Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Mass Open: Band of Brothers

Mike Griffin, Massachusetts Class B Champion 2009

Photo: Tony Cortizas

As I was focused on winning the class B prize I have a myopic view of what went on throughout the whole chess tournament at Boxborough: so below is the Mass Open according to what happened in front of me.

As there were really four tournaments going on sometimes simultaneously. Directors Alexander Relyea, Bob Messenger, Nita Patel, MACA coordinator Ken Ballou, utility infielder Steven Dann, and chief MACA philosopher George Mirijamian ran a terrific tournament.The main hall is a big gray room, where somehow the lighting is perfect at the board but dissolves when looking around, the hum of the lights annoy some. Overall Boxborough is a very good venue. Every morning players of all types march into the hall and sit down to work, to fight, to kill or be killed: an outsider might ask why would anyone spend potentially 36 hours over three days working during Memorial Day Weekend doing nothing but staring at 64 squares? What's the magic in this big gray box?
Contestants most so focused and controlled sifting though variations, concentration so engrossing. Young children amazingly glued to their game for hours on end, what causes so much self control? What contemplation!

There was a great deal of good news this year: more players played in the Open than last year, MACA obtained a well needed injection of advertising money from The House of Staunton; MACA reengineered Chess Horizons to dramatically reduce costs while keeping quality. But like all investors MACA had heavy losses having its investments decrease by about 30%, adult membership is slowly shrinking (currently in the 200d's- excluding life members - which now exceed adult members). It's only the income from scholastic tournaments that keeps MACA afloat. Seventeen-time winner of the Mass Open John Curdo came alone sans regular roommate, the venerable Harold Dondis, because Harold had a cold. We wish Harold to get well quick.

I had four good games, finishing with a score of 4 wins /1 draw/1 loss. So I co-won the under 1800 section with Frank Vogel III. Since Frank is from RI, does that make me sole MA U1800 champ? I think I'll make the claim.

Monday had to be the best day. After round 5, many of us walked outside midday embraced by the marvelous sun, a blue blue sky, not a cloud, temperature being perfect. An ad hoc pickup football game broke out on the grassy field besides the Holiday Inn where chess players from 5 to 40 put down their sets and took up physical recreation. Kind of surreal like the football game in the middle of the movie MASH, to watch a generationally mixed field of chess players fighting for a ball in the big green room, everyone letting their minds and bodies dance free, a break from toiling over a board and sitting on one's hands.

Bill Kelleher invited me to go with him and Al Szejman to lunch. So we tooled to Acton driving thru the woods arriving at an Italian restaurant. There we met IM David Vigorito and his fiancé and discussed their future honeymoon to Italy and parings and colors. Later Bill, Al and I strolled thru the booming metropolis of Acton as if we were walking beside the canals of Venice digesting our pasto perfetto. Free unfettered brains created a stream of consciousness discussion that ranged from computer compilers, to mathematics, to bad economic forecasting, to politics, to religion.

Threaded but free roaming, we absent mindedly ambled into a dead end and had to turn around and go back to the Open. Cease fire over, back to the wars. A man on a mission, it was GM Alexander Ivanov's day: white x 2 was his color, and Qe2 was his key move to win in both a Ruy against Paul MacIntrye and Sozin Sicilian against IM David Vigorito both in 23 moves; closing a 1/2 point defect at the beginning of the day to a plus 1/2 by the end to win the Mass Open. For this year he possesses the ugliest trophy ever seen.

Meanwhile having black in a French Tarrash in my last round in a game against Tom Provost we arrived at a classic "Tabia". [Tabia or Tabiya (from Arabic) The initial position of the pieces in Shatranj The final position of a well-known chess opening (from 2) The opening position from which two players familiar with each others' tastes begin play. ]

I'll play from this position from either the white or black side as I feel they have equal winning chances. (note the total ugly score is below, I'll just cover the low points here).

Following 12.a3 then 14.b4 by white my gut took over my mind and "HAND MUST MOVE E5!" Later Denys Smelov tells me that e5 in positions like our game is one of the major mysteries that Tarrash players on both sides have yet to solve in thousands of games.

and four moves later having missed 18.Bc5, thus losing the exchange, I figured to go all in: "BISHOP MUST TAKE ON h2!" to begin a totally dumb, unsound campaign.

But fortunately for me, probably due to the fog of war and law of momentum, my opponent's Jessie Owens King ran one square too wide letting me back into the game. By the end of this craziness we are sitting at this position ....

and I'm thinking: I really like his position better and I am wicked concerned about his two bishops and feel I'm toast if he gets a rook to the seventh. No sooner through worrying when my opponent offers me a draw?! Tom is probably feeling that with all this blood on the board it might cause pathogenic prions to permanently effect our chess brains.

In Seinfeldian closure to my Open, I am sitting in the skittles room with George Mirijamian trying to determine if white can win this position, when in walks Alexander Ivanov. Alexander is obviously waiting for the other games to finish. So I turn and ask him his opinion about my final position. Alexander was nice enough to spend about 15 minutes sifting through variations until he comes up with what is a winning strategy for white. Now I'm even gladder I took the draw offer.

Alexander then asks us which of his victories today he should submit to the most interesting game prize. We ask if we can see the games, and as Ken Ballou transcribes, we spend about 40 minutes listening to Ivanov describe how and why he won. Earlier, midday in the hall, the self-effacing Paul MacIntyre said he attacked "like a school boy" and that he felt going into an endgame instead of pressing for an attack was better than certain slow death. But Ivanov actually gives MacIntyre more credit and points out many ways Ivanov could have gone astray.

To me it seems his victory over Vigorito was completely pre-contrived ( a feeling later corroborated by Vigorito himself) but Ivanov had to work in the MacIntyre game.

Driving home with a check in my wallet, a beautiful version of Beethoven's 9th by the Chicago Symphony plays on my radio, Ode to Joy caps off a wonderful weekend.

What were your experiences this weekend at the Mass Open?

Please Comment.

Thank You,

Mike Griffin


Tom Provost - Mike Griffin

[C06] 2009 Mass Open

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 Qb6 9.Nf3 f6 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.0-0 Bd6 12.a3 Bd7 13.Re1 0-0 14.b4 e5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Bxe5 17.Be3 Qd6 18.Bc5 Bxh2+ 19.Kh1 Qc7 20.Bxf8 Ng4 21.Bc5
Bg1 22.Kxg1 Qh2+ 23.Kf1 Qh1+ 24.Ng1 Nh2+ 25.Ke2 Qxg2 26.Kd2 Qg5+ 27.Kc2 Ba4+ 28.Kb2 Qf6+ 29.Ka2 Bxd1 30.Raxd1 Ng4 31.Bd4 ½-½

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