- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2018

Playing with the lead for the entire tournament, New York GM Alex Lenderman claimed his fourth title — and his second in the past three years — at the 45th annual Eastern Open, the D.C. area’s traditional holiday week chess blowout that ended Sunday evening.

Lenderman won his first four games and scored a key last-round win over master Daniel Clancy to finish at 6-1, holding off Virginia GM Sergey Erenburg by a half-point in the 50-player Open section. Erenburg’s chances were hurt by an upset loss to expert Daniel Johnston in Round 2.

We’ll have some action from the event and more section winners in upcoming columns.

The competition keeps getting stronger, but Missouri-based Webster University remains the Alabama of the college chess landscape, notching its seventh straight victory at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships last week in Burlingame, California. Webster’s grandmaster-studded roster is so strong that the Gorloks’ “B” team finished third in the 53-team event.

Also qualifying for this spring’s college chess Final Four are University of Texas-Dallas, Harvard and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Local stalwarts and past champs University of Maryland-Baltimore County finished in a tie for ninth.

The result was familiar, but the path to the title was not without some obstacles. Webster’s “A” team appeared heading an upset loss in Round 3 to UT-D’s feisty “C” team, down 2½-1½ and with things looking grim in a key game between UT-D freshman IM Craig Hilby and Webster GM Jorge Cori.

Suffice it to say that Hilby clearly outplays his higher-rated opponent in this Queen’s Indian, translating a positional clamp into a solid material edge with 28. f3 Ne5 29. Bxe5!? (even better might be 29. b5! Kf8 30. Bd4, with a strong bind) Rxe5 30. Rxe5 dxe5 31. Rxe5, though Black still has a glimmer of counterplay.

But holding all the trumps, White takes a tragically wrong turn with 37. Qb4 Rc2 38. d6?! (better — and safer — was 38. Kh3 Qd8 39. c6) cxd6 39. Qb8+?, when 39. cxd6 Qa7 40. Qe1 Qa2 41. Qf1 keeps things level in lines such as 41…Rf2 42. Re8+! Kh7! (Nxe8 43. Qxf2! Qxf2 44. d7) 43. Qg1 Rxf3 44. d7 Ng4+ (Nxd7 44. Qd1! Nf6 [Rf2?? 47. Qxh5 mate] 46. Qxf3 Nxe8 47. Qxh5+, with a plus) 45. Kh3 Nf2+ 46. Kh2, with a perpetual.

Instead, Black breaks through against White’s misplaced major pieces: 39…Kh7 40. Qxd6 Qb7! 41. Re1 (Kg1 [Re1 Ng4+]Qb2 42. Bf1 [Bh3 Rc1+ 43. Bf1 Qb5] Rh2) Qxf3 42. Rg1 Ng4+ 43. Kh3 (Kh1 Rxg2! 44. Rxg2 Qf1+ 45. Rg1 Qh3 mate) Qxf5, and Hilby resigned facing lines such as 44. Qf4 (Rf1 Qxf1! 45. Bxf1 Rh2 mate) Nf2+ 45. Kh2 Qh3+ 46. Bxh3 Ng4+ 47. Kh1 Rh2 mate.

Winning a world championship match can tire a fellow out. Fresh off his tough title defense against U.S. GM Fabiano Caruana, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen stumbled out of the gate with two losses to lesser lights at last week’s World Rapid Championships in St. Petersburg. The champ recovered nicely — finishing a half-point behind winner GM Daniil Dubov of Russia, and then winning the subsequent blitz competition — but Uzbek IM Shamsiddin Vokhidov will be dining out the rest of his life on his takedown of the champ in Round 2.

Carlsen is clearly still in hangover mode, judging from his play from today’s diagram, where White spoils a promising position with 20. f3?! (White could already take command with 20. Ne8 Ra8 21. Nxg7 Kxg7 22. Bh6+!) Bb7 21. Rae1 Rfc8 22. Bc3? Bf8! (oops — Carlsen may have been banking on 22…f6 23. g4 Qf4 24. Qxd7 Rd8 25. Qxg7+ Kxg7 26. Ne6+ Kf7 27. Nxf4 exf4 28. Bb4, with an edge) 23. Nb5 (abandoning the queen, but no better was 23. Qxe5 Qxe5 24. Bxe5 d6 25. Bxd6 Bxd6 26. Nb5 Bc5+ 27. d4 Ba6) Bxd6 24. Nxd6 Qe6 25. Nxc8 Rxc8 26. Rxe5 Qd6, and Black went on to win in 36 moves.

Hilby-Cori, Pan-American Intercollegiate Championship, Burlingame, California, December 2018

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. d5 d6 8. Nd4 e5 9. Nf5 a5 10. Nc3 Na6 11. e4 Bc8 12. Be3 Bxf5 13. exf5 Nc5 14. b3 Nfd7 15. h4 Bf6 16. Qc2 Re8 17. Rab1 Qe7 18. Rfe1 e4 19. Bd2 Bxc3 20. Bxc3 Nf6 21. a3 h6 22. Re2 h5 23. b4 axb4 24. axb4 Ncd7 25. Rbe1 Ne5 26. Bxe4 Qd7 27. Bg2 Neg4 28. f3 Ne5 29. Bxe5 Rxe5 30. Rxe5 dxe5 31. Rxe5 Ra1+ 32. Kh2 Qd6 33. Qc3 Rb1 34. c5 bxc5 35. bxc5 Qd7 36. Qd4 Rc1 37. Qb4 Rc2 38. d6 cxd6 39. Qb8+ Kh7 40. Qxd6 Qb7 41. Re1 Qxf3 42. Rg1 Ng4+ 43. Kh3 Qxf5 White resigns.

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

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