Sarkar Takes Northern Virginia Open
November 19, 2008
IM Justin Sarkar in 2006.
Photo Jacob Okada
IM Justin Sarkar took clear first in the North Virginia Open, with a perfect 5-0.  117 players came to the event, hosted at Hotel Sierra in Sterling, Virginia. This was almost 50% more than the based on 80 players, a surprising turnout in this economy. Over the board chess can thrive when local players show their support- Mike Atkins, TD

 Justin told CLO, "I came down there somewhat in honor of Larry Kaufman and his terrific accomplishment. (in the World Senior Championship) It felt like  a special occasion."

GM Lubos Kavalek also visited in the 5th round to officially welcome Larry Kaufman into the GM club.  GM Kaufman lost out on his chance for first when he lost to Larry Larkins, two time U.S. Armed Forces Champ in round four.


Justin's toughest game was against Del Mundo in the final round. Justin gave CLO an interesting perspective going into the money game.


"I'll admit that I approached the game willing to make a relatively quick draw, though in hindsight feel I should've been more ambitious given factors like me being  higher rated, and above all the tournament and the prize situation. At least one other person was also going to get 4.5 (Daniel Yeager ended up defeating Larkins in round five to reach 4.5) so a draw would get at best a 3-way tie for first. So going for glory clearly made sense but maybe I had the mentality of two perfect scores taking an early last round draw stuck in my head. My opening against the English, while very solid and reliable, but I do use it more as an equalizing weapon and not so much when I want to complicate or in a must win situation."

Position after 8...Nge7

I was probably about to offer a draw around move 15 or so, though when against ...h6 he played Bd2 followed by h4 that sent me a message he was the one trying to fight.

Position after 17.h4

By the time I played 24...f4 (after trading one pair of rooks on e3) I had my own ideas of trying to fight, though instead of 24...f4 the simple Re8 would've given me a small yet stable advantage.

Position after 24.Rxe3

I anticipated his h5 below, and one point of my response, Qg4 is that after hg6+ Kh8, Rg3 is bad due to Qe2.

Position after h5

 I have an initiative, though it should be close to equal. It was far from over until he blundered with 29.Qc4??, a move I initially also thought he could try. I even spent some time evaluating the trade on c4 which is simply bad for me, until I realized that  I simply have Qd1+. So when he played it I had to double check I didn't miss something. Almost a mutual hallucination!

Position after 29.Qc4??
He was nice enough to offer to go over the game afterwards despite being clearly mad at himself for his oversight. After the game, we  both agreed that maybe he could've prepared e4 better (such as first clarify the structure on the queenside by playing a4 earlier, then when I play b4 activate his queen with Qc2-c4 and play Rae1 (find a moment to get in b3 so that his b2 pawn isn't hanging). We agreed that after I took en passant, when he recaptured on e3 with the rook, instead of Qd7, I had an interesting alternative in ...Be5! It blocks white's rook from the e-file, prepares f4, and white cannot play f4 due to the skewer Bd4. While far from a forced win, it would've posed white some difficult problems to solve.
Analysis Position after 21...Be5

Hopefully I've really been advancing in chess and am not just on a lucky streak. In any case, getting my next GM norm may be better than any such streak :)

Check out an 2006 CLO interview (vintage!) with Justin Sarkar by Jerry Hanken . Browse the complete final standings and rating changes on the MSA page.