SANDS: Future is bright for U.S. chess as prospects shine

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The future is now — right now — for American chess, as New York IM Marc Arnold has claimed his first U.S. Junior title, and the U.S. Cadet Championship, featuring the country’s top players younger than 16 years old, is wrapping up in Rockville.

The 19-year-old Mr. Arnold, who recently notched his third and final grandmaster norm at the World Open in Philadelphia, did not lose a game on his way to the junior title last week at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, winning his preliminary section with a 5-2 score and then besting fellow New Yorker Alex Getz with a win and a draw in the two-game playoff final. He earned $4,000 for his efforts and an automatic berth in next year’s U.S. Championship.

The 16-player tournament is for the country’s best players younger than 21. Previous winners include Bobby Fischer, Joel Benjamin and current U.S. No. 1 GM Hikaru Nakamura.

The new champ’s most dominating performance in St. Louis came against Chicago FM Eric Rosen in Round 6, ruthlessly exploiting some loose play by his opponent to win material and whip up a mating attack. Neither player bothers to castle early in this Queen’s Gambit Declined, but it is Black who pays for it when the center opens up.

Thus: 12. a3 Bc7 13. Nc4 f6?! (more prudent was 13. 0-0 14. Nxe5 Bf5, though White is still preferable after 15. Qd4) 14. Qh5+ g6 15. Qf3, when Black’s best hope may have been to roll the dice with 15. Bf5!? 16. e4 Ba5+ 17. Nxa5 [b4!? Nxb4 18. axb4 Bxb4+ 19. Bc3 Bxe4] Qxa5+ 19. axb4 Qxb4+ 20. Bc3 Qxe4+ 21. Qxe4 Bxe4.

Gustafsson-Kramnik after 26. Rc1.

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Gustafsson-Kramnik after 26. Rc1. more >

Instead, Rosen runs into a tactical buzz saw on 15. b5 16. 0-0-0! Bb7 (bxc4 17. Bxc4 Bb7 18. Bxd5 Bxd5 19. Rxd5 Qc8 20. Rc5 is dominating) 17. e4! bxc4 (Qe7 18. exd5 bxc4 19. Bxc4 Bd6 20. Kb1, and White clearly is better) 18. Bxc4 Qe7 19. Bxd5 Bxd5 20. Rxd5, and White is a clear pawn to the good with a firm grasp on the critical d-file. Trading down only prolongs Black’s agony, but his attempts to gin up some counterplay just leave him more exposed to attack.

Arnold wraps things up with admirable efficiency with 23. Kb1 Rad8 (allowing the decisive invasion, but Black’s prospects were bleak anyway) 24. Qh3! Rxd7 25. Rxd7 h5 (Rf7 26. Qe6 Qf8 27. Rxf7 Qxf7 28. Qxb6 wins a piece) 26. Qe6+ Kh8 27. Rb7 Bc7 28. Qd7!; the attacked bishop can’t move because of mate along the seventh rank, and 28. Rd8 29. Bxc7 Rxd7 30. Rxc5 leaves White a piece ahead. Black resigned.

* * *

The U.S. Cadet Championship, being held at the Rockville Hilton, is the kickoff to the Maryland Chess Summer, an impressive string of five high-powered open and invitational events being put on by the Maryland Chess Association. With three rounds to go, masters Christopher Gu of Rhode Island and Christopher Wu of New Jersey — the “two Christophers,” as organizers refer to them — are tied for first at 3-1. We’ll have the final scorecard and some action from the Cadet next week.

* * *

The Duke of Dortmund has been dethroned.

Russian former world champ Vladimir Kramnik has compiled an amazing record at the annual Sparkassen Chess Meeting tournament in Dortmund, Germany, having won the strong event 10 times since 1995. But he came up short in this year’s 40th running of the event, losing a key late-round game to eventual tournament winner Italian GM Fabiano Caruana and having to settle for a tie for third. Even coming up short, however, the Russian managed to turn in some sparkling performances.

Kramnik, long feared as a specialist on the White side of the King’s Indian Defense, took up Black’s cause for once in his game against German GM Jan Gustafsson. The result: a wonderfully judged positional masterpiece, capped by a clever combinational finale employing a bare minimum of attacking forces.

A modest move in the midst of an early tactical scrum proves critical to the game’s outcome: 15. Qxd5 Qxd5 16. exd5 a3! (Rxe3?! 17. Rxc8+ Bf8 18. d6 is very strong for White) 17. b3 Nc6!? 18. Nc2?! (too passive, as the coming exchange sacrifice will handcuff the White army) Rxe3 19. Nxe3 Nb4, and White’s a-pawn can’t be saved and, in the long run, the Black a-pawn can’t be stopped.

Gustafsson’s plight is evident after 22. bxa4 Bd4 23. Kf2 (now the king and knight are both paralyzed) Nb4 24. Rc1 (see diagram; on 24. Rd1, Kramnik has 24. Nc2 25. Rxd4 Nxd4 26. Bc4 Bd7 27. Ba5 Ba4 28. Ba2 Bb3 29. Bxb3 Nxb3 30. Nc2 a2 31. Ke3 Nxa5 32. Na1 b5, and Black wins) a2! 25. Rxc8+ Kg7 26. Rc1 Nxd5, winning back the piece while the a-pawn remains just short of the finish line.

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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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