I had planned on starting this post with that banal quote from Julius Caesar. Repeating that stale idiom would only serve to beguile my dear reader with hackneyed intrigue. So I won’t do that. The Marchand took place last weekend in Rochester NY at the Strong Museum of Play. There were a few upsets, and a couple of notable draws. Other than that, it was a normal tournament. For the second time in as many years GM Kudrin has made a liar out of me. Last year he preregistered to play and withdrew before the event. This year he wasn’t on the preregistration list and showed up anyways. Absent were GM’s Michael Rohde and Elshan Moradiabadi. In the open section we had three GM’s competing. Once again current US champion and, more importantly, NY State champion Gata Kamsky competed. The three GM’s drew their games which led to a six-person bottleneck for first place.
The Marchand is unique because each year there are different GM’s who enter. It’s always exciting looking at the preregistration list to see who might be playing. It was great to have the three GM’s show up. We were all grateful they made the trip north to our little slice of the tundra. That said, a bit more fighting chess would have been nice. GM’s Kudrin and Smith drew in the last round after approximately 12 moves in roughly 10 minutes. I suppose this is the downfall of our tournament. The prize fund is large, and they don’t mind sharing it with others. There isn’t much incentive to push when you can play the French exchange, call it a draw, and go home with ~900 dollars.
There were a few locals that sat out this year including; FM Ben Dean-Kawamura, Matt Parry and Steve Dygert. Once again the Aaron family made the trip from Albany. Deepak scored four points and shared first place.
I played some good games; and put up the best performance I’ve ever had in the Marchand. The Marchand serves as a jumping off point for my yearly tournaments. I took a different approach to the tournament this year. I actually bothered to sit down and study in the weeks leading up to the tournament. I made a concerted effort to focus on my chess. I had to cancel a lot of plans with friends so I could study. I stopped the daily three-minute ICC blitz binges and focused on playing rapid games. Recently, my chess has been abysmal; and I wanted that to change. I hit the books harder than I’ve ever done before and it paid off. I can point to one game that I let slip away and a couple of oversights. Other than that, I was generally in control in almost every game.
In addition to the studying that I did, I also came prepared with my apples. Apples? Yes, apples. They are becoming a dietary staple for me in big tournaments. Apples are a good source of natural sugars. As a person who doesn’t drink coffee or tea they help give me a bit of a boost in the early morning rounds. I ate one apple 10-15 minutes before the start of each round.
In the first round I encountered a player that I’ve played a couple times before. He made a few passive moves in the opening. I smashed through his king side and won a nice miniature:
A nice way to start the tournament. We finished early and I was able to try a local bakery that I hadn’t tried before. I had a Cuban sandwich for the first time… it turns out I don’t like Cuban sandwiches. I then went home watched something on netflix and relaxed. This is the major benefit of having “home court advantage.” You can go back home instead of returning to some dumpy airport hotel.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have left the museum. My return trip, a trip that should only take five to seven minutes took me 30. I forgot that about the St. Patty’s day parade. I got caught driving in the worst congestion I’ve ever seen in Rochester. After finally making it to the museum I found that parking was a nightmare. I was driving around in the lot for what must have been ten minutes before I finally found a spot. The parking was so bad that a friend of mine withdrew from the tournament because he couldn’t find a spot. Thankfully, some games from the previous round hadn’t finished; so I wasn’t late.
When the round finally ended they printed out the pairing sheet. To my delight I saw that my pairing was with the one and only GM Gata Kamsky. Merely playing in the same tournament as Gata is a treat. I recall last year when I heard he was coming I was ecstatic. The whole town was excited, there were even articles in the local paper. People were talking; and generally saying good things!
When I started playing tournament chess, I thought that a good goal would be 1700. I recall thinking that if I could make it to 1700 then I would be someone in the chess world. Imagine my surprise when I crossed that threshold into the land of 1800 and again at 1900. My latest success came after crossing the 2100 mark; a goal I worked at for the last two or three years.
To sit down and play just one game with Gata Kamsky; I mean, unreal. In the last moment before the round started I heard the unthinkable. There was a mistake; they had to change the pairings. Thanks to Caissa, my pairing wasn’t affected. Our game was interesting; after move 14 I was sure I was busted. I was obstinate; and decided to press on. With my position in shambles; I sacrificed a pawn to enter a double rook endgame. This provided little relief and I was completely outplayed:
The next round was quite frustrating for me. My opponent played a line I believe is dubious and I obtained a better position. It was this opening that allowed me to win the tournament in Syracuse in the last round. Needless to say my confidence couldn’t have been higher. Unfortunately, I misplayed the position and allowed him to sacrifice a piece. I panicked. After consecutive dubious moves he obtained a dangerous position. I offered a draw in an unclear position which he accepted. We pick up after I obtained a better position:
After the third round I was quite annoyed with myself and began to doubt my own play. The next day I pulled myself together long enough to turn in a nice miniature in a line I know nothing about. It’s amusing because in the opening I felt my opponent played some strong moves. I was wondering where I went wrong and began to worry. Unbeknownst to me, this is all theory. During the game I thought the position looked familiar but I couldn’t place it. The game isn’t much to look at unfortunately. My opponent sacrificed a pawn which I refuted and he just crumbled.
The fifth round was the ultimate test for me. My opponent played an interesting plan that I couldn’t figure out how to refute. Admittedly, I became a bit bored. In an innocuous position where I felt I was slightly worse I offered a draw. He declined by making what I felt at the time was an inferior recapture. We’ll pick the game up after his choice:
Winning this game allowed me to share a nominal prize with everyone in my section. In addition to those games, I have some games from a couple of local players.
You have to feel for the guy playing white in this next game. After working for 33 moves to get a better position he blunders a rook. In one move he throws the game away; chess is ruthless.
Local expert Abraham Glasser got a bit of a “raw” deal as he had to play not one, but two GM’s in the same tournament. He was kind enough to annotate his game versus GM Kudrin:
Deepak Aaron also shared his last round game against an expert who played well in this tournament. I recall watching the look of shock on Gata Kamsky’s face as white exchanged queens and allowed yet another player in to the prize pool: