- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Strictly speaking, the Swiss Gambit is a rare offshoot of Bird’s Opening (1. f4 f5 2. e4!?), but it’s the other “Swiss Gambit” that has helped many a player to the winner’s circle.

In the giant Swiss-system tournaments that dominate the American scene, players are paired against opponents with similar scores in each round. Thus a draw (or even a loss) early in the tournament to a lower-rated opponent may have a strategic benefit, giving a top-ranked player an easier path through the draw until the final rounds.

It’s a risky maneuver, but the gambit paid off in spades in two major local tournaments this month. Coming back from a fourth-round loss to rising junior star GM Akshat Chandra, New York-based Philippines GM Oliver Barbosa went 4½-½ the rest of the way to capture the Maryland Chess Association’s sixth annual Washington International Tournament in Rockville. And Uzbek-born California GM Timur Gareyev conceded a Round 1 draw to Massachusetts expert Kenneth Thomas (despite a nearly 600-point rating advantage), only to reel off four straight wins to take sole first in the 49th running of the Atlantic Open this weekend in Crystal City.

We’ll have some Atlantic action next week, but here we have the low and high points of Barbosa’s tournament in Rockville. Chandra, the 2015 U.S. junior champ, has been surging up the ratings lists in recent years, so his win over higher-rated Barbosa is not a total shock. But the game has its charms, with Black’s queen, the game’s most mobile piece, barely escaping with her life on the queenside, only to find herself snared in a second trap on the other flank.

Chandra aggressively grabs space on the White side of this QGD Slav and picks up a ton of tempi after a Black lapse: 19. Kh1 Nb6? (cutting off the queen’s escape route; perfectly playable was 19…Nd4 20. exf7+ Bxf7 21. Bxf7+ Rxf7 22. Be3 Qd8) 20. Bd2! Qb5 21. Nc3 Qd3 22. Nf4 Qd6 23. Ncd5, and suddenly all of White’s pieces are in the game and the open a-file beckons for his rook. But White may have missed a chance to increase his edge on 23…Rad8 24. Nxb6?!, when 24. Be3 Kh8 25. Nxe7 Qxe7 (Qxd1?? 26. Nexg6+) 26. Qe2 retains the positional bind, and by 27. Nd5 Bf6 28. Bc3 Be5, Barbosa has clawed his way back to equality.

But Black’s queen again gets into trouble when he presses for more than the position has on offer: 30. Qe2 Qh6?! 31. Bxe5 Nxe5 32. f4! Nc6 (the exchange sacrifice 32…Rxf4?! 33. Nxf4 Rxf4 is not enough after 34. Qb5! Rxf1+ 35. Qxf1! Qf6 36. Qxf6 gxf6 37. Ra7 Nxg4 38. Kg2 b5 39. Rxb7) 33. Qg2 Nb4 34. f5 Re8? (Nxd5 35. exd5 Qd6 gives the queen an out) 35. Nf4 Nc6 36. g5 Qh4 37. Ra3!, and the simple threat of 38. Rh3 is very hard to meet.

Black twists and turns, but the queen is run to ground after 42. Qe2! Ng6 (g6 43. Nd5 Kh8 44. b3 Ref8 45. Kg2 Rd8 46. Rf4 Qh5 47. Qxh5 gxh5 48. Rh3 wins material) 43. Ng2! (fxg6? Rxf4 44. Rxf4 Qxf4 45. gxh7+ Kh8 46. g6 Qe5 is still a game) Rxe4 (Qxe4 44. Re3! wins) 44. Qd3 Rd4 (Nf4 45. Qxe4) 45. Nxh4 Rxd3 46. Rxd3 Nxh4 47. Rd8+ Rf8 48. Rxf8+, and Black resigns as 48…Kxf8 49. Rf4! traps another piece — the knight on h4.

It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for Barbosa after the loss, as he still had to run a gauntlet of IMs and GMs on his win to the title. His best game was a win over Massachusetts GM Eugene Perelshteyn in Round 7, a game we pick up from the diagram after Black has played the innocent-looking retreat 18…Nd5-e7.

White alertly pounces with 19. c5! (opening the diagonal for the bishop) bxc5 20. Nxf7! Qxd4 (Rxf7 21. Rxe6 Qxd4 22. Qxd4 Bxd4 23. Rxe7 is devastating) 21. Qxd4 Bxd4 22. Bxe6 Rc7 (Bd5 23. Bxc8 Bxf7 24. Rxe7 Rxc8 25. Rxa7) 23. Bf4 Rcc8 (Rc6 24. Nd8+) 24. Nd6+, winning the exchange. Avoiding one last swindle, Barbosa earns the point after 24…Kh8 25. Bxc8 Rxf4 26. Rxe7 Bxf2+ 27. Kh2 Bxc8 28. g3! (Nxc8?? Rh4 mate) Rf8 29. Nxc8 Rxc8 30. Rf1, and Perelshteyn resigns. Black could perhaps fight on, but the prospects are bleak after 30…Bd4 31. Rff7 h5 32. Rxa7 Rb8 33. a4.

Sixth Washington International Tournament, Rockville, Maryland, August 2017

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O O-O 9. Nh4 Bg4 10. f3 Bh5 11. g4 Nd5 12. Ng2 Bg6 13. Na2 Be7 14. e4 Nb6 15. Bb3 c5 16. a5 Nc8 17. d5 Qxa5 18. dxe6 Nc6 19. Kh1 Nb6 20. Bd2 Qb5 21. Nc3 Qd3 22. Nf4 Qd6 23. Ncd5 Rad8 24. Nxb6 axb6 25. exf7+ Bxf7 26. Bxf7+ Rxf7 27. Nd5 Bf6 28. Bc3 Be5 29. Qd2 Rdf8 30. Qe2 Qh6 31. Bxe5 Nxe5 32. f4 Nc6 33. Qg2 Nb4 34. f5 Re8 35. Nf4 Nc6 36. g5 Qh4 37. Ra3 Ne5 38. Rh3 Qg4 39. Rg3 Qh4 40. Rh3 Qg4 41. Rg3 Qh4 42. Qe2 Ng6 43. Ng2 Rxe4 44. Qd3 Rd4 45. Nxh4 Rxd3 46. Rxd3 Nxh4 47. Rd8+ Rf8 48. Rxf8+ Black resigns.

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

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