Touring the American West + Vegas revisited

3/1/2013 –  Recently GM Timur Gareev of Uzbekistan went on an extended tour, mostly on motorbike, that took him to Mexico City, San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, the Hawaiian Islands and Las Vegas, where he won the North American Open with an undefeated 8.0/9 score. To our recent report on this event we now add some tour pictures and a nicely annotated game from Vegas.

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Touring the American West, Vegas revisited

By GM Timur Gareev

I recently concluded travels lasting over a month and a half, during which I was fortunate enough to experience Mexico City, San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, the Hawaiian Islands and of course Las Vegas, I where I played at the North American Open, which I won with a 8.0/9 score. ChessBase had a big report by Beau Mueller on the event, to which I want to add an annotated game (which you will find at the end of this report).

But before we get to that I would like to share some pictures I took on my motorbike
tour through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

The "City of Rocks" in the desert

The mountains around San Diego

The Gila Cave Dwellings

Me in my travel gear at the Gila Forrest Lookout

Las Vegas and the North American Open

Every year Las Vegas plays host every year to one of America's biggest class opens, the North American Open (NAO). Chess enthusiasts of all strengths from all over the world flock to the entertainment metropole for these tournaments, with hopes of winning relatively big prizes ($80,000 in the 2012 NAO) and experiencing all that the city has to offer.

Las Vegas, founded in 1905, is located in an arid basin on the desert floor of Nevada and is surrounded by dry mountains. The city's tolerance for gambling and various forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, and made it world famous. The gambling and entertainment industry is mostly focused in the "Las Vegas Strip", which is where the largest and most notable casinos and buildings are to be found. These aerial photos, which were featured in Beau Muellers report, were shot by Ingrid Friedel during a flight last November in a single-engine Cessna piloted by Unix-inventor Ken Thompson.

This year's North American Open, held at Bally's Casino Resort from December 26th-December 30th, drew a whopping 633 players competing in seven sections.

The venue: Bally’s Casino billboard with Caesar’s Palace visible in the background

The open section featured 16 GMs, and I won it with an undefeated 8.0/9 score, a point ahead of the field. This brought me the title of North American Open Champion along with a prize of nearly $10,000. Here are tht top scorers of the NAO:

# Name Rtng
1 GM Timur Gareev 2660
2 FM John Daniel Bryant 2416
3 GM Chao Li 2670
4 GM Sam Shankland 2595
5 GM Alejandro Ramirez 2554
6 IM Zhanibek Amanov 2359
7 GM Sergey Erenburg 2637
8 GM Gior Kacheishvili 2602
9 GM Joshua Edward Friedel 2494
10 GM Dmitry Gurevich 2485
11 GM Arthur Chibukhchian 2448
12 FM Yian Liou 2352

One of the key games that brought my final success was in the seventh round:

[Event "North American Open"] [Site "Las Vegas"] [Date "2012.12.29"] [Round "7.2"] [White "Gareev, Timur"] [Black "Shabalov, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D77"] [WhiteElo "2660"] [BlackElo "2578"] [Annotator "Timur Gareev"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2012.12.??"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceDate "2011.05.31"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d5 {Shabalov deviates from his King's Indian repertoir.} 6. O-O dxc4 7. Na3 c3 8. bxc3 c5 9. Ne5 $5 {This is a standard Fianchetto Gruenfeld position, and I took over 15 minutes to play this move. It is becoming obvious that it is easy for White to get in trouble.} Nd5 $5 {is a move I did not expect.} (9... Nbd7 10. Nd3 {making the fianchetto bishop more active and potentially exploring greater possibilities for the knight on d3.}) (9... Nfd7 10. Ng4 {was my initial consideration. It certainly looks like fun.} (10. Nac4 {is a more logical continuation.}) 10... Nb6 11. Nh6+ Kh8 12. dxc5 Qxd1 13. Rxd1 Na4 14. Nb5 {This is a fairly off-balanced position I kept in mind.}) (9... Nc6 $1 {is the best alternative to the text. Black gets good compensation.} 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bxc6 Bh3 12. Re1 Rc8 13. Bf3 Qa5) 10. Bb2 Nc6 11. Nac4 Be6 {This position has been played a number of times on a high level. It's time for White to apply caution and explore drawing possibilities.} 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Ne5 {Allows Black to develop powerful counterplay. White's chances are strategically restricted.} (13. Rc1 Rb8 14. Ba3 cxd4 15. cxd4 Nb4 16. Qd2 c5 {with balanced game}) 13... Bxe5 $1 14. dxe5 Rb8 15. Qc2 Qa5 16. c4 Nb4 {I was surprised to see this move. The knight is becoming active on the queenside, and Black's pressure intensifies. White's biggest problem is the restricted bishops.} 17. Qc3 Qa4 {Both attacking the a2 pawn and creating a possibility of playing knight to c2 and d4.} 18. Qb3 Qa6 19. Rfc1 Rfd8 {Here I felt like my position was close to losing, although computers suggests equality.} 20. Ba3 $2 {My evaluation suggested drastic measures. I allowed Black to get my queen in return for better defensive coordination.} (20. Qe3 {was the normal continuation I underestimated.} Nxa2 21. Rc2 Qa4 22. Be4 Bxc4 23. e6 {with enough counterplay to hold balance.}) 20... Nd3 21. exd3 Rxb3 22. axb3 Qb6 23. Rc3 $17 Rd7 {Black is preparing to put maximum pressure on d3 and break through. In many cases I get sufficient drawing play.} 24. Bc1 Bf5 25. Bf1 Kg7 26. Be3 Qb4 27. Bd2 h6 28. h4 {There is no reason to allow Black to expand on the kingside.} Qb8 29. Ra5 {I prefered to go for counterplay rather than defend.} Qxe5 30. b4 Qb8 31. b5 $1 {Not letting the black queen in.} Qd8 32. Rb3 cxb5 (32... Rb7 $17 {is best}) 33. Raxb5 {Here I was quite happy with my position. The pieces were finally well alligned working together.} Bxd3 $2 {Shabalov had been playing rapidly throughout the game, but the last few moves took a lot of thought. We now both had less than ten minutes on the clock (+30 sec increment per move). Shabalov went off-balance and committed a blunder.} (33... e5 34. Bc3 Qe7 35. f4 $5 g5 $5 {with complications favorable to Black.}) 34. Ba5 $1 {For the first time in the game White seizes a tangible advantage.} Qa8 (34... Bxf1 35. Bxd8 Bxc4 36. Ba5 Rd1+ 37. Kg2 Bd5+ 38. f3 Bxb3 39. Rxb3 $16) 35. Bxd3 {An interesting decision not to exchange a pair of rooks. White can put more pieces to work and create harmonious play with a lot of success.} a6 36. Rb6 Qf3 37. Bf1 Qe4 $6 {Inaccurate play caused by frustration.} 38. Re3 Qf5 39. Rxa6 g5 40. Bc3+ ( 40. hxg5 hxg5 41. Rc6) 40... f6 41. h5 {It seemed logical to keep the king in a potential checkmating web.} Kf7 42. Be2 (42. Bg2 Rd1+ 43. Be1 {bringing the bishop to d5 and going after Black's king was winning.}) 42... g4 43. Rae6 Qxe6 {leaves black no chances.} (43... Rb7 44. Bd3 Qxh5 45. Be4 {was one of the winning maneouvers I considered.}) 44. Rxe6 Kxe6 45. Bxg4+ f5 46. Be2 Rd6 47. Kg2 Rb6 48. Bf3 Kf7 49. Bd2 {Black is not capable of defending all of the weaknesses: the c5 pawn is falling and the game is over.} 1-0

Before coming to Vegas I spent two weeks in Hawaii and had an amazing travel adventure, an exciting chess camp, and the remarkable experience of playing a 27-games blindfold simul. This was reported by Keahi Renaud in a big ChessBase pictorial. For me it was a big adventure and will be the focus of the article on my planned journey to the “64 Blindfold Chess World Record”. This will appear here in the next few days.


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