New Rochelle, N.Y., 10th-grader Michael Bodek claimed bragging rights as a quartet of young stars shared first place in the U.S. Cadet Championship invitational tournament for the nation's top players younger than 16, an event that returned to the Washington area for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
Bodek, a master who was co-champion in the event last year, defeated Christopher Gu, an eighth-grader from Wakefield, R.I., in the final playoff round Wednesday to claim the University of Maryland, Baltimore County full scholarship awarded to the top scorer from the event.
Bodek, Gu, FM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy of New York City and Christopher Wu of Holmdel, N.J., will share the formal title after finishing in a joint tie for first at 41/2-21/2. Bodek, who lost to Gu and Ostrovskiy in consecutive rounds, had to win his final three games just to qualify for the playoff.
The event was held at the Rockville Hilton and served as the opening tournament for the Maryland Chess Association's summer festival of events, which includes a second invitational for senior grandmasters and the Washington International, a nine-round Swiss event featuring former U.S. champ GM Gata Kamsky and a slew of top stars.
Maryland's Alex Sherzer, who went on to win the grandmaster title, won the Cadet the last time it was held locally, in 1986 at the U.S. Chess Center in downtown Washington.
Young players tend to be drawn to offbeat openings and risky attacking play, but this year's Cadet seemed to put a premium on the less-glamorous side of the game, including positional play, defense and endgame skills. The second win of Bodek's finishing kick found the new champ forced to play some cool defense to hold off a scary-looking assault from NM James Black, a member of the celebrated IS 318 middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y., winners of the recent U.S. high school team championship.
In a Queen's Gambit, White gives up a bishop for knight to break up the Black kingside pawns, then sacrifices a pawn a move later to rush his major pieces into the game. After 19. Rg3+ Kh8 20. Rh3 Rd8 21. Qh5!?, Black's kingside is looking pretty threadbare, but Bodek puts up a stout defense as White falters on the attack.
Thus: 21. ... Qxd4+ 22. Kf1? (the wrong way; the White king actually is more effective hiding from checks in the corner after 22. Kh1! Kg8 23. fxe6 Kf8 [fxe6? 24. Qxh7+ Kf8 25. Rg3 Nf7 26. Rg7 Qd7 27. Qg8+ Ke7 28. Rxf7+ Kd6 29. Qg3+ e5 30. Qd3 mate] 24. Rf1 Bxe6 25. Qh6+ Ke8 26. Bxe6 Qf2! 27. Qc1! Qd2 and the outcome is still in doubt) Kg8 23. fxe6 b6! (fxe6? 24. Rd1 Qb6 25. Qxh7+ Kf8 26. Rxd8+ Qxd8 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Rh7+ Nf7 29. Rxf7+ Kxf7 30. Qxd8 and wins), a cold-blooded move that makes possible a nasty bishop check on a6. One point now is that after 24. Qxh7+ Kf8 25. Qh8+ Ke7 26. Rc7+ Bd7 27. Rxd7+ Rxd7 28. Qxa8, Black mates quickly after 28. ... Qa1+ 29. Kf2 Rd2+ 30. Kg3 Qe1+.
But White's attack runs out of steam after the game's 24. exf7+ Kf8 25. Qh6+ (Rd1 Ba6+ 26. Ke1 [Rhd3 Bxd3+ 27. Rxd3 Qxd3+ and White is busted] Qg1 mate) Ke7 26. f8=Q+ Rxf8 27. Qg7+ Ke8! (the last finesse; on 27. ... Nf7?! 28. Rc7+ Bd7 [Kd6 29. Qxf8+ Kxc7 30. Qxf7+] 29. Rxh7 Rac8 30. Bxf7 Qd1+ 31. Kf2 Qd2+ and Black must settle for perpetual check), and now Black would prevail on 28. Rc7 Ba6+ 29. Ke1 Qxe4+ 30. Kd2 Rd8+ 31. Kc1 Qe1+ 32. Kb2 Rd2+ 33. Bc2 Nc4+ 34. Kb3 Qe6.
White desperately throws more sacrificial logs onto the fire, but Bodek calmly accepts the offerings as he consolidates his material advantage. In the final position after 34. g3 Rc8 35. Rd1 Qc4, the queens will come off the board and any chance of counterplay is snuffed out; White resigned.
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In the same round, Ostrovskiy was conducting a positional clinic against New York master Joshua Colas, snatching an early pawn in this Semi-Slav QGD on 18. Rxd3 Bxh2, as trapping the bishop with 19. g3? Bxg3 20. fxg3 Qxg3+ 21. Kd1 Ng4 gives Black a raging attack.
By 30. Nd4 Rc5 31. Nb3, Ostrovskiy is ahead in material and enjoys a clear positional edge, and he proceeds to give a textbook demonstration on how to translate those advantages into a full point: 31. ... Rh5! (using his spatial edge to switch flanks rapidly) 32. f5 (this creates a lot of kingside weaknesses, but 32. g3 Qd7 leaves the Black queen bearing down on the h3-square) Re8 33. Rfe1 Qa7 34. Nd4 Rd5 35. Rcd1 (Black threatened 35. ... Rxe3! 36. Rxe3 Nxe3 37. Qxe3 Rxd4 and wins) Qd7 36. a4? (missing a last chance to perhaps save the game -- 36. e4! Rd6 37. Nf5 Qa7+ [Rxd1?? 38. Qxg7 mate] 38. Kh2 Rg6 39. Qf3, and White can fight on) Rd8 37. Kf2 (see diagram) Nxe3!, and Black will get three pawns for the knight and the chance to harry White's king for the remainder of the game.
Colas' king can find no shelter after 38. Kxe3 (Rxe3 b4! 39. Qa1 Rxd4 40. Rxd4 Qxd4 41. Qxd4 Rxd4 42. Re8+ Kh7 43. Ra3 b3 44. Rxa5 Rxf4+ 45. Ke3 Rb4 and wins) Re8+ 39. Kf2 Rd8 40. Ke3 bxa4 41. Rd2 Qg4 42. Rf1 (there's no salvation in lines such as 42. Nf3 Rxd2 43. Nxd2 Qxg2 44. Ne4 f5 45. Qc4+ Kh8 46. Re2 Qxe4+ 47. Qxe4 fxe4 48. Ra2 Rd3+ 49. Kxe4 Rb3 50. Rxa4 Rb4+) Qg3+ 43. Rf3 Qe1+, and the queen's penetration forces resignation. White's king won't last long after 44. Re2 (Kd3 Rxd4+ 45. Qxd4 Rxd4+ 46. Kxd4 Qxd2+) Re8+ 45. Kd3 Qxe2 mate.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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