Alejandro Wins 2007 U.S. Class
By NTD Franc Guadalupe   
October 23, 2007
U.S. Class Championship tournament site. Photo Franc Guadalupe.

Players from 12 states, Washington D.C., and Canada gathered at the beautiful facilities of the Doubletree Hotel - Houston Airport to participate in the 2007 US Class Championships held over October 19-21. (Check out the tournament crosstable here.)  When the last king was tipped, 19-year old GM Alejandro Ramirez, a senior at University of Texas at Dallas, became the upper Class Champion. Alejandro annotates for CLO his best game of the event, against IM Daniel Fernandez.


 Annotations by GM Alejandro Ramirez


Dan uses the Slav as his main defense against 1. d4. I didn't feel like breaking through such a solid opening and was hoping to lure him into some Nimzo type position without d4.

1...Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 c5

3...Bb4 was more or less what I expected, after 4.Qc2 0–0 5.g4!? The game is rather interesting.

4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0–0 Be7 7.Re1!?

I remember Kramnik played 7.Re1 sometime in 1995. All I remember is he played this move, and won somehow. Maybe I should study a bit more.

7...0–0 8.e4 d6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Qc8!?

Ok, maybe I lied. I know the main line goes with Qc7, Nbd7 and a6, after which Black plays h5 at some point to prevent white from expanding on the kingside too much. This line actually has tremendous amount of theory and is rather complex, since most of White's attempts to gain something tangible involve f4 and g4, which is of course risky, where a well timed d5 can make the entire white position crumble. [10...Qc7 11.Ndb5!?÷]

11.Be3 Nc6

I know in some hedgehog lines this move is bad, but I can't say why in this position specifically. The idea of exchanging these knights is interesting but maybe not great, since after the disappearance of said knights a6 is unplayable and the weakness of d6 begins to be felt, something that Black rarely worries about. [11...Qxc4? is of course unplayable. 12.e5±; 11...Nbd7 12.Rc1÷ is more usual.]


The pawn will fall one day if I never protect it...

12...Nxd4 13.Bxd4 =

13.Qxd4 Ng4= creates some uncomfortable threats on the h8-a1 diagonal


It turns out that a substitute is needed on d7, so Dan brings back the other one. This also takes some of the sting out of any kingside advance. On the other hand, the d5 breakthrough is now a far away dream.

14.Qe2 Rd8 15.b3 Bc6?!


Position after 15...Bc6


This move is begging for an eventual Nd5 without bringing him anything tangible in return. I'm not sure about this move.


16.Nd5 was tempting, but I just didn't see anything after the sensible 16...Bf8. I guess I can play Red1 or f4, but what is my knight doing on d5? Don't they say that the threat is stronger than the execution?

16...Bf8 17.Be3!

I like this move. This move threatens nothing. It just slightly improves the position, creating possibilities like Bg5, Bf4 and liberating the d4-square for a possible N hop. That and d6 is now directly attacked. Simple chess.


This is interesting. Black is sick of waiting and tries to force White's hand. Of course around here the idea of Nb5 forcing the trade and gaining access to c6 become very tempting, but timing is pretty important.

17...Ne5 Is the other way of playing, after Nb5 white is better, no doubt about it.



Position after 18.a3!


This move is rather fearless. White realizes that the immediate control over c5 is worth much more than illusory pressure over the b4 pawn and the overall Black control over the open file. Wait... that's fearless? What happened to fearless referring to crazy piece sacrifices and naked kings? I need to start playing more Sicilians. 18.Nb5 Nc5 19.Bf4 was my original idea, but after 19...Qb7! It's hard to see a good way to keep even an edge.


18...Qb7 19.b4 axb4 20.axb4 embarrasses the bishop on c6.

19.Nb5 Nc5 20.b4!

I can still calculate four or five moves ahead!

20...axb4 21.axb4


Position after 21.axb4



21...Nxe4 22.Bg5! (22.Nd4 was also good for a slight edge but not, 22.Bxe4? Bxe4 23.Bg5 Qb7! and only Black can be better.) 22...Nxg5 23.Bxc6±
It turns out Mr. Knight on g5 is trapped after h4, thus black must concede an exchange. However he does get some compensation after 23...Qc8! 24.Bg2! f5 25.Bxa8 (25.Nd4!?± is actually interesting and probably better. White attacks the weak pawn structure without worrying about material for the moment.) 25...Qxa8 26.Qe3 Nf3+ 27.Kg2!± and Black doesn't have any decent checks. 


Ugh, this move wasn't great. 22.Ra1 Rxa1 23.Rxa1² was probably the best way to keep up the pressure.


Giving white all the initiative again. 22...Ne5! 23.Qd4 Ra4!= At first I thought this was slightly better for White. Seeing it with a cool head I think White still has an edge after the cool Qc3 but definitely some of it has evaporated. 24.Bf4? Rxb4 25.Bxe5 Bxb5

23.cxb5 Ra4 24.Bf4!


Position after 24.Bf4!


At this point I had calculated the following sequence that ended the game. Black's in trouble, deep trouble, since he cannot utilize his knight in any good way.

24...Qa8 25.Qc2!

Here! The point is that Ne5 is still prevented.

25...Rxb4 26.Bxd6 Bxd6 27.Rxd6

White's pressure over the d-file, on the b6 pawn and Black's lack of coordination force him to give up the defense on b6, after which White is simply a clear pawn up.


27...Ne5 28.Rxd8+! is probably even better (28.Rxb6± is also possible.) 28...Qxd8 29.Rd1! (29.Qd2? is tempting but insufficient after 29...Qf8.) 29...Qb8 is forced but 30.f4 Ng6 31.Qc6. and Black's position is in ruins.

28.e5 Qb8 29.Rxd8+ Qxd8 30.Ra1

Position after 30.Ra1


Black's complete lack of coordination allow the simple combination of Ra1 and Bg2 to win a queen due to the back rank mating threats. 1–0

Here is another Ramirez win,  against my son ,Francisco II, who is now a freshman at UTD. They drove down together, and as I saw the entries, I feared that they were going to be paired against each other in the first game and, sure enough, that is exactly what happened due to the small number of entries in the 3-day schedule


 Ramirez's only blemish in the event was a third-round draw with Denker Champion Warren Harper.


 Taking nothing away from Warren’s efforts, Alejandro called that game a complete disaster and stated he did not know what was going on with his position, so he offered a draw that Warren gladly accepted.  It appears that Warren held a positional advantage in the game but when a GM offers a draw to a master, it is very hard to decline!  The fast improving Warren, who has been playing chess for just a little bit over three years, had another great tournament.  In addition to his draw with Alejandro, he beat IM Daniel Fernandez.


He lost his chance for a first place tie when he allowed a draw to the lowest rated player in the division, Shawn Noland, 2087, in the last round.  Harper still came in clear second and gained 22 rating points. Shawn also had a great tournament and finished in a tie for third with Daniel.

The games were highly contested in all the divisions.  None of the Class winners finished with a perfect score, but all the divisions had a clear winner, all with 4.5 points.   Artur Safin from Texas won the Expert division while Andy Lin from Arizona won the Class A.  Bradley Anderson from Texas won the Class B title.  Two players from Kentucky claimed National titles in the next two Classes – Ricky Durbin in the Class C and John Sefton in the D.  Sefton’s performance resulted in a whopping 178-point rating improvement!  Missouri’s Peter Harris was a double winner as he conquered the Class E players while also competing in the K-12 division of the Scholastic side event!  Both Matthew Resh from Texas and Peter tied for first in the K-12 but the tiebreaks went Matthew’s way.  The K-8 winner, with a perfect 4-0 record, was Vinayak Shukla from Texas.  Also with perfect records, Arjun Reddy and Turner Corbett, both from Texas, finished tied for first in the K-5 section, with Arjun taking the first place trophy on tiebreaks.  In the K-2, also with a perfect record, Texas’ Christopher Cardenas finished first. 

Through the generosity of Saitek, over a dozen prizes were awarded.  The oldest-competitor prize went to 88-year old Sandford Peek while 6-year old Christalia Cardenas won the prize as the youngest player in the main event.  Canada’s William Doobenen traveled the farthest, over 2200 miles to Houston, and was awarded a Saitek clock! A total of 163 players participated in the Class Championships and 112 students joined us for the scholastic event.  Mrs. Jean Troendle, President of USCF Affiliate Cajun Chess and this writer organized the event.  Our Assistant Director was Korey Kormick.