Friday, September 22, 2006

The Red Sox may be fading, but the Blitz are doing their best to uphold Boston’s honor in the never-ending rivalry with New York.

The second season of the U.S. Chess League is in full swing after a highly promising inaugural campaign won by the Baltimore Kingfishers. The Boston Blitz, anchored by GMs Larry Christiansen and Eugene Perelshteyn, have taken the early lead in the tough Eastern Division by winning their first four matches.

The Seattle Sluggers, also at 4-0, lead the Western Division in the eight-team league.

The New York Knights, drawing players from the country’s strongest chess market, dominated regular-season play last year, only to be upset by the Kingfishers in the playoffs. The Knights have stumbled out of the gate this season, including a 3-1 match loss to the Blitz earlier this month.

IM Greg Shahade, USCL commissioner and creative force behind the league’s excellent Web site (, awarded the game-of-the-round prize to the upset win by Blitz expert Ilya Krasik over Knight FM Boris Privman. The seesaw struggle provided anxious moments for both teams and proved critical to Boston’s victory.

Accepting the gambit pawn after 12. dxc5 bxc6 13. Nxd4!? exd4 14. Bxd4 opens White to considerable risk, as the half-open e- and b-files and the long diagonal give Krasik excellent attacking prospects. After 15. 0-0-0 Qa5, for example, seeking play with 16. g4? allows 16…c5 17. Be3 Bxg4! 18. fxg4 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Qxa2 20. Nc3 Qa1+ 21. Kc2 Rxb2+ 22. Kd3 Qa3, winning.

A speculative Black sacrifice forces both players to walk a tightrope: 17. Bc3 Rxe4!? 18. Qxd6! (fxe4? is bad after 18…Nxe4 19. Qc2 Bh6+ 20. Bd2 [Nd2 Nxc3 21. Qxc3 Bf5 22. Bd3 Bxd3 23. Qxd3 Qxb2 mate] Nxd2 21. Rxd2 Bf5 22. Bd3 Bxd3 23. Qxd3 Rxb2 and wins) Bh6+ 19. Nd2 Qa1+ 20. Kc2 Qa4+ 21. b3!? (White can draw by repetition if he wants with 21. Kc1) Qa2+ 22. Bb2, with a highly complicated struggle.

Shahade notes here, “Both of Black’s rooks and a knight are hanging, along with his queen having the potential to get trapped with 22. Ra1, so it’s pretty easy to discern that we had an unusual position.” Still, after the game-saving 22…Bf4! 23. Qa3 (Qxf6? Be5! 24. Qd8+ Kg7 25. Rb1 Rd4 26. Qg5 Bf5+ 27. Kc1 Rxd2 28. Qxd2 Qxb1 mate) Qxa3 24. Bxa3 Re8, the material balance has been restored, and the players settle in for a tough rook-and-bishop ending.

It isn’t clear why White rejects taking the a-pawn (33. Bxa5 Ra6 34. Bc3 Ra2+ 35. Kb1 Bxc3 36. Kxa2 Bxe1 37. Rxe1 appears to preserve White’s edge), and Krasik slowly begins to dominate the play after that. White’s game falls apart on 44. Rg5? (Ra5 Ra3 45. Kb2 Rxg3 46. Rxa4 looks safer) Ke6 45. c5 Rb5!, pinning the c-pawn and cutting the White king off from the a-file.

Black soon gets a new queen, and there are too many pawns and too many checks on the board for the White king to survive. In the final position, Boston gains the point in lines such as 61. Kd6 Qf6+ 62. Kd5 g5! 63. Rxh5 Qf7+, collecting the rook; New York resigned.

We wrote here a couple of weeks ago about the strong performances by two junior girls at the Virginia Closed Championship in Richmond over the Labor Day weekend. Class A players Abby Marshall and Ettie Nikolova finished in a tie for second behind new state champ Andrew Samuelson, each scoring a string of upsets along the way.

Marshall’s most entertaining win in Richmond also may have been her most impressive: a short, sharp demolition of NM Daniel Miller, who was going for his fourth straight state title at the time. Marshall passes the opening exam by adeptly handling a rare sideline of the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit (3…c6!? 4. Nc3!) and then tempts her higher-rated opponent with a fatal offer of material gain.

Miller starts down the slippery slope after 8. Kxg2 Bg4?! (the tamer 8…Qg4+ 9. Qxg4 Bxg4 10. Bf4 Bb4 11. Re1+ Kd7 12. h3 Bh5 13. Nf3 keeps White’s advantage to a manageable level) Bxg1 11. Kxg1 Qe1+? (pulling out of the dive and accepting an inferior game with 11…Qh5 now looks mandatory) 12. Kg2 Bh3+ 13. Kxh3 Qxh1 14. dxc6 Nf6 (see diagram; 14…Qxc6 15. Bb5 and 14…Nxc6 15. Qxf7+ Kd8 16. Bg5+ Nge7 17. Rxh1 both cost Black his queen).

Black has won the exchange, but his development lags badly and only his ill-positioned queen protects against the crushing 15. cxb7. A little deflection sacrifice — offering up a rook — undermines Black’s game for good: 15. Be3! Qxa1 16. cxb7 0-0 17. bxa8=Q Qxb2 18. Qg2!, and White has a mating attack to go with her overwhelming material edge.

It’s over on 18…Nh5 (Qxc3 19. Bd4 is annihilating) 19. Qfg4 (not that it matters, but the computer says 19. Qxf7+! Rxf7 20. Qd5! leads to a quicker mate) Qxc3 20. Qxh5 Nd7 21. Qhg4, and Miller called it a day.

Boston vs. New York, U.S. Chess League, September 2006


1. d4Nf631. Bf4Rb4

2. c4g632. Bd2Rb6

3. Nc3Bg733. Bc3Bxc3

4. e4d634. Kxc3Reb8

5. f30-035. Rb1Rb4

6. Be3Nc636. Bd3Kg7

7. Nge2a637. f4Kf6

8. Qd2Rb838. h4h5

9. Nc1e539. Bc2Bf5

10. d5Nd440. Re5Bxc2

11. Nb3c541. Kxc2a4

12. dxc6bxc642. Rxc5Rxb3

13. Nxd4exd443. Rxb3Rxb3

14. Bxd4Re844. Rg5Ke6

15. 0-0-0Qa545. c5Rb5

16. Nb1Qxa246. Kc3a3

17. Bc3Rxe447. Kc4a2

18. Qxd6Bh6+48. Re5+Kd7

19. Nd2Qa1+49. Kxb5a1=Q

20. Kc2Qa4+50. Rd5+Kc7

21. b3Qa2+51. Rd6Qb2+

22. Bb2Bf452. Kc4Qa2+

23. Qa3Qxa353. Kd4Qb3

24. Bxa3Re854. Ra6Qxg3

25. Bd3Be655. Ra7+Kc6

26. g3Be356. Rxf7Qxh4

27. Rhe1Bd457. Ke5Kxc5

28. Ne4Nxe458. Rc7+Kb6

29. Bxe4c559. Rg7Qg4

30. Bc1a560. Rh7Qf5+

White resigns

Virginia Closed State Championship, Richmond, September 2006


1. e4e512. Kg2Bh3+

2. f4d513. Kxh3Qxh1

3. exd5c614. dxc6Nf6

4. Nc3exf415. Be3Qxa1

5. Bc4Qh4+16. cxb70-0

6. Kf1f317. bxa8=QQxb2

7. d3fxg2+18. Qg2Nh5

8. Kxg2Bg419. Qfg4Qxc3

9. Qd2Bc520. Qxh5Nd7

10. Qf4Bxg121. Qhg4Black

11. Kxg1Qe1+resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington

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