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Hess and Shabalov on Foxwoods Print E-mail
By Elizabeth Vicary/Jen Shahade   
March 24, 2008
IM Robert Hess Photo Michael Atkins
Robert Hess defeated four GMs at the Foxwoods Open , but according to the 16-year-old high school junior, he "didn't prepare specially" for the event. Hess earned his first GM norm at the event, one of three norms achieved in the event--Chris Williams and Tegshsuren Enkhbat made IM norms. Hess is particularly proud of his win against Arkell. He pinpointed his penultimate game against Paragua as a tough battle. "Originally I thought I had the initiative for the exchange and then after I traded the dark-squared Bishop (with 23. Bxf6) for the knight and took on a5, I thought it was an easy draw. But Paragua made me prove it."


Robert just came from Capelle Le Grande, where he had a 2530 performance rating, gained 10 points and raised his FIDE rating to 2475. He's thinking of going to Spain this summer. Robert works with GM Miron Sher, who gives him weekly homework, usually tactics and endgames. He also likes to play through games of elite players such as Aronian. However, Hess describes himself as somewhat lazy chess student who makes up for it by working hard at the board. Robert considers long term planning his biggest weakness as a player. If that was a problem in Foxwoods, it didn't show in his incredible result, including a 5/7 score against GMs. Here are his four wins, reprinted for your convenience:



Tournament director, photographer and Monroi operator Chris Bird with Robert Hess. Photo Elizabeth Vicary



Alexander Shabalov and Darmen Sadvakasov. Photo Elizabeth Vicary

Alexander Shabalov talked to CLO about his victory against Stripunsky in the penultimate round, which propelled him into a tie for first place.

 According to Alexander, there are three secrets to playing games with material imbalances. (Editor's note: This advice may not apply to you if you are not a 2600+ U.S. Champion.)

1. Make sure that you have the edge in the imbalance. I.e- take the queen, not the rook and the minor piece.
2. Because the queen is the strongest piece, use the "Karpov method" and make long moves.
3. The queen should stay a maximum closeness or maximum distance from the knight.


Shabalov's serious comments on the game included a discussion of the position after 24.fxe5 Nfxe4 25.Nxe4, when Stripunsky had a critical decision to make. Shabalov said that after the more obvious 25...Qxe4 Nc5 Qxe2 Bxe2 dxc5 Rxc5, on paper Black is a pawn down, but in fact it is totally lost because the bishop goes to c3 and Black has no counterplay. Therefore, Shabalov thought Stripunsky's decision to go for the queen sacrifice with 25...Nxe4 made a lot of sense.

GM Darmen Sadvakasov graciously discussed his eighth round loss that took him out of contention for first. In the following position, in which Darmen had 30 minutes to Shulman's nine, the Kazakhstani GM thinks he erred:

Position after 34.b5

Darmen played Kf6 in the position above, allowing Ke2 after which Shulman's king marched all the way to b4. Instead, Darmen thinks he should have immediately sacked a pawn with 34...g5. Now if hxg5 hxg5 fxg5 Kg6 and White cannot easily arrange Ke2 because of f4.

Elizabeth Vicary contributed the material for this article. The writing was by CLO editor Jennifer Shahade. A final wrap-up on Foxwoods by Jonathan Hilton will appear tomorrow. Also check out Mark Ginsburg's blog , where he writes about his victory over Iwo.

 In the West Coast Easter event, The Far West Open, Khachiyan emerged as the clear winner. Michael Aigner's full report will appear later this week.