- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What better way to celebrate the nation’s birthday and show one’s patriotic spirit than to stare at a chessboard deep into the evening in the ballroom of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown hotel?

OK, OK, there are lots of better ways, but that has never stopped chess lovers from flocking to the City of Brotherly Love every Fourth of July holiday since 1977 (the first four tournaments were held in New York) for the World Open, the East Coast’s most lucrative and prestigious open tournament. This year was no different, with players competing in nine class tournaments, along with senior, women’s, rapid and blitz side events.

Armenian GM Tigran L. Petrosian, channeling his late, great compatriot, world champion Tigran Petrosian, scored a rare solo first in the Open section, running off with three wins in the last three rounds and overcoming a loss to young U.S. GM Jeffery Xiong to finish at 71/2-11/2. The 32-year-old Petrosian is having a bang-up summer, having won the prestigious National Open in Las Vegas last month.

The big surprise of the event was Kazakh IM Zhansaya Abdumalik, who finished in a tie for second with five grandmasters and earned her first GM norm. Her win over American GM Yaroslav Zherebukh was her first-ever triumph over a 2600-plus GM. Abdumalik later blamed White’s loss on a late blunder, but her own play up until the end is exemplary.

Black solves her central problems with the nicely timed 21. Qd3 d5! 22. cxd5 Bxd5 23. c4 Be4 24. Nxe4 Rxe4, and White will eventually have to jettison his backward e-pawn. Zherebukh tries to activate his rooks in search of counterplay, but his bishop remains dangerously passive while Abdumalik nimbly gets her offside knight into the attack.

White finds his king in an awkward position, and falls apart on 36. Kh3 g5 37. Bg2? Ne2!, and White will have to give up the exchange to meet the two mate threats of 38…Ng1 mate and 38…Nxf4 mate; Zherebukh resigned.

One of the tournament’s better combinations came in the game between young California IM Cameron Wheeler and Peruvian GM Axel Bachmann. We pick up the game from today’s diagram, as Black’s pressure along the e-file is gathering gale-storm force. An overworked White bishop proves critical to Bachmann’s winning combination.

There followed: 23…Qe7 (a variation on the famous “Alekhine’s Gun” formation, this time with the queen between the two rooks) 24. Rd3 Nf6! 25. Rxc3 Bxh3!, when White’s bishop has no good options; e.g. 26. Bf3 (Bxh3?? Rxc3 27. Qxc3 Ne4+) Rxf3+! 27. Rxf3 Ng4+ 28. Kg1 Qb7 29. Qc3 Re3! 30. Rxe3 Qg2 mate, or. 26. Bc6 Ng4+ 27. Kg1 Rxe2 28. Rxe2 Qxe2 29. Bxe8 Qf1 mate.

Wheeler tries, 26. Qd2, but 26…Ne4+! forces resignation, as it’s at most mate in five after 27. Bxe4 Qxe4 28. Qd5 (Rxe3 Qg2 mate) Rxe2+ 29. Rxe2 Qxe2+ 30. Kg1 Qf1+ 31. Kh2 Re2+ 32. Qg2 Qxg2 mate,

It’s not a full-on Kasparov 2.0, but we’ll take it.

Former world champion Garry Kasparov, among the greatest ever to play the game, is coming out of retirement next month to play in a rapid and blitz tournament to be held following the Sinquefield Tournament at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Kasparov, who retired in 2005, will square off against the cream of the current generation of stars, including current world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and America’s Big Three GMs: Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.

Zherebukh-Abdumalik, 45th World Open, Philadelphia, July 2017

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. e3 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. c4 Ne4 7. Bh4 c5 8. O-O Nc6 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Qc7 11. d5 Na5 12. Qc2 e5 13. dxe6 Bxe6 14. Nd2 f5 15. Rad1 Rae8
16. Rfe1 Kh8 17. Bf1 b6 18. Qd3 Qc6 19. Qc2 Qc7 20. f4 Qf7 21. Qd3 d5 22. cxd5 Bxd5 23. c4 Be4 24. Nxe4 Rxe4 25. Qd7 Bc3 26. Re2 Bf6 27. Qxf7 Rxf7 28. Bxf6+ Rxf6 29. Red2 Rxe3 30. Rd7 Nc6 31. g3 a6 32. Rb7 Nd4 33. Rb1 Ra3 34. Rb2 Re6 35. Kg2 h6 36. Kh3 g5 37. Bg2 Ne2 White resigns

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

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