- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The powerhouse University of Maryland-Baltimore County squad did not capture the recent collegiate team chess championship, but GM Sergey Erenburg, UMBC’s second board, bounced back with a fine second-place result in the strong Berkeley International, which concluded Jan. 8.

The UMBC grad student finished 7 1/2-2 1/2, alone in second just a half-point behind veteran Dutch GM Loek Van Wely. Erenburg clinched second place in a tense last-round battle with Uzbek-born GM Timur Gareev, now a star with UMBC rival University of Texas at Brownsville.

The Ruy Lopez Exchange line often leads to long positional struggles in which Black’s bishop pair does battle against White’s superior pawn structure. Here White methodically targets both bishops for trades, and then, with 34. Bxd6!? cxd6 35. Ra3 makes a fateful decision to head into a rook-and-pawn ending where he has the tiniest of initiatives.

Gareev accepts the challenge with 35…Ra8!? (the more active 35…Rf4 36. Rxa6 Rxe4 37. Rxb6 Re2+ 38. Kf3 Rxc2 39. a4 Rc3+ appears to hold the balance for Black) 36. Kf3 Ke5 37. Ke3 a5!? 38. bxa5 Ra6 39. c3 b5, but with 40. Kd3 c5 41. c4 b4 42 Ra4!, White allows his rook to be frozen temporarily to preserve the critical a-pawn.

As White prepares his queen-side advance, Black plunders the king-side, and there probably was a lot of nervous move-counting on both sides as the passed pawns tear off down the board. On 50. Kb7 Rh8, it’s clear Black’s rook must be sacrificed for the pawn, but he still has two outside passed pawns that White must stop.

Holt-Milman after 26...exf5.
Holt-Milman after 26…exf5. more >

Unfortunately for Black, his king must decide whether to support the pawns or head for the center. The dilemma proves fatal on 54. Rxa8 Kf3 55. Kc6 Kxe4 (Kg2 loses to 56. Rg8 h2 57. Rxg5+ Kf1 58. Rh5 Kg2 59. Rxh2+ Kxh2 60. Kxd6; while 55…g4 56. Rh8 Kg2 57. Kxd6 g3 58. e5 h2 56. e6 h1=Q 60. Rxh1 Kxh1 61. e7 g2 62. e8=Q g1=Q 63. Qh8+ Kg2 64. Qg8+ Kf2 65. Qxg1+ Kxg1 66. Kxc5 also falls just short) 56. Kxd6 Kd4 57. Rg8!, and the White rook arrives just in time.

After 61. Ke4 h1=Q+ 62. Rxh1, Black resigns as 62…c4 63. Rg1 c3 64. Rg2+ Kd1 65. Kd3 Kc1 66. Rxg5 c2 67. Rc5 is an easy win.

The Berkeley event featured an unusually high number of players achieving class norms, including a third and final GM norm for IM Sam Shankland. Kansas junior star Conrad Holt earned the international master title, helped by a powerful demolition of IM Lev Milman.

The game features a fierce early battle for central control, but Black’s aggressive 9. Nxd4 Nd7 10. Bf4 Qh4?! backfires badly, as the advanced queen becomes a target for the White minor pieces.

With 14. Kb1 Nb6, Milman enjoys some good queen-side pressure, but his king-side is alarmingly devoid of defenders. White will soon exploit their absence.

On 17. Nf3 Qf5 (Nxc4 18. Ng5 Qh6 19. Nxf7 Qh3 20. Ng5 Qh6 21. h4, and White has a comfortable initiative) 18. Bd3 Qh5 (more lost tempi) 18. Ng5 h6 20. h4!, 20…hxg5?? would allow 21. hxg5 Qg4 22. Bh7+ Kh8 23. Bg8+ Kxg8 24. Qh7 mate, though worth a look here was 20…f5 23. exf6 Rxf6 22. Nh7 Rf5!?, offering up the exchange to slow White’s attack.

Instead, White’s minor pieces infiltrate after 20…Bd7 21. Bh7+ Kh8 22. Bg8! g6 (of course not 22…Kxg8?? 23. Qh7 mate, while White also comes out on top after 22…f5 23. exf6 g6 24. g4! Qxg4 25. Qxg6 Qf5+ 26. Qxf5 exf5 27. Be6 Bxe6 28. Nxe6 Rf7 [Rxf6 29. Be5] 29. cxd5) 23. Nxf7+ Kg7.

Holt’s knight and bishop have gone far afield and can’t retreat, but they prove their worth in the final assault: 24. g4! (Bxh6+? Kxg8 25. Bxf8 Ba4! 26. Qd2 Bxf8 27. Ng5 Nxc4 28. Qe1 Bxd1, and Black is winning) Qxg4 25. Rdg1 Qf5 26. Qxf5 exf5 (see diagram; even the queen trade can’t save Black’s game) 27. Rxg6+!! Kxg6 28. h5+ Kg7 29. Rg1 mate. The coordination of White’s attackers is a thing of beauty: The rook guards the bishop, the bishop guards the knight, and the knight covers the escape hatch on h8, leaving the Black king with nowhere to go.

Berkeley International Open, Berkeley, Calif., January 2011

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