- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More money, more mistakes.

By the American game’s (low) standards, the Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas this month offered a massive jackpot. Some 600 players anted up the $1,000 entry fee, and the winner took home a cool $100,000. The big winner: 21-year-old GM Wesley So, who defeated fellow Webster University undergrad Ray Robson in the finals.

The event featured a seven-round preliminary Swiss event, followed by a four-player rapid playoff. The prospect of a major payday appears to have its effect on quality of the play, to judge by the uneven but highly entertaining semifinal battle between Robson and young Chinese GM Yu Yangyi. Nerves appear to have been a major factor in the play, in which the winner was at one point completely busted.

In an ultrasharp and highly theoretical Najdorf Sicilian Poisoned Pawn line, White is still trying to justify his gambited pawn when Black makes a bad defensive oversight: 24. Ng4 Nxg4 25. Bxg4 f5?? (way too loose given Black’s king position; sounder was 25…Bc5 26. Qh8+ Bf8 — and not 26…Ke7?? 27. Rxe7+! Kxf7 28. Qh7+ Rg7 29. Rg1+ Ke8 30. Qe8+ Ke7 31. Qf8 mate) 26. Bxf5! (an excellent line-opening sacrifice) exf5 27. Rbe1 Kf8 28. Qh8+ Rg8 29. Qxh6+, and White has a raging attack.

But Yu misses a chance to cash in his chips just two moves later on 31. Qh8+ Rg8 (see diagram), when the geometrically pleasing 32. Rxf5+!! Qxf5 33. Qxg8+! Kxg8 34. Nxe7+, wins the queen and the game. Instead, White gives away his massive edge on 32. Qh3!? Rxc8 33. Rxf5+ Ke8 34. Qh5+ Kd8 35. Rd5+?? (Black has mate threats at g2 and on the back rank, so 35. g3! was the move) Kc7 36. Qe5+ (Rxe7+ Kb8 37. Qe5+ Ka8 38. g3 Qb1+ 39. Qe1 Rc1 and wins) Kb6, and White has no time to take the Black bishop because of the mate threats.

Black’s king finally finds refuge on the queenside, and Robson neatly turns away a final White sacrificial assault: 40. Rb1+ Ka7 41. Rxb7+! Ka8! (Kxb7?? 42. Rb5+ Kc7 43. Qxc2 is winning for White) 42. Qf3 (Qxc2 Rxc2 43. Rb1 [Rxe7 Rc1+] Rgxg2+) Qxg2+! 43. Qxg2 Rc1+, and Yu resigned because of 44. Qg1 Rcxg1 is mate.

Congratulations to GM Gata Kamsky, winner on tiebreaks of the strong Washington Chess Congress Oct. 8-13 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington. Kamsky, New York GM Oliver Barbosa and Virginia GM Sergey Erenburg all finished at 5-1 in the Premier section.

Two other fine performances to note: Virginia soon-to-be-master Jennifer Yu, just back from winning an Under-12 gold medal at the World Youth Championships in South Africa, scored 4½-2½ to tie for fifth, while D.C. expert Teofilo Mesa had a brilliant result, finishing in a tie for second at 5-2 (including a loss to Kamsky) and claiming the Under-2300 prize. More results and action from the tournament in the weeks ahead.

Just as President Obama appeals for unity from U.S. allies to deal with growing crises abroad, we’re getting reports of bitter battles and fierce clashes with our NATO partners. Fortunately, all the in-fighting was confined to the chessboard at the 25th NATO Chess Championships in Quebec City last month.

Perennial power Germany again took the gold and Poland the silver, but a strong U.S. battalion commanded by Pvt. Dharim Bacus of the 82nd Airborne Division claimed bronze, just the third U.S. medal ever and the first since 2002. Col. David Hater, serving with the Army Cyber Command at Fort Meade and a longtime stalwart of the team, has a nice write-up of the event at Chess Life Online.

Bacus, a FIDE master, played perhaps his best game in downing Slovenia’s Matjaz Pirs, a Vienna Game featuring some nice middle-game generalship from the private. Particularly well-timed is Black’s 21. Bc3 c5!, keeping the White bishops bottled up as 22. bxc5? Nxg2! 23. Kxg2 Bc6 sets up the nasty threat of 24…Nh4+; Pirs counters with 22. Ba4 Bc6 23. Bxc6 Qxc6 24. b5, but the closing of the queenside leaves Black free to focus on the backward d-pawn and his own kingside attack.

That attack bears fruit on 31. Rxe2 Nf4 32. Ree1 (Re3 Qg6 33. Ne1 saves the pawn, but White’s game is very passive) Qg6, winning material as 33. Nh4 Nxh3+ 34. Kf1 Qg4 is much better for Black. Up a pawn, Bacus exploits a defensive lapse to obtain a decisive edge.

Thus: 34. Kf1 f4 35. Nxe5? (losing, but not much better was 35. Kg2 fxg3! 36. Kxh3 Rf8 37. Re3 Rxf3! 38. Rxf3 Qh5+ 39. Kg2 [Kxg3 e4+] Qh2+ 40. Kf1 e4 41. dxe4 Rxd1+ 42. Qxd1 g2+ 43. Ke2 g1=Q) Bxe5 36. Bxe5 f3!, and the White king is in a mating net. It’s over after 39. Ke1 Qh2 40. Bf4 (the threat was 40…Qg1+ 41. Kd2 Qxf2+ 42. Kc3 Qxe3) Ne6 (winning, but cooler was 40…Rxe3+ 41. Bxe3 Ne4! 42. dxe4 Qg1 mate) 41. Kd2 Nf4 42. Rxe8+ Rxe8 43. gxf4, and White resigned before Black could administer 43…Re2+ 44. Kc3 Rxc2+ 45. Kxc2 Qxf2+ 46. Kc3 Qe2, with an overwhelming edge.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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