao tied for first with 5 points. Ladia Jirasek was all alone in third with 4½. And I was in a rather large tie with 4 points out of 6. I’ll win a small amount of prize money and gain a small number of rating points.

The first and third days were pretty good for me (2-0 on day one and 1½-½ today) but I really screwed up in between. In round three I agreed to a draw with Jirasek after having him totally crushed only a few moves earlier. Reason one was the time situation (3 minutes to make 5 moves) and reason 2 was that I had foolishly given him mating possibilities. So even though I was two pawns up, I was completely tied down defending the mates. I didn’t see any clear way to free myself, so when he offered me a draw I felt it was prudent to accept rather than to make some time-pressure blunder and lose. Then I lost to Virtanen in round four, or perhaps a better description would be that he stomped me. He outplayed me completely in the opening and middlegame, and we never got to the endgame.

I joked to Jirasek’s father that if he won first place, I wanted a cut of his prize money, seeing as how I gift-wrapped a draw for him in round three.

Finally, let me mention the curious thing that happened in round five. I agreed to a draw on move 13 against a class-A player named William Li! What happened was that I botched the opening really badly. I hated my position — either I would lose a pawn for no compensation or else I would be completely on the defensive for basically the rest of the game. As I was sitting there ruing my stupidity, my opponent offered me a draw!

I know that GM’s and IM’s routinely decline draw offers from lower-rated opponents, even when they know they have an inferior position. I thought, “What would my blog readers think if they found out I agreed to a draw on move 13?” Nevertheless, I only saw two options. One was to keep defending for 40 more moves and three more hours and perhaps get a draw if I was lucky. Two was to get a draw right away, no muss and no fuss. In the end, I had to take it.

In fact, I really think that offering the draw was a poor choice for Li, who missed a very good chance to upset an opponent rated 200 points higher than him. Winning such positions is a necessary part of his development. Instead he let himself be affected by the ratings and missed a learning opportunity.

My other three games (rounds 1, 2, and 6), were wins. Perhaps I will show some moments from them and the other games later, but I think this post is long enough as it is.

Remember, the “Comments” feature is broken at the moment, but if you want to make a comment please send it to me by e-mail to qxpch (at) yahoo (dot) com. I’ll assemble all non-spammy comments and post them here. Hopefully the “Comments” problem will be resolved soon and we can go back to working the way a blog should work.

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