- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

It’s hard to imagine there’s a home-field advantage in a game played on a board of 64 light and dark squares.

Nevertheless, it was Chicago GM Yury Shulman who was alone at the top at the end of the 107th U.S. Open, which wound up Sunday in the Windy City suburb of Oakbrook. The Belarus-born Shulman, who was runner-up in January’s closed U.S. Championship, scored an impressive 8-1, a half-point ahead of a knot of 10 pursuers that included GMs John Fedorowicz, Gregory Kaidanov, Dmitry Gurevich and Joel Benjamin.

Over 850 players competed in the Open, traditionally one of the country’s largest — although not one of the more lucrative — Swiss events.

There were a couple of strong local performances to note, as well. Virginia master Alex Barnett suffered his only loss of the tournament in the final round to Gurevich, boosting his rating with a 61/2-21/2 score. And Virginia’s Abby Marshall went 5-0 to win her second straight Polgar Invitational, a competition for female state high school champions from around the country held in conjunction with the main tournament.

The critical game of the Open came in Round 8, when Shulman took on former U.S. champ Alexander Shabalov. Shulman’s victory put him a half-point ahead of the field, and no one could catch him when he made a final-round draw with IM Emilio Cordova.

Shabalov, on the Black side of a Queen’s Gambit Slav, takes a characteristically aggressive tack, but Shulman with 10. d5 Qd8 11. Ne5!? shows he is in no mood to back down.

By 14. g3 b5!? 15. axb6 Bb7 16. e4 0-0, Black has some promising attacking lines on the long diagonal and the half-open f-file, but at the cost of significant weak squares in his own defense, notably e6. Given a little time, Black could mount a strong attack on White’s uncastled king, but Shulman beats his veteran opponent to the punch.

Thus: 17. Bh3 Rf6 18. Qb3! (an annoying, multipurpose move that bolsters the White pawn on b6 while eyeing tactical shots on the a2-g8 diagonal; already White has threats like 19. Rd1 Qe8 20. Na5, rolling up the Black queenside) Nb8 19. Rd1 Qf8 20. Ne5!, ignoring the attack on his f-pawn to get his own attack rolling.

On 20…Rxf2 (this looks dangerous, but guarding this advanced rook will preoccupy Shabalov for the rest of the game) 21. Qxe6+ Kh7 22. Qg6+ Kh8 23. Qg4!, threatening a killer knight fork on g6. Best now might have been 23…Rf6 24. Ng6+ Rxg6 25. Qxg6 Nc6, though 26. Bf5 Qg8 27. Nd5 looks pretty grim for Black.

Trying to preserve some semblance of counterplay leads instead to complete collapse for the Black game: 23…Kh7 24. Ng6 Qf6 25. Nxe7, and now recapturing the knight hangs the orphaned rook on f2.

Black tries 25…Nc6 26. Ned5 Qf7, but on 27. Nf4 White is a clear piece up and Shulman simplifies niftily with 27…Bc8 28. Rd7! Bxd7 29. Qxd7 Qxd7 (Rxf4 loses to 30. gxf4 Qxf4 31. Bf5+ Kh8 32. Qxc6) 30. Bxd7, when Black’s star-crossed rook and the knight on c6 are both under attack. Shabalov resigned.

• • •

Shabalov’s hyper-aggressiveness against Shulman may be explained by his smashing success just a round earlier, a brilliant miniature against Georgian GM Giorgi Kacheishvili. The cascade of sacrifices in this Caro-Kann Advanced makes this game a masterpiece of modern combinational skill.

The Caro-Kann has a quiet reputation, but the two grandmasters turn it into a tricky poisoned pawn debate on 8. 0-0!? Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qxa2 Rxb7. Now 10…Bxc2 11. Qc1 Rb8 12. Rxb8+ Nxb8 13. Ne1 forces White to prove he has enough positional compensation for his material shortfall.

The Georgian may have swallowed one poisoned pawn too many instead with 10…Nc8 11. c4 dxc4?! 12. Bxc4 Qa3, when Shabalov needs no invitation to play the line-opening sacrifice 13. d5!! exd5 (cxd5? 14. Bb5 Ncb6 15. Bxb6 wins) 14. Nd4 Nc5 (see diagram; 14…cxd4 15. Nxf5, and 14…Ne7 15. Re1 Bg6 [dxc4 16. Nxc4 Qa6 17. Nd6+ Kd8 18. Nxf7+ Kc8 19. Nd6+ Kd8 20. N4xf5] 16. Nxc6 Nxc6 17. Bxd5 both give White great play).

With a rook and a bishop already under attack, White finds the marvelous 15. Nb5!!, putting a third piece under the gun. (As the great Soviet world champ Mikhail Tal once cheerfully observed, “They can only take one piece at a time!”)

Black’s queen is under attack, and declining with 15…Qa5 allows 16. Nc7+ Kd8 17. Bxc5 Bxc5 18. Nxa8. Kacheishvili captures with 15…cxb5, but White’s attack bores forward on 16. Bxb5+ Bd7 (Kd8 17. Nc4 Qd3 18. Bxc5 Bxc5 19. Rxd7+! Bxd7 [Ke8 20. Rxd5] 20. Qxd3 Bxb5 21. Qxd5+ Ke8 22. Re1, and White wins; while the tougher 16…Nd7 17. Nc4 Qe7 18. Qxd5 leaves Black to deal with the nasty threat of 19. Rxd7! Bxd7 20. Rd1 Bxb5 21. Qxb5+ Qd7 22. Qxd7 mate) 17. Bxc5 Bxc5 (Qxc5 18. Bxd7+ Kd8 19. Nb3 Qc4 20. Na5 Qc5 21. Nc6+, again winning) 18. Bxd7+.

One more inspired piece offering seals the deal for White: 18…Kf8 19. Bxc8 Rxc8 20. Ne4!, when 20…dxe4?? 21. Qd7 leads to unstoppable mate. When the smoke clears after 20…Rd8 21. Nxc5 Qxc5 22. Qf3!, Black is actually up a pawn, but the mating threats generated by White’s rook and queen leave Kacheishvili curiously helpless.

The finale: 22…f6 23. Qh5, and Black gave up as 23…g6 24. Qh6+ Ke8 25. Qg7 Qf8 26. Qc7 h5 27. Qc6+ Rd7 28. Qxd7 is mate.

107th U.S. Open, Oakbrook, Ill., August 2006

ShulmanShabalov

1. d4d516. e40-0

2. c4c617. Bh3Rf6

3. Nf3Nf618. Qb3Nb8

4. Nc3a619. Rd1Qf8

5. a4e620. Ne5Rxf2

6. Bg5h621. Qxe6+Kh7

7. Bh4dxc422. Qg6+Kh8

8. a5c523. Qg4Kh7

9. Bxf6Qxf624. Ng6Qf6

10. d5Qd825. Nxe7Nc6

11. Ne5Nd726. Ned5Qf7

12. Nxc4Be727. Nf4Bc8

13. dxe6fxe628. Rd7Bxd7

14. g3b529. Qxd7Qxd7

15. axb6Bb730. Bxd7Black

resigns

107th U.S. Open, Oakbrook, Ill., August 2006

ShabalovKacheishvili

1. e4c613. d5exd5

2. d4d514. Nd4Nc5

3. e5Bf515. Nb5cxb5

4. Be3e616. Bxb5+Bd7

5. Nd2Nd717. Bxc5Bxc5

6. Be2Ne718. Bxd7+Kf8

7. Ngf3Qb619. Bxc8Rxc8

8. 0-0Qxb220. Ne4Rd8

9. Rb1Qxa221. Nxc5Qxc5

10. Rxb7Nc822. Qf3f6

11. c4dxc423. Qh5Black

12. Bxc4Qa3resigns

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

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