San Francisco International Results

by admin on January 7, 2019

This morning, as I drove to Burlingame for the last round of the San Francisco International tournament, I felt like a Survivor contestant who has reached the final day of the competition. After eight rounds I was still standing (unlike a lot of people who withdrew early; nine rounds is a lot to play if you’re not doing well). Win, lose, or draw, I felt as if I had played a decent tournament. Not great, but not bad either.

To cut to the bottom line, I drew in the last round with Naman Kumar, whose older brother Nikhil I had also drawn with in round two. I’m starting to feel just like a member of the family!

I was a little bit disappointed with the pairing because (a) I expected White but got Black, and (b) for the first time I was paired against a lower-rated player. Interestingly, I probably would have had White in a USCF tournament, where the higher-rated player is supposed to get his “expected” color; but here the pairings used FIDE rules.

Anyway, it was a tough game. I was under pressure throughout the middlegame, and I had to work hard to escape to a pawn-down bishop-versus-knight ending where I was able to build a fortress. (I had the bishop.)

In the bigger picture, I ended the tournament with four draws in a row, to end with a score of 3 1/2 – 5 1/2 (one win, three losses, five draws). That’s the exact same score that I had in this tournament five years ago, except then I had two wins, four losses and three draws.

The fact that I drew four in a row at the end may make you think that I have succumbed to my advancing years and started playing “old man chess.” However, that was far from the case. All of those games were exciting and there was some great chess played. The draws simply indicate that I played outstanding defensive chess when I had inferior positions (rounds 6 and 9) but I failed to take advantage of my opportunities when I had superior positions (rounds 7 and 8). I especially regret round 7, where I played a beautiful middlegame that Baadur Jobava would be proud of, but I messed up the endgame and then agreed to a draw in a position where I was still winning! Oy vey! Even my opponent said that I played a beautiful game. I’ll probably show it, or parts of it at least, after I’ve had a chance to study it more carefully.

In the even bigger picture, the winners of the tournament were GMs Andrey Stukopin and Le Quang Liem. Liem was the top seed but got off to a rough start when he lost to 12-year-old Christopher Yoo (more on him below!) in round three. But the cream rises to the top, and Liem came back to earn a share of first place.

One of the raisons d’etre for this tournament is the chance to earn GM norms and IM norms. I’ll borrow Michael Aigner’s wording and say that “three norms were apparently achieved” at this tournament. With FIDE’s byzantine regulations, you never know for sure. First, IM Felix Ynojosa of Venezuela apparently achieved a GM norm. To reach the norm he had to beat GM Daniel Naroditsky with the Black pieces — a tall order, to say the least. They got down to one of the “four endgames of the apocalypse” — king, bishop and knight versus king. Ynojosa displayed admirable savoir faire and completed the checkmate in well under 50 moves. In a way, I think there is poetic justice in having to win the K+B+N versus K endgame to earn a grandmaster norm, because a grandmaster should be able to win that one. It’s like passing your final exam.

The two IM norms were apparently (there’s that word again) achieved by Christopher Yoo and Siddarth Banik. According to Aigner, this is Yoo’s third IM norm, and becomes the youngest American in history to complete all four requirements for the IM title (three norms and a 2400 rating). I didn’t see any of Banik’s games, but this is also a really impressive achievement for him. I remember him as a little kid who drew too much (not that I have any right to criticize!). He would pester higher-rated players with draw offers. I think he’s outgrown that phase now and instead pesters the higher-rated players with victories!

So that’s a wrap. But before I finish, I just want to mention the coolest thing that happened to me in this tournament, and it happened way back in round one. Two of the regular participants in the Aptos Library chess club, nine-year-old Emmy and her six-year-old brother Ryder, said that they would come to Burlingame (an hour drive!) on New Year’s Day to watch me play chess. They said this three weeks ago, and I was flattered but also a little skeptical whether they would really turn up.

Well, I shouldn’t have been skeptical. Not where Emmy is concerned! Not only did she and Ryder and their parents make the drive, they greeted me within about five minutes of my arrival at the tournament site. And check out the outfit that Emmy was wearing!

My own personal cheering section!

I want to clarify a few things about this photo. The woman behind Emmy is not her mother. Her mother was in a tan jacket, which is just barely visible at the edge of the photo. Also, Emmy is not my sister. Given the fact that I’m 60 and she is 9, that should not require explanation. But the photographer, who didn’t know who Dana was, naturally assumed that Emmy was cheering for her sister, and wrote the caption, “Go Dana! You have the best sister in the world!” Which led to a little confusion until I wrote a reply on Facebook explaining who she was.

Still, I totally agree with what the photographer wrote. I do have the best sister in the world. (She’s 59 years old, and she is not in this photograph.) And I also had the best cheerleader at the tournament.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike Splane January 8, 2019 at 12:48 am

Congratulations on your fighting spirit. I was following your progress online by checking the standings everyday. I was pleased that you did not let your early setbacks slow you down and you finished strong.

I’m looking forward to seeing one or two of your games at my next chess party. on the 20th.


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