Justin Sarkar on a Golden Win
By IM Justin Sarkar   
January 24, 2012
sarkar.jpgHave you ever heard of the equation happiness equals reality minus expectations? I learnt it a long time ago from my college advisor at Columbia University. For those of you in school, be sure to tell this to your math or science teachers. Given that a few issues somewhat beyond my control (for instance, currently living with parents while seeking to move out) hinder my ability to study chess nearly as much as I'd like, I could hardly envision having an outstanding performance in a major CCA event. I finally made it happen by taking clear first at the Golden State Open.

My long awaited moment finally came and in my fifteen minutes of fame let me try to address the question: to what do I attribute my recent success? I first and foremost would like to thank my coach Giorgi Kacheishvili for being not just an excellent coach with incredibly deep understanding of the game even for a GM but no less importantly a personal friend who I feel understands me. My Golden State win is a golden opportunity to give him due credit as a positively influential person in my life. 

In terms of chess, one thing Giorgi and I have noticed already is that I'm becoming more and more of a fighter, declining a lot of draws even against GMs. I must confess I may have taken this a step too far by turning down a draw in my final round Golden State game against Eugene Perelshteyn despite being 100% guaranteed clear first. I had a great position and thought I saw a win, but unfortunately there was an oversight in my calculations. I realized this too late and it could have really cost me the game. In the end of a true marathon game, I was the one fortunate to hold the draw. This was hardly the scenario I envisioned when passing over the draw, but another way to look at it is a valuable experience. I learnt more from the game, including an instructive rook ending well worth further study, without being punished in the end. I should consider myself blessed, not cursed! As an additional bonus, it was pleasant to find out that my coach was impressed and felt this incident demonstrated a newly found self-belief on my part.
Speaking of coaching, it seems fitting to express my positive feelings about most recently being added by NYC Chess Inc. Along with two others, I coach children at a Lab School in downtown NY on a weekly basis. I have wanted to do this for quite some time, but struggled with the social aspect of it. Having a disability that makes the art of social interaction fundamentally difficult for me is something I see as a challenge rather than an obstacle. It's highly encouraging that during my couple month trial period of working as a coach, the children and other coaches spoke highly of me and my efforts. I look forward to resuming my Lab School chess coaching and will continue to try my best.
Chess players tend to critically assess their degree of luck involved in a given tournament success. Although I would definitely say I got fairly lucky at the Golden State Open, it was nothing on the Richter Scale compared to the 2006 Marshall Chess Club championship where I made a GM norm! I broke the scale back then, so this win qualifies as progress.

This success is a perfect moment to get serious again and try to start seeing Giorgi at least twice a month on average. The focus of these sessions in general terms will be on trying to truly broaden my chess knowledge and understanding and get better. On the one hand I seem to have discovered certain personal benefits of actively playing tournaments. Playing in virtually every possible tournament like a madman provides terrific therapeutic benefits. It creates some kind of positive rhythm and this could be the subject of a possible future article.

On the other hand, I feel that in order to get more focused and serious about my chess I will sooner or later have to show a bit more restraint and set aside more time to adequately go over my games. For example, I already made arrangements to play in the Southern Rocky Fide Open in New Mexico at the end of next month, but that will be followed by rest and deep analysis of the game. I often wonder if various GMs consider me essentially a patzer who plays for cheap tricks and tactical swindles (sorry for being a mind reader, GMs). And if so, are they correct? My round 6 win in the Golden State shows why at some level the answer is closer to "yes" and this provides me with motivation to improve!
IM Adam Hunt (FIDE 2458) - IM Justin Sarkar
Golden State Open 
My opponent is a British IM (I'm half English myself) with 2 GM norms. I beat him at a tournament in England ages ago, so he must've been out for revenge!
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.ed5 cd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 dc4 7.d5 Ne5 8.Qd4 h6 9.Bf4 Ng6 10.Bxc4 Nxf4 11.Qxf4 g5 12.Qd2 Bg7 13.Nf3 0-0 14.0-0 a6 15.Rfe1 b5 16.Bb3 Bb7

Better is 16...Qd6 not yet declaring the bishop. It might be needed on the c8-h3 diagonal, as will become more apparent
17.Rad1 Rc8
And now no need to declare the rook before its best square is determined, but on 17...Qd6 18.Nd4 is annoying
18.h4! g4 19.Nd4 already looks promising for white
18...Qd6 19.h4

Can you believe I barely even considered this move? Earth to 
Justin! My next 2 moves took a combined 35 minutes but for once my decision was correct

19...gh4 20.Nxh4 Ng4 21.g3 is good for white
20.ab4 gh4!

Again best. Both 20...Qxb4 and 20...g4 run into problems

21.Nxh4 Qxb4 is a picturesque fork. White has to try 22.Nf5 Qxb3 with an unclear position
21...Nxe4 22.Rxe4 h3 23.Nh4 Qf6

23...Rc7!? with the idea of moving the bishop back to c8 (see move 16 note!)
24.Rf4 Qg5 25.g3 Rfd8

Perhaps the other rook belongs on d8 (again sometimes the bishop may want to go back to c8!)

Also interesting is 26.Qe2

26...e5 27.Rf3 was also possible
27.Nxg7 Bxd5!

The right (and only) move, but based on a miscalculation 3 more moves down the line
28.Ne8!? is better for white according to Rybka
 29.Qe2 Rxd1+??
Played instantly according to my flawed calculation, whereas 29...Rcd8! wins back the knight tactically with equality
Here I paused just long enough to notice that on my intended 30...e5, which "almost wins" for black in a clever way (e.g. 31.Rg4?? Rc1), white has 31.Ne6! and I'm toast. I let my clock tick down to about 2 minutes for the last 10 moves and played... 30...Kh8!
The best try in a lost position, slightly better than "resigns". At least black ensures winning back the knight (31.Nh5? e5 costs the rook), or maybe in some cases has other ideas...

Tempting, but 31.Nxe6 fe6 32.Qd7 Rg8 33.Rf7 is most convincing
The only move to resist, and sets a devilish trap
White was undoubtedly counting on 32...Qxg7?? 33.Qxe6 with a decisive advantage. As I correctly saw at the board, 32.Qb7! was white's only move and unfortunately for me a strong one with black highly unlikely to survive after 32...Qxg7 33.Rxf7
32...Qd5! -+


Incredibly, the mate threat on g2 is deadly! An absolutely artistic alternative finish though would've been to first sac the rook with 32...Rd1+! 33.Kh2 Rh1+!! At first when seeing this on my computer screen I thought my silicon buddy had blown a chip. However 34.Kxh1 Qd5+ 35.Rf3 (or 35.f3) Qd1+ 36.Kh2 Qf1 is an unbelievably brilliant study-like solution!

Despite the absence of black's rook white has just one meaningful check with the queen and then on 37...Kh7 is helpless against the imminent mate on g2. Of course with the knight on absolutely any other square, white mates easily. Unlike black, white despite an overwhelming material edge is totally lacking harmony in his camp and lacks time to solve the problem of the "worst piece" (i.e. knight on g7). Given this variation, it should be clear how the game move 32...Qd5 won by force. 0-1
Here was my round 5 win against the strong IM Milos Pavlovic from Serbia now living in the US I believe (not to be confused with a Serbian GM by the same name!). My Rxd4 blow may have been flashy and can be viewed as either beautiful or more like me hitting him with a cheapo in a game where I was drifting and playing virtually devoid of any strategy whatsoever, or somewhere in between.
In closing, I hope to make this a fruitful year in my continued studies with Giorgi along with being a coach myself. Special thanks to NYC Chess for hiring me.

For more info on the Golden State Open
see the official site and USCF rated results on MSA. Also check out the US Chess Scoop video on the Liberty Bell Open, also held over Martin Luther King Day.