Akobian Leads Going into Vegas's Final Day
By Randy Hough   
December 29, 2009
GM Varuzhan Akobian, Photo Chris Bird
GM Varuzhan Akobian is the clear leader as the North American Open enters its final day at Bally’s in Las Vegas. He has 4 ½ of 5; trailing by a half-point are GMs Victor Mikhalevski, Josh Friedel, and Alex Yermolinsky,  FMs Steven Zierk and Daniel Narodistky, and David Zimbeck. Interestingly, of these players, only Zimbeck played in the three-day schedule.

The 14-year-old Naroditsky (18th seed overall) led before the schedules merged, having upset GM Alex Shabalov in Round Four.


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Re1 Be6 10.Bf3

White’s slow maneuvering in this Opcensky Najdorf is something that even many dedicated Najdorf players, including this writer, have trouble understanding.
10…Nbd7 11.a4 Qc7 12.a5 b5 13.axb6 Nxb6 14.Na5 Nc4 15.Nxc4
Position after 15.Nxc4


15...Qxc4 has been played previously.
16.Bd2 Rfc8 17.b3 Be6 18.Ra2 Qb7 19.Qe2 Bd8 20.Rea1

White's plan of piling up on the a-pawn actually leave Black with adequate counterplay. Perhaps a slower move such as 21.h3 was in order.
20...Bb6 21.Na4
21.Rxa6 is met by 21…Bc4 22.Qxc4 Rxc4 23.Rxa8+ Rc8 24.Rxc8+ Qxc8 with dynamic equality.
21...Bd4 22.Rd1 d5 23.exd5 Bxd5 24.Bxd5 Nxd5 25.Qf3 Rab8 26.Be1 Rd8 27.Nb2 Qa7 28.Nc4 e4 29.Qe2

Position after 29.Qe2

Black appears to be making some headway, as 29.Qxe4 Nc3 30.Bxc3 Bxf2+ wins for Black.
29...Nf4 30.Qg4 Ne6 31.Kf1 Qb7 32.Na5 Qc7 33.g3 e3 34.fxe3 Bxe3 35.Rxd8+ Rxd8. 36.Nc4
Better 36.Qf3 or 36.Qe4.
Black is now clearly better, but this seemingly strong x-ray just loses. Time pressure?
And what Hans Kmoch used to call a Turton (battery with queen in front of bishop) carries the day. 0–1
Final Position, Shabalov-Naroditsky

But experience triumphed over youth on Board One in the fifth round.


1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 Nbd7 6.0–0 e5

Position after 6...e5

The GM adopts an old system, kind of a Pirc/Philidor hybrid, and succeeds in slowly building an advantage against his young opponent.
7.Be3 Be7 8.a4 0–0 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Nd2 Bxe2 11.Qxe2 Qc7 12.Nc4 Nc5 13.f4 exf4 14.Bxf4 Qd7 15.Rad1 Qe6 16.Rfe1 Rad8 17.Rxd8 Rxd8 18.b3 b6 19.e5 Nd5 20.Nxd5 cxd5 21.Nd6 h6 22.Nb5 d4 23.Nc7 Qf5 24.e6 fxe6 25.Nxe6 d3 26.cxd3 Rxd3 27.Bb8 Nxe6 28.Qxe6+ Qxe6 29.Rxe6 Bc5+ 30.Kf1 a5 31.Rg6 Rxb3 32.Be5 Kf7 33.Rxg7+ Ke6 34.Bf4 Rb4 35.Bc7 h5 36.Rh7 h4 37.g3 hxg3 38.hxg3 Kd5 39.Rh4 Bd4 40.Rh6 Kc4 41.g4 Kb3 42.g5 Kxa4 43.g6 b5 44.Ke2

Position after 44.Ke2

White loses time with the king. 44.Rh7 offered better drawing chances.
44…Bf6 45.Kf3 Rc4 46.Bd8 Bc3 47.Rh2 Rc8 48.Bg5 Rg8 49.Ke4 Rxg6 50.Be3 b4 51.Kd3 Kb3 0 - 1

A moment of silence was observed as the schedules merged in memory of Jerry Hanken, longtime chronicler of major US tournaments including this one, and Jay Blem, who for many years had the book concession now owned by Chess Palace.

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