- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The U.S. Open is looking pretty spry these days, considering it just turned 120.

The nation’s premier open chess tournament passed the latest milestone this month, providing a good bit of drama along the way. Ukrainian-born GM Illya Nyzhnyk claimed solo first and a spot in next year’s U.S. Closed Championship with a dominating 8-1 result in Orlando, Florida.

Originally known as the Western Open, the tournament has been held every year since 1900, not even letting world wars interrupt the play. As Open champ, Nyzhnyk, now a member of the chess powerhouse at Webster University in St. Louis, joins a distinguished honor roll that includes Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen.

The 2019 champ did it in style, clinching first with an impressive final-round victory over GM Timur Gareyev from the Black side of a sharp Botvinnik Semi-Slav. Nyzhnyk sacrifices the exchange to keep White’s king in the center and follows up with a punishing attack that forces resignation in just 27 moves.

Needing a win to hold off his pursuers, Black signals his aggressive intentions with 9. axb5 cxb5!? (the safer 9…Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxb5 11. Qf3 Qd5 was also playable) 10. Nxb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Bb7 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Ra1!? (Ra7!? Qb6 14. Ra1 costs a tempo, but the Black queen may be less effective here) e5 — White has won the exchange, but Black proceeds to blast open lines before Gareyev’s king can reach safety. After 16. Qxb5?! (now the White king definitely remains exposed; White could have tried 16. Rd1 dxe3 17. fxe3 Re8 18. Qg4+ Kh8 19. Qf4 Re4 20. Qh6 Re6, with perhaps a slight edge for Black) Bxd2+ 17. Kxd2 dxe3+ 18. Ke1 Bxg2 (Qd2+ [exf2+?! 19. Kf1 Qc7 20. Ra3 Rd8 21. Rg3+ Kh8 22. Qf5 and White defends] 19. Kf1 Bxg2+ 20. Kxg2 Qxe2 21. Qf5 Qxb2 22. Rab1 Qxf2+ 23. Qxf2 exf2 24. Rhc1 looks equal) 19. Rd1 Qc7 20. Rg1 Qxh2, Black has three pawns for the exchange and the White king still can’t find shelter.

The exposed king quickly proves fatal: 24. Qc3? (Qg4+ Qxg4 25. Bxg4 Ne5 26. Be2 Rxb2 is a bleak ending, but White could fight on) Ne5 (threatening 25…Qg3+ 26. Kf1 [Kd2 Qf2 27. Rf1 Nf3+ 28. Kd1 Rd8+ 29. Kc1 Qxe2] Nf3! 27. Bxf3 Qxf3+ 28. Ke1 Qh1+ 29. Ke2 [Kd2 Rd8+] Qg2+ 30. Kd3 Rd8+ and wins) 25. b4 h5 26. Qd4 (Qc5 Kg7 27. Qd5 Qg3+ 28. Kf1 Rxb4) Rc8 27. Qd5 Qg1+ 28. Kd2 Qf2!, and Gareyev resigned facing 29. Rf1 (the threat is 29…Nc4+ 30. Kd3 Qxe3+ 31. Kc2 Na3+ 32. Kb2 Rc2+ 33. Ka1 Qc3 mate) Rc2+! 30. Kxc2 Qxe2+ 31. Kb3 Qxf1 and wins.

GMs Lazaro Bruzon Batista and Kamil Dragun tied for second, a half-point back at 7½-1½.

Two Virginia masters turned in excellent results in Orlando, with veteran FM Macon Shibut finishing at 6½-2½, with his only loss a last-round defeat to GM Alex Shabalov. And FM Justin Paul’s 6-3 result included an epic takedown of Illinois GM Nikola Mitkov.

We pick up the action in this Vienna Game from today’s diagram, where Paul as Black has sacrificed a pawn to obtain tremendous pressure on the White position. Mitkov has just played 29. Kg1-h2, trying to relieve the pin on his knight, when Black strikes.

Thus: 29…Qe5+ 30. Qg3 Qd4 31. Qf4 Qxf2!! (a brave move to play against an opponent with a 200-point-plus rating edge!) 32. Qxf2 Rxf1, and it turns out that the pressure from Black’s remaining pieces (and the uselessness of White’s rook on a8) are worth far more than the Black queen.

The finale: 33. Qd4 Rbe1!? (good enough, but decisive now was 33…Nh5! 34. g3 Rbd1 35. Qe3 Rde1 36. Qd2 [Qd4 Re2+ 37. Qf2 Rexf2 mate] Rh1+ 37. Kg2 Reg1+ 38. Kf2 Rh2+ and wins) 34. h4 Nxe4 35. Kh3 h5! (cutting off the king’s escape square) 36. g4 Re2 37. gxh5 f5!, cutting off the escape square and forcing White’s resignation as Mitkov will have to give back the queen just to stave off mate.

Gareev-Nyzhnyk, 120th U.S. Open, Orlando, Florida, August 2019

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Bg5 Bb4+ 5. Nc3 dxc4 6. e3 b5 7. a4 c6 8. Nd2 a6 9. axb5 cxb5 10. Nxb5 axb5 11. Rxa8 Bb7 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Ra1 e5 14. Qh5 O-O 15. Be2 exd4 16. Qxb5 Bxd2+ 17. Kxd2 dxe3+ 18. Ke1 Bxg2 19. Rd1 Qc7 20. Rg1 Qxh2 21. Rxg2+ Qxg2 22. fxe3 Nc6 23. Qxc4 Rb8 24. Qc3 Ne5 25. b4 h5 26. Qd4 Rc8 27. Qd5 Qg1+ 28. Kd2 Qf2 White resigns.

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

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