Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2009 arrow March arrow Esserman and Sadvakasov Thrill in Sturbridge
Esserman and Sadvakasov Thrill in Sturbridge Print E-mail
By Chris Bird   
March 10, 2009
Marc Esserman, All photos Chris Bird
In weekend Swiss tournaments, so often the final round is anticlimactic with the top board, and one or two others, agreeing to peacefully end their weekend and secure some prize money for their efforts.  The CCA's Eastern Class Championships held in the old rural village of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, this past weekend, March 6-8, was anything but your typical finish. It produced one of the most thrilling conclusions to a tournament I have had the pleasure to watch.

After all the excitement GM Darmen Sadvakasov and local fan favorite Marc Esserman, who has all his IM norms but not the necessary 2400 FIDE rating to receive the title, shared first place and pocketed around $1,200 each.

The 5th and final round saw six players tied at the top with 3 points.  Local Senior Master, Denys Shmelov, had already requested a half-point bye which left five players battling it out for the money.  On board one was the all GM match-up of Giorgi Kacheisvili and Sadvakasov, board two saw Esserman against GM Alex Shabalov while on board three another local player, FM Paul MacIntyre got "dropped" a score group to play the highest player on 2½, GM Sergey Kudrin.

As the three games progressed, it was very clear from all the positions that nobody was willing to accept a quick draw and some dynamic, fascinating positions were quickly achieved.  The first of the three to finish was Kudrin-MacIntyre as the FM succumbed to the GMs constant pressure, eventually falling into a pretty finish from the Connecticut GM.


Position after 46...Qf6

Although there are plenty of moves that are winning, Kudrin played the very aesthetic 47.e5! forcing an immediate resignation.  The key idea is that if 47...Qxd6 then 48.Bc2+ is mate next move.

The next game to finish was an absolutely great performance from Boston Blitz star player, Marc Esserman, against Shabalov.  Esserman boldly played Shabalov's own variation against him in the Semi-Slav and then accurately punished him for the slightest of inaccuracies, consecutively finding an amazing number of best moves towards the end of the first time control with very few minutes remaining.  It was amazing to see the awe on the faces of the large crowd that had gathered to watch the finish as Esserman uncorked what seemed like a number of speculative moves, at least to my untrained eyes.  However, he had everything under control and as the first time control was reached, Shabalov was forced to resign.


Esserman, Marc - Shabalov, Alexander [D45]

Eastern Class Ch. Sturbridge, MA (5), 08.03.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4
Esserman plays in his usual swashbuckling style.  Shabalov is a well known expert on either side of this position and this is commonly known as the Shabalov Variation.
7...h6 8.h3 b5!?
Shabalov plays a rare line that had been tried a couple of times last year, possibly trying to get Esserman out of his opening theory.  More popular options are Qe7, dxc4, e5 or a6.
9.cxb5 c5 10.Bg2
10.Bd2 is the only move that has been tried previously, the most commonly known game continuing 10...Bb7 11.Rg1 Rc8 12.g5 hxg5 13.Nxg5 0-0 14.0-0-0 Qb6 15.Kb1 cxd4 16.exd4 Qxd4 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Bh6 Rxc3 19.bxc3 Qh4 20.Rxg7+ Kh8 21.Qg6 1-0 Vallejo Pons,F (2650)-Roiz,M (2680)/Cala Mayor ESP 2008
10...Bb7 11.0-0 Rc8 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Nd4 Bb8 14.Rd1 0-0 15.Bd2 Qd6 16.Be1 Rfd8 17.Rac1 e5?! 18.Nf5 Qe6 19.Ne2 e4 20.Ned4 Qe5 21.f4 exf3 22.Nxf3 Qe8 23.Bb4 Na6 24.Bc3 d4
Shabalov is forced to jettison another pawn as all other variations are bad, 24...Qxb5 25.Ne7+; 24...Nb4 25.Qb3; 24...Nc5 25.Bxf6 gxf6 26.Nxh6+
25.N3xd4 Nb4 26.Qe2 Bxg2 27.Qxg2 Nxa2

Position after 27...Na2


A very strong move to find in a complicated position, which sent Shabalov into deep thought.
28...Nxc1 29.Rxc1!
29.Nxd8 Rxd8 30.Rxc1 is still probably slightly better for White but Esserman finds the most chaotic move, which is also good.  Esserman seems to thrive in these crazy positions, which he seems to achieve in 99% of his games!
29...Nd5 30.Bd4!
The hits keep coming as Esserman continuously finds the most challenging continuation, which is magnified by both players having little time left to make it to move 40.
A mistake in a difficult position although not an obvious one, at least not until you see the finish coming!
31.Nxh6+ Kh7
Position after 31...Kh7

32.Qf2! f6 33.g5!

And the hits just keep coming!  Amazing play by Esserman with everything on the line and only a few minutes remaining on his clock.
33...Be5 34.Bxe5 fxe5 35.Nf7 Nf4
35...Rd7 is not much better 36.Qh4+ Kg7 37.Nfxe5 Rd6 38.Qd4
36.Qh4+ Kg7 37.Nfxd8 Ne2+ 38.Kf2 Nxc1 39.Qh6+ Kg8
Position after 39...Kg8


The final shot, right at the time control.
40...Qxe7 41.Qxg6+ 1-0

I must admit that this game was worth the price of admission on its own but when you add into that another fascinating game and finish up on board one, the spectators felt just as much like winners as the victors on the boards.

Poor Kacheishvili had just finished a grueling 6 hour battle in round four against Kudrin when he had to immediately get ready for a final round showdown against Sadvakasov.  Not only was his previous game so long, but after blundering his queen he managed to go from a lost position, to one with drawing chances, and then to a won position only to mishandle the rook and pawn ending leading to an eventual draw.  He was exhausted but big kudos to the likeable GM for somehow managing to maintain his usual friendly demeanor.

His opponent, Sadvakasov, had meanwhile agreed to a quick draw in round four against good friend Shabalov and had gone back to bed to rest up and get prepared for whoever he would face in the final round.
GMs Darmen Sadvakasov and Georgi Kacheishvili

The board one showdown was the last game of the night to finish and, after some slow careful maneuvering and planning, it evolved into a tactical melee with Sadvakasov eventually sacrificing a piece for an attack.  The game should have been drawn with correct play but Kacheishvili, maybe feeling the effects of approximately eleven and a half continuous hours at a chess board, blundered and Sadvakasov managed to weave a devastating mating net and show just how effective a combination of queen and rook can be.


Kacheishvili, Giorgi - Sadvakasov,Darmen [E13]

Eastern Class Ch. Sturbridge, MA (5), 08.03.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Bg5 Bb7 6.Bh4 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 8.e3 Nbd7 9.Be2 h6 10.0-0 Qe7 11.Nd2 e5 12.Qc2 g5 13.Bg3 h5

I guess Sadvakasov was in no mood to hide his intentions.
14.h4 Rg8 15.hxg5 Rxg5 16.d5
Closing the a8-h1 diagonal and making it hard for the b7 bishop to join the attack.
16...Qf8 17.Bh4 Rg8 18.Ne4 Qg7 19.Ng3 0-0-0 20.Bd3 Rde8 21.f3 Nc5 22.Bf5+ Kb8 23.e4 Qh6
Both sides slowly maneuver pieces onto what they think are their best squares.  However, the direct 23...Ba6 may have given Black an edge due to 24.Qe2 Qh6 25.Bh3 Nxd5! 26.exd5 Qf4.
24.Bh3 Nh7 25.Nf5 Qg6 26.Ne3
Teasing White into winning the exchange by 26.Ne7 but after 26...Rxe7 27.Bxe7 f6 28.Bf5 Qg7 29.Bxh7 Qxh7 30.Bxf6 h4 31.Qd2 (31.Qf2? loses to 31...Rg6 32.Bxh4 (32.Qxh4 Rh6 33.Qg5 Nd3) 32...Nd3) 31...Ba6 Black's attack is well worth the sacrificed material.
26...Nf8 27.Kf2 Qh7 28.Rh1 Ng6 29.Bf5 Qg7 30.Ke2 Nf4+ 31.Kf1 Qh6 32.Rd1 Ba6 33.Rh2 Ng6 34.Bf2 Qg5 35.Rd2 Ne7 36.Bh3 Qf4
Black definitely seems to have got the better of the maneuvering battle as most of his pieces seem to be doing something while White's just seem to be moving.
37.Rh1 Ref8 38.Ke1 f5!?
Obviously a critical move and played at such a cruel moment as Kacheishvili only had a couple of minutes to reach the time control.
39.Nxf5 Nxf5 40.Bxf5 Bxc4 41.Bxc5 dxc5 42.Kd1 Rg3 43.Re1 Rfg8 44.Be6
Position after 44.Be6

Not necessary but a fascinating idea!
45.Bxg8?! Qxf3+ 46.Kc1 (46.Rde2? Bxe2+ 47.Rxe2 Rg1+ 48.Kd2 c4!) 46...Rxg8 and Black has to be better here.
45...Qxf3+ 46.Rge2 Rg2 47.Qd2
Here Sadvakasov went into a deep think.  He is a rook down although he will win the exchange back.  I'm not sure whether he was trying to calculate the win or work out how to force a draw!
47...Bd3 48.Qe3 Bxe2+ 49.Rxe2 Qf1+ 50.Kd2 Rg1 51.Kd3??
A horrible mistake.  It appears White has nothing better here than forcing a draw by 51.Re1 Rg2+ 52.Re2 Rg1; or 51.Qf2 Qd1+ 52.Ke3 Qc1+ 53.Kd3 Rf1 54.Qg2 Qd1+
51...Qd1+ 52.Rd2
52.Kc4 leads to mate after 52...Qa4+ 53.Kd3 c4+ 54.Kd2 Qd1#

Position after 52.Rd2

52...c4+! 53.Kxc4 Qa4+

It looks at first like Black is just checking the White king but he is methodically weaving a mating attack.
54.Kd3 Qa6+ 55.Kc2 Qxa2+ 56.Kd3 Qa6+ 57.Kc2 Qa4+ 58.Kd3 Qb5+ 0-1

Everything leads to mate or heavy material losses for White, e.g. 58...Qb5+ 59.c4 Qb1+ 60.Rc2 (60.Kc3 Rc1+; 60.Ke2 Qf1#) 60...Qb3+ 61.Kd2 (61.Rc3 Qd1+ 62.Qd2 Rg3#) 61...Rg2+

GM Darmen Sadvakasov
After this game had finished I was amazed that both Kacheishvili and Sadvakasov stayed at the board for another 20 minutes going through line after line at the end, joking with each other about how crazy the position was and the fact that it appeared Black was winning in the majority of variations.  I wish I had got it on video as both GMs continuously laughed at the many possibilities that existed while they put on an analysis exhibition to the numerous people that had stayed to enjoy the finish.

I previously mentioned Kudrin and Kacheishvili's topsy-turvy encounter from round 4 and in a way that game shaped the final round.  If Kacheishvili had eventually won, he would have been a half-point ahead of everyone and so would have been more willing to acquiesce to a quick draw in the final round, opponent willing of course.

In the game Kacheishvili sacrificed a pawn for an attack on Kudrin's king which had castled queenside.  Definite compensation existed, especially with rooks on the open b and c files, pointing straight at White's king.  Then, suddenly, Kacheishvili miscalculated and blundered his queen!


Position after 27.g4

Position after 27.g4

27...Qh7 is the best move but according to the computer, which you can usually trust in a position such as this, it only leads to a forced draw, e.g. 28.b3 Rbc8 29.Nc4 Rxc4 30.bxc4 Rb8+ 31.Ka1 Bb2+ 32.Kb1 Ba3+ (32...Bxd4+? 33.Kc2) 33.Ka1 Bb2+ After this game had finished, Kacheishvili and I looked at this position for about 15 minutes trying to find a forced win for Black that he felt must be there.  He had seen the entire line above but couldn't find the killer blow, mainly because it wasn't there!
Amazingly after the game Kacheishvili admitted to me he so busy calculating all the many variations in the position that he just forgot his queen was enprise!
28...Bxd4+ forces White to give his queen back 29.Qb3 Rxb3+ 30.axb3 Bxe5 31.fxe6 fxe6 but Kacheishvili must have looked at this position and decided he didn't want to defend an exchange down.  Either that or he looked at the move he played and thought he had something better.
29.Kc2 Bxe1+ 30.Nc4 Nxf2 31.Rhxe1!
Giving the queen back and just maintaining an extra piece, assuming Kacheishvili takes it...
One last attempt to complicate and it works.
32.Qf1! Rcxc4+ 33.Kd2 Rb2+ 34.Ke3 Rc3+ 35.Kf4 Nh3+ 36.Ke5 Rf2 37.fxe6 the White king has escaped all the checks and this should be easy to convert.
32...Rcxc4+ 33.Kd2 Rb2+ 34.Ke3 Rc3+ 35.Kf4 Rxf3+ 36.Kxf3 Nxd1 37.fxe6 fxe6 38.Rxd1 Rxa2
38...Rb5 After the game Kacheishvili said this position was easily winning for him and I'm not in any position to argue against his rook and pawn endgame knowledge.
39.d5 Kf7
Position after Kf7


Now it is Kudrin's turn to find a saving grace.  The position should now amazingly be drawn.

40...Ra3+ 41.Ke4 Ke8 42.Rg1 Kd7 43.Rxg7+ Kxd6 44.Rh7 Ra4+ 45.Kf3 Ke5 46.Rxh6 Rf4+ 47.Ke3 a5 48.Rh8 Rh4 49.h6 a4 50.h7 a3 51.Kf3 Rf4+ 52.Kg3 Rf7 53.Ra8 Rg7+ 54.Kf2 Rxh7 ½-½

Just a half-point behind the winners were Kudrin and Shmelov while a stack of players finished with 3 points.  FM John Curdo, Sergey Vertkin and Deepak Aaron were amongst the mass of 3 pointers and they shared the Under 2300 class prize.

Here is one of Shmelov's best efforts from the weekend, an instructive victory on the White side of a Benoni.  Sometimes Black is too eager to sacrifice a pawn on b5 in order to open lines on the queenside and in this case Shmelov provides the perfect example of grabbing the material and hanging onto it.


Here is the complete list of winners from the other sections:

Expert: Jason Spector and Daniel Rozonsky

Class A: Embert Lin

Class B: Robert Denunzio

Class C: Richard Chang

Class D: Catherine Ryan

Class E: Brian Eibert and Zachary Coombs

Check out complete rated results on MSA.

Photo Gallery

The lake near the hotel was frozen over even though temperatures reached 60 degrees over the weekend, a far cry from last year’s snow storm.

GM Arthur Bisguier, who recently relocated to Massachusetts.  Bisguier scored 1 point out of 2 in the 2-day schedule then withdrew.

David Harris and Marc Esserman relax after round 3.  They played each other in round 2 with Esserman coming out on top.  Anyone got a razor?
Legendary journalist Harold Dondis, writer of the chess column in the Boston Globe.


Chris Bird over the board, and not organizing, for a change.



March - Chess Life Online 2009

Twitter TestWall Street Brings Chess to Main StreetWatch Entries From the SuperNationals Video Challenge Take a Tour of the OprylandHilton on Ohio States, SuperNationals and BeyondKosteniuk Simuls: From New York to Nashville The Final Four for the Last Spot in St.Louis Further Details on USCF Call for USCF Sales Vendor Bids Silhouette ContestThe Last Spot in Saint Louis Aronian Takes Amber; Kamsky Ties for First in RapidKamsky and Topalov Trade Thrills Call for Bids for USCF SalesReport to the USCF Membership Regarding Current LitigationThe Uncrowned: Fine, Benko and KaidanovCollege Chess in America: Luciana Morales on Final Four Secrets Kamsky Splits With Wang Yue; Faces Topalov Tomorrow The 2009 U.S. Championship Contenders Review of Chess: Lessons From a Grandmaster Abby Marshall on the Virginia ScholasticsACA Beasts Take U.S. Amateur Team Playoffs In Texas, Hess Wins First Place; Earns Second Norm Kamsky Back on Top in RapidsKamsky and Kramnik Make Two DrawsDetails on Kosteniuk NYC SimulHess on Fire in Texas Kamsky Climbs to Rapid Lead Kasparov on Fostering American TalentGM Joel on the Polar Bear Pairings up for U.S. Amateur Team Playoffs Pair of Draws in Kamsky-Ivanchuk White House Chess Challenge Spring Invitational Kicks off at Texas TechKamsky Holding Own in AmberSchedule Set for 2009 SuperNationalsNashville SuperNationals Video Challenge 13-Year-Old Naroditsky Wows in Concord2009 U.S. Women's Championship Set for October in Saint LouisSuper-Simuls at the Super-NationalsEsserman and Sadvakasov Thrill in SturbridgeIrina Krush on Gibraltar Highs and LowsNaroditsky Leads in Concord Big Opens Kick Off on Both Coasts Chess and Art in IcelandJennifer on Nashville, Duchamp and the Dragon GM Joel on Time Management Perelshteyn Wins Virginia Open GM Melik Annotates an Aeroflot Win