Friday, April 8, 2005

In what chess players consider the true March Madness, the powerhouse University of Maryland-Baltimore County team earlier this week defeated archrival University of Texas-Dallas in Lindsborg, Kan., to take its third consecutive Presidential Cup as the top U.S. college squad.

The Retrievers earned a measure of revenge for two straight close losses to the Texas team in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Tournament. Anchored by Ukrainian-born GM Alexander Onischuk, UMBC did not lose a game in Kansas, defeating Stanford and Miami-Dade College in the preliminary rounds before the showdown with Dallas.

UMBC IM Pascal Charbonneau, Canada’s reigning national champ, made quick work of Stanford expert Patrick Mihelich, helping his team to a quick 4-0 start in the first round. Mihelich, playing the Black side of a Sicilian Dragon, tries an interesting exchange sacrifice, but it is White who lands the first blow.

The idea 12. h5 Nxh5 13. g4 Rxc3!? (another way is 13…Nf6 14. 0-0-0 Nc4 15. Bxc4 Rxc4 with balanced play) is pretty standard Sicilian stuff, as the loss of the White knight on c3 often causes his center to collapse and the Dragon bishop on g7 to come to life. However, Charbonneau isn’t ready to give up his own king-side attack.

Thus: 14. gxh5! (bxc3 Ng3 15. Rg1 Nxf3+! 16. Nxf3 Nxe4 17. Qd3 Bxc3+ 18. Kf1 Bxa1 19. Qxe4 Bc6 and Black has four pawns for the piece) Rxe3+ (14…Rc8?! 15. hxg6 hxg6 [or 15…Nxg6] 16. Qh2! is nasty) 15. Qe3 Qb6 16. 0-0-0 (Black threatened 16…Qxd4! 17. Qxd4 Nxf3+, winning) Rc8 17. hxg6 hxg6 18. Qg5!, a disruptive and annoying move.

Guarding the e-pawn with 18…Kf8 gives White strong attacking prospects after 19. c3 a5 20. f4 Nc4 21. Bxc4 Rxc4 22. e5!, but the game’s 18…Nc4 19. c3 19. Bf6 20. Qh6 a5 (see diagram; with a5-a4, Black’s attack just might break through) 21. Nf5! begins a lethal assault, threatening, among other things, 22. Qh7+ Kf8 23. Qh8+! Bxh8 24. Rxh8 mate.

After 21…Bxf5 (gxf5?? 22. Rdg1+ leads to mate) 22. exf5, Black should have cut his losses with 22…Qe3+ 23. Qxe3 Nxe3 24. fxg6 Nxd1 25. Bxf7+ Kf8 26. Kxd1 Rc5, though White’s extra pawn and safer king give him all the chances. Instead, it’s over after 22…g5? 23. Rde1! a4 24. Bxc4 Rxc4 25. Rxe7!, exploiting the overworked bishop.

Black resigned as 25…Qd8 (Bxe7 26. Qh8 mate; 25…Bg7 26. Re8+ Bf8 27. Qh8 mate; and 25…Rh4 26. Re8 mate) 26. Qh7+ Kf8 27. Qxf7 is checkmate.

In other Maryland news, Baltimore GM Alex Wojtkiewicz is the 2005 state champ, and Satish Nath is the state amateur champ after last weekend’s Maryland Open in College Park. We’ll have more results and some action from the tournament next week.

• • •

Pittsburgh GM Alexander Shabalov turned in a subpar performance at last month’s Foxwoods Open, held at the huge Connecticut casino, losing to tournament winner GM Hikaru Nakamura and logging a middling 51/2-31/2 result. However, his one-for-the-anthologies win over fellow GM Igor Novikov at Foxwoods probably eased some of the disappointment.

The knight sacrifice on f5 in this Sicilian Najdorf line is a known commodity, but Shabba proceeds to jettison material at an alarming rate to keep his attack going and keep Black’s undeveloped pieces out of the fray.

We haven’t the space, time or skill to figure out exactly what is going on here, but the bravest sacrifice might have been 14. 0-0-0 exf2 (also worth a look was 14…Nd7 15. Nd5 Qc6) 15. Bxf7+!? Kxf7 (Qxf7?? 16. Qd8 mate) 16. Qd5+, inviting wild lines such as 16…Ke8 17. f7+ Ke7 18. f6+! Kxf6 19. Qf3+ Ke6 20. Rhf1 Bh6+ 21. Kb1 Bf4 22. Rxf2 Nc6 23. Qd5+ Ke7 24. Rxf4! exf4 25. Re1+ Kf8 26. Re8+ Kg7 27. Rg8+ Kh6 28. Qg5 mate.

The position after 23. Rxf2+ Ke8 24. Rd8+ Qxd8 25. Qxh6 is amazing. White is down a rook and bishop, but every remaining Black piece is on its home square, and Novikov’s king still has no safe harbor.

Seeking relief from the incessant checks, Black changes the material imbalance with 28. Qg5+ Kd7 29. Qg7+ Kc6 30. Rf6 Kxd5 (Re8 31. Ne7+ Kc7 32. Nd5+ Kd6 33. Nb6 Qxf6 34. Qxf6+ Be6 35. Nc4+ Kc7 36. Qxe5+ and White is better) 31. Rxe6 Kxe6 32. Qxh8, getting a rook, knight and bishop of his lost queen.

However, the White h-pawn proves a vital trump and Black rather abruptly gives up a piece to stop it with 36. h6 Nxh6?! 37. Qxh6+ Ke7, banking on his bishop and rook to blockade the position. The Black king, however, never finds safe ground, and a nice bit of triangulation wins the Black bishop after 46. b5 axb5 47. axb5 Bh1 48. c4 Re8 49. Qg6 (threatening 50. Qh7+) Re7 50. Qh5!, when the retreats 50…Be4 and 50…Bg2 both fail to 51. Qg4+.

In the final position, Black’s b-pawn is a lost cause, and with its demise Black’s game will collapse; e.g. 61…Kg8 62. Qf6 Re8 63. Qg6+ Kf8 64. Qf5+ Kg7 65. Qd7+ Kf8 66. Qxb7 and wins.

Sound? Who knows? Entertaining? Very.

UMBC vs. Stanford, College Chess Final Four, Lindsborg, Kan., April 2005


1. e4c514. gxh5Rxe3+

2. Nf3d615. Qxe3Qb6

3. d4cxd416. 0-0-0Rc8

4. Nxd4Nf617. hxg6hxg6

5. Nc3g618. Qg5Nc4

6. Be3Bg719. c3Bf6

7. Bc40-020. Qh6a5

8. f3Nc621. Nf5Bxf5

9. Qd2Bd722. exf5g5

10. h4Rc823. Rde1a4

11. Bb3Ne524. Bxc4Rxc4

12. h5Nxh525. Rxe7Black

13. g4Rxc3resigns

7th Foxwoods Open, Mashantucket, Conn., March 2005


1. e4c532. Qxh8Nc6

2. Nf3d633. h4Ne7

3. d4cxd434. h5Nf5

4. Nxd4Nf635. Qxh7Bd7

5. Nc3a636. h6Nxh6

6. Be3e637. Qxh6+Ke7

7. g4e538. Qh4+Ke6

8. Nf5g639. Qg4+Kd6

9. g5gxf540. Qb4+Kc6

10. exf5d541. Qe4+Kb6

11. gxf6d442. Qe3+Kc6

12. Bc4Qc743. b4Kd6

13. Qd3dxe344. Qb6+Bc6

14. 0-0-0exf245. a4Kd7

15. Bxf7+Kxf746. b5axb5

16. Qd5+Kxf647. axb5Bh1

17. Ne4+Ke748. c4Re8

18. f6+Ke849. Qg6Re7

19. f7+Ke750. Qh5Bc6

20. Qd2Qb651. Qf5+Kd6

21. Qg5+Kxf752. bxc6Kxc6

22. Rhf1Bh653. Qc8+Kd6

23. Rxf2+Ke854. c5+Kd5

24. Rd8+Qxd855. Qd8+Ke6

25. Qxh6Qe756. Qd6+Kf7

26. Nf6+Kd857. Kd2e4

27. Nd5Qe658. Ke3Ke8

28. Qg5+Kd759. Qb8+Kf7

29. Qg7+Kc660. Qc8Kg7

30. Rf6Kxd561. Qf5Black

31. Rxe6Kxe6resigns

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

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