- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

There is no sweeter rite of passage in chess than beating your first grandmaster. Nothing can compare to the rush of elation, achievement and relief that comes from your very first victory over one of the game’s titled elite.

At least so we’re told.

Not having — ahem — managed to punch this particular ticket yet, we’ll live vicariously through a couple of games from the fifth annual Arlington Open earlier this month. Master Alex Barnett, who shared first in the tournament with fellow master John Meyer at 41/2-1/2, defeated Estonian GM Jaan Ehlvest, once ranked among the top 10 players in the world, with the Black pieces in Round 4 on his way to the title.

In this Classical Queen’s Indian, the play revolves around whether White’s bishop pair and greater freedom compensate for his blocked center and weak c-pawns. Ehlvest no doubt has played this kind of position dozens of times, but his 15. Qd2 Qe7 16. d5?, irrevocably clogging up the middle of the board, does not turn out well.

What follows is some lengthy behind-the-lines maneuvering as both sides prepare for the inevitable f-file break. Things come to a head on 24. f4 exf4 25. gxf4 Nf6 26. f5 Ng4, when White might have been better advised to keep on trucking with 27. fxg6!? Nxe3 28. Qd2 Ng4 29. gxf7+ Rxf7 30. Rxf7 Kxf7 31. Ng3 Kg8 32. Rg1 Ne5, when Black’s positional edge is manageable.

Instead, the insecure White rook costs the grandmaster a pawn after 27. Rf3?! Nh4 28. Rg3 Nxe3 29. Rxe3 Nxf5!, exploiting the pinned e-pawn. Barnett stays on the attack, getting in his own break on 32. Ng1 f5! 33. h3 (exf5 Nxf5 34. Rxg4? Ne3 35. Rxg7+ Kxg7 36. Qd2 Qg4 leaves Black firmly in control) fxe4 34. Rxg4 exd3 35. Qxd3 Qf5!, virtually forcing a queen trade as 36. Qd1 Qf2 37. Qc1 Nf5 quickly gets ugly for White.

After 40. Rxe4 Rxe4 41. Kh2 Ng6!, Black can prevent any rook penetration with a coming …Ne5, picking off the c-pawn at his leisure. A discouraged Ehlvest might have tried his grandmasterly endgame technique to squeeze out a draw but decided instead to call it a day.

Daniel Clancy’s 31/2-11/2 score was good for a share of the Class A prize in the event, but how he got there was worth noting. His scorecard included a draw with expert Henry Yu, a win over NM Ray Kaufman, a draw with Kaufman’s father, IM Larry Kaufman, and another draw with Baltimore GM Alex Wojtkiewicz.

Clancy, who no doubt picked up a hefty pile of rating points, nearly duplicated Barnett’s feat in his game with “Wojo,” having the grandmaster on the ropes in their game.

We pick it up from today’s diagrammed position, where White has just played 34. Qf3-f2. Clancy secured the draw after 34…Ne4 35. Qf3 Nd2 36. Qf2 Ne4, and earning even a half-point against a player rated more than 600 points above you rates as a major accomplishment.

But Black could have gone for more with 34…Nxf1! 35. Kxf1 (Qxf1 Qc3! threatens both the knight and 36…Qc4+, picking off the loose rook) Qc3!, when White is paralyzed after 36. Rxc5 (Kg1 Qxh3 37. Rxc5 Qxg4+ 38. Qg2 Qxf4 also leaves Black much better) Qxh3+ 37. Kg1 Qxg4+ 38. Qg2 Qd1+ 39. Qf1 Qd2 40. Rc7 Nf5.

It’s a tough life for an itinerant grandmaster in a world of open Swiss tournaments. Both Ehlvest and Wojtkiewicz withdrew after Round 4.

Speaking of rites of passage, rising U.S. star Hikaru Nakamura experienced another one with his fine second-place finish at a Category 17 invitational in Armenia earlier this month. Nakamura’s 51/2-31/2 score (including a forfeit over Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi, who withdrew for family reasons) included wins over veteran GMs Alexey Dreev of Russia and Moldova’s Viktor Bologan, who tripped himself up in a Four Knights English against the 17-year-old New Yorker.

Bologan’s king-side hopes get sidetracked as he is forced to deal with White’s expanding queen-side pressure. Black may have outsmarted himself with the oversubtle 24. Rb1 Ra7?!, as the idea of doubling rooks on the a-file leads to trouble.

With 29. Ned4 Be8 30. b6! Ra6 31. c5! (the pawn can’t be taken because of 32. Nxc5, and White threatens to win the exchange with 32. Bf1) Rb8 32. Nf3 Qf6 33. cxd6 Nd5 34. d7!, Nakamura emerges a pawn to the good as 34…Bxd7? loses to 35. Nc5 Qd8 36. Nxa6 bxa6 37. Qxa5.

Black seeks salvation in tactics, but Nakamura more than holds his own: 36. Rxb6 Nxb6 37. Nxb7! Nxd7 (Rxb7 38. d8=Q+) 38. Qxd7 Qb2 (keeping hope alive by attacking the knight and the rook, but Black can’t save the position) 39. Qxf7 Qxc1+ 40. Bf1 Qd1 41. Qc7! Rxb7 42. Qc8+! Kh7 43. Qxf5+ Kg8 44. Qc8+ Bf8 45. Qxb7, emerging two pawns ahead.

In the final position, Black either gets mated or trades down to an ending where White’s a-pawn will decide; Bologan resigned.

Arlington Open, Arlington, October 2005


1. d4Nf622. Rb1Qd8

2. Nf3e623. g3Qc8

3. c4b624. f4exf4

4. e3Bb725. gxf4Nf6

5. Bd3Bb4+26. f5Ng4

6. Nc30-027. Rf3Nh4

7. 0-0Bxc328. Rg3Nxe3

8. bxc3d629. Rxe3Nxf5

9. Nd2e530. Rf3Nh4

10. e4Re831. Rg3Bg4

11. f3Nc632. Ng1f5

12. Nb3Ne733. h3fxe4

13. Be3c534. Rxg4exd3

14. Rf2Ng635. Qxd3Qf5

15. Qd2Qe736. Rd1Qxd3

16. d5h637. Rxd3g5

17. Nc1Bc838. Rgg3Re4

18. Ne2Bd739. Rge3Rfe8

19. Kh1Rf840. Rxe4Rxe4

20. Rg1Nh741. Kh2Ng6

21. Qc2Rae8White resigns

Karbakh International, Stepanakert, Armenia, October 2005


1. c4e525. Rdc1Rc8

2. Nc3Nf626. Qd3Qe5

3. Nf3Nc627. Qd2Bf7

4. a3g628. Nb3Rca8

5. g3Bg729. Ned4Be8

6. d3d630. b6Ra6

7. Bg20-031. c5Rb8

8. Bg5h632. Nf3Qf6

9. Bxf6Bxf633. cxd6Nd5

10. 0-0Ne734. d7Bf7

11. Nd2c635. Nc5Rxb6

12. Rc1Bg736. Rxb6Nxb6

13. b4a637. Nxb7Nxd7

14. a4a538. Qxd7Qb2

15. b5Be639. Qxf7Qxc1+

16. Nb3f540. Bf1Qd1

17. e3Kh841. Qc7Rxb7

18. Qe2Bg842. Qc8+Kh7

19. d4exd443. Qxf5+Kg8

20. Nxd4Qb644. Qc8+Bf8

21. Rfd1Qc545. Qxb7Qxf3

22. Qd2g546. Qb3+Kh7

23. Nce2Rfd847. Bd3+Kg7

24. Rb1Ra748. Qc3+Black


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

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