Team Sevillano Tops Unique California Event
By Randy Hough   
March 3, 2010
GiftPhotos_for_Juniors.jpgA rare rainy day in Southern California did nothing to dampen the spirits of 24 of the Southland's top juniors who trekked to College of the Canyons, 30 miles north of Los Angeles, to do battle on February 27. This was not a regular tournament, but a special exhibition held sporadically over the last 30+ years, pitting the juniors (with 75 minutes) against four top masters (with 90 minutes) in six-board clock simuls.

GM Melikset Khachiyan and IMs Enrico Sevillano, Andranik Matikozyan, and Armen Ambartsoumian headed four teams with approximately equal average ratings. A team's master plays simultaneously against the other team's juniors and vice versa. Juniors are placed on their own coach's team if possible. This concept was developed in the 1970s by a gifted chess promoter, the late John Rykowski, and junior players in early iterations of the event included future IMs Vince McCambridge and Doug Root.

While the Master-Junior Simul is an unrated, fun event, competitiveness is hardly absent. GM Melik called his players together before the first round for a pep talk as they prepared to take on Team Matikozyan. Whether this was the reason, they did eke out a win, 6½ --5½, with Khachiyan juniors Hubert Jung and Terrence Sun earning draws while only Jared Tan could earn a half-point for Team Matikozyan. (Terrence was the lowest-rated junior to earn a draw on the day, and Melik promptly demonstrated that he should have had good winning chances.)
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Team Sevillano, Photo Carlos Vasquez


The real Round One treat for the many spectators came in the Sevillano - Ambartsoumian match, though. Sevillano was teamed up with the four San Diego juniors who had comprised "Two and a Half Asians" in the Amateur Team West two weeks before. They were augmented by young WFMs Simone Liao and Annie Wang. Enrico played quickly, conserving his strength for the second, decisive round, drawing with Christian Tanaka, Austin Hughes, and Cheston Gunawan.

Meanwhile, Armen was still playing all six opponents when Enrico finished! And one of them, Annie Wang, put on a performance reminiscent of Horatius at the Bridge. She occupied an inordinate amount of Armen's time as he frequently pulled up a chair to concentrate on her board. Meanwhile, his time deficit on the other games grew. Annie eventually blundered a piece but reduced her opponent to one second (plus five second delay) on the clock, forcing him to remain in visual range of her board. By the time Annie got mated in the excitement, several other games had gone dramatically downhill for Armen, notably this one:



1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Be2 Nc6 7.0-0 cxd4 8.cxd4 Be7 9.Nc3 Qd6 10.Bg5 0-0 11.Qd2 a6
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Black is close to equal, but this is a bit slow.
12.a4
Nor is this necessary. White should continue the center buildup.
12... Rd8 13.Rad1 Qb4 14.Rfe1 b6 15.Bd3 Bb7 16.Qc2 g6 17.Ne4?! Nxe4 18.Bxe4 Bxg5 19.Nxg5 Rac8?
19..Rxd4 appears to gain a clear pawn no matter what White tries.
20.Qd3 Rxd4??
But now things are very different, as White's queen will take aim at both h7 and e6. 20..Qe7 appears most prudent.
21.Qh3 h5
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22.Bxg6! fxg6 23.Qxe6+ Kg7 24.Qf7+ Kh6 25.Qxb7 Ne7 26.Nf7+ Kg7 27.Nd6 Qxd6
27...Rxd1 improves slightly, but the end is nigh in any case.
28.Rxe7+ Kh6 29.Rh7+ Kg5 30.h4+ Kxh4 31.Rxd4+ Qxd4 32.Qxc8
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1-0

Another win by Alan Tsoi and a draw by Kyron Griffith (fresh from breaking 2200 the previous weekend) left Team Sevillano with a match victory and a half-point lead in the individual score tiebreak as we broke for a wonderful catered lunch.

Armen Ambartsoumian is a renowned coach who frequently accompanies U.S. junior teams overseas, but he hasn't played competitively since 2003, and the rust was apparent in the first round. He shook it off in the finale, going 6-0 while Christian Tanaka and Austin Hughes drew with Matikozyan, making the score 7-5 for Team Ambartsoumian.

But the real action was in the other match, the battle for first. The well-rested Sevillano was deadly, establishing winning positions in five games within the first hour. Andrew Kao held on to earn a draw for Team Khachiyan. Melik kept up, eventually winning five games, and it came down to his contest with Board Three, Jason Qu:

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A crowd watches the critical game: GM Melikset Khachiyan against Jason Qu, Photo Carlos Vasquez




1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Bg7 4.h3 0-0 5.e3 c5 6.c3 Qb6 7.Qb3 d6 8.Nbd2 Be6 9.c4 Nh5 10.Qxb6 axb6 11.Bh2 Nc6 12.g4
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12...cxd4
White has pushed too hard, and Black is also better after 12...Nf6 13.d5 Nxd5 14.csd5 Bxd5.
13.exd4 Nxd4
Now 13...Nf6 appears definitely better. After the move in the game, White is at least equal in a materially murky position.
14.Nxd4 Bxd4 15.gxh5 Bxb2 16.Rd1 Rxa2 17.Bd3 Bc3 18.Bf4 d5 19.cxd5 Bxd5 20.Rg1 Rd8 21.hxg6 hxg6 22.Rg3 Ba5 23.h4 Ra4 24.Bg5 f6 25.Be3 Rxh4 26.Bxg6 Kf8
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Black's three pawns don't stand up well against the piece, and Khachiyan was ready to take a draw - until he realized that this would leave his team losing on tiebreak. So he had to try to make something out of nothing, though the other games soon finished and it became one on one.
27.Ke2 Bc6 28.Bf5 Bb5+ 29.Kf3 Bc6+ 30.Ke2 Bb5+ 31.Kf3 Be8
Still no draw!
32.Kg2 Bf7 33.Nf3!
By no means the only move, but it forces the desired simplification.
33..Rxd1 34.Nxh4 Bd5+ 35.Kh3
Again, there are other moves, but Jason feels confident about using his king.
35...Rh1+ 36.Kg4 e6 37.Bh6+ Ke7 38.Bd3 f5+ 39.Kh5 Bc3 40.Bxf5!
Again, a good practical decision to force the draw.
40... Rxh4+
40...Be1 keeps the game going, though Black has nothing after, e.g., 41.Rg7+ Kf6 42.Rg6+Ke5 43.Bg7+ Kd6 44.Bd4.
41.Kxh4 Bf6+ 42.Kg4 exf5+ 43.Kxf5 Be6+ 44.Ke4 Kd7 45.f4 b5 46.Bg7 Ke7 47.f5 Bf7 48.Bh6 b4 49.Bg5 b3 50.Bxf6+ Kxf6 51.Rg2 Bh5 52.Kf4?
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Now 52.Rh2 Bd1 53.Rh6+ Ke7 54.Rb6 is winning for White, but again, a draw was sufficient...
52...b5 53.Rb2 Bd1 54.Ke4 Bc2+ 55.Kd4 Kxf5 56.Kc5 Ke4 57.Kxb5 Kd4 58.Kb4 ½-½

Thus Team Sevillano emerged on top, tied with Team Khachiyan on match points (1½), and ahead on game points 13 - 12½.  An exciting finish!
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Kyron Griffith hugs Jason Qu after he draws GM Khachiyan to clinch Team Sevillano win, Photo Carlos Vasquez


The Master-Junior Simul was sponsored by the Sean Reader Fund, a memorial to a young player who lost a valiant battle against leukemia 3½ years ago but inspired many chessplayers and others. The Fund donates tuition, entry fees, and chess camp fees to young players who cannot otherwise afford them. It also provides chess kits (with the strongest magnetized pieces) to patients at Children's Hospital. Although this was not a fundraising event, parents and other spectators were moved to donate a total of $1200 to the Fund!

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Jay Stallings and Randy Hough, Bottom Row: IM Andranik Matikozyan, IM Enrico Sevillano, GM Melikset Khachiyan and IM Armen Ambartsoumian, Photo Carlos Vasquez


Jay Stallings of the California Youth Chess League and his family worked indefatigably to make this event a success. Features included programs with participant bios, photo mementos, a medal for each junior, winner trophies, and plaques for the best games against each master (Jesse Orlowski and Jason Qu were joined by Christian Tanaka and Austin Hughes in winning these). This writer served as arbiter. Great competition,.instruction, and new friendships formed - a great day for chess!