- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

Estonian-born GM Jaan Ehlvest won a speed playoff to claim bragging rights as six players tied for first at last week’s highly successful Atlantic Open downtown.

A week after the U.S. Open in Los Angeles, an impressive turnout of some 380 players competed in the Continental Chess Association event, annually the strongest on Washington’s summer calendar. Sixty-four players competed in the top section.

Ehlvest and fellow GMs Gennadi Zaitshik, Ildar Ibragimov and Alexander Stripunsky went 4-1, along with masters Norman Rogers (who drew Ehlvest in Round 1) and Marc Esserman to pace the Open section. Ibragimov set the early pace with three straight wins, only to fall to Zaitshik in Round 4. At 31/2-1/2 going into the final round, Polish GM Pawel Blehm had a chance to win the event outright but fell to Ehlvest in one of the tournament’s most exciting encounters.

Expert Roland Yakobashvili may have been the weekend’s big winner, taking the Under-2200 competition outright with a 41/2-1/2 score. Parker Zhao and Michael A. Damey tied for first in the 57-player Under-2000 competition, both at 41/2-1/2, while William J. Barrow and Htay Kyawe had the same score and the same result at the top of the Under-1800 section.

Lamont Rogers and unrated Samir Elbehiry matched perfect 5-0 scores in sharing first in the Under-1600 section, the weekend’s biggest competition with 75 entries. In the Under-1400 section, Eugen Roemischer had the Atlantic’s only other perfect result, edging Oliver Paredes and Michael Benz by a half-point.

The 41-player Under-1200 competition saw a three-way tie for first, with Daniel Huffman, Chris Bechis and Jefferson Apolonio finishing at 41/2-1/2. A big tip of the hat as always to tournament director Mike Atkins, who passed along the tournament cross-tables as well as a selection of games from the event.

Blehm deserves an enormous amount of credit for refusing to play it safe in the final round against Ehlvest. The players showed their aggressive intentions early on by going into one of the sharpest and most topical Sicilian Defense lines, with Ehlvest as Black grabbing the two bishops even as his king comes under tremendous sacrificial fire.

After 18. Rhe1 Nd3+ 19. Qxd3+ Qxf4+ 20. Nd2 Bc5, White may already have been looking longingly at the sacrifice on e6; but 21. Nxe6!? fxe6 22. Rxe6+ Kf7 23. Rde1 Rh8 24. Bf1 Rh2 does not appear to offer enough compensation, as the Black pieces cover the key invasion squares.

But two moves later, Blehm can’t resist, and the battle is joined: 21. N4b3 Bb6 22. g5 Nd7 (see diagram) 23. Bxe6!? fxe6 24. Rxe6+ Kd8 25. Rxb6!. White is willing to play a full rook down to remove a critical defender, and Ehlvest’s king must walk a tightrope.

After 25…Nxb6 26. Qh7 Rxg5! (cold-blooded — this rook played a key role in the counterattack) 27. Na5 (Black gets the better game on 27. Qxb7 Qc7 28. Qxc7+ Kxc7 29. Nc5 Rg2) Nd7 28. Nxb7+ Kc8, White appears to miss the best continuation: 29. Qe7! Kxb7 (else 30. Nc5, with a powerful attack) 30. Qxd7+ Qc7 31. Qa4, when White at least has a draw in lines such as 31…Qd6 32. Ne4! Qf4+ 33. Kb1 dxe4 34. Qxb4+ Kc7 (Rb5?? 35. Qe7+ Kb6 36. Rd6+ Ka5 37. Qc7+ Ka4 38. Rd4+ Rb4 39. b3+ Ka3 40. Qa5+ Ra4 41. Rxa4 mate) 35. Qe7+ Kc6 36. Qd7+.

Instead, White loses a vital tempo on 29. Re1? Rg2! 30. Rd1 (or 30. Qd3 Kxb7 31. Qxd5+ Kc7 32. Qa5+ Kd6 33. Rd1 Rg5 34. Qa4 Nc5, trapping the queen) Qc7!, trapping the knight and leaving White a rook down. Blehm gave up.

An analyst can feel the pain of Massachusetts expert Kimani Stancil in today’s second game, as Black comes down with an acute case of the zugzwangs after misplaying the opening against North Virginia master Macon Shibut. There are no tactical haymakers as in Blehm-Ehlvest, just slow asphyxiation for Black.

The opening jumps from a French to a King’s Indian Reversed to some kind of Benoni in the space of the first five moves, but Stancil’s troubles appear to come from an ill-fated decision to mix systems with 4…g6?! 5. d4!, with White exploiting the holes at d6 and f6 for the remainder of the game.

With 9. Nd6+ Kf8 10. Bg2 h5 (Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxc3+ 12. Bd2 Qc5 13. 0-0 Nf6 [Qxd6? 14. Bh6+] 14. Be3 Qh5 15. Qxh5 Nxh5 16. f4 and White dominates despite the pawn deficit) 11. 0-0 h4 12. Be3 Nf6 13. Nc4 Qh5 14. Qxh5!, White trades off Black’s one active piece. On 14…Rxh5 15. Bf3, Black might have considered just pitching the exchange with 15…b5 16. Nb6 Rb8 17. Bxh5 Nxh5 18. Rfd1 Ke7 to spare himself the agonies ahead.

White could win the exchange three moves later but rightly prefers to retain his positional bind with 18. Bd6 Kh7 19. e5! Nd5 20. Bxd5 exd5 21. f4 Bf8 22. Ncxd5! Bxd6 23. exd6. The Black bishop on c8 will never move, and the Black rook beside it is similarly entombed. Material is equal, but Black is functionally two pieces down.

The White rooks load up on the e-file, and by 29. g5 Nf7 30. Nf6 Kf8 33. Rde3, Black hardly has any legal moves left, let along any good ones. Stancil packs it in, as White has all the time in the world to weave a mating net with lines like 33…a5 34. a4 Kg7 35. Re8 Rxe8 36. Rxe8 Nh6 37. Re7+ Nf7 38. Nc4 b6 39. Ne5 Bb7 40. Rxf7+ Kh8 41. Nxg6 mate.

• • •

News flash: Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov has failed to sign a contract to play a semifinal world title match against former champion Garry Kasparov, throwing the effort to reunify the title into disarray. FIDE, the international chess federation, says it will stage a tournament to find a replacement for Ponomariov and is also picking up the sponsorship for the other semifinal match involving Russian Vladimir Kramnik, holder of the rival world title belt, and Hungary’s Peter Leko.

34th Atlantic Open, Washington D.C., August 2003

BlehmEhlvest

1. e4c516. Bxg5Rg8

2. Nf3e617. Bf4Qc7

3. d4cxd418. Rhe1Nd3+

4. Nxd4Nf619. Qxd3Qxf4+

5. Nc3d620. Nd2Bc5

6. Be3a621. N4b3Bb6

7. f3b522. g5Nd7

8. g4Bb723. Bxe6fxe6

9. Qd2h624. Rxe6+Kd8

10. 0-0-0Nbd725. Rxb6Nxb6

11. h4b426. Qh7Rxg5

12. Nb1d527. Na5Nd7

13. Bh3g528. Nxb7+Kc8

14. hxg5hxg529. Re1Rg2

15. e5Nxe530. Rd1Qc7

White resigns

34th Atlantic Open, Washington, August 2003

ShibutStancil

1. e4e618. Bd6Kh7

2. Nf3c519. e5Nd5

3. d3Nc620. Bxd5exd5

4. g3g621. f4Bf8

5. d4cxd422. Ncxd5Bxd6

6. Nxd4Qa5+23. exd6Nd4

7. Nc3Bg724. Rad1Nf5

8. Ndb5a625. g4Nh6

9. Nd6+Kf826. h3Kg7

10. Bg2h527. Rfe1Rd8

11. 0-0h428. Rd3f5

12. Be3Nf629. g5Nf7

13. Nc4Qh530. Nf6Kf8

14. Qxh5Rxh531. c4Kg7

15. Bf3Rh832. c5Kf8

16. Nb6Rb833. Rde3Black

17. Bc5+Kg8resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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