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Wrap-up from Milwaukee: Fun & Analysis Print E-mail
By Alex Betaneli   
July 21, 2009
The Junior Closed players and organizers: Top: IA Frank Berry, Alex Betaneli, IM Ray Robson, IM Sal Bercys, FM Elliott Liu, IM Sam Shankland and Maxx Coleman, Bottom: Ashish Vaja, FM Michael Lee, GM-elect Alex Lenderman and FM Joel Banawa

Alex Betaneli, a frequent CL contributor and one of the organizers of the U.S. Junior Closed, picks up where his midway report left off, round five of the 2009 U.S. Junior Closed. This report includes annotated games by the Champ Ray Robson, Elliott Liu, Salvijus Bercys and Joel Banawa. Also see previous reports which included tandem analysis of Lenderman-Robson, bios of the players and the official website with the final crosstable.


The third day of the tournament was the most important one. The sole leader Ray Robson was to be tested by the top two rated participants: Sam Shankland and Alex Lenderman. Ray defeated Sam in a tense game:


annotations by Ray Robson
1.e4 e6!?
Sam surprised me with this move. Normally he plays c5.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.Qg4 Qc7
Position after 7...Qc7

This is the poisoned pawn variation, which I had recently played as white against Vinay Bhat.
8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 dxc3 12.Qd3 d4
The other main line is Bd7, which Bhat had played against me.
13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Bd7 15.Rg1
This supports a possible g4 advance in some variations. I had actually looked at this variation when I prepared against Bhat, so I was still in theory for quite a while.
15...Nf5 16.Qf2 Qc6
Threatening Qe4+.
17.Bd3 Qd5 18.Be3!?
Position after 18.Be3

At this stage of the tournament I was a full point ahead of a few players, so I knew that a draw wouldn't be too bad. I had analyzed this variation previously and knew that with best play it was a draw, but black would have to find the best defense.
18...Nxe3 19.Qxe3 Rxg2 20.Rxg2 Qxg2 21.Be4
21.0-0-0 Qd5! black has mate threats with Qa2.
21...Qxh2 22.0-0-0 Rd8?
22...Bc6! was the best move, which would equalize. For example: 23.Bxc6+ bxc6 24.Qd4 a5 25.Rg1 Qd2+ 26.Qxd2 cxd2+ 27.Kxd2 Ke7=
23.Qd4! was a strong move that I missed, which Sam pointed out after the game. White simply pins black down on the d-file and will eventually win. 23...Qxf4+ 24.Kb1 Now Rg1 is a threat, so black is pretty much defenseless. 24...Qh6 25.Bxb7 Qf8 26.Qxc3 and white is still completely controlling black.
23...Bb5 was the best defense, because black's bishop wouldn't be hanging when I take on a7. 24.Rh1?? (24.Rxd8+ Kxd8 25.Bxb7 a6 should be a draw.) 24...Qxh1+! 25.Bxh1 Rd1+ 26.Qc1 (26.Ka2 Bc4#) 26...Rxc1+
24.Rxd8+ Kxd8 25.Qxa7 Bd7
25...Bxc2+ didn't quite work because of 26.Bxc2 Qh1+ 27.Ka2 Qd5+ 28.Ka1 Qh1+ 29.Bb1 c2 30.Qa5+ and next move white will pick up the pawn with a queen check.
26.Qe3!? was also a strong move. The idea is that I simply want to take one of black's pawns, and black can't do too much about it. 26...b5 27.Ka2 and my king takes the c-pawn. I wasn't sure which move to play, but in the end I stuck with my original intention.
26...Ke8 27.Qxc3 Qxf4 28.Bxb7
This endgame should probably be winning for me, as it is not easy for black to create counterplay.
28...Qf1+ 29.Ka2 Qb5 30.Be4 Qb6 31.Qb4 Qc7 32.Qd4
Position after 32.Qd4

I am slowly giving black's queen fewer and fewer squares to move to.
32...Bb5 33.Kb3 Qb8
33...Bc6 34.Bxc6+ Qxc6 35.Qa4+-
34.Qd6 Qc8
34...Qxd6 35.exd6 Kd7 36.c4 Ba6 37.c5 is a winning endgame for white, as white will be in time to stop black's pawns. 37...f5 38.Ba8 Be2 39.a4 f4 40.Kc3 f3 41.Kd2
35.Qb4 Bd7 36.Qb6
Now Black can't move either his queen or his bishop, and I will just push my a-pawn up the board. Since black has no defense against this, Sam resigned. 1-0

Not to be outdone, other players produced decisive results. Sal Bercys and Alex Lenderman kept one point away from the leader by defeating Maxx Coleman and Michael Lee respectively. Joel Banawa won against Elliott Liu.


IM Sal Bercys

annotations by Sal Bercys
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.Nb3 Ba7 7.Qe2 Nc6 8.Be3 d6 9.Nc3 Nge7 10.0-0 e5 11.Bxa7 Rxa7 12.Rad1 0-0 13.Qd2 Be6 14.Rfe1 Qb8 15.Nd5


White has delayed placement of the knight on d5 for too long and now Black has a comfortable position after 15...b5
15...b5 16.c4 Rd8 17.Rc1 b4
 Big pawn on d3.
18.Qe3 a5
White has just too many holes.
19.Nd2 Nd4 20.Nxe7+ Rxe7 21.Nf3  after21.nf3bercys.jpg

21.. Nxf3+
Acceptable move if Black saw the continuation, but since I didn't Nc6 was probably better.
22.Qxf3 Rc7

22...b3! Shanky's note.
23.Qe3 Rdc8 24.b3 Rc5 25.Rcd1 Qc7 26.h3 g6 27.Rd2 Ra8 28.Red1 f6 29.Be2 Rd8 30.Bg4 Bf7 31.Rd3 Kg7
31...h5? 32.Bxh5!±
32.h4 h5 33.Bh3 Rc6 34.g3 a4 35.Qd2 Qb6

Black shuffled around until White made a mistake of leaving the e3 square allowing black's queen to become more active or in this case...traded.
36.Qe3 Qxe3 37.Rxe3 Kf8 38.Red3 Ke7 39.Bf1 Ra8 40.Rb1 Rb6 41.Rb2 Be6 42.f3 Ra5 43.Kf2 Kd7 44.Ke3 Kc6 45.Rbd2 Kc7
45...Kc5?? 46.Rd5++-
46.Rb2 axb3 47.axb3 Ra1 48.Be2 Kc6 49.Rbd2 Kc5 50.Rd1 Rxd1 51.Rxd1 Ra6 52.Rd3 Ra1 53.Rd1 Ra3 54.Rd3 Ra2?!
54...g5 is probably better. Allowing f4 gave White numerous drawing chances.
 55.f4 Bf7 56.Bf3 Rc2 57.Bd1 Ra2 58.Kf3 Rb2 59.Ke3 Be6 60.Bf3 Rc2 61.Be2 Rc3 62.Bd1?!

62...Bg4! 63.Be2?!
63.Rxc3 exf4+ 64.gxf4 bxc3 65.Bc2 Kb4 66.Kd4 f5 67.e5 dxe5+ 68.fxe5 f4 69.c5 f3 70.Ke3 Kxc5-+; 63.Bxg4 exf4+ 64.gxf4 hxg4 65.Ke2 g3 66.Rd5+ Kc6 67.f5 (67.e5 dxe5 68.fxe5 fxe5 69.Rxe5 Rxb3 70.Rg5 Rc3 71.Rxg6+ Kc5-+) 67...gxf5 68.Rxf5 Rxb3-+
63...Rxd3+ 64.Bxd3 Bd1 65.f5 gxf5 66.exf5 d5
66...Bxb3 67.g4 hxg4 68.h5 Bxc4 69.Bxc4 Kxc4 70.h6 b3 71.h7 b2 72.h8Q b1Q 73.Qc8+=
67.cxd5 Bxb3 68.Be2 Bxd5 69.Bxh5 b3 70.Bd1?
70.Be2! b2 71.Bd3 Kb4 72.h5 Kc3 73.h6 Bc4 74.Bb1 Bg8 75.g4 Bh7=
70...b2 71.Bc2 Bb3
Last mistake: 72.Kd2 Kd4 73.h5 e4 74.Bb1 e3+ 75.Ke1 Bg8 and White holds.
72...Bd1 73.Kd2 Bg4 74.Kc3 Kd5 75.Kxb2
75.Bc2 e4 76.Kxb2 Kd4 Wins as well.
75...Kd4 76.Kc1 Ke3 77.Bc2 e4 78.Ba4 Kf2 79.Bb5 e3 80.Kc2 e2 81.Bxe2 Kxe2
Black wins

Joel Banawa

annotations by Joel Banawa
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Na6
The ... Na6 line of the king's Indian that has a reputation of being rock solid.
8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.h3
11...h6 is also possible which leads to a highly positional game.
12.Bd2 Nh6 13.c5 Nxc5 14.Qc1 Nf7 15.Nd5 Ne6 16.Nxc7 Nxc7 17.Qxc7 Nd8 18.Rfc1 Be6 19.a4 Rf7
19...Rc8 seems interesting.
20.Qc2 Nc6 21.b4 Nd4
21...Rc8 22.Qb2 Rd7 23.Be3 Rcd8=
22.Nxd4 exd4 23.f4
23.Bf4 is also interesting suggested by Rybka White's going to be able to play e5 if black tries to liquidate ...f5 without weakening the kingside and at the same time it prevents possible ...Rc7
is probably not so good [23...f5 24.e5 Rd8]
24.Bb5 Bd7 25.Bc4 Be6 26.Bb5 Bd7 27.Bd3 Bf8?
Probably a big mistake cause it uncoordinates Black's pieces 27...b5!? 28.axb5 Bxb5 trying to get rid of the light-squared bishop to weaken Black's center.
28.Re1 Re7 29.b5 Be6 30.a5 Qf7 31.Rec1 Red7 32.Qd1 f5 33.e5 Bd5 34.Qe2 Qe6 35.Kh2
Just slowly improving the position since Black can't really do much in this position.
This move created another weakness [35...Kh8 is better]
36.axb6 axb6 37.Ra6 Ra8?
This move loses by force
Miscalculating so badly. 38.Rxa8 Bxa8 39.Rc8 Bd5 (39...Bb7 40.Bc4 Bd5 41.Bxd5 Qxd5 42.Bb4 Rd8 43.Rxd8 Qxd8 44.Qa2+ Kh8 45.Bxf8 Qxf8 46.Qd5 d3 47.Qxd3 Qb4 48.Qd8+ Kg7 49.Qc7+ Kg8 50.e6+-) 40.Bb4 Re7 41.Rd8 Re8 42.Rxd5 Bxb4 43.Rxd4 Qe7 44.Bxf5+-
38...Bxc6 39.bxc6 Qxc6 40.Bb5 d3 41.Qe1 Qxb5 42.Rxa8 Qc6 43.Qa1
White's down a pawn but has lots of compensation for it
This is a losing move.
44.e6+ Qxe6 45.Qh8 Qd6 46.Qxh7+ Bg7 47.Qg8+ Kf6 48.Bc3+ 1-0


The highly anticipated battle between Alex and Ray took place. Both players annotated Ray's victory for the readers. Joel scored his second win of the tournament by beating Maxx, while Elliott and Sam drew. Meanwhile, Sal won against Michael and set up the stage for the last round: he would need to beat Ray with black in order to tie for first place and force play-offs.


As Sal describes it, he was not comfortable playing out a theoretical battle where Ray held a clear advantage. He chose a particular line of the Ruy Lopez (Rb8 instead of the usual Bb7) in order to get Ray out of his preparation. The idea was to go get an equal, balanced position and try to outplay the opponent. The only drawback of this strategy was that it allowed white to force a draw. Ray found a way to do this and clinched first place:


IM Sam Shankland
Alex drew Sam and thus assured a third place finish. Michael beat Joel after Joel mishandled the opening. The longest game of the round, between Maxx and Elliott, ended in a draw. Thus Ray Robson finished with 6/7 ($1,000), Sal Bercys took second with 5/7 ($500), Alex Lenderman was third with 4/7 ($300), followed by Sam Shankland and Michael Lee (3.5/7), Joel Banawa (3/7), Elliott Liu (2.5/7) and Maxx Coleman (0.5/7).

Although he finished in seventh, Liu's first round win over Lenderman was influential to the final standings:


FM Elliott Liu

[Elliott Liu]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3!?
Alex usually plays mainline 6. Be2
6...e5 followed by 7...Nh5 is the main response, but I wanted to try this variation.
7.Bg5 Qe8 8.Nd2?!

Alex was critical of this move, and I agree it was not the best. Instead, making a normal move like 8.Be2 was preferable.
8...e5 9.d5 Nh5
Now the bishop on g5 is misplaced, and if 10.Be2 10...Nf4 is annoying.
But attempting to discourage me from playing 10...f5 with this committal move is too dramatic. I am forced to move my knight to the square where I otherwise voluntarily would want to go to.
10...Nf4 11.Qf3 f5

I think Black is already better.
12.gxf5 gxf5 13.Bxf4 fxe4!
It is important to throw in this capture first before taking on f4. White can never firmly anchor his knight on e4. [13...exf4 14.0-0-0 Nc5 15.Rg1 Kh8 16.h4]
14.Ndxe4 Rxf4 15.Qg3
Maybe the queen belongs on g2 instead to provide more support for the knight on e4 and to avoid Rf3 tricks.
This is the problem, how does white stop 16...Nc2+?
16.Rc1 Nxa2; 16.Bd3 Nxd3+ 17.Qxd3µ; 16.0-0-0 Nxa2+! 17.Nxa2 Rxe4

A multi-purpose move protecting the g7 bishop, applying pressure to crucial f2 and f3 squares, stopping Nf6+ cheapos, and supporting the d6 pawn for the c6 break. 16...Bf5?? 17.Nf6+
17.Be2 Bf5 18.f3 Kh8 19.a3 Bh6!
Forcing the king to retreat, thereby interrupting white's rook connection and leaving the king caught in the center.
20.axb4? Rxf3+
20...Na6 21.b4 c6 22.Kc2 Nc7 23.Rad1 a5 24.Kb3?!
The king is probably safer on b2, but it is still quite tough for white to survive. 24.b5 was probably a better try. [¹24.b5 cxb5 25.cxb5 Rc8 26.Kb2 ...Na8! followed by 27...Nb6.
24...axb4 25.axb4 

25...b5 26.dxc6 bxc4+ 27.Bxc4 d5-+
With the position ripped open, it is now impossible for white to survive.
28.Rxd5 was best. [28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Rxd5 (29.Nxd5 Bxe4-+) 29...Be6-+;  28.Rxd5 Nxd5 29.Bxd5 (29.Nxd5 Bxe4-+) 29...Bg6
28...Nxd5 was also possible, but there was no reason to get complicated. [28...Nxd5?! 29.Bxd5 Rb8 30.Qg8+! is annoying. Black will still win, but I didn't want to blunder at some point and allow c8=Q:)(30.Qe1 Rxf3+-+)
29.Nxf4 Bxf4 30.Qe1 Bxc6
30...Bxf3?! 31.Rd7
31.Rg1 Qf6 32.Qf2? Ba4+ 33.Kb2 e4+ 34.Kb1
34.Qd4 Be5
34...Bxd1 35.Qa2!
...Anything can happen
35...Bc2+! 0-1

Kudos to Internet Chess Club (ICC) for providing the opportunity for live game broadcasts (please see the specially created handle: USjunior09). John Veech, Troy Zimmerman, Andrew Grochowski, and Erik Santarius made the relay possible by helping out on site. Also thanks to Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Association (wscachess.org) for their contributions towards the successful event.

Extracurriculars: Tennis and Geography

Shortly after finishing the round, three players enjoyed a tennis mini-tournament. Ray proved to be a little better than Sal and Sam:

IMs Ray Robson and Sam Shankland on the tennis courts

All players got the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of Wisconsin by taking a quiz with some tough questions. The winners of this contest were Michael Lee and Ray Robson with the score of 6 out of 11. How many can you get right?

   1. What is the capital of Wisconsin?

         a. Green Bay
         b. Madison
         c. Milwaukee
         d. Oshkosh


Show Solution

2. Approximately, what is the population of the largest city in Wisconsin?

         a. 10,000
         b. 100,000
         c. 1,000,000
         d. 10,000,000


Show Solution

3. Which State does NOT neighbor Wisconsin?

         a. Indiana
         b. Illinois
         c. Iowa
         d. Minnesota


Show Solution

4. What is Wisconsin's professional football team (in NFL)?

         a. The Bears
         b. The Rams
         c. The Packers
         d. The Chiefs


Show Solution

5. What is Wisconsin's nickname?

   a. The Cheese State
  b. The Raccoon State
   c. The Badger State
   d. The everything closes at 5 pm state


Show Solution

  6. Wisconsin is home of the largest__?___ in the country.

         a. Cranberry Farm
         b. Cow Farm
         c. Water Park
         d. Hydroelectric power plant


Show Solution

  7. Wisconsin produces more __?___ than any other state.

         a. Rabbits
         b. Cheese
         c. Twinkies
         d. Acorn's


Show Solution

8. Two Rivers, Wisconsin is home to which of the following?

         a. Packers
         b. Ice cream sundae
         c. Cheese
         d. Bazooka bubble gum


Show Solution

9. Wisconsin is home of the largest__?___ festival in the nation.

         a. Music
         b. Polka
         c. Line Dancing
         d. Farm

Show Solution

10. What is the name of the physics professor from Milwaukee, who won the Wisconsin State Chess Championship 8 times; whose name is known around the world by chess players?

Show Solution

11. Green Bay is the ___?___  capital of the world?

         a. Cheese
         b. Toilet Paper
         c. Hammer producing
         d. Light bulb

Show Solution

International Arbiter Frank Berry scored better than all the players and most of the local spectators by answering 7 questions correctly!
Frank Berry

Awards Ceremony

There was a pleasant surprise for the players at the end of the tournament. The Milwaukee Brewers provided very nice commemorative jerseys for each participant!  The Brewers hosted a tournament at the Miller Park two years ago and their strong support of chess is highly appreciated. Although the players were encouraged not to wear their souvenirs, Alex and Sam did just that:

Top: Shankland, Bercys, Banawa, Robson and Liu, Bottom: Lenderman, Coleman and Lee. Many thanks to Milwaukee Brewers for supporting chess!

United States Chess Federation provided a $300 appearance fee for each player to help with travel expenses. The youngest participant of the tournament was congratulated by everyone and awarded a check for $1,000:
Ray poses with the tournament organizers, Alex Betaneli and Ashish Vaja

Ashish Vaja, the primary organizer, praised the players for their fighting spirit and stressed that this tournament deserves to be one of the premier events in the United States. The future of American chess looks bright, but the talent needs to be nourished!

The nourishing on the final evening took place at a steak house near the Ramada hotel. With Frank Berry tricking people with his invisible threat at one table and Sam Shankland leading a lively discussion at the other table, time flew quickly. It was great to see everyone relaxed and enjoying themselves.

Lenderman is going to rest for a while as scoring three GM norms in thirty-two days took quite a bit of energy. Michael, Ray and Sam plan to seek norms and participate at the North American Invitational in Chicago at the end of August. Maxx, Elliott, Sal, and Joel will return to their college studies comes September. Let us wish the best with chess and life to everyone.

Thanks to the sponsors and contributors who made this event possible:

United States Chess Federation

Milwaukee Brewers

Wisconsin Chess Blog

Ramada Milwaukee Airport
The lobby of the playing site

Vaja International Chess Academy

Wisconsin Chess Academy

Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Association

Wisconsin Chess Association

Internet Chess Club


July - Chess Life Online 2009

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