More Thoughts on Bay Area International

by admin on January 10, 2019

The ratings for the 2019 Bay Area International went up on the USCF website this morning, and this gives me an excuse for writing a few more reflections on the chess week that just ended three days ago.

The tournament truly lived up to its name as an international. It’s not possible from the rating report to tell which players are from other federations, but it was a lot. The USCF has an interesting feature I had not noticed before, showing the “local percentage” — the percent of players who live within 25 miles of the tournament site. The Bay Area International had an extremely low local percentage, 18.7 percent out of 107 players. For comparison, none of the other tournaments in California so far this year had local percentages below 50 percent.

My rating gain from the tournament was a tepid 7 points (2133 to 2140). Although this seems like a paltry return on 7 days of chess, just think of it this way — it’s a point a day! If I could just play chess every day of the year, therefore, I would gain 365 rating points, right?

Ending with four draws in a row was extremely unusual for me, but I’m glad to see that I was not the “drawing master” of the tournament. That would be Matyas Marek, who won one, lost one, and drew seven, including a streak of five in a row. His only loss was against Le Quang Liem, the tournament winner!

The number of strong junior players at this tournament was truly remarkable. Consider this: in nine rounds, I played seven players under 21 years old, six players under 15, and every single one of them is on a top-100 list for their age group! Here’s the proof:

  • Lost to Gabe Bick, #37 under 21
  • Drew Nikhil Kumar, #3 age 14
  • Lost to Anaiy Somalwar, #19 age 14
  • Beat Sarvadh Sathiaram, #23 in India under 14
  • Drew Kirk Ghazarian, #5 age 12
  • Drew Eric Li, #3 age 11
  • Drew Naman Kumar, #24 age 12

Because junior players are often underrated, I think that there is a good chance that my performance at this event was actually better than what the ratings say.

Finally, I definitely noticed the impact of the Information Age on my games, particularly on the openings. The tournament organizer, Arun Sharma, labored heroically to post all of the games online within a day. This meant that all of my opponents had a chance to check out what openings I play. The result was rather comical. In the first six rounds, I had three King’s Gambits as White and three Marshall Defenses (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d5) as Black. In round five, one of the Kings Gambits, my opponent simply copied the first ten moves of my game from round one. Someone commented to me after the game, “He seemed really booked up on that opening,” and I said, “No, he just looked up my game from the first round.”

And one more interesting factoid: 12-year-old Christopher Yoo’s victory over Le Quang Liem made him the youngest player in history to beat a FIDE 2700 player. Just think about that! Granted, there are many more opportunities these days for such a thing to happen. Back in 1972, when I started playing tournament chess, you didn’t have hundreds of teenage and pre-teen-age masters in the U.S. And there was only one over-2700 player in the world: Bobby Fischer. As far as I know, he didn’t lose games to 12-year-olds or even play games against 12-year-olds. Nevertheless, Yoo’s win is definitely a milestone, both for him and for chess history.

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Mike Splane January 11, 2019 at 4:52 am

I’d be less than happy if I entered an international tournament and got paired with seven children. I might eve ask for my money back.


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