Photo Jennifer Shahade
by FM Todd Andrews
The 2007 US Masters (March 10-18) was held at the Quality Inn in Hendersonville. The venue had a full-sized swimming pool, workout room and sauna. A putting green in the lobby gave players the chance to clear their minds during a game or to deal out GM Jaan Ehlvest his only defeat of the tournament!
Jaan's quick wins over FM Ron Simpson and FM Sean Nagle in rounds 5 and 6 gave him a dominating lead. He then had to break down "the gate", IM Ron Burnett in the penultimate round. Ehlvest then accepted my last round draw-offer to score 7.5/9, a full point ahead of the field. Jaan took home the 1st Place Plaque and a cool, crisp $1600 that the guaranteed prize fund ensured.
Taking the second place plaque on tiebreaks was IM Bryan Smith of Philadelphia, PA. He shared the 2nd-4th Honors with FM Kazim Gulamali and with one of the few foreign players in this event, Faik Aleskerov of Azerbaijan. You can watch all the fun of the closing ceremony as well as some victory speeches courtesy of the North Carolina Chess Association webpage in this streaming audio and video.
So who is eligible to play in this great event? Anyone rated 2200+ or has ever been so, a pool of talented junior players with a rating of 2000 or better and any foreign player with a FIDE rating was also invited. One of these invited players was the only female participant of the event WFM Bayaraa (pronounced “Bye-Ra”) Zorigt of Mongolia. She is studying in Kentucky now and turned in a solid performance scoring 50% with 4.5/5.0. I was able to catch up with her after round 8 to ask her a few questions.
Todd Andrews: How long have you been in the United States and why did you choose to move here?
Bayaraa Zorigt : I have been here since the beginning of school last year, so since about last August. I came here to study.
TA: Where do you attend school?
BZ: At Campbellsville University. It is in a small town near Lexington, KY.
TA: You are not the first Mongolian, woman master I have played and I have noticed more and more showing up everyday on the US circuit. What is going on in Mongolia to produce such strong players?
BZ: Nothing special… Chess is just very popular in Mongolia. Everyone plays it.
TA: Have you had a good experience here at the Masters?
BZ: Oh yes! I am very happy to be playing against so many strong masters. It is a very valuable experience for a competitor. I have seen many great games too.
TA: What do you consider your best game so far?
BZ: Hmmmmm…well…probably against you!
TA: Really? Why is that? You had a very good position, probably winning against my good friend and teammate IM Ron Burnett too (Both games were drawn)..
BZ: Yes, I probably should have won that game, but the game against you was very exciting for me. I had a difficult position and only a few minutes left on the clock (The time control was Sudden death with G/150). I was sure I would lose. It was very exciting to be forced to play quick and then to survive!
TA: It was an up-and-down game for both of us. You defended well. As the only female player, do you play stronger or differently against a field of just male opponents?
BZ: No, it is no different from tournament to tournament whether playing against men or woman. I just try to play strong moves.
TA: Do you plan to stay in America or return home?
BZ: I plan to finish school and return to Mongolia.
TA: Nice to meet you and good luck in your final game against my former coach Life Master Jerry Wheeler
After 46..gf5, I felt this endgame should be winning for Black. In fact, after the game Jaan scolded me saying "chess is so easy, you just have to study endgames!" But further analysis showed there are many survival tricks for Black. Instead of 47.Ke2, Jaan recommended 47. Kg3 Kf7 48.Kf4 Ke6 with the plan of h4-h5, Rg1 and Rg6. However, white walks into a mating net and could even lose executing this plan. 49.h4 Kf6 (49...Rb7 50.Ra1 Rxb5 51.Ra6+ Kf7 52.Rxh6 and White should have a healthy advantage.) 50.h5 Rb7 51.b6 (51.Rg1 Rxb5 52.Rg6+ Kf7 53.Rxh6 could be the way to win.) 51...Rg7 with mate!]
Life Master Klaus Pohl managed to play 15 games over the course of nine days by re-entering. He finished with 5.0/9.0 and a tie for 10th-13th. This placing took a little cash home as everyone with a plus score earned a prize.
Klaus was born in Dresden just before the start of World War II. He first had to survive Hitler and the heavy Allied Bombings on his city. Dresden was the site of many factories and plants and the operations carried out on the city were perhaps the fiercest on German soil. It was after the war, at the age of 12, that a family friend taught Klaus his first moves of chess. Life under Soviet control was rough on Klaus as well. He was kicked out of school, because his mother, owner of a butcher shop, had certain political views. At 18, before the wall went up, Klaus was able to escape to West Germany and begin his studies of the textile industry and chemical engineering.
Life began to greatly improve for Klaus when he made his next move to Switzerland in 1962 and met his wife. Four years later, the family set sail for North America and ended up in Montreal to study French and English. In Canada, Klaus began his tournament play and his rise to master. He achieved 2200+ in 1978 after living in Georgia, USA and finally settling in Greenville, SC. Klaus has since won a total of 13 South Carolina State Championships (7 clear firsts and 6 ties).
Despite this, Mr. Pohl remembers the 1987 Georgia Class Championships as his greatest achievement. He won the event only after beating Boris “the Hulk” Kogan, an IM and legendary, southern chess master. Klaus attributes his rise to 2400+ to game after game with Boris. When asked how Klaus has stayed so sharp even into his golden years, he thanked his wife for her healthy habits and his determination to be a “life-long learner.” Klaus felt this was his best game of the event and he was very proud of his positional pawn sacrifice b5-b6!
All gave many thanks to Klaus as he played an important role in supporting the US Masters and helping bring it to North Carolina.
Tony Cao of Illinois had a very strong result with a plus score of 5.0/9.0 and would have earned the prize as Top Junior invitee, if this prize existed as it did in my days as a US Masters Jr. Invitee. Tony did achieve the top Upset with his victory over FM Sean Neagle. He had to overcome a 254-point difference in doing so.
I am, by no means, an official judge of the best game prize. But if I were to hand out an award for most interesting game played, it would have gone to FM Ron Simpson and fellow CLO contributor LM Craig Jones.
13.bxc6 leads to an interesting material imbalance - a piece for three pawns. White is very successful in getting his pawns rolling and allowing limited activity to black's pieces. After 33.fxe5, the material imbalance is two pawns for a rook, but what menacing pawns they are!
Instead of 36...Nec7, Black should have played 36...f5! when 37.e7 Rdc8 38.d6 Nexd6 39.Bxd6 Nxd6 40.Qxd6 Re8 is still quite unclear.
38.Qf2! was the move that OTB analysis concluded as completely winning. The idea is to transfer the Queen to the long a1–h8 diagonal. 38...Kf8 39.Bf4 Qh5 40.Qe3 game over.
After 39...Nxc5, the score sheet ended. If my memory serves me correctly, then the game continues in severe time pressure with... 40.Bf6+ Kf8 41.Bg5 Kg7 and from there Black went on to win despite the computer putting White ahead.
Wir Spielen Blitz!
On Friday night after the fifth round where every schedule merged, there was a 9-player round-robin US Masters Blitz Championship. Taking clear first was IM Bryan Smith with a perfect 8-0 performance. Tying for 2nd-4th were FM Gulamali, Adithya Balasubramanian and myself. Thanks to NTD Kevin Hyde for all his hard work in organizing the Masters and allowing me to play the role of TD for the blitz tourney to get a step closer to my National Tournament Director title. [HREF: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?200703177841]
View the blitz cross table. [/HREF]
Will the Masters return to North Carolina? Well, that all depends on whether or not the TD, Kevin who is in the Army Reserves, will end up deployed or not. I am sure all the participants, as well as 80% of Americans, hope he stays home.
Cross table for 2007 US Masters
The June issue of Chess Life Magazine will feature a report on the U.S. Masters by Mike Klein.