GM Chandra on the 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival

Wisconsin does not come to mind as a destination for 9-round open chess tournaments. But I believe that perception is changing now! The 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival (WICF) was held from June 13 to 18 at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Madison. It was organized by Wisconsinite FM Alex Betaneli, a well-known and respected player on the chess circuit, and his Wisconsin Chess Academy. Most tournaments in the US follow a 5-day schedule, with double rounds every day, and this ends up becoming quite exhausting for the players. WICF, however, was played out over 6-days. This was a refreshing change and one of the main reasons I was attracted to the tournament, despite there not being many higher-rated players in the first edition. In the first round, I faced a fellow youngster, Joey Kelly, with the Black pieces. The position was more or less equal out of the opening, with perhaps a slight edge for me. But it was quite clear the game was headed for a draw, as White’s position was just too solid. Unfortunately, instead of remaining objective and just playing the best moves, I lost the thread and pushed vainly, undermining my position. To my opponent’s credit, he took advantage of my mistakes without giving me an opportunity to get back in the game.
[pgn][Event "Wisconsin Chess Festival 2017"]
[Site "Chicago USA"]
[Date "2017.04.29"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Kelly, Joey"]
[Black "Chandra, Akshat"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E12"]
[WhiteElo "2039"]
[BlackElo "2493"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2017.04.12"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.26"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Bb7 5. Nc3 g6 6. g3 Bg7 7. d5 O-O 8. Bg2
exd5 9. cxd5 Re8 10. O-O Na6 11. Bg5 h6 12. Be3 c5 13. dxc6 dxc6 14. Qxd8 Raxd8
15. Rad1 c5 16. Rxd8 Rxd8 17. Rd1 Re8 18. h3 Bc6 19. Nd2 Nb8 20. Nc4 Bxg2 21.
Kxg2 Nc6 22. Rd6 Rc8 23. a4 Ne8 24. Rd7 Rc7 25. Rd2 Nd4 26. Nb5 Nxb5 27. axb5
Kf8 28. Bf4 Rb7 29. Rd8 Ke7 30. Rxe8+ Kxe8 31. Nd6+ Kd7 32. Nxb7 g5 33. Be3 c4
34. Kf3 Bxb2 35. Ke4 c3 36. Kd3 Kc7 37. Nc5 bxc5 38. Bxc5 Kb7 39. Bd4 h5 40. g4
hxg4 41. hxg4 1-0[/pgn]
I was able to rebound and comfortably won my next 3 games. In round 5, I was paired with the seasoned IM Michael Mulyar. The game started out innocently enough, but after a couple of inaccuracies on his side, I seized the initiative. The moves flowed naturally as I applied relentless pressure on my opponent, eventually converting my advantage using some dynamic motifs.
[pgn][Event "Wisconsin Chess Festival 2017"]
[Site "Chicago USA"]
[Date "2017.04.29"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Mulyar, Michael"]
[Black "Chandra, Akshat"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E11"]
[WhiteElo "2407"]
[BlackElo "2493"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1b2rk1/1p1n2pp/p2b1q2/2pPpp2/2P5/1PN2NP1/P1Q2PBP/4RRK1 w - - 0 20"]
[PlyCount "20"]
[EventDate "2017.04.12"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.26"]20. Re2 $6 {Allowing me to improve my position with multiple tempos.} e4 21.
Ne1 Be5 22. Nd1 Bd4 23. Kh1 Qh6 $1 {Keeping the option of ...Nf6 available.} (
23... Ne5 {would have been less flexible.}) 24. f3 {The decisive mistake.} (24.
Qd2 {was the only move. I was now considering} Qxd2 ({and} 24... g5 {but it
seems like White is hanging on after} 25. f4 $1) 25. Rxd2 b5 $17) 24... Nf6 25.
Qd2 (25. fxe4 Nh5 $1 {is the point.} 26. Qd3 f4 $19) 25... e3 $1 26. Rxe3 (26.
Nxe3 Nh5 $19) 26... f4 27. gxf4 Nh5 28. Qf2 Nxf4 29. Nc2 Nxg2 0-1[/pgn]
I was back on the saddle with 4/5 and was paired against GM Vladimir Belous in Round 6. The game was nothing to write home about and ended in a topsy-turvy draw. The most interesting game of the round amongst the top boards was between Canadian IM Aman Hambleton and the top seed in the tournament, GM Andrey Stukopin. Andrey methodically exploited his opponent’s inaccuracies and won an instructive strategic game.
[pgn][Event "2017 Wisconsin International"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.06.16"]
[Round "6.1"]
[White "Hambleton, Aman"]
[Black "Stukopin, Andrey"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A33"]
[WhiteElo "2471"]
[BlackElo "2577"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.26"]1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. Bf4 d5 7. e3 Bb4 8. Be2
Ne4 9. Ndb5 O-O 10. O-O Bxc3 11. Nxc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Qf6 14. Rc1
e5 15. Bg3 Be6 16. Bd5 Bxd5 17. Qxd5 Rad8 18. Qc4 h5 19. f4 exf4 20. Bxf4 Rd2
21. e4 Rb2 22. Bg3 Qg6 23. Rf2 Rxf2 24. Bxf2 Rd8 25. Re1 Ne5 26. Qc7 Nf3+ 27.
Kh1 Rd2 28. Rf1 Ng5 29. Be3 Rxg2 30. Qc8+ Kh7 31. Kxg2 Qxe4+ 32. Kf2 Qf3+ 33.
Ke1 Qxe3+ 34. Kd1 Qd3+ 35. Ke1 Nf3+ 36. Kf2 Nxh2 0-1[/pgn]
After a messy draw against GM Denes Boros, I was paired in the penultimate round against GM Stukopin, who stood at an outstanding 6.5/7 and was running away with the tournament. We traded Queens early on, but I was able to build up a seemingly decisive advantage after some mistakes on his side. Unfortunately, I was unable to convert it, and my opponent was rewarded with a draw for his tenacious defense.
[pgn][Event "Wisconsin Chess Festival 2017"]
[Site "Chicago USA"]
[Date "2017.04.29"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Chandra, Akshat"]
[Black "Stukopin, Andrey"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B41"]
[WhiteElo "2493"]
[BlackElo "2577"]
[PlyCount "116"]
[EventDate "2017.04.12"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.26"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Qd3 Nc6 8.
Nxc6 dxc6 9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 10. e5 Nd7 11. Bf4 f5 12. exf6 gxf6 13. O-O-O e5 14.
Be3 f5 15. f4 e4 16. g4 fxg4 17. Nxe4 Kc7 18. Bg2 Re8 19. Bd4 b6 20. h3 g3 21.
Rd3 Bb7 22. Nxg3 Rad8 23. Rhd1 c5 24. Bxb7 cxd4 25. Rxd4 Bc5 26. R4d3 Kxb7 27.
Rxd7+ Rxd7 28. Rxd7+ Kc6 29. Rd3 Be3+ 30. Kc2 Bxf4 31. Rf3 Bd6 32. Rf6 Kc7 33.
Nf5 Bc5 34. Rf7+ Kc6 35. Rf6+ Kc7 36. Rh6 Re2+ 37. Kc3 Rf2 38. Rxh7+ Kc6 39.
Ne7+ Bxe7 40. Rxe7 Rf3+ 41. Kd4 Rxh3 42. b4 Ra3 43. Re6+ Kc7 44. Re2 Kd6 45.
Rh2 Kc6 46. Rh6+ Kc7 47. Rh7+ Kc6 48. Rh2 Kc7 49. c5 b5 50. Rg2 Kc6 51. Rh2 Kc7
52. Ke4 Kc6 53. Rd2 a5 54. Rd6+ Kc7 55. bxa5 Rxa5 56. Rb6 Rxa2 57. Rxb5 Kc6 58.
Rb3 Kxc5 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
I finished with a win in the last round, putting me at 6.5/9, good enough for tied 2nd. GMs Stukopin and Belous shared 1st with 7.5/9. Alex Betaneli, along with the reliable duo of Arbiter Glenn Panner and Assistant Arbiter Jim Hodina, did a terrific job of hosting the tournament.  They approached it from what was in the player’s best interest. The pairings were out well in time, and the playing hall always remained quiet. Also, each table had a box to drop-off electronic devices before the games started, thus greatly reducing the possibility of a forfeit due to carelessly leaving the devices on-person. The Howard Johnson location was conveniently nestled between two supermarkets. The hotel itself was spacious and had an impressive indoor pool. I have never stayed this close to the playing hall, which was just a 30-second walk away. I hope Wisconsin will become a frequent destination for major open chess tournaments in the future.
Jim Hodina, Glenn Panner, and Alex Betaneli

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