- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Northern Virginia master Andrew Samuelson is the new state champion, taking the traditional Labor Day Virginia Closed tournment in Richmond with a 5-1 score. Master Daniel Miller, winner of the past three state titles and four of the past six, was held to a draw in the sixth and final round against expert Larry Larkins, keeping him out of the winner’s circle.

Kudos to Samuelson, but the story of the tournament may have been the play of two junior female Class A players, Abby Marshall and Ettie Nikolova, who also finished in the tie for second at 4-. Marshall defeated three masters —Miller, Steve Greanias and Macon Shibut, another former state champ — while losing only to Samuelson.

Nikolova also got a big ratings boost, starting out 3- and losing only to Miller. Larkins won the prize for top expert, and Marshall edged out Nikolova on tiebreaks for the Class A prize.

Another junior shone in the Under-1800 section, with Class B player Carson Wang taking the Virginia Amateur section by a full point in a 5- score. Class winners in the section included Oliver Goodridge, Top C player; David Burstein, Top D player; and Robert Brik, Top Under-1200.

We’ll have more details and a game or two in the coming weeks.

Summer is the season of national championships across Europe, and at least a half-dozen countries staged national title tourneys last month.

As in the United States, many of the Continent’s new national champions are emigres from the old Soviet Union. Moscow-born GM Vladislav Tkachiev, for example, is the new French champion, defeating homegrown talent GM Laurent Fressinet in a two-game rapid playoff last month.

Tkachiev defeated another top rival, 16-year-old GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, with one of the summer’s more unexpected knight hops.

In what evolves into a kind of King’s Indian Defense, Black winds up regretting his decision not to trade queens with 14…Qxb3, when 15. Nxb3 (axb3 Ng4! is uncomfortable) Nfd7 16. Rac1 Nc6 is playable. Black’s pieces start to get in each other’s way after 16. Na4 Ng4?! (h6, keeping the bishop out, was more prudent) 17. Bg5 Bf6 18. Bxf6 Ndxf6 19. Qb6 Rd7 (Qxb6 20. Nxb6 Rb8 21. Nf3 Nd7 22. Rd6 is very pleasant for White).

White’s queen does a cute little sidestep and sets a clever trap on 20. c5 Rb8 21. Qa7! — clearing the way for the knight to come in on b6. If now, 21…b5, White has 22. cxb6 Qe5 23. Nc6 Qh5 24. h4! Rxa7 25. bxa7 Ra8 26. Ne7+ Kf8 27. Bxa8 Kxe7 28. Bc6, with a strong bind.

Black’s 21…e5 banks on a knight retreat that would hand Black the initiative in lines such as 22. Nb3? e4 23. h3? e3! 24. hxg4 exf2+ 25.Kxf2 (Rxf2 Rxd1+) Nxg4+ 26. Kf3 (Kg1 Qxg3) f5. But Tkachiev’s knight instead plunges ahead with devastating effect: 22. Nc6! bxc6 (Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Bd7 24. Qxb8+ Qxb8 25. Nxb8 Bxa4 26. Rd8+ Kg7 27. Bxb7 is winning, too) 23. Rxd7, and Black’s proud defensive line along the second rank is shredded.

Vachier-Lagrave resigned, facing variations like 23…Qxd7 (Qxa7 24. Rxa7) 24. Qxb8 Qe8 25. Nb6 Be6 26. Qxe8+ Nxe8 27. Bxc6, winning.

Youth and energy defeated age and guile as a team of “rising stars” paced by Norwegian wunderkind GM Magnus Carlsen handily defeated a complement of aging European stars at the NH Hotels Chess Tournament last month in Amsterdam. The six youngsters won by a combined score of 28-22.

The event’s most entertaining game may have been the encounter between the semiretired English vet GM John Nunn, 51, and rising Chinese talent Wang Hao, 17. Nunn gave a good account of himself in the complicated early going but could not hold off his young rival in the end.

With the foolhardiness of the callow, Wang as Black opens up this Winawer French with 10. Bb5 f6?! before either side has safely castled. Black’s pawn sacrifice nets him a very useful half-open g-file, and a fierce battle ensues for the initiative.

Wang gets major points for creativity on 16. a5 e5 17. a6 Nc3!!? (Bh3 18. axb7+ Kb8 19. g3 Bxf1 20. Qxf1 h5 21. c4 Nde7 22. Qe1 is only equal) 18. Bxc3 Bh3 19. axb7+ Kb8 (Kxb7?! 20. Qb1 Bxg2 21. Bxc6+ Kxc6 22. Ra6+ Kd7 23. Rd1+ Ke7 24. Rxd8 Qxd8 25. Rxa7+ Kf8 26. Ne1 is better for White), when Nunn gets into big trouble if he tries to save his queen with 20. Qe2? Bxg2 21. Ng5 Rxg5 22. f4 Bf3+ 23. fxg5 Bxe2 24. Bxe2 Qe7, and Black’s attacking array is too strong.

White holds his own in the resulting unbalanced position until 28. Ba6+?, when trading off the light-squared bishops looks like clearly the wiser course. By 32. gxf4 exf4 33. Rf1, White’s pieces are forced onto increasingly passive posts and Black’s energetic follow-up 34…h5! and 37…Ng4! exposes the weak spots in White’s defense.

The finale: 38. fxg4 Qxa6 39. Nf6 (Rd1 Qa4 40. Rd2 Bxe4 41. dxe4 hxg4) Qxd3 40. Be5+ Kc6!, and White gives up. Black threatens mate with 41…Qc2+ 42. Ke1 Bc4, and 41. Nxd5 (Re1 Qf3+ 42. Kg1 Qg2 mate) Kxd5 42. Re1 hxg4 43. Bd6 Qf3+ 44. Kg1 g3 45. hxg3 fxg3 46. Rf1 Qe3+ 47. Kg2 Qe2+ is hopeless for White.

81st French Championship, Besancon, France, August 2006

TkachievVachier-Lagrave

1. Nf3Nf613. Be3e6

2. c4c514. Qb3Qc7

3. g3g615. Rad1Nbd7

4. d4cxd416. Na4Ng4

5. Nxd4Bg717. Bg5Bf6

6. Bg20-018. Bxf6Ndxf6

7. Nc3Qc719. Qb6Rd7

8. b3d520. c5Rb8

9. 0-0dxc421. Qa7e5

10. Ncb5Qb622. Nc6bxc6

11. bxc4a623. Rxd7Black

12. Nc3Rd8resigns

NH Hotels Tournament, Amsterdam, August 2006

NunnWang

1. e4e621. Rfxd1Bg4

2. d4d522. Rd3Rd8

3. Nc3Bb423. Nd2Kxb7

4. e5c524. Ne4Rxd3

5. a3Bxc3+25. cxd3Bf3

6. bxc3Ne726. Bc4Qd7

7. a4Nbc627. Nd2Bd5

8. Nf3Qa528. Ba6+Kc7

9. Bd2Bd729. Ne4Qh3

10. Bb5f630. f3f5

11. c4Qc731. Nd2f4

12. exf6gxf632. gxf4exf4

13. cxd5Nxd533. Rf1Qf5

14. dxc50-0-034. Kg2h5

15. 0-0Rhg835. Rb1Ne5

16. a5e536. Ne4Qg6+

17. a6Nc337. Kf2Ng4+

18. Bxc3Bh338. fxg4Qxa6

19. axb7+Kb839. Nf6Qxd3

20. g3Rxd140. Be5+Kc6

White resigns

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

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