While much of the rest of the world is checking out vacation schedules and beach condo rental rates, the U.S. chess world is gearing up for perhaps its busiest stretch of the year, with tournaments galore in the coming days to keep a columnist busy.
In just the next two months, we will see the traditional Fourth of July holiday World Open in Philadelphia (the 40th running of this great open event); the inaugural Washington International Tournament at the Rockville Hilton starting July 28; the 113th annual U.S. Open, being played this year in Vancouver, Wash., starting Aug. 4; and the 44th annual Atlantic Open, kicking off Aug. 24 at its traditional home at the Washington Westin Hotel downtown.
The National Open, played at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, has served traditionally as the starting gun for the summer rush of events. This year’s winner, GM Alex Lenderman and two of the event’s runners-up, GMs Timur Gareev of Uzbekistan and Mikheil Kekelidze, are all scheduled to compete locally in the Washington International next month.
The National saw a great — if not perfectly played — battle in the Round 2 game between California FM Eugene Yanayt and New Jersey IMMackenzie Molner. Both players missed wins along the way, before Yanayt’s doughty defense allowed him finally to score the upset.
Black gets excellent early play out of the Fianchetto Benoni, and Molner launches a promising piece sacrifice netting three pawns after 19. f4 Bxh3! 20. Bxh3 Nxe4 21. Kh2 Qxd5, when Black already is threatening to overrun White’s underdeveloped position with 22…c3 23. bxc3 Bxc3 24. Rb1 b4, with a massive space advantage. On 22. Nb1 Qh5 23. Qg2 Rbd8, White’s pieces present a sad tableau, but Yanayt doggedly works to keep himself in the game.
On 24. Rxa6 Rd3?! (not bad but 24…Nc5! 25. Ra7 Re2 was stronger; e.g. 26. Rf2 Rxf2 27. Qxf2 Nd3 28. Qf1 [Qe3 Nxc1 29. Qxc1 Qe2+ 30. Bg2 Rd1 31. Nc3 Qh5+] Re8, and Black is dominating) 25. Re1! f5 (Rxg3?! 26. Qxg3! Nxg3 27. Rxe8+ Bf8 28. Kxg3 Qd1 29. Bd2 Qxb1 30. Bb4 and White is winning) 26. Ra3 Red8 27. Rxd3, White has worked his way back into the contest, but Black again seizes the advantage after 27…Rxd3 28. Re3? (Rxe4! fxe4 29. Qxe4 Rd1 30. Bd2 leads to an unclear position) Qd1! 29. Rxe4 (this exchange sacrifice is much less effective now) fxe4 30. Qxe4, when 30… Bf6! (Qxc1?? 31. Qe8+ Bf8 32. Be6+ Kg7 33. Qf7+ Kh6 34. Qxf8+ Kh5 35. g4+ Kh4 36. Qh6 mate) 31. Qe8+ Kg7 32. Bd2 Rxd2+ 33. Nxd2 Qxd2+ 34. Bg2 Qxb2 would have been very powerful for Black.
Molner’s 30…Rd8?! 31. Be3 Qe2+ 32. Bg2 Qxb2 33. Nxd2 allows White to finally get his pieces into the game. The vicissitudes of the previous play have managed to produce a tricky position in which White’s bishop pair battle Black’s two passed queenside pawns. Yanayt’s bishops and knight hang together quite nicely, but he has to find a way to generate attacking threats before the Black pawns reach the eighth rank. With 42. Nd4 Kh8 (Bxd4 43. Bxd4+ Kf8 44. Qe5 Qh4+ 45. Kg2 Rxe6 46. Qxe6 and White is better) 43. f5 gxf5 44. gxf5 Qg7 45. Nf3 c3 46. Bf4 b4 47. Ne5 c2 48. Qc6 (Qxc2? Bxe5) Rf8 49. Nd7 Qg4 50 Qc4 Qh4+, Black signals he is willing to accept a draw with a series of queen checks to the White king.
Still seeking a win, Yanayt nearly throws it all away once again with 53. Ke2 Qg4+ 54. Kd3? (White gets points for panache, but he really should have gone back to f2) Qd1+! 55. Ke4 Qh1+ 56. Kd3 Qd1+ (gaining time on the clock) 57. Ke4 Qh1+ 58. Kd3 b3!, and it seems the pawns are unstoppable.
But after 59. Nxf6 (see diagram; also losing are 59. Nxf8 Qf1+ 60. Ke4 Qxc4+ 61. Bxc4 b2 and 59. Qxb3 Qf3+ 60. Kxc2 [Kd2 Qd1+ 61. Ke3 c1=Q+ 62. Ke4 Qd4+ 63. Kf3 Qdxf4+ 64. Kg2 Qcf1 mate] Rc8+ 61. Bc4 Qxf4 62. Nb6 Qxf5+), Black misses his final chance to end the exhausting struggle in his favor: 59…b2! 60. Qb4 Qd1+! (b1=Q?? 61. Qxf8 mate) 61. Ke4 Qe2+ 62. Be3 Qxe3+ 63. Kxe3 c1=Q+ 64. Ke2 Rxf6, or 59…b2! 60. Be5 Qd1+ 61. Ke4 Qe1+ 62. Kd5 Qxe5+ 63. c1=Q and wins.
But after 59…Qf1+? 60. Ke4 Qxc4+? 61. Bxc4 Rxf6 (a sad necessity for Black as 61…b2 62. Be5! c1=Q 63. Ng4+ Rf6 64. Bxf6 is mate) 62. Bxb3 Kg7 63. Bxc2, the proud queenside pawns are no more and Molner’s lone rook is badly outclassed by the bishop pair.
The bishops run the king to ground as the game ends appropriately in checkmate: 67. Bd4 h5 68. Ke5 h4 69. Be3+ Kh5 70. Bf3 mate. Not a perfect game by any means, but a rattling good struggle virtually from the opening move.
For reasons it may take Sigmund Freud to fully explain, there are very few strong father-son batteries in the history of chess. The strongest intergenerational tandem in the U.S. might be that of GM Larry Kaufman of Potomac, a former world senior champion, and his son Ray Kaufman, now an IM based in California. Son Ray was in the field in Las Vegas, scoring a very respectable 4-2 that included a last-round loss to Kekelidze. Earlier in the event, he scored a clean, quick knockout of Georgia FM Kazim Gulamali, first trapping his opponent’s queen and then his king.
In a Pirc, things already appear to be going off the rails for Black after 13. Qe2 N8d7 14. Nb5! Nc8 15. Bg4 a6 16. Nc3 Ncb6 17. a4 Qb4 18. e5, drawing the Black queen into a trap even as the center is opening up against the uncastled Black king. After Black’s king is marooned in the center on 19. a5 Nc8 20 Bxd7+ Kxd7, the Black queen is run to ground with 21. Ra4! Qxb2 22. Rb1! Qxc3 23. Be1, and there is no escape.
With the queen gone, the White attack crashes through on 26. d6! exd6 (Nxd6 Qxe7+; 26…Bf8 27. Bh4 g5 28. Qg4 e6 29. Bxg5+! is crushing) 27. Qg4!, and Black resigns facing lines like 27…f5 28. Qxg6 Bf8 29. Bh4+ Ne7 (Be7 30. Bxe7+ Nxe7 31. Qxd6+) 30. Qxd6+ Ke8 31. Rxe7+ Bxe7 32. Qxe7 mate.