National Open Tournament Report (2024)

A few weeks ago, I played in the National Open Chess Tournament in Las Vegas. Because of the ratings cutoff, I just barely made it into the U1500 bracket with a 1260ish USCF classical rating, and would be one of the lowest seeds in my section. I was a bit concerned about this, but ended up embracing the challenge heading into the tournament.


I prepared much like most of the tournaments I play – very sporadically and not organized at all. I had played the Washington Open two weeks prior to this tournament and scored 3.5/5.0, withdrawing a round early due to some work concerns. In that tournament, I played U1400 and didn’t play particularly well in either the loss or the draw I had, though I had one very good attacking win with white in a d4 opening.

I considered switching my black opening against e4 but decided to play what I usually play, and against d4 mainlines I minimally prepared a gambit line after a coaching session with FM Nate Solon and would have gone into it for sure if I had gotten it, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Travel Partners

I traveled to Las Vegas with my friend Olin, and we got there 2 days early, staying in a casino hotel for the first night and an airBNB for the remainder of the trip that ended up being great.

We prepared meals for the trip and went to a local hydrotherapy place to get our cold plunge / infrared sauna contrast work in, and met up with the other Seattle chess players like Andra, Daniel, Nick, Allen, Shen, and many others.

Olin was playing in the U1250 section, so we wouldn’t collide, but we had a lot of overlap in U1500. With just 120 people in our section, playing each other seemed very possible, but we’d cross that bridge when we got there.


The tournament was 7 rounds long, with a 1/2/2/2 structure for the full 4-day section which Olin and I both played. Time control was G/90+30 with no second time control, which is fine if not a bit fast, as I prefer longer formats when possible (G/120; SD/30; +30 is ideal, but local tournaments have been going to G/90; SD/30-60; +30 which is also fine).

Given the fact that I was one of the lowest rated players in the section, my goal was to score 3.0/7.0 or better. By Elo, my expected score is just short of 2.0/7.0, so I felt my goal was fairly realistic. In the end, I just wanted to play chess to the level I know I am capable of playing.

Round One: Kaufman-Boddy (Jobava London, Critical Line)

I sat down for my first round opponent who was rated 120 points higher than me, and to my surprise, he opened with the Jobava London straight out of the gates with d4 Nc3 Bf4. I never face this variation in Seattle, and I rarely face the London as-is here. I decided to play the critical line with c5, and he didn’t know the c3 improvement from the Naroditsky-Bortnyk course, opting to trade queens early:

Black is slightly better here, but it is tricky to play, and I didn’t know any theory beyond here, as most of what I know involves the c3 line. I failed to play f5 early enough and ended up much worse for most of the middlegame, but equalized heading into the late middlegame.

With time winding down and moves being generally repeated, my opponent offered me a draw in a position like this:

I decided to calculate for awhile, not wanting to accept a draw with a passed pawn on e3 (and being up material), but I ended up not seeing much way to create chances given the kings’ positions, and with a 20 minute deficit on the clock, I took the draw. We analyzed a bit after the game and I felt that I had to be better here and he disagreed, insisting it was definitely equal. I went over some continuations in an attempt to press for a win and it was unclear; after getting back to the house and analyzing, almost all continuations to press end up with me in a losing position or even a lost one. (The position above evaluates to 0.0 with SF 16.1 @ 70MB, if you are wondering. All engine evals in this post will be with that engine, typically at Depth 50.)


Round Two: Boddy-Beyer (Jobava London, c5 + e6?!)

Feeling inspired from the first round, I decide to play the Jobava London myself and end up with this strange opening position that I hadn’t seen before but knew it couldn’t be that good:

I end up playing ed5 which is definitely not the most testing continuation, but end up with an equal-ish but unorthodox position for 15 moves. On move 17 Mitchell plays Be7? which is an understandable but strange move:

I reroute the knight through h3 heading for d5, he takes on b3 (more or less forced), and he makes an unfortunate blunder forgetting his knight is targeted by the bishop after vacating the c4 square:

He played this move, got up, and I thought for about 2 minutes to see if I was missing something and took the piece, got up to go to the bathroom, and came back to him displeased. I expected him to resign but he played on well into the endgame until I simplified the position (even winning an exchange along the way) before resigning.


Round Three: Willoughby-Boddy (Jobava London by transposition)

My opponent was a local and a very nice guy about my age. He opened with the Accelerated London with 2. Bf4 and I played the mainline with 3. … c5. He surprised me by playing 4. Nc3! which I’ve never seen from a mainline London player who wasn’t facing a g6 variation.

I screwed up my line here forgetting that c5 and a6 are playable, because that combination along with a queen move for black is a serious mistake which I’ve punished before. I went for the Bf5 symmetrical line after taking on d4 and ended up in trouble before extracting myself from the situation and getting into a pawn-up endgame with both rooks on the board. Unfortunately I don’t find the right continuation in this position, opting to double rooks on the b file, which allows him to take an outpost and fairly easily equalize from here:

I blundered a key pawn after trading a pair of rooks and thought I might be losing, but ended up finding safety and getting to a drawn endgame to end the day.


Round Four: Boddy-Turner (Pirc Defense)

My first round of day three of the tournament is against a slightly older gentleman, and we end up in an insane line of the Pirc Defense:

I don’t find the most accurate way to continue from here and end up equal / slightly worse, but get an enormous attack against his king shortly after:

(This position is +3.1 for white.)

Unfortunately, my attack fizzles out as he defends exceptionally well and I am burning tons of time trying to find mate threats, figuring there simply must be some way to convert this with one or two tactical shots (later engine analysis would confirm there wasn’t).

We get into an equal endgame with a rook and bishop each, and I have my only mental lapse of the tournament, playing far too fast in a boring position and straight blundering a piece to a discovered pawn check with 20 minutes on my clock, which is unacceptable. I play on for 15 more moves but he correctly boxes my king into the corner and with mate-in-three on the board, I resign.

An extremely frustrating game and the only one I played where I fell asleep at the wheel, something I rarely do in slow games.


Round Five: Ellis-Boddy

I play my first U18 player of the day, Parker Ellis, a 1400 from Utah. We get this crazy position where I burn a solid 20 minutes figuring out if I can take his bishop and what happens afterwards:

Ultimately I decide not to take and I end up castling long. It feels like I am getting squashed and killed for the entire game, but there’s no clear continuation for him though he’s playing quite fast and leaning on my clock.

With a huge deficit in time due to his play speed and the complications of the position being tough to calculate, I end up miscalculating a maneuver and going down in material in the late middlegame, which he converts into a win down the stretch.

A wild game, but ultimately not one I’m angry about, because I didn’t outright blunder anything, I just got outcalculated by someone who played much faster than me.

For bonus points, figure out what happens after Qb5 Na3 in the above position! I won’t spoil the evaluation for you.


Round Six: Boddy-Murphy, Jobaba London (Queen Sac Line)

My first round of the last day is against Stanley Murphy, an elderly gentleman who was very nice. His friend came up to him and told him: “Remember, no blunders this round!”

I decide to play the Jobava London since apparently that’s the theme of the tournament, and he blunders with 3. … Nc6. Making things worse, while he finds the best continuation after Nb5 (…e5), he doesn’t seem to know what happens when white plays Be5, Ne5, and de5. Black seemingly has to move the knight, and should go to d7 if they do, but the unintuitive move …a6 is actually best. He plays neither of these moves and plays what appears to be the reasonable Ne4? but allows me to finish the game in style – calculate it to enjoy:

He resigned quickly after the combination landed.

Andra couldn’t believe I had beaten my opponent in seven minutes, coming over to see WTF just happened.


Round Seven: Seela-Boddy (Caro-Kann, Tartakower)

I play my first youth opponent of the day, who is also somehow from the Seattle area and rated 1402 though I’ve never seen him. Turns out he mostly plays the scholastic events but is playing main USCF events, so I figure I’ll be seeing him around. He plays the tough Ne2 variation of the Tartakower defense in the Caro-Kann, I don’t get f4 in correctly (putting a piece there first), and he lifts his rook in this position, making me calculate what his idea might be:

I play f6, and he plays an excellent combination to continue on, making me realize that I must be worse in the position (and I am at +1 – see if you can spot what to do after f6, which he played instantly).

I fight hard to equalize and get there, but pieces are coming off the board and he realizes that the king and pawn endgame with the structure as shown is going to favor black, and he is able to effectively blockade and threaten perpetual checks in the queen endgame. We end up drawing the game for that reason, and my tournament ends with a pretty clean but tough game:

I end with 3.5/7.0 and I’m pretty happy about the tournament with the one round being quite annoying, but not enough to spoil the trip.

Conclusion and Future Study Habits

I’ve made the following observations that I’ll need to clean up heading into the Washington State Class Championships if I want to meaningfully progress:

  • Need to play more online chess – unlike most, I really dislike playing online Rapid for any number of ADHD-related reasons, but I need to get over it. I ended up buying a cheap Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop that I’ll be using for chess only with nothing else on it. Too many games came down to not understand how to play middle games, something that studying/tactics/drills won’t solve.
  • My time spent focusing on thematic tactics was well-spent, and I’ll keep that up.
  • Studying the depth of the openings I do play continues to be a general waste of time for me, and I should go wider, which I’ve begun to do more of.

Mostly I just need to do the first point since I don’t get enough slow chess reps under my belt at the Seattle Chess Club, despite playing 20ish league games per year in classical time controls (Friday nights).

All in all, a fun tournament and one I’ll definitely repeat next year at the minimum!

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