Two GMs Lead While Upsets Reign in Reno
By Randy Hough   
October 24, 2009
FM Steven Zierk, Photo Elizabeth Vicary
At the halfway point of the 250-player Western States Open in Reno , two GMs are atop the terrifically strong (nine GMs, five IMs) Open section. Ildar Ibragimov and Alexander Ivanov have unblemished 3-0 records. But something in the fall air seems conducive to upsets!

In a first round battle of the veterans, the older FM Andrew Karklins downed GM Jaan Ehlvest (progeny of two great, adjacent chess nations, Latvia and Estonia). But as usual, younger players account for the bulk of the upsets. Kayden Troff of Utah knocked off IM Vladimir Mezentsev in the first round (after another loss, to Matthew Michaelides, in round 2, Vladimir cashed in his chips). Also in the second round, FM Steven Zierk of the San Francisco Bay Area took down Dutch GM Loek Van Vely in this shocker.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 b6?!

A true sideline, though Alekhine and Fischer employed it on rare occasions.
3.Nc3 Bb7 4.f3
4.Qc2 d5 is more usual.
4...e6 5.e4 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.e5 Nfd7 8.f4

Van Wely follows theory, such as it is, and why not? White has scored 76%!
8...c5 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.Be3 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.g3?!
Rybka likes White after 12.Bb5.
12...0–0 13.Bg2 Qe8 14.Qd2

It appears that White is guarding against any surprises in the center...

14...Ndxe5 15.fxe5 Nxe5 16.Qe2

Logical, and first choice of both Rybka and Fritz.
16...Ba6 !?17.Qxa6 Nc4 18.Nf5 Nxe3 19.Nxe3 Qxe3+ 20.Kd1?

Losing in surprising fashion. 20.Qe2 and after 20...Qg5, only then 21.Kd1 with apparently equal chances.
20...b5 !!
And either another file opens, or White's queen is cut off from the defense, in either case with disastrous consequences.
21.Qxb5 Rab8 22.Qe2 Qd4+ 23.Kc2
White's loose bishop on g2 falls victim to an x-ray after 23.Qd2, but this is equally bad.
23...Rfe8 24.Qf1 Rxb2+
Actually, 24...Ba3!! with a similar motif improves.
25.Kxb2 Qd2+ 26.Kb1
Giving up. There's a bit of fight left after 26.Kb3 Rb8+ 27.Nb5.
26...Rb8+ 27.Nb5 Bd4
Since this induces resignation, it's gilding the lily to note that 27...Ba3 is a slightly faster mate.
White resigns 0–1

Steven is a student of the popular FM Michael Aigner, who couldn’t make it to Reno this year, but who no doubt took great pride in promptly posting the game on his “fpawn” blog! Zierk also works with GM Melikset Khachiyan.

A half-point behind the leaders are GMs Melikset Khachiyan and Eugene Perelshteyn, as well as IMs Enrico Sevillano and Michael Brooks and FMs Zierk (who drew with Perelshteyn) and Gregg Small. Gregg’s “Swiss gambit” (first round draw with a lower-rated player) has worked so far… And GMs Van Wely, Ehlvest, Sergey Kudrin, Dmitry Gurevich, and Amon Simotowe head the larger group of two-pointers. Stay tuned!