For some reason, the dog days of summer are among the busiest on the international chess calendar. Take a week off, and the news can really pile up:
m Congratulations to Brooklyn WGM Irina Krush, the 2007 U.S. women’s champion. The Ukrainian-born Krush came through with a final-round victory over WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, while chief rival WGM Katerina Rohonyan could only draw against expert Alisa Melekhina in the 10-woman round robin in Stillwater, Okla., last month.
New York WFM Elizabeth Vicary finished next to last with a 2½-6½ result but earned some consolation when her victory over WGM Camilla Baginskaite was voted the best-played game of the event.
In a balanced middlegame coming out of a Bogo-Indian, both sides reload with 10. d5 Nb8 11. Ne1 a5 12. Nd3 Na6, but White’s overhasty attempt to cash in on her space advantage leads to grief on 21. c5? (Qa4 c5 22. Qa5 Rfb8 23. b5 Nc7 keeps White at least equal) Rxb4! (very alert — for the exchange sacrifice, Black busts up White’s queen-side and gets lasting pressure) 22. Nxb4 Qxc5+ (better than 22…Nxb4 23. Nb3!) 23. Kh1 Nxb4 24. Qb3 Rb8 25. Qc4 Qd6 26. Qe2 c5.
Black has restored material equality, and her pieces pressure White on both flanks. Baginskaite can’t handle the defensive strain, and a mistake hands Black the win: 29. Bf1? Nxe4! 30. Qe3 (a sad necessity, as 30. Qxe4? Bc6 pins the queen) Bc6, and suddenly White’s king is under heavy fire.
Vicary finishes with a flourish: 32. Nd2 f4! 33. gxf4 exf4 34. Qe1 (Qxf4 Rf8 35. Qe3 Nf2+) Ng3+! 35. hxg3 (no better is 35. Kg1 Ne2+ 36. Kh1 Bxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Qg6+ 38. Kf1 Qg1+ 39. Kxe2 Re8+ 40. Kf3 Rxe1) Qh3+!, and White resigns because of the unavoidable 36. Kg1 Qxg2 mate.
m The 108th U.S. Open is entering the home stretch in Cherry Hill, N.J., just outside Philadelphia. Among those in the hunt this year are reigning U.S. champ Alexander Shabalov and former champ Hikaru Nakamura.
Play in the nine-round event concludes tomorrow, and we’ll have a full rundown of the action in the coming weeks.
m Once one of America’s most promising young talents, California IM Vinay Bhat last month notched his third grandmaster norm at a strong open tournament in Spain. Bhat in 1995 became the country’s youngest international master ever at age 10, but college and work responsibilities have slowed his rise to the next level.
Bhat still must raise his FIDE rating to win the coveted title, but that should just be a matter of time. When he does qualify, Bhat will be the second U.S.-born grandmaster crowned in less than a year, following close on the heels of Santa Fe GM-designate Jesse Kraai.
Addressing an age-old debate in chess, Bhat demonstrated a basic difference between tactics and strategy in his win in Balaguer over Spanish FM Jose Ramon Perez: Bad tactics get you into trouble a whole lot faster than bad strategy.
In a classic isolated queen’s pawn position coming out of a Nimzo-Indian, Black’s 18. Bg3 Bd6 19. Nf4 e5? (see diagram; good for equality was 19…Qb8 20. Nfe2 Bxe3 Nxg3 Qf4) is positionally impeccable, as Black’s game is very pleasant after 20. dxe5 Nxe5 21. Qd4 Nxc4 22. Qxc4 Rc8.
But things are not so rosy after 20. Bxf7+! (exploiting the classic f7 weakness) Kxf7 (Kh8 21. Ng6+ Kh7 22. Nf8+ Kh8 23. Qh7+! Nxh7 24. Ng6 is a nice smothered mate, while White also wins on 20…Kf8 21. dxe5 Nxe5 22. Ba2! Bc7 [Nxd3 23. Ng6 mate] 23. Qf5 Qc8 24. Ne6+ Rxe6 25. Bxe6 Qb8 26. Bxe5 Bxe5 27. Rd7 Bc7 28. Qg6 Nxd7 29. Qf7 mate) 21. Qc4+, and Black has no defense.
The finale: 21…Nd5 (Ke7 22. Qe6+ Kf8 23. Ng6 mate) 22. Qxd5+ Kf6 23. Ne4+, and Black quits ahead of 23…Kf5 24. Qf7+! Kxe4 (Qf6 25. Nxd6+ Kg5 26. Qh5 mate) 25. Qg6 mate.