April 30, 2012 • Blog
Greetings to everyone from Arvier, Italy on this final day of April in 2012 …GULP. I have not blogged in a very long time, and my apologies for not keeping the fans updated, but I generally prefer tweeting (@GMHikaru) instead of writing long posts about my many other interests (non-chess) on this blog.
Since the end of Wijk aan Zee on January 31st, I have more or less been in retirement or on a long vacation from chess depending on how one looks at it. As most people know, I have spent most of my free time since then in Vancouver, British Columbia during this long hiatus (big shout out to Canada!). However, chess fans need not fret, for I have also been studying chess with some of my friends and occasional seconds in preparation for the upcoming US Championship.
Originally during my break in British Columbia, I had no plans to play chess, but when I found out my good friends FM Jack Yoos and Jamin Gluckie were planning to play in the Grand Pacific Open in Victoria, I ended up getting roped in as the thought of combining chess and hanging out with friends on the island seemed like a good way to start my return and attempt to get sharp
while minimizing the risk. I won the tournament relatively easily winning all six of my games, but there were some close calls as I inevitably showed some rust and had a few problems namely against the BCCF (British Columbia Chess Federation) President, FM Roger Patterson who hung tough and only blundered near time control. Also deserving an honourable mention is WGM Nino Maisuradze who played extremely well and was probably holding equal until two imprecise moves in time pressure tilted the balance in my favour. Overall the tournament was very well run, and I can only express my gratitude and thanks to the the organizers and staff for the fabulous job. I look forward to returning to Victoria in July to give a simul and lecture during the Canadian Open.
I am also aware that certain people on other blogs felt the need to belittle me for playing a weekend tournament with masters and experts in an attempt at picking up rating points. While rating points do matter, this tournament was simply an opportunity for me to play chess, enjoy a weekend with friends and have the opportunity to give back to the British Columbia chess community. The countless kids and parents who wanted photographs or signatures is what ultimately matters most. Having the ability to make a difference in the lives of people and be an inspiration is what will comprise the lasting memories I have of chess long after I have quit.
About five or six months ago, a friend of mine who was living in Italy at the time mentioned the idea of playing in the Italian Team Championship, and put me in touch with a team. We quickly came to terms, and so I arrived here three days ago. Much to my surprise, I was quickly informed that I would be playing two games the following day starting at 8:45AM! Immediately, I knew this was going to spell trouble as I was slightly jetlagged! However, like any professional, I somehow found a way (Italian coffee, anyone?) to not be a total zombie walker for my first game against GM Alberto David from Luxembourg. Unfortunately for me, after playing a slightly unusual Dutch similar to a setup Magnus Carlsen has used on several occasions, I quickly got into trouble with several poor decisions during the middlegame. To his credit, Alberto kept up the pressure and eventually my position started to crumble completely and I was probably
losing. Nevertheless with both of us getting low on time, I was able to create complications and reach time control with pretty reasonable chances of drawing. Unlike the opening and middlegame, Alberto started going wrong and made two serious mistakes and this tipped the scales and I was able to collect the full point…phew. In my second round of the day against GM Emil Sutovsky, I had a dilemma as to whether I should attempt to use some of my preparation for the US Championship or just play something quiet. Perhaps drawing upon my inspiration from Vancouver, I decided to play 1.g3 in the style of Duncan Suttles. Eventually the game turned into a reverse Dutch, and around move 10, I simply felt like the position was completely equal and I did not want to risk anything. I offered a draw which Emil quickly accepted and I ran back to the hotel and face planted into the pillow for a few hours. Yesterday, I had black against GM Gawain Jones from England. Amazingly despite knowing Gawain for many years now, we still had only played once way, way, way, way back in the stone ages at the World Youth in Oropesa, Spain in 1998! Unfortunately for Gawain, he is having a bad tournament and had lost both of his two previous games from the day before. As such, Gawain took almost no risk and despite my creative play, he was able to simplify it into a pretty drawish middlegame. Seeing no real play, I decided to offer a draw which he duly accepted. While I would have liked to have had more opportunities to create play and calculate, it was not the worst result ever and I averted any major catastrophes.
In the meantime, I will continue preparing for the US Championship which begins in approximately a week.