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By Todd Andrews   
November 1, 2007
Todd Andrews, Photo Betsy Dynako
 I am tired, I am weary,
I could sleep for 1000 years,
A 1000 dreams that would awake me,
Different colors made of tears    
    -Lou Reed

    I embarked on the “madman schedule” for the 6th North American Invitational (Chicago, October 28-November 3.)  This event is a 10-player round robin. The time control is G/90 + 30 increment.

    There is also a “fighting chess” rule with no draws being permitted until move 30. To get the IM norm, you need 6.5, and 6 for a WGM norm. (There was one female player, Ludmila Mokriak.)

I was a late addition to this event. I had already committed to running the Music City Grand Prix, just before it. So I was not able to depart from Nashville until around 11 PM Saturday, which was followed up by a long drive through the night. I arrived early in the morning to play Robson in the first round. I had prepared fairly well for this game, though he switched his preparation up early on.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3
 This is where my preparation ended - I had only seen Ray play the Tarrasch in the past.
3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4 f5 8.Qg3 cxd4
This is the move that deviates from the previous games Ray would have seen of mine. I figured Ray might have seen my victory over Moreno-Roman in the USCL. Which could only mean that he was planning on taking the poison-pawn with some solid prep.
 9.cxd4 Ne7 10.Ne2 0–0 11.c3 Bd7 12.h4 Nbc6 13.h5

Position after 13.h5

 I went into a deep think here. It must have been 20–30 minutes. I was trying to figure out my plan against Ray here. Ray beat me earlier in the year at the Land of the Sky in Asheville. In that game he played very energetically and seemed to be comfortable when he was attacking me. I wanted to make him leave his comfort zone and require him to play defensively. For this reason, I believe my move to be the best.
 I also considered Rac8, and then maneuvers that led to more pieces running to aid my kingside. However, that went against my previously laid philosophy against Ray.
14.h6 g6 15.Bg5
15.Nf4 Rac8 (15...Nb3 16.Rb1 Nxc1 17.Rxc1 Qa5 18.Be2 Qxa3 19.0–0) This is one of the computer's lines that solved the problems that White faced in the game: lack of development and king safety. White would be left with a powerful grip on my dark square color complex.
16.Bd2 Nc4 17.Be2 Nxd2 18.Kxd2 also solves some of the issues for White.
Ray played rapidly at the beginning of the game. He hardly spent much time here at all and captured my pawn. I know there are more solid ways of playing for white than the game. The pawn sack offers black the open f-file and the active f5 square for the knight.
16.Nxf4 Nf5
Position after 16...Nf5

17.Qd3! This defensive-minded Queen move was best. From d3 she can watch over all the tactics I aim aiming at d4 and the white king. 17...Nb3 18.Rd1
18.Rb1 Nfxd4 19.cxd4 Qa5+ 20.Ke2 Nxd4+
 18...Rac8 19.Be2 Qxc3+ 20.Qxc3 Rxc3 21.Bf6 Rf7 22.Bd3 Nbxd4 23.Rh3 Rc7 24.g4 Ne7

Position after 25.Bxg6

25...Nxg6 26.Rxd4 Nxf4 27.Rxf4 Be8 28.Rhf3 Rc4 29.Rxc4 dxc4 30.Kd2 Bc6 31.Rg3 Be4 32.Kc3 Bd3 33.f4 Rd7 34.f5 Kf7 35.a4 exf5 36.gxf5 Bxf5 37.Rg7+ Ke6 38.Kxc4 a6 39.a5 Be4 40.Kc5 Rd5+ 41.Kb6 Rd7 42.Ka7 Bd5 43.Kb8 Rf7 44.Rg8 b5 45.axb6 Rb7+ 46.Kc8 Rxb6 47.Rh8 Be4 ½–½
     The other results Pasalic-Young, Tsyganov-Chow, Vigorito-Morkiak all ended in a draw as well. Muhammad had the only decisive victory in round one over Haessel.
    In Round two, Vigorito and I play “a glorified blitz game” as Dave put it. I was on autopilot and he ground me down cleanly with a nice exchange sack in the endgame.
Mokriak held Angelo to a draw, Ray tiptoed his king to victory against Muhammad, Chow and Haessel draw and Pasalic beat Tsyganov.  

Rounds 2-3

 “Strike dear mistress, and cure his heart.”             -Lou Reed

    Needless to say I was feeling pretty crumby after day one. I knew that a win was a must, so I worked for at least two hours to prepare for Luda. She played a different variation of the Benko where I had a little bit of knowledge. But I believe there is an important point to preparing before a game whether or not you actually get to play the opening you have been preparing. It simply gets you familiar with the board and warms your brain up. I was happy with this game.


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5

My beloved Benko...or Volga Gambit depending on which continent you live.
Position after 4.Qc2

Oh, one of those moves? In the past 10 years, GMs and amateurs alike have been looking for answers to contain the activity and play the Benko-gambit devotees embrace. One of the most popular ideas has been "how can I exchange the light squared bishops off without losing my right to castle?" A delayed acceptance of the pawn under more favorable conditions is one plan white that white wishes for. However, us pesky Benko-lovers seem to keep on finding counterplay one way or the other.
Nimzovitsch would have played this move every time. One of the ideas of the move ...b7-b5 is to fundamentally attack the c4-d5 pawn chain...so now I have a chance to destroy it? How could that be bad? I always emphasize to my students that pawn chains do not have any set number in size. It can be as few as two connected pawns or five. The first law of attacking these chains at the foundation holds true no matter what the number is.
 5.e4 Ba6
 I have tried this idea on ICC for years. This was my first opportunity to try in serious play.
A very Trompowsky-esque type of move. "Oh well then allow me to retort..."
with my own Tromp like move.
Of course, this move is not so bad. This position is still a matter of taste. But the lines that flowed through my mind had me much more concerned about 7. Nd2! The beast agrees.
Now my attention was focused around how to continue my development and not have to deal with doubled f-pawns. I was willing to allow the e4-e5 push that white Benko challengers dream to play. The hope that it would turn out as an overextension of white's center was my guiding light.
She must have felt the same way.
8.e5 Ng4 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.Bf4 f6!?
 8...Bg7 9.Be2 d6 10.Nd2 0–0 11.h4?

Position after 11.h4

At first I became worried. "Oh hell, she is busting out some super-secret Ukrainian analysis on me. " She played this move fairly quick and confidently. But it did not take me long to realize that this rook-pawn thorn was dull.
If White tries some semi-logical continuation of h4-h5, then ...Ne5 is going to be a pain to deal with...especially once he plants his spurs in d3. 12.f4 But now there are holes everywhere on the white kingside. And poor Luda is down a pawn? Black is suppose to be the one down a pawn.
12...Rab8 13.Rb1 e6

If I wasn't human and had 10 years of Benko experience...then I might have played like the computer and chose... 13...Nh5 This is what the beast likes...I have never seen the likes in any Benko position. The idea is centered around trapping the f6 bishop. Materialistic and unreasonable computer....
14.dxe6 fxe6 15.Nxc4 Qc7
15...Bxc4 This is actually an interesting line the computer came up with... 16.Bxc4 d5!? But what? Huh? One, two...lets see yeh three...he can't do that! 17.exd5 Qb4! Ein zwischenzug fur mich! And the knight on c3 is now pinned...I have no idea how to say that in German. 18.Qb3 Qa5 19.dxe6 Rxb3 20.exd7+ Kh8 21.axb3 Nxd7 22.0–0 Black should still be winning though.
 16.0–0 d5
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
17.exd5 exd5 18.Ne5
18.Ne3 was a more move in my OTB analysis. But it goes against a basic tactical perception placing the knights on a forking pattern. 18...Bxe2 19.Qxe2
19.Nexd5 Nxd5 20.Nxd5 Bd4+ 21.Kh1 Qd6 22.Ne7+ Kg7 23.Qxe2 h6 Oops...
 19...d4 20.Qc4+ Kh8 21.Ned5 Qc6 22.Nxf6 Nxf6 and Black is doing well.
18...Bxe2 19.Qxe2 Rbe8 20.Bxf6
20...Nxf6 21.Rbd1 Qb7!

 A nice move maximizing the diagonal and vertical properties of the Queen.
22.Qf3 Rd8 23.Nd3 Ne4!

Position after 23...Ne4

 I think Black is winning at this point.
24.Nxe4 dxe4 25.Nxc5 Bd4+ 26.Rxd4 exf3 27.Nxb7 Rxd4 winning.; 24.Qg4 is the best the computer can come up with. 24...Bxc3 25.bxc3 Nxc3 26.Rc1 Qg7 27.Ne5 d4
 24...Bd4 25.Ncxe4 dxe4 26.Qe2 Rxf4 27.Kh2 Rxh4+ 28.Nh3 e3 29.g3 Re4 30.Ng5 Re7 31.b3 Qd5 32.Nh3 Qh5 33.Qc4+ Kh8 34.Rde1 e2 35.Rf4 Qe5 36.Nf2 Bxf2 37.Rxf2 Rde8 38.Kg2 Qe3 39.Qd5 Qc3 0–1

    Ray stayed on a roll beating Chow with some preparation that came from a Ponomariov game. Vigorito beat Muhammad is what I believe to be the most interesting game of the event so far. I can’t call it best game, because I have not had a chance to go over it in detail, but it was fun to watch until the very end. Pasalic beat Haessel and Tsyganov and Young drew.


Round four

    I never had a chance against Young and he ground me down. Robson continued his winning ways, this time taking down Pasalic – the highest rated player. Muhammad’s crushing victory against Luda was the first to finish. Vigorito beat Chow in a crazy and well prepared variation of the King’s Indian and Haessel misplayed a rook and pawn ending to a draw against Igor.

Round five

I won against Muhammad (future comments to come in final report), while Tsyganov shook up the standings by defeating Ray Robson.


Meanwhile, David Vigorito kept up his awesome pace to defeat Pasalic, so he leads a full point ahead of the field.


The Norm Hunt

The IM Norm is 6.5/9 and the WGM norm is 6 so Robson needs 3/4 for the norm, while Pasalic, Tsyganov and Andrews need a perfect 4/4 to reach 6.5
Standings after round five

1. David Vigorito- 4.5/5

2. Ray Robson- 3.5/5

3-6- IM Angelo Young, FM Mehmed Pasalic, FM Todd Andrews and FM Igor Tsyganov- 2.5/5

7-9- IM Stephen Muhammad, FM Albert Chow and Dale Haessel- 2/5

10- WIM Ludmila Mokriak- 1/5
IM Angelo Young during the first round of the club he owns and runs, The Touch Move Center. Photo Betsy Dynako

The Field

(IM) Stephen A. Muhammad
Rating: 2384 (FIDE Ratings)
Born: 1962
Nation: USA – Columbus, Georgia

Stephen is the best known participant to me. We have had numerous encounters in Southeastern events. Stephen is now a full-time competitor and chess coach. When he was a resident in Los Angeles, he was one of the most feared blitz players/hustlers in the area.

(IM) David Vigorito
Rating: 2399
Born: 1970
Nation: USA – Boston, Massachusetts

Dave seems to be the best prepared player in this event. His thorough knowledge of the opening has kept him out of time pressure and made most games fairly comfortable for him. He is not afraid of going into wild complications

(IM) Angelo Young
Rating: 2376   
Born: ?
Nation: Philippines

Angelo is already a veteran on the US Chess scene. He has been playing in US events for years, but still maintains his Filipino status with FIDE. There will be more to come on Angelo in part two of this report.

(FM) Mehmed Pasalic
Rating: 2487
Born: 1974
Nation: Germany – Now resides in Chicago, Illinois

Mehmed is actually from Bosnia, but lived in Germany for a short while where he got his FIDE rating. He has played in nearly all of these FIDE events in Chicago.

(FM) Ray Robson
Rating: 2368
Born: 1994
Nation: USA – Florida

Ray is probably the most feared participant in this event. Everyone knows how quickly strong juniors improve and he is still on his way up.

(FM) Albert Chow
Rating: 2214
Born: 1964
Nation: USA – Chicago, Illinois

Albert is the local boy. He grew up in Chicago and is a great guy to spend some time with and see the city.

Albert Chow and Angelo Young. Photo Betsy Dynako

(FM) Todd D. Andrews
Rating: 2304
Born: 1981
Nation: USA – Nashville, Tennessee

I am a professional chess player and instructor. I manage the Nashville Chess Center and am proud of my pro-team: The Tennessee Tempo

(WIM) Ludmila Mokriak
Rating: 2174
Born: 1984
Nation: Ukraine – Now residing in Kansas

“Luda” as I call her. Could there be a cooler nickname? It is the norm in this country to assign nicknames to foreign women chess players with unique titles after all. As the only woman in the event, she definitely wins the award for best dressed.

(FM) Igor Tsyganov
Rating: 2265
Born: 1975
Nation: USA – Chicago, Illinois

I don’t know much about Igor. He arrives to every game professionally dressed as well though.

Dale Haessel
Rating: 2152   
Born: 1968
Nation: Canada

Dale has played in quite a few American events this year. I competed against him in the US Masters earlier in this year in North Carolina

The Organizer

Sevan Muradian

Sevan is an extremely nice guy that looks out for the players interests. He was born and raised in Chicago and seems proud to still be living in his childhood neighborhood. He is married (his wife’s name is Yana) and has two children (Kassandra-Caroline and Jessica-Renee). He played chess in high school, but took a long hiatus to focus on his education of other more pressing issues. He is happy to be running chess events and be involved once again.

Along with the help of some other Chicago chess patrons, Sevan struck up the idea for running these norm events. He said it was a little shaky at first, but with each event they are learning how to work out the kinks. Next year, there will be a norm event every month (2 GM and 10 IM events). He hopes to make it possible for Americans to get their norms without the large expense of traveling to Europe. Sevan has done a good job of recruiting some sponsorship for these events as well. This event is being sponsors by Cajun Chess, Monroi, and the Touch Move Chess Center.
For more information, check out the North American Chess Association website, or watch the games live on Monroi.com. Also look for a final report by Todd, with more photos from Betsy Dynako.