Monday, February 19, 2007

My experience in the 114th Annual Minnesota Chess Open, part I

My perspective in writing this piece and those to follow in the next couple of days is that of the drama of any player playing under the intense conditions of a chess tournament. The first time I played in the Minnesota Open was in 2003, where I played up two sections in the Reserve section, the same section I played this weekend. At that time, when my rating was over 300 points less than it is today, with a corresponding shortage of knowledge of the game compared to today, I ended up with a mere 1.5 points--I had a draw and a one point bye for one of the rounds. So begins this story...

On Friday night, the Minnesota State Chess Association had its annual board meeting. The first part featured a report by Roger Redmond on the financial state of affairs of the MSCA, while the second part featured leaving President Shu Lee's words on the state of the MSCA. We elected a new board, which is composed of myself, Ed Conway, Kevin AhTou, David Kuhns, Roger Redmond, and two new members, Dan Peplinski and John Flores. (Welcome, again, Dan and John! Thank you for running and joining!)

At the conclusion of the meeting we began the 114th Annual Minnesota Open chess tournament. I was playing in the Reserve section (U1700). As my current published rating is 1391, I was playing in the bottom third of my section. (My seed number was about 40). So, I played up nearly every round.

My first round game was White against 16th seed, Hindson Her, rated 1540. It started out as B14, the Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack. As regular readers of my blog who are interested in chess may know, I love playing the Black side of the Caro-Kann. This was possibly the first time I played the White side of the Caro in a rated game.

This game was fairly even for the first 14 moves, with both of us finding natural feeling moves. We each had about 95 minutes on the clock after his move.

At this point, although I was almost certain that he was going to move that Knight to d5, I had a good 15 minute think about my next move. As I tend to be an aggressive player, sometimes committing too early to an attack, I did not want to play too crazy a game. I played the quiet 16. a3, and he did move his Knight to d5.

That a3 was problematic later on, as it provided a target for his pieces after he hunted a pawn with 20...Rxc3. As you can see, three of his pieces are trained on that square, while I had but one defender.

However, this was where I ignored the Pawn and quickly complicated matters with 21. Ng4. I had a little bit of breathing room in terms of the time crunch, but I was still behind. We played a few more moves, and I got some sweet relief with Qd2, threatening the Rook and taking advantage of a mating attack on the weakly-protected King.

Hindson took 20 minutes on this move. I was able to get up, release the tension I was feeling, and looked at some of my friends' games. (My buddy Rich was a piece down in his game a few boards over from mine against a lower-rated player.)

When I saw that he finally hit the plunger, I was just three minutes down, 47 to his 50. He played 23...h5, attacking my Knight. I was impressed, and I figured out what would go first, my Knight or his Rook.

I played 24. Nh6+. The follow through was Kh7, 25. Nf5 Qf8 26. Qxc3 exf5, leaving ugly triple pawns!

We had some interesting endgame play in which he was going for the mating attack with 31...h3, while I was trying to trade down and take advantage of the triple pawns. We each had some errors, and we played to a draw on move 39.

Hindson and I talked after the game. This was his first major event since high school. We complimented each other on our play and wished each other luck for the remaining games.

I was pretty tired after this 3-1/2 hour game, but I was reminding myself and some of my friends that "tomorrow, we have three of these!"

I went home excited and got a good sleep after waking up Melissa with my chatter about the first round and the night in general.

Tags: Minnesota, chess

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