Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2007 arrow November arrow All About Ray in Chicago
All About Ray in Chicago Print E-mail
By Todd Andrews   
November 6, 2007
Ray Robson. Photo Betsy Dynako.
 As I cruised back into Nashville from Chicago, a large billboard advertising the Ray Charles exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame contained the headline: "It's the Right Time for Ray." I felt it was fitting as I ended my first trip to a North American Chess Association FIDE event (Oct.28-Nov.3.) It certainly was all about Ray Robson as not only did he win clear first in the event, he was also the only participant to make an IM norm, for which 6.5 points was necessary.

Final Standings

1. FM Ray Robson (IM norm)- 7/9
2. IM David Vigorito- 6.5/9
3. FM Mehmed Pasalic -5.5/9
4. FM Todd Andrews- 5/9
5-8. IM Stephen Muhammad, IM Angelo Young, FM Igor Tsyganov and Dale Haessel-4/9
9. FM Albert Chow- 3.5/9
10.WIM Ludmila Mokriak-1.5/9.0

Ray turned 13 just before the start of the tournament, but already possessed a remarkable 2368 FIDE rating. Ray came off as quiet and kind of shy at first, but as he became more comfortable, he became more talkative. He is a very nice and well-mannered young man. He did not even seem to get upset when I was barking at him to take a draw in our first round endgame of opposite-colored bishops. There is no question to Ray’s natural ability. He must be the most talented young player in country, but his work ethic seems to be just as strong, if not better. In the following game, Ray took out IM David Vigorito in a game that Dave actually prepared Ray for! David tried to surprise Ray with the Lowenthal variation of the open Sicilian. However, Ray had seen the very lecture that Dave gave online and used his own knowledge against him.


Cell-Phone Gate

Vigorito was the second IM in a row that Ray had taken out in fact. In round seven, Ray defeated IM Angelo Young – well, kind of. On move 13, the game suddenly ends if you check out monroi.com where all the games are listed. Suddenly the silence of the Touch Move Chess Center was interrupted by a repetitive beeping noise. It was Angelo’s alarm clock that had been set for some reason. So Sevan frantically called any FIDE arbiter he could get a hold of to get a ruling, because the FIDE laws say that if a player’s cell phone rings, he must be forfeited. While it did not technically ring, it did make a noise and it was ruled that the game was lost.

Of course, this is going to allow the naysayers of the chess world to challenge Ray’s accomplishment, but the young man never made any claim and it was the director that handed out the forfeit. Rules are rules and I have seen Grandmasters and IM alike forfeited in similar situations. In my eyes, this does not at all take away from his feat – the IM norm was well deserved. Congratulations to Ray! I am sure the other norms will be soon to follow.

My Norm-Hunt

After a pitiful first half of the event, I was able to get into my groove and played some nice games. I had to score 5/5 to get the norm though, which was not very realistic. I got off on the right foot though with this nice victory over my good friend, IM Stephen Muhammad.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7 7.Re1 Bc5 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6 10.a4 0–0 11.h3 h6 12.Na3?!
Position after 12.Na3

Not found in my opening book. I am going to refrain from offering too much about my opening investigation - Stephen and I play too often for me to be offering his opening secrets on a silver platter.
 12...exd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.Bc2 b4 15.Nb1 c5 16.d5 c4
Stephen said this was some analysis of his, but I believe that white has already gone wrong in the opening. Now I can only rely on typical Ruy maneavuers and hope that Stephen does not find the best continuations.
17.Nbd2 Re8?!
 Black should proceed with his queenside operations. While ...Re8 is a reasonable choice. ..it seems like a waste of time when black could be pursuing more favorable conditions on the queenside than he already has achieved.
 18.Nf1 Qc7 19.Bd2 Bc5 20.Ng3 Bc8 21.Nh4 Bd4 22.Bc1

Position after 22.Bc1

22...Be5 Stephen offered this as an improvement - offering White to juicy opportunity to push the bishop around. 23.f4 Bxb2! 24.Bxb2 c3
(24...b3 25.Bxf6±)25.Bc1 b3 26.Be3 (26.Bxb3 Qb6+) 26...Rb8 and White blockades the pawns best he can and continue to offer up the return of the piece.
 23.Be3 Bxe3 24.Rxe3 Re5 25.Nf3!

Position after 25.Nf3

The return of the knight to f3 is the strongest idea. From the d4 square (where the knight is clearly headed), the white knight will find far more options at his disposal. From h4, his options are limited to the f5 square alone - situating your pieces to get the most out of them by offering them more opportunities is a simple way of improving any position.
25...Re8 26.Nd4 Bd7
26...b3 may kill the flexibility of the black queenside pawns - however, this is necessary for Black. Now Black can count on equality, because of the hindered bishop on b1 - which in turn hinders and completely eliminates white's rook on a1. Even if black's pieces are not so great - he can count on White having to guys out for quite a while. 27.Bb1 Re5 28.Qd2 Bd7 29.Ngf5 Rae8 30.Rg3 Bxf5 31.Nxf5 Rxf5 and idea similar to the game. Which the computer agrees with. 32.exf5 Kf8 and now Black hunkers down and white's pieces on the queenside offer no real winning chance.
Making sure that my rook does get trapped on a1 like in some previously mentioned variations. White now enjoys a comfortable edge. 27...Rac8 28.Ngf5 Re5
28...Kf8 29.Rg3?29.Qf3! with the idea of Qf4 29...Nxe4 30.Bxe4 Rxe4 and the pawn on g7 is protected indirectly.
29.Rg3 Bxf5 30.Nxf5 Rxf5 31.exf5 Qxd5 32.Qxd5 Nxd5 33.Rd1 Rc5 34.f6!

Position after 34.f6

Open the bishop's diagonal, creating threats on g7 and playing on the fact that behind the black knight on d5 resides a weak pawn. 34...b3 35.Bb1?!
35.Rxg7+ Kf8 36.Bb1 c3 37.bxc3 Nxc3 (37...Nxf6 38.Rg3 d5 39.Rf3 Kg7 and White still has some work to do, but the advantage of the exchange should prove enough.) 38.Rxd6 Nb7 39.Rd7
 35...g6 36.Rf3
 The computer comes up with the best line 36...c3! 36...Nc6? [36...c3! 37.bxc3 forced. 37...Nxc3 38.Re1 Kh7 39.Rfe3 Nxb1 40.Rxb1 g5 and the idea of activating the black king may even leave black with an advantage.]
37.Be4 Ncb4 38.Re1
Creating the threat of Bxg6 - followed by f6-f7+ and Re1–e8.
38...Nc2 39.Rd1 Ncb4=
39.Rc1 Rc5 40.a5 c3
40...Nc7 to try and get the pawns rolling with ...d6-d5. 41.Re3 d5? (41...Kf8!) 42.Rxb3!
 41.bxc3 Na2 42.Re1 Ndxc3 43.Bxg6 Kf8 44.Bh7 b2 45.Rfe3 Re5 46.Rxe5 dxe5 47.Rxe5! b1Q+ 48.Bxb1 Nxb1

Position after 48..Nxb1

 I missed a nice move here though - of course, my move wins but not its not as pretty as...49.Rb5!!
 49.Rc5 Nd2 50.Rc2 1–0

I must add that Stephen did take the majority of our many blitz series over the course of the week. Next up, I had to take down FM Albert Chow to keep my norm hopes alive. It was not meant to be as I became impatient and missed the best continuation to keep my winning chances alive. I was, in fact, fortunate to even draw this game.


1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 Nc6 7.d3 Nge7 8.Rb1 0–0 9.a3 a5 10.Ne1 Be6 11.Nd5 Rb8 12.Nc2 b5 13.Bd2 Bxd5 14.cxd5 Nd4 15.b4 Nxc2 16.Qxc2 cxb4 17.axb4 Rc8 18.Qa2 a4 19.Rfc1 Qb6 20.Bg5 f6 21.Be3 Qb8 22.Rxc8 Rxc8 23.Rc1 Rxc1+ 24.Bxc1 Qc7 25.Bd2 f5 26.Kf1 Nc8 27.Ke1 Nb6 28.Kd1

Position after 28.Kd1

This is the late-middlegame position that occurred in my Norm-elimination game vs. FM Al Chow. Black has some interesting ideas to try and ram the a-pawn forward some way.
 28...e4! 29.Qc2
 White can't surrender the c4 square yet. 29.dxe4 Qc4 30.Qxc4 (30.Qa3 Qd4 and black is winning with threats of ...Nc4 and ...Qb2) 30...Nxc4 and white must play Bc1xa3 to stop the passer.
29...Qxc2+! The exchange of queen's must be considered. I did not give much merit to it at the time of the game. I was too busy trying to work Albert's time pressure with feeble attempts to complicate matters. 30.Kxc2 exd3+ 31.exd3 (31.Kxd3? loses instantly to the a-pawn running.) 31...Bd4 32.Be3 Bxe3 33.fxe3 Kf7 and Black has an advantage thanks to the outside passer and the poorly placed pawn on d5 that hinders the scope of white's bishop.
 30.dxe4 Qc4?
I thought this move wasn't much of a gamble, but it turns out that it is. Again, I was focusing too much on playing against Al's time situation and not the demands of the position. My mentality was that if I played the most complicated moves possible, then perhaps it would crack. Albert responded well with exclam after exclam though.
31.Qxc4! bxc4 32.exf5 32...Nb6 33.Kc2 gxf5 ½–½

With my norm chances gone, I looked forward to the opportunity to play some strong opponents. I went all out in my next game, sacrificing to the point where it becomes nearly reckless.


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4
The Fischer-Sozin type attacks have taken a backseat to the typical Richter-Rauzer lines with 6. Bg5 instead. Most of my knowledge in this line comes from what I have absorbed watching my good friend, (IM) Emory Tate play it. Of course, knowing the games of its namesake Bobby is essential before tossing it out on 2400 FIDE's.
6...e6 7.Be3 a6 8.Bb3 Be7 9.Qe2 Qc7
 Now White makes the first mistake. More usual moves here at 10. 0–0–0 (the most consistent) and 10.f4 or even the interesting 10.Rg1!? planning g2-g4 are better.
I played this move very quickly and Pasalic went into a deep think (30–40 minutes or so). I suppose that the quickness and confidence in which I played this inaccurate move might have influenced my opponent's decision not to take the g4 pawn. Of course, the materialistic computer thinks that it is best.
 A little too timid for this type of position. Now white's development continues unhindered. [10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 e5 Double-attacking the d4 bishop and the g4 pawn. 12.Be3 Bxg4 13.f3 Be6 14.0–0–0 and the open g-file offers some form of compensation, but probably not quite enough. If white is able to take advantage of his positional grip on the d5 square (the weakness caused by ...e6-e5 to win the pawn) may be stronger than the open file in the long run.]
11.Rg1 g5
 I believe that this is an overreaction to white's kingside plans. Pushing the pawn to g5 creates potential levers and ways to open lines on the kingside where white usually holds the advantage anyway. I know from studying GM games that leaving the pawn on g7 offers more resistance in white's attempts to break through.
12.0–0–0 Na5 13.h4
13.Kb1 is better. 13...b5 14.f3 Nxb3 15.cxb3 Bb7 16.Rc1=
13...Rg8 14.hxg5 hxg5 15.Kb1 b5

Position after 15...b5

Before my next move occurs, allow me to explain my thoughts. Every opening has a "spirit" associated with it. The spirit of the Velimirovic Attack is to set up all your pieces, remove your king from harm with Kc1–b1 and the break out some super-sharp sacrifice to put as much pressure on white as possible. Playing this sort of sacrifice is not only an idea to open lines against the opponent's king - but also to take advantage of the lead in development (notice the rook on a8 and the bishop on c8 for example). If I am able to keep my opponent's pieces from getting active, then that may be worth the material alone. So I played...
16.Bxg5!? Rxg5 17.f4 Nxb3 18.fxg5
18.Nxe6! is possible, but I want to remain true to my plan of not allowing or inviting his pieces into the game. 18...Bxe6 19.fxg5 Nd4 20.Rxd4 Qc5
18...Nxd4 19.Qh2?
19.Qf2 is better. 19...Nxe4 20.Nxe4 e5 21.Rh1 Qc6 22.Rhe1 Bb7 and Black is unraveling.
19...Nf3! 20.Qh8+ Bf8 21.Rgf1 Nxg5 22.Qxf6 Qe7 23.Qd4 Bb7 and once again Black is able to consolidate.
 20.Rxd4 Nf8 21.Rf1 Qc5
21...Bxg5 22.Rxd6 Be7 23.e5 Bb7 (23...Bxd6 24.exd6 Qd7 (24...Qc4 25.Qf2 f5 26.gxf5 exf5 and White should have enough compensation for the piece in some serious complications to come.) 25.Ne4)
 22.Qf2 Kd7 23.Rfd1 Ke8 24.Rf1
Now I played on the fact the Pasalic must win to keep his norm chances alive. An extra off-the-board tactic that comes into play in an event like this.
24...Qxg5 25.Qxf7+ Kd7 26.Rfd1 Kc6 27.e5! d5

27...dxe5 28.Ne4 Qh4 29.R4d3 b4 29...Bb7 30.Qf3 Kc7 31.Rh1 Qf6 32.Rc3+ Kb8 33.Nxf6 Bxf3 34.Rxf3 30.Qf3 Kc7 31.Rh1]
28.Nxd5 exd5 29.Qxd5+ Kc7 30.Qxa8 Bb7 31.Qe8 Qxe5
Not the best defense, but there is little for Black to hope for.
31...Bc6 32.Qh5 Qg8 33.Rf4 and the passers combined with the strong works is more than enough for White to win.
32.Rd7+ 1–0

I finished up with a nice victory over Igor Tysganov in round eight and that was pretty much the end of my tournament. Against his 1.Nf3, I played the The Polish Defence, 1...b5, a line that I prepared in 2006 for the US Chess League.

Position after 1...b5

 I just got tired of getting Nf3-c4ed over and over. Play c4 now!


In the final round against Dale Haessal, I was really hoping to be able to just offer a draw and hit the road for my seven hour drive home. However, I went down in flames, spending hardly any time.

The fighting chess rule kind of had a shady cloud over it in my opinion. First, it seemed that there were some players that were exempt from the rule, while others had to follow it. I know of at least two games that did not make it past move 20. Also, in the final round of an event where there is not really much on the line for either player – a draw offer at any point should be allowed. There are situations in events like this where a quick draw could benefit both players as well. Who is to say that they should not be allowed to agree to this on move 15 if they wish?

IM Angelo Young and the Touch Move Chess Center

Angelo Young with a student. Photo Betsy Dynako

I would like to wrap this blog/article up with a spotlight on Angelo Young who played a big part in hosting the event.  

Todd Andrews (TA): How did you get started in chess? Were you already a very strong
 player when you came to the US or did you learn here?

Angelo Young (AY): I started when I was 9 years old and learned the basic through  my older brother. The Fischer Boom inspired me in the 70's. I became the National Junior Champion in 1982 ( Philippines)  then  national master the following year. I came to the US  in 1991 to  fulfill my chess dreams. My first tournament was the 1991 World Open, in Philadelphia, where I almost had a chance to earn an IM norm.

TA: I also run a chess center in Nashville. It is a lot of fun and very rewarding. How did your club come about? How long has it existed and
 what do you see happening there in the future? Do you agree with me that running a club is some of the best work for pro players like us?

AY-Yes! It is lots of fun and rewarding. This is going to be our first year anniversary. I opened the center last year on  November 5 2006 .
I want to continue working with  Sevan Muradian ( Organizer of the Year ) in promoting and producing more GM and IM norms  in the future and also running more rated events , Blitz every Friday and quads every week.

Running a chess center is great work. The TMCC  is designed to help players  adults and kids hone their skill through various chess tournaments and lectures. We are giving free lectures to TMCC members every Tuesday and Wednesday

: Do you have any big chess successes that you would like to share with us?

AY: My biggest success when I tied for first at the first Foxwoods tournament ahead of several GM's beating Alexander Shabalov in the final round and of course winning the Illinois State Championship for the 6th times including this year 2007.

TA: Any promising students that you have high hopes for?
AY: I have high hopes for all my students because I don't hide anything from them. Many of them improved or raised their rating in a matter of months. I have one student who gained 600 points in a matter of  six months. For instance, CJ Swan ( 11 years old) started his lesson early spring but he is now showing good sign into becoming  very strong player.

TA: Tell us a little bit about your family (wife? children's names? I
 assume that is your mother that helps you run the club, etc.)
AY:  I have two sons Brian and Brent. The first one is from  my first wife and I have a lovely daughter name Kate . My son Brent play chess regularly online. My Mom Marie Payne  and my wife Alma are helping me clean and decorate the chess center.

TA:Thanks a lot, Angelo, especially for having us at your club. If there is anything else you wish to share that I have not asked...then feel free.

Right now  my main focus is the Touch Move Chess Center. I want it to grow so I can share my chess knowledge through lessons and
lectures, promoting chess in the greater Chicago area. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all players from the past and the present that came to play in the FIDE invitational event  and to all the TMCC members for continued supporting the club. Also thanks to Sevan Muradian for organizing FIDE events thereby promoting the center.