- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

A couple of weeks back we wrote about the recent success of Virginia’s scholastic girls. Today, the spotlight shines on the Potomac’s other bank.

Maryland players collected a number of honors at last weekend’s U.S. Chess Federation National High School Championship in Kansas City, led by NM Alex Barnett’s tie for first in the event’s premier section. USCF officials said the event, which, despite its name, was open to students from kindergarten through grade 12, attracted a record 1,447 entrants in five sections.

Barnett, who will attend chess powerhouse University of Maryland/Baltimore County this fall, went 61/2-1/2, matching New York IM Alex Lenderman and California master Michael Zhong. Lenderman, a pretournament favorite, took the title with superior tiebreaks.

Class E player John Leach tied for first in the Under-1200 section, while fellow Marylanders Mark Salita and Deborah Simoes shared first in the Under-900 section with perfect 7-0 scores. Germantown’s Northwest High took the Under-900 team title.

Scoring one for the Old Dominion was Alexandria’s Thomas Jefferson High School, which finished a very respectable third in the overall team competition. Tucson’s Catalina Foothills High took home the team trophy for the second time in the past three years.

Barnett told the online version of Chess Life (https://beta.uschess.org) that his win over New York master Matt Parry in Kansas City was “one of my sexiest games ever.” We’re not entirely sure what that means, but we can say that Black’s attack here is a model of sacrificial ruthlessness.

The sexiness may come from the power of the liberated woman, as Black’s rampaging queen wins this game virtually unassisted. In the opening, Black develops naturally, while White seems to mix up several plausible ideas. Parry’s 10. a3 prepares a push of the b-pawn that somehow never comes, and soon he is rocked by a knight sacrifice.

White’s 12. f3? (b4, for the last time, was the right idea) Bxd4 13. cxd4 no doubt banked on the retreat 13…Nc6, when White can at least shore up the kingside with moves like 14. Kf2. Instead, Barnett charges forward with 13…Nxf3+! 14. gxf3 (obviously forced) Qxf3 15. Rg1.

Since the White queen has to guard the bishop on c2 and prevent a check on e3, the next tactic comes naturally: 15…Rxc2! 16. Qxc2 Qe3+ 17. Kd1 Qxg1+ 18. Kd2 19. Qxh2+, recovering the sacrificed material with interest. Three more Black queen checks simplify down to a position where Barnett is three pawns to the good.

After 23. Kxd1 Nf6, White has no interest in watching Black’s kingside pawns saunter down the board and resigns.

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Basketball coaches talk about controlling the tempo of the game. The chess equivalent might be: Don’t get into a tactical slugfest with Alexei Shirov.

After a string of indifferent results, the Latvian-born Spanish GM rebounded this month with a fine win in a strong Game/25 event held in the Spanish city of Canada de Calatrava. Shirov’s 71/2-11/2 score took the title in the field that included such rapid chess superstars as Judit Polgar of Hungary and India’s Viswanathan Anand.

Azerbaijani GM Farhad Tahirov probably didn’t mean to go toe-to-toe with Shirov right from the bell, but his dubious decision to go pawn-hunting right out of the opening left him wide open to Shirov’s incandescent tactical skills.

White tries to win a pawn, only to be hit by a startling piece sacrifice: 9. b5?! (eyeing the loose pawn on c7 when the knight retreats) Nd4!! 10. exd4 (Bb2 Re8 11. Qxc7 Bg4 keeps the pressure on) exd4, and Shirov’s huge lead in development and open central lines soon will justify the investment of the lost knight.

With no good retreat (11. Qf3 Re8+ 12. Kd1 [Be2 d3] Bg4! 13. Qxg4 Qb3 mate), White must blunder ahead with 11. Qc4 Re8+ 12. Kd1 (forced, unfortunately, as interposing a piece hangs the queen) Qh5+, when 13. f3 leads to grief in lines like 13…Be6 14. Qb4 Ne4 15. Ke1 Qh4+ 16. g3 Nxg3 17. hxg3 Qxh1 18. Kf2 Qh2+ 19. Bg2 Bh3! 20. Nxh3 d3!, winning).

Tahirov finds no relief in the game’s 13. Be2 Qg6 14. Nf3 Be6 15. Qc2 d3!, as 16. Bxd3 would lose to 16…Qxg2 17. Rf1 Qxf3+ 18. Be2 Bg4! 19. Re1 Qxe2+! 20. Rxe2 Bxe2+ 21. Ke1 Bg4+ 22. Kf1 Bh3+ 23. Kg1 Re1 mate.

Black rings down the curtain anyway on 16. Qxd3 Bf5 17. Qc4 (see diagram) Rxe2! 18. Nh4 (Kxe2 Re8+ 19. Kd1 [Kf1 Bd3+] Qxg2) Qh5 19. Qxe2 (Nf3 Rae8 20. Bb2 Bh3!) Bc2+! 20. Ke1 Re8 21. Qxe8+ Nxe8.

White temporarily has two rooks for the queen, but his uncoordinated position can’t be held. His knight is hanging and Shirov also threatens 22…Qd1 mate. On 22. Nf3 Bd3 23. Bb2 Qg4 24. Rg1 Qe6+ 25. Kd1 Qb3+ 26. Ke1 Qxb2 27. Rd1 Qf6, Black has an overwhelming positional and material edge; White gave up.

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Quick hits … French GM Vladislav Tkachiev is the Old World’s newest champion, winning the eighth European Individual Chess Championship last weekend in Dresden, Germany. Tkachiev defeated Israel’s Emil Sutovsky in the finals of a blitz playoff after seven players tied for first at 8-3. … That was former world champion Garry Kasparov being herded off to jail by Moscow police last week after leading an anti-government protest. Retired from the game since October 2005, Kasparov has emerged as perhaps the most prominent dissident voice challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin.

USCF National High School Championship, Kansas City, April 2007


1. e4c513. cxd4Nxf3+

2. Nf3e614. gxf3Qxf3

3. b3b615. Rg1Rxc2

4. d4cxd416. Qxc2Qe3+

5. Nxd4Bb717. Kd1Qxg1+

6. Bd3Qf618. Kd2Qxh2+

7. Bb2Bc519. Kc1Qh1+

8. c3Nc620. Kd2Qg2+

9. Bc2Ba621. Kc1Qf1+

10. a3Ne522. Qd1Qxd1+

11. Qd2Rc823. Kxd1Nf6

12. f3Bxd4White resigns

Chess Festival, Canada de Calatrava, Spain, April 2007


1. c4e512. Kd1Qh5+

2. Nc3Bb413. Be2Qg6

3. Qc2Nf614. Nf3Be6

4. a3Bxc315. Qc2d3

5. Qxc3Nc616. Qxd3Bf5

6. b40-017. Qc4Rxe2

7. e3d518. Nh4Qh5

8. cxd5Qxd519. Qxe2Bc2+

9. b5Nd420. Ke1Re8

10. exd4exd421. Qxe8+Nxe8

11. Qc4Re8+White resigns

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

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