- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

Grandmaster Alex Wojtkiewicz wasn’t the only repeat champ at the Maryland Open earlier this month.

As reported here last week, Wojtkiewicz successfully defended his state title in the Open section. A few boards down, however, Class A player Bruce Till was defending his own Maryland Amateur title with a 41/2-1/2 result in the Under-2000 competition.

Till tied with Virginia’s John Farrell in the section, taking the title and trophy for the second consecutive year as the top-scoring Maryland resident.

Congratulations also to Vivek Muralidhar, who went a perfect 5-0 to win the Reserve section by a point over Chad Sandefur and Jarrod Ramos. A total of 115 players competed in the three sections.

The new Amateur champion passed along to us his best game from the event, a Round 4 win over Paul Homer that allowed Till to coast home with a final-round draw. The annotations here incorporate many of the winner’s own comments.

This game intrigued me because Homer tries a strategy I have often wondered about in the King’s Indian Classical — hightailing the White king to the queen-side before the going gets too hot. Thus: 15. Rc1 Rf7 (a useful move that covers c7 and vacates f8 for the bishop) 16. Rc2?! (Till calls this a waste of time) Nf6 17. Kf2!? g4 18. Ke1!?.

It’s a time-consuming plan, but White’s idea will leave Black’s king-side attack chasing ghosts if the second player does not react. Black rises to the challenge with 19. Rg1 g3 20. h3 Nxg2+! (an enterprising speculative sac that gives Black two dangerous passers for his piece; White’s pieces will have trouble organizing a blockade) 21. Rxg2 Bxh3 22. Rg1 Nh7 (h4?! 23. Rh1 g2 24. Rg1 Nh5 25. Nf2 Qc8 26. cxd6 cxd6 27. Nb5 embarrasses the Black queen, according to Till).

Interesting now would have been 23. Rh1 g2 (Ng5 24. Kd2 h4 25. Kc1 Bc8 26. Rxh4 Nxf3 27. Rh1! g2 28. Bxf3 gxh1=Q 29. Qxh1 and White’s unorthodox king maneuver pays off as it is the Black king who comes under fire) 24. Rg1, forcing Black to reinforce the advanced g-pawn. White removes the h-pawn only to find Black’s two passers reincarnated on 26. Rh1 Bf8 27. Rxh4?! (Ne2 h3 28. Rxh3 Nxh3 29. Qxh3 looks marginally tougher, though the dangerous g-pawn remains) Nxf3+ 28. Qxf3 Qxh4.

White puts up a tough king-side stand only to spring a leak on his other flank: 31. Ne2 Rh2 32. Kd3 Bh6 33. cxd6 cxd6 34. Rc7? (b5!, freeing the bishop and keeping the a-file closed, looks both good and mandatory) b5. (and not the tempting 34…Rxg2? 35. Qxg2 f3 36. Qxf3?? Qd2 mate, because White turns the tables with 36. Qxg3! fxe2 37. Qxg5+ Bxg5 38. Kxe2).

On 35. Bc1 Qh5! 36. Qxh5 (Qf1 f3) Rxh5 37. Ne1 a5!, the rook on a8 enters the game with devastating effect. The White blockade finally collapses on 40. Bxb4 Rxa2 41. Neg1 Ra1 and, as Till aptly puts it, the knights “are about to be vaporized.” Black’s sacrificial strategy emerges triumphant as the g-pawn costs White a piece.

In the final position, White has only 52. Kf2 Rdf1 mate to look forward to. Homer resigned.

Correction: Sharp-eyed (and not so sharp-eyed) readers noticed that last week’s diagram was an inadvertent reprint of the May 10 diagram. My apologies.

IM Milan Vukcevich, a world-class problem composer and one of the strongest U.S. players of the 1970s, passed away May 10 at the age of 66 from cancer at his home near Cleveland.

Born in Yugoslavia, Vukcevich earned a doctorate in metallurgy and was a top scientist for General Electric, which cut into his over-the-board opportunities. It was his talent at composing chess problems that earned him international fame and induction earlier this year into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

Vukcevich was no slouch in tournament play, finishing third in the 1975 U.S. Championship ahead of Samuel Reshevsky and Robert Byrne, among others. His win over GM Leonid Shamkovich in a 1976 National Chess League match between Cleveland and New York has made it into many anthologies and occupies an important theoretical niche in this line of the Sicilian Dragon.

Vukcevich’s play is the kind of attack Dragon players dream about, with the bishop at g7 playing a critical role in the attack.

White’s own aggressive plans are stopped cold by 15. h5 Nxh5 16. g4 (see diagram) Ng3, a move that at first looks like a typographical error. But the sacrifice deflects White’s critical defensive piece — the knight at e2 — and Vukcevich never lets up after that.

A second singular beauty from this game is 19. Kb1 Be6 20. Qh2 (threatening mate in two and all but inviting Black to bail out with 20…Rb4+ 21. cxb4 Bxa2+ 22. Ka1 Bc4+ 23. Kb1 Ba2+ and a perpetual check) Kf8!!, perhaps the most courageous and inspired move of the game.

Even an exchange sacrifice by White can’t stem the Black attack, while the Black king remains perfectly safe: 21. Rd5 (Qxh7?? now leaves c2 unguarded on 21…Rb4+! 22. cxb4 Bxa2+ 23. Ka1 Bb3+ 24. Kb1 Qa2+ 25. Kc1 Qxc2 mate) Bxd5 22. exd5 Qxc3.

The Black rooks and queen invade while White’s forces are huddled ineffectually on the king-side. By 30. Kg3 Qxd5, Black has amassed a rook and five pawns for two minor pieces, and Shamkovich could have resigned at any moment. In the final position, White’s paralyzed pieces are unable to stop the a-pawn from queening, and White called it a day.

Maryland Amateur Championship, College Park, May 2003

HomerTill

1. d4Nf627. Rxh4Nxf3+

2. c4g628. Qxf3Qxh4

3. Nc3Bg729. Ne1Rh7

4. e4d630. Ng2Qg5

5. Nf30-031. Ne2Rh2

6. Be2e532. Kd3Bh6

7. 0-0Nc633. cxd6cxd6

8. d5Ne734. Rc7b5

9. b4Ne835. Bc1Qh5

10. Ne1f536. Qxh5Rxh5

11. f3f437. Ne1a5

12. c5g538. Ba3Rh1

13. Nd3h539. Nf3axb4

14. Ba3Ng640. Bxb4Rxa2

15. Rc1Rf741. Neg1Ra1

16. Rc2Nf642. Bxd6Raxg1

17. Kf2g443. Rc8+Kh7

18. Ke1Nh444. Rc7+Kg6

19. Rg1g345. Bxe5Rd1+

20. h3Nxg2+46. Ke2g2

21. Rxg2Bxh347. Rc6+Kh5

22. Rg1Nh748. d6g1=Q

23. Kd2h449. Nxg1Rhxg1

24. Bf1Bxf150. Rc5Kg4

25. Qxf1Ng551. Bc3f3+

26. Rh1Bf8White resigns

New York vs. Cleveland, National Chess League, 1976

ShamkovichVukcevich

1. e4c521. Rd5Bxd5

2. Nf3d622. exd5Qxc3

3. d4cxd423. Bh6+Ke8

4. Nxd4Nf624. Ne4Rb4+

5. Nc3g625. Kc1Qa3+

6. Be3Bg726. Kd2Rc8

7. f30-027. Ke2Rxc2+

8. Qd2Nc628. Nd2Qa6+

9. Bc4Bd729. Kf2Qxa2

10. Bb3Qa530. Kg3Qxd5

11. 0-0-0Rfc831. Re1e6

12. h4Ne532. Re2Rbb2

13. Nde2Nc433. Be3h5

14. Bxc4Rxc434. gxh5gxh5

15. h5Nxh535. Qg2Kd7

16. g4Ng336. Kh2Qe5+

17. Nxg3Bxc337. Kg1h4

18. bxc3Qa3+38. Qg8Qg3+

19. Kb1Be639. Qxg3hxg3

20. Qh2Kf840. Kg2a5

White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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