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.

Chess Tactics: Korobov — Taher, 2021

Anton K
Anton Korobov. Photo: Sunway Chess Festival

Anton Korobov (born 1985) is a Ukrainian Grandmaster (2003) and four-time Champion of his country (2002, 2012, 2018, 2020). His peak rating was 2723 in January 2014, and he has been ranked as high as World #25 on a couple of occasions.

He is a formidable player on the international circuit, having won such events as the Czech Open, Abu Dhabi Masters, and Poikovsky Karpov Tournament. In addition, he has collected individual gold medals at the Chess Olympiad and European Team Championship.

Anton Korobov is currently the top seed at the 2021 Sunway Chess Festval in Sitges, Spain — an event he won in 2019. In Round 3 he played a game that should make it into future textbooks: the isolated pawn couple that appears reminded me of Akiba Rubinstein‘s classic game against Georg Salwe in 1908.

 

Korobov’s opponent is Yosef Theolifus Taher (born 1999), International Master (2018) from Indonesia and winner of the 2018 Asian Universities Chess Championships (Men).

White to play. What should he do?

11. ?

 

From Lodz to Sitges

 

And here is the Rubinstein — Salwe game …

Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi: A Brief Take

Maybe the Greatest?

Dubai skyline
Dubai’s stunning skyline. Image: LonelyPlanet

With Magnus Carlsen‘s dominant 7½—3½  title defense against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Dubai 2021 FIDE World Championship Match, the 31-year-old Norwegian has already amassed one of the best records in title matches … perhaps the best.

I remain heavily critical of Carlsen being declared winner of the 2013 London Candidates Tournament by virtue of having more wins than Vladimir Kramnik, and not through an over-the-board tiebreak. Even blitz or rapid would have been better!

But in the cauldron of a World Championship Match, Carlsen has proven invincible. In late 2013 he convincingly wrested the crown from Vishy Anand, and defeated him again in 2014 when the Indian legend surprisingly won the next Candidates Tournament.

Carlsen drew his next two matches against Sergey Karjakin (New York, 2016) and Fabiano Caruana (London, 2018), eventually subduing his rivals in rapid tiebreaks.

Carlsen Nepo 2021
Carlsen wins again. Image: chess24

With this victory, Carlsen has one win as Challenger and four title defenses as Champion; in five World Championship matches he has lost a total of just two games out of 56 played!

In tiebreaks? Carlsen has five wins and two draws in seven games!

Matches are shorter now than in the past, but I don’t think anyone in history can claim better.

I value longevity, so I’ve long said Garry Kasparov is the Greatest of All-Time, for now … but Magnus Carlsen has a an argument that gets stronger every year.

What happened to Ian?

Nepomniachtchi was not widely considered the strongest Challenger this time around, but perhaps he was less afraid of Carlsen than others. How would this dynamic affect the match? While unclear, I predicted a three-point Carlsen victory.

During the first five games, “Nepo” probably played as well as Magnus did.

I really think losing the a3-pawn in Game 6 was his undoing. Even if the engines say the resulting position should be drawn, it was always going to be difficult against a top player, let alone a notorious grinder like Carlsen.

A game behind, Nepomniachtchi had to take on more risk.

A poor Game 8 simply ended the match. There was no coming back down two games against Carlsen with six left. Frankly, I think Magnus would be unlikely to level the match if Ian had a two-game lead.

Nepomniachtchi knew this very well, and I think he simply couldn’t play at his best any longer: doing so would just delay the inevitable. So, I agree with the consensus view that he just collapsed.

Who’s Next?

Alireza Firouzja
The next Challenger? Image: Twitter (@AlirezaFirouzja)

Many chess fans expect Alireza Firouzja to be the next Challenger. I think there’s a decent chance of that happening.

The other favorites are Caruana and Ding Liren.

Still, Candidates Tournaments are arguably as grueling as a World Championship Match; but those eight players don’t have to face Carlsen to become Challenger!

I Got a TD Promotion …

Flashback

In a May 2020 post, I briefly talked about USCF tournament direction: how to become a tournament director, what a neophyte could expect in their first events, and the different levels of TD.

To review, the levels are, in ascending order:

    • Club Tournament Director
    • Local Tournament Director
    • Senior Tournament Director (SrTD)
    • Associate National Tournament Director (ANTD)
    • National Tournament Director (NTD)

The tiers are appropriately named, in my view: “Club” and “National” describe exactly the level of events these TDs are qualified to lead!

Club TD does not require an exam; to promote to the higher levels, you need tournament “experience credits” that qualify you to take an exam, each requiring a passing score of at least 80%.

Early Career

In February 2002, as an 18-year-old, I began my directing career as an assistant at The Right Move scholastic tournaments in New York City. I wasn’t officially a TD at the time, and my biggest responsibilities were moving the tables before and after the event, setting up and packing up sets, crowd control, and going out to get the staff lunch. A well-earned $50.

That summer I became a Club TD; in June 2003 I became Assistant Manager at the Marshall Chess Club and began directing constantly. Sometime later that year I took and passed the test for Local TD.

By 2005 I had enough experience credits to test for Senior TD, and passed my exam to earn that rank in April 2005.

One (or Two) Tournaments Short

I continued directing scholastic and adult tournaments heavily through mid-2010 before taking a salaried job that allowed me to cut back.

By 2009 I had fulfilled all the requirements to test for ANTD except for a a Category R tournament – a round robin event with 6 players with an average rating of 1400 (this was lowered at some point from 8 players with an average rating of 1800).

Not only that, I fulfilled all the requirements for NTD as well, except for the Category R tournament and a Category N tournament – an event that awards a National title (with some further stipulations).

I could have organized a round robin … or been more proactive about getting on the staff of National events. I guess I have a habit of leaving unfinished business

So I remained a Senior TD. One told by several NTDs that he had the chops to be an NTD himself.

FIDE to the rescue

I hoped that by becoming a FIDE Arbiter I would have opportunities to run my own round robins and clear the Category R requirement for ANTD.

It happened even before my title became official in September 2021!

Alex Ostrovskiy contacted me in August about running a norm event around Veterans Day – this became the recently concluded New York Invitational.

Almost immediately after all the tournament paperwork was submitted, I requested the ANTD exam from the TD certification group (there’s a quite detailed form where you list your experience credits). Chris Bird sent me a form of the test (is there anything he doesn’t do at USCF!?).

It was a doozy.

The Test

USCF 7th edition rulebook
You’ll need this for your next TD exam!

I read through the test and let it marinate in my brain for about a week before tackling it. Besides, I wanted to mentally prepare for my upcoming stint at the National Chess Congress following Thanksgiving.

I was on staff with NTDs David Hater (Chief), Bob Messenger, Boyd Reed, and Harold Stenzel but I didn’t tell any of them what I had just undertaken or ask them any questions. Additionally, I teach for NTD Sophia Rohde, but didn’t tell her I was doing the test until I already sent it in!

It was my mission, and my mission alone.

When I got home from Philadelphia, I started. How do you eat an elephant?

Obviously, I won’t discuss test questions here. But I will say that it’s a mix of the practical and the technical, and the bulk of the test relates to how you would resolve realistic disputes that could arise during an event.

I spent many, many hours on the test over the course of a week; when I finished writing my answers the length was more than nine pages!

Challenging as it was, I found the exam itself to be well-written.

However, I find USCF rules to be much more ambiguous than the FIDE Laws of Chess which left me quite unsure of some of my answers. You have two months to submit the test, but at some point I decided there wasn’t too much more I could do, and I sent it in December 6.

Chris confirmed receipt of my exam and informed me that he had sent it to a grader. Gulp!

The Local and Senior tests are multiple choice; ANTD or NTD promotion requires essay exams that are sent to an NTD grader – you aren’t told who, and I believe the grader doesn’t know the identity of the applicant.

If you score 80% you pass; if you score 70-79% you can request a re-grade by two other NTDs at which point I think you pass if two of the three graders gives you 80%.

I scored exactly 80% and passed. Even after receiving feedback about the answers I lost points on, I must admit I still have lots of questions. I wish I could talk to my grader to clear up my misunderstandings. Oh well …

Next Step

Do a National Tournament and go for NTD. When? I don’t know. But it won’t take me 16 years, that’s for sure!