- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

It was the “Shabba Show” as GM Alexander Shabalov ran away with the 44th annual Eastern Open, the traditional local year-ending tournament held last week at the Westin Hotel in Tysons Corner.

Shabalov, a four-time U.S. national champion, has a long record of success at the Eastern, but this might have been his most impressive performance yet. He scored a rare perfect 7-0, defeating all of his top rivals along the way in the 45-player top section.

The tournament’s critical game — a Round 4 match-up between Shabalov and top-seeded Aleksander Lenderman — proved to be not much of a contest. Shabalov, on the White side of an unusual Queen’s Gambit sideline, dominates the opening play, preventing Black from the freeing …c5 break and leaving Lenderman’s queenside criminally underdeveloped. Already, after 9. 0-0 Be7 (c5?! 10. dxc5 Bxc5 11. Bf4 0-0 12. Rc1, with a very uncomfortable pin on the bishop) 10. Bf4 0-0 11. Rc1 Ra7 12. Bh3!, White is threatening tricks such as 13. Nxf7! Rxf7 14. Rxc7 Qd8 16. Bxe6, winning.

Black seems to be generating a little kingside pressure, but with 19. e4! the coiled White pieces spring to life. After 22. d5, with a discovered attack on the unfortunately placed Black rook, Shabalov seizes an initiative that carries him through to victory.

On 22…Ra8 23. dxe6 Qxe6 24. Rfe1 Qf7 25. Bh3! Rxf3 (the threat was 26. Nh6+ gxh6 27. Bxf5, and 25…Rd5 runs into 26. Nh6+! gxh6 27. Be6) 26. Nxf3 Qxf3 27. Qb3+ Qxb3 28. axb3 Nd7, the Black knight finally gets in the game but it is already too late.

A final mini-tactic closes out the contest: 34. Rc7 Be4 (see diagram) 35. Rxe4! Nxe4 36. Bd5 Re8 37. Bf7+, and the rook is lost; Lenderman resigned.

A round later, Shabalov saw off another rival, University of Virginia master Jeevan Karamsetty, again getting the better of the play from an unconventional opening line. In what turns out to be a Pirc-Modern Defense variation, White’s 10. Bc2?! (already seeing ghosts from the Black “threat” of 10…Nc5) Kh8 11. f4? proves to be deeply premature, as 11…c6 12. Kh1 cxd5 13. exd5 Nh5! exposes the weak dark squares around Karamsetty’s king.

After 16. Qf2 (Bxe5 Bxe5 17. Rf2 Qb6 18. Bb3 Ng3+ 19. Kg1 Ne4! 20. Qxe4 Bxh2+ 21. Kf1 Bf5 22. Qd4+ Qxd4 23. cxd4 Bd3+ 24. Ke1 Bg3 and wins) Nxf4 17. Qxf4 Qb6 18. Qc1 Qc5, Black is dominating the board, and the shaky position of White’s bishop on a4 sets up a nice finale.

Thus: 19. Bb3 a5! 20. Qd1 (trying to head off the threat of 20…a4) a4! (anyway!) 21. Bxa4 Nc4 — with the nasty dual threats of 22…Nxb2 and 22…Ne3. The game concluded 22. Qb3 Bf5 23. Nf3 Bd3 24. Rg1 Nb6, and the bishop is trapped and lost. Black resigned.

Lenderman was alone in second at 5½-1½, and Kamamsetty finished in a three-way tie for third at 5-2.

Congratulations to the powerhouse Webster University chess team, which captured its sixth Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship last week in Columbus, Ohio. Also qualifying for the college chess “Final Four” in April were St. Louis University, Texas Tech, and the University of Texas-Rio Grande. The University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s “A” squad finished 16th in the 58-team field.

Shabalov-Lenderman, 44th Eastern Open, Tysons Corner, Va., December 2017

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 a6 4. Nbd2 Nf6 5. g3 dxc4 6. Nxc4 b5 7. Nce5 Bb7 8. Bg2 Qc8 9. O-O Be7 10. Bf4 O-O 11. Rc1 Ra7 12. Bh3 Bd5 13. Nd2 Qd8 14. Qc2 Nh5 15. Be3 f5 16. f3 Bd6 17. Bf2 Qg5 18. Bg2 Qh6 19. e4 Bb7 20. exf5 Rxf5 21. Ng4 Qg6 22. d5 Ra8 23. dxe6 Qxe6 24. Rfe1 Qf7 25. Bh3 Rxf3 26. Nxf3 Qxf3 27. Qb3+ Qxb3 28. axb3 Nd7 29. Nh6+ gxh6 30. Bxd7 Nf6 31. Be6+ Kg7 32. Bc5 Kg6 33. Bxd6 cxd6 34. Rc7 Be4 35. Rxe4 Nxe4 36. Bd5 Re8 37. Bf7+ Black resigns.

Karamsetty-Shabalov, 44th Eastern Open, Tysons Corner, Va., December 2017

1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 d6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bd3 g6 5. h3 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. c3 e5 8. d5 Nb8 9. Nh2 Nbd7 10. Bc2 Kh8 11. f4 c6 12. Kh1 cxd5 13. exd5 Nh5 14. Qf3 exf4 15. Bxf4 Ne5 16. Qf2 Nxf4 17. Qxf4 Qb6 18. Qc1 Qc5 19. Bb3 a5 20. Qd1 a4 21. Bxa4 Nc4 22. Qb3 Bf5 23. Nf3 Bd3 24. Rg1 Nb6 White resigns.

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

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