New Year Lessons from Pan-Ams

12109899_10206730516294476_7078122687721499366_o IM Kannappan at the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open, Photo WIM Sabrina Chevannes
The Pan-American Collegiate Championship is the last tournament of the calendar year for college students in the United States, and this year the event was hosted by Oberlin College from Dec 27-30, 2015. I wore the black and gold colors of Lindenwood for one last time in a team tournament, as this was my 4th Pan-Ams for the Lions, and I will be graduating in May 2016, with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. The tournament was a bittersweet one for us, as we had a shot at the title going into the final round, but we lost to Columbia University 1.5-2.5 to finish 8th with a score of 4/6. The individual performances were also bittersweet as three of the Lions had chances to win a board medal going into the Final round, but none of the Lions won a prize the end. I scored 5/6 on the top board, and ended up 3rd on the board rankings, Nicholas Rosenthal scored 3/6 on board 2, Alex Richter scored 5/6 and tied for the board prize on board 3 but was edged out on tiebreak's by GM Holden Hernandez from UTRGV, and our board 4 Nolan Hendrickson scored 4.5/6 and finished 4th on the standings. In a mediocre tournament performance, there is always lot to takeaway, and I wanted to share with you what I learned from this event: 
  1. Be Optimistic 
Before the start of the event, I was highly pessimistic about Lindenwood's chances of finishing in the top 4. My pessimism stemmed from my experiences in the previous Pan-Ams and also based on how weak we were by strength(2353) compared to the "GIANTS" of the collegiate chess like Webster-A(2747), Texas Tech-A(2657),UTD-A(2632), UTRGV-A(2619) and there were also a few B-teams of these giants, who were higher rated than us. On the other end of the spectrum was one of my teammates, who was bubbling with optimism and positive energy about our chances of qualifying for the final four, and he was right in many ways, as combined with some strong individual performances and some luck in the pairings we had 4 points out of 5 rounds and were paired against Columbia University in the final round, whose rating average was slightly lower than us! I just then realized that winning the final round would get us a spot in the top 4, and qualify us to the Final Four of Collegiate Chess. As I had mentioned, we didn't manage to qualify, but the fact that we came that close made me realize that being positive can make success more likely. 2) No stress theory My teammate Nolan who majors in Psychology, has many ideas and theories in the field, and he told me a hypothesis before the tournament: "Students who graduate in December, a few days before the tournament begins, will do exceedingly well in this tournament." His reasoning was that, The biggest stress of students is college, and when you graduate, all the stress of college goes away, and you only focus on chess. Nolan decided to test his hypothesis with a sample size of one (As he could only find one case study in the tournament). The subject of this test was Alex Richter, board 3 of our team, who had a terrific tournament scoring 5/6, and also going the past 2300 USCF rating for the first time in his career. 

[Event "Pan-Am Intercollegiate"]
[Site "Cleveland USA"]
[Date "2015.12.28"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Richter, Alex J"]
[Black "Durarbayli, V."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "2159"]
[BlackElo "2616"]
[Annotator "Priyadharshan,K"]
[PlyCount "137"]
[EventDate "2015.12.27"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.12.28"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 {Alex sticks to his favorite move} d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5.
Nf3 e6 6. Be3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Bb4+ 8. Nc3 Qa5 $5 {black tries an offbeat setup} ({
the main move} 8... O-O 9. Bd3 b6 10. O-O Bxc3 11. bxc3 Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13.
Qa4 Nb8 14. c4 Qc6 15. Qb3 Nbd7 {with an unbalanced pawn structure but equal
position}) 9. Qb3 O-O 10. Be2 b6 11. O-O Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. Ne5 Rac8 14.
Rac1 Nb8 15. Ne2 $6 ({White has to play the natural} 15. Rfd1 Rfd8 16. Bg5 Be7
17. h3 $11 {but I prefer black, as he has easy play}) 15... Bd6 16. Bf4 Qd5 $1
{In isolated pawn structures, white should never exchange queens, as it leads
to long term torture due to the weak pawn on d4.} 17. Ng6 $5 {cute tactic
missed by black, that leads to great simplifications} Qxb3 18. axb3 hxg6 19.
Bxd6 Rfd8 20. Rxc8 Rxc8 21. Bxb8 Rxb8 22. Rc1 Nd5 23. Kf1 Kf8 24. Ke1 Ke7 25.
Kd2 Rd8 26. h4 $1 {fixing the black pawns} Kd7 27. g3 Nb4 28. Nf4 Kd6 29. Nd3
Nc6 30. Ke3 {white has achieved a setup, that's tough to penetrate} Rd7 31.
Rxc6+ Kxc6 32. Ne5+ Kc7 33. Nxd7 Kxd7 34. Kd3 Kc6 35. Kc4 a5 36. f3 f6 37. b4
b5+ 38. Kc3 a4 39. Kc2 g5 40. hxg5 fxg5 41. g4 Kd6 42. Kd2 e5 43. dxe5+ Ke6 44.
Ke2 Kxe5 45. Ke3 Kd5 46. Kd3 g6 47. Kc3 Ke5 48. Kd3 Kf4 49. Ke2 Kg3 50. Ke3 Kh3
51. Kd3 Kh2 52. Kd2 Kg1 53. Ke1 Kh1 54. Kd1 Kg2 55. Ke2 Kh2 56. Kd2 Kg1 57. Ke1
Kh1 58. Kd1 Kg2 59. Ke2 Kh3 60. Kd3 Kg3 61. Ke3 Kg2 62. Ke2 Kh3 63. Kd3 Kg3 64.
Ke3 Kg2 65. Ke2 Kh1 66. Kd1 Kg1 67. Ke1 Kh2 68. Kd2 Kg3 69. Ke3 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
The moral of this hypothesis is that, when you are stress free, you tend to play your natural game, where ideas come naturally, producing great results on the board.  3) Have a surprise weapon Nolan, who is our board 4, had the black pieces against GM Ray Robson, who is an expert in the Sicilian Dragon with both colors. The problem was that the Dragon was the mainline of Nolan's preparation and he wasn't confident enough to play it against Robson. In a such dire situation, we needed a surprise weapon to take Ray out of his preparation, and I suggested Nolan to try a sideline in the Modern Defense, which I have used effectively, so I gave my analysis. In just two hours, Nolan was ready to face one of the top GMs in the world with a completely new opening. The opening appeared on the board as expected and worked like a charm. 

[Event "Pan-Am Intercollegiate"]
[Site "Cleveland USA"]
[Date "2015.12.28"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Robson, R."]
[Black "Hendrickson, Nolan R"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[WhiteElo "2659"]
[BlackElo "2185"]
[Annotator "Priyadharshan,K"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "2015.12.27"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2015.12.28"]

{Nolan Hendrickson also gave some of his analysis, so I will use NH for his
comments} 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d5 $5 {This was the sideline that Nolan
prepared with my help, and it works well as a surprise weapon!} 4. exd5 Nf6 5.
Bc4 Nbd7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Nb6 8. Bb3 a5 9. a4 (9. a3 Bf5 {I had a very
interesting game against IM Vitaly Neimer in 2014 in this line}) 9... Nbxd5 10.
Nxd5 Nxd5 11. h3 b6 $5 12. Re1 Bb7 13. Bg5 Re8 {Nolan had this position in his
preparation, that shows the quality of the preparation, and how you can
outprepare even the best even with black pieces} 14. Qd2 {new move, as they
were follwing Gopal-Sasikiran, 2013, where white played Bh4} Qd6 15. Bh6 e6 16.
Bxg7 Kxg7 {I think black is slightly better here as his bishop is doing a
better job than the bishop at b3} 17. Ne5 Qb4 $2 {look at this position deeply,
and find a nice trap that white set here!} (17... Rad8 $15) 18. c3 $1 Qd6 (
18... Qxb3 $4 19. Ra3) 19. Re4 Ne7 $4 {NH- After I "concluded" that Nxf7 was
not a threat, I decided to play this defensive retreating move that attacks
the rook. Only to find out the knight retreat makes Nxf7 devestating!} ({
better is} 19... f6 20. Nc4 Qd7 21. Rae1 $14) 20. Nxf7 $1 Kxf7 21. Rxe6 Qxe6
22. Qf4+ Nf5 23. Qxc7+ Re7 24. Bxe6+ Kf8 25. Qe5 {Black misplayed the position
very badly after getting a great position out of the opening!} 1-0[/pgn]
  If you are not sure about your main opening at any point, it is important to have a sideline as a surprise weapon, which will throw your opponent out of his prep, and will give you a huge advantage psychologically and also a considerable lead on time.
10448257_939792379431236_4090827185615962123_n Playing against the "Giants" Webster-A, and Nolan has just whipped out ...d5!? We lost 1-3. Photo Oberlin College Chess Club
    4) Playing What You Know  If point #3 was about surprising your opponent, this one is about having complete faith in your openings and sticking to it, irrespective of your opponent’s rating. I was paired against GM Le Quang Liem from Webster-A. In a team setting, having the white pieces means you have to push for a win, especially as we were extremely out rated on boards 2,3, and 4. I faced the dilemma of whether to play a surprise opening and take him out of his preparation or stick to my Sicilian Moscow, which will not give an edge against a 2700 GM, but will lead to positions where I feel extremely comfortable.  I talked to coach GM Goldin, who told me to stick to what I know best, and the result was a very pleasant edge out of the opening against a 2700 FIDE rated player!

[Event "Pan-Am Collegiate Championship"]
[Site "Cleveland"]
[Date "2015.12.28"]
[Round "2.1"]
[White "Priyadharshan, K."]
[Black "Le Quang, Liem"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B51"]
[WhiteElo "2484"]
[BlackElo "2718"]
[Annotator "Priyadharshan,K"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "2015.12.27"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[WhiteTeam "Lindenwood-A"]
[BlackTeam "Webster-A"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 $5 {He surprised me} ({This is what he plays
regularly} 3... Bd7) 4. O-O a6 5. Bd3 Ngf6 6. Re1 e5 7. c3 (7. a4 Be7 8. c3 Nf8
9. Bc2 Ng6 10. d4 O-O 11. dxc5 dxc5 12. Qxd8 Rxd8 13. Nbd2 {e5 and b6 are
weaknesses leading to an edge for white}) 7... b5 $6 {too early, and his
inexperience in these setups can be seen, and the problem is that the bishop
is still on d3} 8. a4 $1 c4 9. Bc2 ({a better move} 9. Bf1 Bb7 (9... Rb8 10.
axb5 axb5 11. d3 cxd3 12. b4 $16) 10. axb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Qxa8 12. Na3 Bxe4 13.
Nxb5 Qc6 14. Nfd4 $1 exd4 15. Nxd4 Qc7 16. d3 cxd3 17. f3 {white has an edge
due to development}) 9... Rb8 $2 {new move, but it gives complete control of
the a-file for white} ({better to keep control of the a-file} 9... Bb7 10. axb5
(10. d4 Be7 11. Nbd2 O-O 12. b3 {pawn tension everywhere, and a complicated
position}) 10... axb5 11. Rxa8 Qxa8 12. Na3 Be7 (12... Ba6 13. d4 Be7 14. b4
O-O 15. Bg5 Rb8 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Bxf6 Nxf6 18. Nxe5 {white is better}) 13.
Nxb5 O-O 14. Qe2 Rc8 15. d3 cxd3 16. Bxd3 Nc5 17. Nd2 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Bc6 19. c4
Qa5 20. Nc3 {A pawn up is definitely an advantage}) 10. axb5 axb5 11. d3 {
dynamic approach trying to get quick play against the underdeveloped black
pieces} ({better is} 11. b4 {This is a more positional approach, fixing the
pawn structure first!} cxb3 (11... Be7 12. d3 Nb6 13. Na3 Bd7 14. dxc4 Nxc4 (
14... bxc4 15. Be3 O-O $1 16. Bxb6 Qxb6 17. Nxc4 Qc7 18. Bb3 Bb5 19. Nfd2 {
pawn up once again!}) 15. Nxc4 bxc4 16. Bg5 Qc7 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. Ba4 Bxa4 19.
Qxa4+ {white is clearly better}) 12. Bxb3 Be7 13. d4 O-O 14. Nbd2 {white is
better}) 11... cxd3 12. Bxd3 (12. Qxd3 $142 Nc5 13. Qe2 Be7 14. b4 Ne6 15. Ra5
Nc7 16. Na3 O-O 17. Bd3 Bd7 18. Nxb5 Bxb5 19. Bxb5 Nxe4 20. Qxe4 Rxb5 21. Rxb5
Nxb5 {outside passed pawns are very powerful here}) 12... Nc5 13. Na3 Bd7 14.
Bg5 b4 15. Nc4 bxc3 16. bxc3 Be6 17. Bf1 (17. Ra7 {interesting move} Qc8 18.
Ne3 Nfd7 19. Nd5 Rb7 20. Rxb7 Qxb7 21. Bc4 {black has difficulty to castle})
17... Qd7 (17... Bxc4 18. Bxc4 Be7 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Ra7 O-O 21. Qd5 Be7 {I
thought Black would go into this position, where he has 0 winning chances, but
it is also tough for white to use his minimal advantage}) 18. Bxf6 gxf6 19. Rb1
({better move} 19. Nh4 {The point behind this is to use all the energy of the
pieces, when you are attacking, and right now the N on f3 was doing nothing} d5
20. exd5 Qxd5 21. Qh5 e4 22. Qxd5 Bxd5 23. Nf5 {black's king is heavily exposed
}) 19... Rxb1 20. Qxb1 Qc7 21. Ne3 Bh6 22. Nd5 Qd8 23. Bb5+ Kf8 24. Nh4 Kg7 25.
Qd1 ({better is} 25. Qb4 {this is a multi purpose move that does defend and
also attack! defends the a5 square from black queen, and indrectly aimst at
the g4 square} Bg5 26. Nf5+ Bxf5 27. exf5 Qa8 28. Rd1 Qa2 29. h4 Qc2 30. Rf1
Bf4 31. Nxf4 exf4 32. Qxf4 Qxc3 33. Qg4+ Kf8 $16) 25... Bg5 26. Nf5+ Bxf5 27.
exf5 Qa5 28. c4 $2 ({best is} 28. Bc4 {Bc4 aims at the weak spot f7, which
will generate a huge attack for white}) 28... Ra8 {black has enough
counterplay now} 29. Rf1 $1 {moving the rook to safety} Qd2 30. Qg4 (30. Qxd2
Bxd2 31. Nc7 Ra2 (31... Ra3 32. Ne8+ Kh6 33. Nxd6 $13) 32. Ne8+ Kf8 33. Nxf6 e4
$14) 30... Qd3 31. g3 Qe4 (31... Ne4 $142 32. Re1 Nd2 33. Kg2 h5 34. Qe2 Qxf5
$13) 32. Qxe4 Nxe4 33. Re1 Nc5 34. Rd1 (34. Nc7 Ra2 35. Ne8+ Kf8 36. Nxd6 Bd2
37. Rf1 Bc3 $11) 34... Ra2 35. Nb4 Rb2 36. Nd3 Rc2 37. Nb4 Rb2 38. Nd3 Rc2 39.
Nb4 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
  I hope US Chess readers have a great 2016 and can use some of the tips in this article to reach your life and chess goals.  Find Al Lawrence's Pan-Am wrap-up here and see the official website here.