It came down to one game for all the marbles in the final round of the U.S. Cadet Championship in Rockville, Maryland, last week, with co-leaders Edward Song of Michigan and Kapil Chandran of Connecticut paired against each other. Song, who relinquished the lead with a painful loss the previous round, rebounded with a nice win to take the title in a tournament featuring some of the country’s best players younger than 16.
FM Cameron Wheeler of California and NM Christopher Gu of Rhode Island finished a half-point behind the winner at 6-3, with Chandran and FM Ruifeng Li of Texas tied for fourth at 5½-3½.
The big drama was in the final round, but the new Cadet champ’s most dominating performance came in his Round 5 demolition of Massachusetts NM Mika Brattain. In a Caro-Kann Advanced line first popularized by English GM Nigel Short, Black badly neglects his development to snatch a pawn on Move 7 and never recovers.
White breaks on top after 10. dxc5 d4?! (better was 10…0-0-0 [also playable was 10…Nge7 11. 0-0 0-0-0 12. Nb3 Nxe5 13. Bd4!? Nxf3+ 14. Bxf3 Qc2] 11. 0-0 d4 12. Nc4 dxe3 13. Nxb2 Rxc1 14. Raxd1 exf2+ 15. Kxf2 Bxc5+ 16. Kg3 Nh6, with an unclear position; now Black’s queen is chased from pillar to post) 11. Nc4! Qb4+ (Qc3+ 12. Bd2 Qc2 13. Qxc2 Bxc2 14. Nd6+ Bxd6 15. cxd6 is very pleasant for White) 12. Bd2 Qxc5 13. Rc1 Qd5 14. Qb3 Qd7 15. 0-0, and Black’s entire kingside has yet to factor in the play.
Black’s 15…d3 is meant to disrupt the coordination of White’s position, but only opens new lines for Song to exploit: 16. Bd1 Nh6 17. Qb2! (clearing a path for the bishop to a4) Be6 18. Ba4, threatening to load up on c6 with 19. Na5. But Black’s 19…Bd5 (see diagram) only causes another part of the Black boat to spring a leak.
Thus: 19. e6! fxe6 (Qxe6 20. Rfe1 Be4 21. Rxe4 Qxe4 22. Re1 wins) 20. Bxh6 Bxf3 21. Ne5! (a nasty zwischenzug that wins material) Qc7 22. Nxf3 0-0-0 23. Ne5, and Song has won material and retains a dominating initiative. White’s material edge swells on 23…Rd6 24. Nxc6 bxc6 25. Bf4 c5 26. Bxd6 Bxd6 27. Qb3, and Black resigns as lines such as 27…Bxh2+ 28. Kh1 Qd6 29. Rxc5+! Qxc5 30. Qe6+ Kc7 31. Qd7+ Kb8 32. Rb1+ lead to mate.
The 115th U.S. Open in Orlando, Florida, claims the spotlight starting this weekend, but the Maryland chess summer is by no means over. The third annual Washington International starts Aug. 9 in Rockville, with a host of top grandmasters already committed to play. For more information, check out the Maryland Chess Association website at mdchess.com.
We mentioned last week that GM Alex Sherzer, the pride of Fallston, Maryland, was a past winner of the Cadet, capturing the title in 1986 at New York’s venerable Marshall Chess Club. Sherzer’s games from the event aren’t listed on the massive chessgames.com database, but we found one of his wins over Arizona master Robby Adamson from an old New York Times column from Robert Byrne.
In both the 1986 and 2014 Cadet tournaments, the positional play is unexpectedly sophisticated from such young contestants. In what evolves into a Scheveningen Sicilian, Sherzer as White finds a Capablanca-esque mini-combination whose point is solely to win the two bishops in an open position.
After 16. Rde1 Rad8, White alertly plays 17. Nd5! exd5 18. exd5, when 18…Bb5 runs into 19. Rxe7! Qxe7 20. Re1 Qd7 [Qxe1+ is just another way to lose] 21. Bxf6 g6 22. Be4, and Black can even get mated in lines such as 22…g6 23. Qh4 Kh7 24. Re3 Qb5 25. Qxh6+! Kxh6 26. Rh3 mate.
On Adamson’s 18…Bxd5 19. Bxd5 Rde8 (Nxd5?? 20. Qxg7 mate) 20. Bb3 Bd8 21. c3, the bishop pair are enough to give White an enduring positional pull.
Black is steadily pushed back until White launches the decisive invasion: 26. Qg3 Re8 27. Bd5! (Qxd5 28. Bxf6) Qd7 28. Rxe8+ Nxe8 (Qxe8 29. Bxb7 Qb5 30. Qf3 Qxb2 31. Qc6! Qxa2 32. Bxf6 gxf6 [Bxf6 33. Qe8 mate] 33. Qe8+ and wins) 29. Qf3 b5 30. Bc6 Qe7 31. Bxe8 Qxe8 32. Qa6, threatening both the pawn on a6 and 33. Bb6, winning a piece.
With Black’s queen and bishop still tied down, the White queen is free to go marauding on the kingside, forcing Black to concede after 36. Qh5 Kg8 37. Qg4 g6 38. Qd7! (paralyzing Black’s position) Kf8 39. b4 h5 40. Kh1 Be7 41. f5 gxf5 42. Qxf5 h4 43. Qh7, when Adamson’s game can’t be saved after 43…Bd8 (Ke8 44. Qh8+ Bf8 45. Bg7 Ke7 46. Qxh4+ Kd7 47. Qh8 Ke7 48. Qxf8+ Qxf8 49. Bxf8+ Kxf8 50. g4, with a dead won ending) 44. Qh8+ Ke7 45. Qf6+ Kd7 46. Qf8 Bc7 47. Qxf7+ Kc6 48. Bxh4 and wins.
Song-Brattain, U.S. Cadet Championship, July 2014