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Spring in the Air at the Eastern Class Print E-mail
By IM Marc Esserman   
March 10, 2010
Snowy but sunny in Sturbridge, Photo Donna Reis
The first signs of spring may have been in the air at idyllic Sturbridge, but inside the convention center, winter had the last laugh as the top players were hit with their second round pairings. On board one---Kudrin vs. Shabalov, a repeat of Liberty Bell's semifinal encounter, except with colors reversed, and this time the result was reversed with Kudrin using the White pieces to great effect. On board two, I had Black against Ivanov, and after it was over, I did not hear the birds chirping. 

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3
Ivanov has a wealth of experience in his favorite system against the Nadjorf.
Heading for a "Dragondorf." 6...e5; 6...e6 are the alternatives, which lead to drastically different positions.
7.Bg2 Bg7 8.h3
Necessary for the security of Be3.
 8...0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Be3 Bd7 11.Nd5 Rc8 12.Ne2!?
White's play may seem passive, but as you will see it is quite positionally aggressive.
12...b5 13.c3
The point behind Ne2!? Attempting to neutralize Black's c-file initiative. 
13...Ne5 14.b3!
These slow maneuvers are not what comes to mind when one thinks of the Dragon! But they are strictly in accordance with the position.
14...Bc6 15.Qd2
Finally once all is well White  finishes his development
The routine Dragon move, meeting Bh6 with Bh8. But it comes with a twist.
if Bh6 Bh8
16...Qd7 17.f4
Optically Black looks lost, but the game is just beginning. Both sides saw this position beforehand and evaluated it in their favor.
17...Qb7! 18.fxe5 Nxd5
The only way. 18...Bxd5? 19.exf6
And now in the beginnings of mutual time pressure I was faced with a difficult decision---Nb6 or Nc7? Unfortunately I choose the wrong route.
19...Nc7! Stopping the game continuation and equalizing fully. 20.exd6 here I missed two playable continuations, both 20...Ne6! (20...exd6 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Qxd6 Ne6! and White cannot save his e pawn! as f5 is also in the air) 21.Bxg7 Nxg7 with no problems for Black ---the e pawn remains a target.
This powerful idea essentially wins Ivanov the game. I almost grabbed on e6 until I realized how bad it was. 20.exd6 the move I had expected and I planned 20...e5! 21.Be3 Rcd8 with excellent chances. 

A huge concession, and for the rest of the game I am unable to free my pieces. 20...fxe6 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Nf4 Qd7 23.Nh5+! and the poor black king is all alone. 23...gxh5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Rf7 Rg8 26.Qh6
21.Nf4 Na8
A sad only move---the error of Nb6 has become crystal clear.
A move the black king did not take lightly!
22...Nc7 23.h4
Black should now adopt a waiting strategy, meeting h5 with g5. However, as is often the case, the defender seeks to solve the position via active means and the approach backfires.
23...Bh6? 24.Qg4!
The e-pawn remains defended, as 24...Bxe4 meets the brutal end 25.Nxg6!
24...Rf8 25.Rae1 d5?
The passive move 25...Bg7 would have been wiser.
26.exd5 Bxd5
26...Nxd5 I had intended Nd5, but noticed too late that Nxg6 ends things 27.Nxg6 hxg6 28.Qxg6+ Bg7 29.Be4+-
27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.h5 f5 29.Qf3 Rfd8 30.Re5
A very well played game by Ivanov. 1-0

Over in the 2-day schedule, things were a bit more civilized, as GM's Benjamin and Kekildize managed to avoid each other in the first two rounds (but not too calm as Joel had to beat IM Van De Mortel), so heading into round 3, GM's Kudrin, Ivanov, Friedel, Benjamin, Kekilidze, IM Hungaski and FM MacIntyre remained perfect. 

Normally a loss in a five round Swiss would eliminate you from contention, but with everyone making life difficult for one another up top, I knew that four points would realistically take first, and Sturbridge could become pristine yet again.  And sure enough, after round 3 only IM Hungaski remained unscathed after defeating Friedel!  A win and it would have been a new tournament for me--but that dream ended quickly when after some mistakes on my part and fine play by rising junior Deepak Aaron, we reached the following position:

Esserman - Aaron
Black should now simply take on a5 as the e4 pawn is immune.
1...Rxa5 2.h4 and I must struggle for a draw.(2.Bxe4 g5 3.Rg4 h5!)

2.Bxe4 Rd1+ 3.Kf2 Nxe4+ 4.Rxe4 Rd2+

2...Rd1+ 3.Rf1
and Black offered a draw, to which I routinely replied in heavy time pressure "make your move first." I had already made up my mind.
Draw agreed! A ?? on my part. At a glance White looks compelled to play Rf2, however in the following position I have a much better move....

4.g4! Black can already resign! He is in total zugzwang, as 4...Rxc2 [4...Rd5 5.h4 Rd2 6.h5 Rd5 7.Kg2+-] 5.Rd1 Nf7 6.Rd7 ½-½

Not my best day, which lingered into the night as thoughts of missing 4. g4! continued to plague me.  And come morning, I decided to withdraw rather than play Zombiechess.  Yet after a hearty late afternoon breakfast and a walk alongside the still frozen over lake, I felt the desire to play the last round, just for fun.  And for me, nothing could be more fun than.....the Morra Gambit!

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3
Chandran enters the funhouse.
4...Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6
Aiming for the infamous "Siberian Trap" of the Morra Gambit.
8.Qe2?! Ng4 9.h3?? Nd4!-+ is every Black player's dream in the Morra.
8...Qb8 9.e5 Nxe5
But now it will be a case of the trapper trapped!
10.Nxe5! Qxe5 11.Re1
Two ways to retreat, which is better?
11...Qb8 I will leave it to the reader to determine the evaluation of Qb8. I'll be waiting as White!
An amazing retreat, clearing the c-file for decisive action.
12...a6!? 13.Be3 Qc6 14.Na7! and the c8 bishop goes! (14.Rc1? axb5 15.Rxc6 bxc6) 14...Qc7 15.Rc1 Qd8 16.Qc2!
Threatening Qxd5! Qxd5 Nc7#!
13...f6 14.Rc1 Qe7 15.Bf4! Nxf4 16.Nc7+ Kf7 17.Nxa8 Qd8 18.Qd4 Nd5 19.Bc4 Bb4 20.Red1 Nb6 21.Bxe6+ Kxe6 22.Nc7+ Esserman-Braylovsky NYM 2003 1-0
14.Rc1 Qb6 15.Qxd5 axb5 16.Bxb5
and Black suffers catastrophic loss of material or mate due to the threat of Rxc8.

16...Qd6 17.Qc4! Be7 18.Qxc8+ Rxc8 19.Rxc8+ Bd8 20.Rxd8#
17.Rxe6+ Black resigned, as 17...fxe6 18.Qxe6+ Kf8 19.Qf5+! mate is even better! [19.Be7+ wins the queen, or 19...Ke8 19...Kg8 20.Bc4# 20.Rxc8+! 20.Re1+ Be7 21.Rxe7+ Kd8 22.Rxd7+ Ke8 23.Rd8# 20...Rxc8 21.Bxd7#
Economy of force, spring has finally arrived. 1-0

Going into round 5 Hungaski and Ivanov were leading with 3.5, and they drew quickly to assure themselves a piece of first.  Only Benjamin would catch them, while Shabalov vs. Kekildize and Van De Mortel vs. Kudrin ended in draws, keeping them a half point back.  We have already seen a game from tournament co-winner Ivanov, and now a game from the other two champions, starting with Hungaski who has treated us to his own annotations.  

In 2007 I was having the tournament of my life at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow. By the seventh round I had very good prospects of achieving my first GM-norm when I was paired against Milos Pavlovic. I had White  and while looking through the database I noticed my opponent mostly played the King's Indian. I had just started transitioning to 1.d4, so my opening preparation was a bit shaky, though mostly due to the games of Argentinean GM Diego Flores I had been looking at the Petrosian system for some time and became quite fond of it. However, in my preparation I came across the variation played in the present game (system with ...Bf6) and could not help but notice that Black  had a very intimidating initiative on the kingside. I ultimately discarded the line and chose to play the mainline of the Yugoslav attack, a most unfortunate choice as it turned out. Though I didn't earn the norm I did learn a few things about the King's Indian, which has come in handy ever since and in this case encouraged me to play the Black -side of it.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 Na6 10.Nd2 Qe8

10...Bd7 is played systematically in this system, but usually in response to White's a3, which would threaten b4 due to the pin on the a-file. I thought that as long as White didn't play a3 I could save myself the tempo.
11.0-0 Nh7 12.f3
12.a3 would transpose to the mainline 12...Bd7 13.Kh1 (13.b3 h5 14.f3 Bf6 15.Bf2 h4 16.Rb1 Bg5 17.b4 (17.Kh1) 17...axb4 18.axb4 Qe7) 13...h5 14.f3 Bf6 (14...Bh6) 15.Bf2 h4 16.b3 Bg5 17.Rb1 Qe7 18.b4 axb4 19.axb4 Nf6 followed by Nh5 and Bf4 was what I mostly feared back in 2007.
12...h5 13.Kh1 Bf6!?
The mainline is 13...Bh6.
14.Bf2 Bg5
A novel way to approach the position. White intends to transfer his knight to d3, which will support the a3-b4 break while at the same time control the f4 square. However, this seems overly optimistic as Black  will be able to play Nc5 and trade off the knights. Transposing to the mainline was still possible and probably best. 15.a3 Bd7; 15.h4!?
15...b6 16.Nc1 h4 17.Nd3 Nc5 18.b3
18.a3!? a4 (18...Nxd3? 19.Bxd3 a4 20.Bc2 Bd7 21.Nb5±) 19.Nb5 (19.Nb4 Bd7³) 19...Qe7 20.Nb4 Bb7 and it seems Black  will be able to continue his attack on the kingside without any major inconvenience on the opposite flank.
18...Qe7 19.a3 Nf6 20.b4 Nxd3 21.Bxd3 Nh5
Now that the knights have been traded off Black has no need to open up the a-file. 21...axb4 22.axb4 Rxa1 23.Qxa1 Nh5 24.Qa7.
22.Qc2 Kg7 23.Rfb1
23.c5 bxc5 24.bxc5 Bf4 25.cxd6 cxd6 26.Nb5 Ng3+!
23...Rh8 24.c5 bxc5 25.bxc5 Qf6!
Forcing White to deal with the nasty threat of h3 while at the same time improving the position of my queen so that cxd6 will not hit my queen.
26.cxd6? h3!
26...Bf4 27.cxd6 Bg3!!
28.hxg3 hxg3 29.Kg1 (29.Be3 Nf4+ 30.Kg1 Qh4-+) 29...gxf2+ 30.Kxf2 Qh4+ 31.Ke3 Qg5+ 32.Kf2 Nf4 33.Bf1 cxd6 looks great for Black; At first I thought White  had to play 28.Bc5 cxd6 29.Rb6 but now Black has 29...h3! 30.gxh3 (30.hxg3 Nxg3+ 31.Kh2 Qf4-+) 30...Bxh2 31.Rxd6 Qf4-+ and the threat of Ng3 should translate into a winning position for Black.
28...cxd6 29.Rb6 Bg4?
Tempted by my opponent's terrible time trouble and overwhelmed by all the possibilities I make this terrible blunder. [29...Bxh2! 30.Kxh2 h3 31.Bh4 (31.g4 Qxf3) 31...g5 32.Bxg5 Qxg5 33.g3 Rh6; 29...Nf4 30.Bf1 Bd7 31.Bxg3 hxg3 32.Qxg3 Rh5 33.Rb7; 29...Bh3 30.Bf1 Rac8 31.Ne2; 29...h3 30.Bxg3 hxg2+ 31.Kg1+- (31.Kxg2 Nf4+ƒ (31...Bh3+ 32.Kf2) ) 31...Qxf3 32.Be2 Qe3+ 33.Bf2+-
30.Bxg3! hxg3 (30...Nxg3+ 31.Kg1) 31.fxg4 Qh4! (31...Nf4 32.Qxg3 now the bishop is defended! 32...Nxd3 33.Qxd3 Qf2 34.Rxd6 Rxh2+ 35.Kxh2 Rh8+ 36.Qh3 Rxh3+ 37.Kxh3 Qe3+ 38.Kh2 Qxc3 39.Rf1±) 32.h3 Nf4 Incredibly, when I fed this position to Rybka it found a way for Black to keep some compensation. 33.Bf1 Qxg4 34.Kg1 Rxh3!
35.gxh3 Nxh3+ 36.Bxh3 Qxh3 37.Qd2 g2 38.Qxg2 (38.Rbb1 Rh8 39.Kf2 Rh4 and despite being down a rook and a knight (!) Black has very obscure compensation.) 38...Qxc3 39.Rab1 Rh8 40.R6b3 Qd4+ 41.Kf1 Rh4; 30.Kg1 Bxf3 31.hxg3 hxg3 32.Bxg3
Now that e2 is not available to the knight Black should have played 30...Qf4! 31.h3 (31.Rxd6 Bxh2 32.fxg4 Ng3+ 33.Bxg3 hxg3-+) 31...Rac8! 32.Rc6 (32.Nd1 Rc2! 33.hxg4 (33.fxg4 Bxf2 34.Nxf2 Ng3+) 33...Bxf2) 32...Bxf2 33.Qxf2 Rxc6 34.dxc6 Ng3+ 35.Kg1 Qd2 36.hxg4 Qxc3 37.Re1 Qxc6
31.Nd1 Rc2 32.fxg4 Nf4! 33.g5 (33.Bxg3 hxg3 34.Qxg3 Nxe2-+) 33...Qxg5 34.Rb2 h3!

Now things get pretty crazy! 35.Bxg3 hxg2+ 36.Kg1 Rxh2!! 37.Kxh2 Rxe2 38.Rxe2 Qh5+ 39.Bh4 (39.Kg1 Qh1+ 40.Kf2 g1Q+ 41.Qxg1 Nh3+-+) 39...Qg4! the black queen slowly creeps through the light squares 40.Qg3 g1Q+ 41.Kxg1 (41.Qxg1 Qxh4#) 41...Nxe2+ 42.Kh2 Nxg3 43.Bxg3 Qxe4-+
31...Rb8 32.Nb5? Qf4
33.Nxd6 Rb2 (33...Bxh2 34.fxg4 Ng3+ 35.Bxg3 hxg3 also looks winning.)
33...Bxh2! 34.Be3 Ng3+

34...Bxg1 35.Bxf4 Nxf4 36.fxg4 Nxe2-+
35.Kxh2 Nf1+ 36.Kh1 Nxe3 37.fxg4 Rxb5
37...h3! 38.g3 Qxe4+ 39.Kh2 Rxb5
38.Rc3 Nxg4 39.Rf3 Qxe4 40.Bxb5 h3
38...h3 39.Qh2 hxg2+
Unfortunately, my opponent ended up withdrawing from the tournament a round or two later so my tiebreaks were not that great. 0-1

Meanwhile, GM Joel Benjamin won a critical game against GM Josh Friedel. Benjamin also won first place in the tournament on tiebreak, taking home $973, a small bonus over 2nd and 3rd place finishers ($896 each.)

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Be2 Nd7 7.Nf3 g6 8.c4 Nc7 9.Nc3 Bg7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Re1 b6 12.Bf4 Ne6 13.Bg3
White emerges with a clear advantage out of a main line Alekhine. His g3 bishop is particularly effective.
13...Bb7 14.d5!?
Attempting to force matters, but the simple Qd2 and Rad1 would lead to a clearer advantage. If then Nf6 to remove the irritating g3 bishop with Nh5 then Be5.
14...Nc7 15.dxc6 Bxc6 16.Nd4
This slower plan begins to let White's advantage slip. Again Qd2 Qe3 and Rad1 would put Black under considerable pressure.
16...Bb7 17.Bf3 Bxf3 18.Nxf3 Ne6
Black should play Bxc3 immediately as in the game a move later. [18...Bxc3 19.bxc3 Ne6]
19.Qc2! would prevent the game changing Bxc3 and White would retain his edge.
19...Bxc3 20.bxc3 Ndc5

Now White is pressed to launch a risky kingside attack as the result of his compromised pawn formation.
21.Rad1 Qe8 22.Qe3
22.h4!? first while keeping an eye on the c4 pawn is worth considering---White's pressure remains dangerous.
23.Qh6 Rae8
23...Rad8! would prevent White 's rook lift and expose the defects in White's position.
24.Rd4! f6
24...Nxd4?? 25.Ng5
25.Rg4 Rf7 26.h4 Rd8 27.Nd4 Ng7 28.h5 g5 29.f4 Qd7!
White's assault barely misses the mark.
30.fxg5 Qxg4 31.g6 Qxh5
x-ray defense of h7
32.gxf7+ Qxf7 33.Qf4?
A blunder but the position is lost anyway.
33...e5 34.Qg4 exd4 35.cxd4 Qxc4 0-1

And that's all until the next Sturbridge installment, which will take place this summer, when the lake will be open for swimming.

Eastern Class Championships Results Summary

Master: 1st-3rd, Joel Benjamin, Alexander Ivanov and Robert Hungaski- 4/5
Expert: 1st- Alex M Fikiet-4.5/5
Class A: 1st- Yuval Shemesh-4.5/5
Class B: 1st-Augusto Gutierrez- 4.5/5
Class C: 1st-Max P Krall- 5/5
Class D: 1st-2nd- Timothy Lavoie and Ian Lomeli-4.5/5
Class E:1st- Brian K Eibert- 4/5
Under 900: 1st (Unrated) Seetharaman Ganesan, 5/5, 2nd- Haocheng Huang- 4.5/5

See the MSA for results in all sections and the crosstables with prize information on the chesstour website. Look for CLO reports this coming weekend on the Western Class Championships by Randy Hough. If you are playing in either the Western Class or the Mid-America Open next weekend, send games and photos to for possible publication on CLO.

March - Chess Life Online 2010

First US Championship Wildcard Determined Catching up with GM Joel: A Ticket to the Big DancePhiladelphia Open Kicks Off Tonight! Macnificent Games from the North American Masters Team OC Wins Amateur Team Playoffs Former World Champion Smyslov, 1921-2010Andrew Hubbard Wins World Amateur Champion of Champions: Perspective from Delaware Mackenzie Molner Wins Big in Skokie! Bob Rasmussen, Clubs Committee Chair, is Open for QuestionsDaniel Gurevich on the Mid-America Open Maurice Ashley, $10,000 blitz tourney highlight 2010 U.S. ChampsMarch Madness on ICC: Champion of Champions and Amateur Playoffs Shankland on Blitz, Blunders and Comebacks in France Nakamura Blitzes Dos HermanasYoungest Chess Author Ever: An Interview with Daniel Naroditsky Holt, Kleiman and Ramirez Top Mid-America Open Craig Jones is the 2010 US Masters Champion! World Amateur Kicks Off in Skokie! Becerra Wins SPICE CupChess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis Facebook Raffle! A Simul and a Lifeline for CharityUS Masters to Merge Tonight Matikozyan and Ramirez Top Western Class Chess Diva Show Invites All Blitz Comers to Support Haiti Relief Darwin Yang, 13, Earns First IM Norm Chess in the Wild Chessboxing Hits Los AngelesDarwin Yang Leads in LubbockBereolos, Jones and Pohl Lead the US Masters Two Weekend scheduleChess Without Borders Students Present at Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots EventSicilian Upsets Kick Off Western Class US Masters to Kick off in North CarolinaMarshall Chess Club Hosts Bobby Fischer Memorial BlitzCalling All State Champions Nakamura, Kamsky, 17 Others Confirmed for 2010 U.S. Chess ChampionshipSpring in the Air at the Eastern ClassJennifer on Philly's Hall of Fame and Roulette Chess Illinois Top Juniors Learn From Top GMsAn Armenian Master on the UMBC Open Affiliate Emailing Service UpdateSpring Scholastics Notice Team Sevillano Tops Unique California Event Chess and Peace: Alexandra Kosteniuk The Sicilian Slayed: Kaidanov on Polgar Match The March Check is in the Mail