- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

With a new sponsor and yet one more new format, the 2007 U.S. national chess championship got under way this week in the Oklahoma city of Stillwater.

When San Diego-based America’s Foundation for Chess dropped out earlier this year as the tournament’s backer, Southwest organizer Frank Berry stepped in to host the event. Gone is the split-field idea, where the winners of the two flights met in a final minimatch.

Instead, it’s a straight 36-player Swiss event, with reigning champ GM Alex Onischuk and former champ GM Hikaru Nakamura topping a very strong field. Among the missing, unfortunately, is popular New York GM Joel Benjamin, another former U.S. titleholder who is out of the national championship field for the first time in more than two decades.

Wednesday’s opening round saw no major upsets. Nakamura took care of a little unfinished business by defeating IM Joshua Friedel, who upset Nakamura in the first round of the 2006 event.

Florida junior FM Ray Robson qualified for his first national championship this year, but he got a rude welcome to the big leagues against veteran GM Sergey Kudrin in Round 1. Give the 12-year-old Robson full credit for not backing down, essaying one of the sharpest Scheveningen Sicilian lines in his debut game. He will learn from the lesson Kudrin proceeded to deliver.

The piece offering 12. fxg5 b4!? 13. Nd5!? is almost obligatory in these kinds of positions, as the open e-file has long proved to be worth a knight. Robson semi-declines the sacrifice, as White has good play on 13…exd5 14. gxf6 (another option is 14. exd5 Nxd5 15. g6 Nf6 [fxg6 16. Qd3 Ne7 17. Ne6] 16. gxf7+ Kxf7 17. Qg4, with pressure) dxe4 15. Qg4, but Kudrin finds another way into the Black backfield.

Thus: 13…Nxd5 14. exd5 e5 15. g6! Qc5! (Robson doesn’t panic; both 15…exd5 16. Rxf7 Qc8 17. Qe2+ and 15…fxg6 16. Ne6 Qb6+ 17. Kh2 Be7 18. Qg4 Rg8 19. Qxg6+ Kd7 20. Rf7 are much worse for Black) 16. Be3, setting multiple threats.

Covering up with 16…f6 17. Qe2 Qc8 18. Ne6 Nd7 may have been advisable, as Black’s 16…exd4?, opening the critical central file, is punished rudely on 17. Bxd4 Qb5 18. a4! (a nice deflection idea, as the Black queen dare not let the White bishop get to b6) Qa5 (bxa3 19. c4! Qxc4 20. gxf7+ Kd7 21. Qg4+ Kd8 22. Bb6+ Ke7 23. Qe6 mate) 19. Qe2+ Kd8 20. Rxf7, with the murderous threat of 21. Re1.

Kudrin finishes up with a nice combination, though Black’s position is already on life-support. The finale: 20…Nd7 (Bc8 21. Bf6+! gxf6 22. g7 Bxg7 23. Qe7 mate) 21. Qe3 b3 22. c3 Rc8 23. Re1 Kc7 (see diagram) 24. Bb6+! Qxb6 25. Rxd7+!, and the queen falls after 25. Kxd7 26. Qxb6. Black resigned.

More highlights from Stillwater next week.

n n n

Hometown hero GM Veselin Topalov is staging one of his trademark comebacks as the Category 19 MTel Masters tournament enters the home stretch in the Bulgarian’s home town of Sofia.

The former world champion lost two games early in the six-grandmaster, double-round-robin event, including a 30-move drubbing at the hands of tournament front-runner GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan in Round 3. But with midweek wins over Romania’s Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran, Topalov is back to 3-3 with four rounds to go.

England’s Michael Adams appeared to be channeling former world titleholder Anatoly Karpov with his anacondalike squeeze of Nisipeanu in Round 3. Like Kudrin, White offers an early piece sacrifice, but his compensation here isn’t a quick mate but a long-term clamp on Black’s game reminiscent of some of Karpov’s best efforts.

In a Tarrasch French, Nisipeanu first tempts fate with 11. Re1 Bd7?! (Qc7 is much more common here), and then invites it in the front door with 12. Bg5 Qc5? (0-0-0 isn’t good, but would hold out longer) 13. Bxe6! fxe6 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Nxe6 Bxe6 16. Rxe6+ Be7.

The speculative sacrifice produces a stripped-down position with few opportunities for tactical tricks. But Adams does get an enduring grip on the position, and Black slowly suffocates under the pressure.

White tightens the bind with 17. b4! Qc3 (Qxb4 18. Rb1 Qc5 19. Rxb7 is crushing) 18. Re3 Qc7 19. Qh5+ Kf8 (Kd8 20. Qf7 Qd6 21. Rxe7 Qxe7 22. Rd1+ wins) 20. Rae1. The bishop is effectively stapled to the e7-square for the rest of the game, as White wins on 20…Bd6 21. Re6 Be5 22. R1xe5! fxe5 23. Rf6+ Ke7 24. Rf7+.

Adams throws in a few classic Karpovian touches, including 24. c3!, 27. g3 and 32. c4!, all designed to advertise Black’s complete helplessness. Even a queen trade after 33. Qd5 would not lessen Black’s plight: 33…Qxd5 34. cxd5 Kf7 35. d6, and the pin is decisive.

In the final position after 38. Qf5 Kg7 39. Qh5, the Black rook on g6 can’t move because of 40. Qxe8+ and Nisipeanu has no answer to the simple plan of 40. Kg2 and the push of the White f-pawn. Black resigned.

Frank K. Berry U.S. Championships, Stillwater, Okla., May 2007

KudrinRobson

1. e4c514. exd5e5

2. Nf3d615. g6Qc5

3. d4cxd416. Be3exd4

4. Nxd4Nf617. Bxd4Qb5

5. Nc3e618. a4Qa5

6. g4h619. Qe2+Kd8

7. h3a620. Rxf7Nd7

8. Bg2Qc721. Qe3b3

9. f4b522. c3Rc8

10. 0-0Bb723. Re1Kc7

11. g5hxg524. Bb6+Qxb6

12. fxg5b425. Rxd7+Black

13. Nd5Nxd5resigns

MTel Masters, Sofia, Bulgaria, May 2007

AdamsNisipeanu

1. e4e621. Qh6+Kf7

2. d4d522. Qh5+Kf8

3. Nd2c523. Qh6+Kf7

4. exd5Qxd524. c3Rhg8

5. Ngf3cxd425. Qxh7+Rg7

6. Bc4Qd626. Qh5+Kf8

7. 0-0Nf627. g3Qd7

8. Nb3Nc628. Re6Rg5

9. Nbxd4Nxd429. Qh8+Kf7

10. Nxd4a630. Qh7+Rg7

11. Re1Bd731. Qh5+Rg6

12. Bg5Qc532. c4Kg7

13. Bxe6fxe633. Qd5Qc7

14. Bxf6gxf634. Qe4Kf7

15. Nxe6Bxe635. c5Qd7

16. Rxe6+Be736. Qf5Kg7

17. b4Qc337. Qe4Kf7

18. Re3Qc738. Qf5Kg7

19. Qh5+Kf839. Qh5Black

20. Rae1Re8resigns

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

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