Mantis Downtown Chess Fest

Posted in News on April 28th, 2014 by Tom Brownscombe

On the weekend of April 25-27, 48 chess players came to the Learning Village, located at the corner of Fremont Street and 8th Street in downtown Las Vegas, to compete in the Mantis Downtown Chess Fest. This five round swiss system chess tournament was named in honor of the fire breathing preying mantis sculpture located next door at the entrance to Container Park. The tournament had four rating based sections and featured four chess masters playing in the open section: Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Rockwell Shah, and Mike Zaloznyy.

After two rounds, the masters were leading the tournament. So in round three they started playing each other. The board one game between Rockwell Shah and Mike Zaloznyy was a very close affair that turned into a rook and pawn ending that featured competing passed pawns on opposite sides of the board. Shah was able to stop Zaloznyy’s passer, but an inaccurate king move by Zaloznyy allowed Shah’s passed pawn duo to go all the way for the win. On board two, the game between Brownscombe and Gross was even closer. Brownscombe pressed on the kingside, but he was not able to break through. Gross had some space on the queen side, but he was not able to create a breakthrough. So the board two game ended in a draw, leaving Shah in clear first place after three rounds. And then this confrontation occurred on board one in the fourth round:

FM Brownscombe,Tom (2221) – Shah,Rockwell (2344) [B01]
Mantis Open (4.1), 27.04.2014
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be2 Nf6 5.0–0 Nbd7 6.h3 Bh5 7.d4 Qd6 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 a6 10.a4 e6 11.Be3 Qb4 12.d5 exd5 13.cxd5 Bc5 14.dxc6 bxc6 15.Nd4 15…Qxb2 16.Bxh5 Qxc3 17.Rc1 Qa3 18.Nc2 Qxa4 19.Bxc5 Nxc5 20.Re1+ Nce4 21.Qd6 Rd8 22.Qe6+ Kf8 23.Qxf7# 1–0

In the fifth round, Brownscombe sacrificed a bishop on h2 against Hugo Santiago. But he was only able to get a perpetual check. The draw on board one gave the players on boards two and three an opportunity to compete for first place. On board three, Earl Salazar developed a powerful attack against the exposed king of Ron Gross. Salazar was on the verge of achieving a checkmate or winning Ron’s queen. But Gross generated enough counter play to stave off defeat and turn the tide in his favor. When the dust settled, Gross had an extra bishop and an easily won endgame. On board two, Shah won a pawn and converted his extra material into an endgame victory. This left a four way tie for first place in the open section with Tom Brownscombe, Ronald Gross, Hugo Santiago, and Rockwell Shah sharing first place with 3.5 points each and splitting the prize money equally. Juan Jauregui and Jonathan Mikolic split the prize for the top scoring player rated under 2000 in the open section with 2 points each.

The Mantis Downtown Chess Fest was the second tournament in the southern Nevada state championship qualifier series. The first tournament was the Presidents’ Day Open, and the final tournament will be held in the summer. Players who play in the open section of two or more of these tournaments can combine their scores to create a qualifying score. The two players with the top qualifying scores will be invited to represent southern Nevada in the 2014 Nevada State Chess Championship. After two tournaments, Tom Brownscombe and Hugo Santiago have the top two qualifying scores with 6.5 points each. But with another qualifying tournament still to be played, any player who has scored at least two points in either of the first two qualifying tournaments has a chance to surpass Brownscombe and Santiago. Here is the list of players who are in contention (with their best score from either of the first two qualifying tournaments):

Elliot Liu 5; Patrick Lacey 4; Virgilio Reyes, Rockwell Shah, Ronald Gross 3.5; Mike Zaloznyy, Joshua Quint, Barry Lazarus 3; Damir Trtanj, Juan Jauregui, Glenn Bidari, Earl Salazar, Ryan Phillips 2.5; Scott Raymond, John Trivett, Jeffery Gallegos, Alejandrino Baluran, Jonathan Mikolic 2.

In the under 1900 section, Edgar Khachatryan had a strong start with four straight victories. This was enough for Edgar to secure clear first place, even though Jason Cruz defeated Khachatryan in the final round. Cruz tied for second place in the under 1900 section with Alan Losoff, who is best known in the chess world as the lead organizer of the Las Vegas International Chess Festival. Losoff had a rough day on Saturday, drawing with Cruz and losing to Khachatryan. He was so discouraged by these results that he almost withdrew from the tournament. But Losoff’s perseverance led to fourth and fifth round wins against John Currell and Todd Imada and an equal share of the second and third place prize money with 3.5 points.

In the under 1600 section, the ladies showed their mettle. Vivian Liu started the tournament with a half point bye in the Friday night round. She then proceeded to win four straight games to secure first place in the under 1600 section. Audrey Grigore continued to demonstrate the ladies’ superiority in the under 1600 section by scoring 3.5 points to take second place. Antonio Artuz rounded out the list of prize winners in the under 1600 section by taking third place with 3 points. Jonathan Luong won the under 1300 section with 4 points. Max Jackel took second place in the under 1300 section with 3.5 points, and Rhomer Johnson was third with 3 points.

All of the players would like to thank the Las Vegas Downtown Project for supporting this event. Juan and Sabrina Jauregui organized the tournament on behalf of the Las Vegas Chess Center. Tom Brownscombe and Juan Jauregui directed the tournament. For complete tournament results for all players, including all rating changes, please visit the member services area of the US Chess Federation website. And for more information about other Las Vegas Chess Center events, please browse the Las Vegas Chess Center website.

Blindfold Simultaneous Exhibition by GM Timur Gareev

Posted in News on October 4th, 2013 by Tom Brownscombe

Have you ever tried to play an entire game of chess blindfolded? Have you ever tried to remember an entire chess game move by move just from the notation, without ever looking at a chess board? With some practice, most experienced tournament players can manage this. What about two games? With practice, most strong tournament players can manage to keep track of two blindfold games without looking at a chess board. But what about 14 games? Keeping track of 14 different games of chess simultaneously while blindfolded is an amazing feat that most ordinary players can only dream of. But for GM Timur Gareev, it’s just another practice session.

On Sunday, September 29, GM Timur Gareev visited the Las Vegas Chess Center and gave a 14 board blindfold simultaneous chess exhibition. A comfortable seat was created in the middle of the room using bean bag chairs, and tables were put in a circle around that seat. After a brief introduction and explanation of the rules, Timur literally put on a blindfold and started to play 14 games simultaneously. The club members announced their moves verbally and made the moves on the chess boards that were in front of them. But Timur could not see any of those chess boards. He had to keep track of all 14 of the positions in his head. When Timur was ready to make his move he announced it verbally, and his assistant made the move on a physical chess board. Timur played like this for more than seven hours without ever looking at a chess board. Timur won ten games, drew two, and lost two.

John Trivett and Jonathan Mikolic achieved draws against the grandmaster. With an over the board rating of just 1591, Jonathan Mikolic was one of the lowest rated players participating in the exhibition. But he played very solid chess. Timur probed Jonathan’s position, but Mikolic gave no ground. Eventually Mikolic forced a queen trade, and a few moves later Timur offered a draw in a completely equal minor piece ending.

Trivett appeared to be gaining an advantage in his game. But Timur sacrificed a rook for a knight, a pawn, and active play. Timur was able to use his well placed king and knight to force trades that lead to an equal endgame. In a dead drawn position, Timur offered a draw and Trivett accepted.

Daniel Dease and FM Tom Brownscombe managed to defeat the grandmaster. Here are their games:

Dease,Daniel (1791) – GM Gareev,Timur (2769) [B57]
blindfold simul, 29.09.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Qb6 7.Nb3 g6 8.0–0 Bg7 9.Be3 Qc7 10.Qd2 0–0 11.Be2 Ne5 12.Bh6 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Qxc4 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Rfe1 b6 16.Rad1 Bb7 17.Qd4 Rac8 18.e5 Qxd4 19.Rxd4 dxe5 20.Rxe5 e6 21.f3 Rc7 22.Re2 Rfc8 23.Rdd2 a6 24.Nd1 a5 25.c3 Ba6 26.Re1 Nd5 27.Ne3 Nf4 28.Nc1 Bb7 29.c4 b5 30.c5 Rxc5 31.Nb3 Rh5 32.Nxa5 Bd5 33.Rd4 g5 34.a3 Rh4 35.Rd2 Rh5 36.Nf1 Rh6 37.g3? Nh3+ 38.Kg2 g4 39.Rxd5 exd5 40.Ne3 gxf3+ 41.Kxf3 Re6 42.Rd1 Ng5+ 43.Kf2 Rf6+ 44.Ke2 Rh6? After more than six hours of blindfold play, Timur overlooks a knight fork. 45.Nf5+ Kg6 46.Nxh6 [46.Ne7+ Kf6 47.Nxc8 would win more material. But after 47…Rxh2+ Black would have more counter play.] 46…Kxh6 47.Rxd5 Rc2+ 48.Rd2 Rxd2+ 49.Kxd2 Nf3+ 50.Ke2 Nxh2 51.Nb7 Kg6 52.b4 Kf6 53.Nd6 Ke5 54.Nxb5 Kd5 55.Nc3+ Kc4 56.Nd1 Kb3 57.Ne3 Excellent technique by Dan! The black knight is trapped. 57.b5 Ng4 would be less clear. 1–0

FM Brownscombe,Tom (2226) – GM Gareev,Timur (2769) [E83]
blindfold simul, 29.09.2013

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Be3 Nf6 6.f3 0–0 7.Qd2 a6 8.0–0–0 Rb8 9.g4 e5 10.Nge2 b5 11.d5 Na5 12.Ng3 Bd7 13.c5 b4 14.Nb1 [14.c6 or 14.g5 would be better.] 14…Ba4! I underestimated this move. 15.Bxa6 Bb3 16.Qd3 Bxa2 17.Nd2 Ra8 18.c6 Qb8 19.h4 Nxd5 This sacrifice is a good idea, but 19…Bxd5 20.exd5 Nxd5 would be more accurate. 20.exd5 Bxd5 21.h5 Bxf3? This is the losing move. Timur gets a lot of pawns and some strong play for his sacrificed pieces, but it isn’t enough. In a normal tournament game, Timur would probably have found a better move. But when playing 14 games simultaneously against a field of opponents that includes master and expert level players, even a strong grandmaster sometimes has trouble keeping track of all of the tactics. 22.Nxf3 d5 23.Qb5 Qxb5 24.Bxb5 d4 25.Bg5 Rfb8 26.Bd3 Rb6 27.Kd2 Nb3+ 28.Kc2 Nc5 29.Ne4 Nxd3 30.Kxd3 Rxc6 Timur could try to regain some of his material with 30…f5, but after 31.gxf5 gxf5 32.Rhg1 White’s active pieces would create unbearable pressure against Black’s exposed king. 31.h6 1–0 White is driving back the few remaining black pieces and taking control of the game. Timur wisely resigns this hopeless game in order to focus his attention upon the other games still in progress.

Timur gave this exhibition as part of a series of blindfold exhibitions in various cities. George Koltanowski currently holds the record for playing the largest blindfold simultaneous chess exhibition, but Timur hopes to set a new world record before the end of this year.

I would like to thank PostNet for sponsoring this exhibition. Please show your appreciation of PostNet’s sponsorship by using them for all your printing needs. Juan Juaregui organized the exhibition, and Marck Cobb assisted GM Gareev by making most of his moves on the physical chess boards.