- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

A six-time U.S. champion, GM Walter Browne, dominated the American scene for much of the late 1970s and early 1980s. While still a dangerous opponent, Browne's rating has slipped, and he has racked up fewer major titles in recent years.

But it was just like old times at the huge National Open in Las Vegas earlier this month, as Browne outclassed a pack of strong contenders to tie GM Alex Yermolinsky for first in the 197-player Championship section. The two went 5½-½ in what has developed into one of the strongest annual open events in the country.

Against Russian GM Ildar Ibragimov in Round 4, Browne played the kind of game one needs to play to do well in a big-money Swiss, taking a full point from a tough opponent with Black. In a Nimzo-Indian, Browne appears to win the opening battle, for after 11. d5 e4! 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Qc2 f5, the Black center enjoys more mobility while White's bishop is hemmed in by his own blockaded pawns.

Even with a trade of queens, White faces difficulties breaking free, particularly in light of his weak central pawns. If, for example, 28. g4 fxg4 29. hxg4, Black has 29…Re2 30. Rxe2 Rxe2 31. Rf2 Re4 32. Kg2 Rxc4.

When Ibragimov's bishop finally does get a little breathing room, a small tactical finesse allows Browne's king to penetrate with powerful effect: 35. Be1 d5 36. Bh4 Ne5+!.

Trading down to a rook-and-pawn ending on 37. fxe5 Rxh4 looks unpleasant for White, with lines like 38. Ra8 (g3 Rc4 [Rxh3?? 39. Kg2 wins] 39. Ra3 Kxe5 leaves White passively placed) Kxe5 39. Re8+ Kd6 40. Rd8+ Ke6 41. Re8+ Kd7 42. Rf8 Rc4 43. Rxf5 Rxc3+ 44. Ke2 Rg3 45. Kf2 h4 46. Rf4 c4! 47. Rxh4 c3 48. Rxh7+ Kd6 49. Rh6+ Kc5 50. Re6 c2 51. Re1 d4! 52. Kxg3 (Rc1 d3 53. Kxg3 Kd5 54. Kf2 d2) d3 53. Rf1 d2 54. h4 d1=Q and wins, although as the Annotators' Code requires us to mention here, "both sides can vary" in this line.

Anyway, White declines the trade but finds his king pinned to the back rank by the well-coordinated Black pieces. On 41. a5 (cxd4 cxd4 42. Rf7 d3 43. Rf6+ Kd7 44. Rf7+ Ke8 45. Rc7 d2+ 46. Kd1 Rxf4 47. Rc8+ Kd7 48. Rd8+ Kc7 49. Bg3 Ne3+ 50. Kxd2 Nf1+ 51. Kd3 Nxg3, winning) d3, White's a-pawn simply isn't enough of a threat to deter the Black attack.

Browne's technique from the queen trade on Move 26 has been flawless and 49. Kb3 Nd6!, shutting off the White rook from the d-pawn, proves decisive. Ibragimov resigned.

This month saw another premier event, the U.S. Masters Championships in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, a 7-round Swiss limited to players rated 2200 or above. Grandmasters and IMs made up more than a quarter of the exclusive 101-player field, and there was hardly an easy pairing to be had.

Kentucky GM Gregory Kaidanov and four foreign GMs Alexander Onischuk of Ukraine, Daniel Fridman of Latvia, Leonid Yudasin of Israel and Alexander Wojtkiewicz of Poland survived to tie for first at 5½-1½.

Russian GM Alexander Goldin, another of the pre-tourney favorites, found his hopes dashed by Czech GM Pavel Blatny in a Round 3 matchup.

Blatny appears to love the fianchettoed queenside bishop, and he somehow manages to get the bishop on the long diagonal even in this Ruy Lopez Exchange variation. When Goldin takes a too-casual approach to his own development, Blatny springs a nasty pawn sacrifice, with that fianchettoed bishop playing a crucial role in the ensuing attack.

Thus: 14. Rd1 Qg5 15. f4! (opening the f-file and clearing the long diagonal at the measly cost of a pawn, but Black can hardly refuse) Bxf4 16. h4 Qg4 (see diagram) 17. Nxg7!.

The Black queen must abandon the bishop because 17…Kxg7 18. Rxf4! Qh5 (Qxf4 19. Nd5+ f6 20. Nxf4) 19. Nd5+ Kf8 20. Qc3! Qxd1+ 21. Kh2 cxd5 22. Rxf7+! Kxf7 23. Qf6+ Kg8 24. Qg7 is mate. But on the game's 17…Qxg7 18. Rxf4 f6 (Bh3 19. Qf2 Ne6 20. Na4 Qg6 21. Rf6 Qg4 22. Rd3! threatens both the bishop and 23. Rg3) 19. Qf2, White has regained the pawn and still enjoys a dominating attack.

With Black on the ropes, Blatny opts for the quick knockout: 25. Qe2 Qg6 26. e5! (opening more lines) Rae8 27. h5 Qg7 28. Qc4+. Since 28…Rf7 (Kh8 29. exf6 Qf7 30. Qxg4) 29. exf6 b5 30. fxg7 bxc4 31. Rxf7 is hopeless, Black resigned.

A name to note: Ernesto Inarkiev may be the "next big thing" to come out of the deep Russian talent pool. Inarkiev, not yet a grandmaster, won the Russian Junior Championship earlier this month in Vladimir by a full two points over the field. The young Russian went 9½-1½ in the event.

National Open, Las Vegas, March 2002


1. d4Nf626. Bxf5Qxf5

2. c4e627. Qxf5gxf5

3. Nc3Bb428. Kf2h5

4. e3c529. Rxe7Rxe7

5. Bd3Nc630. Rb1Re4

6. Nf3Bxc3+31. Rb8+Kg7

7. bxc3d632. Rb7Rxc4

8. 0-00-033. Rxa7Kf6

9. Rb1e534. Kf3Ke6

10. Nd2Qe735. Be1d5

11. d5e436. Bh4Ne5+

12. Nxe4Nxe437. Ke3Re4+

13. dxc6bxc638. Kd2Nc4+

14. Qc2f539. Kc1Kd6

15. f3Ng540. a4d4

16. Bb2g641. a5d3

17. Qa4Qc742. Ra8Kc7

18. Bc1Nf743. Ra7+Kc8

19. f4Re844. a6Re2

20. Bd2Bd745. Ra8+Kc7

21. Qc2Re746. Rd8d2+

22. Rbe1Rae847. Kb1Re1+

23. e4Qc848. Kc2Rc1+

24. h3fxe449. Kb3Nd6

25. Bxe4Bf5White resigns

U.S. Masters Championship, Chicago, March 2002


1. e4e515. f4Bxf4

2. Nf3Nc616. h4Qg4

3. Bb5a617. Nxg7Qxg7

4. Ba4Nf618. Rxf4f6

5. 0-0Be719. Qf2Nd7

6. Bxc6dxc620. Ne2Ne5

7. Qe1Nd721. Ng3Bg4

8. b30-022. Rf1Rf8

9. Bb2Bd623. Nf5Bxf5

10. d4exd424. Rxf5Ng4

11. Nxd4Re825. Qe2Qg6

12. Nf5Be526. e5Rae8

13. Nc3Nc527. h5Qg7

14. Rd1Qg528. Qc4+Black


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

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