11 Crazy Things that happened to me in Europe this Summer: On and Off the Board

Having been inspired by the one and only Kostya Kavutskiy and his Best of US Chess of 2016 article,  I spent 2 months traveling through Europe this summer as a chess vagabond.

I’ve been so grateful to use chess as a vehicle for seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things.

Here are some of highlights of my summer trip that will hopefully inspire other readers to try the nomadic chess lifestyle:

I got obliterated by Shirov

Growing up, I had idolized Shirov. I’ve had a copy of Fire on the Board for as long as I can remember. When I got the opportunity to play him in a small rapid tournament in Latvia, I was eager to put up a tough fight.

Unfortunately, I did the complete opposite of putting up a tough fight. I totally collapsed in the opening. It was ugly. My position was resignable on move 11. To make things even more embarrassing, the whole catastrophe was caught on video:

I got crushed by Sveshnikov

Later in the same tournament, I got to play Evgeny Sveshnikov. I played d4 to avoid his Sveshnikov variation, but he beat me anyway.

I saw a flying polar bear

IMG_9804Prague, Czech Republic

My Czech friend Katerina Nemcova has always told me that Prague is a magical city. I didn’t realize it was this magical.

My two queens were not enough for Nabaty’s two rooks and bishop

Rosen-Nabaty after 65...Rf8+

As I stared at this position with less than 1 minute ticking down on my clock, I realized my doom. It’s not everyday you reach a position where your king and two queens are all under attack. Kudos to GM Tamir Nabaty for finishing me off in spectacular fashion.

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Photo by Pavel Kirs

Here’s the full masterpiece:

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I let some fish snack on my feet

Prague, Czech Republic

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This so called “fish spa” is actually a popular thing in Prague.  These special breed of fish called Garra Rufa nibble away dead skin, leaving the feet feeling silky smooth. I paid about $35 for 20 minutes of nibbling. My feet were super smooth for the following several weeks!

I snacked on some fish

Teplice, Czech Republic

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When I ordered the trout, I was not expecting the entire trout (eyes, teeth, and bones included) to be sitting on my plate. I reluctantly consumed the meal, but I don’t think I’ll be ordering trout again anytime soon.

I executed a queen sacrifice leading to double checkmate.

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The heading should offer enough of a hint…Black to move!

Here’s the full game:

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I defeated a WGM in 9 moves

I had the honor of playing WGM Jana Bellin who has won multiple British Women’s Championships and currently serves as the medical officer for FIDE. Unfortunately for her, she did have the best game and actually apologized afterwards for losing so quickly.
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I flew through the mountains of Benasque, Spain

With a drone that is.

I defeated Magnus Carlsen’s former coach, Simen Agdestein.

The full game is well analyzed by FM Chris Chase in The Boston Globe.

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The day after defeating Agdestein, I discovered the following music video on YouTube…

 

I’m so glad I didn’t watch this video before I played Agdestein. It’s a difficult thing to unsee.

I witnessed someone become a GM

That someone is Andrey Kvon. He defeated GM Ivan Sokolov (with the Blumenfeld Gambit!) in the last round of the Xtracon Open in Helsingør, Denmark to secure his final GM norm. His rating going into the event? 2500 exactly. Here’s what becoming a grandmaster looks like: 

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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).

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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 🙂

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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…

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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.

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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!