2022 New York Summer Invitationals: Results

Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue
The playing venue, in a great location! Photo: TripAdvisor

The 2022 New York Summer Invitationals concluded on July 11, once again organized by the dynamic duo of Keith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.

The event featured four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D. GM and IM norms were available in the A and B sections, while only IM norms were on offer in C and D.

Overall, two IM norms were achieved.

Let’s see the results, shall we?

 

GM A: Grandmaster Class

Polish GM Kamil Dragun finished in clear 1st Place in this section with 6.5 points. GM Djurabek Khamrakulov (Uzbekistan) followed with 6 points, and GM Ante Saric (Croatia) tallied 5½. This trio dominated the event.

No norms were earned this time; 5 points would have scored an IM norm for FMs Liran Zhou and Maximilian Lu, though the latter will presumably have his IM title approved at the next FIDE Congress in August.

A GM norm required 6½ points, but no one ever looked very likely to earn one during the course of the event.

 

GM B: Don’t Lose

Joseph Zeltsan (USA) won this section with 5½ points out of 9, winning two games and drawing the rest. In addition, he earned his second IM norm. Congratulations!

IM Bryce Tiglon (USA)GM Leonid Yudasin (Israel), and FM Aaron Jacobson (USA) tied for 2nd place with 5 points. Jacobson could have earned his final IM norm with a win over tail-ender Qibiao Wang (China) in the final round, but only managed to draw.

The GM norm in this section was a full 7 points out of 9. Maybe next time?

 

IM C: Just Win

FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi (USA) scored 7 points out of 9, winning the section and scoring his second IM norm. He’s now 2-for-2 in the New York Invitational series. Congratulations!

FM Akira Nakada (USA) once again came just a half-point short, finishing 2nd with 6½. Rating favorite IM Mykola Bortnyk (Ukraine) came in 3rd place with 6 points.

 

IM D: Fight Club

GM Michael Rohde (USA) emerged victorious, tallying 7 points out of 9. The veteran GM showed great form throughout, and was motivated to post the highest score among the four groups, which he did (along with Tani)!

IM Arjun Vishnuvardhan (India) followed Rohde with 6½ points, and IM Nikolai Andrianov (Russia) scored 6. Because the IM norm was 7 points, the norm seekers went after the top three, but their attempts backfired.

While no norms were earned, this section was a bloodbath; it was common for Group D to go well after the other sections were done or nearly so! Only 17 of 45 games ended in draws.

 

More Info

You can find more information on the event website. Results, standings, and downloadable games can be found on Chess Results.

 

Coming Up Next

From September 1-5, the Marshall Chess Club will host the next edition of the series, the Bobby Fischer World Chess Champion 1972 Commemoration, in two sections — GM A and IM B.

Bobby Fischer became World Chess Champion on September 1, 1972; 50 years ago. I was born 11 years later on the same date.

The 2022 New York Summer Invitationals

After three successful norm events in November 2021, January 2022, and April 2022, organizers Keith Espinosa and Alex Ostrovskiy have scheduled another group of norm tournaments in midtown Manhattan from July 7-11.

This event will feature four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D.

I’m honored to once again serve as Chief Arbiter.

You can find more information on the event website. Results, standings, and downloadable games will be updated on Chess Results.

Most games will be broadcast on various chess servers, including lichess, chess.com, ChessBase, etc.

Italian Game: Which Defense?

Italian Game
The starting position of the Italian Game.

The Italian Game begins with the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, and is extremely popular at all chess levels.

It is named for “Il Calabrese,” Gioachino Greco (c.1600-1634) who analyzed the opening in the early 17th century. I definitely recommend playing through Greco’s many instructive games and analyses.

Now, how should Black meet the Italian Game?

Like a lot of things in life — and chess — that depends on many factors.

 

Three Main Choices

We can meet the Italian Game with 3…Nf6, 3…Bc5, or 3…Be7. In 20 years of coaching, I have recommended all three moves based on the needs of the student I was working with.

Coaching is an individual endeavor. Never forget that. No cookie-cutting!

Now, I’ll give a breakdown of each defense to the Italian from a coaching perspective.

Two Knights Defense: 3…Nf6

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6

We get the most combative choice against the Italian.

As is often the case, “most combative” also means “most complicated!”

To play the Two Knights, you must be okay with a (possible) early tactical melee and be willing to memorize some lines. Otherwise, stay away!

If my student doesn’t show an appetite for learning how to deal with 4.Ng5, or keeps forgetting one of the key lines, the defense is not for them. And that’s not even getting into the Max Lange Attack (4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Bc5 6.e5), etc.

GIUOCO PIANO, 3…Bc5

With 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5

We get the big practical advantage of not allowing 4.Ng5. For many beginners, this is reason enough to recommend the move.

I believe most gambits are dubious, but after 3…Bc5 White has one of the very best in chess available to him: the Evans Gambit (4.b4).

In addition to having a plan against the Evans (there are a number of ways to deal with it, but you must study a little!); Black must also be ready to handle stuff like the Canal Variation (and Canal Trap), Møller Attack (4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3), etc.

Have you studied your lines?

HUNGARIAN DEFENSE, 3…Be7

Now we get to my controversial pick: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7:

I’m not a crusader for this line, but I think it has its place.

Not every student wants to study openings the way some need to be studied.

3…Be7 cuts out all the tricky lines White has against 3…Nf6 and 3…Bc5. The first player simply doesn’t have anything to aim at.

Higher-rated players understand that the Hungarian is dubious because of the space it cedes, but this isn’t a concern below 1400…and probably higher!

Once a player gains some experience, and confidence, you can consider switching them to other lines.

CONCLUSION

Players should not just choose the Giuoco Piano or Two Knights because “everyone else” does…or at least right away. Do those openings suit your needs?

I have students who do well with these lines; but they either have the temperament required to play them, or are willing to put in the work to get good at them.

Some kids just want to play chess a little, not study too much, and spend time on other activities. Don’t force them to be something they don’t want to be.

I’ve had many students do very well with the “passive” Hungarian Defense. Their opponents couldn’t use the aggressive schemes they were accustomed to against it, and got outplayed.

Know your student, and create an opening repertoire that suits them.

The 2022 New York Winter Invitationals

After successful norm events in November, organizers Keith Espinosa and Alex Ostrovskiy have scheduled another group of norm tournaments at the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue from January 13-17, 2022.

Whereas the November series had three 10-player Round Robins (GM A, GM B, and IM C), the newest event will feature four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D.

I’m proud to once again serve as Chief Arbiter.

You can find more information on the event website.

The 2021 New York Invitationals: Recap

The first event in a new title norm series!

Introducing the New York Invitationals! Check out the website.

The first event was held at the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue, organized by Keith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.

New York Invitationals
The GM A section in action, with organizer Keith Espinosa looking on. Photo: Andre Harding

The Chief Arbiter and Tournament Director was … me!

Title norm tournaments are infrequent in New York City, as decent event space can be prohibitively expensive.

But what are norms?

First, all titles are awarded by FIDE, the International Chess Federation, and not the USCF or any other national federation. With that out of the way…

All you ever wanted to know about norms …

Norms are performance results needed for a title, specifically: Grandmaster (GM), International Master (IM), Woman Grandmaster (WGM), and Woman International Master (WIM).

[FIDE Master (FM), Candidate Master (CM), Woman FIDE Master (WFM), and Woman Candidate Master (WCM) do not require norms; only reaching a specified FIDE rating. Respectively: 2300, 2200, 2100, 2000.]

As I mentioned in my previous post on the FIDE Grand Swiss, players seeking GM/IM/WGM/WIM titles usually need three norms plus reaching a required rating threshold.

Rating and Performance Requirements for Norms
GM: 2500 rating and three norms with a 2600+ performance.

IM: 2400 rating and three norms with a 2450+ performance.

WGM: 2300 rating and three norms with a 2400+ performance.

WIM: 2200 rating and three Norms with a 2250+ performance.

Yes, the requirements for “W” titles are all 200 points lower than their “non-W” counterparts, but women can and do earn the “Open” GM and IM titles.

So a player can score, say, a 2600-level performance in any event and earn a GM norm? Not so fast.

Other Requirements for Norms
Number of games needed across events: At least 27.

Number of rounds per event: At least 9 (with few exceptions), but no more than 13 games will count (even if an event is longer than 13 rounds).

Titles of opponents: At least 1/3 must have the title you seek, or higher. In a 9 round event, a player seeking a GM norm must face at least 3 GMs. Also, at least 50% of opponents must hold (w)GM/(w)IM/(w)FM titles.

Minimum average rating of opponents: 2380 for GM, 2230 for IM, 2180 for WGM, 2030 for WIM. One player’s rating can be raised to 400 points below the required performance level. If an IM-norm seeker faces a 1900 player, they can consider it as if they played a 2050.

Federations of opponents: A maximum of 3/5 of the opponents may come from the applicant’s federation and a maximum of 2/3 of the opponents from one federation.

For a player from USA to earn a GM norm in a 9 round tournament held in the United States, they must face 5 or more titled players, including 3 GMs, and 4 of their 9 opponents must be from federations other than USA.

In a Swiss-System tournament, there’s no guarantee you will earn a norm even if you play well enough; your field may not meet all these conditions. In my years of directing, I’ve seen plenty of players miss out on norms simply because they faced three foreign players, instead of four.

Yeah. I hope you’re starting to see why norm events are often specially organized to ensure compliance with all these requirements!

 

Round Robin norm events

Round robins are the most reliable tournaments for title norms, because the tournament organizer can create a field that meets all FIDE requirements.

Such events normally have 10 players, meaning that each player plays one game against each of the other 9 players (9 rounds). For a GM norm event, at least three players will be GMs, given “conditions” (financial and/or other compensation) to participate. Four of the players need to play under a foreign federation.

The other players pay an entry fee to play and have a chance at a norm.

Round robins have an additional feature: since everyone knows in advance who they will play (and their rating), the Arbiter calculates how many points each norm-seeker requires to earn their norm. This is the amount of points that equate to a performance rating of, say, 2600 (for GM). There’s no guesswork during the event, or hoping for the necessary pairings.

If the average rating of a player’s opponents is 2600, they only need to score 4.5 points out of 9 for a 2600 performance (rare, but it can happen in super strong events like the Aeroflot Open).

If, at the other end, the average of a player’s opponents is the minimum 2380 … the GM-norm seeker needs to score 7 points out of 9, or “plus-five” (five more wins than losses)!

 

Back to the tournament!

We had three sections: GM A, GM B, and IM C.

GM A and GM B offered GM norms, as well as IM norms for players who did not already have the IM title. The IM C section offered IM norms only.

For all the details, see Chess Results. You can download all the games from the three tournaments, too!

The GM A section was very balanced, with just 129 rating points separating the top and bottom players, and this was reflected in the results. GM Titas Stremavicius (Lithuania) won the event with 6 points out of 9. To earn a GM norm, a seeker had to score 6.5 points.

Chess Life nov2021
Alex is once again on the cover of Chess Life!

The GM B section was quite different, headed by current U.S. Open Champion GM Aleksandr Lenderman (USA). He led the event from wire-to-wire and won with a dominant 7.5 points out of 9. Here, too, no norm-seeker achieved the required 6.5 points for a GM norm (or 4.5 points for an IM norm).

 

The IM C section was also won by the favorite, IM Zurab Javakhadze (Georgia), with a monstrous 8 points out of 9 (7 wins and 2 draws)! Zurab already has three GM norms, and just needs to cross 2500 FIDE to earn the GM title. After this event he’s 2484.

A norm was secured in this section, as FM Robert Shlyakhtenko (USA) earned his third and final IM norm. After this event, he’s very close to the needed 2400 FIDE rating as well.

 

What’s next?

Look for another norm event in January 2022 …

Stay tuned!

2021 New York State Girls Chess Championships

Winning the Chess Gender Challenge

For a long time now, the chess world has tried to get more girls involved and keep them in the game long term. In my years as a chess teacher I’ve seen a similar story as many others: female chess participation is often quite good in elementary school, but later falls off a cliff.

When females don’t stay in chess, we lose more than half of our potential audience.

I admit to being selfish: I love teaching girls because I’ve found that, overall, they take coaching better than boys! Some of my very best students have been female — and I want more of them!

I wrote a post last year titled: Should Every Kid Get a Prize? In it, I argued that tournaments where every player receives a medal or trophy, regardless of results, have a right to exist. Anyone opposed to this idea simply doesn’t have to play such events.

Similarly, my stance on girls-only tournaments is that players or parents who don’t like these events don’t have to play and can stick to mixed events. But a lot of girls do enjoy them!

 

A New Event

The fifth edition of the New York State Girls Chess Championships were held the weekend of January 9-10, 2021. The tournament has been held since 2017 and drew well over 200 players in its debut year! It is an official New York State Championship event.

There are four Championships: Open (K-12), K-6 Championship, K-3 Championship, and K-1 Championship. The highest finisher from New York in the Open section becomes the state’s representative for the Ruth Haring National Girls Tournament of Champions. The tournament’s namesake, Ruth Haring (1955-2018), was a Woman International Master (WIM) and former USCF President.

In addition, there are four sections for less experienced players: K-12 Under 1200, K-9 Under 1000, K-6 Under 800, and K-3 Under 600.

K-1 Championship and the four “Under” sections were one day events: five rounds, Game/30 plus 5-second increment. The other three Championship sections were 6 round events held over both days (three games each day), with a time control of Game/60 plus a 10-second increment.

The NYS Girls is the brainchild of National Tournament Director (NTD), International Arbiter (IA), and International Organizer (IO) Sophia Rohde (Little House of Chess). This year’s event was also organized by Steve Immitt (Chess Center of New York); he too is an NTD, IA, and IO.

Nils Grotnes, Bob Messenger, Daniel Rohde and TDs Korey Kormick and Helen Xue also contributed much to the cause, as well as the folks at ICC (see below). I played a small part as well. It takes a village!

The J&K Pi Family Foundation sponsored the tournament this year. Thank you very much!

 

Online Chess Giveth and Taketh Away

Internet Chess ClubWith the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 event was held online at the Internet Chess Club. Nearly a year ago, I discussed why I still support ICC. I was not disappointed: the NYS Girls ran smoothly with hardly any issues. Well done, everyone!

On another note: clearly, attendance in this event was not going to match the turnout of the last over-the-board NYS Girls … but a welcome sight was the entry of players from several other states.

The online format of this event made it possible for players from California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia to play! A total of 187 players competed across both days and eight sections.

You can find all of the team and individual results here. It almost goes without saying these days that results are only pending until the fair play review is completed in a few weeks.

 

Coming Soon

At the end of the month, the Greater NY Online Scholastic Chess Championships will be held on ICC (January 30 and/or 31, depending on section). That event will also be organized by Little House of Chess and the Chess Center of New York, and sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

You can find out more and register here.

How to Defeat Kids in Chess Tournaments

The Impact of Scholastic Chess

Children usually have more time to devote to chess improvement.

Kids have been taking over chess for a long time now. This is great for the game in the long term, but what about the adults who have to face these youths in tournaments?

A kid or teenager is usually still improving; if an adult is getting better, it’s typically at a slower rate. I’ve never been convinced that this is because of “younger vs. older brains.” Older players simply have more life responsibilities which require focus and energy that cannot be spent on chess.

Given two players of the same rating facing off, I would bet on the younger player in the absence of other information.

All is not lost, however.

Understand Your Adversary

I have played in many quads over the years where all of my opponents were kids or teens rated similarly to me, that is, in the 2000-2100 range. Bearing in mind everyone has a different style, here are some things I learned:

Home prep can make a huge difference

Kids stick to their openings and either don’t suspect or don’t respect prepared variations.

Research! If you know what openings your rival plays, do some pre-tournament work and find wrinkles to set them challenges. You can really make hay if you regularly face the same set of opponents and can develop a game plan against them.

Also, especially in Swiss tournaments, remember to go for a walk early in your rounds to see what potential opponents are playing. On a related note …

Put your thinking cap on

In one event, I noticed in the first two rounds that a player I was due to meet in the final round displayed impressive middlegame and endgame play, both tactical and strategic. His openings were quite refined as well. I asked myself: “Why is he under 2100 and not 2200+?”

I concluded the reason was likely psychological. Probably, he gets nervous and doesn’t handle pressure on par with other players of his rating class.

When we faced off, he got a definite advantage with the White pieces, though Black has some counterplay:

Trusting my scouting report, I played 21…Nd5 confidently and … offered him a draw!

Mind you, the clock wasn’t an issue for either of us.

He started to think … and think … and think. He began turning red and looked ill.

Soon he did what I expected, and agreed to the draw. I could tell he knew he shouldn’t do it, but he didn’t have the stomach to play on. I understood his emotions, because I’ve been there!

Target their Weaknesses

I faced one Expert kid five times. I lost the first game, drew the second from a much better position, and then won the last three encounters!

What happened?

In the first game I went for a slow, maneuvering Chigorin Ruy Lopez as Black, with the idea that young players are generally more comfortable with livelier positions. I was outplayed and lost the game, but I got to watch some of his other games in that event and others before we met again.

In our second game I went for a kingside attack, after observing that he didn’t handle direct attacks very well. I had great winning chances, but couldn’t crash through and drew.

After seeing more of my adversary’s games, I was able to prepare effectively for the final three battles and went for aggressive play. Our fourth game began with the sequence 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 (I knew he played this line) and now 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.g4!? which had been popularized by Alexei Shirov.

I won in 17 moves.

I’m not a great attacker, but judged that he was an even worse defender.

Don’t be a Hero

Conversely, another Expert I often faced became my angstgegner. This was in large part because I was stubborn and kept trying — and failing — to refute his opening. But at a certain point, I felt I was doomed against him no matter what I did, and it affected my play. The final tally: one win, one draw, and four losses.

The bottom line: learn as much as you can about your young opponents’ playing style, openings, and likes/dislikes. Prepare well, establish a blueprint for your games in advance when possible, and trust your skills!

Good luck!

The 2020 U.S. Class Championships

The 2020 U.S. Class Championships: An OTB National Event!?

Kudos to International Arbiter/International Organizer Anand Dommalapati and Capital Area Chess for holding the 2020 U.S. Class Championships over-the-board from October 30 through November 1 in Dulles, Virginia. 130 players participated!

Capital Area Chess organized the 2020 U.S. Class Championships.
Capital Area Chess organized the 2020 U.S. Class Championships.

In case you didn’t know, the U.S. Class is a 5-round Swiss system tournament with seven sections, one for each USCF class: Master, Expert, Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E. The top two sections are FIDE-rated.

It’s held over one weekend: one game is played Friday evening, and two games each on Saturday and Sunday. The time control is Game in 120 minutes with a 10-second delay. There’s also a 2-day option, where players contest two faster games on Saturday morning, and then merge with the 3-day players on Saturday evening.

The winner of each class becomes the National Champion for their class. I won the Expert Class in 2009 (in Boca Raton, FL).

This year, GM-elect Hans Niemann won the Master Class on tiebreak with 4 points out of 5. FM Eugene Yanayt tied with him. You can view some of the Master Section games here.

Guy Cardwell won the Expert Class with a perfect 5-0 score.

Andrew Bledsoe claimed first place in the Class A section with 4½ points.

Samuel He swept the Class B section 5-0.

Anantha Kumar and Siddharth Kurup tied for first in Class C at 4-1.

Cole Frankenhoff (unrated) posted the third perfect score of the event, 5-0 in Class D.

The Class E section was a 2-day, 6-round event. Ethan Shaffer and Daks Dudipala, Jr. tied for first place with 5 points out of 6.

Hopefully I will have the chance to play in a future U.S. Class Championships, or be a Tournament Director or Arbiter for one! Contact me, Organizers…

Re-Entries: Fair or Not Fair?

What are Re-Entries and How Do They Work?

A re-entry is what it sounds like: a player withdraws from a tournament and is allowed to enter it again for a second time. FIDE refers to this as the restart option.

A player who re-enters a tournament has to pay another entry fee; some tournaments offer re-entered players a discount for their return.

(See the glossary for definitions of more chess terms.)

A re-entered player cannot play someone they faced “in their first life, ” unless that opponent has also re-entered. Then, the “re-incarnated” entities can play!

Most tournaments do not allow re-entries, and scholastic tournaments almost never do, but it is something to be aware of.

Are Re-Entries Fair?

I think just about any tournament policy is fair if it is announced in advance in all publicity. It is the responsibility of the player to understand the rules of a competition, and to ask questions of the Organizer or Tournament Director if they are unsure about something.

The Organizer is responsible for ensuring good playing conditions; the Tournament Director is responsible for applying the regulations of the competition correctly and fairly.

Sometimes a re-entered player will win a prize, and this can upset some players. Anecdotally, the re-entry doesn’t change the player’s fortunes and they just increase the prize fund for players in good form.

The Noteboom Variation

Fun with the Noteboom Variation

I have written before that taking up the French Defense saved my chess career. Well, that was great for facing 1.e4, but I needed something against the closed openings. One day in 1999 my dad brought home a book that helped me solve this task for awhile. Thanks, Dad.

Play the Noteboom is the title of a 1996 book written by Mark van der Werf and Teun van der Vorm, and published by Cadogan Books (now Everyman Chess).

The Noteboom Variation is a cross between the Slav and Semi-Slav Defenses, characterized by the positon after, for example:

Black takes the c4-pawn and might hold onto it!

In the main line, black gives back the pawn and a very unusual situation arises:

Black has two outside, connected passed pawns! This single factor made the Noteboom really appealing to me in the late 1990s and early 2000s: as long as I didn’t get mated, I often wound up with winning or nearly winning endgames!

I had a ridiculous score with the Noteboom Variation when my opponents allowed it, including some nice upsets. The fun didn’t stop there, however.

 

The Marshall Gambit

White can avoid this situation by playing an Anti-Noteboom system. The most common and best choice is the Marshall Gambit:

This early central thrust is not possible in the Slav or Semi-Slav because Black has a knight on f6. The main line continues:

When White has definite compensation for the missing pawn: open lines for the queen and bishops, and a drafty Black king to target.

I believe the main move here is 8…Na6. But as a firm adherent of the “take and hold” school of chess, I used to play 8…Nd7, threatening to shut out white’s monster bishop with 9…c5.

Four of my tournament games reached this position. My opponents played 9.Bd6 or 9.Qd6. Then I held on for dear life after…

…and won all four games! Now, I probably had losing positions in three of them, but sometimes Caissa is on your side. My opponents included an A-player, the same Expert twice, and my first master scalp in tournament play.

Um, yeah. Don’t try this at home!

 

Conclusion

Important book on the Noteboom Variation
A newer book by a Noteboom Variation expert.

Now I view all of this very differently. In the main line Noteboom Variation White has a strong bishop pair and his central play could end up being … shall we say … problematic. 15 years later, I wouldn’t try a “rope-a-dope” strategy against the Marshall Gambit. Not a recipe for success…

Also, amateurs are more familiar with the opening now than in the late 1990s, notably with The Triangle System (2012) by Ruslan Scherbakov.

Desperate people do desperate things. I was a weak player without much confidence and relied on a material advantage to win long, drawn-out endgames. I didn’t think I could win any other way. That led me to playing these semi-bluff openings.

Funnily enough, nowadays I have a massive score against the Noteboom on ICC! A great thing about playing an opening is that you understand how to play against it, too!

Do you have similar experiences? Please share!