Tuesday, April 23, 2019

My Games from the 1st Colonial Open!

Over the weekend I played in the inaugural Colonial Open, held in Sterling, VA. Although I didn't play particularly great, my games were definitely full of adventures...

In the first round I only managed a draw against a strong and young expert, but it was mostly because I goofed in the ending and let him completely equalize the game.

OK, so I wasn't too happy about that, but I felt a bit better after seeing GM Bryan Smith on board one actually lose to a different high-2100 kid (I was the #2 seed behind Smith).

The second round went much better for me; I got to experiment with a new opening, and was able to generate a strong attack in an opposite-sides castling middlegame to win against another expert.

White's biggest mistake that game was probably 19.axb4?!, opening up the a-file for my rook. He still could have played on with 23.Rxd8+ instead of 23.Rh5?, but even then black would have had a much more pleasant position with free pressure against the exposed white king.

In the third round I got to repeat the same line I used in round 1, and my opponent evidently wasn't too familiar with the endgame and quickly blundered the exchange. However, at a critical moment, I played one careless passive move which was enough to let black get back in the game with drawing chances. I ultimately gave back the exchange and we got a tense rook and pawn endgame where at one point we could have seen the highly unusual finish of king and three pawns vs. king and rook! However, after all the adventures, things petered out to a draw.

It is hard to believe that just one inaccurate move 32.Rc1? was enough to blow white's winning position, but sometimes that's just how it is. No matter how good your position is, you need to be accurate right up until the very end. I think I relaxed too early and my opponent played well to get his queenside pawns rolling and draw the tricky rook and pawn ending.

Round four was my best of the tournament - I won a smooth game against an FM where I felt like I was in control the whole time.

The critical moment of the game was right after white's clumsy-looking 17.Qh3!?, when I correctly felt I needed to open the position with 17. ... d5!, after which I could start dictating the play. This strategy worked perfectly, because my opponent quickly erred with the passive 22.Be1?, allowing me to get a powerful initiative which eventually proved decisive.

Going into the last round I was tied for first with 3/4, along with I think three or four other players, Bryan Smith included. I got paired with white against an IM who also had 3/4 after giving up two draws earlier in the tournament.

In this game, I quickly got a dangerous attack after a relatively mellow opening, but my opponent found a very original defensive idea and we ultimately got an unclear ending where I had queen and two pawns vs. three minors! However, the game ended after I prematurely offered a draw because I had completely misevaluated a critical ending from afar.

I completely misjudged the rook vs. two minors endgame - I got scared that I was in trouble there, and didn't see any other options for me after 35. ... Ra3, so I offered the draw after my 35th move. However, in reality that ending was nothing to fear - white's king can easily deal with the d-pawn while black is tied up to stopping both of my passers on the a- and h-files. That was definitely a case of hasty evaluation perhaps combined with some fatigue.

With 3.5/5 I ended up tied for second place. The strong master Isaac Chiu (2308) won clear first with 4/5 after defeating Bryan Smith in the last round.

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