- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

In just a few short years, the annual tournament held at the ritzy Foxwoods resort and casino in the Connecticut backwoods has pushed its way to the very first rank among U.S. tournaments.

With a generous prize fund and superb playing conditions, the Foxwoods Open regularly attracts fields that stand comparison with such events as the National Open in Las Vegas and Philadelphia’s World Open.

The ninth running of the Foxwoods event, held last weekend, saw perhaps the most impressive result for Brooklyn GM Gata Kamsky since his return to the game after a lengthy sabbatical in 2005.

Kamsky and fellow GMs Zviad Izoria, Ildar Ibragimov and Alexander Stripunsky finished atop the 131-player Open section at 7-2. Kamsky and Izoria had the best tiebreaks, and Kamsky took home the trophy by winning a speed playoff game with Black against the Georgian GM.

New Mexico’s Jesse Kraai finished a half-point back, but the 34-year-old international master hit the jackpot in another way at the Connecticut casino, notching his third and final norm to qualify for the grandmaster title. According to Chess Life correspondent Jerry Hanken, Kraai will be the first new U.S.-born grandmaster in a decade, a depressing statistic when you think about it.

Kraai made his final norm the old-fashioned way, earning it with upset wins over reigning U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura and former national champion GM Alexander Shabalov in consecutive rounds. His Round 7 victory over Nakamura was particularly impressive, as he slowly outplayed the New York star in a classic positional squeeze.

Against his higher-rated opponent’s Dutch Defense, Kraai said later he was particularly proud of 12. a3, a patient move designed to cement White’s tiny spatial edge. Nakamura’s game becomes even more constricted after 14. Bb3 g5 15. Ne5! (the most energetic response, exploiting the loose knight on h5) Nxe5 (dxe5 16. Qxh5 g4 17. dxe5 Nxe5 18. Bd4 keeps White in charge) 16. dxe5, and the e-pawn will disrupt the coordination of Black’s position for the rest of the game.

Black’s 18…b5?! is a radical way to frustrate White’s threatened c-pawn break, but by 24. Bd3 Rb8 25. Kg2, a blocked position has arisen in which Black has no good counterplay. With 26. Rh1 and 27. h3, Kraai will even take over the h-file that Nakamura long coveted, achieving clear superiority on both flanks. After 32. Bc5 Bxc5 33. bxc5, White’s pawns may look ugly, but they suck the air out of Black’s position and provide an ideal launching pad for the White knight at d4.

The tactical dust-up on 35. g4! (both Black pawns are pinned and can’t capture) Qh6 36. g5! constricts Black even further. With 38. Nd4 Kf7 39. c6!, Black’s unfortunate b-pawn must fall, and with it, effectively, his hopes of saving the game. Black’s total queen-side collapse after 42. c4 dxc4 43. Qxc4 Rd8 44. Qxa4 is the culmination of White’s flawless strategic conception. Nakamura can only watch as his opponent pushes his extra pawn down the board.

Kraai finishes off a won game with a flourish: 66. Rb2 Bc8 67. Rb7!, when 67…Bxb7 68. cxb7 Re8 69. a7 wins trivially, while 67…Ne8 68. a7! puts Black in complete zugzwang, unable to move a single piece without immediate and fatal material loss. Nakamura resigned.

• • •

Kraai may soon have company on the roster of U.S.-born grandmasters, if the play at Foxwoods of 12-year-old Floridian Ray Robson is any indication. The nation’s youngest FIDE master, Robson went 5-4 in Connecticut, with impressive wins over GM Pavel Blatny and veteran IM Jay Bonin along the way.

In a nice juxtaposition, Robson took on 2006 U.S. senior champion Joseph Bradford of Texas in the tournament’s opening round. Age and guile did not fare so well, as Robson wins in a rout.

White’s queen proves a problem piece in this Catalan, as Black’s direct and veiled attacks on Bradford’s queen force him into ever more awkward contortions. Already after 17…Be3 18. Rd3 Bxc1 19. Qxc1 (ugly, but 19. Rxc1 leaves the b-pawn unguarded) 0-0 20. Rb1 b4, Robson’s forces dominate the board.

White’s tortuous efforts to unwind his game leave him open to a killer tactic: 23. Rd2 Nfd7 24. Rc2 Nxc5! 25. Nxc5 (see diagram) Rxc5!, drawing the White rook away from the defense of the e-pawn.

It’s over on 26. Rxc5 Qxe2+ 27. Kh3 (Kh1 Qxf3+ 28. Kg1 Nd3 29. Qc2 Qe3+) Nd3, and now 28. Qc2 loses to 28…Qxf3 29. Rc4 Nf2+ 30. Kh4 Qf6+ 31. Kh5 Qh6 mate; Bradford resigned.

Foxwoods Open, Mashantucket, Conn., April 2007

KraaiNakamura

1. Nf3f535. g4Qh6

2. b3d636. g5Qg6

3. d4g637. Rg1Kg8

4. Bb2Bg738. Nd4Kf7

5. e3Nf639. c6Rb6

6. Bc4e640. Bxb5Kg8

7. 0-00-041. f4Bf7

8. Nbd2Kh842. c4dxc4

9. Qe2Nc643. Qxc4Rd8

10. Rad1Qe744. Qxa4Be8

11. Rfe1Bd745. Kf2Qf7

12. a3Rae846. Rc1Qe7

13. b4Nh547. Rc3Rd5

14. Bb3g548. Qc4Qd8

15. Ne5Nxe549. a4Rb8

16. dxe5Qf750. Qb4Kh7

17. Nc4d551. Kg3Bg6

18. Nd2b552. Rh2Be8

19. Rf1g453. Kh4Kg6

20. Bd4Rg854. Rd2Bf7

21. g3a555. Rc4Ra8

22. c3a456. Nf3Rb8

23. Bc2Qg657. Rcd4Qe8

24. Bd3Rb858. Rxd5exd5

25. Kg2Bf859. Nd4Be6

26. Rh1Ng760. Qc5Ra8

27. h3gxh3+61. Ra2Bf7

28. Rxh3h562. Bd3Qf8

29. Rdh1Be863. Qxf8Rxf8

30. Kf1Be764. a5Ra8

31. Nf3Qg465. a6Be6

32. Bc5Bxc566. Rb2Bc8

33. bxc5Rf867. Rb7Black

34. Rh4Qg6resigns

Foxwoods Open, Mashantucket, Conn., April 2007

BradfordRobson

1. Nf3d515. f3Ne5

2. d4Nf616. Nb3Nc4

3. c4e617. Qe1Be3

4. g3dxc418. Rd3Bxc1

5. Qa4+Nbd719. Qxc10-0

6. Bg2a620. Rb1b4

7. Qxc4b521. Na4Qb5

8. Qc2Bb722. Nbc5Ne5

9. 0-0c523. Rd2Nfd7

10. Rd1Rc824. Rc2Nxc5

11. Qd2Qb625. Nxc5Rxc5

12. Nc3cxd426. Rxc5Qxe2+

13. Nxd4Bxg227. Kh3Nd3

14. Kxg2Bc5White resigns

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

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