- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

Very quietly, Virginia is becoming a powerhouse in women’s chess.

Recent Ohio transplant Abby Marshall, who lives in Newport News, is the two-time reigning titleholder from the Polgar Invitational, an event limited to the female U.S. state champions.

Also, last weekend, two Virginia scholastic players took class honors at the fourth annual All-Girls Open National Championships, held in Chicago. Ashley Xeu of Reston took the Under-10 title, and Vienna’s Kathy Wu was the girls’ Under-12 champion.

The field was weakened a bit because a large contingent of players from New York and New Jersey were caught up in a winter snowstorm and could not play. Still, 136 girls from kindergarten through grade 12 competed.

Wu clinched the title with a win over fellow Class C player Karen Marcjan of Washington state in a game that does credit to both contestants. There are no glaring errors here, and Black only gets in trouble with a misguided plan to castle queen-side. Wu sacrifices a pawn and alertly finds a couple of nice tactical shots to convert her positional edge into a material one.

In a Giuoco Piano, the exchanges 9. Be3 Bxe3 10. fxe3 Bxb3 11. axb3 may give White the better game despite the quartet of doubled pawns. The open a- and f-files are useful for her rooks and make castling on either wing problematic for Black.

Marcjan’s 13. Qe1 b6?! is logical, preparing to castle long by first protecting the a-pawn. However, the overall plan is faulty, as White quickly builds up pressure on the king, provoking holes in the Black pawn cover.

Thus: 14. d4 0-0-0? (sticking to her guns, but White reacts aggressively) 15. d5! (not only seeking to open lines, but, by provoking Black’s reply, creating a base for her knight at b5) c5 16. Qe2 (another strong idea was 16. Ra6 Kb8 17. Qe2 Qe7 18. Rfa1 Rd7 19. Nb5 Rc8 20. Qc4 Ne8 21. Qa4, with heavy pressure) Qb7 17. Nb5 a5 18. c3!, letting the trivial pawn on e4 fall to prepare the push of the b-pawn.

Marcjan defends well on 18…Nxe4 19. Qd3 (preferring the positional clamp to the trickier 19. Qg4+ Qd7 20. Na7+ Kb7 21. Qxe4 Kxa7, though here again 22. b4 is hard to meet) Nf6 20. e4 Kd7!, with the idea of absenting the king from the danger zone.

Black’s problem is that she has defensive issues on both flanks because of those two half-open files. If 21…cxb4 (instead of the game’s 21…Qa6), there could follow 22. cxb4 Ra8 23. Qg3 Rhg8 24. Qg5, when 24…h6? loses to 25. Rxf6!! hxg5 26. Rxf7+ Kc8 27. Nxd6+ Kd8 28. Nxb7+ Kc8 29. Nd6+ Kd8 30. Rc1, with mate to follow.

A cute knight tactic seals White’s advantage: 24. Rfe1 Ne8 (Qb6 was a better defensive try, though White’s still in charge on 25. Qg3 Kf8 26. Ra3) 25. Qg3 f6 (see diagram) 26. Nc7! Qb7 (Nxc7 27. Qxg7+ Ke8 28. Qxh8+ Kd7 29. Qxh7+ Kc8 30. Ra4 Kb8 31. Rea1 is overwhelming) 27. Ne6, transferring the knight from a powerful outpost to a dominating one.

White wins a pawn with another shot after 28. Nxg7 Kf8 (Rg8 29. Nf5+ Kf8 30. Qe3) 29. Ne6+ Kf7 30. Rxa5!, when 30…Rxa5? 31. Nd8+ picks off the Black queen.

Wu shows fine technique in ruthlessly simplifying once she gets an edge in material: 32. Rxa8 Nxa8 (Rxa8 33. Qf5 Nxe6 34. Qxe6+ Kg7 35. Re3 Qxb2 36. Rg3+ Kh6 37. Qxf6+ and mate next) 33. Qf5! (dominating the board) Ke8 (Rh8 34. Rf1 Qe7 35. Qh5+ Kg8 36. Rxf6! Qxf6 37. Qe8+ Qf8 38. Qxf8 mate) 34. Qxf6 Qe7 35. Qxe7+ Kxe7 36. Rb1 Nb6 37. b4!, obtaining a passed pawn.

The knights come off after 40. Nb7+ Kc7 41. Rc1! and the resulting rook ending is an easy technical task for White. Wu obtains a new queen on 53. Kh6 Rg3 54. d8=Q, though her opponent played it out to checkmate on Move 67.

• • •

Billed as the oldest regular rivalry in the game, the 125th annual Oxford-Cambridge match was won in an upset by the Light Blues (uh, that’s Cambridge, apparently) earlier this month at the RAC Club in London. Oxford boasted strong English GM Luke McShane on first board, but the Cambridge lads went 5-2 on the lower boards, including Jamaican master Duane Rowe’s demolition of Ukrainian WIM Olena Boytsun on Board 2.

The Pirc is a counterpuncher’s defense, but Black first has to survive the initial flurry. Boytsun fails the test after 11. 0-0-0 c6?! 12. Ne4!, when after 12…cxb5 13. Nd6+ Kf8, White has the pleasant choice of 14. Nxb7 or the more adventurous 14. Nxf7!? Kxf7 15. Qxd7+ Qxd7 16. Rxd7+ Ne7 17. Rxb7, with a big edge either way.

But Black’s 12…Nxe5 fares no better on 13. Qc3! Qb8 (Nd3+ 14. Qxd3 Qxd3 15. Bxd3 wins a piece, while things are also bleak on 13…cxb5 14. Nd6+ Kf8 15. Nxb7 Qf6 16. Bd4 Qf4+ 17. Kb1 f6 18. Qc7 Ne7 19. Bc5! bxc5 20. Rd8+ Rxd8 21. Qxd8+ Kf7 22. Nd6 mate) 14. Nd6+ Ke7 15. Nxe5 cxb5 16. Nxg6+! (White has a number of ways to win, but this is the cleanest) hxg6 17. Qxg7 Bd5 (Qf8 18. Bg5+ Ne7 17. Nxf7+) 18. Qxf7+!.

Black gives up, as it is hopeless on 18…Kxd6 (Kd8 19. Bg5+ Ne7 20. Qxe7 mate) 19. Rxd5+! exd5 20. Bf4+, picking up the queen.

Fourth All-Girls Open National Championships, Chicago, March 2007


1. e4e528. Nxg7Kf8

2. Nf3Nc629. Ne6+Kf7

3. Bc4Bc530. Rxa5Rg8

4. Nc3Nf631. Qf2Nc7

5. d3d632. Rxa8Nxa8

6. h3Be633. Qf5Ke8

7. Bb3Nd434. Qxf6Qe7

8. Nxd4Bxd435. Qxe7+Kxe7

9. Be3Bxe336. Rb1Nb6

10. fxe3Bxb337. b4Nxc4

11. axb3c638. bxc5dxc5

12. 0-0Qd739. Nxc5Kd6

13. Qe1b640. Nb7+Kc7

14. d40-0-041. Rc1Kxb7

15. d5c542. Rxc4Rd8

16. Qe2Qb743. Kf2Kb6

17. Nb5a544. Rc6+Kb5

18. c3Nxe445. Re6Kc4

19. Qd3Nf646. Rxe5Kd4

20. e4Kd747. Re7h5

21. b4Qa648. Kg3Rg8+

22. bxa5bxa549. Kh4Rxg2

23. c4Ke750. Kxh5Ke3

24. Rfe1Ne851. d6Kf4

25. Qg3f652. d7Rg5+

26. Nc7Qb753. Kh6Rg3

27. Ne6Ra854. d8=Qand White


125th Cambridge-Oxford Varsity Match, London, March 2007


1. e4d610. Bb5Bb7

2. d4Nf611. 0-0-0c6

3. Nc3g612. Ne4Nxe5

4. Be3Bg713. Qc3Qb8

5. h3Nbd714. Nd6+Ke7

6. Nf3e615. Nxe5cxb5

7. Qd2b616. Nxg6+hxg6

8. e5dxe517. Qxg7Bd5

9. dxe5Ng818. Qxf7+Black


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

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