September 18, 2011 • General
Good day to everyone out the chess world. It seems like forever since I last blogged and I am really not sure where to begin, however it appears that I left everyone hanging at the beginning of the summer (is it really gone already?) and I will start there.
In June, I began my summer chess schedule by competing in the Bazna Kings tournament held in Bazna, Romania. Having never been to Romania, I was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the locals. The town itself was very quiet and quaint, and it hearkens back to a different time before modern technology. One of my lasting images is seeing children herding cattle across roads which aren’t completely paved. Sometimes it is truly refreshing to see this considering how many of us (I’m fairly guilty too) spend our time in front of computers and tv screens these days.
The tournament itself was a mixed bag. I blew several promising chances against Radjabov, (twice) Karjakin (twice) and Ivanchuk (with White). It would have been a decent result had I not completely self-destructed in the final round against Ivanchuk with Black to finish with a very undesirable score of 4.5/10. Nevertheless I felt pretty positive about everything as a whole considering the opportunities I missed.
July was one of the more interesting months in recent memory. Much to the chagrin of many in the chess community, I went out to Las Vegas for a week to play some cash games as well as the Main Event at the 2011 World Series of Poker. I have played a lot of poker (mainly PLO Heads-Up) on and off over the past five years. Without saying a whole lot on the topic, I feel very strongly that online poker in the United States should be legal and I cannot imagine what it feels like to the thousands of people who lost legitimate jobs because of Black Friday.
Hanging out with Jennifer Shahade, Katie Stone as well as meeting new people in the poker/chess community and seeing many old faces such as Ylon Schwartz from chess who have quit for poker was a blast from the past. I had a pretty good day 1 as I started with 30k and closed with 53.2k chips all while playing a solid-aggressive game and trying to avoid getting into any major pots with dangerous pros like Galen Hall who were at my table. Day 2, was much more brutal as I was at a table with several hyper aggressive raisers combined with a lack of cards made for a rough day. Nevertheless, I still managed to get it all-in with 20BBs and KK in a squeeze situation. Unfortunately, my opponent was able to outflop me with his 88 and I busted a few hours before the end of the day. All in all it was a fun experience.
After the hoopla in Vegas, I flew back to St. Louis for a few days before heading off to Dortmund, Germany to compete in the Sparkassen Chess Festival along with GMs Kramnik,Giri,Le Quang, Meier and Ponomariov. The tournament got off to a very bad start when I was unable to sleep at all prior to my game with Giri. Somehow I managed to draw this game, but I do not recommend attempting to play a game of competitive chess if you haven’t slept in close to 20 hours prior to the start (not to mention the game going 7 hours GOOD GRIEF). After drawing a relatively easy game with Black against Le Quang, I simply got outplayed by Ponomariov in a structure which I was unfamiliar with. The 4th round against Kramnik was headed for a routine draw until I completely lost my mind and decided to lose instead! The 5th round against Meier was a super-sharp Kings Indian which was highly unclear until I made a critical blunder before time control. Luckily for me, he let matters get complicated and I was able to hang on for dear life until the 8th hour of play and salvage a draw. After drawing two more shaky games in rounds 6 and 7, I promptly lost again in the 8th round against Ponomariov from an equal endgame. Despite the multiple disasters, I finished strongly by beating Meier and Kramnik to turn a catastrophic result into only a bad one.
Right after Dortmund ended, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and compete in the 2011 US Chess Open in Orlando, Florida. Having not played a tournament in the US for 15 months, I was not sure what to expect. The first shocker was that the tournament was being held in the airport hotel. I assumed that I would be sitting on beaches and playing in relaxed conditions, but that illusion was shattered…sadly. I had a decent tournament scoring 7.5/9 and tying for first. However, with such a high rating I dropped a whopping 5 points and fell out of the top 10 at least for the moment. After two bad tournaments in a row, I decided to take the rest of August off from chess and poker (more or less) and drove from St. Louis to Vancouver in my BMW (highly recommended brand). Taking three weeks off from chess to see my many friends up north was truly refreshing and reminded me of why I fell in love with the people and the culture there back in 2008.
Coming off my long vacation, I returned to St. Louis just in time for the opening of the World Chess Hall of Fame (www.worldchesshof.com) and to compete in the Kings vs. Queens match at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (www.saintlouischessclub.org). The opening of the HOF was incredible with all the history in the building, and I highly recommend to anyone dropping through Saint Louis to stop by and see it.
I also competed in the Kings vs. Queens event where I scored a whopping 9.5/10 against the womens field which was comprised of Kosteniuk, Lahno, Krush, Zatonskih and Fierro. Although the women would have done better had GM Judit Polgar been able to play, it was still a fun event and everyone involved had a good time. It also served as a good warmup for the Grand Slam Final which begins on September 25th in Sao Paulo, Brazil and ends on October 11th in Bilbao, Spain. Until then, I will just continue to study and give it a whirl once the event begins!
St. Louis, MO