- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Russian GM Vladimir Belous captured last month’s 51st annual Atlantic Open, the D.C. region’s traditional late-summer chess blowout, but D.C. expert Joshua Altman stole the show.

Giving up just a last-round draw to fellow GM Mark Paragua, Belous went an undefeated 4½-½ at the Westin Tysons Corner to take sole first, while also winning the event’s side blitz event with an 8-0 score. At 4-1, Paragua tied for second with Altman, who had a remarkable weekend with three wins and two draws against five players of master strength.

According to Col. David Hater’s fine account of the tournament at Chess Life Online (USchess.org), Altman gained 124 rating points for his efforts.

The tournament’s key grandmaster-on-grandmaster violence came with Belous‘ tough Round 4 win over Philippines’ GM Oliver Barbosa. White’s energetic play in the QGD Semi-Slav gets him a powerful initiative, but there are several hurdles on the way to victory.

White moves aggressively to justify the lost pawn with 12. h4 a6 13. Qh5 Qe7 14. Rh3!, zeroing in on the Black king. Even castling does little to slow the White attack: 16. Bg5 f6 17. exf6 Nxf6?! (worth considering was 17…Qf7!?, changing the dynamic of the play in lines such as 18. Qxf7+ Rxf7 19. fxg7 Rxg7 20. Bxc4 h6 21. Bxh6 Rxg2, with a much messier position than in the game) 18. Nxf6+ gxf6 19. Bh6, and Black’s kingside is looking very uncomfortable.

Barbosa hangs tough, though, and the machines say after 22. Rxc3 Bd7, Belous missed a possible shot with 23. Bxe6! Qxe6 [Bxe6 24. Rxc6 Qd7 25. Qc5, with an extra pawn and strong pressure] 24. d5 Qe7 25. dxc6 Be6 26. c7 Rc8 27. Rxa6. A queen trade two moves later also eases Black’s defensive headaches.

But Barbosa may have underestimated the sting still left in the position: 28. Rca3 (Rxa6!? was also playable) Bb5 29. Ba2 Rg4?! (now was the time for 29…Kg7!, sidestepping many of the dangerous ideas to come) 30. Rd1 Rd7 31. Bh6 Ra4? (again, 31…Kg8 32. f4 f5 33. Kf2 Kf7 keeps White’s edge to a minimum) 32. Rxa4 Bxa4 33. Re1, and now Black’s back-rank woes mean he has to play something like 33…Nc7 34. f3 (Bxe6!? Re7 35. Ra1 Nxe6 34. Rxa4 Nxc5, with some drawing chances for Black) Bc6 35. Kf2 Rd3 and hope to hang on.

But a defensive lapse in an inferior position leads to disaster for Barbosa: 33…e5? 34. Rb1! Bb5 (Kg8 35. Rb6! Kf7 36. c6! Bxc6 Rxc6 and wins) 35. c6! Rd8 (of course not 35…Bxc6?? 36. Rb8+) 36. Bxd5 Rxd5 37. Rc1 (also crushing was 37. c7! Rc5 38. Rd1 Kg8 39. Rd8+ Kf7 40. c8=Q, but Belous‘ move does the trick) Rd8 38. c7, and Black resigned as after 38…Rc8 39. Rd1, the threat of 40. Rd8+ is crushing.

We heard from many readers over the last week on our coverage of the life and passing of the great Pal Benko (including an elementary school classmate from Benko’s Hungarian boyhood!), so we thought we’d serve up just one more of Benko’s famous endgame problems this week. Once again, the presentation is simple and elegant, the solution inspired and instructive.

From the diagrammed position, White is up a rook, but his king is so far from the action and his pawns so vulnerable that the win is far from obvious.

The rabbit is extracted from the hat thusly: 1. a4! (b3? Kb2 2. Rh1 Kxa2 3. Rh5 [Rh3 Kb2! 4. Kg7 a4] b4! 4. Rxa5+ Kxb3, and White will soon have to give up his rook for the passed pawn) Kxb2 2. Ra3!! (truly ingenious; only drawing is 2. axb5? Kxa1 3. b6 a4 4. b7 a3 5. b8=Q a2) Kxa3 3. axb5 a4 4. b6 Kb2 5. b7 a3 6. b8=Q+ (queening with check makes all the difference) Kc1 (Ka2 7. Qb4 and wins) 7. Qb3 and wins.

Belous-Barbosa, 51st Atlantic Open, Tysons Corner, Va. August 2019

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 e6 6. e4 Bb4 7. e5 Nd5 8. Bd2 b5 9. axb5 Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxb5 11. Ng5 Nc6 12. h4 a6 13. Qh5 Qe7 14. Rh3 b4 15. Ne4 0-0 16. Bg5 f6 17. exf6 Nxf6 18. Nxf6+ gxf6 19. Bh6 Rf7 20. Bxc4 Kh8 21. Kf1 bxc3 22. Rxc3 Bd7 23. Be3 Nb4 24. Kg1 Bc6 25. Qc5 Qxc5 26. dxc5 Rg8 27. g3 Nd5 28. Rca3 Bb5 29. Ba2 Rg4 30. Rd1 Rd7 31. Bh6 Ra4 32. Rxa4 Bxa4 33. Re1 e5 34. Rb1 Bb5 35. c6 Rd8 36. Bxd5 Rxd5 37. Rc1 Rd8 38. c7 Black resigns.

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

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