- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Alexander Onischuk and Anna Zatonskih turned in dominating performances to win the 2006 U.S. men’s and women’s national titles Sunday in San Diego.

The Ukrainian-born Onischuk was undefeated in the Swiss tournament to qualify for the finals, then dispatched GM Yuri Shulman easily in the two-game rapid title match, 11/2-1/2. In winning his first national championship, Onischuk may have only been in real trouble once: his hair-raising final-round draw against 2005 champ GM Hikaru Nakamura, who had clawed his way back into contention after a disastrous 1/2-21/2 start.

WGM Zatonskih, another Ukrainian emigre and a star on the U.S. women’s Olympiad team last year, went 5-4 in her Swiss flight and defeated WGM Rusudan Goletiani by the same 11/2-1/2 score in Sunday’s rapid final.

With Shulman born in Belarus and Goletiani a native of Georgia, all four finalists hailed originally from the former Soviet Union.

The 26-year-old new champ’s best game in San Diego may have been his first, a powerful Round 1 bulldozing of Michigan IM Andrei Florean.

The game starts out as a classic King’s Indian battle, with Black angling for a king-side mating attack before his queen-side completely collapses. But a sharp, sacrificial idea by Onischuk diverts Black from his plan, giving White the initiative for the rest of the game.

Thus: 17. Nf2 h4 18. g4!? f4!? (accepting the challenge; Black locks up his king-side to win material, but now it is White who will attack) 19. Bd2 dxc5 20. Nd3! cxb4 21. Nb5, with nasty threats on c7 and e6.

Florean’s 21…c6 doesn’t stem the tide after 22. d6! Qb6+ 23. Kh1 Bd8 (Qxb5 24. dxe7 Re8 25. Nxf4 Qa5 26. Qb3+ Kh7 27. Bxb4 is very pleasant for White) 24. Nxe5! cxb5 25. Nxg6 Rf7 26. Bxf4. White may be down a piece, but his pawns will prove a steamroller that flattens Black’s defenses.

Ignoring Black’s bid for queen-side counterplay, White sacrifices the exchange to obtain a killer bishop pair on 33. Qd2 Bc4 34. Rxc4! bxc4 35. Bxc4 Kxg6 (more craven options such as 35…Rf6 36. Bxf6 Bxf6 fall to full-scale assaults along the lines of 37. e5! Kxg6 38. Qd3+ Kh6 39. exf6 Nxf6 40. g5+ Kh5 41. Bf7+ Kg4 42. h3 mate) 36. f5+ Kh7 37. Bxf7, when White has restored material equality while his attack rages on.

The only blemish on the game may be the finish, as 39. g5 Nxf5 (Bxb2 40. g6+ Kh6 41. Qh6 mate) 40. g6+?! earns Black’s surrender but was not the most accurate path. Deadly was 40. gxf6!, when both 40…Nh6 (Nxf6 41. Bg6+ Kg7 42. Bxf5+) 41. Rg7+ Kh8 42. Qh6 mate and 40…Qc6 41. Bg6+ Kg8 (Kh8 42. f7+ Ng7 43. Qh6 mate) 42. Bxf5+ Kf7 43. Qg2 lead to quick kills.

After the game move, Black might even have tried 40…Kg7 41. Bc1 Rh8 42. exf5 Qxf5 with some slim chances of survival.

Batchimeg Tuvshintugs won the $1,000 brilliancy prize for the game we had here last week against GM Boris Kreiman. But a strong also-ran in the competition was Texas IM Daniel Fernandez’s startling rook sacrifice against his friend and fellow IM Renier Gonzalez of Florida.

In his postmortem on the game, IM John Donaldson noted that the first 12 moves of this QGD Slav follow exactly Gonzalez’s victory over GM Igor Novikov from last year’s U.S. championship. Ironically, it is Gonzalez who breaks with precedent first with 13…h5, fearing his opponent had prepared an improvement.

Black’s position is solid, but four straight knight moves while his queen-side remains undeveloped lead to his downfall: 16. Qc1 Nc5 17. f5 Nb3?! (more prudent might be 17…Bxf5 18. Bxf5 Nb3 19. Qb1 Nxa1 20. Qxa1 Nd7) 18. Qb1 Nxa1 19. fxg6 Nb3 20. 0-0! Rf8 (see diagram), setting the stage for a spectacular finish.

With his whole army deployed and too many Black pieces otherwise occupied, Fernandez finds a magnificent shot: 21. Rf6!! (spectators debated whether this blocking idea constituted an homage to former world champ Alexander Alekhine or a rip-off of a famous Bobby Fischer game against Pal Benko in the 1963-64 U.S. championship), when it seems Black has no good defense.

The threat now is 22. gxf7+ Kh8 (Rxf7 23. Qg6 as in the game) 23. Qg6, winning. Donaldson notes that taking the rook with 21…gxf6 22. gxf6 Qc7 23. g7 Rd8 24. Bf5! leads to unavoidable mate at h7, while declining the rook with 21…Nd7 loses to 22. gxf7+ Kh8 (Rxf7 23. Rxf7 Qxf7 24. e6 Qe7 25. exd7) 23. Bxd7 gxf6 24. exf6 Qxd7 results in mate after 25. Ne5 Qd6 26. Ng6+ Kh7 27. Nxf8+ Kh8 28. Qh7 mate.

Finally, 21…Nc5 would lose to 22. Nd6 gxf6 23. gxf6 Qxe5 24. gxf7+ Kh8 25. Qg6 Qxe3+ 26. Kg2 Ne6 (no more checks, unfortunately) 27. Qxh5+ Qh6 28. Qxh6 mate.

Black tries 21…Bc5, but Fernandez wraps up accurately with 22. gxf7+ Rxf7 23. Qg6! (Be6? gxf6 24. Qg6+ Kf8 25. Bxc5 Qxc5+ 26. e3 Qe7 27. Qh6+ Kg8 only draws) Na6 (Rxf6 24. gxf6 Qf7 25. Be6!) 24. Rxf7 Qxf7 25. Be6, winning the queen and the game.

• • •

Armenian Levon Aronian won the Category 20 Morelia/Linares Tournament, which ended in Spain earlier this month. Front-runner Peter Leko of Hungary collapsed with losses in his final two games, including a last-round disaster against Aronian, while FIDE world champ Veselin Topalov came up just short after overcoming a disastrous start in the elite event.

U.S. Chess Championship, San Diego, March 2006


1. d4Nf621. Nb5c6

2. c4g622. d6Qb6+

3. Nc3Bg723. Kh1Bd8

4. Nf30-024. Nxe5cxb5

5. e4d625. Nxg6Rf7

6. Be2e526. Bxf4Be6

7. Be3Nbd727. Qd2Nd7

8. 0-0Re828. Be3Qa5

9. d5Nh529. Bd4Kh7

10. g3Bf830. f4b3

11. Ne1Ng731. Qe3b2

12. Nd3f532. Bxb2Qb6

13. f3Be733. Qd2Bc4

14. b4Rf834. Rxc4bxc4

15. c5Nf635. Bxc4Kxg6

16. Rc1h536. f5+Kh7

17. Nf2h437. Bxf7Qb5

18. g4f438. Rg1Bf6

19. Bd2dxc539. g5Nxf5

20. Nd3cxb440. g6+Black


U.S. Chess Championship, San Diego, March 2006


1. d4d514. Bh3Qe7

2. c4c615. f4Rd8

3. Nc3Nf616. Qc1Nc5

4. Nf3dxc417. f5Nb3

5. a4Bg418. Qb1Nxa1

6. Ne5Bh519. fxg6Nb3

7. f3Nfd720. 0-0Rf8

8. Nxc4e521. Rf6Bc5

9. Be3Bb422. gxf7+Rxf7

10. g4Bg623. Qg6Na6

11. dxe50-024. Rxf7Qxf7

12. h4h625. Be6Black

13. g5h5 resigns

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

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