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Norm-Hunters Charge New York International Print E-mail
By Matan Prilleltensky   
June 20, 2010
“We do have (Capablanca’s) table, (Fischer) artifacts, photographs . . . Marshall played so many games and lectured here. . . but we’re not a museum. We play chess.” – Dr. Frank Brady, Marshall Chess Club President

13 Grandmasters. 15 International Masters. 47 players over 2200 FIDE. All the foreigners necessary for norms. Held from June 18th -22nd, the New York International is one of the strongest tournaments in the history of the venerable Marshall Chess Club. 

The 76-player crosstable was headed by three strong Indian Grandmasters: Surya Ganguly (2672 FIDE), Pentala Harikrishna (2660), and Chanda Sandipan (2640). Former world #3 Jaan Ehlvest (2591) came in at #4, a drastic illustration of the top-heavy field! Other Grandmasters include Hess (2590), Shabalov (2585), DeFirmian (2549) and six others.

Of course, chess games are won not on paper, but on the board. Dr. Brady sees this tournament as helping strong young Americans fight for norms, and he has not been disappointed: Local players are running an upset factory, tagging strong grandmasters for half and full points every round.

Kassa Korley vs. GM Surya Ganguly, Photo Ron Anderson

Kassa Korley gave the tournament an explosive start, beating top seed Ganguly on the famed “Fischer board."


An excellent game from the New York City talent.

Ron Anderson from the Marshall Chess Club interviewed Kassa outside the club on his big win.

Ganguly’s compatriot on board 2, GM Harikrishna was held to a draw with white by Ildar Salakhutdinov.


IM Sal Bercys announced his GM norm challenge in round 3, defeating GM Falko Bindrich in style. His postgame comments are included.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Be2 Nbd7 8.0-0 Ne4

As soon as he played this, I assumed it was fine for Black. . . I didn’t know, but I assumed.
9.g3 Nd6
 I spent 40 minutes on this. I just didn’t know what my plan was supposed to be after he moved his knight to d6.
10…hxg6 11.c5 Nf5 12.b4

Basically, I went for the space advantage.
I was very happy to see …e5, it goes into a forced line where I am better.
Now if (13…Nxe5 then 14.e4 dxe4 15.Bf4 Nd3 16.Bxd3 exd3 17.Re1+ Be7 18.g4.)
13…a5 14.e4 dxe4 15.Nxe4 axb4 16.Bg5
The idea of Bg5 was to block the queen from h4; he has to play Be7.
16…Be7 17.Nd6+ Nxd6 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.exd6 Qg5
Probably the only move; everything else seems to lose very fast.
20. Bg4
Forcing long castles, but that plays into my advantage.
20…0-0-0 21.Re1 Qxc5 22.Re7 f5 23.Rc1 Qb6 24.Bf3

If 24…Rxh2 25.Qd2 wins; I don’t care about giving that pawn.
24…Kb8 25.Qd2
Here I think 25.Qe1 would have been better to keep control of the e-file.
If 25…Rhe8 I didn’t see a forced win.
I think he missed this.
26…Qc5 27.Qxb4 Qxb4 28.Rxb4 Rxd6 29.Rexb7+ Ka8 30.R7b6 Ka7 31.Bc6 Rd5 32.Rb7+ Ka6 33.R4b6+ Ka5 34.Bxd5 Nxd5 35. Rb3 1-0

Not a bad way to beat a strong young Grandmaster!

IM Marc Esserman vs. GM Joel Benjamin, Photo Ron Anderson

Another GM norm-hunter, IM Marc Esserman, kick-started his campaign with a brilliant attack against GM Joel Benjamin in round 4. Annotations are based on Esserman’s comments after the game.

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Bc4 e6

Heading for an improved hippopotamus, playing against the light squared bishop.
5.Bb3 Nd7 6.Bg5 Ne7 7.Qd2
Now he can’t castle, because of Bh6.
7…h6 8.Be3 b6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.0-0 Nf6 11.d5

Now there are two ways for Black to play: The KID style …e5, or the more dynamic (and risky!) move played in the game.
11…exd5 12.exd5

So white’s d-pawn is a target, but Black is behind in development and can’t castle.
12…a6 13.Re1
No …Nf5 for now.
13…Kf8 14.Re2 Kg8 15.Rae1

Threatening Bxb6
15…b5 16.Bf4 Nf5 17.a3 Qd7 18.h3

Now one way for Black to seek counterplay was …g5 and …g4. Instead, the game saw:
18…h5 19.Ne4
Marc wasn’t sure about possible complications (this move offers a 2 pawn sacrifice), but thought white would have a strong attack. In the game, his attack was very strong indeed!
19…Nh7 20.c3 Re8 21.Nfg5 f6 22.Nc5!
22...Rxe2 23.Qxe2
if 23…Qc8 24.Qe8+ Qxe8 25.Rxe8+ Nf8 26.Nxb7 + -
23…dxc5 24.d6+ c4 25.Bxc4+! bxc4 26.Qxc4+ Kf8 27.Re7 resigns 1-0

Organizing a star-studded tournament like this is no small undertaking, and there is lots of credit to go around. Since the tournament’s inception, an anonymous donor has put up part of the prize fund. Along with Dr. Frank Brady, club manager Dr. Marcus Fenner worked hard to bring this field together. Dr. Fenner's resume includes helping privatize East German companies after German reunification, consulting work in the United States, and a PhD from Fordham in financial economics. This polyglot fell in love with the Marshall soon after becoming a member, and helped make this tournament “an attractive experience to players from all over the world.”

Indeed, the New York International offers no conditions. Apparently the chance to play a strong field at the Yankee Stadium of chess is plenty attractive. Dr. Brady observed that many out of town players have told him how honored they were just to be at the tournament. 

Of course, the locals are not always hospitable. Another big upset was delivered in rd 4 by Evan Rosenberg, who started his giant-killing run by knocking off IM Romanenko the previous round.

So, where do we stand at the halfway point? Going into round 4, Ehlvest, DeFirmian, Bercys, and Schneider were all perfect. Only GM DeFirmian managed to stay that way, beating IM Bercys on board 2.


IM Bercys vs. Nick DeFirmian, Photo Ron Anderson

The seasoned warrior sits alone atop the field, with a hungry chasing pack itching to overtake him. I’ll be back on Tuesday with upsets, norms, a tournament winner, and more on the people who make the Marshall tick. Expect blood on the board!

August - Chess Life Online 2008

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