- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2006

To recycle one of our own lines: It’s called the World Open because half the planet traditionally finishes in a tie for first.

After an unusual string of single winners, the 34th annual World Open, held over the Fourth of July weekend in Philadelphia, returned to form this year with nine — count ‘em, nine players — bunched at the top of the elite section, all at 7-2.

Brooklyn GM Gata Kamsky, firmly on the comeback trail after a lengthy absence from the game, won a speed playoff over Swiss GM Vadim Milov (whom Kamsky also defeated during the tournament) to take the title. A total of 46 grandmasters and 26 IMs competed in the 237-player Open section, annually among the strongest U.S. Swiss fields.

Kamsky, who is the highest-rated American player at No. 20 in the most recent FIDE world rankings, shared the laurels in Philadelphia with eight fellow grandmasters: Milov, Ildar Ibragimov, Jaan Ehlvest, Leonid Yudasin, Alexander Ivanov, Giorgi Kacheishvili, Alex Wojtkiewicz and New York’s Joel Benjamin, the only U.S.-born player in the group.

Congratulations also go out to Maryland Class A player Chris Sevilla, who tied for first in the Under-2000 section with an 8-1 score, good for a very nice payday.

Kamsky’s precise, merciless style was on display in his clinical win over New York IM Alex Lenderman in Round 2. In a sharp Ruy Lopez line, Lenderman as Black puts up a spirited fight for central control in the early going but is ground down after an ill-fated attempt to simplify.

Things appear to be in balance through 15. Bf4 d5!? 16. Rc1 dxe4 17. Rxe4 Bxf3 18. Qxf3, but one more trade offer lands Lenderman in trouble: 18…Bg5?! 19. Rc5! Bxf4 20. Qxf4 Qd6 21. Qe5!, and suddenly the Black game is under heavy fire.

Black tries to ease the cramp with 21…Nd7 (biting the bullet with 21…Qxe5 22. dxe5 Rfd8 23. Kf1 Rd2 24. Rxb4 might have given Black more counterplay because White’s next move effectively shuts down his position for the rest of the game), only to be hit by a powerful exchange sacrifice: 22. Qxd6! (Bxd7!? wins a pawn but gets a little messy after 22…Qxd7 23. Rxc7 Qa4 24. Rxf7 Rxf7 25. Qxb8+ Rf8 26. Qe5 Qc2 27. Re2 Qc1+ 28. Re1 Qxb2) cxd6 23. Bxd7! dxc5 24. dxc5.

White is down a rook for bishop and pawn, but the surviving White bishop completely shuts the Black rooks out of the game while providing covering fire for the c-pawn. With his rook and bishop in perfect harmony, Kamsky applies the finishing touch with 27. c6 Ra8 28. Ke2!, when Black is helpless against the advance of the White king down the board on the queen-side.

Black never even gets the chance to give back the exchange (e.g. 31…Rcxd7 32. Rxd7 Rc8 33. Kc5, winning), and it’s over on 33. Kb6 b3 (desperation) 34. axb3 Kf8 35. Rxa5 Rxa5 36. Kxa5 Ke7 37. Ka6, and Black resigns because 37…Rxd7 38. cxd7 Kxd7 39. Kb7! is hopeless.

Benjamin’s win over talented FM Bryan Smith in the fifth round might appeal to the sadists in the gallery. In a relatively simple position, Benjamin manages to place his opponent in a suffocating bind, fiendishly drawing the walls closer together until Smith’s game is paralyzed.

Benjamin is one of the more original opening practitioners among top grandmasters, and this Closed Sicilian takes a novel turn almost from the beginning. Smith sidesteps one basic trap (8…Qxd5?? 9. Nc7+) and by 12. Qxd8+ Kxd8 13. bxc3 Bxc3 14. Rb1 Kc7, has acquired the two bishops and boasts a better pawn structure than White.

However, Benjamin’s game has hidden strengths, and with some energetic play, the grandmaster lures the Black king fatally forward: 15. Rb3 Bf6 16. Bd2 Be6 17. Ba5+! (all but forcing Smith to go after the weak c-pawn because a king retreat will make it hard for Black to connect his rooks) Kc6 18. Rb6+ Kxc5 19. Nd2!.

White’s buzzing pieces and mate threats force the following play: 19…Bd5 20. c4! Bc6 (no better is 20…Bxc4?! 21. Rc1 Bd4+ 22. Kh1 Be3 23. Rxc4+ Kd5 24. Rbb4) 21. Rd1 Kd6 22. Ne4+, when best now might be accepting long-term inferiority with 22…Kc7 23. Rxa6+ Kb8 24. Rxa8+ Kxa8 25. Nxf6+ exf6 26. Bb6.

Instead, White gains a decisive edge after 22…Ke6? 23. g4! (threatening, among other things, 24. Nc5 mate) Bh4 24. Nc5+ Kf6 25. Bc3+ e5 26. Rxc6+! (Nxb7 also wins, but Benjamin’s method is more insidious) bxc6 27. Bxe5+ Ke7 28. Rd7+ Ke8 (see diagram).

Now the obvious 29. Bxh8?! is not so clear-cut after 29…Be7! (attacking the knight defending the rook) 30. Rxe7+ Kxe7 31. Bc3, but White’s 29. g5! gives another twist to the vise. The Black bishop is cut off, the king is stranded, and the Black rooks look on helplessly.

The finale: 29…Be1 (Rg8 30. Bf6 Rb8 31. Rd4 Rc8 32. Re4+ Kf8 33. Nd7 mate) 30. Rb7! Bd2 31. Ne4, and Black resigns before the oxygen supply runs out for good in lines like 31…Be3+ 32. Kg2 Rg8 33. Nd6+ Kd8 (Kf8 34. Rxf7 mate) 34. Bf6 mate.

34th World Open, Philadelphia, June 2006


1. e4e520. Qxf4Qd6

2. Nf3Nc621. Qe5Nd7

3. Bb5a622. Qxd6cxd6

4. Ba4Nf623. Bxd7dxc5

5. 0-0Be724. dxc5g6

6. Re1b525. Kf1a5

7. Bb30-026. Rd4Rfd8

8. d4d627. c6Ra8

9. c3exd428. Ke2Kg7

10. cxd4Bg429. Kd3Ra7

11. Nc3b430. Rd5Rc7

12. Nd5Rb831. Kd4Ra8

13. Ba4Nxd532. Kc5Raa7

14. Bxc6Nb633. Kb6b3

15. Bf4d534. axb3Kf8

16. Rc1dxe435. Rxa5Rxa5

17. Rxe4Bxf336. Kxa5Ke7

18. Qxf3Bg537. Ka6Black

19. Rc5Bxf4resigns

34th World Open, Philadelphia, July 2006


1. e4c517. Ba5+Kc6

2. Nc3g618. Rb6+Kxc5

3. f4Bg719. Nd2Bd5

4. Nf3Nc620. c4Bc6

5. Bb5Nd421. Rd1Kd6

6. 0-0Nxb522. Ne4+Ke6

7. Nxb5d523. g4Bh4

8. exd5a624. Nc5+Kf6

9. Nc3Nf625. Bc3+e5

10. d4Nxd526. Rxc6+bxc6

11. dxc5Nxc327. Bxe5+Ke7

12. Qxd8+Kxd828. Rd7+Ke8

13. bxc3Bxc329. g5Be1

14. Rb1Kc730. Rb7Bd2

15. Rb3Bf631. Ne4Black

16. Bd2Be6resigns

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

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