SANDS: Princeton chess squad tops crowded field at Amateur East

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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.

White tries a different approach to scaling Kramnik’s dreaded “Berlin Wall” in the 3…Nf6 Ruy Lopez variation, and an unbalanced position with challenges for both sides actually develops. But perhaps dulled by the drawfest that had proceeded the game, Kramnik overlooks a tactical trick and goes down to defeat.

Thus: 20. Rc6 Ne2 (Nxh3!? is more in the spirit of Zurich, leading to a draw after 21. gxh3 Qd7 22. Rac1 Qxh3+ 23. Kg1 Qg4+ 34. Kf1 Qh5, when White has nothing better than 35. Kg1 Qg4+) 21. Qd5 Qb8?? (Qxd5 22. exd5 Re7 23. d6 cxd6 24. Rxd6 e4 is fine for Black) 22. Rxa6! Rxa6 (Ng3+ 23. fxg3 Rxa6 24. Qxd3 Qxb2 25. Rb1 Rd6 26. Rxb2 Rxd3 27. Nc4 and White is winning) 23. Qxd3, with a double attack on the rook and knight.

After 26. Qb5 c6 27. Qb2, a demoralized Kramnik packs it in. The White knight and bishop dominate his rook, and Anand’s a-pawn proves lethal in lines like 27…Qe6 [Qxa5 28. Nc4] 28. a6 h6 29. a7 Rdd8 30. Qb8 Rxb8 31. Rxb8 Qc8 32. Rxc8 Rxc8 33. Nc4 Ra8 34. Nxe5 and 27…Qxb2 28. Rxb2 Ra8 29. a6 Rxa6 30. Rb8+.

Wei-Fedorchuk, 2nd Indonesian Open Championship, Jakarta, October 2012

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bd6 5. d3 a6 6. Ba4 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 b5 9. Bb3 Be7 10. a4 Rb8 11. h3 d6 12. axb5 axb5 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. Nd5 g6 15. O-O Bg7 16. Qd2 Kh7 17. c3 Bb7 18. d4 exd4 19. cxd4 Ne7 20. Rac1 c6 21. Nxe7 Qxe7 22. Qb4 Rfe8 23. Rfe1 Bf8 24. e5 Qd7 25. Qd2 Rbd8 26. Qf4 d5 27. Bc2 Ra8 28. h4 Kg8 29. h5 g5 30. Nxg5 hxg5 31. Qxg5+ Kh8 32. Re3 Qe6 33. h6 Bxh6 34. Qh4 Kg7 35. Rg3+ Kf8 36. Bf5 Bxc1 37. Bxe6 Rxe6 38. f4 c5 39. f5 Rh6 40. Qg4 cxd4 41. Qxd4 Ra1 42. Qc5+ Ke8 43. Rg8+ Kd7 44. e6+ Black resigns.

Anand-Kramnik, Zurich Chess Challenge, March 2013

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. O-O Re8 8. Nc4 Nd7 9. Kh1 a5 10. a4 b6 11. Be3 Bb4 12. Nfd2 b5 13. axb5 cxb5 14. c3 bxc4 15. cxb4 cxd3 16. bxa5 Ba6 17. Qb3 Nf6 18. h3 Nh5 19. Rfc1 Nf4 20. Rc6 Ne2 21. Qd5 Qb8 22. Rxa6 Rxa6 23. Qxd3 Qxb2 24. Rb1 Rd6 25. Qxe2 Qa2 26. Qb5 c6 27. Qb2 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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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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