Recap of the 5th Hartford Open

I recently competed in the fifth Hartford Open located in Windsor Locks Connecticut at the Bradley International Airport. I played good chess and attribute a lot of my success to my diet choices. I believe the main contributing factors were the English breakfast tea (which I’ve started drinking) and honey crisp apples. I don’t ordinarily drink tea but find that it makes me feel more alert especially for those morning games. Apples have a large amount of natural sugars in them as well which makes you feel more alert without the caffeine crash. I believe the combination of those two foods helped me to focus better and be more alert.

The Sheridan, located next to the airport, hosted the playing site and tournament hall. Windsor Locks is an airport town. For those unfamiliar, airport towns tend to lack good options for dietary sustenance. Sure, there were plenty of pizza places and sub shops, but that was about it. Additionally getting in and out of the hotel was a bit arduous because you have to drive through the airport. It seemed to me that the restaurants around the airport were somewhat expensive. I kept finding myself questioning whether I was hungry because of the high prices.

Below are some photos I took of my travels:

My first round game with GM Alexander Ivanov was the pairing I was hoping would happen. I didn’t have time to prepare anything but; I had remembered that I played a similar line against Rochester Chess Center owner Ron Lohrman THREE years ago. In the game below I played the most accurate move order, you’ll see how my memory failed me a bit in my game against Ivanov.

I was able to recall some of my preparation during the game. I mixed up the move order a bit and put my pieces on the wrongs squares but I got a playable position. Ivanov began squeezing me on the queenside and I decided that I would start attacking his king. Unfortunately, because I put some of my pieces on the wrong squares I had to reposition them, which cost me some time.
Unfortunately, the first two rounds of the tournament were game in 60 with a ten-second delay. This time control is quite fast. I would have preferred five rounds of game/90 than two rounds of g/60 and three rounds of g/110 sudden death 30. I got into some terrible zeitnot in both my first and second round game. In my first game against Ivanov, I flagged after making a terrible blunder:

In the second round, I was paired with a young player who played quickly. His moves seemed automatic and I once again found myself in some zeitnot. Thankfully, my opponent made a blunder that left him with the option of playing down a piece or playing down a queen for a rook and bishop. My opponent opted for the first situation and with eleven minutes, I converted my advantage. I mated my opponent with two bishops with 28 seconds left on my clock. To my recollection this is the first time anyone has ever made me do the two-bishop mate. After a bit of floundering I figured it out and mated him.

The third round is my favorite game of the tournament. It’s rich with complications and my opponent was a rock solid player. He employed a line in the opening that I wasn’t familiar with and I was out of my book early in the game. I had a basic idea of where to put my pieces and I had read about those types of positions a little but not recently. During the game, I thought my opponent played some strange moves. Despite my inexperience in the opening, I managed to get a good position. I found a beautiful knight move that at first looks quite suspect but gives white a huge advantage. My opponent (as he had done all game) met me with the most critical line.
There was one notable moment in the game where I was met with a critical psychological decision that requires some explanation. During the game, I examined close to four or five lines all, which appeared to give white a big advantage but didn’t seem to offer me anything concrete. The line I chose was “the most tricky” (my opponents words) but “not best” (the shared opinion of him and I). When you have a choice between so many attractive options, it’s important to play the move that makes you the most comfortable. The line I chose while complicated and not best offered my opponent the fewest chances and made me the most comfortable.

In the fourth game, my opponent confronted me with my own inadequacies in the opening. I did a little bit of preparation while I was waiting for the game to start. I even looked at the line that we played in the game; of course knowing the moves without knowing the ideas is never a good plan. I played what I believed were “normal” moves that I had seen earlier despite the fact that my opponent had stepped out of book at this point. I got into some trouble but managed to get a playable position. My opponent made a few inaccurate moves and allowed me to equalize.

In lieu of my fourth round half point, I knew that I needed to come correct in try and win in the fifth round. This would prove to be a difficult task because my opponent was playing well and had earned a draw with IM Sam Sevian in the first round. We played a wild game where I sacrificed a pawn and obtained interesting counter-play against the black king. I thought I was doing pretty well but my opponent defended and counterattacked precisely. He found a beautiful move 29. … Ne3!! This somehow managed to fork both of my rooks on opposite sides of the board and put me in a strange zugzwang-like state. I gave up the exchange and pressed on as if nothing had happened. My opponent played a few inaccurate moves that allowed me counter-play against his king. In the end, my opponent offered me a draw. I wasn’t sure of the results of the other games so I continued believing, albeit somewhat foolishly, that I had a forced mate. After muddling around, I acquiesced and took a perpetual that earned me 75 big ones.

Special thanks to all the people at the Rochester Chess Center who provided me with transportation to and from the tournament. Big thanks to David for driving and generally putting up with my bullshit.

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