2010 Bill Wright Open, St. Louis
April 16, 2010 • General
Hello once again everyone! It has been far too long.
Last weekend I played in the Bill Wright Open in beautiful and sunny St. Louis. This was my first time playing chess since way back at the end of January in Wijk aan Zee. Having not been back to St. Louis since the rebirth of my chess career last May, it was incredibly refreshing to return and enjoying the sights and sounds of Maryland Plaza. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to spend more time in the area and enjoy it even more!
The first round started bright and early at 10 AM on Saturday. On my way from the Chase Park Plaza Hotel over to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, I encountered a few players and wondered why they were walking in the opposite direction! As it turned out, they were headed to the hotel to play the first round as the simply did not have enough space at the club. As it turned out, I was paired with Jennifer Skidmore who I played in a simul at the US Open last year in Indiana. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time I’ve ever played someone in a simul and a classical game of chess! The game itself was decent, but I was able to get an advantage out of the opening in an Alekhine. I won relatively quickly which got me off to a quick start.
After such a smooth and relaxing win, I got paired with USCF Executive Director, Bill Hall in the second round with White. This game reminded me of some of my old games in that my opponent essentially threw the kitchen sink at me by sacrificing multiple pieces. However, I was able to whether the storm and calmly diffuse his attack. Once again, another relatively straight forward win which moved me to 2/2 along with fellow GMs Hess,Ramirez and Finegold.
In the third round, I was Black against WIM Iryna Zenyuk. In a dubious decision, I decided to play the Dutch which allowed Iryna to follow Kramnik’s 8.Rb1 which I faced back in Wijk aan Zee. I tried to improve upon that game, but I went wrong relatively early and was on the wrong side of equal. After making a serious error while trying to put Iryna in serious time pressure, I obtained a losing position! Fortunately, I was able to complicate matters and swindle a draw. In terms of the game, Iryna played very well and made no mistakes. It really does not matter whether someone is 2300 or 2500, but it is simply very difficult to win with Black when they make no errors. In many ways, this game reminded me of why I no longer play many swiss tournaments in the US! All in all, at least I found a way to avoid a catastrophic loss.
On Sunday, I started off round four with White against WFM Tatev Abrahamyan. It was clear almost immediately that Tatev was unfamiliar with the 4.f3 variation in the Benko. By move 15, I had a nice advantage and converted without any major problems. Following this win, I now had 3.5/4 and was a half point behind GMs Hess and Ramirez who won their games over Gurevich and Krush respectively. However, the game which garnered the most attention was the impressive victory of Alisa Melekhina over GM Ben Finegold. This also meant that I’d end up playing another girl in the fifth and final round.
In a nice twist of fate, I got a second White in a row against Alisa Melekhina. I cannot recall the last time I played more than two girls, let alone FOUR in five rounds! Unfortunately for Alisa, I was able to trick her in the opening, and she was effectively lost by move eight. However, this quick win despite helping me tie for first was also very bittersweet as it meant I was able to follow the crushing shootout defeat of my beloved New York Rangers in the final game of the season. This meant they missed the playoffs which was quite disappointing…sigh.
Overall, the tournament was average for me, as I did not play any of my fellow GMs due to the lack of rounds. However, I cannot say enough about the organization in Saint Louis. I would strongly recommend any organizations in US chess or the world for that matter look to what is happening in Saint Louis and emulate their professionalism towards chess.
That’s all for now as I’m off to watch PLAYOFF hockey!! If there is enough interest in comments, I may give some opinions on that as well….