Bay Area is a metropolitan region that surrounds San Francisco, and includes many „chess places“ like Berkeley, Concord and Fremont. I had the pleasure of visiting the latter at the beginning of August. The famous coach Ted Castro from the Norcal House of Chess invited me for my first chess camp on American soil. It took five days and was well attended, and ended with a simul on twenty boards. The club was very active this year, and before my participation two other GMs- Varuzhan Akobian and Ray Robson also did camps there. These events are extremely popular in USA, the kids use their summer time to get better in various activities. Chess is one of them, but a camp is not only the pure accademical work. The children are also having sports activities, and various competitions. In the Norcal House for example, they were collecting points for participating in the lectures, puzzle solving competitions, wins in training games. Disciplined students win additional points. Points are turned into „things“ and „things“ are transformed in various goods (Lego constructors, Barbie dolls, or mere candies) at the end of the day. This is the sweetest part when kids can taste the fruits of their efforts.

On 11 August Susan Polgar made a quick detour to East Palo Alto to visit Dyhemia Young. You probably have heard the story of the girl, but here it is in brief, as it comes to show one of the many positive sides of chess:
Dyhemia, who is fifteen years old, has spent the last three years in and out of foster care, received one of the wild card bids for the Annual Susan Polgar Girls Invitational in Lubbock, Texas. However, she later on disappeared and it was not sure if they will find her in time for the start of the event. It took almost a month and the help of the San Francisco‘s pollice detective to find her. Then the usual money problem occured, as she needed the funds to reach Lubbok. Still, with the help of many good people, including the famous movie star Will Smith the young girl made it to the event. And even though she did not win the it, she came back to Bay Area with a chess scholarship worth 40 000 $. From a poor orphan without a future Dyhemia got her chance thanks to our beautiful game.
Susan gave a „girly“ simul, against ten promising young ladies, and answered many questions on the formation of a champion, and gave many useful advises on what the young players need to do to become better.

After the wonderful time in Bay Area, I moved to the south, and took part in an open tournament in Central California, in a town called Fresno. It was a funny experience to me. I arrived one day later for the tournament to take the two day schedule instead of the usual three day. This meant that the first two games are played in a faster mode than the remaining games, so that the players can catch up with the three-day schedule. Then, in the third round the events are gathered together, and the tournament proceeds with the usual time control.
The five-round open event went smooth for me and I managed to tie for the first together with GM Nick De Firmian and IM Enrico Sevillano, scoring 4/5.
Here are the final standings
Altogether there were five sections, and plenty of young players. Some of them could not even reach the edges of the boards easily, but enjoyed greatly the game.
The journey proceeds to the south. More news would follow from L.A.


The Canadian open championship took place in Toronto in the middle of July (9-17). After reading briefly the history of the event, and discovering that my personal hero Bent Larsen won the event twice I started dreaming of adding my name to winner’s list. However, a shock was waiting for me at the start. My first game in Canada turned out to be a disaster. I lost as White against an opponent who was rated 500 points less than me! The happy Brad Willis took home the prize for a major upset, and was kind enough to say that this was one of his greatest achievements in chess.

On the second day (10 July) the blitz tournament took place. It was a double-game, six round-tournament, with thinking time of 3 minutes, and an additional 2 seconds per move. GM Viktor Mikhalevski from Israel started viciously with ten straight wins, and claimed the title with an 11/12 result. Second place was tied between GM Bator Sambuev, IM Nikolay Noritsyn, GM Vitali Golod and GM Luis Manuel Perez. Naturally, I ended up a half point behind the prizes, and my mood significantly “grew”.
Things got even worse when I could not win in round three. Minus fifteen rating points, and with only 1.5/3, the next six rounds stretched before me like a real torture. I tried to recall if I had ever had such an open tournament in the past 20 years, but could not. I was briefly even considering taking my plane back home. But then stayed for what the locals later called the “Swiss gambit”.

Towards the middle of the event it became apparent that none would claim the bonus for a perfect score. Laszlo Witt was the only player ever to claim this prize back in 1962. 9/9 was out of the question, but some of the players were still in the battle for the additional 750 $ which would be won if someone achieved 8.5 points.
There was also a huge stream of chess-related events. Each day there were at least two lectures, on various themes. Some of the lecturers promoted their books. GM Eugene Perelshteyn presented Chess Openings for White/Black Explained, and GM Joel Benjamin spoke about his-- American Grandmaster: Four Decades of Chess Adventures. I was also very active on the first days, with a lecture and a simul, as well as participation in a Chess 960 event.

More spicy events also took place. Such were the tandem simuls, and the blindfold simultaneous exhibition by GM Benjamin Finegold who won five and drew only one game in his remarkable performance.

It is difficult to mention all the events, but it was definitely a feast for the chess player, and a good sample of what should be done for chess to become more popular! I use this chance to congratulate the tournament organizers David Cohen and Ted Winick for their efforts!
Back to the tournament-- things started to get better for me after the third round when I finally got a good twelve-hour sleep (yes, twelve!) Wins were still coming reluctantly, but I had five more in a row. The last one, against the top-rated Canadian player Bator Sambuev.

Then with a short draw in the final round against Joel Benjamin I accomplished my “Swiss gambit”. I did not know this expression, but my new Canadian friends explained to me that this is when you lose (presumably on purpose) in the first rounds to face weaker opposition and speed up later and catch the leaders at the end. Still, I would rather prefer Swiss chocolate instead…

As for the co-winners, both Joel Benjamin and Walter Arencibia made great tournaments. Despite our short draw in the final round Joel probably made the most moves in his games of all the participants. He won good technical games, and produced a masterpiece against GM Golod.

Arencibia was also very steady, did not lose a single game, and showed rich games. He won some interesting tactical encounters, but I loved best this positional effort against Michal Meszaros.

The chief organizer David Cohen made an interesting observation-none of the winners stayed in the comfort of the hotel. All the three of us stayed with families, and had to travel each day for about an hour to the venue. “But those who want, will”- was his comment.

I believe though that the secret lies elsewhere. Mine were three actually. Michael, Evan and David-- the kids in the Kanter family that I stayed with. Michael taught me how to play baseball and took care of my physical shape. Evan was my greatest fan, and already "“reserved” me for the next year for their guest. Finally, coach David (who is seven years old) arrived in my room in the evening before the final round and sent me to bed as I had an important game in the morning, and a tournament to win…


Quebec Open

Quebec open took place in Montreal at the end of July 23-30 July.

In 1967, the Quebec chess federation was created in reason of the conflict between chess players from Quebec and from the rest of Canada. The language barrier was at the principal reason that pushed Quebecers to create their own federation.
In 1972, powered by the ‘’Fischer-Boom’’, the Quebec chess federation organized the first official Quebec Open, which attracted 744 players. It was a real shock since the previous tournaments in Quebec had barely attracted more than 50 players.
In 1982, two players from England were invited: GM Michael Stean and IM Nigel Short. The young IM was back then a big sensation, considered by many as a child prodigy who could one day aspire to the title of world champion.
In 1980, one of the strongest player to ever live in Canada arrived in a spy-movie way. His name was Igor Ivanov and he was part of a Russian chess team coming to Cuba for a chess tournament. He had earn his place on this trip by defeating the world champion Anatoly Karpov in a pretty convincing way. However, he ran away in Canada during a refuelling stop in Newfoundland, chased by KGB agents. He then made a big sensation by winning the Quebec Open, then the Canadian Open and Closed, the last two taking place at the same time! Running from one of his game to the other, he managed to win both tournaments ahead of very strong international masters. He later won all the Quebec Open in which he played (except in 1985).
Many chess legends participated in the Quebec Open, such as Boris Gulko in 1992, Ljubomir Ljubojević in 1984 (who back then had the third highest rating in the world) and Korchnoi in 2004. The tournament was composed of 6 sections- Invitational, Open, U2000, U1700, U1400, U1100.
The invitation section (consisted 30 players only, and the tournament is very similar to a round-robin event). IM Nikolaj Noritsyn made the tournament of his life to win the event outright 7/9. He made his first GM norm with a spare round, and did not lose a single game. Walter Arencibia of Cuba concluded his successful Canadian tourney to claim clear second with 6.5/9, thus becoming the unofficial winner of the improvised Canadian circuit. Best Quebec players were GMs Anton Kovalyov (better on tie-break) and Bator Sambuev. I lost a crucial game in the penultimate round against the winner, and ended sixth. Still, I had a reason to be proud with coach achievements. I had some brief sessions with two Canadian players who did very well in the open section. Twelve-years old Olivier Kenta Chiku-ratte finished second, while Felix Dumont sixth (and improved a good 100 points from the event). The only titled player in this section, IM Jean Hebert won the event outright with 8/9.