- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

Massachusetts GM Alexander Ivanov used a strong finishing kick to win this week’s 31st annual Eastern Open, with three wins in the final three rounds to finish alone in first at 7-1. Minnesota IM Stanislav Smetankin, last year’s winner, couldn’t keep pace, as two late draws left him a point behind in second at 6-2.

The tournament attracted about 180 players to the Wyndham Washington hotel downtown. We’ll have a full rundown on section winners and more games in next week’s column.

Rank has its privileges, and Ivanov, the tournament’s only grandmaster, received a late Christmas present in his fourth-round game against New York FM Ilye Figler. Figler is an experienced, accomplished player, but here he mixes some questionable aggressive ideas in the opening with a few defensive lapses. The result: an 18-move wipeout for the Massachusetts grandmaster.

In a Tarrasch French (3. Nd2), Black’s 8…h5 9. Re1 g5!? 10. dxc5 g4?! is an extremely committal line of play, banking on a king-side pawn blitzkrieg even before Black has castled his own king or dealt with the tension in the center. After 12. N2b3 Bd7 13. Bf4, Black might have been better advised to simplify with 13…Nxd3 14. Qxd3 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 Rg8, although White still has a small positional plus.

Instead, Black helps dig his own grave with 13…Bf6?! 14. Nxc6 Nxc6 15. Bd6 Ne7 (Be7 16. Bb5 keeps the pressure on) 16. Nd4 b6 17. b4, keeping the bothersome bishop posted at d6. Now 17…a5 18. Nb5 Bxb5 19. Bxb5+ Kf8 20. Bc6 Ra7 lets Black survive in a tough position, but Black opts for another course that leads to instant destruction.

Thus: 17…Nc8?? 18.. Nxe6!! (also winning but slightly less economical was 18. Rxe6+! Bxe6 19. Nxe6 fxe6 20. Bg6+ Kd7 21. Qa4+ b5 22. Qxb5 mate), and the open e-file proves lethal. Declining the knight costs Black his queen, but accepting the sacrifice with 18…fxe6 allows the criss-crossing two-bishop mate 19. Bg6. Taking with the bishop — 18…Bxe6 19. Bb5+ Qd7 20. Bxd7+ — costs Black just his queen. Figler resigned.

D.C. city champ Salvador Rosario scored an early-round upset of Pennsylvania FM Rodion Rubenchik with a timely exchange sacrifice clearing the way for the final mating assault.

There’s an old saying in chess that if you can get a knight posted on d6, you can go to sleep — your game will play itself. Rosario, on the White side of a Queen’s Gambit Slav, manages to establish his steed on the desired square after 15. e5 Nd5 16. Ne4 Bxd2?! (an intriguing choice for such a strong player, but one that seems to make White’s life easier; double-edged was 16… Bxf3 17. Qxf3 Bxd2 18. Nxd2 N7b6 19. Bxd5 Nxd5) Nfxd2 Nb4 18. Rac1 Bf5 19. Nd6 Bg6 20. N2e4, with a second White knight serving as backup.

The game is by no means won, but the d6-knight poses a range of problems for Rubenchik, keeping his rooks from the c- and e-files and continually threatening to join the White king-side rush.

Things come to a head on 26. Rcd1 Nd4 27. Qh3. The White queen, bishop and knight generate a number of tactical threats, while the pawn on e5 keeps Black from organizing a meaningful defense. In a difficult position, Rubenchik errs with 27…h6? (27…Nb8 right now looks mandatory, as Black at least stays in the game in lines such as 28. Qh5 h6 29. Nd6 Rxd6 30. exd6 Qxd6 31. Re8 Qf6 32. Rde1 Nbc6) 28. Nd6 Nb8 (on the tricky Nf6!? 29. Nxf7 Rxf7 30. exf6 Qxf6 31. Qh5 Rdf8 [Qxf4? 32. Rf1] 32. Bxf7+ Rxf7 33. Re8+ Kh7 34. Rf1, White is still winning).

The knight on d4 is key to Black’s defense, and a rook is a small price to pay to remove it: 29. Rxd4! cxd5 30. Nf5 (the Black knight no longer guards this square; Black has no good choices now) Qc5 (Qb4 31. Qg3! g5 [g6 32. Qxg6+] 32. fxg5 Kh7 33. Qh4 and wins) 31. Qg4, and White’s king-side attack cannot be parried.

The conclusion: 31…d3+ 32. Kh1 g5 33. Nxh6+, and mate is inevitable after 33…Kh7 34. Qh5 Qf2 35. Nxf7+ Kg7 36. Qh6+ Kg8 37. Qh8 mate. Rubenchik resigned.

Rosario also was involved in one of the tournament’s best might-have-beens in his game against New York master Igor Schneider, which we pick up from today’s diagrammed position. Rosario has been conducting a tough defense against heavy White pressure and has just played 21…Rc6-f6. An amusing position results in which it appears that the White king missed the memo calling an all-hands staff meeting over on the Black king-side.

White now played 22. Bc5, but both players missed a neat tactical idea after Black defended the hanging a-pawn with the natural 22…b6?. Schneider could have won material now with the slick 23. Rxe5! Rfe6 (the tactical justification comes on 23…Rxe5?? 24. Rd8+ Kxg7 25. Bf8+ Kg8 26. Bh6+ Re8 27. Rxe8 mate) 24. Rxe6 Rxe6 25. Bd4 (now there’s no mate on 25. Rd8+ Kxg7 26. Bf8+ Kf6) f6 26. Rxa7 Bf7 27. Kd2 Kxg7 28. a4, and even with the opposite-colored bishops, Black will have great difficulty holding the endgame.

But White retreated with 23. Be3?, and after 23…a6 24. Rb7 b5 25. a4 bxa4 26. Rc7 Rd6 27. Rxc4 Red8 28. Rg1 Kxg7 29. Rxa4, the players agreed to a draw.

31st Eastern Open, Washington, December 2004


1. e4e610. dxc5g4

2. d4d511. Nd4Ndxe5

3. Nd2Be712. N2b3Bd7

4. Ngf3Nf613. Bf4Bf6

5. e5Nfd714. Nxc6Nxc6

6. Bd3c515. Bd6Ne7

7. c3Nc616. Nd4b6

8. 0-0h517. b4Nc8

9. Re1g518. Nxe6Black


31st Eastern Open, Washington, December 2004


1. d4d518. Rac1Bf5

2. c4c619. Nd6Bg6

3. Nc3Nf620. N2e4b6

4. Nf3dxc421. f4c5

5. a4Bf522. d5exd5

6. e3e623. Bxd5Rad8

7. Bxc4Bb424. Bc4Bxe4

8. 0-0Nbd725. Nxe4Nc6

9. Qb3a526. Rcd1Nd4

10. Na2Be727. Qh3h6

11. Re10-028. Nd6Nb8

12. Nc3Bb429. Rxd4cxd4

13. Bd2Qe730. Nf5Qc5

14. e4Bg431. Qg4d3+

15. e5Nd532. Kh1g5

16. Ne4Bxd233. Nxh6+Black

17. Nfxd2Nb4resigns

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

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