It sometimes gets billed as the “warm-up” to the World Open, but the D.C. International Tournament doesn’t have to accept second billing to any other event these days.
The second annual International, which wrapped up last week at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, featured a strong, internationally flavored field, with titled players from Asia, Europe and North America squaring off against a talented local contingent in the 83-player Open section.
The tournament’s deciding game was an all-Cuban affair, with reigning national champion GM Isan Reynaldo Ortiz Suarez defeating compatriot GM Yuniesky Quesada Perez, the 2013 D.C. International champ, in Round 9 to finish at 7 1/2-1 1/12, a half-point clear of Belarus GMSergei Azarov, Indian IM Priyadharshan Kannappan and yet another Cuban grandmaster, Yuri Vidal.
Three players earned norms at Crystal City, including a grandmaster norm for Kannappan, the final international norm for New York FM Kassa Korley, and an IM norm for 11-year-old (!) Wisconsin NM Awonder Liang, the youngest American player ever to notch an international master’s norm with his fine 6-3 score.
We have two games from two of the norm-winning entrants, and by a cruel twist of fate, both are losses. Ortiz Suarez scored a critical win to separate himself from the pack by defeating Kannappan in Round 7 in a tactically tricky Sicilian Scheveningen that could have gone either way.
White’s instincts are sound but he just can’t see his way through the thickets on the critical 14. Bxd5 exd5 15. Nxd5 Qd6 16. 0-0-0!? (Nb6 Be6 17. Qe2 Rd8 18. 0-0 was a safer path) cxd5 17. Rxd5!? Be6!, when White has at least a draw on 18. Rhd1! (Rxe5?! Qxe5 19. Qc6+ Ke7 20. Qb7+ Kf6 21. Qxa8 Qd5 22. Qxd5 Bxd5 23. Bd4+ Kg6 24. Rd1 Rg8 is good for Black) Bxd5 19. Rxd5 Qe6 20. Rxe5! Qxe5 21. Qc6+ Kd8 22. Bb6+ Ke7 23. Bc5+, with a perpetual check.
Instead, after the game’s 18. Qa4+?! Bd7 19. Qa5 Qc6 20. Rhd1 (Rxe5+ Be6) Rc8 21. c3 Be6, Black walks a tightrope, knowing his bishop pair will be a decisive edge if White’s attack ever flags. Following 23. R1d6 Qc4 (Qxd6!? 24. Rxd6 Kxd6 25. Qxa6+ Ke7 may also be winning, but White’s armada of passed queenside pawns must have looked scary over the board) 24. Rxc8 Qxc8 25. Qxe5 f6 26. Qd4 Kf7, Black has consolidated and, as advertised, his two bishops will decide.
Ortiz Suarez simplifies with 38. Rd7 Qe1+ 39. Qb1 (Kb2 Qd2+ 40. Kb1 Be4+ 41. Ka1 Qc1+ and wins) Qxb1+ 40. Kxb1 Ke6 41. Ra7 Rxa7, and White resigns foreseeing how the Black bishops will rake the board in lines like 42. Bxa7 Bg2 43. Be3 Bxh3 44. f3 Bg2 45. f4 Bf3 46. a5 Bxg4 47. a6 h5 48. a7 Bf3 49. fxg5 fxg5, and White is helpless.
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Korley also had a fine tournament but found himself on the wrong end of one of the most brilliant attacks of the event, orchestrated by Azarov. Black is slow to develop his pieces in this Petrov, and the trade 14. Re2 Bf8?! 15. Rxe8 Bxe8 16. Re1 only underscores the uselessness of Black’s rook on a8. After another dawdling move — 17…Ne7?! — White begins a kingside attack that quickly gathers force.
Black has a slew of minor pieces guarding his king, but they prove ineffectual against White’s inspired assault: 20. g5 hxg5 21. Nxg5 Be8? (Black’s last best hope was 21…g6, when he can survive 22. Rxe7!? Bxe7 23. Bxg6 Rf8!) 22. Bh7+ Kh8 (see diagram) 23. Re4!!, a magnificent and original rook lift exploiting the overworked knight on f6.
Now 23…Nxe4 (Nxh7 24. Rxe7! wins material) 24. Qxe4 threatens 25. Qh4 g6 26. Bxg6+ Kg7 27. Qh7+ Kf6 28. Nh5 mate, and 24…f6 creates a new hole that allows 25. Ne6 Qc8 26. Qh4 g5 27. Nxg5! fxg5 28. Bxg5 Bh6 29. Qxh6 Ng8 30. Bxg8+ Kxg8 31. Bf6 Qd7 32. Qh8+ Kf7 33. d5! cxd5 34. cxd5 Kg6 35. Bd4 Qf7 36. Qh5 mate. Also losing was 23…Ng6 24. Bxg6 Nxe4 25. Qxe4 fxg6 26. Qh4+ Kg8 27. Qh7 mate.
But declining the offer allows the White rook to get to the h-file and soon every White piece is locked in on the Black king. Plugging one hole causes a leak somewhere else and the Black defense quickly capsizes.
The finale: 23…g6 24. Rh4 Kg7 (Bg7 25. Bg6+ Kg8 26. Bh7+ Kh8 27. N3e4 Nxe4 28. Qxe4 f6 29. Bg8+! Kxg8 30. Qe6+ Kf8 31. Nh7 mate) 25. d5 Bd7 26. Bc3 (the pin on the knight is the last straw) Nf5 (the threat was 27. Bxf6+ Kxf6 28. N5e4+ Kg7 29. Qc3+ f6 30. Qxf6 mate) 27. Nh5+!, and Korley resigned in the face of 27…gxh5 (Kh6 28. Nxf7+! Kxh7 29. Nf6+ Kg7 30. Rh7 mate) 28. Bxf5 Be7 29. Rxh5 Rh8 30. Rxh8 Kxh8 31. Be6! Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kf8 33. Qxf7 mate.
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