The final tournament in my 3-tournament October Series was the Annual Fall Chess Festival in Dearborn, Michigan. After a sub-par performance in my previous two tournaments , I was hoping to salvage something from the third tournament. After two days of rest between tournaments, I was back on the road again, this time with my Mom. We landed in Detroit at 3 pm EST. We were picked up by the organizers, and had the honor of sharing the car with the top seed of the event – GM Timur Gareev (2676 Fide, 2768 USCF!). Timur was a very lively and amiable person to converse with. Known for his exemplary blindfold chess skills, Timur is planning to break the blind chess simul world record of 64 boards. For all I know, he’s probably done it already 🙂
About 20 minutes later we pulled-up at the venue, Adoba Hotel. There were 61 players competing in the Norm Section, with 15 GM’s, and 10 IM’s ( including me :). In the first round, I was paired with an unrated local boy Ricky Reid. I won pretty smoothly, although Ricky did defend tenaciously when he got into a worse position. In the next round, I was paired with GM Aleksandr Lenderman (2539 FIDE). He had got the better of me at the Continental Class tournament a few weeks ago. So I was determined to make amends. My only problem was that I was unfit. When I woke up that morning I felt really enervated and physically battered. Don’t know why. Perhaps the below freezing temperatures got to me. There was really nothing to do other then take medicines and tough it out. I was playing the White pieces. Lenderman played a Carokann, and it was more or less equal until I got overoptimistic and fell into an inferior position. A pretty silly thing to do, considering I wasn’t in peak physical state. I was now playing for a Draw, and made some waiting moves to get closer to the time control. When GM Lenderman played a5, I spent 5 of my remaining 6 minutes to play a4! The move seriously compromises the dark squares for me, but Black still has no clear way to breakthrough. The GM continued to try and improve his position, while I just waited and played accurately. Right before the timecontrol, he erred with Kf8 ? I was able to win the exchange, but I had to be careful of his Queen-Bishop tandem posing threats to my King. With less than 30 seconds on the clock, I played Qd3?! I had a better option which would’ve given me decent chances to win. GM Lenderman then found the correct Drawing maneuver Qb2-Qf2 , after which I couldn’t avoid a Perpetual from him. In a way, I was both relieved and satisfied to Draw considering I was in a worse position at one point, as well as not in peak condition.
After returning to the hotel, I slept to revive myself and gain back some energy. Not a bad idea 🙂 When I awoke, I found out I was paired with GM Ben Finegold (2483 FIDE) for the evening round. While scanning through his games, I noticed he has a tendency to play wild and crazy positions. So I spent most of my prep on some irregular stuff he plays. When the round started, and the clock was pressed, GM Finegold opened with d4, nf6, c4!?!?!?!. I was shocked that he was going for main-line theory. I went for a Nimzo, and GM Finegold played 4.Qc2, followed by 5.Nf3. I didn’t really know too much about the line, so I just played natural moves, and equalized pretty easily. That’s where … the boredom set in 🙂 The position was unbelievably dull and monotonous. I was hopefully expecting a Draw offer after every move he played … which unfortunately didn’t happen :(. Just my darn luck, GM Finegold decided to open things up with e5 later, and I made possibly the worst positional move of all time with d5 ???. I was passive and stuck with a terrible Bishop afterwards, and it didn’t take long for Ben to win. Instead after e5, dxe5 ! would maintain equality. It sucked losing in such an even position. Maybe it wasn’t my fault though, since Ben said he snuck a piece of mine off the board 🙂 After the long walk back to the hotel, about 3/4 mile away from venue, I immediately fell asleep since I was physically and mentally exhausted.
Next morning, I woke up feeling much better and ready to play. I wanted to get back into action. You know that feeling. I was finally feeling 100%, and was ready to bring out my lightning bolt :). I was paired with FM Kostya Kavutskiy (2272 FIDE), to whom I’d lost to in the Spice Cup a few days prior to this tournament. I was definitely hoping for a better result this time. He played the Archangelsky variation of the Ruy Lopez, and I chose a rather quiet line, which probably isn’t the best, but people don’t seem to know it and fall into trouble quickly. But just my darn luck again! FM Kavutskiy seemed to know it like the back of his hand, and blitzed out his next 4-5 moves. Now I had to replan. After a few maneuvers and exchanges, I managed to fix his Pawn on a6. That was really the only hope for me to Win in the position. And I really wanted to Win! Draws are second rate results anyhow, but I must admit many a times still better than a stick in the eye :-). The only thing I had to worry about was the safety of my King. FM Kavutskiy played Rb2, a good move, taking advantage of my weak second rank. I offered an exchange of Rooks, which he accepted. Thereafter, the FM placed his other Rook on b2. I followed up with Kg1, after which he played Re2, Qc1, Rxe3 ??. I simply played Kf2, after which FM Kavutskiy was forced to give up the exchange, allowing me to Win smoothly. Boy, that felt like a warm breeze on a freezing Michigan morning!
So at this stage, I was 2.5/4, and in the thick of a group of strong titled players. In Round 5, I was paired with IM Leonid Gerzhoy (2478 FIDE). I had lost to IM Gerzhoy at the Continental Class tourney about 10 days prior, clearly missing a chance to take the upper hand, and had Drawn with him at the NY International, where I blew a +% advantage. I had been outplaying IM Gerzhoy, but not getting the result I wanted. This time I was determined not to give any more gifts to him. It was a mainline Bc4 Gruenfeld, in which I deviated from the Karpov-Kasparov games where Black would go Bg4 f3,Na5. He wasn’t familiar with the variation, and misplayed his subsequent moves. I felt really comfortable my position, after Leonid decided to sac a pawn for Kingside counterplay. Unfortunately … another gift came his way. After messing up the move order, I simply collapsed. I went from -0.24 to +8 for him in a span of 8 moves. No win this time too, after gaining a slightly upper hand. This game was a real blow, considering my position. The walk back to hotel didn’t help either, as the weather was 32F, with a windchill of 25F. Cabs had a 30-minute wait, and I just wanted to get back to my room. My hands and mouth numbed fast, and the frosty howling wind was bitter on the face. Toss that in with a Loss from an even position, and you’ve got yourself in a pathetic predicament :).
I was anxious that night, hoping that I would get a good player next morning, preferably higher rated. Well I got what I wanted, as I was paired with FM Steven Winer (2403 FIDE). It was a Siclian Najdorf, and we castled opposite. This basically guaranteed that someone’s gonna get their king blown off the board, and I had to make sure it wasn’t mine:). Good thing for me that my King was the one left standing at the end, as I turned in a complete game, winning crisply on the Kingside. This game set the tone for the rest of the tournament, and allowed me to finish strong. In the sprint to the end, I Drew with IM Keaton Kiewra (2404 Fide), although once again I was winning before going full crazy mode; beat IM Kannappan Priyadharshan (2425 Fide), and Drew with GM Bartlomiej Macieja (2586 FIDE) in the final round. So 3/4 points in the final rounds got me to a total score of 6/9, which was good enough for the 2nd spot in the U2400 category, worth $250. I gained over +28 valuable FIDE rating points. For me this was a good tournament , and finally the pumpkin smiled late in October, as I finished the 3 almost back-to-back tourneys.