It’s a busy period for chess — the Candidates Tournament has just concluded, the U.S. senior, junior and junior girls’ championships are all underway in St. Louis, and the 44th Olympiad is set to start in Chennai, India, in just over two weeks.
But we don’t want to overlook two of our favorite events that just wrapped up — the 50th World Open in Philadelphia and the annual NATO Championship, held this year despite that pesky war in Ukraine in the Estonian city of Tartu.
The World Open, staged over the Fourth of July weekend and annually one of the strongest Swiss events on the calendar, reverted to form in 2022, with an octet of GMs and strong IMs from six different national federations sharing top honors, all at 7-2, in the City of Brotherly Love.
Claiming tippy-top honors was GM Mikhail Antipov, who edged IM Arman Mikaelyan in an Armageddon playoff for bragging rights. Also at 7-2 were GMs Jeffery Xiong, Jianchao Zhou, Pablo Salinas Herrera and Brandon Jacobson, along with IMs Semen Khanin and Minh Tuan Le.
You could make the argument that the World Open’s biggest winner was junior Virginia expert Pranav Prem, who went an undefeated 8-1 to finish alone in first in the Under 2200 section. While the big guns were splitting the Open section prize money, Prav nearly doubled their winnings with a $12,000 payout for taking his section outright.
Also punching above its weight was the U.S. squad at the NATO team tournament. Anchored by Air Force master Eigen Wang, the Americans finished a very credible third behind Greece and Poland, ahead of such traditional powerhouses as Germany and Denmark.
Critical to winning the bronze medal was the Navy’s Andrew Peraino takedown of Danish FM Finn Pedersen, the second-rated player in the field, in a key Round 6 match-up. Truth be told, Peraino is suffering mightily for much of this Caro-Kann Advance, but keeps plugging away until his higher-rated opponent finally allows a counterpunch.
White is already worse after 10. g3 c5! 11. Bxg4 hxg4 12. Qxg4?! (the pawn gain proves temporary, though declining with 12. Ne2 c4 13. Nbc1 Qb6 14. Kf2 Nc5! 15. dxc5 Bxc5+ 16. Kg2 d4 looks pretty dreary as well) c4 13. Nc1 Nxd4 14. Qd1 Nf5, and Black enjoys a huge spatial edge, a half-open h-file and much better-placed pieces. Pedersen even wins a pawn with 18. Bc1 Bf2+ 19. Kf1 Bxg3, though even stronger might have been 19…Nc5!, since 20. Kxf2?? Nd3+ 21. Kg2 Qf2 is mate. The half-open g-file will prove vital to White’s improbable comeback.
Doggedly holding his defensive lines, White finally makes his opponent sweat a little on 28. b3 cxb3 29. Qg4! (finally a threat, if an obvious one) Rh8!? — not a mistake, but 29…Nxa4! 30. Qxh3 Qxb5+ 31. Re2 0-0-0 looks like a cleaner put away.
On the attack for the entire game, Black finds it hard to shift gears when Peraino puts on the pressure with 30. Rxb3 Nxa4 31. f5!? Nb6?! (allowing White to open lines; keeping the edge was 31… Bb4! 32. Nd6+ Bxd6 33. exd6 Nc5 34. fxe6 Nxe6, defending the weak points on the kingside) 32. fxg6 fxg6 33. Qxg6+ Kd7 34. Qg7+ Be7 35. Bg5, and now it’s Black who must counter a mating attack.
White climbs all the way back into the game on 36. Ke1 Rhe8? (36…Qe4+! is one last missed win: 37. Re2 [Kd1 Rh7! defends] Qh1+ 38. Kd2 Rae8 39. Bxe7, and now Black has 39…Reg8! 40. Qf7 Nc4+ 41. Kc2 Qe4+!! 42. Rxe4 Rxh2+ 43. Kd1 Rg1+ 44. Re1 Rd2+ 45. Kc1 Rxe1 mate) 37. Nd4, and suddenly White’s pieces coordinate beautifully while Black is struggling to plug multiple holes.
Peraino breaks definitively on top on 39. Qf7 Na8? (a4 was tougher, but White should still win in lines like 40. Qxe6+ Kd8 41. Rxb6 Bxg5 42. Nc6+! Qxc6 43. Qxc6 Rxe5+ 44. Re2 bxc6 45. Rxa6 Rf5 46. Rxc6) 40. Rxb7+ Nc7 41. Kd2, and Pedersen can hardly move. The final tipping point comes on 46. cxd4 Kc8 (the threat was 47. Bxe7 Rxe7 48. Rd6+!) 47. Bxe7 Rh8 48. h4 Qd5 49. Bd6 Qa5+ 50. Rb4, and Black, a piece and a pawn down, resigned.
Chess, as Tarrasch said, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.
The cruelty of chess was on display in the tragicomic ending to the game between IM Alexander Kaliksteyn and FM Zhou Liran from the 2022 New York Summer Invitational Grandmaster A Tournament now wrapping up in New York City, which we pick up from today’s diagrammed position.
White suffers the heartbreak here, going from a winning game to a lost one in the space of five moves, including a particularly cruel finale in the middle of extreme time pressure.
Black has just played 44…Kg7-f8, and the play takes a sharp turn after 45. e4 Rd3+ 46. Kg2?! (the first missed exit; keeping the edge was 46. Kf2! Rd2+ 47. Ke1 Rh2 48. Bg5 Bh3 49. Rc7) Re3! 47. exf5?! (and here 47. Re5! Bxe4+ 46. Kg1 Re2 47. Kf1 Re3 48. Rxb5 is still strong for White) Rxe7 48. Bxe7+ Kxe7.
And now a tiny pawn finesse throws away the game for White: 49. b3?? b4!, and Kaliksteyn resigns on the spot.
After 50. Kf2 (bxc4 bxc3 51. Kf2 c2 and wins) bxc3 51. Ke2 cxb3 52. axb3 h4!, one of the Black pawns must queen. White didn’t have time to find the saving resource 49. b4!, one more square for the pawn which makes all the difference. Now it’s a draw on 49…Kf7 (cxb3?? 50. axb3 and White wins) 50. f6! Kxf6 51. a4!, and White holds after 51…bxa4 52. b5 Ke7 53. b6 Kd7 54. f5! a3 55. f6 a2 57. f7 a1=Q 58. f8=Q Qb2+ 59. Kf1 Qxb6.
Peraino-Pedersen, 32nd NATO Championship, Tartu, Estonia, June 2022
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. f4 Ne7 7. Bd2 h5 8. a4 Bg4 9. Be2 Nf5 10. g3 c5 11. Bxg4 hxg4 12. Qxg4 c4 13. Nc1 Nxd4 14. Qd1 Nf5 15. Nce2 Bc5 16. Nf3 Qb6 17. c3 a5 18. Bc1 Bf2+ 19. Kf1 Bxg3 20. Nfd4 Bh4 21. Rg1 g6 22. Rg2 Nxd4 23. Nxd4 Be7 24. Rb1 Bc5 25. Nb5 Qc6 26. Qf3 Nb6 27. Qd1 Rh3 28. b3 cxb3 29. Qg4 Rh8 30. Rxb3 Nxa4 31. f5 Nb6 32. fxg6 fxg6 33. Qxg6+ Kd7 34. Qg7+ Be7 35. Bg5 Qc4+ 36. Ke1 Rhe8 37. Nd4 Ra6 38. Rgb2 Qc5 39. Qf7 Na8 40. Rxb7+ Nc7 41. Kd2 a4 42. R2b5 Qc4 43. R5b6 Rxb6 44. Rxb6 Qa2+ 45. Nc2 d4 46. cxd4 Kc8 47. Bxe7 Rh8 48. h4 Qd5 49. Bd6 Qa5+ 50. Rb4 White resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.