SANDS: Kamsky captures first Washington International chess tourney

The inaugural Washington International produced a worthy winner as former U.S. national champion Gata Kamsky triumphed over a strong field in the ambitious nine-round open event sponsored by the Maryland Chess Federation. Kamsky, a onetime candidate in the world championship cycle, was undefeated at 7-2 and won $5,000 for his efforts.

The International, held at the Rockville Hilton, was the capstone of the “Maryland Chess Summer” organized by state chess officials, including the U.S. Cadet Championship and the Platonov Memorial Tournament, an invitational featuring six senior grandmasters that included former U.S. national titleholders Lev Alburt and Gregory Kaidanov. With the annual Atlantic Open set to begin at the end of this month, the traditional year-end Eastern Open, and the Continental Chess Championships returning to Arlington for a third straight year, the D.C. area can boast a string of strong tournaments that rivals any market outside of New York.

Despite his top-seeded ranking, Kamsky entered the International’s final round in a three-way tie with fellow GMs Alex Onischuk and Timur Gareev. But Onischuk and Gareev were only able to draw their games, while Kamsky ground down GM Joel Benjamin in a complex 86-move minor-piece ending to emerge the winner. GM Alex Shabalov, whose hopes were hurt by a Round 6 loss to Gareev, defeated GM Mikheil Kekelidze of Georgia in the final round to grab a share of second at 6½-2½.

Kamsky’s was what you might call a very professional victory, drawing with some of his chief rivals while grinding out wins using his experience and technique against lesser rivals. The dynamic of the tournament shifted dramatically when he was able to scratch out a win against Gareev, exploiting the tiniest of positional advantages in their Round 5 encounter. The strategic shadowboxing after 26. Ba3 c5 27. cxd5 Rxd5 in this Sicilian produces a very marginal edge for White in his slightly better pawn structure and slightly better bishop.

With 29. Qf2 Rc8 30. Kh2 Qd8!? (passive defense with 30. … Be7 31. Rc4 Bf8 32. Bb2 Be7 33. Ra4 still forces White to find a way to break through) 31. Rc4 Rd3 32. Bxc5, Gareev abandons the pawn to its fate with good drawing chances in the major-piece ending, but his 40. Qf2 Rh1+? is a fateful decision right at time control that will allow Kamsky to dictate whether and when he trades down to a queen-and-pawn ending.

Alburt-Gulko after 20. h3.

Enlarge Photo

Alburt-Gulko after 20. h3. more >

On 47. Kh2 Qh1 48. Rd2, the Black rook has no retreat and the Black queen can’t get at the White king for harassing checks. Kamsky plays the final phase flawlessly. Black’s desperate bid for counterplay predictably backfires on 56. … g5 57. fxg5+ Kxg5 58. Qe3+ Kg6 59. Qf4 Qg1 60. Qf6+, when Gareev will soon lose two more pawns without compensation after 60. … Kh7 61. Qxf7+ Kh8 62. Qf6+ Kh7 63. Qxh4+; Black resigned.

Onischuk also went unbeaten in Rockville, hurt only by a closing string of four consecutive draws. He was in no drawing mood in his win over strong New Hampshire GM Justin Sarkar, however, trotting out a bizarre Nimzo-Indian gambit as Black (6. … b5!?, the kind of move only a very strong or very weak player would consider), and then exploiting a White inaccuracy to blow up the center with a nice piece sacrifice.

Thus: 15. Ra2?! (White wants to relieve the pin in order to play 16. b4, but 15. Be2 Nb6 16. 0-0 was more prudent) Ndxe5! 16. dxe5 d4 17. b4 (Bxd4 Rfd8 18. Qe4 Nxd4 19. Bd3 Nf5 20. g4 Rd4 21. Qe2 Rcd8 and Black is better) Qc7 18. f4 (and now 18. Bxd4 Rfd8 19. Ne2 Nxd4 20. Nxd4 Qxe5+ 21. Kf2 Rxd4 also leaves Black in charge) dxe3 19. Ne4 Ne7 20. Nc5 Nd5! (less convincing is 20. … Bb7?! 21. Qxe3 a5 22. Bd3 Nd5), meeting 21. Nxa6 with 21. … Qc1+ 22. Qd1 (Ke2 Nxf4+) Nxf4 23. Nc5 Rxc5! 24. bxc5 Qc3+ 25. Rd2 Rd8, and wins.

Onischuk neatly parries one last White tactical thrust on 24. Nxe6 (0-0 Qb6 25. Rfc1 Ba8 26. Be2 a5 lets Black keep his extra pawn and better position) Nc3! 25. Nxc7 Nxe4 26. Bxb5 (Ke2 Nf2, while 26. Be2 is met by 26. … Rd7 27. Bf3 Rcxc7) Rd2! 27. Rc4 (no better are 27. Rxd2 exd2+ 28. Ke2 Rxc7, winning a piece, or 27. Ba4 Rxc2 28. Bxc2 Rxc7) Nf2 28. 0-0 (Rg1 Nd3+ 29. Kf1 e2 mate) Ng4. Black’s threat is 29. … Rg2+ 30. Kh1 Rxh2+ 31. Kg1 Rh1 mate, and 29. Nd5 loses to 29. … Bxd5! 30. Rxc8+ Kg7 31. Rf3 Bxf3 32. gxf3 Nxh2 33. Bc6 Rd1+ 34. Kxh2 e2 and wins; Sarkar resigned.

The only minor dud of the chess festival in Rockville was the Platonov Invitational, which was hit by a plague of draws from the senior stars. Kaidanov and Turkish GM Mikhail Gurevich shared first place at 3-2, but Gulko deserves mention for the shot of adrenaline he delivered with his crushing win over Alburt. Black pushes for complications early in this Schmid Benoni, and is rewarded when White can’t handle the sudden shift to a kingside attack.

A fine knight sacrifice to flush out the White king initiates the final assault: 20. h3 (see diagram; Alburt should have taken his medicine with the dreary 20. Nd2 Qxh2+ 21. Kf1 Qh5 22. Nf3 Rb2 23. Rc2, with some hopes of struggling on) Nxf2! 21. Kxf2 (g4 Nxh3+ 22. Kh2 Bd6+ 23. Kh1 Nf2+ 24. Kg1 Nxg4) Bf6! 22. Bf3 (Nc3 Bxd4+ 23. Kf1 Qf5+ 24. Ke2 Rb2+ 25. Kd1 Be3+ 26. Ke1 Qf2 mate) Rb2+ 23. Be2 (also losing was 23. Rc2 Bxd4+ 24. Kg2 Qe5 25. Re2 Rxe2+ 26. Bxe2 Bxa1) Bxd4+ 24. Ke1 Qe5, and White resigned as Black’s pieces circle for the kill in lines such as 25. Nd2 Qxg3+ 26. Kd1 Bc3 27. Rc2 Rxd2+ 28. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 29. Kc1 Qe1+ 30. Bd1 Qxd1 mate.

Kamsky-Gareev, Washington International, August 2012

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. Bxc6 Bxc6 7. c4 Nf6 8. Nc3 g6 9. O-O Bg7 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Nd4 Ng4 12. b3 Qb6 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. Bb2 Qa5 15. h3 Ne5 16. Qe2 Rab8 17. f4 Nd7 18. Rf3 Nc5 19. Kh1 Qb4 20. e5 a5 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. Qxe4 d5 23. Qe2 e6 24. Rc1 Rfd8 25. Rc2 Qb6 26. Ba3 c5 27. cxd5 Rxd5 28. Rfc3 Bf8 29. Qf2 Rc8 30. Kh2 Qd8 31. Rc4 Rd3 32. Bxc5 Rxc5 33. Rxc5 Bxc5 34. Qxc5 Kg7 35. Qf2 Rd4 36. Re2 h6 37. Qf3 Rd1 38. Qf2 Qd3 39. Qe3 Qb1 40. Qf2 Rh1+ 41. Kg3 Rf1 42. Qe3 Rd1 43. Qe4 Qa1 44. Qe3 Rc1 45. Qd2 Rd1 46. Qb2 Rd3+ 47. Kf2 Qh1 48. Rd2 Rxd2+ 49. Qxd2 Qh2 50. a3 h5 51. Qe3 h4 52. b4 axb4 53. axb4 Kh6 54. b5 Qh1 55. Qe1 Qh2 56. Kf3 g5 57. fxg5+ Kxg5 58. Qe3+ Kg6 59. Qf4 Qg1 60. Qf6+ Black resigns.

Sarkar-Onischuk, Washington International, August 2012

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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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