Shabalov Wins Eastern Class Championship
By Al Lawrence   
March 7, 2011
GM Alexander Shabalov studying between games
Three days of the Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge, Massachusetts—featuring eleven titled players—boiled down to an edgy final round that began late Sunday afternoon and didn’t finish until the second and sudden-death time control had knees jiggling. Each of the three top boards featured titled player duels, and all of these six players were tied after four rounds with three points. In the end, it was top-ranked GM Alexander Shabalov who calmly claimed the glory and the nearly $1,400 first prize (which included the first place bonus) by being the only one of the group to win his final contest.

On board one, Shabalov, Black against GM-elect Samuel Shankland in a Slav, harvested a queenside pawn and methodically nursed it through the ranks until White had no reasonable moves left.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Bd3 g6 6.0–0 Bg7 7.b3 0–0 8.Qc2 dxc4 9.Qxc4 Bg4 10.Nbd2 Nbd7 11.Bb2 Rc8 12.b4 a5 13.bxa5 Qxa5 14.Rfc1 Nd5 15.Qb3 N7b6 16.h3 Be6
17.Rc5 looks tempting.
17...Nxc4 18.Bxc4 b5 19.Bf1

9. Bd3 allows 9. ... Nxe3, while 9. Be2 opens the door for 9. ... Nf4.
19...Nb6 20.Qa3 Na4 21.Bc3 Qa7 22.Bb4 Rc7 23.Bd3 Ra8 24.Be4 Qb7 25.Nd2

25.Bxe7 f5 26.Qd6 looks fine for White, when Black's best is 26. ... Bc4. 26...Bc4
25...Ra6 26.Qd3 Qa7 27.Nb3
27.Rc2 c5 28.Qxb5 Rb6 29.Qe8+ Bf8 30.Bxc5 Nxc5 31.Rxc5 Rxc5 32.dxc5 Rb8 33.Qc6 Bd7 34.Qd5 Be6 35.Qd3 Qxc5 could have been a promising try over the board for White.
27...Bc4 28.Qc2
28.Rxc4 bxc4 29.Qxc4 is an interesting try, giving White the bishops and Black a disjointed position. An interesting line could then be: 29...Nb2 30.Qc2 Rxa2 31.Rxa2 Qxa2 32.Bc3 Rb7 33.Nc5
28...c5! 29.Nxc5 Nxc5 30.Bxc5 Rxc5 31.dxc5 Bxa1 32.Rxa1 Qxc5
Black is clearly better now.
33.Qb2 Qa3 34.Qe5
34.Qxa3 Rxa3 35.Bc6 may have been best, but it's hard to blame White for wanting to keep material on the board. The rest of the game is Shabalov being a top GM in a better position.
34...Re6 35.Qf4 Rd6 36.Rb1 f5 37.Bf3 Qxa2 38.Re1 Qb2 39.e4 Qc3 40.Rb1 fxe4 41.Qxe4 Re6 42.Qf4 Re1+ 43.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 44.Kh2 Qe6 45.g3 Qd6 46.Qe4 Qc5 47.Kg1 b4 48.Bg4 Kf7 49.Bd1 Kg7 50.Bc2 b3 51.Bb1 Bf7 52.h4 e5 53.Qe1 Qd4 54.Kh2 Bd5 55.Kh3 Bf3 56.Qa5 Bd5 57.Qc7+ Bf7 58.Qe7 Qxf2 59.Qxe5+ Qf6 60.Qc7 h5 61.Bd3 Qd4 62.Bb1 Qg4+ 63.Kh2 Qe2+ 64.Kh3 Qf1+

Meanwhile, on board two, GM Sergey Kudrin, White against IM Robert Hungaski, stoically hung on a pawn-down to draw. Also see Kudrin's exciting draw against Nelson Castaneda.


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4

6. Be3, 6. Bg5, 6. Be2, 6. f4, and 6. Bc4 are all more popular again Black's Sicilian setup, but Kudrin's move retains a slight advantage--and sets aside reams of sharp analysis.
6...e6 7.g3
Theory gets smaller yet.
7...Be7 8.Bg2 0–0 9.0–0 Nc6 10.Be3 Bd7 11.Nxc6 Bxc6 12.a5 Rc8 13.Re1 Qd7 14.g4

14. Qe2 would be a more solid. But it is a Swiss section. And too many draws don't bring home the rent.
14...h6 15.f4 d5 16.e5 Nh7 17.Bd4 Bb5 18.Nb1 Bc5 19.c3 Qc7 20.Na3 Bd7 21.Nc2 f6 22.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 23.Nd4 fxe5 24.fxe5 Rf4 25.Rf1 Rcf8 26.Rxf4 Rxf4 27.h3 Ng5 28.Qe2
Black's Exchange sacrifice gives him all the play.
29.cxd4 Qxd4+ 30.Kh1 Bb5 31.Rd1 Qf4 32.Qe1 Nf3 33.Bxf3 Qxf3+ 34.Kh2 Be2 35.Rd2 Qf4+ 36.Kg1 Qe3+ 37.Kh2 Qf4+ 38.Kg1 Qe3+ 39.Kh2
Draw. ½–½

Esserman220.jpgBoard three was not as calm. Though material was even in GM Alexander Ivanov versus IM Marc Esserman (each with one minor piece and three pawns), Ivanov turned down Esserman’s draw offer and later disputed the IM’s claim of three-time repetition. There was indeed some play left for White, but in the end, the players split the point and affably went over the game.
During their post-mortem, Ivanov, who generally chooses quieter lines than the Sozin he had played against Esserman’s Sicilian, called his choice a “Kindergarten Opening.” (One has to wonder how Bobby Fischer, a champion of the line, would have reacted to that description.)

Stopa225.jpgIM Jacek Stopa, going into the round with 2.5 points, won on board four to join Kudrin, Ivanov, Esserman and Hungaski in a tie for second.

Within the Master Section, Christopher Gu (Mass.) and Alex Cherniack (Md.) won the Under-2300 prize. In all, four GMs (John Fedorowicz dropped out after a fourth-round loss to Shankland), four IMs, three FMs and WFM Hana Itkis competed in the 23-player Master Section.

Section Winners
The Continental Chess Association’s event drew 175 players to seven sections. Jonathan Richman (N.Y.), on paper a definite underdog with a rating of 1980, won the 20-player expert section with 4.5 points, beating out a number of former masters and strong experts. Mark Bourque (Conn.) and Armen Martirosyan, (Mass.), also with 4.5 points, shared the prize in Class A, the largest section, with 41 players. Daniel Zhu (N.J.),  Robert Bagdasaryan and James Asaro (Vt.) tied for the Class B honors among 37 competitors, and moved solidly into the ranks of A-players. The Class C group featured another upset, with Ian Lomeli (Conn.) topping the 26 entries with a score of 4.5, even though his rating was nearly 140 points below the cap! The winners of the 21-player Class D section were dominated by family connections—with brothers Benjamin Piche and Adam Piche (Conn.), Parag Su Mujumdar (Mass.), and Keming Zhu (N.J.) (father of B-section-winner Daniel) at the top with four points. Benjamin Marinelli (Mass.) bested 14 in the Class E section and earned more than 130 rating points with the only perfect score of the entire event! 

The Host Hotel at Cedar Lake is a rambling and pleasant venue, with an amiable staff. Winter visitors are greeted with a roaring fire and summer guests are surrounded by vacation activities. It’s an ideal tournament site, with a spacious wing large enough for all players to be together in one room, able to view friends and GMs battle. A variety of restaurants are within walking distance. Historic Old Town Sturbridge is a short drive. The Eastern Class Championships is Bill Goichberg’s annual winter event at the site. CCA also holds the Continental Open at the hotel every August.