The View From the Other End of the Playing Hall

Some friendly bug Some friendly bug
Spending Christmas packed into a car with 3 other dudes all with varying definitions of  good music, as well as differing frequencies of restroom use, for 11 hours then another 6 hours the next day doesn't exactly sound like a happy holiday at first. Then again, at Florida State we know a thing or two about having a good time, and our trip to the 2014 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship was all of the above and more. We stopped over in Houston and discovered a fresh outdoor beer garden of sorts called Moon Tower with fire pits, a ping-pong table, and gourmet hot dogs ranging from wild boar to buffalo and even pheasant. We washed our meals down with some craft brewed ales while playing some blitz chess on the outdoor picnic tables, not a bad Christmas after all.
Zach Herbst, board 3 and VP of FSU Chess team Zach Herbst, board 3 and VP of FSU Chess team
I had been looking forward to returning to Texas for a second and final time. Our team is essentially just a group of students who get together to casually play every Friday at the student union, none of which who ever played in scholastic chess growing up. We had no delusions about where we stood as a team in the line-up. Seeded number 40 out 46 at the start of the event we pretty much maintained that spot throughout (finishing 36th). But for us it was just as much about the rounds as it was team bonding, making new friends, checking out the town, and above all else learning more about the game that brought us all there.
Photo by Eric Rosen Photo by Eric Rosen
We checked in the day before the tournament started and threw on some swim trunks, did I mention that the tournament was on South Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico?  As south a beach in Texas as it gets, the water was actually pretty bone chilling so we ended up on the hotel deck playing bughouse. We quickly attracted the attention of some other players from the University of Illinois who joined in on the piece dropping madness. Those guys were pretty sick so we had to keep the teams mixed in order not to get blown out.
Sagaar Gupta, Photo by Eric Rosen Sagaar Gupta, Photo by Eric Rosen
Although it was the slow season South Padre island had a lot of great spots which we checked out between and after rounds. You could find food and drink specials everywhere along with anything from to pool tables to karaoke, the best part being that a fixed $6 will get you a cab ride anywhere on the island. Laguna Bob's and Kelley's where a couple of my favorite spots. I have already written about my upset in the first round.
[pgn][Event "Pan-American Championships"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Silva, Ben"]
[Black "Heimann, Mark"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E30"]
[PlyCount "97"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bg5 c5 5. d5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. Rc1 b5 8. e4
Qd4 9. Qxd4 cxd4 10. a3 dxc3 11. axb4 cxb2 12. Rb1 exd5 13. cxd5 a5 14. bxa5
Rxa5 15. Kd2 Ba6 16. Rxb2 Ra1 17. Ne2 Ke7 18. Ng3 b4 19. Rxb4 Ra2+ 20. Ke3 g6
21. Bc4 Ra3+ 22. Bb3 Rc8 23. Kd4 d6 24. Rb1 Nd7 25. f4 Nc5 26. e5 dxe5+ 27.
fxe5 Nxb3+ 28. R1xb3 Rxb3 29. Rxb3 Rc4+ 30. Ke3 Rc2 31. Ra3 Bb5 32. Ra7+ Kf8
33. Ne4 Bc4 34. d6 Be6 35. Nf6 Rc3+ 36. Kd2 Rc8 37. h4 Bf5 38. g4 Be6 39. Re7
Rd8 40. Kc3 Rb8 41. Nd7+ Bxd7 42. Rxd7 Rb1 43. Rd8+ Kg7 44. Ra8 Rd1 45. Kc4 f6
46. e6 Rxd6 47. e7 Re6 48. e8=Q Rxe8 49. Rxe8 1-0[/pgn]
I hoped to continue the success the next day. Things don't always go as planned and I lost two games with the black pieces. My opponents played well and were deserved winners but I do think that I had changed my usual routine at the board, which didn't help. Specifically, I made a point not to watch the action at the top boards during my game. I actually believe watching the top boards helps me pace myself and avoid tunnel vision. Watching better players make better moves can rub off. I went back to doing this religiously the next two days and wanted to share some of those instructional and notable games. Round 4 In the 4th round the positions over the boards were as interestingly unbalanced as the match-ups themselves. At table 1 Texas Tech B faced off against UTD's A team, the favorite by rating. Dallas cruised to a smooth 3.5-0.5 victory punctuated by GM Kritz's choice of the Stonewall Dutch in a game that appeared to allow his opponent to menacingly get around on both flanks.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Torres, Luis"]
[Black "Kritz, Leonid"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A90"]
[PlyCount "104"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 d5 5. Nf3 Bd6 6. O-O c6 7. Nbd2 Nbd7 8. Qc2
Qe7 9. Ne1 O-O 10. Nd3 b6 11. Nf3 Bb7 12. Bf4 Bxf4 13. Nxf4 Ne4 14. h4 Rac8 15.
Ng5 Nxg5 16. hxg5 Rfe8 17. Qa4 a6 18. Rac1 b5 19. cxb5 axb5 20. Qa7 Rb8 21. g6
hxg6 22. Nxg6 Qb4 23. b3 Qd6 24. Bf3 Rec8 25. Kg2 Kh7 26. Nf4 g5 27. Rh1+ Kg7
28. Nh5+ Kg6 29. g4 f4 30. e4 fxe3 31. fxe3 Ra8 32. Qxb7 Rxa2+ 33. Kh3 Rc7 34.
Qxc7 Qxc7 35. Bd1 Rf2 36. Rc2 Rxc2 37. Bxc2+ Kf7 38. Rf1+ Ke7 39. Bg6 Qa5 40.
Rf7+ Kd6 41. Ng7 c5 42. Ne8+ Kc6 43. Re7 cxd4 44. Rxe6+ Kc5 45. Nd6 Qa1 46.
exd4+ Qxd4 47. Nf5 Qh8+ 48. Kg3 Qb8+ 49. Kh3 Qf4 50. Ng3 Ne5 51. Bf5 Kb4 52.
Rf6 Nxg4 0-1[/pgn]
This seemingly promising infiltration instead led to white giving up his queen for bishop and rook, after which white was not able to coordinate his pieces effectively nor build any kind of fort as his pawns began to drop allowing black to win quite quickly. Table 2 saw the most excitement of the 4th round as UMBC and Webster B clashed in a collection of face slapping hot games as Baltimore arose victorious with a score of 2.5-1.5. This was thanks in large part to GM Kore's sweet pseudo-sacrificial attack on board 3 ironically resulting in a winning opposite colored bishops endgame.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "GM Hoyos, Manuel Leon"]
[Black "GM Kore, Akshayraj"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A16"]
[PlyCount "112"]

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 c6 6. d3 Bg7 7. Bd2 O-O 8. Qc1
Nd7 9. Nf3 Re8 10. Bh6 Bh8 11. h4 Qb6 12. Kf1 N7f6 13. h5 Ng4 14. d4 e5 15.
hxg6 hxg6 16. e3 exd4 17. exd4 Bf5 18. Qd2 Nxc3 19. bxc3 Qb5+ 20. Kg1 Re2 21.
a4 Qa6 22. Qf4 Rxf2 23. Bf1 Qa5 24. Ra3 Qd5 25. c4 Rxf3 26. Rxf3 Qxd4+ 27. Kg2
Qb2+ 28. Qd2 Be4 29. Bf4 Qxd2+ 30. Bxd2 Rd8 31. Bg5 Rd1 32. Be2 Rxh1 33. Kxh1
Bd4 34. Kg2 Ne5 35. a5 a6 36. Bd8 f5 37. Bc7 Kf7 38. Bxe5 Bxe5 39. g4 Kf6 40.
Bd3 Bxf3+ 41. Kxf3 Bc3 42. gxf5 gxf5 43. Ke3 Ke5 44. Be2 Bxa5 45. Bh5 Bb6+ 46.
Kd3 f4 47. Bg4 Bc5 48. Bc8 f3 49. Bxb7 f2 50. Ke2 a5 51. Bxc6 Kd6 52. Ba4 Bd4
53. Bb5 Kc5 54. Kf1 Kb4 55. Ke2 Bc5 56. Kf1 a4 0-1[/pgn]
TAble5 After dropping half a point in round 3 Webster A was temporarily relegated to (gasp) 6th place and playing on the outskirts of their usual stomping grounds at table 3 versus an outgunned Columbia who was promptly swept on all boards without mercy. In totally different fashions GM's Le and Robson had particularly nice wins as Le kept steering Victor Shen's position closer and closer to zugzwangesque until the moment was primed to trade off the pieces into a won endgame.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Shen, Victor"]
[Black "GM Le, Liem"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A81"]
[PlyCount "120"]

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nh3 d6 5. d5 c6 6. c4 e5 7. dxe6 Bxe6 8. b3 Bg7
9. Bb2 h6 10. Nf4 Bf7 11. O-O O-O 12. Nd2 Re8 13. Re1 Qb6 14. Nd3 Nbd7 15. e4
Nc5 16. Nxc5 Qxc5 17. exf5 Rxe1+ 18. Qxe1 Re8 19. Qd1 gxf5 20. Nf3 f4 21. Bd4
Qa5 22. Qd3 fxg3 23. hxg3 d5 24. cxd5 Nxd5 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. Qd4+ Nf6 27. Qb2
Bh5 28. Rd1 Qf5 29. Qc3 Re2 30. a4 Kh7 31. Qd3 Qxd3 32. Rxd3 Rb2 33. Ne5 Kg7
34. f3 Nd5 35. f4 Rb1+ 36. Kf2 Rb2+ 37. Kg1 Be2 38. Rd4 Nf6 39. b4 h5 40. a5 a6
41. Nd7 Ng4 42. Be4 Ra2 43. Ne5 Ra1+ 44. Kg2 Bf1+ 45. Kf3 Ra3+ 46. Nd3 Kf6 47.
Rd6+ Ke7 48. Rd4 Rb3 49. f5 Ne5+ 50. Ke3 Nxd3 51. Bxd3 Kf6 52. Rd6+ Ke5 53. Rd8
Bxd3 54. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 55. Kxd3 Kxf5 56. Kd4 Kg4 57. Kc5 Kxg3 58. Kb6 h4 59. Kxb7
h3 60. Kxa6 h2 0-1[/pgn]
Meanwhile Ray's game was a funky melee featured pieces enprise all over the board before the dust settled where black's 2R+B went on to win over Q+N.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kyron, Griffith"]
[Black "GM Robson, Ray"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B85"]
[PlyCount "70"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O Nc6 8.
Be3 O-O 9. f4 a6 10. a4 Bd7 11. Nb3 Na5 12. e5 Ne8 13. Bd3 g6 14. Ne4 Nxb3 15.
cxb3 Bc6 16. Rc1 dxe5 17. fxe5 Qd5 18. Qe2 Rd8 19. Bb1 Qxe5 20. Bf4 Qg7 21. Kh1
Nd6 22. Nc5 Bf6 23. Nd3 Nf5 24. Ne5 Bd5 25. Ng4 Bxb2 26. Bxf5 exf5 27. Bh6 Qd4
28. Rf4 Be4 29. Rxe4 fxe4 30. Be3 Bxc1 31. Bxd4 Rxd4 32. h4 h5 33. Ne5 Bf4 34.
Nc4 Rfd8 35. Ne3 Rd2 0-1[/pgn]
Round 5 At table 1 UTD A takes it, making a 3-1 statement over UMBC. Boards 1 & 4 saw draws but Dallas took both middle boards. On the number 2 spot, GM Kritz had another really nice win that showed some very instructive and patient play toward the end in illustrating how to win a won game.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kritz, Leonid"]
[Black "Ringoir, Tanguy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A10"]
[PlyCount "127"]1. c4 f5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 O-O 6. e4 fxe4 7. dxe4 d6 8. Nge2
c5 9. O-O Nc6 10. f4 Be6 11. b3 Qd7 12. Qd3 Bh3 13. Be3 Nb4 14. Qb1 Bxg2 15.
Kxg2 Qc6 16. Bf2 Rae8 17. a3 Na6 18. b4 cxb4 19. axb4 Qxc4 20. Ra4 Qc8 21. Bxa7
e5 22. f5 gxf5 23. Rxf5 Kh8 24. Qd3 d5 25. Nxd5 Nxd5 26. Rxf8+ Rxf8 27. exd5
Qg4 28. Nc3 Nxb4 29. h3 Qh4 30. Qe2 Qe7 31. Ne4 Na6 32. Rxa6 bxa6 33. Bc5 Qb7
34. Bxf8 Bxf8 35. Qc4 Qb5 36. Qc8 Qe2+ 37. Nf2 Kg7 38. Qd7+ Kg8 39. Qe6+ Kg7
40. d6 e4 41. Qe5+ Kf7 42. Qd5+ Kg7 43. Qe5+ Kf7 44. Qf5+ Kg7 45. Qg5+ Kf7 46.
Qd5+ Kg7 47. d7 Be7 48. Qe5+ Kf7 49. Qf5+ Kg7 50. d8=Q Bxd8 51. Qd7+ Kg6 52.
Qxd8 Qf3+ 53. Kf1 e3 54. Qg8+ Kh6 55. Qe6+ Kg5 56. h4+ Kh5 57. Qe8+ Kh6 58.
Qxe3+ Qxe3 59. Ng4+ Kg6 60. Nxe3 a5 61. Nc4 a4 62. g4 Kf6 63. Ke2 Ke6 64. Ke31-0[/pgn]
While Dallas was putting the finishing touches on Baltimore, Webster was also pulling a 3-1 score over their opponent UT Brownsville A with draws on boards 1 & 2 and wins on 3 & 4. Robson's win with the white pieces employing the advance variation against the Caro Kann was one of my favorite games of the entire tournament.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "GM Robson, Ray"]
[Black "Hernandez, Holden"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[PlyCount "99"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. Be3 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Ne7 8. O-O
a6 9. Nd2 Nbc6 10. N2f3 Be4 11. c4 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Bxf3 13. Nxf3 Qxd1 14. Rfxd1
h6 15. h4 Ng6 16. Bd3 Ngxe5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Be4 Nc6 19. Rac1 Rc8 20. Rd3 f5
21. Bf3 g6 22. Rdc3 Bd6 23. Bxc6+ Rxc6 24. Rxc6 bxc6 25. Rxc6 Kd7 26. Rxa6 Rb8
27. Rb6 Ra8 28. a3 f4 29. Bd2 Rc8 30. Bc3 Bxa3 31. Rb7+ Kd6 32. Rg7 Rc4 33.
Rxg6 Bb4 34. Bg7 h5 35. Rg5 Rc1+ 36. Kh2 Be1 37. Be5+ Ke7 38. Bxf4 Rc2 39. Rxh5
Bxf2 40. Be5 Kf7 41. Kh3 Re2 42. Rg5 Be3 43. Rg7+ Kf8 44. Rb7 Bc5 45. Bg7+ Kg8
46. h5 Re3+ 47. Kh4 Re4+ 48. g4 Bf2+ 49. Kh3 Be3 50. Bf6 1-0[/pgn]
This was not due to any fireworks but because it seemed clear to me Ray had prepped the line extremely thoroughly and his whole temporary pawn sacrifice concept that resulted in a positional advantage was understated yet awesome. He was able to net two pawns as a result and the cleanest of clean wins. The final 15 moves really emphasize how well white's pieces were coordinated. By move 31, if not sooner, I am sure black must've been thinking "ugh...can it really be that simply over?!" Round 6 The final round had the match-up everyone expected but with Webster having shown some vulnerability in round 3, the pressure was on them to beat the undefeated Dallas team for ultimate tournament victory. Cue Mortal Kombat theme song. Robson was held to a draw for the first time. Le too drew on board one, but the new kid on the block of international fame, GM Nyzhnyk of the Ukraine aka Peter Pan, won a miniature on board 2. Seriously a head scratcher and I have no clue what happened there, but it just seems like black missed some stuff while giving up a pawn in the opening, then an exchange, and then a piece?? I guess Peter was a super good boy this year and Santa decided to drop him some extra late X-mas gifts.
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nyzhnyk, Illia"]
[Black "Margvelashvili, Giorgi"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E15"]
[PlyCount "57"]1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Qa4 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. Nc3 c6 8. Bf4
b5 9. cxb5 cxb5 10. Nxb5 Nd5 11. Nc3 Nxf4 12. gxf4 Qb6 13. Rb1 Rc8 14. O-O Rc4
15. Qc2 Nc6 16. e3 Rb8 17. Rfc1 Rb4 18. b3 Qa5 19. a3 R4b6 20. Na4 Bxa3 21.
Nxb6 Qxb6 22. Rd1 Nb4 23. Qc5 Rc8 24. Qxb6 axb6 25. Ne5 d6 26. Nc4 Bxc4 27.
bxc4 Rxc4 28. Rb3 Nc2 29. Be4 1-0[/pgn]
Webster A also won on board 4 to seal the deal and win the 2014 Pan Ams for the repeat. All in All We finished having won only two rounds, a repeat of our performance last year, which was a bit of disappointment. Exhausted we got back in the car and started the long drive home, our spirits quickly recovering when we stopped at the pump to refuel on some $1.99 regular! Also see Al Lawrence's Pan-American wrap-up here.