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“Forking with Tebow’s Knights” Avoids Mate to Win USATE Print E-mail
By Al Lawrence   
February 22, 2012
WGM Rusudan Goletiani and GM Robert Hess go over their final round game, Photo Al Lawrence

The final minutes of play at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Team Championship offered all the tensions of a climactic Hollywood scene, except no one was moving. The three-day chase for the national title among 294 four-player teams had come down to a close-up on a winning young man and a beautiful woman who had played brilliantly, frozen in a tableau of mental combat.

GM Robert Hess and IM/WGM Rusudan Goletiani stared down from the summit of Board One at a problem-like knight ending, darting glances at the relentless countdown displayed on their chess clock. Everyone else in the running-in fact, nearly every other player-had long since bagged sets and put away clocks for another day. Hess, a U.S. Championship participant and Goletiani, a former U.S. Woman's Champ, were the standard bearers of their teams. Hess's squad, "Forking with Tebow's Knights Won't Lead to Mating" entered the round with 4.5 points, while Goletiani's "Caro-Cain Defense: 999 Plans to Mate," began its final test as the only team with a perfect 5-0 score. If Hess, so far with an individual record of 4-1, managed to win, the tie-breaks made his crew the champions. But if Goletiani, 4.5-.5, got even a draw, a woman-led team would win it all.

Zachary Weiner and Robert Hess, Photo Al Lawrence
A flashback dramatizes the up-and-down ride that is a team match-up, "Forking with Tebow's" had scored first blood with a win on board four when Peter Hess, the grandmaster's younger brother by a year, defeated Shaoxiang Wang. Peter finished with a best-on-team score of 5.5 for the six-round event. But then the match had evened when "Caro-Cain's" third-board Andrew Ryba converted a tricky minor-piece-and-pawn ending against Shawn Swindell. Swindell, a talented ninth-grader who came up through Coach John Galvin's well-respected program at Brooklyn's 318, had played the endgame with too little patience, blitzing out critical moves even though he had ample time. "Yes, he should have given more thought to some of those moves," Ryba said afterward.

With only boards one and two remaining, GM Hess would, between his own moves, stare at his team captain Zach Weiner's game. In another complicated ending, Weiner eventually drew with fellow master Arthur Shen of "Caro-Cain." The lower three boards of the key match-up had thus turned in their score sheets with a cumulative tie of 1.5-1.5. As the final minutes ticked away, it was all on the shoulders hunched over board one.

After a lot of maneuvering in a technically meaty ending, Hess broke through. Here's the complete game that won the event-a struggle worthy of the moment.

R. Hess - Goletiani [B22]
U.S. Amateur Team-ch East, Parsippany, NJ (Board 1/1, round 6)

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 e6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bd3 Bd7 9.0-0 Bc6 10.Nc3 N8d7 11.Bf4 dxe5 12.dxe5 Nc5 13.Bb5 Bxb5 14.Nxb5 Nd5 15.Bg5 Qd7 16.Na3 h6 17.Bh4 Be7 18.Nc4 0-0 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Qd4 Rfd8 21.Nd6 b6 22.Nd2 Nc7 23.N2c4 Nb5 24.Qe3 Nxd6 25.exd6 Qg5 26.f4 Qd5 27.Rac1 Qe4 28.Qd2

The dynamic argument here is whether the far-advanced d-pawn will be weak or strong. Chances look equal. Perhaps here, 28. ... Nd3 or 28. ... Nb7 would be a bit easier to play than the queen move, but Black's choice should be fine as well.
28...Nd3 29.Rc3 Rac8 30.Rf3 Qd4+ 31.Kf1 Rxc4 32.Rfxd3 Qxf4+ 33.Qxf4 Rxf4+ 34.Ke2 Re4+ 35.Kf3 Ra4 36.a3 e5 is an interesting line, threatening ... Rd5 at some point.
29.Qe3 Qe4 30.Qd2 Qd5 31.Rfd1 Qxd2 32.Rxd2 Ne4 33.Rd4 Nf6 34.Na3 Nd5 35.Rc6

Probably in time trouble, Goletiani may not have had leisure to be confident about 35. ... Ne7, followed by ... Nf5, but this idea appears to give Black a comfortable game. Her move, however, shouldn't lose.
36.Rxc8 Rxc8 37.Nb5 Rd8
It could be time for ... Kf8, calling up reinforcements.
38.Ra4 Rd7 [38...a5!] 39.Rxa7 Rxa7
Without the rooks, the ending is very hard for Black to play, given Hess's careful "building" of his position to a more and more threatening breakthrough.
40.Nxa7 Kf8 41.Kf2 Ke8 42.Kf3 Kd7 43.Nb5 Nb4 44.a3 Nd3 45.b4

White's far-advanced pawn is now extra, and the two-against-one formation on the queenside promises him a distant passed pawn.
45...Kc6 46.Ke4 Nf2+ 47.Kd4 Ng4 48.a4 Nf6 49.Nc3 Ne8 50.Ne4 f5
Black just isn't given any good choices against Hess's relentless technique.
51.Nd2 Nxd6 52.Nc4 Nc8
Allowing the exchange of knights at any point is suicide for Black because White will force a passer on the queenside and use it as a diversion while his king penetrates and devours Black pawns.
53.Ke5 Kd7 54.b5 Ke7 55.a5 bxa5 56.b6 Kd7 57.b7 Na7 58.Nxa5 Kc7 59.Kxe6 1-0

Hess had managed to overcome draw-odds to win the championship for his team.

Arithmetic isn't everything

Although the pre-tournament game to some is getting that "perfect" average team rating of 2199, the maximum permissible, there's nothing magic about that number. Here's the list of this year's top five finishers in tie-break order and starting team rating averages:

Forking with Tebow's Knight Never Leads to Mate-2185
Master Maters-2195
Go Ahean, Mate My Day-2164
Three and a Half Masters-2198
Caro-Cain Defense: 999 Plans to Mate-2171

Special panels and presentations
The Team is always a mix of serious competition, great fun, and special educational events. This year celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Fischer-Spassky match in Reykjavik, Iceland, by offering a presentation by first-hand observers on history's most famous chess match.

Before the first round on Sunday, organizer Steve Doyle emceed a special panel consisting of Dr. Frank Brady, author of the best-selling Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall-from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness; Dr. Leroy Dubeck, USCF president during Fischer's successful assault on the world championship; and GM Art Bisguier, Fischer's frequent second. About 75 attendees got up early to sit in front of the as-yet empty boards in the main ballroom to listen and ask questions-and some revealing stories were told for the first time! We'll have more to say in Chess Life magazine, and, starting next week, an audio file of the complete session will be available online www.chesswithlev.com.


Macauley Peterson , Photo Al Lawrence
Macauley Peterson, well-known chess videographer and journalist, presented "Chasing the Elite: Behind the Scenes with the World's Best Grandmasters," telling stories interspersed with a variety of videos from his five years covering the top ten. The presentation included "footage from Nanjing, Nice, Mexico City, Monaco, Moscow, Valencia, Wijk aan Zee and Oslo, including never-before-seen, unpublished work," Peterson said. A standing-room-only crowd filled one of the upstairs meeting rooms on Saturday afternoon. "It was my first presentation of this kind," Peterson said, "but I'd like to do more like this, making use of the hundreds of hours of unique footage I've acquired." So look forward to more at the 2013 Team!

Other reasons to play
Not all the players were gunning for the big prize, not even all the GMs. "The Team" (with apologies to the other regionals-but after all, the USATE goes back to 1974 and is the mother of all the Teams), offers many reasons to play. For example, three-time U.S. champion Joel Benjamin played board one on "Benjamin Family Values," who won the award for Best Family Team. He was backed up by his uncle Martin, a former regular who has been absent  from Team action for some years, his nephew Jonah Klempner, and Joel's mom Phyllis, a lifelong and important volunteer for chess. "It was great to see Uncle Marty playing again," Joel said. Benjamin, always creative and willing to go into inventive territory, turned in a convincing game against an opponent who dared to take him to the frontiers of theory.

J. Hall - Joel Benjamin
USATE, round 4
1.d4 Nf6 2.f4 d6 3.c3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bg4

5.e4! Nxe4 6.d5 with the threat of Qa4+. Instead, Black has 5. ... e5 or 5. ... d5.
5...Qc8 6.Ng5 e6 7.h3 Bh5 8.g4 Bg6 9.Bg2 [9.d5 Nxd5] 9...h6 10.d5 [10.f5] 10...exd5 10...Nxd5
11.f5 Bxf5 12.Nxf7 Kxf7 13.gxf5 Ne7 14.Rf1 c6 15.e4 c5 16.Bf4?


16.Nd2 or 16.c4 are better.
16...c4!+/- 17.Qc2 dxe4 18.Bxd6 Ned5 19.Bf4 Nxf4 20.Rxf4 Bd6 21.Rf1 Qc5 22.Qe2 Rad8 23.Nd2 [23.Kd1 Rhe8+-] 23...Bg3+

24.Kd1 e3 0-1

Top board prizes and lots of others

As always, top board awards are sought-after badges of honor at The Team. Here is this year's band of heroes:

Board 1: Alejandro Ramirez (2648) of "We Occupy the 7th Rank"
Board 2: Giorgi Bakhtadze (2458) of "Browning Brownies"
Board 3: Maraj Daftani (2204) of "Tuesday Night Chess Club"
Board 4: Aaron Schein (2012) of "Three and a Half Masters"
Alternate: Dmitriy Volkov of  "ICA 1"

As we reported yesterday, the prize for Best Team Name went to "Team Romney: We Play Both Sides of the Board" and Best Gimmick went to "Occupy d4!." Complete prize lists and wall charts are available at www.NJSCF.org.

Photo Al Lawrence
That's why they call them "organizers"

We're all getting used to the superb job done by both the tournament organizers and the hotel staff of the Parsippany Hilton, just off Highway 287 in New Jersey. Everything runs so well it's easy too overlook the hundreds of hours of preparation, let alone the three all-consuming days and nights of crowd control, logistics management, customer service, and cold coffee.

Bill Townsend is the volunteer who puts the turned-in game scores into a CB file every year-days and days of work, "so that all this isn't lost."  "Special recognition should also to Colonel Bryan Goda from West Point, who is retiring," Doyle said. The West Point squad's presentation of the colors starts the Team each year. "And Steve Shutt [who was celebrating his 70th birthday at the tournament] has been a key supporter."
Steve Shutt, at a Masterman chess reunion & party celebrating his 70th birthday, Photo Ramona Johnson

We all give our thanks to the tournament staff, led by organizer-empressario and USCF past president Doyle and renowned Executive TD Carol Jarecki, as well as GM-level directors Steve Immit and Harold Stenzel. All the staff works hard so that we can have so much memorable fun, year after year. Here's a list I hope is complete:

E. Steven Doyle
Carol Jarecki
Sophia Rhode
Roger Inglis
Steve Immitt
Mike Somers
Bernadette Doyle
Noreen Davisson
Walt Heerschapp
Judy Heerschapp
Hal Stenzel
Jabari Mcgreen
Aaron Kiedes
Justin Kohler
Matt Doyle
Jack Ray
Lee Matola
Mark Doyle
Joe Ippolito
Crickett the patrol dog-who has been to the team in each of her 16 years

I've heard rumors, completely unfounded, I hope, that some of these stalwarts may be "retiring" before long-so make sure to be part of history and see the best first hand. Come to the 2013 Team!

See Al Lawrence's interim report on the US Amateur Team East and access final results & standings on the New Jersey Chess Federation homepage. Look for a US Chess Scoop video later this week from Parsippany, as well as reports from the other Amateur Team events.