Nick Panico and Evan Rabin
by Alan Kantor
What happens every President's Day in New Jersey? A gigantic tournament takes place every year as chess players look to get four people together to form a team to compete in the U.S. Amateur Team Championship. This year (February 17-19) was no different as teams were deciding whether they should have three grandmasters and one 1000-rated player, four evenly matched players, or maybe it doesn't matter. The only requirement is that four players need to average out to under 2200. The U.S. Amateur Team Championship is a fun event with plaques and clocks given out for all sorts of exciting prizes in addition to board and place prizes." "What Goes On In Parsippany Stays in Parsippany" won their entry fees back for the "best name award." The best chess related costumes or gimmick award of a gourmet dinner for four went to the "Glorious Kazakhstan Chess Team." The best female team was the Khodarkovsky Queenside Attack, pictured below.
Left to Right: Alena Kuzniatsova (1791), Eve Zhurbinskiy (1596), Anna Matlin (1678) and Karsten McVay (1930).
Birth Of A Team
This year our team was put together early and the team was changed several times before a winning team was actually finalized. Strategy? What strategy? All I know was we needed to have an alternate. Why an alternate? An alternate is allowed if someone cannot make all the games. Having an alternate works out as teams can make substitutions to give players some rest and some players might do better against certain opponents. Finally, we formed a team with four different generations represented. Led by the ever-improving James Critelli (2311), followed by Evan Turtel (2206) coming out of years of inactivity, Evan Rabin (2076), Nick Panico (2022). I (2000) made the trip up from the USCF offices in Crossville. With an average rating of 2157, we were going into the tournament having to go for "all the marbles." We never expected to win. But who does?
How We Did It
In Round 1 we disposed of some familiar names from Long Island with a score of 3½ points. In Round 2, Rabin was staring down at his opponent's two rooks on the seventh rank and a knight on e5. Things were not looking good. We knew it couldn't be long for Rabin and that we needed to help our teammate by picking up the slack. That is what is so great about team events: the camaraderie and support when one member is in trouble. As things developed, 2½ points were eked out. No big deal! No excitement yet! No rush of adrenaline! We figured the competition would get tougher.
Round three saw total annihilation as all four boards won. With round four looming we had a difficult choice. Who should sit? Who should play? Finally we came up with a line-up. Some promising youngsters sat opposite us. It was tought, but we won 3-1. Our team was going into the last day with 4-0. The adrenalin was rushing! "We'll give it a try," I encouraged my team, "We are still in it!"
We were paired against a tough New Jersey team. Despite Stephen Stoyko blocking the way we managed to squeak out victory with 2½ points. One more round to go! Excitement was building! Three teams left with a perfect score. There was another team vying for the title in the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) but the only thing that was on our minds was getting by our round six opponents. Grandmaster John Fedorowicz led the team composed of three of his prodigy students: Marc Tyler Arnold, Thomas Riccardi, and Linda Diaz. Even though Critelli drew "Fed" (as he is so nicknamed) before, the bottom boards needed to give him some support. Nick Panico annotates his game below.
Annotations by Nick Panico
1. d4 d5 2. Bf4
I have been employing this move into my opening repertoire as it is sometimes important to setup the pawn structure e3-c3 before playing Nf3. The idea is that Black might try to use the idea of c7-c6 or c7-c5 initiating Qb6.
2. ... Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Nf3
I decided to play the Knight out 1st waiting to see what my opponent will do with her c-pawn.
4. ... e6 5. c4 Bxb1!?
At this point my teammates were beginning to get a little scared as this is the last round and we are on board 1 playing for the USATE Championship Title. They had to be thinking that I had have fallen for some hideous opening blunder. I have faced this only one time over the board and was hoping I could recall the ideas. I knew it was a theoretical line so I felt I would be fine as long as I took my time to work out the nuisances.
6. Rxb1 Bb4+ 7. Ke2 dxc4
7. ... Bd6 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. c5 Be7 10. Qb3 b6 11. c6 Nb8 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Rc1 Qd6 14. Qc3 0–0 15. h4 a5 16. Kd2 f5 17. a3 a4 18. h5
8. Qa4+ Nc6 9. Ne5 Nd5 10. Bg3! N
10. Nxc6 Qd7 11. Bg3 Qxc6 12. Qxc6+ bxc6 13. Kf3 Kd7 14. Bxc4 Hulak-Rowely 1–0 New York Open 1989
10. ... Nb6 11. Nxc6 Nxa4 12. Nxd8 Kxd8 13. Kf3
White is one pawn down, which may be temporary, but the position is rich in that White benefits from having the Bishop pair and activity on the C and B-files with the Rooks once b3 is implemented.
13. ... c3?
13. ... b5 14. b3 Nc3 15. Rb2 Kd7 16. bxc4 Ba3 17. Rc2 b4 18. d5 f6 19. e4÷
14. bxc3 Ba5 15. Rb5
15. Rxb7! Bb6 16. Ba6 Nxc3 17. Rc1 Nd5 18. e4 Nb4 19. Bf1 Nxa2 20. Bxc7+ Kc8 21. Ba6 Nxc1 22. Rxa7+ Kd7 23. Bb5+ Ke7 24. Bd8+ Kxd8 25. Rxa8+ Ke7 26. Rxh8. I did consider 15. Rxb7 but I am not embarrassed to admit that I didn't see all these tactics and there is no way I was going to go in for something I couldn't see clearly in the last round when my team is playing for the USATE Title.
15. ... b6 16. Rg5 g6?
White's Bishop pair dominance now has to be enough to win. When I reached this point, I remember telling the team they could have confidence that I would win the game. 16. ... Rg8 17. Bb5. 17. c4 h6 18. Rh5 Nc3 19. a3 Kd7 20. Bd3 White has a solid edge.) 17. ... Nxc3 18. Bc6 Rc8 19. Rc1 Nxa2 20. Rc4 h6 21. Rh5 Nb4 22. Bb7 Kd7 23. Bxc8+ Rxc8 24. e4 c6 25. Rc1 b5 26. Ke3 Bb6 27. f4 Na2 28. Rc2 Nb4 29. Rc1 Na2 30. Rc2=.
17. Be5 Rg8 18. Bf6+ Kc8 19. Ba6+ Kb8
Black is basically down a Rook in this position. I had no intentions of trying to maneuver my Bishop to win the exchange via b5-c6. Also, Black's King is permanently fixed because any attempts to breath by moving the c-pawn results in Be5 checkmate.
20. c4 h6 21. Rb5 Nc3 22. Rb3 Re8 23. a3 g5 24. g4 e5 25. Bxe5 f6 26. Bg3 Ne4 27. Rb5!
Setting up Rxa5
27. ... Nd2+ 28. Kg2 Nxc4 29. Rc1 Nd6 30. Rxa5 Re6 31. Rd5 b5 32. Rxd6 Rxd6 33. Bxd6
I know I didn't play perfectly according to computer analysis, but I am happy that I avoided all fatal mistakes and held onto the advantage once I obtained it. The top three boards were settled at par allowing Beavis and Butt-Vinnik to capture the 2007 U.S Amateur Team Title! I want to say thanks to James Critelli, Evan Turtel, Evan Rabin, and Alan Kantor for providing a great team atmosphere the entire weekend as well as being great teammates. Way to go guys, “You are all eh eh eh eh pretty cool” (Beavis and Butthead direct quote) 1–0
Kit Kats And Water Service
Some points that come to mind was the Kit Kat Implementation and the Water Service that I decided would give some team support. The thinking was just to show that we work together and care about each other. This shows the team members the support we have for each other. "Alan was a great teammate and experienced player to have on the team," Panico remarked. With an alternate, whomever is sitting out would become the "water boy." In the last round, Nick became the "water boy" and GM Fedorowicz commented, "My team isn't as nice as yours!"
Teamwork got us the championship title! We are all still in awe. What do we do next? After we are done celebrating, there is a playoff match on March 24 against the other winners on the Internet Chess Club (ICC). We hope to see you there!
World Amateur Team & U.S. Amateur Team East Prizes
(1st-5th place teams, plaque and 4 digital clocks)
First Place (Barry Award) Beavis and Butt-Vinnik
Second Place Whopper, Big Mac, Small Fry and a Lawyer
Third Place Bennet's Fellows
Fourth Place Dean Ippolito LLC
Fifth Place Predecessors 2: Electric Booga
(class sections each won plaque and 4 Digital Clocks)
Top U2100 B U Baku
Top U2000 Lake Effect Pawn Storm
Top U1900 Team Nasa: We never have to leave the board.
Top U1800 Trumps Apprentices: Pawns
Top U1700 I Don't Care
Top U1600 Paris Hilton Strategy - Open
Top U1500 Masterman #2
Top U1400 Really, Really, Really
Top U1300 Eastburn's Finest
Top U1200 Smack My Bishop
Top U1000 Night Fall
Top college team (same school)(4 Digital Clocks & plaque) UTD Orange
Top HS team (grades 9-12 same school) Good Will Hunter
Top Middle School (grades 5-9 same school) IS 318 Allstars
Top Elementary School (grades K-6 same school) We Are Annoying!
Top 2 Scholastic Teams (mixed schools okay) (Collins Award)
2. Guys and Girls Lookin for Mates
Mixed Doubles (2 males, 2 females-no alternates)
An Inconvenient Move
Best Female Team:
Khodarkovsky Queenside Attack
Seniors (all players over age 50)
Running with Geezers
Company Team (same employer)
Britney Offers No Draws
Military, each plaque & 4 Digital Clocks to top team Sea Power 2007
Old Timers Trophy (all players over 65) Bisguiers Bisquits
Family (4 family members) Passed Pawns
CT Just Another NBCC A Team
DE Delaware Chess Teens
MD All About the Joel Benjamins
MA Whopper, Big Mac, Small Fry and a Lawyer
NJ ICA Dads
NY (Benjamin Award) Fed-Ups
PA Hazelton Nights
VA Sea Power 2007
RI Married with Children
Ethel Collins Perseverance (lowest scoring scholastic) plaque top team
CK Bank Street C
Best Player 1-4 and top alternate, all 6-0 scores each Digital clock (first 2 GMs get Mephisto)
Board 1 6-0 Alex Lenderman, Charles Riordan
Board 2 6-0 Igor Yeliseyev, Roman Dzindzichashvilli, Tod Chasin
Board 3 6-0 Fritz Gaspard, Greg Fernandez, John Sneed
Board 4 6-0 Mark Melvin
Alternate 5.0 Isauro Robles
Biggest Individual upset each round Engraved Cross pen
Round 1 David Wasserstein 1259-294 964
Round 2 Russell Leibowitz 1840-1421 419
Round 3 David Hallenbeck 1558-720 838
Round 4 Edward Forman 1803 -1153 650
Round 5 Julia Rondos 1073-121 952
Round 6 Arthur Shen 2286-1603 683