SANDS: Princeton chess squad tops crowded field at Amateur East

Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!

That old Princeton cheer is apropos as the Princeton University A team posted the only 6-0 score to take last month’s Amateur Team East Championship at its traditional home in Parsippany, N.J. Considered the granddaddy of U.S. team competitions and one of the largest and most colorful team events of its kind anywhere in the world, this year’s event attracted some 281 teams and 1,201 players. The Princeton squad included masters Michael Lee and Andrew Ng, expert Dyland Xu, Class A player Leo Kang and alternate Patrick Thompson.

In the fiercely contested “Best Team Name” competition, “Rg3! Offensive Rook of the Year” deservedly took top honors.

The Princeton team will take on the winners of the other three sectional team events for the national title later this year. The lineup: South — Cookie Monsters (Eric Cooke, Nicky Rosenthal, Lester Machado and Mel Goss); North — The Illini Schmakelers (Michael Auger, Eric Rosen, Akshay Indusekar and Sam Schmakel); and West — Norcal House of Chess Kings and Queen (Bryon Doyle, Ted Castro, Uyanga Byambaa, FM Ronald Cusi and IM Ricardo De Guzman).

The world’s newest and youngest — grandmaster comes from (surprise!) China. Thirteen-year-old prodigy Wei Yi clinched his third and final GM norm at the just-concluded Reykjavik Open with a penultimate-round upset win over French superGM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, becoming the fourth youngest player ever to earn the game’s ultimate title.

One of Wei’s title norms came at last year’s Indonesian Open, which included a nice attacking win over veteran Ukrainian GM Sergey Fedorchuk.

The young Wei chooses an old-fashioned line with the Four Knights, and reacts well to Black’s outside-the-box 4…Bd6!?. By 12. axb5 axb5 (the position has taken on the look of a Closed Ruy Lopez) 13. Bxf6! Bxf6 14. Nd5 g6 15. Bg7 0-0, White enjoys a slight edge as it’s hard to see where Black can generate counterplay, while Wei can slowly improve his position.

Fedorchuk may have run into trouble trying to avoid a draw against his younger and lower-rated opponent, and White punishes him for it: 24. e5 Qd7?! (dxe5 was simpler and better, with equal play) 25. Qd2! Rbd8 26. Qf4 d5 27. Bc2 Ra8 28. h4!, and things are already getting uncomfortable for the Black king.

White strikes after 28…Kg8 (h5? 29. Ng5+ Kg8 30. e6! fxe6 31. Bxg6 Re7 32. Rxe6! Rxe6 33. Bf7+ Kh8 34. Nxe6 Bg7 35. Qf5, with the nasty threat of 36. Qxh5+) 29. h5 g5 (see diagram) 30. Nxg5! — not the hardest sacrifice to see, as White gets two pawns for the piece and retains a powerful attack, but Wei’s follow-through shows several nice touches.

There followed 30…hxg5 31. Qxg5+ Kh8 32. Re3 Qe6 33. h6! Bxh6 (skewering all three of White’s major pieces, but it’s not Black move) 34. Qh4 Kg7 (Rg8 35. Rh3 Rg4 [Kg7 35. Bf5!, as in the game] 36. Qf6+! Qxf6 37. exf6 Kg8 38. Rxh6 Re8 39. f3 Rxd4 40. Bh7+ Kf8 41. Bd3 Kg8 42. Kf2 Rxd3 43. Rch1 Rd2+ 44. Kg3 d4 45. Rh8 mate) 35. Rg3+ Kf8 36. Bf5!, a winning deflection, as the 36…Qxf5 37. Qxh6+ wins for White.

After 36…Bxc1 37. Bxe6 Rxe6 38. f4, White is still technically behind in material, but his pawns are ready to roll and the Black’s queen’s rook and bishop can play no part in the action. After 39. f5 Rh6 40. Qg4 cxd4 41. Qxd4 Ra1 42. Qc5+ Ke8 43. Rg8+ Kd7 44. e6+, Fedorchuk resigned facing 44…Rxe6 (fxe6 45. Rg7+ and mate next) 45. fxe6+ Kxe6 46. Qb6+ Ke5 47. Qxb7, and Black has no good discovered check.

With great power comes great drawing percentages. Italian-American GM Fabiano Caruana, whom we wrote about here last week, won the Zurich Chess Challenge last week, over an extraordinary four-player field that included world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, and 2012 world title challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel. The field was so evenly balanced, however, that just three of the 12 games in the double-round robin were decisive, with Caruana claiming the event on the strength of wins over Gelfand and Kramnik.

Anand had the other decisive game, a last-round win over Kramnik that found neither champion at his best.

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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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