Tuesday, May 13

Yermolinsky Stuns Shabalov in Round 1 of US Championship

(Final position of today's game Yermolinsky-Shabalov. White to move and win.)

What do GM Alexander Shabalov and IM Ricardo DeGuzman have in common? They both overlooked the same elementary knight tactic to lose material. DeGuzman blundered at the People's Replacement tournament (click here for the game) to end an undefeated streak of 27 games against me. Shabalov's gaffe, however, was far more painful as it came during round 1 of the US Championship, a tournament which he impressively won last year. The solution to the position above appears at the end of this column.

The 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship began today in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sponsored once again by the financial generosity of Mr. Berry, the tournament drew 24 men and 10 women to the geographic center of the nation for nine days of intense chess. The players will compete for a first place award of $8,000 (and $5,000 for women) out of a total prize fund of $80,000. The rounds begin daily at 12:30 Pacific time and may last up to six hours under the time control of 40 moves in 100 minutes followed by the rest of the game in 30 minutes, plus an increment of 30 seconds starting on move 1. At the end of the tournament next Wednesday, May 21, the new US Champion shall be crowned.

Five masters with ties to Northern California are participating: GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM Josh Friedel, IM David Pruess, NM Sam "Shanky" Shankland and WIM Batchimeg "Chimi" Tuvshintugs. The Yermonator, who moved to South Dakota last fall after many years at the Mechanics' Institute, stunned the defending champion Shabalov in 18 moves in the above featured game. Batchimeg outplayed Esther Epstein (2194) with the black pieces. David did well to draw with the very strong Cuban-American Grandmaster Julio Becerra. Unfortunately, Josh and Sam both lost to veteran Grandmasters and, as punishment, are paired against each other in round 2. Check out the MonRoi website for all of the games (registration is free).

Each day, I will pick one Game of the Day for the readers of this blog to enjoy, with a bias towards the games involving CalChess players. While I was tempted by the Yermolinsky miniature, it was decided by just one blunder. Instead, I chose the wild and imperfect tactical slugfest Tuvshintugs-Epstein in the Ponziani opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3). The position after move 7.Ke2 looks more like a game between scholastic players than the country's top women. I dedicate my choice to chess teacher extraordinaire Richard Shorman (see photo) and the hundreds of players attending this weekend's CalChess Scholastics who have been touched by his many lessons.

Some of my readers have inquired which players that I selected for the US Championship fantasy contest. I picked a mixture of veteran players and younger up-and-coming stars: GM Yury Shulman, GM Julio Becerra, IM Josh Friedel, IM David Pruess, IM Irina Krush, FM Daniel Ludwig and NM Sam Shankland. Despite a slow start of 3.0/7 in round 1, I have high expectations for my lineup.

Solution to the position: The black queen and knight on e7 are both undefended, so white can play the double attack 19.Nxd5. If Qxd2 then 20.Nxe7+ Kf7 21.Rxd2 Kxe7 22.Bc5+ wins an exchange plus a pawn. Objectively best is the response Nc6 when white is simply two pawns up after 20.Qxa5 Nxa5 21.Nxf6+ gxf6 22.Bxa7.

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