- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reader Ken Thomas was a little exercised over our characterization of how things went down at last month’s 49th annual Atlantic Open in Crystal City, and I’d like to state for the record here no disrespect was intended.

As we noted, GM Timur Gareyev took clear first in the Open section with a 4½-½ score, employing what is jokingly referred to as the “Swiss Gambit” approach, where an early loss or draw can effectively put a top player in a lower bracket of pairings until the final rounds.

It was Mr. Thomas, as it happens, who held the winner to a draw in Round 1 (and very nearly beat him) in a very hard-fought 68-move rook ending, and we didn’t mean to imply here that either player deliberately sought anything less than a win. It was a strong effort by Mr. Thomas, an expert who came very close to notching his first grandmaster scalp.

And GM Gareyev also shook off the first-round result in stirring fashion, running off four straight victories include a fine tournament-clinching victory over Virginia GM Sergey Erenburg. On the White side of a sharp QGD Semi-Slav, Gareyev repeatedly offers material (including, at various times, both of his rook pawns) to open up lines and clear the way for an attack. His aggression is rewarded with one of the tournament’s finer tactical finales.

When Erenburg declines the proffered a-pawn, White switches flanks with 11. Re1 Nd5 12. h4!? Nd7 (Gareyev, analyzing the game at ChessLife Online, offers 12 … Bxh4 13. Nxh4 Qxh4 14. Re4 Qd8 15. Rg4 f5 16. Rg3 Rf7 17. Bg5 Qf8 18. Re1 Na6 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Reg3 Bd7 21. Qxb7 Qc8 as one way for Black to defend, though White’s dominance of the e-file is a major asset) 13. Bg5 Re8 14. Ne4 f6 15. Bd2 Nf8 16. h5 Rb8 17. h6, when 17 … g5?! would be met by.

Facing pressure on both sides, Black gets a little too provocative with 20. Nc5 b6?! (solid was 20 … Bxc5 21. dxc5 e5 22. a6 Ne6 23. axb7 Bxb7), and compounds his woes with 23. Bxd5 cxd5?, when Gareyev suggests 23 … Qxd5 24. Qxd5 cxd5 25. Bf4 bxc5 26. Bxb8 cxd4 27. Bg3 is still good enough for equality.

The winning combination exploits the awkward position of the Black king and queen in unexpected fashion: 25. Bxd6 Qxd6 (see diagram; Black’s ill-placed pieces and the White pawn on h6 and rook on a7 hint that something may be brewing, and Gareyev doesn’t miss it) 26. Ne5!! fxe5 (no better was 26 … Re7 27. Nf7+ Rxf7 28. Rxf7 e5 29. Qa3! bxc5 [Bf5 30. Qa7, with the neat threat of 31. Rxh7+! Nxh7 32. Qg7 mate] 30. dxc5 Qd8 31. c6!, and Black’s defenses collapse) 27. Qf3!, grabbing the space vacated by the knight and threatening a deadly check at f6.

After 27 … Nd7 28. Rxd7! Qf8 (Bxd7 29. Qf6+) 29. Rf7 Qxh6 30. Qf6+ Kg8, Black’s tied-down pieces allow White ample time to freshen the attack with another piece: 31. Nd3! Rf8 32. Nxe5 Rxf7 33. Qxf7+ Kh8 34. Qe8+ Kg7 35. Qe7+ Kg8 36. Ng4, and Black packs it in since 36 … Qg7 37. Nf6+ Kh8 38. Qe8+ is mate in a move.

World champion Magnus Carlsen and American stars Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So are safely into the second round of FIDE’s 128-player World Cup knockout tournament in Tbilisi, Georgia, avoiding the dreaded first-round upset. Canadian IM Sambuev Bator ambushed Chinese champion GM Wei Yi (in 24 moves!) in the first of their two-game Round 1 match, but Wei bounced back Monday with a win to force a playoff.

Gareyev-Erenburg, 49th Atlantic Open, Alexandria, Va., August 2017

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 e6 6. e4 Bb4 7. Bxc4 Nxe4 8. O-ONf6 9. a5 O-O 10. Qb3 Be7 11. Re1 Nd5 12. h4 Nd7 13. Bg5 Re8 14. Ne4 f6 15. Bd2Nf8 16. h5 Rb8 17. h6 g6 18. Nc3 Bd6 19. Ne4 Be7 20. Nc5 b6 21. axb6 axb6 22. Ra7 Kh8 23. Bxd5 cxd5 24. Bf4 Bd6 25. Bxd6 Qxd6 26. Ne5 fxe5 27. Qf3 Nd7 28. Rxd7 Qf8 29. Rf7 Qxh6 30. Qf6+ Kg8 31. Nd3 Rf8 32. Nxe5 Rxf7 33. Qxf7+ Kh8 34. Qe8+ Kg7 35. Qe7+ Kg8 36. Ng4 Black resigns.

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

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