Ehlvest pulls away at the Continental
By GM-elect Josh Friedel   
November 6, 2008
GM Jaan Ehlvest, Photo Jennifer Shahade 2006
Estonian-American Jaan Ehlvest leads the 60-player Continental Championship (Nov.2-7) in Boca Raton with 5.5/7.  The chasing pack of 5s consists of Brazilians GM Darcy Lima and IM Everaldo Matsuura, Mexican GM and occasional Ivanchuk second Manuel Leon Hoyos, and American GMs Julio Becerra, Alex Stripunsky, Vinay Bhat, as well as myself, whatever I’m called these days.  For awhile there was a huge pack tied for first. It seemed that nobody wanted the lead.  Finally, Ehlvest pulled ahead last round with a win over GM Alex Ivanov. (Unfortunately, this game is not available now but we will try to track it down and post it in a future report.) 

While Ehlvest was the only one successful, he wasn’t the only one who tried.  Becerra tried to push Hoyos a long time in a rook ending, which then transformed into a king and pawn ending, and then a queen ending!  However, in the end, a draw was all he came out with.


My fellow Bay Area resident Vinay Bhat also pushed quite hard to win a pawn-up rook ending against Alex Stripunsky.  It looked for awhile like he was going to come away with the win, but Stripunsky found the nice idea of bringing his king to g4, where its activity was too much to deal with for Vinay.


I missed my chance to pull away in round six, when I blew a promising ending against Ehlvest.


 After the game we thought I blew it with 26. Rde1, and instead I should have played 26.fxe fxe and only then Rae1.

Position after 25...a4

 Now if Kf7, I have R5e3!, when Nf3-e5 is extremely tough to deal with.  In the game I missed he could play 27… Kg7!, after which I felt my advantage slipped away. 

Keep in mind, everyone is playing for just one qualifying spot, and anything can happen in the last couple of rounds.  Will Ehlvest maintain his lead?  He has a tough test in round 8, with black against Stripunsky. Will a new leader emerge?  Or will a playoff be necessary, as it has many times in the past?  We’ll have to find out tomorrow night!  Check out the games on monroi, the Internet Chess Club , or the official website.  Also, expect a more detailed report when the tourney is over.