BREAKING: Michigan master Edward Song is the new U.S. cadet champion, defeating top rival Kapil Chandran of Connecticut in a showdown final-round game Wednesday to claim the title. Song finished at 6 1/2-2 1/2, a half-point ahead of FM Cameron Wheeler of California and Rhode Island NM Christopher Gu, with Chandran in a tie for fourth at 5 1/2-3 1/2.
With the D.C. International and the World Open just behind us, and a slew of events underway and on the way, the Washington area is emerging as one of the nation’s premier summer hot spots for top-flight chess.
The Maryland Chess Association kicked off a busy month by hosting the strongest-ever U.S. Cadet Championship in Rockville, a 10-player invitational for the country’s strongest players younger than 16. The Cadet, whose past winners include Maryland-born GM Alex Sherzer, features for the first time four players with ratings north of 2400. The top finisher wins a full scholarships to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to help restock what is already one of the strongest chess programs in the country.
The fourth annual Potomac Open, also in Rockville, kicks off Aug. 1., and the third running of the Washington International begins nine days later. The increasingly prestigious Swiss event already has more than a dozen grandmasters, including new U.S. junior champ Kayden Troff, registered to play. On Aug. 8, the day before the International gets underway, there will be a blitz tournament that may rank as among the strongest ever in the region.
The Cadet, which wraps up play Wednesday, is a great opportunity to “catch ‘em before they were stars.” Top-rated New York NM Joshua Colas got off to a good start in a tactically rich encounter with Maryland expert Andrew Zheng in Round 1 before stumbling with just a half-point in his next three games.
Colas as Black takes a supersharp approach on the Black side of a Kan Sicilian, and it’s not clear what he planned as a follow-up after 12. Kh1 Neg4!? if his opponent had accepted the challenge with 13. e5!?. Now 13…Nxe5 fails to 14. c5 Bxc5 15. fxe5 Ng4 16. Na4 and wins.
Offense and defense remain delicately poised for both players throughout the game, but Black proves better able to negotiate the tactical shoals in the game’s decisive phase: 32. Qxd4 Qc7 (putting the queen on the same diagonal as the White king) 33. Nb4 d5! (opening up the diagonal; now 34. cxd5 Rxd3 35. d6 Rxd1 36. Rxd1 [cxd7 Rxd4 37. c8=Q+ Rd8 38. Qc7 Re7 39. Qb6 Rd2+ 40. Kh1 Bxe4+ 41. Rxe4 Rxe4] Qc8 37. Re1 Kd7 38. Qd3 Rc5 is very strong for Black) exd5 35. Rxe3+ Re3+ 36. d6.
White may have banked now on 36…Bxd4 37. Rxe3+ Bxe3 38. dxc7 Bf4+ 39. Kg1 Bxc7, or 36…Kd7 37. dxc7+ Bxd4 38. Nxc6 bxc6 39. Rxe3 Bxe3 40. Bc2 a3 41. bxa3 Kxc7, with a probable draw in both cases, but Colas finds the one winning move with 36…Rxe1!, and White resigns in light of 37. dxc7 (Nxc6 Qxc6 38. Qxf6 Rh1 mate) Rh1 mate.
With four rounds to go, Michigan master Edward Song claims the lead at 4-1, with several players within a point of the lead. We’ll have full results next week.
We’ll let star GM Fabiano Caruana speak for himself on this one: “Won Dortmund with 5.5/7, broke 2800, reached No. 3 in the world. All in all, not a bad week!” was his succinct tweet at the conclusion of last week’s traditional Sparkassen Chess Meeting in the German city. The Miami-born Italian star easily bested an elite all-grandmaster field that included Russian former world champ Vladimir Kramnik.
Caruana broke down two uber-solid Black defenses in critical games during the event, slowly outplaying English GM Michael Adams in a Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense and finishing up in more spectacular fashion against Russian star Ruslan Ponomariov’s Petrov’s Defense.
After 13. g4 0-0-0, Black seems to have achieved an easy equality, with perhaps even a long-term edge in White’s doubled c-pawns. But Caruana methodically repairs his pawn structure, while a series of well-timed minor-piece swaps actually leave Black with the more problematic pawns.
Trying to plug holes in a cramped position, Ponomariov unexpectedly falls for a lightning attack topped by one of the more brilliant back-rank combinations in recent years: 34. Qxh4 b6?! (Black has a light-squared bishop to defend around the king, but Caruana shows that the bishop can’t handled the load) 35. Qh6! Rg8 36. Qc6 Be6? (see diagram; the losing move, though it is admittedly hard to see — Black had to try 36…Bb7 37. Qf6 Ba6 38. Bxa6 Qxf6 39. gxf6 Kxa6 40. Rxd5 Rg6 41. Rd7 Rxf6 42. Rxc7, although he’s still fighting for the draw) 37. g6!, a move that shows wonderful tactical imagination.