Three Roads to the Arizona State Championship: Part I
December 2, 2010
IM Mark Ginsburg
The 2011 Arizona State Championship was recently held in Tucson November 12th -14. This single, round robin event was run by Southern Arizona Chess Association with TD Enrique Huerta. This year Arizona Chess Federation experimented with yet another system to determine the State Champion. Last year it was a Swiss system tournament with five rounds, while the previous couple of years the Champions were determined in the biggest tournament of the year-the Tucson Open. The six best players (the number next year may increase if needed) were determined either by winning certain past events (State Champion, Tucson Open, Old Pueblo Open winners) plus the three highest by rating. As a result, the field was pretty strong- with three IMs and two Masters. The final line up by rating was: IM Levon Altounian, IM Mark Ginsburg, IM Dionisio Aldama, NM David Adelberg, NM Nick Thompson and Jason Mueller.

This exciting event concluded with IM Mark Ginsburg, IM Levon Altounian, and NM David Adelberg in a three-way tie for first place and Arizona State Co-Champions.  The three champions have all contributed their game analysis. In this first part, we'll hear from IM Mark Ginsburg, who also maintains a blog at

Part 1:  By IM Mark Ginsburg

Here's an interesting encounter from Round 1.


1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4
Not a scare system, but Timman did use it to draw the solid Lajos Portisch in Wijk aan Zee, 1975 (an excellent tournament book by RHM Press covering that event!).

5. e3 c5 6. Be2
The plan for better or worse is 6. dxc5 Bxc3+!? 7. bxc3 dxc5.   I think Leonid Bass played Adelberg's way against me in the 1980s. 7. ed Nc6 8. d5 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Ne5 10. Be2
White could castle and leave the B on f3 for the moment.

White deviates from Portisch's Recipe
11. f4!?
Deviating from Portisch-Timman where white put a bishop rather passively on d2.  In that game, Timman's queen got to d4 via b6 and black was very active, holding a draw comfortably.

11...Nd7 12. Be3 Nf5 13. Bf2 h5
Black cements his knight on f5 but is left with not that much to do.  White has to be a bit better.

14. O-O Bxc3
Not very inspiring. 
15. bxc3 Nf6 16. Bd3 Qd7
I really didn't like my game and offered a draw.  White thought for some time and declined; however his next few moves don't meet the requirements of the position as Soviet chess analysts used to like to say.

17. Qc2
Now, or soon, I would as white play a rook to the b-file and then advance with a2-a4-a5.  White is better.

17...O-O 18. Rae1
Again, I would play a rook to the b-file.

18...Rfe8 19. Re2?!
This is the most serious gaffe so far. The mechanical doubling on the e-file allows black's next which gives black much needed breathing space.  White should have simply prevented the b5 break.
19....b5!  20. Rfe1 bxc4 21. Bxc4 Rec8! 22. Ba6?
A big lemon.  Black is just better after the obvious sac in reply.
Of course. 
23. Bxc8 Rxc8

And now it's very hard for white to defend.  Black just stays compact and uses the Q & Knights combination to effectively attack, whereas white's rooks completely lack coordination.

Very hard for white to hold on in practical play
24. Rc1 Nxf4 25. Re4 e5!
This is strong because the black queen gains access to g5 (see 27th move for black).
26. Bg3 Ne6
It's easy for black to play. The Bishop on g3 isn't doing anything so black just grabs space and goes back on the attack in a few moves.

27. Qa4 Qe7!
Going to g5.  A false trail would be to occupy the a8-g2 diagonal (although tempting) as the g5 square is much more productive.

28. Rc4 Rd8
Just staying out of the way in order to resume the attack momentarily. 
29. Qa3 Qg5
The end is near now. 
30. Qb2 h4 31. Be1 Nf4
And now it's resignable; White loses back material with a two-pawn deficit.

The Two Knights Attack
I credit GM Yermolinsky with my coherent middle-game play.   Out of the many times I played him, in one specific game (I think in Las Vegas), he instructively time and again put his pieces where they coordinated and stayed compact.  He explained his thinking process as just that, staying compact.    My 25th through 28th moves were all exactly that - a compact formation that can uncoil and grab more space.
32. Qd2
Nothing else to do.   32...Nd3 and 32....Ne2+ were both threatened and White can't stop both. 
32...Ne2+ 33. Qxe2 Qxc1 34. Rc7 Rb8
It's over.

35. Qd2 Rb1 36. Qxc1 Rxc1 37. Kf1 Rc2 38. Rxa7 Ne3+ 39. Kg1 Rxg2+ 40. Kh1 h3
Completing white's king's entombment. 
41. a4 Ng4 42. a5 Rxh2+ 43. Kg1 Rg2+ 44. Kh1 Ra2 45 Kg1 h2+
and White finally resigned.


To Adelberg's credit, he bounced back in Round 2 and in a sharp Sozin Najdorf as black, defeated fellow Scorp IM Aldama.

In other Scorp action, Levon Altounian won with a 2. c3 Sicilian vs. NM Nick Thompson and when I left the playing hall tonight after drawing IM Altounian, NM Thompson was battling NM Adelberg.

After 4 rounds I was in the lead with 3.5 out of 4.  My nearest competitors were Altounian and Adelberg with 3 out of 4.  They were due to play in the last round and I had black against fellow Scorp, IM Dionysio Aldama.    I had just come off a very long game, eventually winning in a Sicilian Kan vs. NM Nick Thompson.  Altounian wound up making a draw with white vs. Adelberg's solid Slav, so it turned out all I needed was a draw for clear first.  The problem, though, was that I achieved the most unpleasant of situations: a winning position in the opening!

Round 5 (final round)

Tricky Eugene Meyer Sicilian


1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 d5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bb5 Nf6 6. Ne5
I think 6. e5 is much more common, but black will try the same trickery as the game (early disrupting c5-c4).

6....Qc7 7. Qe2
7. Qf3!? is a move that occurred to me at the moment, pressuring d5, not sure if it's anything real.
7....Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. d3 c4!

Eugene Meyer move

As shown and played by Eugene Meyer.  Black achieves excellent dynamic play.
11. dxc4 Ba6 12. Bd2?
A weak move.  White needs b2-b3. 
12...Nd7 13. exd5 cxd5 14. Rfe1

After the game my opponent asked me what I would play on 14. Nxd7.  Can I take on c4, I inquired?  No!  14. Nxd7 Bxc4 15. Nxd5!! wins for white!  If I stopped to think here, I would find 14. Nxd7 Qxd7! and black has a great game.
14...Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qxc4?!
Although black of course stands well now, there was no reason to pass up 15...Qb6+! 16. Kh1 Qxb2 17. Rac1 Bxc4.  I was worried that my pieces could not easily aid my king after, e.g., 18. Qg4, but of course that's not a real attack.

16. Qxc4 Bxc4  17. Nd1
White needs to regroup his terribly placed pieces.
17...Rfc8 18. Be3 f6

An interesting moment. I also have 18...f5!? and I also have 18...Ba6!? just leaving the f-pawn alone for the moment. 

19. Bd4
Position after 19. Bd4

Here, I could play the "Dzindzihashvili bypass maneuver" with 19...f5!? with the idea of further space gains on the kingside, g7-g5, and so on.  White can do little. I am calling it this because I saw GM Roman do it once - offer a pawn exchange then craftily bypass the next move, ruling out en passant!  My chosen move is not bad either.
19...fxe5 20. Bxe5 Bc5+ 21. Ne3
White is barely holding on.  I started wondering about Rc8-f8-f1+ but that leads nowhere.
21...Ba6 22. c3 Bd3
At this point Adelberg looked solid (he in fact did hold the draw) so I offered a draw; I still thought black was better.  Aldama refused and played:

23. Rad1 Be4 24. b4
Well, White has to do something!
24...Bb6 25. a4

Position after 25. a4

I played this inaccurate move quickly.  After the game Altounian pointed out the very strong and fairly obvious 25....a5! with the idea 26. b5 Rc4!.  Clearly my brain was not working too well after the prior rounds (some of them very long).    To make matters worse, Aldama was going off for quick rejuvenating smoke breaks quite often.  He was gaining energy!

26. a5 Ba7 27. h3 Rc4
At least I found this safety move. Coupled with Black's next it *should* remove all danger!

28. Kh2 Bxe3
Of course this plan handing over the bishop pair was not required and perhaps even suspect, I was just afraid of any specter of N vs. B endings.  But why give up the bishop pair like this?
29. Rxe3 Rf8 30. Rd4 Rf2!
This rook never should have left the seventh rank!
31. Rg3 g6
How can Black lose?   The problem was I started thinking about using both rooks to attack white's king and win!

Position after 31....g6

 32. Rg4
 I had no idea what white was up to besides the Rgxe4 trick. I considered the safe 32...Rxd4 with a complete draw but decided just to bring the c-rook around to the f-file.  A bad practical decision!

Not a bad move, but White now plays the shocking:
33. Rgxe4!
The only chance to get out of the bind!  I completely fail to reorient.

33...dxe4 34. Rxe4
A transformation!  Black should now be paying attention to the majority and find the obvious 34...Rc2! defending and keeping the pawns at bay.  Needless to say, black is fine there.  Altounian's computer said black is practically winning!  Instead I unfurled

An example of not thinking anymore.  I was luring white to play the incomprehensible 35. g4? then I play 35...Rf3!.  See the note to black's 30th move!
He quickly played instead the unpleasant:
35. c4!

and now white's pawns are a huge headache.  I saw nothing better than the lame game continuation:

35...Kf7 36. b5 Ke7 37. b6 Rxe5 38. Rxe5
38. b7? Rec5
38...Rxc4 39. Rb5!
Yes, I saw that one coming.  Not a nice turn of events with white very low on time but with moves like this available.  It now appears that white wins, barely, in the upcoming rook ending by one tempo.  Brutal!

Position after 39. Rb5!

 39....Rc8 40. b7 Rb8 41 Rb6 Kd7 42. Kg3 e5 43. Kf3 Kc7 44. Ke4 Rxb7
Fortunately white loses by one tempo if he plays 45. Rxb7 here, at least that is what I calculated. I guess Aldama thought the same thing so he played
45. Rxa6
and now I found 45...Rb3! creating problems by going for the g3 square!   Drama continues!

A very interesting rook ending.  I think white played the right way now: 
46. Rf6 (!) Rg3 47. Rf2 Kb7 48. Kxe5.

At this point black can go for the 48...g5 move to keep the rook on g3, but it appears he gets broken down by zugzwang:  white puts the rook on the a-file and keeps the white king close to the g5 pawn; black runs out of moves.  Similarly, 48...h5 and 49...h4 also lose to a zugzwang.  Black tried another option which also lost (barely).
48...Rg5+ 49. Kf6 Rxa5 50. Kg7 Rh5
This position is a little tricky! 
51. Rf3!
White aims for g2-g4 trapping the rook.

Position after 51. Rf3!

Trying for a g5-g4 trick.

52. Rf6!  
White has it all worked out.

Last try! 
53. hxg4 Rg5+ 54. Kxh7 Rxg4 55. Rg6

With a book win. G-pawns are surprisingly easy to win.

55...Rh4+ 56. Kg7 Kc7 57. g4 Kd7 58. g5 Ke7 59. Ra6 and White won shortly.

Amazingly after I resigned I learned that I had won the tournament on tie-break (because in round 1 I defeated one of the co-winners).  Never before has this happened to me.

Wow.  Even so, it was a bitter pill to lose this game considering the opening!

For more by IM Mark Ginsburg, see his website, A Personal Chess History. Part II and III of this article will feature annotations by the other two co-champs, NM David Adelberg and IM Levon Altounian.