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An Armenian Master on the UMBC Open Print E-mail
By Artak Manukyan   
March 6, 2010
Artak Manukyan with his brother, who is also a chessplayer
Artak Manukyan is a National Master in Armenia, and while visiting the US as a scholar, he has achieved a senior Master rating. See his impression of US tournaments and annotations to two of his games from the recent University of Maryland Baltimore County Open/Alvin S. Mintzes Chess tournament. The tournament was held concurrent with the Sweet 16, which determines the Maryland Scholastic Champion and awards a UMBC scholarship. The winner was National Master Kevin Wang. Read more on the Maryland Chess website.

I was born in Armenia, a country where chess is more than game. It is religion; something like hockey is for Canada. As a result Armenia traditionally has a strong chess team (twice Olympic champions). It's no accident that the 5th US player-Akobian, Varuzhan (2699) is also an Armenian.

I first visited the US in 2003, for a few months as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. During that time, I played in a few US tournaments and earned a provisional USCF rating of 2366. In 2010 I returned to the US as a visiting scholar at the University of Delaware by JFDP (Junior Faculty Development Program). I loved chess very much so once again, I brought my chess board with me as well :)

And in February, I dusted the chess board off to play in the 2010 US Amateur Team East with some students I coach at the University.  We had a good time and became the top Delaware team, though we were hoping to earn top university honors- that award went to UMBC. I was excited to have a chance to participate face to face with some of the team members in the University of Maryland Baltimore County Open (Alvin S. Mintzes Chess Tournament), especially considering UMBC's strong chess tradition. Their chess team managed to win nine Pan-American chess titles. The UMBC Open took place from February 27-28 and the open section included 27 participants including eight masters (See complete MSA here). IM-Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2438) and FM Shinsaku Uesugi (2363) were among the participants. It was really tight competition and finally thanks to God I became a clear winner. As it turns out, I've won all six of the individual tournaments I've played so far in the USA, though I haven't yet tackled the big Opens :)

As for my style, I prefer to play logical chess instead of sharp variations, which of course has cons and pros. When you play without theory you will never be surprised by your opponent moves. Of course this strategy has also disadvantages. You can't win the game simply by knowing more than your opponent.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+
This move comes from my strategy to escape sharp and analyzed theoretical lines. This line is OK when you want to play without risk and that is why from time to time even the chess elite plays it.
The key line. 3...Nd7 is an option if Black wants to play for the win. A couple of recent examples: 4. d4 a6 5. Bxd7 Bxd7 6. dxc5 dxc5 7. Nc3 e6 8. Bf4 Ne7 9. Ne5 and here  9... Ng6 [Black should not play 9...Bb5? as was played in Adams (2704)-Bu Xiangzhi (2682), Asrian Memorial, Yerevan 2008 because of 10.Qh5 g6 11. Qf3 Nc6 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. Be5 Rg8 14. Rd1 Qg5 15. Bf6 Qh5 16. g4 Qh6 and now 17. Nd5! wins the game] 10. Qh5 Bc6 N with unclear game, which was played in Ni Hua (2667)-Magnus Carlsen (2813), London Chess Classics, 2009.
4. Bxd7 Qxd7 5. c4 Nc6
5...Qg4 is a weak move because of 6. 0-0 Qxe4 7. d4 with a very strong initiative.
6. Nc3 g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7 9. Be3 Nf6 10. f3 0-0 11. Qd2 Rac8 12. b3 Re8?!
The main line starts with 12...a6. 
13. Kf2?!
I knew that 13.0-0 is simply better but sometimes I want to escape the theoretical moves and that is why I choose Kf2. In fact this move can have pluses but in this position the only plus is to surprise the opponent!
Another possibility is a6.
14. Rhd1 Qa5 15. Nde2
The logic is simple-avoid exchanges.
15...Nd7 16. Rac1 Nc5?!
The logic is to penetrate to d3, which could be easily refused.
17. Kg1 Ne5 18. Qc2 a6
Good idea, Black should try to make b5 as quick as possible.
19. Nd5 Ncd7 20.Qd2
I think that in this structure the ending usually favors White, which explains the strange  Kf2 sometimes!
19...Qxd2 20. Rxd2 Kf8 21. a4
White is definitely better as I have more space.
Trying to make a blockade in the queen side
23. Rb1 a5 24.Nc3
Preparing to transfer the knight to b5 weak square
Preparing to transfer the knight to b4 weak square.
25. Nb5 Red8 26.Nf4?!
26. Bg1 or even Kf1 is a little bit better.
26...Nb4 27. Nd5 Nxd5
27... Nbd3 is not so good due to 28.Bg5 or Kf1 with the idea Ke2 
28. Rxd5 Ke8
Black does not have any active plan, they should just wait.
29.Kf1 Rc6
with e6 in mind
29. Ke2
simple centralization of all pieces
30...b6 31. g4!
Now that I have centralized all my pieces I am trying to create a second weakness as Black can easily handle one weakness.
31...Rd7 32.h4 Rc8 33.h5 Rcd8 34. hxg6 hxg6 35. Rd2!
I'm just waiting as e6 is not so good now. Black is somehow in zugzwang!
Trying to protect the b6 pawn and release the knight. 
36. Kd1
To have a king as defender instead of a rook.
36...Na6 37. Rh2! Nc7?
37...e6 will give Black better chances although White still has a decisive advantage after Ke2.
 38.Bd4 e5
If ...f6, Black has major trouble with the bishop.
39.Nxc7 Rxc7 40. Be3 Ke7 41.Ke2
Black's bishop looks like a big pawn, while white's bishop controls the entire board. White's position is strategically winning.
 41...Kd7? 42.Rh7 Black resigns 1-0

Although chess is a strategic game, an X factor called luck is an inevitable part of it.

The time control of this tournament is very strict and thus it is rather easy to attack rather than to defend. Thus finding only moves is very challenging, that is why I like this game.
1.e4 c5 2.d4
Nowadays there are few Romantics, specializing in the Morra gambit; very-aggressive opening.
2...cxd4 3.c3 dxc3
For positional players moves like 3...Nf6 or 3...d3 should be acceptable
4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 a6 7.0-0 d6
7...Nge7 8.Bg5 f6 is a theoretical line
8. Qe2 Qc7 9. Rd1 Nge7!?
If White can manage to play Bf4 they will have much better chance; in addition after Ng6 black make a control over the e5 square.
10. h4!?
White should play aggressively otherwise Black will be simply a pawn ahead.
10...Ng6 11. Be3 Be7 12. h5 Nge5 13. Nxe5 dxe5
Black should take with the pawn as they have control over d4 and additionally keep the c-file closed.
14. Rac1 0-0 15. Bb3
15. Na4 Nd4 16. Bxd4 exd4 17. Be6 Qe5
The logical move with the idea to exchange as much as you can.
A typical move for this variation.
16...exd5 17. exd5 Bf6
I don't want to play 17...Bd7 as in some variations f7 is hanging and in addition I want to have an alternative Bf5 or Be6 with one tempo.
18. dxc6 Rxd1  19.Qxd1 bxc6 20. h6
It is useful to make some weaknesses around black's king. 20.Qf3 is meaningless as now f7 is protected so here is the explanation of 17...Bf6. Anyway White have a full compensation as his pieces are more centralized and will have direct pressure on the black king.
20...Bf5 was much better. Now Black should resist by finding only moves.
21. hxg7 Bxg7 22. Qh5! Re8 23.Rd1
The only move, with the idea of closing b1-h7 diagonal with ...e4.
Again, the only move
24. Rd6
with the threat 25.Rxc6
The only move.
25. Rh6
The first impression is that White is close to the win, but
25...e4 I don't like because of 26.Qh4 with the idea of 27.Rxc6
26. Qg5!
26.Rxh7 Qf5
again the only move
27.Rf6! Qe7
27...Re6 28 Bxe6 Qd1+ 29. Kh2 Bxe6 is also playable
I offered a draw here, which was sort of psychological trick. Of course White's position is better, but when a higher rated player offers you draw there is always an internal fight to accept or to refuse. This fight might have impact on your concentration, because if you are the lower rated player, and you refuse the draw, your internal struggle will become more and more intense as the game goes on. Meanwhile, the higher rated player will become more concentrated as he/she transferred this internal fight to the opponent.
28. Rxf7
Black should hold a draw after 28.Bxf7 Kh8 29. Bxe8 Bxf6 30. Qh5 Be6 or 30.Qh6 Be6.
28...Qxg5 29. Bxg5
29.Re7 Kf8 and White can only draw.
29...Be6 30.Bxe6 Rxe6 31. Ra7
White is slightly better as his pawn structure is much better. White has two pawn islands while Black has four isolated pawns
31..e4 will bring the same position
32. Rc7?!
32. b3 is better.
32...e4 33.b3 Bd4!
Centralizing the bishop.
34. Kf1 h5!
Another good move as Black should try to exchange pawns.
35. Be7 Re5 36.Ke2 Rf5
Black has some threats due to his centralized bishop.
37.Bh4 Rf4 38. Bg3 Rg4
Thanks to 34...h5, Black is OK. And now I can create some threats-in particular 39...h4.
39. Re7
Trying to attack a pawn.
39...h4 40.Be5 e3!
Although the position is still a draw, due to mutual time trouble, I was fighting for win and for this reason 40...Rxg2 41.Bxd4 cxd4 42. Re4 d3+ 43. Kxd3 Rxf2 44. Rxh4 Rxa2 is not an option.
41. Bxd4 cxd4 42. Kf3??
White should play 42.Rd7 and get the same line; 42...Rxg2 43. Rxd4 Rxf2 44.Kxe3 Rxa2 45.Rxh4
A nice trick.
0-1 White resigns

Overall I would like to share some of my personal observations. American chess players are very good in tactics and openings, but they still have problems regarding defense and ending techniques. The experience of chess classics could be useful in this regard as it might help to fill this gap. For example, another Armenian, Tigran Petrosyan (9th Chess World champion) was a master of defense; José Raúl Capablanca was a master of endings and Aron Nimzowitsch was a master of strategy.

March - Chess Life Online 2010

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