SANDS: Enkhbat, Chiang soar in Continental tourney

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The Continental Class Championships, which wrapped up last week in Arlington, featured a couple of players punching well above their weight.

Baltimore IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat, seeded 13th in the 51-player Master section, finished in a tie for first with GMs Alejandro Ramirez of Texas and Sergey Kudrin of Connecticut with an undefeated score of 6 1/2-2 1/2. The stellar field included six grandmasters, eight IMs and six FIDE masters.

Also impressing in the top section was 14-year-old Texas Class A player Sarah Chiang, whose 50 percent score included wins over a master and two experts. Paired up in every round, Chiang picked up a boatload of rating points and soon could qualify for master.

Enkhbat, who told Chess Life Online’s Jamaal Abdul-Alim after the event that he was “lucky” in some of his games, made his own luck in dealing Kudrin his only loss in Arlington. Kudrin is one of the most experienced players on the U.S. Swiss circuit, but he is simply outclassed in this Grunfeld Fianchetto.

A pair of inscrutable decisions by the grandmaster weaken his defenses and enable Enkhbat to take firm control of the play: 18. Na4 f5?! (Black may be trying to give his bishop on e6 a retreat square so he can advance his blocked e-pawn, but this move creates more problems than it solves) 19. Nc4 Ra7 20. Nc5 Bf7 21. Rbc1 Rd8 (e5? 22. Nd6) 22. Qe1 Qa8?, sticking his most powerful piece in the corner to help guard the lowly a-pawn.

Enkhbat-Kudrin after 35...Qg8.

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Enkhbat-Kudrin after 35…Qg8. more >

With a pair of well-placed bishops ready to dominate when the position opens up, White breaks on top with 25. Nxe6 Bxe6 26. e4! fxe4 (playing into White’s hands, but even worse were lines like 26. … Nb6 27. Qe3 Rxd1+ 28. Rxd1 Nd7 29. exf5 Bxf5 30. Rxd7! Bxd7 31. e6 Be8 32. Qe5 and mate next) 27. Bxe4 Rd7 28. Rd3, hungrily eyeing the unguarded Black king side.

Kudrin tries to hustle his major pieces back to the scene of the fight, but the reinforcements arrive too late: 30. h4! b6 31. Rc1 Rc8 32. Qd2 Rdd8 33. h5 gxh5 (running up the white flag, but no better was 33. … Qf7 34. hxg6 hxg6 35. Qh6 Bf5 36. g4! Bxe4 37. e6 Qh7 38. Qxh7+ Kxh7 39. Rh3+ Kg8 40. Rh8 mate) 34. Qg5+ Kh8 35. Qh6 Qg8 (see diagram; White’s next two moves exploit the fact that opening the long diagonal is instantly fatal for Black) 36. Bf5! Nc7 (Bxf5 37. e6+ Nf6 38. Bxf6+ exf6 39. Qxf6+ Qg7 40. Rxd8+ Rxd8 41. Qxd8+ Qg8 42. e7 and wins) Nc7 37. Rd6!!.

The cheeky rook attacks the bishop and again can’t be captured because of 37. … exd6 38. exd6+ Qg7 39. Qxg7 mate. Black’s defense collapses, and the finish is not long in coming: 37. … Qg7 38. Qxg7+ Kxg7 39. Bxe6 Nxe6 (exd6 40. exd6+ Kf8 41. Bxc8 Rxd6 42. Be5 Rd8 43. Bxc7 Rxc8 44. Bxb6 is winning) 40. Rxe6 Rd2 41. Rxe7+! Kf8 42. Rxh7 Kg8 43. Bc3, and Black, a piece down with no compensation, resigned.

Chiang’s highest-rated victim was Pennsylvania master Erik Santarius in a game in which the young Texan obtains a winning advantage, nearly throws away the victory and then nails down a hard-won point.

Black’s “Snake” Benoni (e … Bd6!?) is designed to get Black’s problem bishop to a useful diagonal on the queen side before proceeding with the classic Benoni center with pawns on c5 and d6. But Black still seems to have his troubles with this bishop, which shuttles twice from c7 to a5 with little apparent effect. As her opponent marks time, Chiang strikes with 22. Rae1 Ba5?! (what this bishop is doing aside from losing its owner several tempi is hard to determine) 23. Nc4 Bc7 (and back again) 24. e5! dxe5 25. Ne4! Qd8 26. Nxc5, and White has a clear initiative.

It already was damage-limitation time for Black, though moves like 26. … b6 lead to problems after 27. Ne4 b5 28. Ncd6 Rf8 29. Nb7 Qc8 30. d6! Qxb7 31. Nc5 Qc6 32. dxc7 Nf6 33. Rxe5. Santarius only digs the hole deeper with 26. … e4? 27. d6! exf3 (Bb8 28. Nxd7 Qxd7 29. Rxe4 Rxe4 30. fxe4 Ba7 31. Bxa7 Rxa7 32. Ne5 Qd8 33. Nxf7 wins easily) 28. dxc7 fxg2+ 29. Kxg2 Bc6+ 30. Kg1 Qxc7 - Black has two pawns for the piece and has ripped away the White king’s pawn cover, but it’s not nearly enough compensation.

Still, winning a won game against an opponent with a 300-plus-point ratings edge is never easy, as this game bears out: 31. Qd6! Qc8 (Nf4!? was intriguing, with the idea of 32. Qxc7?? Nh3 mate, though White seems able to defend with 32. h4!) 32. Rxe8+ Bxe8 33. Ne5 Qf5 34. Bg3 Qg5 35. Nxf7?! (seeking a crushing win, White throws one away; better was 35. Kg2 Rd8 36. Ned7 b6 37. Nf6+! Nxf6 38. Qxd8 bxc5 39. Rxf6 Qxf6 40. Qxe8+ Kh7 41. Qe2 and White should win) Bxf7 36. Rxf7 Rd8 37. Rd7.

With time control looming, both players miss a saving resource now for Black: 37. … Qc1+ 38. Kg2 Rf8! 39. h4 (mate was threatened on f1 and 39. Qd5 + doesn’t change matters) Qf1+ 40. Kh2 Rf2+! 41. Bxf2 Qxf2+ 42. Kh3 Qf3+ 43. Kh2 Qf2+, with a perpetual, as 44. Kh1?? Ng3+ wins White’s queen.

Instead, the game’s 37. … Re8 38. Qd5+ Qxd5 39. Rxd5 Nf6 40. Re5 leaves White with a won game.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

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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