January 02, 2009 • General
Happy New Year to everyone out there in the wide world from Gjovik, Norway. I do apologize for not blogging over the past few weeks, but I have been busy with quite a few non-chess related personal matters. As most people know, I am getting ready to play in the rapid supertournament here with Carlsen, Svidler and Lie, but there will be plenty of time to discuss this event over the coming days and weeks. For now though, I would like to take an opportunity to look back on my 2008 and what a year it was both for chess and other stuff.
January: Coming off of a great fall/winter run in 2007 including wins in the Magistral Casino tournament and the Corsica Rapids, I started 2008 in a less than inspiring fashion as I started the Gibraltar Open with a miserable 3/5. However, as luck would have it, I turned everything around and won my final five games in a magical finale with wins against Hebden, Petrosian and Efimenko in the last three rounds. I would then go on to win the rapid final against GM Bu to win the whole tournament. I will attempt to defend this title shortly, but the great win there jump started my year.
February: There really isn’t much that I can say about this month as the only tournament I played was the US Amateur Team Championship. I went 6/6 with relatively few notable games. Other than this, it was also notable because both my mother and brother celebrated birthdays on the 4th and 7th respectively.
March: March marked the beginning of what likely will become fairly standard for me as I began my career in the European Chess Leagues. I started playing in the French League for Antibes. During the first leg, I scored 2/3 with 2 draws and 1 win. Once again, much like February this was a slow month overall, but still successful.
April: Surprisingly this month marked both the beginning and end of life as I knew it. During this month there was much upheaval in my life. The month started rather unauspiciously with the second leg of the French League. I once again put together a stellar result in the French League, scoring 2/3. It was shortly after this the year truly began for me as I packed my bags and headed for the Great Northwest aka Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Although I may not have fallen in love with it immediately due to the cold weather and snow! The next few months were some of the very best of my life.
May: I played the Chicago Open which, as it turned out, would end up being my second and final tournament in the US during the year. Much like the previous open in Gibraltar, I did not get off to the most inspiring of starts as I went and lost a very bad game to GM Friedel. However, I was able to recover with a few key wins and tie for first on 5.5/7 with GMs Akobian and Petrosian. On the tail end of the month, I scored an extremely solid 3.5/4 in the third and final leg of the French League. This led both to me becoming only the 2nd American to ever break 2700 as well as achieving the best performance on board 1 with 7.5/10.
June: Unfortunately after such a great run during the first five months of the year, this was when several important streaks ended for me. I played the National Open against my better judgement and my grueling schedule in May finally caught up with me as I scored a miserable 4/6 and thus ended my unbeaten streak in Nevada. Although I guess all good things must come to an end sooner or later.
July: During this month, the only tournament I played was in the Mainz Chess Festival. Surprisingly, despite going there with my eye on winning the rapids, I ended up winning the Fischer Random Open tournament instead with 9/11. Sadly, I also had a shot at winning the rapids too, but unfortunately I blew a completely winning position against GM Almasi which ended that dream. Overall though, it was a successful tournament nevertheless and I will almost certainly be back there this year as well.
August: This was another relatively quiet month for me as I only played in the Japanese Chess League. I scored the standard 7/7 without playing anyone particularly strong, but it was enjoyable returning to my homeland once again. After this, I returned to Canada and played in the Montreal International. This tournament started off well for me, but due to several outside circumstances as well as getting sick ruined the second half and I scored a dreadful 5.5/9.
September: During this month, I returned to Vancouver and did not play any over the board chess. However, I did play a few games in the US Chess League which was both fun and enjoyable as I helped the Seattle Sluggers make the playoffs. Overall this month was a lot of fun as I saw quite a bit of British Columbia besides just the Vancouver area. the highlight of this month was probably when I went kayaking out at Belcarra National Park near Port Moody. As is, it was a great month which definitely marked the high point of my time in Vancouver.
October: After a break of about 7 weeks, I really was unsure how I would respond when I returned for the rapid tournament in Cap D’Agde. However, the break seemed to have been just the medicine as I needed as I played some of my most consistently solid chess that I can ever recall. This led to some memorable wins against Karpov and Ivanchuk which I will never forget.
November: This month was also quite memorable although just like the others, it definitely did not feel that way. This olympiad in Dresden which was my second seemed to be going downhill from the start for us, as we got off to another slow start. But in a run very reminiscent of 2006, each of the team members won certain critical games and it was truly a team effort as we got the bronze.
December: During this past month I did not play any chess, choosing instead to relax on the west coast in both Seattle and Vancouver. It was also during this month that I celebrated my 21st birthday. Overall it was an interesting month filled with some great experiences as well as some personal experiences which I would desperately like to try and forget about.
2009: Looking ahead to this year, I have many resolutions and goals both chess and non-chess related. Hopefully I can achieve them, but either way I hope that this year can be the start of a great future for everyone. Hopefully, President-Elect Obama can lead the US back from the precipice which President Bush seems to have put the country on. I also sincerely hope that the economy will also recover somewhat despite the gloomy economic forecasts which seem to persist in these uncertain times. Despite these troubled times, I choose to look forward with hope and optimism and I certainly hope it can be fulfilled during this year.