Shakmaty Bereolos - The Official Chess Site of Peter Bereolos

2/8/06 - Land of the Sky

The last weekend in January saw the annual Land of the Sky tournament in Asheville, North Carolina. This was the 19th edition, but for unclear reasons, it was one of the most poorly attended. This time only two GMs (Elvhest and Wojtkiewicz) topped the open section.

I played the first round on Friday night and got Black against Robert Cunningham. I thought I had a comfortable position out of the opening after 12... exd4

Here, he sharpened the game considerably with 13. Qxd4!? I expected 13. Nxd4 Na6 followed by Rae8 with a comfortable game 13... Ng4 After a bit of thought. 13... Nd5 14. f6 wasn't working and 13... Re8!? 14. fxg6 Nxe4 15. gxf7+ Qxf7 looked a bit too murky although perhaps Black can get away with it. The move played has a small trap which he fell into. 14. f6?! Instead 14. e5 Nxe5 15. f6 Bh8 offers compensation since the bishop is shut out. 14...c5 netting a pawn. This wasn't possible in the line with 13...Nd5 since the knight would have been hanging. 15. Qd1 Nxf6 and White doesn't have much compensation for the pawn since Black's weaknesses on d6 and the light squares are offset by White's on e4 and the dark squares. I went on to win

In Round 2, I had White against Ronald Simpson. He played a very rare move in a well-known position after 11. f3

11...Qd7 This looks very strange. The point is that after Nf6 moves, Bxe7 will not gain a tempo on the queen, but the move has some problems, too. 12. Rae1 His idea was 12. e4 Nxe4 13. Bxe7 Nxc3, but I could have taken advantage of the queens placement by 13. fxe4 Bxg5 14. exd5 when Black can't recapture 14...cxd5 because of 15. Bb5, but I decided to make a developing move instead. 12... h6 13. Bh4?! Instead, 13. Bf4 should maintain White's opening advantage. Now, Black equalizes. 13... Ng4 14. Bf2 Nxf2 15. Rxf2 Bh4 16. g3 Bg5 17. f4 17. Nf4 deserves consideration so as not to further weaken squares around the White king. 17... Bf6 18. Qd2 We both overlooked that I could free myself with 18. e4 since 18...dxe4 19. Nxe4 Bxd4? loses to 20. Nxd4 Qxd4 21. Nf6+. After the text Black is quite comfortable, but I managed to hold on to draw.

In the evening round I had Black against Chris Mabe. I liked my position after 13...Qxe6

but things started to go awry after 14. Qb3 I spent a lot of time looking at the pawn sacrifice 14... Ne7 15. Qxb7 O-O but wasn't sure what I was going to follow up after something like16. Qb3 Rab8 17. Qc2 f5. But here, the question really is what is White going to do with his king stuck in the middle. I also spent some time on 14... Nf6 15. Qxb7 O-O 16. Qxc6 Rfc8 and didn't really like that either so instead without much consideration I played 14...O-O-O?! 15. Ng2 I hadn't really considered this, now White grabs the bishop pair. 15...Bxg2 16. Bxg2 f5? Still thinking I'm better, I open the position for his bishops 16...Nf6 might have still made a fight of it. 17. Be3 fxe4 18. Bxa7 with a tremendous position for White. He has the very simple plan of Bh3+ Bb6 followed by Q to the a-file with a massive attack. He carried this out after first finishing his development which left me with no counterplay, the rest was very ugly.

I think I managed to put that disaster behind me and showed up the next morning ready to fight. Unfortunately, my opponent didn't show up. At the end of the hour Todd Andrews came up to me and said, "That's a crappy way to lose the White pieces." I wasn't so sure I would lose my White (and indeed the forfeit did not count against my colors), but thought that was one of those comments that fate would turn into a final round pairing of Bereolos-Andrews. However, that turned out not to be the case and somehow Todd and I have gone over a year without playing each other.

While I was waiting for my opponent to show up, I got to witness a curious thing. The open section was down to 10 boards at this point and on 7 of them the French Defense was played. I had played 1.d4 and was wondering if I was going to be obliged to meet 1...e6 with 2. e4. Fortunately not since Black scored very well in those games winning 3 and drawing the other 4 including the Board 1 GM matchup. I correctly predicted under 10 moves for that one, which was drawn in 9 after Wojo finally showed up 45 minutes late. Stuff like that really confuses me. I've seen Wojo pull that before. I don't understand that if they are not going to really play why doesn't he show up on time instead of making his colleague hang around for nearly an hour?

In the final round I had White against Klaus Pohl. I got a nice position out of the opening after 14. Qf3

14...Nf8 14... Bf8 seemed more natural to me. Now I went for the attack with 15. Nf5 Ne6 This drops material, but 15...gxf5 16. Qg3 Ng6 17. exf5 looked very good for White since 17...Nh5 gets pounded by 18. fxg6! 16. Rad1 Qc7 17. Bxe6 fxe6 18. Ng7 worth another diagram. You don't get to play a move like this without a capture on a full board too often.

He chose to give up an exchange instead of a pawn with 18...Kf7 19. Nxe8 Rxe8 and White is winning. However, this game turned into a titanic battle when I went astray near the time control. I probably should post the annotations to the whole struggle, but it ended up going over 100 moves. I think probably most of the possible evaluations occurred during stretches (equal, Black winning, slight advantage to Black, slight advantage to White, and ultimately back to White winning). Most of the time it was equal, but imbalanced with two pieces against a rook. Since we were both hoping to get into the third place tie, we kept playing. He finally blundered during the sudden death phase and I finished off Q vs. N without any further hiccups.

The unanswered question is where were all the players? Only around 200 took part in all the sections and the prize fund was not increased above the minimum guarantees. I heard a few theories floated including renovation of the hotel (but it is very much nicer), change in the structure of the sections, Internet chess, poker, and high gas costs. The organizer even sent a questionnaire around to try to get answers, but of course it would be better to asks those who were not in attendance. Hopefully, next year this event will be back to its past glory for the twentieth edition since I feel it is one of the best events in the Southeast.

Along a similar vein, Neil Harris asked me to put a plug in for the US Masters and North Carolina Sub-Masters Open which will also be in western North Carolina in Hendersonville. I've stayed at the Quality Inn site before and it is very nice. Hopefully, this event will see a big turnout for the first qualifier for the next cycle of the US Championship.