Monday, April 13, 2009

Tournament Report :: Foxwoods 2009

[NOTE: To see the pictures full-size, click once]

I played in U1500 section the Foxwoods 2009 tournament last week Thursday 9 April to Sunday 12 April. The crosstable is here

RESULT: 4.5/7.0 

If I won my last game I’d be in line for about $500-1000 in prize money. The pairing sheet for the last round is below. I have White on the 4th board.

Even so, I’m thrilled with 4.5 points. I will be analyzing games and will post analysis shortly. For now, here is a qualitative summary:
  • Overall the environment, hotel, food, people, and of course chess(!) was great.
  • My two losses were completely the result of my head not being “in the game”, and trying to push the game too much, one the result of eating poorly and quickly right before my last round.
  • The draw was hard fought – first I was down a pawn, then picked up two pawns to be a pawn up in a knight/pawn endgame
  • The four wins were pretty smooth. Of course I usually found the much longer but comprehensible (to me) path to victory (other people pointed out shorter wins), but practice will help.
Thursday I worked until 2:00 pm, before leaving to pick up Kappy. We arrived a bit before the tournament started and had a chance to walk around and take in the venue, minus players, organizers, and spectators. Here is what we found, two huge empty playing halls:

with lots and lots of boards:

and when the rounds started, the venue was full of chess players, ready, willing and able to rip into their opponent's chess positions!

Round 1, Thursday PM, I played Black, win:
Grossman-Reed (0-1)
This game started as a QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined), then White exchanged cxd, opening the position a bit. The middlegame featured mostly play in the center with many exchanges. Eventually Black doubled his Rooks, and planted one on the 7th. This was a turning point since White was a bit awkwardly placed, and couldn't answer an additional double attack on his d4 pawn, then ultimately lost it. This motivated White to muster an attack against Black's doubled rooks, which forced an exchange of one pair, but one Black rook remained, on the 7th again, this time picking up the a-pawn. White allowed the exchange of queens, which shifted play into a king and pawn endgame, where Black is up two pawns. The rest was technique. White resigned a few moves later.

Round 2, Friday AM, I played White, win:
Reed-Chen (1-0)
This game started as a QGD with an early 5.Bg5. Black challenged White's center with 7...c5 which left Black with an isolated pawn on d5 after exchanges. White tried to keep the iso blocked, but Black challenged White's blocking knight with a c6 knight, so White exchanged, aiming to trade advantages (iso, for a backward pawn on c6). Before White had a chance to put pressure on the c6 pawn, Black pushed the c6 pawn to c5 thinking this will become a strong "hanging pawn" pair. The truth was that Black committed a tactical error, allowing White to pick up the c5 and d5 pawns in exchange for giving Black the b2 pawn. This rattled Black, and two moves later he committed a similar (motif) tactical error, and lost his Queen. He continued to fight valiantly, but was checkmated on move 23.

I felt good about the round, so I walked over to see the top boards. It was great to see so many top players, but a bummer that I couldn't understand their positions LOL:

Round 3, Friday PM, I played White, loss:
Reed-Shefton (0-1)
White opened 1.d4 and ended up in a Grunfeld/King's Indian. Pawn structure-wise it also had a Benko like feature with the c and d pawns. When I post my analysis I'll figure it out more exactly. The bottom line is that the position was very unfamiliar, and White quickly got into a defensive posture. This is ok, if White would have stuck to defense. Instead, White engaged in dubious exchanges, and lost a piece outright. And if that wasn't enough, White then launched into a completely unwarranted adventure with his a-file rook, and then promptly lost control of the a-file. Black penetrated with all three of his pieces, against White's queen and rook, and White was overpowered. This loss was constructive though because it showed me the difference between having my head in the game, for each and every move, and what happens if you don't.

Round 4, Saturday AM, I played Black, draw:
Parrish-Reed (1/2-1/2)
White opened 1.e3?! Wow, Black was taken aback, and the rest of the opening was White waiting for Black to overextend, and Black trying to figure out when he might be overextending. As you can imagine, the position became very closed, with the first pawn exchange happening on move 15. This pawn exchange was the result of Black trying to get a break in. The break allowed Black to put pressure on f2, starting on move 17, which was significant because White isn't castled yet. Meanwhile Black has an isolated pawn on h6 that is under attack but can't be taken due to the threats on f2. However, Black spaces a bit and ends up losing the pawn on move 23. However, Black did have some positional compensation and managed to double rooks, with one of them on the 7th on g2, increasing the persistent pressure on f2, and allowing an exchange of rooks on h2, in order to take support away from pushing the now passed White pawn on h5. The queens were exchanged directly after, and now it's a rook/knight/pawn endgame. White soon lost his h-pawn, as well as traded down to a knight/pawn endgame. Black was very comfortable in this type of endgame, and was soon a pawn up, with the remaining pawns on the a. b, c-files. Draw. And I forgot to take a picture. Darn it.

The organizers open the partitions between the two playing halls for Saturday PM. Prior to this, the lower sections (me) play in the hall that have latecomers play fast games to catch up. This is a noisy process, hence the partition, so as not to disturb higher rated players. After opening the partition, it's cool to see how big the venue really is:

Round 5, Saturday PM, I played White, win:
Reed-Fisher (1-0)
Black played a Slav but played his bishop to f5 before playing ...e6. White decided to play conservative and played e3, keeping his dark bishop on c1 without first moving it on g5. Early in the opening, Black moved his knight to e4, and White prepared for the knight being there a long time, first by challenging the Black e4 knight with a bishop on d3. Rather than have the tension build, Black immediately exchanges his e4 knight for White's c3 knight, opening the b-file and strengthening the center after 10.bxc3. At this point White realizes he needs to play on the queenside, and start immediately before Black can muster any center or kingside action. By move 23, White has a rook-queen-rook b-file battery staring down at Black's b7 pawn, with a pawn on a6 in reserve. Black is defending with a rook on b8 and a rook-queen battery on the 7th. White led the combination with Rxb7 and ended up a pawn up with a rook on the 7th. The rook on b8 couldn't take because axb7 promotes, so after Black's rook steps aside, White's rook picks up the g7 pawn. Two pawns up in a rook and pawn endgame is a decisive advantage, and White won 10 moves later.

Round 6, Sunday AM, I played Black, win:
Desmond-Reed (0-1)
Black plays QGD, White plays exchange variation. This signals to Black that White will be conservative. On move 11 Black exchanges his g4 bishop for White's f3 knight, seeking to remove a defender of h2, since Black thinks he will be able to muster a kingside attack faster than White can start a minority queenside attack. Both Black and White vigorously attack, White with queenside minority attack, White with a kingside attack. On move 17 White takes his eye off the queenside attack, which stops, and begins responding to Black's kingside attack. On move 21 White allows his g3 bishop to be exchanged by a bishop-queen battery, thus losing a pawn after fxg recapture, and leaving a Black queen on g3. This gets Black's attention, who promptly moves resources from the queenside attack to the kingside. In a few moves White's other bishop on g4 is exchanged for Black's remaining knight, and White gains another pawn after the hxg recapture. At this point, White's only king cover is the g2 pawn, with Black's queen on g4, and Black's rooks moving into kingside attack position, so White brings his rooks and queen into position. For the next 16 moves Black and White maneuver their rooks and queens in order to attack and defend White's king respectively. On move 42 Black forces an exchange of rooks, which decreases the amount of force on the board, and increases the scope of heavy pieces. On move 49 Black's h-pawn is now advanced to h4, and forces a trade of queens, down to a winning rook and pawn endgame for Black. Black won 7 moves later.

Round 7, Sunday PM, I played Black, loss:
Reed-Rajendran (0-1)
White opened 1.d4 and Black played a Nimzo-Indian defense. By move 9 there is a massive exchange of pawns (c and d-file) and soon White's queen on c2 is opposed by a Black rook on c8. Rather than be conservative and move the queen off of the c-file, White plays for an edge, and loses the queen for two pieces and a pawn on move 16. White resigned immediately. No picture. There is no excuse for this poor result, but two reasons are (a) shortly before the round, I was actually contemplating withdrawing from the last round (heavy work schedule the following day), and worse yet (b) eating poorly right before the round, plus fatigue set White up for massive headaches. The lesson is that chess is a sport and White needs to make sure both mind and body are fit. 

All in all this was a great tournament!


  1. I am working on my round 1 analysis right now. I'm up to move 11. I'll try to do a couple of rounds per week.