It was a familiar pair of front-runners entering the home stretch, with past winners GM Aleksandr Lenderman and GM Alex Shabalov pulling away from the field at last week’s 42nd annual Eastern Open. In the end, Lenderman collected his third sole first in the event (he was Eastern champ in 2009 and 2010) by drawing his main rival and winning the rest of his games for a 6½-½ winning score.
Shabalov, who also conceded a draw to IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat, was a half-point back in the Open section at 6-2, while Enkhbat finished in a tie for third with six other players well back at 4½-2½. The local year-end holiday tradition was held once again at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bethesda.
Some 170 players competed in the Eastern’s five sections, and the Swiss format produced an unusual number of clear section winners. Alex Jian was alone in first in the Under 2200 tournament at 5½-1½, Nicholas Xie took the Under 1900 section with a fine 6½-½ score, and Theodore Covey bested all comers in the Under 1600 section with a 5-1 score. The only shared first came in the Under 1300 event, where Nikki Khmelnitsky (daughter of well-known chess author IM Igor Khmelnitsky) and Prani Gunasekaran tied at 5-1.
Enkhbat shared third-place honors with young Massachusetts WFM Carissa Yip, who engineered one of the Eastern’s more memorable upsets with her Round 3 win over Virginia GM Sergey Erenburg in an exciting Sicilian Dragon. When the grandmaster missed a chance to put the game away, Yip seized her chance. She later called the result “just luck,” but there was more than a little skill involved.
White’s 14. e5!? opens up the center and leads to some tricky tactics after Yip sacrifices a pawn to open queenside attacking lines with 17. Rd4 b4!? 18. axb4 axb4 19. Rxb4 Qd8 20. Re1 Qa5. Things rapidly come to a head in the game’s critical position: 21. Rd4 (also possible was 21. Qb6 Qa1+ 22. Kd2 [Nb1?? Nd7 23. Qd4 Nxe5 24. Rxe5 Rfd8 25. Qf4 e6, and any rook move allows 26…Bxb2 mate] Rfd8+ 23. Ke2 Qa8, with chances for both sides) Rfd8 (Qa1+ 22. Nb1 e6 was the safer course) 22. g4 (see diagram) Rxd4 23. Bxd4 Rd8?, allowing White what should have been a nasty shot.
Both players saw 24. Bxf7+! Kxf7? (Kh8 25. Be5 Be4 26. f4 Bc6 27. Ba2 keeps White on top) 25. Qxe7+ Kg8 26. Qe6+ Kh8 27. Bxf6, but wrongly thought 27…Bh6+ turned the tables. Instead, after 28. g5! Re8 29. gxh6 Rxe7 30. Rxe7, White retains a distinct advantage.
Instead, it’s Black who lands the big blow following the game’s 24. g5? Rxd4! 25. Qxd4?! (tougher again was 25. Bxf7+ Kxf7 26. Qxd4 Qxg5+ 27. f4 Qh4 28. Qe3, though Black’s bishop pair will be potent) Ne4!, when both 26. Qd3 Qa1+ 27. Nb1 Qxb2+ 28. Kd1 Nf2+ and 26. Qc4 Qxg5+ 27. Kb1 Nd2+ pick off the unfortunately placed White queen. Erenburg tries 26. Qxg7+ Kxg7 27. fxe4 Qxg5+ 28. Kb1 Qd2, but his rook and knight prove no match for the rampaging Black queen.
White can’t get his queenside pawns in motion as Black’s kingside pawns fly down the board. Even with his king in the way, Erenburg can’t hold back the flood and resigns on 39. Nd1 Qe5, facing lines like 40. hxg4 (Black’s threat is just 40…Qg3+ 41. Kf1 gxh3 42. Re3 Qg2+ 43. Ke1 h2, winning) fxg4 41. Nf2 Qg3+ 42. Kf1 h3, and the passed pawns will cost White major material.
Full results and crosstables for the tournament, ably run by Executive Director Tom Beckman and TDs Michael Atkins and Andy Rea, can be found at https://easternopenchess.com.
Quick hits…Longtime college chess powerhouse University of Maryland-Baltimore County won’t be in this year’s Final Four, failing to qualify at last week’s Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championships in New York. Webster University, the Alabama of college chess, won event, qualifying alongside St. Louis University, the University of Texas-Dallas and Texas Tech. … Russian GM Sergey Karjakin earned a small measure of revenge, edging Norway’s Magnus Carlsen for the world blitz championship title in Doha, Qatar Friday. Carlsen in November barely retained his classical world title against Karjakin in their New York City match. Carlsen also lost out on tiebreaks to veteran Ukrainian GM Vassily Ivanchuk for the world rapid chess crown in Doha.
Erenburg-Yip, 43rd Eastern Open, Bethesda, December 2016
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 0-0 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. 0-0-0 Rc8 11. Bb3 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 b5 13. a3 a5 14. e5 dxe5 15. Bxe5 Bc6 16. Qe3 Qe8 17. Ra4 b4 18. axb4 axb4 19. Rxb4 Qd8 20. Re1 Qa5 21. Rd4 Rfd8 22. g4 Rxd4 23. Bxd4 Rd8 24. g5 Rxd4 25. Qxd4 Ne4 26. Qxg7+ Kxg7 27. fxe4 Qxg5+ 28. Kb1 Qd2 29. Re2 Qf4 30. Bc4 h5 31. Bd3 Qe5 32. Kc1 g5 33. Kd1 g4 34. Ke1 h4 35. Kf1 Qf4+ 36. Kg1 Qc1+ 37. Kg2 f5 38. h3 Qxb2 39. Nd1 Qe5 White resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.