The latest edition of the FIDE rating list has some significant changes at the top of the chess world. FIDE champ Veselin Topalov(2813) won the MTEL Masters in Sofia with a late charge for the second straight year. He followed that up with a 3-1 match win over Nisipeanu to move his rating one point ahead of Kasparov's "final" rating. Vishy Anand(2779) his in his usual #2 spot, but has dropped below 2800 after only scoring +1 in Sofia and somehow only managing an even score in 9 games at the Olympiad. Levon Aronian(2761) held on to third and crept up a few points in leading Armenia to the gold medal at the Olympiad. The big news is the return to form of Classical World Champion Vladimir Kramnik(2743) who took the board 1 gold medal at the Olympiad with a 2847 performance rating to move him up to #4 in the world. The unification match between Topalov and Kramnik looks like it will take place in October and if the players can keep their present form it could be an all-time classic battle. Club 2700 is now 19 members deep with newcomers #12 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov(2722) and #14 David Navara(2719).
Despite the US Championship taking place in this period, there wasn't much shakeup in the US list. World #20 Gata Kamsky(2697) still leads the way. He's followed by US Champion Alexander Onischuk (2668). Yasser Seirawan(2638) played a few games in the Dutch league to keep his rating active and moved into the 3rd spot. Former US Champion Hikaru Nakamura(2632) dropped to 4th. The rest of the top 10 are the usual names except for Championship runner-up Yuri Shulman(2602) who is 7th and Alexander Goldin(2577) who dropped all the way to 12th.
My rating took a hit. Despite my play in the US Masters, I did manage to pick up 10 rating points there. I gave all that back with interest in the Spring North American FIDE Invitational and a few more points at the Chicago Open. Overall, a drop of 9 points to 2294, the first time my FIDE rating has sunk below 2300. I'm now #172 in the US and 6172 in the world. Time to start climbing back up!
In the middle of last month I played in the Kentucky Open in Louisville. It was advertised as a "state championship event" and I usually don't play in other states championship events. I made an exception this time because I had played in the Kentucky Open in the past and knew that most Kentucky players consider the Kentucky Closed to be their true championship event.
In the first round I had White against Rory Fugate. He got a knight a bit misplaced in the opening on h5 and I was threatening to win it after 16. h3
16... g5 This surprised me. I figured he would make an escape square on g7, but with the less loosening 16...g6 17. g4 Nxg4!?17... Ng7 18. Ng3 looks very comfortable for White, so he decided (probably on the last move) to sacrifice a piece. 18. hxg4 Bxg4 Black has two pawns and the White king position is open, but Black lacks invasion points for his pieces. I consolidated the piece and eventually won starting with 19. Rf2
In round 2, I had Black against Justin Arnold. After 15. Qd1-d2?! (he should have exchanged on b5) superficially, things look fine for White. Black has a backward pawn on d6 and White has the d5-square locked down. However, the key weakness in the position is c4 and I quickly exploited it
15... bxc4 16. Nxc4 16. bxc4 Nfg4 16... Nxc4 17. bxc4 Be6 18. Bf1 Nd7 Preparing Ne5 to fork f3 and c4. 19. Rab1 White can stop the knight from coming to e5, but the c-pawn still falls after 19. f4 Nb6 19... Ne5 20. Be2 Nxc4 21. Bxc4 Bxc4 and Black soon won.
In Round 3, I had White versus Denton Dykes. After 16. Qe2
He looked to avoid the possibility of Nxc8, with 16...Bd7? but this move just drops the exchange. Instead, on 16... Bb7 I was considering 17. Rd1 (the engines prefer 17. Nxb7 Qxb7 18. O-O with a slight advantage to White (18. Ne3? which is the main move with Bf4 and Bf8 omitted fails here to 18... Qb4+)) which leads to a complicated position after 17... Bxd6 18. Nxd6 Rxd6 19. Qe8+ Kg7 20. Be5+ Rf6 17. Bg5 Bxd6 18. Nxd6 I thought he might have some compensation after 18. Bxd8 Bb5 19. b3 Nd7 20. Bg5 Nb6 21. O-O Nxc4 22. a4 After the text he has chronic dark square weaknesses. 18... Qxd6 19. Bxd8 Na6 Here, I thought he would try for the trap 19... Qxd5 20. O-O? Bc6. Instead, the dark-squares should be Black's undoing after 20. Bf6 Qxg2 21. O-O-O 20. Be7 Qb6 And now I simply gave the exchange back with 21. O-O 21... Bb5 22. Qd2 Bxf1 23. Rxf1 with a huge advantage to White.
In round 4, I had a rematch of my Chicago Open game with Black against top-rated GM Aleks Wojtkiewicz. After 24...Ne7
The position was roughly level and we each had about 20 minutes left. Unfortunately, I struggled to find a plan and kept plodding along at 2-3 minutes per move, while he picked up the pace. 25. Qd3 Nd5 26. Kh2 Qd7 27. Rde1 Kh7 28. e3 dxe3 29. fxe3 Rxf1 30. Qxf1 Rf8 31. Qe2 Nhf6 32. Nf2 Ng8 I'm not sure what the transfer from h5 to g8 accomplished, now I have some problems with my e-pawn not to mention a 14-4 clock deficit, I completely self-destructed after 33. Nf3 Qf7 34. Rf1 e4? 35. Nxe4 Bxb2?? 36. Nfg5+ hxg5 37. Nxg5+ [1:0] Sadly, that will be my last battle versus Wojo, as he unexpectedly passed away a few weeks after this game.
That game knocked me out of contention for first, but I still had a chance for a prize if I could win my final round game. I was paired with one of my most difficult opponents, Dennis Gogel. I first played Dennis, in the 1982 Indiana State Championship. Over the next 20+ years, I only managed two draws versus six losses. Compounding my frustration with the results, I had been Black in all 8 of our previous meetings. This time I finally had White and looked to get the monkey off my back. In a very double-edged game (he had 3.5 points and would tie for first with a win, so we were both going all out for victory) I finally managed to break down his position after 29...Rae8
30. Nc4 Bxb5 31. Nxd6! This clobbers Black. Instead, the routine recapture 31. Nxb5 is only equal after 31...Qxd5. Now, Black is a piece up after 31... Nxh5 32. Qf3 but there is just too much hanging. He tried giving up the exchange with 32...Qf6 33. Ncxb5 Rd8 34. Qxh5 Rxd6 35. Nxd6 Qxd6 but there was no compensation after 36. Qf3 and I won without difficulty.