The giant Swiss-style events that dominate the American chess scene typically offer two distinct paths to success, as the co-winners of the top section of last month’s 38th annual American Open in Los Angeles neatly demonstrated.
Czech GM Pavel Blatny surged out of the box with four wins and a draw in the first five games, forcing the rest of the strong 47-player field to play catch-up as he eased home with three draws. Belarus GM Yuri Shulman, by contrast, was forced to mount a furious late-round comeback after an upset loss to California master Reynaldo del Pilar.
The two wound up tied for first at 6-2, ahead of a GMs Alex Yermolinsky, Grigory Serper and three other players.
Despite being forced to scramble, Shulman showed impeccable timing in his win over Russian IM Nikolai Andrianov, landing a stinging blow just one move before his opponent could consolidate his defense. The result: a mating attack that finally runs the Black king to ground in the center of the board.
In a Czech Benoni, Andrianov apparently believes the closed nature of the position gives him the luxury of chasing after annoying White pieces, spending several moves in an effort to trade off first the White bishop on e3 and then the knight on g5.
But the maneuvering costs him several moves and the right to castle king-side, and Shulman presses his development edge with 16. f4 Nd7 17. Nb5! Qb8 (essentially putting both the queen and rook out of play, but 17…Qb6 18. a4 a5 19. f5 leaves White free to pursue his king-side ambitions while Black has a wealth of weak spots to defend) 18. fxe5 Nxe5 19. Rf6 Ke7 (the White central pawns dominate on 19…Ng4 20. Nxd6+ Kf8 21. Qf3! Nxf6 22. Qxf6 Qd8 23. Qxd8+ Rxd8 24. Nxb7 Rb8 25. Nxc5 Rxb2 26. Rd1) 20. Raf1 Ng4 (see diagram).
Despite his dawdling, Black will consolidate easily if White retreats with 21. R6f4? Ne5 22. b3 a6 23. Nc3 Qc7, unwinding his queen-side. White instead presses forward on 21. e5! Nxf6 22. exf6+ Kf8 (Kd7? 23. Qe7+ Kc8 24. Qe8 mate) 23. Qe7+ Kg8 24. Nc7, winning back the exchange and leaving White with a dominating game.
The miserably placed Black forces simply can’t organize a coherent defense: 24…Rh8 (Qd8 25. Nxa8 Qxa8 26. Re1 Rh6 27. Re6! Qf8 28. Rxd6 Qxe7 29 fxe7 wins) 25. Re1 Qf8 26. Nxa8 Qxa8 27. Qd7! (threatening the lethal 28. Re8) Kh7 28. Qxf7+ Kh6 29. Qg7+.
Flushed out of the pocket, the Black king is soon sacked: 29…Kg5 30. h4+! Kf5 (Kxh4 31. Qxg6 Qc8 32. Re4+ Qg4 33. Kh2 Qxe4 34. g3 mate) 31. Qd7+ Kf4 32. Kf2!, a quiet move that sets up the unstoppable 33. g3 mate; Andrianov resigned.
Young California master Varuzhan Akobian, recent winner of the 2002 Samford Fellowship, finished just out of the money in Los Angeles at 5½-2½, but he did pull off a nice finish in his game against Armenian IM Andranik Matikozian. In a King’s Indian Attack, the two players set up offensives on opposite wings, and the only question is who will break through first.
Matikozian may have thought his opponent snatched a poisoned pawn on 27. Qd7 Qb6+ 28. Nd4 Qxb2! 29. Rb1, as any queen retreat exposes the Black pawn on b7. But Akobian had seen a little further with the instantly decisive 29…Rh1+!.
Now 30. Bxh1 leaves h3 uncovered, and the Black knight and queen will combine to deliver mate: 30…Nh3+ 31. Kf1 Qf2 mate. White resigned.
Arlington Chess Club head John Campbell is justifiably proud of our third and final game today, played at the U.S. Senior Open, held last month in Ventura, Calif. NM Stephen L. Jones and IM Anthony Saidy tied for first in the 92-player event. Campbell’s victim was Neil Bershad, a Class A player from California.
Black’s eccentric opening setup cedes White a big spatial advantage and the prospects of a king-side attack, but Bershad hasn’t made any fatal mistakes until 11. Ng5 g6? (Bxg5 12. fxg5 Rxf1+ 13. Qxf1 is certainly playable for Black) 12. Nxh7!.
Declining the sacrifice with 12…Rf7 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. Be3 isn’t pleasant, but the consequences of accepting are even more drastic: 12…Kxh7 13. Qh5+ Kg8 14. Qxg6+ Ng7 15. Rf3 Bh4 (losing, but so does 15…Bxd4 16. Rh3 Rf5 17. g4 Qe8 18. gxf5) 16. Qh7+ Kf7 17. Bg6+.
It’s over after 17…Kf6 18. Ne4+ Ke7 19. Qxg7+ Rf7 20. Qxf7 mate. Black resigned.
38th American Open, Los Angeles, November 2002
1. d4Nf617. Nb5Qb8
2. c4c518. fxe5Nxe5
3. d5e519. Rf6Ke7
4. Nc3d620. Raf1Ng4
5. e4g621. e5Nxf6
6. Be2Bg722. exf6+Kf8
7. Bg5h623. Qe7+Kg8
8. Be3h524. Nc7Rh8
9. Nf3Bh625. Re1Qf8
10. Bxh6Rxh626. Nxa8Qxa8
11. Qd2Rh827. Qd7Kh7
12. 0-0Bg428. Qxf7+Kh6
13. Ng5Bxe229. Qg7+Kg5
14. Qxe2Nh730. h4+Kf5
15. Nxh7Rxh731. Qd7+Kf4
16. f4Nd732. Kf2Black
38th American Open, Los Angeles, November 2002
1. Nf3d516. Re1Ne6
2. g3Nf617. Nb3Nh7
3. Bg2c618. Be3Nhg5
4. 0-0Bg419. Qe2Nf4
5. d3Nbd720. Bxf4exf4
6. Nbd2e521. f3Bxf5
7. e4dxe422. gxf5Rd6
8. dxe4Qc723. Rad1Rdh6
9. h3Bh524. Qd3Bd6
10. g4Bg625. a5Bb4
11. Nh4Nc526. c3Bxa5
12. Nf5h527. Qd7Qb6+
13. Qf3hxg428. Nd4Qxb2
14. hxg40-0-029. Rb1Rh1+
15. a4Kb8White resigns
U.S. Senior Open, Ventura, Calif., November 2002
1. e4d610. exf6Bxf6
2. d4Nd711. Ng5g6
3. Nc3e612. Nxh7Kxh7
4. f4Nb613. Qh5+Kg8
5. Nf3Be714. Qxg6+ Ng7
6. Bd3Nf615. Rf3Bh4
7. 0-00-016. Qh7+Kf7
8. Kh1Ne817. Bg6+Black
David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.