Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn on the 2017 Reykjavik Open

As many of you all know, I recently returned from my three month trip in Europe. While I was often the only American in many of the tournaments I attended, the Reykjavik Open, my final stop, drew many from the states overseas. My coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, made his first pilgrimage to Iceland, and shares his thoughts on the tournament with us here on Chess^Summit.

Chess^Summit: Iceland is pretty far from the US. What made you decide to play in Iceland?

IMG_2758
Eugene made his way to Iceland before the start of the tournament to explore the countries many sites! He told me that he might have driven 1000 km in Iceland prior to the tournament!

Eugene Perelshteyn: I wanted to play in a strong tournament where it’s one game a day in a beautiful setting.  Given that Iceland is only five-hour flight from Boston, I figured it would be a good idea to play there!

CS: The Reykjavik Open is already prestigious as far as open tournaments go. Have you played in any other famous open tournaments?

EP: I don’t think any of the Open tournaments would match it. I’ve played many US Championships, this would probably be the closest comparison.

CS: What is Reykjavik like? Did you get to explore Iceland before the tournament?

EP: Yes, I rented a car and explored Iceland for a week before the tournament!  This is probably the best decision given how much natural beauty there is to see!

IMG_2717.JPG
CS: You got to play Anish Giri in just round 3 of the tournament. What was that like? Is he the strongest player you’ve ever played?

EP: I would say he’s the highest rated played that I’ve ever faced (rated 2775).  I was impressed by his opening knowledge.  He showed a completely new plan in a sideline that I felt I knew well.  But he’s already well-known for his openings, so it may not be that a big surprise.  However, his technique and quick decision-making was duly impressive as he didn’t give me any chances by converting an extra pawn.

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.01.12
Eugene was the main focus of the tournament’s third round. Look’s like he’s caught Jobava’s eye!

CS: You put together a strong 7/10 performance in Reykjavik. What are your thoughts on your play – positives/negatives?

EP: On a positive note, I didn’t expect to have all ten decisive games!  I managed to put together 7 wins.  However, my loss to a talented Indian girl from a good position was probably the low point of my tournament.  I have to say that she played well beyond her 2200+ rating!
My wins vs IM Piasetski and GM-elect Sarkar that both finished in mating attacks was a good recovery!

CS: While you had to play a lot of lower rated players, you also got to play Giri and Kamsky. How does a Grandmaster improve from these experiences? Is this different from how an amateur might respond from a critical game?

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 10.02.49
With only 7 minutes left on the clock, Eugene played 52. Ra8? and lost, but the tricky move 52. h5! holds the balance.

I definitely learned a thing or two from playing Giri!  My game vs Kamsky was evenly matched until I miscalculated and had to defend a rook and pawn endgame down a pawn.  Yet, while we both thought I was lost, I had a feeling there may be a draw.  And, indeed giving up the second pawn 52.h5 draws!  The lesson: never give up and keep looking for chances!

CS: Would you recommend the Reykjavik Open to American players? Do you think you would play in the event again?

Yes, I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve never been to Iceland.  The only thing I didn’t like about the tournament is allowing players U2000 in the open section.  While I understand that it gives amateurs a chance to face a titled player, I think it creates a strong rollercoaster-like conditions for everyone else where you play either 200-300 points up or down (end of interview).

IMG_1012
Some of the American team at the conclusion of Reykjavik

One game I was particularly impressed by was Eugene’s triumph over FM Victor Plotkin in the fourth round of the tournament. Looking to bounce back with Black after losing to the eventual tournament winner, Eugene put together an instructive game to crush the Alapin Sicilian. By slowly building the tension and keeping the nature of the position, he exploited White’s lack of a plan. In many of my own posts, I try to show how this is an effective idea against roughly 1800-1900 rated players, but Eugene did it perfectly against a titled player rated nearly 2250! Eugene was nice enough to share a video analysis with us, and if you like his videos, I would recommend you visit ChessOpeningsExplained for more!

Hope you enjoyed this Reykjavik Open tournament wrap-up! We have one more coming later this week by IM Kostya Kavutskiy, who put together an amazing 6th place finish in Iceland with a 7.5/10 finish. If you recall, Kostya and I put together analysis videos for each round, so I’m excited to see what he has to say about one of his best tournament performances to date!

I’m Back! A European Wrap Up

Sorry to be a little late with my post today! I decided to visit my alma mater Maggie L Walker Governor’s School (MLWGS) yesterday before moving back to Pittsburgh later this week. Of course, for those of you who are new to Chess^Summit or don’t know me as well, my chess “career” really kicked off when I coached the MLWGS team to win the U1200 National High School Chess Championships in San Diego, just three years ago. Much of the success I had there as a coach pushed me to create this site as a personal blog, and later expand Chess^Summit to what it is now 🙂

IMG_0997.JPG
I think some players in this photo don’t need any introduction!

I decided rather than to recap my personal performance in Reykjavik, I would share my thoughts on my trip, and my best played game of my European tour. One thing I really learned about chess this trip was how important trends are within a tournament. Building momentum in a nine or ten round event can help push you to play better chess in subsequent rounds.

This is different than five round weekend tournaments in the US where it can really be difficult to recover from a loss on the scoreboard. In Europe, if you don’t recover from a loss, the negative trend can really take its toll over a week long tournament – that’s simply a function of there being more games. Fortunately for me, I was able to get ‘statement’ wins in critical moments, catapulting me to a +186 FIDE rating point gain over three months! Simply relaxing and focusing on playing smarter (and not better) can go a long ways…

IMG_1009.JPG
It wasn’t my intention to look like I was photo-bombing… with Kostya Kavutskiy and Fiona Steil-Antoni at the closing ceremony

Anyways, here is my wrap-up video for my trip! It’s been a memorable three months, and I have a lot of people to thank for making it possible. I hope you guys had fun trying to keep up with my play!

For those of you guys wanting to see my games from Reykjavik, you can see in-depth video analysis of each of my ten games in Kostya’s posts here on Chess^Summit. Admittedly, 5/10 was not the score I wanted, but I’m happy with the way I got there. Playing 1.e4 in that critical last round game took real nerves – but thanks to same pre-game preparation with my co-author Beilin Li, I was really confident and I think it showed. I highly encourage you all to try watching some of the recaps (I know they are long), but I learned a lot simply by being part of the video, and Kostya’s analysis really shows the difference between a player of my strength and someone of his caliber – truly impressive.

IMG_1012
Members of the US team (from left to right): Justin Sarkar, myself, Eugene Perelshteyn, Alan Savage, Akshita Gorti, Josh Friedel, Tatev Abrahamyan, Alejandro Ramirez, and Kostya Kavutskiy

Kostya & Isaac Finish Strong In Reykjavik

Well guys we did it, we finished the 2017 Reykjavik Open AND kept our promise to do a detailed post-mortem after each round. I ended up scoring the best performance of my career, finishing with 7.5/10 — good for Top U2400 and T-6th overall. Isaac stumbled in Round 8 but finished with two wins to close out his trip. I have to say I loved working on this project, it really made for a very engaging tournament experience. Full report coming soon (eventually). For now, here are our recaps from Round 8-10. (warning: only watch if you’re interested in getting better at chess).

In Round 9, unbeknownst to me, I ended up winning the brilliancy prize for a sterling piece of preparation in the King’s Indian. Isaac won a game that he was kind of ashamed of, but still pretty interesting. See for yourself:

In Round 10 I played White against an aggressive opponent and seized my chance to turn the game in my favor. Really nice rook endgame technique from me in this one, should raise your rook endgame ELO by at least 20-30 points! Isaac *accidentally* played 1.e4 and won in style.

That’s all from me for now! Please look forward to a full recap of the event coming as soon as I come to grips to my performance. A lot of things went well for me in this tournament, I should probably figure out what they were so that I can repeat the performance!

Kostya & Isaac in Reykjavik! Quick Tour and Round 6 Games

Hi everyone! Only a few days left here in Europe, but here is a quick tour of the Reykjavik Open tournament hall. We subtely snuck in a clip of Anish Giri in here…

The tournament is nearing its end, I’ve got a 3/7 score, while Kostya tallied a win in Round 7 to reach 5/7, just a half point behind the tournament’s top seed! Here is a quick recap from Round 6!

Kostya & Isaac: Reykjavik Open Rounds 2-4

Round 2 featured two wins by both Isaac and Kostya. First check out how Isaac dominates a Scotch opening while Kostya shows a masterclass on the f3-e4 structure in the Modern Benoni. Very instructive, you will learn about chess by watching this!

After our victories in Round 2, we were both humbled by our higher-rated opponents in Round 3. Isaac blew a promising position against IM Alina L’Ami, while Kostya gets ground down like a child by GM Joshua Friedel. Really instructive analysis on an important aspect of the game — the so-called ‘switch’!

In Round 4 we bounced back from the previous night’s disappointment to win both our games in style! Although, we both used different styles, as you’ll soon find out. Isaac had to outplay a draw-loving 1700 while Kostya had to retake the initiative after earning a lost position with White against a 2100. Enjoy!

Magyar Mayhem: Undefeated in Budapest

As it turned out, a two-week break was all I needed to put together a breakthrough performance. If you recall, my previous outing in Bad Wörishofen was marred by an inability to convert slightly better positions, and by the end of the event I was fighting the collective exhaustion of three back-to-back tournaments.

IMG_0815.JPG
Trying Hungarian food in the Inner City

The First Saturday Tournament in Budapest had a much different narrative. Placed in the FM group, I got to compete in my first double round-robin against a field of mixed strength, ranging from 1700 to International Master level. Even though I managed to finish the ten game tournament undefeated, I think to say I outclassed most of the field would be a bit of a stretch. In many of the games, I often found myself in equal or slightly worse positions, but I found my time management and decision-making in critical moments to be the main contributors to my performance. That being said, I think even with an 8/10 final score, I will still have a lot to learn from this tournament.

While my tournament started with a relatively easy win, I had my first critical test in the second round against an experienced Hungarian International Master. Never having gotten a result against this level of competition before, my mentality going into the game was just to enjoy myself and play smart, but as the game wore on, it became clear I could do better than this. We reached this complicated endgame before the game petered out to a draw.

IMG_0865.jpg
Late night view of the Danube

This draw gave me a lot of confidence throughout the rest of the tournament – not only in my second match-up with Black against the International Master, but against my lower rated opponents as well.

One aspect of chess I think I’ve improved the most at is getting a sense for when my opponents are going to make a mistake. Whether by reading their facial expressions or seeing their ability to manage their time, you can get a sense of how comfortable your opponent is. In this next game, after reading my opponent during the opening, I just slowly piled on threats and won quickly. Sometimes just playing natural moves is enough to create problems.

20170407_142619.jpg
Ready to play! Moments before my 7th round encounter with the IM! Photo Credit: Laszlo Nagy

Across my next three games, I scored another two wins and secured an ugly draw against an FM to reach 5/6 before the second leg of my match-up with the International Master. While I typically would be a bit nervous with Black against a higher rated foe, I was confident in my chances to get a result thanks to our first game.  In what turned out to be my biggest surprise of the tournament, I outplayed my IM opponent for most of the game before my clock forced me to regroup and equalize. Even though I was losing at one point, I think this is one of my proudest moments so far this trip.

Of course energy started to become a factor with just three games left. Even though I won my next game with relative ease, I struggled to draw a lower rated opponent in the ninth round, effectively knocking me out of any serious first place contention. While that was a little deflating, it set up for a fun, no pressure, final round match-up with an FM. While my opening play was a little sloppy, my endgame technique helped me find the way to victory and finish with a splendid 8/10 and 2nd place finish.

While I had never competed in a round-robin format before, I have to admit I had a lot of fun with it, and would highly recommend this kind of format for players looking to improve. If only we had more tournaments like this back in the US…

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 09.14.14.png
2238: the highest performance rating I’ve had so far this trip!

Where does this put me going into Reykjavik? With roughly a 60 FIDE rating point gain soon to come from this tournament, I will have jumped just shy of 200 rating points since landing in Europe just two months ago. More importantly, my USCF rating finally jumped back over 2100 with this tournament still pending, thus marking the end of a long stretch of sub par results. My only hope is I can keep this up in Iceland and make a serious push for National Master once I return stateside.

With only a few days before the big finale of my trip, I’m presently enjoying some time in Paris before I take off for Iceland. While nothing is certain yet, it would seem that I will be paired on one of the top 20 boards in the first round, so there’s a chance you all can watch my first game on chess24! I was hoping I could bring up my rating high enough to play Anish Giri in the first round, but regardless of who I play, I am looking forward to taking on the world’s best in one of the strongest tournaments on earth!

IMG_0874