Our interview series continues with Siddharth Arun, one of the most recognizable young faces on the Massachusetts chess scene. Sid, as friends know him, has played in nearly 400 USCF-rated tournaments since his 2005 debut, mostly in Massachusetts, and achieved the USCF Master title in late Summer 2013. As he graduates high school and prepares to fly South for the autumn, I decided it was time for the definitive Chess Horizons interview with Mr. Arun.
Nathan Smolensky: When did you first learn to play chess? Who taught you?
Siddharth Arun: I started learning chess when I was around five years old, with my brother teaching me basic moves and strategy. I played in my first tournament when I was around 6 years old, and was completely pummeled. I don't think I even won a game. I took a hiatus shortly after and then returned yet again under my brother's tutelage. However, my motivation to play chess back in the day was to defeat my brother in a classic sibling rivalry.
NS: What do you like most about chess?
SA: I love every bit of chess, especially the strategy and the complexity that comes with the plethora of variations every move. Perhaps my favorite aspect of chess lies in its global unification. Chess is a universal language, a game that can be played by people of any age, any race, any economic background. Chess is a unifier of many different peoples. During a recent trip to India, I visited a rural village in hopes of teaching chess to the children at the school. The language barrier was an obvious obstacle, as I could not speak the local language. To my surprise, they had already learned the game, and thus we managed to communicate through the language of the chess pieces. Chess is a game that challenges borders, and brings people together, despite how different we may all be. Because at the chess board, we are equals, challenging each other to a battle of wits.
NS: Do you often teach chess?
SA: In my town, I have been teaching chess at the library for the past four years. Every Monday, I teach around 20-30 children basic strategies of chess, and then direct a tournament in which the children can practice their skills. Some of these students have participated in scholastic regional tournaments around the area and have emerged as first place winners. This club is the first of its kind in my town, which had no previous chess scene, and hopefully it will continue once I head off to college. Apart from my town, I also teach chess every Sunday at the Westwood Chinese School, and teach my peers at the high school chess club, which tied for first at the Hurvitz Cup in April 2015.
NS: You’re graduating high school. What’s next?
SA: I will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the Fall and will be majoring in Biomedical Engineering. As far as summer plans, I will most likely be spending time with my friends before we head off on our separate ways, and I will also be interning at a psychiatry laboratory in Boston for a month.
NS: Do you plan to continue playing chess? If so, do you have any particular goals in mind? SA: I will definitely be continuing, as there are quite a few chess players at Hopkins. Hopefully, we will be able to participate at USATE and compete for top college team. Additionally, as I have recently dipped below 2200 due to unfortunate circumstances, my primary goal is to return above 2200 and work hard to reach 2300. NS: Do you have a favorite game that you’ve played so far? SA: I have a few, but I would say the most beautiful, and thus my favorite, game would have to be the one I played against NM Farzad Abdi at the Boylston Chess Club. It was a King's Gambit, an opening I normally play in blitz, but I thought I would have fun with it in a G/60. Based on what happened, and the sheer excitement and turmoil of the game, I decided never to play the King's Gambit in a classical rated game ever again – though I broke that promise this past May at the Mass Open. However, the unorthodox style displayed in this game provides a beauty and complexity that I could not even comprehend:
NM Siddharth Arun (2202)
NM Farzad Abdi (2260)
BCF $15 Open (3)
King’s Gambit, Accepted [C34]
This annotation was previously published on chess.com
1. e4 e5 2. f4
I had been studying the King's Gambit for a while, playing it primarily in blitz and shorter time controls. This tournament, a G/60, was the perfect setting to play some sharp, crazy chess.
2... exf4 3. Nf3 Nf6
An interesting variation, one I was not too familiar with. More common is 3... g5 4. Nc3 Nc6 (4... g4 5. Ne5 Qh4+ 6. g3 fxg3 7. Qxg4 g2+ 8. Qxh4 gxh1=Q 9. Qh5 is a cute little combination in which White is now completely winning, due to several mate threats) 5. d4 d6 6. g3 g4 7. Nh4 f3 8. Be3 Bg7 9. Qd2 A transposition to the Quaade Variation, providing opportunities for both sides.
4. Nc3 d5 5. e5 Nh5 6. Be2 Bg4 7. d4
This move is played to prevent my opponent from playing d4 himself.
7... Nc6 8. a3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Qh4+ 10. Ke2?
10. g3! is a much stronger reply: 10... fxg3 11. hxg3 Qxg3+ 12. Kf1 g6 13. Nb5 Kd8 14. Bxd5 results in some unclear play, with chances for both sides. Although White does appear completely lost, it's not too easy for Black to find a continuation.
10... O-O-O 11. Nxd5 f6 12. e6 Rd6?
Allowing White to equalize. Better was Rxd5: 12... Rxd5 13. Bxd5 f3+ (13... Nxd4+ 14. Kd3 is Similar to the other variation) 14. Bxf3 Nxd4+ 15. Kd3 Be7. This is tougher for White to play as his King is in the center.
When I played this over the board, I assessed that White should be winning. Black has no clear path to break open in the center and expose the King. Now plans for White include playing c4 and then c5, pressuring the f4 pawn, and playing Re1 and pushing e7.
13... g6 14. Re1
14. Qe1 is a better move as it takes the queen off the file of attack.
14... Ng7 15. e7 Bxe7 16. Nxe7+ Nxe7 17. Rxe7 Nf5
17... Ne6 18. c3 f5 19. Bxb7+! Kb8 20. Bf3 and now black is on the ropes. 17... Rxd4+ succumbs to 18. Kxd4 Rd8+ 19. Bd5 Nf5+ 20. Kc3 Nxe7 21. Be6+ Kb8 22. Qxd8+ Nc8 23. Qxc8#.
The only way to save the position
18... Rxd4+ 19. Kc3 Qxh2 20. Re8+
20. Re4 Rxe4 21. Qxe4 Nd6 22. Qe6+ Kb8 23. Qxf6 and White should be winning.
20... Rd8 21. Qe6+ Kb8 22. Rxh8 Rxh8 23. Qxf6 Re8 24. Bd2 a6 25. Qg5 Nh4 26. Qd5 Nxf3 27. Qxf3 g5 28. Re1 Rd8 29. Re6 Qg1 30. Re2 Qb6 31. Qe4 h5 32. b3
Here I had less than five minutes. I ended up winning this game as I was able to maneuver my bishop to c3 and attack his pawns on the kingside with my queen and rook. Overall this was an extremely unique and enjoyable game - not every day the king is in the center of attack - but also one that taught me that I should save the King's Gambit for blitz :).