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Khachiyan Wins In Reno Print E-mail
By Michael Aigner   
April 13, 2007
Photo Michael Aigner

by Michael Aigner

At the same time as most of the foxes played in the woods of Connecticut, the 7th Far West Open in Reno drew 185 chessplayers from the left coast, competing for a $18,000 prize fund. The Far West Open, held over Easter weekend, is the sister tournament of the larger Western States Open each October.

The Weikel family organizes these two annual events with the support and sponsorship of the Sands Regency hotel. Their goal is to create a chess festival atmosphere more commonly found in Europe. They provide boards and sets and players in the Open section can be identified by both a nameplate and the flag of their state or country. GM Larry Evans gave two free lectures to participants in the main tournament and GM Sergey Kudrin played a simul with game analysis afterwards. The main tournament is played at a leisurely 7-hour time control. Perhaps most importantly, staying at the Sands did not tax the player’s checkbook as the room rate ranged from $27 on weeknights and $54 on the weekend.

The Open section was headlined by four Grandmasters and three International Masters, including Kudrin who had taken clear first place ahead of a large crowd of titled players in last fall’s Western States Open. After the first day, none of the GMs managed a perfect 2-0 score. The biggest of these upsets was Southern California native FM Alexandre Kretchetov defeating Kudrin in a Maroczy bind position.

A powerful pawn sacrifice 18.e5! opened up the light squares on Black’s queenside and left him unable to coordinate his pieces. By move 26, White was up the exchange, but most importantly his hungry “Killer Bees” ate up the diagonals on the queenside.

A sense of normalcy returned on the next two days, with the titled players asserting themselves against the 2300 rated masters. IM Enrico Sevillano stopped Kretchetov while GM Melik Khachiyan turned subtle advantages into wins against FM Michael Langer and this author. Langer appeared to be doing well after breaking the Maroczy bind with the thematic 13… b5 but he misjudged the tactics resulting after 17… e5. The alternative 17… Rxc1 18. Bxc1 Rc8 gave Black the open c-file and bishop pair to compensate for White’s extra pawn. Notice how none of Black’s minor pieces can put up any resistance against the powerful passed a-pawn.

After all the chips fell, the Far West Open ended in a four-way tie for first place between GMs Khachiyan and Alex Yermolinsky plus IMs Sevillano and Dmitry Zilberstein, each earning $1,100 for their efforts. The four winners faced off in a blitz (G/5) playoff on Sunday night for the trophy and an extra $100. This tradition in Reno attracted an audience of about 50 tired but enthusiastic chess players and provides a nice touch to close the weekend. After a random drawing, Khachiyan played Yermolinsky and Sevillano played Zilberstein in the semifinals of the tiebreaker. Khachiyan and Sevillano prevailed and met in the championship match, which Khachiyan won. Congratulations to GM Melik Khachiyan for becoming the winner of the 2007 Far West Open!

GM Melik Khachiyan. Photo Cathy Rogers

Like many other tournaments around the country, Reno provides a proving ground for young and rapidly improving chess players who think they have the stuff to compete with titled players. The biggest beneficiary was 2111 rated Joshua Sinanan, a former Washington state high school champion now studying at Harvey Mudd College. He calmly faced a Murderer’s Row of titled players: first IM Dmitry Zilberstein, then GM Gregory Serper and finally GM Kudrin, drawing against all three! Apparently Sinanan mastered the art of dancing with knights as two of these contests featured knight endgames. White certainly has the edge in the following position, but Black calmly trades most of the pawns—remembering the maxim: when trying to draw an inferior endgame, trade pawns not pieces.

Kudrin, Sergey-Sinanan, Josh

41. Kg3 Nc2 42. Nc6 Kg6 43. Kf4 Kf6 44. e5+ Ke6 45. Ke4 Na3 46. Nb8 Nc4 47.Nxa6 Nd2+ 48. Kf4 g5+ 49. Kg4 Kxe5 50. Nc7 Kd4 51. Nxb5+ Kc4 52. Nd6+ Kxb4 53.Nf7

Position after 53.Nf7

h5+ 54. Kxh5 Nxf3 55. Nxg5 Ne5 56. h4 Kc5 57. Kh6 Kd6 58. h5 Ke7 59. Kg7 Ng4 60. Ne4 Ne3 61. Kg6 Kf8 62. Nf6 Ng2 63. h6 Nh4+ 64. Kg5 Nf3+ 65. Kf4 Nh4 66. Ne4 Kf7 67. Kg5 Nf3+ 68. Kh5 Ne5 69. Ng5+ Kg8 70. Ne4 Nf7 71. Nf6+ Kh8 72.h7 Kg7 1/2-1/2

The youngest two participants in the Open section looked like they got lost on the way home from the National Junior High School Championship held about 2.5 hours away in Sacramento, CA on the previous weekend. However, 13-year old Michael Lee (2230) and 11-year old Daniel Naroditsky (2145) certainly held the necessary credentials to play at the master level despite their youth. Both held the #1 ranking in the country for their age. As luck would have it, they were paired in round 5.

The game ended in a fighting draw, yet each had significant chances to win: Black overlooked 32… d5! closing the dangerous a2-g8 diagonal and threatening the tactical idea 33… e3 to open up the dark squares. White missed 37. Bd5 Qc8 (forced) 38. g4! and now either 38… Rf8 39. g5+ Kxg5 40. Qxh7 or 38… Ne7 39. Be6 Qb7 40. Be3 left the Black monarch helpless against White’s major pieces.

As a chess teacher,I am always on the lookout for instructive games. In the following position at the Far West Open, Black had just played b7-b6. Alarm bells immediately should go off seeking a way to trap the Black queen. But how? The primary candidate moves are 1. b4 and 1. Nd2. While both appear interesting and give White an advantage, neither traps the queen. However, while calculating these two candidate moves, the reader might find the best idea. (Scroll down for the solution.)


White to Move

Prize winners:
Open: 1st-4th Melik Khachiyan, Enrico Sevillano, Alex Yermolinsky and Dmitry Zilberstein with 4.5

5th-9th and top U2400/U2300 Gregory Serper, Shivkumar Shivaji, Michael Langer, Michael Aigner and Tigran Ishkhanov with 4.0.

Expert: 1st-3rd Larry Snyder, Batsaikhan Tserendorj, Gregory Young with 4.5

Class A: 1st Yefim Bukh with 5.5

Class B: 1st Richard Sarasa with 5.5

Class C: 1st Michael Bynum with 6.0

Class D: 1st Devin Connell (unrated) with 5.5 and 2nd Roy Benson with 5.0

Class E: 1st-2nd Jeffrey McGinnis and Kevin Rhoads with 5.0

Solution to Aigner-Bayati
The variation after 1. Nd2 might go bxc5 2. Nb3 and now the Black queen can escape to d8. If only 1… bxc5 was impossible… Aha! White first plays 1. Bc7! and Black must lose material. For example: 1… Bd8 2. Nd2! Bxc7 3. Nb3 Qb4 4. a3 Qxb3 5. Qxb3 yields a queen for two minor pieces. In the actual game, Black chose to lose a piece with 1… Nxc5 2. dxc5 Qxc5 3. b4 Qxb4 4. Rb1 Qc5 5. Bxb6 Qd6 6. Na4.

Look for Michael Aigner's Chess Life Magazine article on the Far West Open in July.