Update From the U.S. Class
By Matan Prilleltensky   
July 18, 2009
The US Class (Boca Raton, Florida, July 17-19) is a national Championship event split into eight sections. The Open Section has attracted some of the Sunshine State’s finest. The Miami contingent is out in force, led by the standard bearer of Cuban-American chess, Grandmaster Julio Becerra. Grandmaster Gildardo Garcia and IM Blas Lugo (who has one GM norm) are also here.  FMs La Rota (former US Senior Champion) and Galofre, both Miami chess stalwarts, are also in attendance. So is NM Eric Rodriguez, who was instrumental in pushing the Miami Sharks to the best record in the Western Conference last season.

It’s only the first round, but youth vs. experience clashes are a developing story. Board 1 featured the inevitable NM Rodriguez-GM Becerra pairing. These two have played countless times in g/30 at MICA, the club many of us play at. Becerra is undefeated against his former student, and Eric would rather face almost anyone else in the world. Board 2 sees GM Gildardo Garcia meet Ernesto Alvarez, a recent addition to the Florida’s “young NM” club. Board 3 pits Toby Boas, an even newer, younger master, against IM Lugo.     
 As expected, the Grandmasters got the job done in round 1. Becerra duly beat Eric in positional style; a taste of his own medicine for Eric! I caught a glimpse of GM Gildardo Garcia-NM Alvarez after a few minutes, and Ernesto was pondering how to meet  6. F4 in the Najdorf. Disguising his preparation perhaps? Once he had burned nearly a third of his time, it became clear he was figuring things out OTB! When I asked him if it was theory, he replied “it’s Ernesto.” I think he got a playable position, although the Grandmaster ultimately prevailed. On board 3, Toby Boas drew with white against IM Lugo. Toby has made impressive strides lately and will look to consolidate his master status in this tournament.

The two Grandmasters reached 2-0. Becerra played 1. d4 in his second round game against the talented junior Jeffrey Haskel, noteworthy because he is usually a steadfast 1. e4 player.
 I know Julio has played 1.d4 before; I’ve seen a technical win of his against the Tarrasch on chessbase. But if he has played anything other than e4 in recent memory, it’s news to me. It’s unfair of me to criticize black’s choice of opening. But this looks like the type of position where Julio will beat someone much lower rated practically all the time. Haskel spent much of this game in considerable time pressure.

Joining the Grandmasters on 2-0 was Razvan Dima, who ground out a win over Blas Lugo in the notorious R+N vs. R endgame. Another noteworthy result saw Troy Daly continue his fine play with a smooth win over FM Galofre. Right now Dima has trotted out the Colle against Becerra, while FM La Rota has played his super-solid Caro-Kann against Gildardo Garcia.


Eric recovered from his first round loss with a nice attack on the black side of an anti-Benoni.
1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 cd 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d5 6. cxd5 Bc5 7. e3 0-0 8. N5c3 e4 9. Nd2 Qe7

In Eric’s win (as white; he plays the variation with both colors) over IM Sevillano at the US Open, black preferred (9…Re8), which is a mistake according to Eric. He explained that white’s main idea in this system is a timely g2-g4 advance, possibly followed by g5. If this happens, black will want to have the e8 square available for his knight.
10. a3 a5 11. d6
Jeremy was still in preparation here; Eric said he was completely surprised by this move.
11…Qe5 12. Nc4 Qg5 13. h4 Qg6 14. Na4
14. Nd5 is what Eric was afraid of; him and Jeremy agreed that after Na4 black is comfortable.
14…Nbd7 15. Nxc5 Nxc5
Black doesn’t mind this exchange, which brings his knight closer to the vulnerable d3 square.
 16. Nb6 Rb8 17. Nxc8 Rbxc8 18. g3
White wants to get his bishop out, but this move further weakens the light squares.
18…Ng4 19. Be2 Ne5 20. 0-0 Rfd8 21. b4 Ncd3 22. Bxa5 Rxd6

 Black’s plan is simple and easy to play: Deliver mate on the light squares.
 23. Qb3 Qf5 24. Qxb7 Rdc6! 25. Bxd3 Nf3+
black is winning by force.
26. Kg2 Nxh4+ 27. Kg1 Qf3 28. Bxe4 Qxe4 29. Qxc8+ Rxc8 30. gxh4 Qg4+ 31. Kh2 Qxh4+ 32. Kg2 Qg4+ 33. Kh2 Rc6 0-1

 A nice demonstration of black’s chances in this variation. I should point out that even though Jeremy lost this game, he makes the beard/goatee look very stylish. He chalks it up to years of practice.   

And now a bit about me. I MEANT to play in this tournament, of course. Unfortunately, summer session at UMiami has a way of interfering with my best-laid plans. I left all my general education requirements to my last year (note to college freshmen: Don’t do this) and the subjects that plagued me throughout high school are back with a vengeance.

My friend who drove me here has far more pressing concerns: He is agonizing over whether his latest opening repertoire is battle-ready. Wondering if it can face adversity. Worried it won’t withstand the relentless barrage of novelties he is bound to face. Said friend is playing in the B section.

I have tried to reason with him. I acknowledge that his opponents will be solid players who play good moves.  They will not, however, be theoretical monsters who refute his systems in the late middlegame. He claims to understand this. A second later he laments how far he is from the “Hans Berliner ideal1.” Now he’s playing ICC Blitz to regain his confidence.

Look for Matan's final wrap-up from the U.S. Class, along with a photo dispatch from USCF's own Phil Smith. Matan will also contribute an upcoming article to CLO on "How to Score an Upset." See complete info on the U.S. Class here, and access live games and standings.