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US Championship 2007 - Michael Aigner blog

Michael Aigner, better known as fpawn on ICC

Posted by Michael Aigner at Monday, May 21, 2007

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have sent me notes of encouragement over the past 24 hours.  My heart warms at the emails, ICC messages and even phone calls that I’ve received from my friends, students and their parents, Grandmasters (even some players in the Championship) and ordinary class players.  While I wish some of you could be present here in Stillwater, I am comforted by the fact that I have plenty of company in spirit.

What can I say?  After the disappointing round 6 defeat at the hands of Thomas Braunlich, the lowest rated player in the tournament, I am in dead last place and a full point behind the next two competitors.  What’s more, I have already faced everyone in that next point group.  I can now safely say that I’m in last place in the country! 

While it certainly hurts, I do realize that this is the toughest tournament that I’ve played in.  What hurts the most is that I have gotten good, even winning, positions in most of my games so far and yet have been unable to convert any of them.  I am especially upset that I have nothing to show for my meticulous opening preparation in rounds 3 (Langer) and 6 (Braunlich), despite having clear advantages before move 20 in both games.  Finally, it deeply saddens me to see how badly my endgame technique—usually one of my strengths—has failed me in those same two games. 

I will bounce back.  I will continue to fight hard to try to win a game or two in the final three rounds of the Championship.  I am particularly encouraged by the fact that I’m getting the positions that I want.  I feel like a caged lion, ready to pounce when opportunity presents itself.  My pairing today is against Oklahoma native FM Movses Movsisyan with the black pieces. 

The fpawn faces Oklahoma star Movses Movsisyan in round 7 today
The fpawn faces Oklahoma star Movses Movsisyan in round 7 today.

Now on to the bigger picture: the 2007 US Championship.  After I extolled praise upon GM Alexander Shabalov yesterday, he was promptly annihilated from the black side of the sharp Botvinnik system (semi-Slav) by defending national champion GM Alexander Onischuk.  As many people have said: to become champ, you must defeat the defending champion.  Although Shabalov still is in first place and plays with the white pieces today, his stranglehold on the field has weakened greatly.  Today’s key pairings are Shabalov-Ehlvest and Nakamura-Onischuk.  I forecast fireworks on both boards.

The young and the old: US Senior Champion FM Joe Bradford and 12 year old FM Ray Robson
The young and the old: US Senior Champion FM Joe Bradford and 12 year old FM Ray Robson.

In yesterday’s column, I began to follow certain players who have performed well so far.  Most notable is the stellar play of IM Irina Krush, who is on track for a Grandmaster norm with a score of 3.5 and a performance rating of nearly 2600 FIDE.  Needing 2.0 out of the final three games, Krush faces veteran GM Boris Gulko, the oldest player in this year’s event, with the white pieces today.  FM Michael Langer lost yesterday to GM Alexander Ivanov, but his IM norm chances remain strong as long as he can score 1.5 or 2.0 in the remaining rounds.  The two youngsters IM-elect Robert Hess and FM Ray Robson both won yesterday and remain mathematically in contention for norms, assuming they can finish the Championship on a roll. 

FM Ray Robson is working on an IM norm at the ping pong table
FM Ray Robson is working on an IM norm at the ping pong table.

The daily best game prizes have been announced.  The winner of each of the following games receives $100 donated by Stillwater National Bank.  Four times the prize has gone to the winner of the game on top board.  The public can vote on their favorite game at the conclusion of every round at the MonRoi website (free registration required).  Other brilliancy prizes will be announced at the Closing Ceremony, including over $1500 in prizes donated by chess journalist Mig Greengard of ChessNinja fame.

So what does a chess player do when he is stranded at a tournament in a small city in the Midwest without a car and little to do within walking distance?  This is almost a real life version of the TV show Survivor.  Naturally, the chess players hang out together.  GM Alexander Shabalov and GM Jaan Ehlvest returned topless and sweaty after a workout at the tennis courts, presumably a prelude to the heavy hitting on the chess board in a few hours.  IM David Pruess, IM Irina Krush and FM Ray Robson preferred to hang out at the ping pong table.  Despite his apparent youth, 12 year old Robson has no trouble hitting blazing winners past opponents twice his age.  Another favorite activity of chess players is the late night ice cream run, hosted yesterday by MonRoi.

As usual, you can watch five games each day live on ICC (click on the links in the Events list under the Window menu in BlitzIn or in the Activities window in Dasher).  The remaining games are available on MonRoi’s World Databank.  ICC members can listen to live commentary by IM John Watson and IM Alan Stein live from Stillwater on  ChessFM.  And since I ate free ice cream last night, I should remind everyone to check out the many awesome color photos on the MonRoi website.  Enjoy!

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