Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wild Games in Reno

The Far West Open this past weekend was a particularly important tournament for me as I was trying to rebound from an awful performance at a Western Kentucky University tournament the weekend before. I entered a field which included GMs Khachiyan and Kudrin as well as strong IMs Sevillano and Mezentsev. There was also a whole host of talented juniors that made me feel like an old man. (At one point, the combined age of the players on board 3 was 22.)

I followed a regimen of difficult tactics to warm up for the Far West Open. This turned out to be very useful, as it featured some of the sharpest games I've ever seen. The top few boards started with a series of tactical fights which fortunately turned out well for the higher rated players. The only exception was Kudrin, who was held to a draw by talented junior Samuel Sevian (who recently set the records for youngest master ever and youngest victory against a Grandmaster). As a result, on round 4 the pairings were Khachiyan-Mezentsev and Zierk-Sevillano. In another tactical back-and-forth game, despite some difficulties early on I managed to put a stop to Sevillano's customary deadly attack, and ultimately gained a winning advantage when he became too optimistic.

After a quick draw with GM Khachiyan in round 5 the pressure cooker came in the final round. Rather than the common GM draws, both key games (Mezentsev-Zierk and Sevillano-Khachiyan) became sharp fights. Khachiyan ultimately gained the upper hand and won, giving him 5/6. Since Mezentsev and I both had 4.5 going into the final round, our result was very important. The game (and some notes) can be seen below:

The King's Indian Attack isn't White's most optimistic line, but I handled it incorrectly. Although 4...Bc5 is a good line for Black, 6...Bb6?! is too optimistic: Be7 was better, when the game is similar to normal 3. Nd2 French lines. 7. c4! was a nice refutation.

Mezentsev was afraid to play 13. dxe5, which would have left me more cramped, due to the common 13...Rxf3 sacrifice all French players should know. However, it turns out that White has a strong, though difficult, refutation. I'll leave that for you or Rybka to find :)

After trading on e5 to make room for queenside development Black managed to set up his position fairly well. The game took a sharp turn with 29.f5!? but Black had a very nice resource in 30...Bxe5! Black walks into all sorts of pins and threats but White's back rank weaknesses (despite his two rooks) prevent him from making anything of them. For example:
31. Be6+ Kh8 32. Bxd5? Rxd5! 33. Rxd5 Bd4+ 34. Be3 Qxe3+ 35. Rxe3 Rf1#.
31. Be6+ Kh8 32. Rxe5 Nf6 33. Qf3 (the only good square) Nd7! 34. Bg5 Qe8!
31. Qe4 Nf6 also gets White nowhere.

There are more lines here than I will cover but they are all very good for Black. White has surprisingly little here, and by move 35 he was simply a pawn down. Once Black had the two bishops it was over; despite lack of pawn protection, the bishops dominate the open board and White's king quickly became the troubled one.

This got me 5.5/6 and clear first, a very satisfying result following the week before. My coach, Khachiyan, did very well with 5/6, only held to draws by myself and Mezentsev.

And of course, thank you to Jerry Weikel and his staff for a great tournament.