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Barbosa and Shankland Lead New York International Print E-mail
By Elizabeth Vicary   
June 22, 2009
IM Sam Shankland is currently tied for the lead at the New York International with IM Oliver Barbosa
The upsets continue at the New York International , where 22-year-old Filipino IM Oliver Barbosa and 17-year-old Sam Shankland lead with 5/6. Four players are half a point behind: GM Alex Stripunsky, IM Jacek Stopa, GM Zbyneil Hracek and IM Marc Arnold. 

Improbable events often occur with surprising frequency, but the number of upsets in this tournament is nothing short of remarkable. In round two, to take an extreme example, boards 1 to 8 were all unexpected results (4 decisive games, 4 draws). Many young players are having fantastic results, stringing together multiple GM and IM scalps. 12-year-old FM Darwin Yang of Texas drew GM Jaan Ehlvest and IM Jay Bonin in rounds one and two and continued by defeating GM Yudasin in round three. Darwin’s meteoric streak was halted (temporarily?) by IMs Jacek Stopa and Justin Sarkar. Kassa Korley insisted to me that he had no good games and was playing horribly, but his horrible is still good enough to beat IM Daniel Fernandez and draw IM Irina Krush. Igor Sorkin of Israel drew GMs Jesse Kraai and Sergey Kudrin and IM Dean Ippolito. 

Darwin Yang vs. Leonid Yudasin, Photo Dujiu Yang 
The flip side of the kids’ success is that the GMs are failing, and not just one or two. By round six, every grandmaster (excepting Alex Stripunsky) had given up at least 1.5 points: GM Sergey Kudrin drew Igor Sorkin and Alex Getz before losing to IM Jacek Stopa; GM Giorgi Kacheishvili drew FM Elliot Liu and IM Lev Milman and lost to FM Warren Harper; GM Jaan Ehlvest drew FM Darwin Yang and lost to IM Oliver Barbosa; GM Zbyneil Hracek lost to Marc Esserman and drew IM Lev Milman; GM Jesse Kraai drew Igor Sorkin and lost to IM Marc Arnold; GM Leonid Yudasin was beaten by both Darwin Yang and Grigory Braylovskiy; IM Alex Lenderman (who, at 2630, was 4th seed) lost to IMs Marc Arnold and Leonid Gerzhoy.

This is great news, since upsets should mean lots of norms, right? IM Oliver Barbosa, Polish IM Jacek Stopa and IM Sam Shankland  have chances for GM norms if they continue to score well and can avoid being paired too far down. But some other American players may face problems for two reasons:
1)    Since many of the GMs lost early, the top scorers are not playing especially high rated opposition.
2)    The scarcity of foreigners. To get a norm, FIDE requires that you play 4 players from a different federation (although this requirement is waived for individuals if there are more than 20 foreign players in the tournament as a whole and 10 of them are male or female GMs or IMs). There are 13 (out of 55) foreign players in New York, but seven of them are rated below 2400, and thus unlikely to be paired with the leaders, and three more are low-scoring GMs.

IM Sam Shankland, has played three foreigners (including his seventh round game against Barbosa, scheduled for Noon EST Monday) so with 5/6 he is very much in contention for a norm.
Sam shows Daniel Fernandez, Kassa Korley, and myself his fourth round win against Canadian IM Leonid Gerzhoy.

The NY International is the first leg of Sam’s summer chess marathon. From here he will go to Philadelphia for the Philadelphia International and the World Open (that’s 27 games in 17 days!). He then gets a five-day break before the start of the US Junior Closed in Milwaukee, followed immediately by the Chicago Class Championship.

On the last move of time control, Gerzhoy blundered with 40… Bg4. How does White win material?

Show Solution

Barbosa.jpgIM Oliver Barbosa was proud of his win over GM Jaan Ehlvest. “The middlegame was very tricky, but we both saw some precise moves. Then I was in a slightly complicated endgame up an exchange, but he had a knight outpost on d3, so it was hard to move my rooks. But I found a sacrifice against the pawn on c4 that was defending the knight, and after that I was doing well."


A stereotype I hear frequently in the chess world is that Filipinos are tricky, tactical players. Although I was a little worried that the question would sound rude and/or racist, I asked Oliver if he gave any credence to this idea about a national style. He agreed that the characterization sounded true, and suggested a possible reason: economic conditions in the Philippines mean that most masters don’t have time to study middlegames or endgames in depth, and just play lots of blitz and look at openings. Barbosa contrasted this with the situation of former Soviet players, who have had a far more organized, comprehensive chess education. I asked Oliver if he would describe himself a tactical player, and he hesitated, then disagreed: “When I play I just try to think of every possible move, and I don’t take chances on moves that aren’t required by the position. In a choice between a safe, good move, and a sacrifice, I usually choose the non-sacrifice, although my tactics are ok, I think."

IM Alex Lenderman
IM Alex Lenderman was disappointed with his performance and withdrew after round five to rest for the Philadelphia International (June 25-29). “In every game I made one move that looked ok, but just destroyed my position, structurally.”

IM Irina Krush
IM Irina Krush was disappointed with her performance overall, but cheerful when I spoke to her, having just won a fifteen move miniature against master Jeffrey Haskel. “I especially wanted to win this game,” she joked, “to avoid being sent to play in that foul-smelling room downstairs!” (An electrical problem at the Marshall meant that the bottom ten boards played downstairs. Some players felt the room had an unusually unpleasant odor.) Irina explained that she was especially happy to be back and playing in New York again: “I love playing at the Marshall. I have a lot of childhood memories here. I can see myself as a little girl here, sitting in this same chair, walking down the same staircase.”


Look for a final report on the New York International later this week and watch the final games live on the Internet Chess Club , or check the Marshall Chess Club website for games and results.