The 44th Susquehanna Open Tournament

This past weekend I attended the 44th Susquehanna Open tournament in Bloomsburg PA. When I attend “larger” tournaments outside of the Rochester area I will try and provide some sort of write up or review on the conditions and my results.

Bloomsburg PA is the home to Bloomsburg University and honestly not much else. It’s nestled in between Williamsport (home of the little league hall of fame) and Scranton (home to Dunder Mifflin paper supply company). It’s central location makes it a reasonable choice when planning a chess tournament because you can attract plays from a variety of places. Although my result in the tournament (on the second day) was quite disappointing I will try not to let it tarnish my good overall impression of the tournament itself. This tournament was the only tournament I have ever attended where they had catered food, and on the second day one of the organizers wives made her “famous” sloppy Joe’s, which were fantastic. It may not seem like much but when I can reduce the cost of a tournament by saving money on food (and good food at that) that is a huge incentive for me to return. In addition to that the tournament director was quite nice and personable as were the other participants. The atmosphere of the tournament was a bit different from other tournaments I have played in as well; everyone was very friendly and inquisitive about chess and where I was from. The general tension and cut-throat nature that usually permeates chess tournaments didn’t really seem to exist there; which admittedly was a bit off-putting.

Blah blah blah, let’s see some games!

On the first day, I went 3-0 and produced probably the best game I’ve played all year. I am super proud of this game; it’s a strange feeling during a game to know that you are creating something beautiful and my only hope was that I wouldn’t blow it in some ridiculous fashion. In the game after some dubious opening play by white I sacrificed a knight for really unclear compensation. In many lines I was looking at I saw that I would get a rook and pawn for two knights with a slightly better position. This will probably be one of the most detailed analysis I will ever do on here because the complications are numerous and there are many options for white as to how to proceed. Thankfully my opponent got a bit lost in the “thicket” of variations and let this one slip by him. I am reminded of a quote,

Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it. – Tal

Just to review (because I know many of you are rusty, the symbols I’ve used in the game below are the classic “Informant” symbols):

Symbol Symbol Description
!! A brilliant move
! A good move
!? An interesting move
?! A dubious move
? A poor move
?? A blunder
&#8710 With the idea of…
During the game I was reminded of this video from Garry Kasparov on one of his wins over Karpov where Kasparov explains that he didn’t have to calculate anything because he knew that it should work. So during my game, I sat there thinking about attackers and defenders and finally like Tal with his Hippopotamus I just decided to leave the goddamn thing in the marsh and let my opponent figure out how to get it out of there.

Journalist: It might be inconvenient to interrupt our profound discussion and change the subject slightly, but I would like to know whether extraneous, abstract thoughts ever enter your head while playing a game?

Tal: Yes. For example, I will never forget my game with GM Vasiukov on a USSR Championship. We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not obvious; there was a large number of possible variations; but when I began to study hard and work through them, I found to my horror that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which worked in one case, to another situation where it would naturally prove to be quite useless. As a result my head became filled with a completely chaotic pile of all sorts of moves, and the infamous “tree of variations”, from which the chess trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelievable rapidity. And then suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the classic couplet by Korney Ivanovic Chukovsky:

“Oh, what a difficult job it was. To drag out of the marsh the hippopotamus”.

I don’t know from what associations the hippopotamus got into the chess board, but although the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how WOULD you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh ? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder. After a lengthy consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully to myself: “Well, just let it drown!” And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went right off the chessboard just as he had come on … of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it.

I hope you guys have enjoyed this game, the rest of the tournament was a bit of a disaster for me. After some lackluster play I only managed to score .5/2 against lower rated opposition on the second day. I would highly recommend attending next years version of this tournament.

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