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Missouri Invitational Championship

The 2011 edition of the Missouri Invitational Championship was a bit smaller than last year (14 this year as opposed to 17 participants in 2010) but what it lacked for in numbers, it made up for in strength, as NMs Ron Luther, Bob Holliman, and Richard Benjamin as well as super-experts Mark Ferber and Spencer Finegold meant there would be no easy games. I decided to play at the last possible moment, after my long travels and moving into a new apartment almost dissuaded me from going for the $500 first prize. But, as Tatev Abrahamyan has told me on several occasions, “$500!!”

I played Nick Karlow in round 1. I got an edge out of the opening, then played a bit wishy-washy and things were unclear. But Nick made a couple of errors in the middlegame with 21..Nf7? (missing 22.Bc3!) and 22…f5 (Nick said he missed my idea of Qd4 making a battery, for some reason…) and I was able to successfully attack black’s exposed king. I could have won even quicker (or is it quickr?) with 31.c6! idea is Bb4 attacking e7 and f8).

Round 2 was by far the toughest for me, black against Mallela, as I squandered a nice opening edge (I played the Gruenfeld as black!) with the terrible tandem of moves, 14..Nxd4? and 15..Nc6? I have not played the Gruenfeld in more than 20 years in a rated game, but Ray Robson looked at it in India, and Ray won by playing it for the first time, so I thought it was time to give it a whirl. White should have played 24.Ra4 when he has little to fear, but as it went I was able to advance my passed queenside pawns and cause my opponent all kinds of headaches. The game was the last to finish of the round, as Spencer was able to beat Ron Luther in another long game, right next to mine!

Round 3 was easy, as Richard Benjamin played the unorthodox 1.d4 c5 2.d5 f5!?! (paging Mike Kummer!). Unbeknownst to Richard, I had just seen and analyzed this with Yasser Seirawan in China at the World Team Champs after “Yaz” beat 2750 rated Shakriyar Mamedyarov in this line (Yasser was white). “Shak” played 5..h6, so when Richard let me play 6.g5, I jumped at the chance. Black was worse right away, and was not able to deal with the constant pressure.

I “played” Spencer in round 4, if you can call 1.e4 c6! draw agreed playing. I thought I pretty much equalized and did not see the point of playing any further.

The last round was a Finegoldesque squeeze as my opponent, Mark Ferber, chose a dubious variation that I used to play. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5 is something I oft played from 1987-1997, but, it seems like white has more than one way to get an edge. I quickly got a simple position was two bishops and a better king. Maybe Leko would draw easily with black, but Ferber played a bit too passively, and I was able to infiltrate decisively with my rook.

Spencer and Richard Benjamin tried for hours to score 4-1 and clear second, but the longest game of the event ended in a draw, and both players split 2nd-3rd and $188 payday. An excellent tournament for Spencer, who broke 2100 for the first time.

Tatev was right… $500 feels good!