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SANDS: Juniors, seniors mix it up crazily at the board
Question of the Day
One more great thing about chess is that one can play the game irrationally at any age.
Today’s wild and woolly games come from the opposite ends of the chronological spectrum: a crazy back-and-forth affair from the recent Virginia State Senior Championship in Alexandria and an even more bizarre selection from the just-concluded U.S. Junior Championship in St. Louis, a game that featured seven passed pawns and six queens.
As we noted here last week, Arlington Chess Club stalwart William Marcelino took home the title as Virginia’s over-50 champion, but the prize for Best Trainwreck Masquerading as a Chess Game was shared by master Denis Strenzwilk (a good friend of this column) and Class A player James Guill in a contest that packed a year’s worth of drama into just the first 15 moves.
Truth be told, Guill as Black is pretty much busted seven moves into this Modern Defense, as 6. Bc4 Qc7?? 7. Bxf7+! (equally winning was 7. Qd5 e6 8. Qxa8 Qxc4 9. Qxb8 Qxe4+ 10. Be3) Kxf7 8. Qd5+ e6 9. Qxa8. White need only extract his queen to secure a winning material edge.
But things take a surprising turn after 9…Nf6 10. Nf3?! (Qa4 Bb7 11. Nd2 would seem the safer route) Na6 11. Be3 Ng4! (an extremely annoying move; White may have banked on 11…Bb7? 12. Qa7 Ra8 13. Qxb6 and all is well) 12. 0-0 (Bd4 Bxd4 13. Nxd4 Qf4! hitting f2 and c1 14. Nd2 Qxf2+ 15. Kd1 Ne3+ 16. Kc1 Nc5 and things are getting very hairy for White) Bb7 13. Qa7 Nxe3 14. fxe3 (not good enough if 14. Ng5+ Kf6 15. Nxh7+ Rxh7 16. fxe3+ Ke7 17. Rf4 [g3 Rh8 18. Nd2 Ra8] g5 18. Rf3 Qxh2+ 19. Kf1 Bxe4 and Black is winning) Ra8, and the White queen is now well and truly lost.
The highly unbalanced position that results gives White two rooks, a knight and two pawns for the queen and two bishops, but Guill’s queen and bishop pair prove a potent trio. Strenzwilk tries to cover up while generating play on the open f-file, but after so much insanity, it is a rigorously logical string of e-pawn advances that undermines White’s game.
Thus: 26. Rd2 e5! 27. Rdf2 e4! 28. Ne1 e3 29. Rf4 e2!, and White resigns in the face of 30. R1f2 (Rxg4 exf1=Q mate) Bxg2+ 31. Nxg2 Qxg2+ 32. Kxg2 e1=Q and wins.
San Francisco master Gregory Young surprised even himself with an easy triumph in the 2011 U.S. Junior Championship, which ended Saturday. The seventh-seeded Young won the 10-player invitational going away, with his 7 1/2-1 1/2 finish two full points ahead of Conrad Holt of Texas, Victor Chen of New Jersey and Alec Getz of New York. Congratulations to Young, who picks up the $3,000 first prize and a slot in next year’s U.S. Championship field.
Getz and Texas junior star Warren Harper engaged in the wackiest by a comfortable margin game of the event in Round 3, though the fireworks show in this Ruy Lopez Exchange (not usually thought of as a sharp opening line) doesn’t really get going until well into the middle game. White’s persistent queen-side pressure nets him the exchange after 23. a5 b5 24. d5 cxd5 (even more unpleasant is 24…Ra6 25. dxc6+ Kxc6 [Bxc6 26. Ne6 Bh8 27. Nc5+] 26. Rab1) 25. Bxa7, but Black scratches his way back to near equality on 32. Nc3?! (Nf6! keeps the pressure on in variations such as 32…Rf8 33. Ke3! Rxf6 34. a7 Rf8 35. a8=Q+) Kb6 33. Nd5+ Kc6 34. Ne7+ Kb6 35. e5 Nf5!, when Black holds on after 36. Nd5+ Kc6 37. Rxb5 Nxd4 (Kxb5?? 38. Nxc7+) 38. Rab5 Nb3.
The real fun begins right at time control with Getz’s 38. Rb2 c5 39. d5!!? (a7! b4 40. dxc5+ Kxc5 41. Ra5+ Kb6 42. Ra4 leaves White in charge) b4, when suddenly each side has a trio of passed pawns (soon to be four in Black’s case after the sacrificial 42. Rxf5!?) charging down the board.
With 42…gxf5 43. e7, White seems to be winning the race, but the complications are mind-boggling; after 43…c3 44. Kd3 Kb4 45. d6 c4+ 46. Kd4 c2 47. d7 b2, the remarkable tableau of today’s diagram is produced, with both players having connected passed pawns on the seventh rank.
After 48. Ra4+, the computer-assisted postmortem suggested that Harper’s valiant efforts should have been rewarded now with 48…Kb3! 49. e8=Q c1=Q, when Black thrives after both 50. d8=Q Rxd8+ 51. Qxd8 Qd2+, and after 50. Qxa8 b1=Q 51. d8=Q Qd3+ 52. Ke5 (in these multiple-queen positions, the player who gets in the first check typically gets in the first checkmate as well) Qe1+ 53. Kf6 Qxh4+ 54. Ke6 Qhxd8 55. Qxd8 Qxd8 56. a7 Qe8+ 57. Kf6 Qxa4 and wins.
Instead, Black’s 48…Kxa4? allows White to queen a critical pawn with check, and that makes all the difference: 49. e8=Q Rd8 50. a7! c1=Q 51. a8=Q+ Rxa8 52. d8=Q+ (the check that dooms Black’s hopes) Kb3 53. Qb5+, and there’s no refuge for the poor Black monarch. The two warriors battle to the bitter end with 53…Kc2 54. Qxc4+ Kd1 55. Qf1+ Kc2 (Kd2 56. Qg5+ f4 57. Qgg2 mate takes just a move longer) 56. Qd3 mate.
One of those battles that does honor to both combatants.
American GM Hikaru Nakamura, himself a former U.S. junior champ, could not repeat his stunning performance in winning the Tata Steel Tournament earlier this year, finishing in a tie for third at the King’s Tournament in Medias, Romania. Norwegian superstar GM Magnus Carlsen finished first on tiebreaks just ahead of Sergey Karjakin of Russia in the Category 21 event.
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c3 c5 4. dxc5 b6 5. cxb6 axb6 6. Bc4 Qc7 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Qd5+ e6 9. Qxa8 Nf6 10. Nf3 Na6 11. Be3 Ng4 12. O-O Bb7 13. Qa7 Nxe3 14. fxe3 Ra8 15. Qxa8 Bxa8 16. Nbd2 Kg8 17. Nd4 Nc5 18. b3 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Bxe4 20. c4 Qc5 21. Rad1 Qg5 22. Nf3 Qxe3+ 23. Kh1 Bc6 24. Rfe1 Qf4 25. Rf1 Qg4 26. Rd2 e5 27. Rdf2 e4 28. Ne1 e3 29. Rf4 e2 0-1.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. c3 a6 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nxe5 Qg5 7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Bg4 10. Ne5 Be6 11. Be3 Bg7 12. Nd3 b6 13. Nd2 a5 14. f3 O-O-O 15. Nf4 Bd7 16. Kf2 Ne7 17. h4 f6 18. a4 Kb7 19. Rhb1 Ra8 20. Nc4 Ra7 21. b4 axb4 22. Rxb4 Rha8 23. a5 b5 24. d5 cxd5 25. Bxa7 dxc4 26. Bc5 Nc8 27. Nd5 f5 28. a6+ Kc6 29. Bd4 Bxd4+ 30. cxd4 fxe4 31. fxe4 Nd6 32. Nc3 Kb6 33. Nd5+ Kc6 34. Ne7+ Kb6 35. e5 Nf5 36. Nxf5 Bxf5 37. Ke3 c6 38. Rb2 c5 39. d5 b4 40. Rf2 Kb5 41. e6 b3 42. Rxf5 gxf5 43. e7 c3 44. Kd3 Kb4 45. d6 c4+ 46. Kd4 c2 47. d7 b2 48. Ra4+ Kxa4 49. e8=Q Rd8 50. a7 c1=Q 51. a8=Q+ Rxa8 52. d8=Q+ Kb3 53. Qb5+ Kc2 54. Qxc4+ Kd1 55. Qf1+ Kc2 56. Qd3 mate 1-0.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author
Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.
At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...
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