- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2004

Teenager Hikaru Nakamura of White Plains, N.Y., is the new U.S. men’s champion, blanking GM Alex Stripunsky in a two-game rapid playoff after the pair finished atop the 64-player field in La Jolla, Calif. The 16-year-old GM becomes the youngest American champion since Bobby Fischer won the crown at 14 in 1957.

Also in a playoff, New York master Rusudan Goletiani defeated fellow master Tatev Abrahamyan of California to win her first U.S. women’s crown.

It has been a breakout year for Nakamura, who had already eclipsed Fischer’s long-standing mark as the youngest U.S. player to earn the grandmaster title. He had a strong run in the FIDE world championship knockout tournament in Libya this summer and picked up a number of other tournament titles, as well.

The ninth and final round supplied all the drama the organizers could have hoped for, as Stripunsky won a tactical slugfest with GM Alexander Goldin. Nakamura, trying to hold a shaky position against GM Ildar Ibragimov, suddenly needed to win just to force a playoff. He managed (barely) to get the critical point.

On the White side of an Advanced French, Nakamura gets into trouble after 14. g4 Nfxd4!? 15. Ncxd4 fxe4! (Nxd4 16. Be3 Nxe2!!? 17. Bxb6 Bb5 18. Kg2 Nf4+ 19. Kh2 axb6 20. a4 would have been a lot of fun, too) 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. Bc3 (Nxe5?? Qxf2 mate) Bd6.

Black has two pawns, a monster center and a half-open file bearing down on the White king for his piece: not a bad return on his investment. After 23. Qg6 (Bg8 e4 24. Bxe6 Rbf8 gives Black a strong attack) Rf6 24. Nf7+ Rxf7 25. Qxf7 Kxh7, Ibragimov has two pawns for the exchange and his pawn center remains intact. White is on the ropes.

But Nakamura, characteristically, opts for active defense with 38. b4! cxb4 39. Rc8 e4 40. Rg8 Bxg3 41. Rxg7+ Kf8. The Black passed pawns are on the march, but now Ibragimov must deal with mating threats to his own trapped king.

The game turns decisively on 45. f4!? (one more aggressive shot, which probably should have lost) exf4+ 46. Kxf4 e2 47. Re7 Kf8! (Bb5? 48. Kf5 and 49. Kf6 mates the Black king) 48. Re5, and now 48…Bb5! 49. Kf5 d3 50. Kf6 Ba4!! would have won, as the bishop covers both d1 and e8; e.g. 51. Re7 (g7+ Kg8 52. Rc5 e1=Q 53. Rc8+ Be8) e1=Q! 52. Rxe1 d2 53. Re7 d1=Q 54. g7+ Kg8 and wins.

Instead, on the game’s 48…a5? 49. Kf3 a4 50. Kf2!, the Black pawns are stymied and the White rook is free to pick off pawns at its leisure. Nakamura’s sole remaining pawn proves the difference on 64. Rc8+ Kd4 65. Kd2 h3 66. a8=Q, as 66…Bxa8 67. Rxa8 h2 68. Rh8 wins easily. Ibragimov resigned.

• • •

The father-son team of IM Larry and NM Ray Kaufman shared top honors with Virginia expert William Marcelino at last weekend’s fourth annual Arlington Open. All finished undefeated at 41/2-1/2, with the two Kaufmans drawing their last-round matchup.

Marcelino, playing in his first tournament in a half-dozen years, upset two masters on his way to a share of the title. He used the Stonewall Dutch to dispatch veteran master John Meyer in a crucial round-four game.

The Stonewall’s basic idea is to establish a cast-iron pawn center in order to be free to engage in flank operations. When White unwisely closes off his own counterplay, Black’s strategy triumphs in brutal fashion. White’s 15. d5 f4 16. e4?!, shutting down central operations, sows the seeds for the coming tragedy.

Thus: 17…Nh3+ 18. Bxh3 (Kh1 is playable, but Black is very comfortable after 18…cxd5 19. Nxd5 Qe6 20. Qd2 Ba6 21. Rc1 Rac8) Bxh3 19. Rf2 Qg5 20. Re2? (tougher was 20. Kh1 Qg6 21. gxf4 Rxf4 22. Qe3) Qg6! (threatening now 21…fxg3) 21. Kf2 fxg3+ 22. hxg3, reaching the position in today’s diagram.

Black neatly exploits White’s miserably placed pieces to deliver the knockout blow: 22…Rxf3+!! 23. Nxf3 (giving up the queen, but 23. Kxf3 allows the pleasing 23…Rf8+ 24. Ke3 Qh6 mate!) Nd3+ 24. Ke3 Nxc1 25. Rxc1 Qxg3. Saddled with a hopeless material deficit and a king still on the ropes, Meyer resigned.

• • •

Quick hits … The 31st annual Eastern Open will be Dec. 26-29 at the Wyndham Washington Hotel, 1400 M St. NW. Call 202/857-4922 for more details on one of the region’s most popular and high-powered events. … FIDE, the international chess federation, announced this week that it is canceling the planned title match between Russia’s Garry Kasparov and Uzbek GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov planned for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, next month, citing a lack of sponsorship. FIDE says other bids are being considered, with Turkey a leading candidate.

U.S. Chessmaster Championship, La Jolla, Calif., December 2004


1. e4e634. axb3Bb5+

2. d4d535. Kg2Kf8

3. e5c536. f3Bd3

4. c3Nc637. Bg3Ke7

5. Nf3Nge738. b4cxb4

6. Na3cxd439. Rc8e4

7. cxd4Nf540. Rg8Bxg3

8. Nc2Qb641. Rxg7+Kf8

9. Be2Bb4+42. Rf7+Kg8

10. Kf1Be743. Kxg3e3

11. g3Bd744. Rd7e5

12. Bd20-045. f4exf4+

13. h4f646. Kxf4e2

14. g4Nfxd447. Re7Kf8

15. Ncxd4fxe548. Re5a5

16. Nxc6bxc649. Kf3a4

17. Bc3Bd650. Kf2a3

18. Rh3Rab851. bxa3b3

19. Bd3Qc752. g7+Kxg7

20. Ng5h653. Re7+Kf6

21. Bh7+Kh854. Rb7Bc4

22. Qc2Rf455. Rb4Bf7

23. Qg6Rf656. a4d3

24. Nf7+Rxf757. a5Bxh5

25. Qxf7Kxh758. Ke1Ke5

26. g5Be859. a6Bf3

27. g6+Kh860. a7h5

28. Qxc7Bxc761. Rxb3Kd4

29. h5d462. Rb8h4

30. Rf3Kg863. Rd8+Kc3

31. Be1c564. Rc8+Kd4

32. Rc1Bd665. Kd2h3

33. Rb3Rxb366. a8=QBlack


4th Arlington Open, Arlington, December 2004


1. d4f514. bxc4e5

2. g3Nf615. d5f4

3. Bg2e616. e4Nc5

4. b3d517. Ne1Nh3+

5. Nf3Bd618. Bxh3Bxh3

6. 0-0Qe719. Rf2Qg5

7. c4c620. Re2Qg6

8. Bb20-021. Kf2fxg3+

9. Qc1Ne422. hxg3Rxf3+

10. Ne5Nd723. Nxf3Nd3+

11. f3Ng524. Ke3Nxc1

12. Nd3b625. Rxc1Qxg3

13. Nc3dxc4White resigns

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

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