- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2019

It seems the valiant Texas Tech Red Raiders came up just short against my Virginia Cavaliers in the men’s college basketball, but another Lone Star State college Cinderella managed to dance the final triumphant dance this week.

The 2019 glass slipper in the College Chess Final Four, held over the weekend at New York’s famed Marshall Chess Club, went for a second year in a row to the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, who once again upset heavily favored Webster University to take the title. The University of Texas-Dallas finished third and Harvard fourth in the round-robin team competition.

Webster boasted three 2,700-plus grandmasters on its roster, but UT-RGV was no slouch, with an average team rating of 2646. The undoubted hero for the Vaqueros was Armenian-born GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan, who won all three of his games over the weekend. Check out his tough win over Harvard FM Varun Krishnan, a Najdorf Sicilian in which Black sacrifices the exchange on 22. Qd4 Rxc2 23. Bb3 Rxc3 24. Qxc3 for ambiguous compensation, and has to work to get at the White king.

Through 32. 0-0 (it’s a little startling that castling is still legal here) Qxb2 33. Qxa6 Rb4 34. Qa2 Qd4+ 35. Kh1 Nc4 36. Qa7, White’s holding his own against the grandmaster, but finally goes wrong in the finale: 37. Rf2!? Ne3 (Qxh4+?! 38. Rh2 Qe1+ 39. Qg1 Qxg1+ 40. Kxg1 Nf6 41. Rh4, and White is at least equal) 38. Rh2!? (Be2 Rb2 39. Qa5 might be tougher) Nf1 39. Ba4? — finally cracking under the strain. White had to play 39. e5! Qxe5 40. Rha2 Ng3+ 41. Kh2 Rb2+ 42. Rxb2 Qxb2+ 43. Kg1 Qc3 44. Qa5, and Black still must work for the win.

Instead, it’s over on 39…Ng3+! (decisive; less impressive is 39…Nxh2!? 40. Qxd7+ Kf8 41. e5 Qxh4 42. Qxd6+ Kg8 43. Qf6 [Qxb4?? Ng4+ 44. Kg1 Qh2+ 45. Kf1 Qf2 mate] Nxf3+ 44. Qxh4 Nxh4 45. Bc3 Ng6, and Black at least has some drawing hopes) 40. Kg2 Rb2+ 41. Kg1 (Kh3 Qe6 mate) Rb7! (Rxh2? 42. Qxd7+ Kf8 43. Kxh2 Qxa1 44. Qxd6+ Kg7 45. Qxf4 Qh1+ 43. Kxg3 Qg1+ yields only a perpetual check) 42. e5 (desperation — on 42. Bxd7, Black has 42…Rxa7 43. Rxa7 Qd4+) Qxe5 43. Qa6 Qxa1+, and Krishnan resigned facing 44. Kg2 Rb2+ 45. Kh3 Rxh2+ 46. Kxh2 Qh1 mate.

It’s already been a very good 2019 for 21-year-old Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev, who took clear first in the Gibraltar Masters in January, helped Russia to a gold medal in the World Team Championships, and now is the European individual champion after edging Swedish GM Nils Grandelius on tiebreaks at the European Championship last month in Skopje, North Macedonia. Many are already crowning him the NGR — “Next Great Russian.”

Check out his win over veteran Czech GM Zbynek Hracek in Skopje, which we pick up from today’s diagram where Black’s last move 22…Bc6-e8?? (if Black’s spidey sense had been tingling, he would have hunkered down with 23…Qe7 24. Rd3 Qe6 25. Qxe6 fxe6 26. Nxc6 bxc6 27. Rxe6 and tried to save a bleak ending) opens the floodgates for a sacrificial mating attack.

Things proceeded thusly: 24. a3 Qxb2 (the sacrifice also works on 24…Qb6 25. Rxg7!, as 25…Kxg7 26. Bh6+! Kxh6 27. Rg3 Rg8 28. Qf4+ Kh5 29. Rxg8 Nxg8 30. g4+ Kh4 31. Nf3+ Kxh3 32. Qg3 is mate) 25. Rxg7!! Kxg7 26. Rg3+ Kh8 27. Nxd5!, the key follow-up move, putting unbearable pressure on Black’s knight on f6.

The finale is equally satisfying: 27…Nxd5 (Rg8 28. Rxg8+ Kxg8 [Nxg8 29. Nxf7+ Bxf7 30. Be5+ Nf6 31. Nxf6 Bxf6 32. Qxf6+ Kg8 33. Qg7 mate] 29. Qg5+ Kf8 30. Nd7+! Bxd7 31. Bd6+ Be7 32. Bxe7+ Ke8 33. Nxf6+ Kxe7 34. Nxh7+ Ke8 [Kd6 35. Qe5+ Kc6 36. Qc5 mate] 35. Nf6+ Kd8 36. Nd5+ Kc8 37. Qg8+ Be8 38. Qxe8 mate) 28. Bh6 (with the threat of 27. Bg7+ Kg8 28. Bf6 mate) Bf6 29. Qxf6+!, and Black concedes ahead of 29…Nxf6 30. Bg7+ Kg8 31. Bxf6 mate.

Krishnan-Gabuzyan, College Final Four, New York, April 2019

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. a4 h6 10. Bh4 b6 11. Nd2 Bb7 12. Bc4 g5 13. Bg3 h5 14. h4 g4 15. Ba2 Bh6 16. Nc4 Ke7 17. f3 Rhg8 18. Bf2 gxf3 19. gxf3 Rg2 20. Be3 Bf4 21. Bxf4 exf4 22. Qd4 Rxc2 23. Bb3 Rxc3 24. Qxc3 b5 25. Na5 Qb6 26. Nxb7 Qxb7 27. axb5 Rc8 28. Qd4 Ne5 29. Bd1 Rc4 30. Qg1 Qxb5 31. Qa7+ Nfd7 32. O-O Qxb2 33. Qxa6 Rb4 34. Qa2 Qd4+ 35. Kh1 Nc4 36. Qa7 Qf6 37. Rf2 Ne3 38. Rh2 Nf1 39. Ba4 Ng3+ 40. Kg2 Rb2+ 41. Kg1 Rb7 42. e5 Qxe5 43. Qa6 Qxa1+ White resigns

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

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