This was the 12th year I've played in the Kings Island Open, and I had never been paired up in the first round before. However, the tournament was so strong this year that I faced GM Nick DeFirmian in round 1 with the White pieces. In the opening after 15... f4
I went for a typical pawn sacrifice for this structure with 16. Qe2 e5 17. c5 but never really got enough compensation, although my followup play may not have been best. Instead, he suggested sacrificing in another manner with 16. e5!? intending to meet 16...dxe5 with 17. Bg6+ and 18. Re1. It didn't seem to me that Black should be equal here since the Ng7 seems so horrible, but I need to investigate the position more deeply to figure out what is really going on. Perhaps the Bd3 is so bad that it the positioning of the Black knights is not that significant, but I don't really believe it. Perhaps 16. Qe2 is not the most accurate. 16. Re1!? with the idea Bf1-h3 comes to mind as an improvement.
In round 2, I had Black against Hank Rothgerber. I got a pretty reasonable middle game and was a couple of pawns up in an opposite colored bishop middle game after 20. c5
Here, I went for the active 20...Qg6 The solid 20... Qd7 was probably better, holding onto c6 for the time being. 20... dxc5 would produce very rare quadrupled pawns, but I think the best Black can hope from that is an extra doubled c-pawn. 21. Qxc6 Bxa2 21... c2 deserves serious consideration. 22. Ra1 Rae8 23. cxd6 Also possible was 23. Rxe8 Rxe8 24. cxd6 cxd6 25. Qxc3 but not 23. Rxa2? fails to 23...Rxe1+ 24. Bxe1 Qb1 25. Re2 c2 26. Re8 c1=Q and the Qb1 covers e4. 23... Rxe1+ On 23... cxd6? He can take the piece 24. Rxa2 Rxe1+ 25. Bxe1 Qb1 26. Re2 and Qc6 prevents c2. 24. Bxe1 with a draw offer which I accepted with my clock ticking down [½:½] Any advantage Black had from the diagram has now evaporated.
There was a curious incident on the board next to mine in the game Medina-Rhee. The position was something like
with Black to move. They were using a FIDE clock in Bronstein mode, and Black's clock read about 8 seconds (which really means he had 3 seconds left + 5 seconds of delay). Black played the illegal 1...Qd3+ White, with about 30 minutes left, pointed out that it was illegal. Black picked the queen back up and after a few seconds White restarted his clock, there was sort of a brief "What do we do?" discussion and they finally paused the clock with it reading 2 seconds for Black. The TD came over and they explained the situation. Normally, White would gain 2 minutes on the clock here, but since he had such a large time advantage, he just waived this right. The clock was restarted and Black's flag fell almost instantly as he tried to play 1...Qg5. It was so fast that the TD commented, "That was 2 seconds?" White sort of shrugged it off to the effect that it was Black's clock and that it was probably only 1 point something seconds. A few days later it dawned on me that perhaps the way the FIDE clock is programmed, starting it in Bronstein mode reading only 2 seconds looks to the clock's programming like Black has -3 seconds of actual time so he is immediately flagged. If Black had 3 or 4 seconds this would have been more obvious. I was not able to reproduce this behavior on my Siatek clock, I'd be interested in hearing if any FIDE clock owners can show this behavior. In any case, Black certainly did not get his 5 seconds of delay time, but I am not sure if he is entitled to it since he used it up before the TD was called.
I finally got into the win column in Round 3 with White against Hans Multhopp in an old line of the 4 Pawns Attack. After 12. Bf4
12...b4 This is the improvement on the 1965 Candidates Match game Keres-Spassky which continued 12... Nd7 13. e6 fxe6 14. dxe6 Rxf4 15. Qd5 Kh8 16. Qxa8 Nb6 17. Qxa7 when 17... Ne3 would have been well met by 18. e7 13. Ne4 Nd7 14. e6 fxe6 15. dxe6 Bb7?! the critical line is 15... Rxf4 16. Qd5 Kh8 17. Qxa8 Nb6 when the point is that White has to cover e4 with 18. Qc6 so 18...Ne3 is possible with an unclear position. 16. Bg5 Qb6 17. exd7 I was looking for ways to exploit the loose Ng4 but didn't find one. My opponent did and said he would have probably resigned after 17. Qxd7 Bxe4 18. e7 with a double hit on f8 and g4. In any case, the pawn on d7 proved enough to win eventually. Afterwards, Hans told me that it was only the second time he had ever faced the 4 Pawns Attack. Of course, the faced it again the very next round!
On Sunday morning, I had White against Jim Dean. In a back-and-forth struggle, he eventually reached a very comfortable bishop vs. knight ending. Still, it appears I had a chance to save the game late after 36. Kc6
Here, I played the horrible 36... a5? Instead, the immediate 36... Nxg4 seems to give good chances to hold 37. Bd4 (37. Kb7 Ne3 38. Kxa7 Ke8 is the same fork trick on b6 but Black has gained several tempi and a pawn over the game) 37...Ke7 38. Kb7 Kd6 39. Kxa7 b5 40. Kb6 Kd5 followed by 40...Kc4
In the final round I had White against Pappu Murthy. Strangely, the last time I had played Dean and Murthy was in the 2001 World Open, but for some reason, neither of those game was entered in my database, despite the fact that I posted notes on the Murthy game on this site. Anyway, I got a nice bind out of the opening and cashed in after 20...Nb6
21. Bxc5 e5 I thought more resistance was offered by 21... Na4 22. Bd4 e5 23. Bd5+ Kh8 (23... Kf8 24. Be3) 24. Rb4 exd4 25. Rxa4 dxc3 26. Rc1 when White should eventually emerge with an extra pawn, but must be wary of back rank tricks. Strangely, the computer favors a piece sacrifice with 23. Re1!? Bf5 24. Bd5+ Kh8 25. Bxb7 Bxb1 26. Bxa8 Rxa8 27. Rxb1 or 27. Rxe5. I'm not sure I quite believe that White is better in those positions although it is interesting, especially with the awkward placement of the Black minor pieces. Instead, after 22. Bxb6 axb6 23. Bd5+ Kf8 24. Rxb6 Rxa2 25. Bxb7 I had an extra pawn that I gradually converted to victory.
I wrapped up my 8th straight Knoxville City Championship on Thursday night, finishing with a perfect 5-0 score. The championship was moved up earlier on the calendar to avoid some of the scheduling problems experienced in the past. That part seems to have worked out OK as it looks like only one game will remain unplayed this year. Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the weakest championships with an average rating below 1800. There were several factors contributing to this. Last year, the club moved from Wednesdays to Thursdays and attendance suffered. Unlike previous years, instead of potential qualifiers throughout the year, the decision was made this year to hold a single qualifier in September. As a result, the already declining other tournaments suffered in attendance. That momentum carried into the qualifier, where only 14 players even bothered to try and qualify. The qualification system also weakened the final. A four round swiss system is not a good way to choose a strong 6-player field, especially when there are only 14 participants. Two of the qualifiers exemplified the problems with this method. Fheo Patterson was one of the higher rated players in the qualifier, but had to scramble to make it after being paired as Black against the two highest rated players (myself and Boris Fine) in back-to-back rounds. Meanwhile, the lowest rated qualifier, Patrick Parker, had an easier go of it. He had a half point bye, beat two players rated below 1000, and lost the only time he was paired up. I don't begrudge him his spot as all he could do was play the players he was paired against, but I think the old system with multiple qualifiers is a much better system.
I also played the annual Kings Island Open last weekend. Unlike last year, when many strong players had already headed out west in advance of the US Championship, the field was loaded this year. There were 9 GMs and 5 IMs in the 42 player open section. I finished with an even score, which wasn't bad for an U2400 player. Unfortunately, this year the class section was changed to 2300-2449 and IM Berkovich snuck just under at 2446 and walked away with the entire prize with 3 points. GMs Wojtkiewicz, Mitkov, Shulman, and Kamsky topped the section with 4 points, with Kamsky getting a bit more money in a playoff.
I plan to post my analysis of interesting Kings Island moments in a few days, then to do my usual full game analysis of the city championship.