A Qualified Success

by admin on January 2, 2011

The Bay Area Chess New Year Open was a very strange tournament, but it worked out pretty well for me. As usual, it had two schedules, a 2-day and 3-day schedule. The 3-day schedule, which I played in, had nine players (in the open section), of whom only one was rated over 2200. The 2-day schedule had only four players, but three of them were International Masters! As a result, all of the IM’s had to play each other in the first three rounds, thus giving us lower-rated people a chance to get ahead of them.

After I won my first two games, I drew against Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo, a class A player who had a terrific tournament. After a half-point bye in round 4, I arrived today basically guaranteed that I would get to play two International Masters. That’s all that I could have hoped for from the tournament! In round 5 I played a very good game and drew with IM John Donaldson. I had a slightly better endgame and could have pressed for a win, but with best play it was almost certainly  a draw.

By the way, I played Donaldson once before — in 1987, more than 23 years ago! I  think that’s the longest time I have ever gone between two games with the same player.

So I went into the last round tied for first with Donaldson, Rubinstein-Salzedo, and Ricardo de Guzman, and that set up a pair of Lions Versus Lambs battles for the last round, with De Guzman playing against me and Donaldson playing Rubinstein-Salzedo.

Unfortunately, in the final round the lions prevailed. I sleep-walked through my game with De Guzman, hanging a piece on move 20 after botching the opening. It was a really disappointing and anticlimactic end to what had been a great tournament. It cost me almost nothing rating-wise, because De Guzman is rated about 370 points above me, but still it left me with a feeling of “what might have been.”

As for the other Lions Versus Lambs game, Donaldson won an exchange for a pawn against Rubinstein-Salzedo. I don’t know for sure whether Donaldson won, because I left before it was done, but I would give at least 80 percent odds that he did. Rubinstein had a pretty good defensive setup for the endgame, but my hunch is that it was just good enough to put up a long but ultimately futile defense.

Here is my last-round meltdown against De Guzman. You’ll see why I was disappointed.

I was White in a King’s Gambit, and I have already messed up a little bit but my position is still okay. Rybka evaluates it as about a 1/3 pawn advantage for Black. De Guzman has just played 16. … Bf5 and for some reason I very rapidly, almost without thinking, played 17. O-O-O? Only after I pressed my clock did I notice that I could have taken on f4!

Of course 17. Bxf4? would be bad because of 17. … Bg6. But 17. Nxf4 is very much worth consideration, and an even better possibility is to first play 17. d5! cd and then 18. Nxf4. I won’t go into any more details, but my point is that these should have been the very first two possibilities I looked at.

Instead I played connect-the-dots chess. That’s what happens when your opponent attacks, and you defend, and he attacks, and you defend, etc. The problem with 17. O-O-O? is that it defends the immediate threat but Black still has all kinds of pressure. De Guzman played 17. … Qd7, threatening … Bg4 which will force White’s queen to some random square like h1. I played 18. Qf3. Now he played 18. … Ng6, possibly with ideas of … Nh4, and I played 19. Be1 to defend. All connect-the-dots stuff. Now he played 19. … O-O-O, and to my amazement, I couldn’t find a good move! 20. Bf2??, the move I wanted to play, would lose the queen to 20. … g4! (another point of … Ng6). All of my pieces are stepping on each others’ toes, and none of them can move.

Finally I played 20. Ne4??, the only active move I could find, but then immediately saw that 20. … Nxe5 is curtains. I can’t take the knight because of mate on d1, and if I move my queen anywhere then the knight on e4 hangs. So I resigned.

This game reminds me of the recently-concluded season of Survivor, where one of the contestants (Brenda) went from a seemingly secure position to being voted out of the game in just a day. The odd thing was that she could have scrambled to save herself but she was too proud to do it. The host of the show, Jeff Probst, even asked her, “Why didn’t you scramble?” She said, “Because I didn’t want to appear desperate.” Whereupon Jeff pointed out that everyone who plays Survivor gets into a desperate position at some point, and the people who win are the ones who improvise and somehow get out of trouble. It was exactly the same here. The only way for me to hold onto this game is to grovel, to play a horrible-looking move like 20. Qf2 or 20. Qf1, abandoning any hope of active play. But because I was too proud to grovel, and tried to play an active move instead, I lost immediately. A good lesson!

Still, overall, the tournament was a qualified success. I gained about 20 rating points, got to play two International Masters, and probably earned a tiny amount of prize money.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

chris January 2, 2011 at 11:51 pm

You were right about Donaldson winning. They did play a nice long game until 7:30 which made it a 4 1/2 hour game. There was an interesting game with the third IM Tate – Cameron Wheeler. Thought you might be interested, Queen and 2 pawns vs Queen and 1 pawn. Tate eventually won but it seemed like a draw. Here’s the FEN below.
6Q1/4k2K/2p5/8/7P/8/Pq6/8 w – –


Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo January 3, 2011 at 7:19 am

Your hunch about my endgame with Donaldson turned out to be correct: I resigned on move 52.


Jim Krooskos January 3, 2011 at 7:34 am

Congrats on the tournament, and Happy New Year!

– Jim


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: