Chess Room Newsletter #965 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #965

Gens Una Sumus!

Newsletter #965


April 24, 2021

By Abel Talamantez

Table of Contents

2021 US Junior Chess Congress Draws Record 962 Participants!

The 2021 US Junior Chess Congress was held last weekend, with a record 962 participants taking part in the weekend's festivities! The tournament included the two-day main event, a one-day blitz side event on, and a one-day booster event on Chesskid. This USCF national scholastic championship event had sections based on age level, so the ratings of players within a section could vary considerably. The sections of this event were age 6/u, 8/u, 10/u, 12/u, 14/u, and age 16 and 18/u. All the sections were 5-round, one-day events, except for the 16 and 18/u section, which was a 2-day 6-round event with a time control of G/60+5. Many of the stronger players played up to the two-day event, as they were not restricted to playing in their age specific section. This was a joint collaboration between the Mechanics' Institute and Chess Weekend.

What really stood out throughout the weekend was the strength of many players. The age 6/u section saw 6 players rated over 1000, and the age 8/u section had a player rated 1870. The online nature of this event gave more opportunity for inclusion for many kids, allowing them to participate in a national event that may otherwise been a challenge due to costs of travel. This just shows when barriers to participation are removed, kids play tournament chess in great numbers. It was a pleasure to follow the competitiveness of the kids throughout the weekend, and to see the social interaction and fun in the Zoom rooms amongst the kids.

Players from all across the country participated in this online event, which had a staff of 20 TD's, organizers, and commentators. NTD/FA Glenn Panner was the Chief TD of this event with USCF Senior TD/FA Judit Sztaray managing the TD staff in the virtual backroom. NTD Maret Thorpe was in charge of the tournament computer and pairings with NTD John McCumiskey assisting. We want to thank all the TD's who helped manage the Zoom rooms for kids throughout the weekend. It was an all-star cast of experienced TD's which included Danny Rohde, Martha Underwood, Sam Shoykhet, Tom Brownscombe, Jiten Patel, Aaron Thompson, Jonathan Martinez, Christina Schweiss, Al Losoff, Reka Sztaray, Jared Ruiz, and Eric Czerwin and Allyson Wong. Thanks also to my amazing partners in commentary GM Nick de Firmian and FM Paul Whitehead, and the special guests who joined us this weekend, which included IM John Donaldson, FM Kyron Griffith and FM Sunil Weeramantry.

To watch the broadcast of the all the weekend's action, please find the videos on our YouTube channel HERE

Click HERE for the full results. Congratulations to all the participants! All results are tentative, pending the completion of the fair play review.

Here are some games from the championship event, annotated by GM Nick de Firmian.

(8) NM Terry Luo (AGW2016) (2277) - Elijah Platnick (ElijahPlatnick) (2015) [E04] Age 16 and 18 and under
Live Chess, 11.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bd7 7.Qxc4 The Open Catalan lets both sides have active piece play right from the start. 7...Na5 8.Qd3 [A good alternative is 8.Qc3] 8...c5 9.0-0 Bc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Rd1 0-0

12.dxc5N [A more ambitious plan was seen in the following game 12.e4 Qb6 13.Be3 Rfd8 14.Ne5 cxd4 15.Bxd4 Qc7 16.Rac1 Bc5 17.Nd5 exd5 18.Rxc5 Nxe4 19.Rcc1 Qe7 20.Ng4 b6 21.Ne3 Qe6 22.b4 Nc4 23.Bxe4 Nxe3 24.Bxh7+ 1-0 (24) Eljanov,P (2723)-Goloshchapov,A (2586) Dubai 2014] 12...Qxd3 13.Rxd3 Bxc5 14.Ne5 Bxg2 15.Kxg2 The endgame is equal here. 15...Rfd8 16.Bg5 h6 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Rxd8+ Rxd8 19.Nd3 Bb6 [19...Be7] 20.Na4 Bd4 21.Rc1 b5 22.Nac5 Nc4 23.b3 Ne5 24.f4!? Ng4?! [24...Nxd3 25.Nxd3 Bb6] 25.h3 Ne3+ 26.Kf3 f5 27.g4 Kg7 28.b4 Kf6?! [28...Nc4] 29.Nb3 [29.Ne5! jumps in and causes trouble since Black cannot capture on e5] 29...Bb6 30.Nbc5 Nc4 31.a4 a6?! [This puts the pawn on a target square. The game is about equal after 31...Nd2+ 32.Kg2 bxa4 33.Nxa4 Be3] 32.axb5?! [32.a5! Bxc5 33.Nxc5 leaves Black suffering having to defend a6] 32...axb5 33.Ra1 Ke7 34.Ra2 fxg4+ 35.hxg4 f5 36.gxf5 exf5 37.Ra1 Rg8 38.Rh1 Rg6 39.Rh5 Nd6?! [39...Nd2+ 40.Kf2 Ne4+ 41.Ke3 Ng3 42.Rh3 Ne4 keeps it level] 40.Ne5! ± 40...Rf6?
under pressure Black gets forked. Necessary was to move away with [40...Rg1 even though White wins a pawn] 41.Ncd7! Re6 its either a piece or the exchange and a pawn 42.Nxb6 Ne4 43.Nd5+ Kd6 44.Ne3 Kc7 45.Nxf5 Nd2+ 46.Ke3 Nf1+ 47.Kd4 Ra6 48.Rxh6 Ra4 49.Kc5 Ra2 50.Rh7+ Kb8 51.Nc6+ Ka8 52.Rh8+ Kb7 53.Nd6+ Kc7 54.Rh7# 1-0

(4) Brejesh Chakrabarti (Kochi222) (2023) - NM Sheena Zeng (stunningarbage) (2201) [A07] Age 16 and 18 and under
Live Chess, 11.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 c6 4.0-0 Bf5 5.d4 [Much more keeping in the spirit of the position is 5.d3] 5...e6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bg5 Nbd7

8.Nfd2N White is going to try mightily to get e2-e4 in! 8...Qc7 A battery to nowhere -- g3 is too solid! 9.f3 e5 10.e4! Certainly sensible, with Black not yet having castled. 10...dxe4 11.fxe4 Be6 12.Nb3?! h6 13.Bxf6 Nxf6 Black is doing well, having held the center and with the two bishops. 14.d5 cxd5 15.exd5 Bd7 16.Qe2 0-0 17.N1d2 Rad8 [17...a5!? to dislodge the knight with ...a4] 18.Rac1 Bc5+? Counterproductive. [18...a5 is still available.] 19.Kh1 [19.Nxc5 Qxc5+ 20.Qf2] 19...Bg4 It'd be hard to admit that the bishop was worth keeping: [19...Bd6!] 20.Qc4 Bb6 21.Qxc7 Bxc7 22.c4 b6 23.h3 Bh5?! In any other direction was better (e2, d7, c8) and keeps some advantage. 24.Ne4 Nd7 25.g4 Bg6 26.Nbd2 Nc5?! White could get his pawns going now. [26...a5 first might do a better job of holding those pawns back.] 27.Nxc5 bxc5
28.Nb3? But White has to know the idea! [28.b4! cxb4 (28...Bd6 29.Be4! clears the way on e4 for the knight, with a won game.) 29.c5+/- is the classic "Sealer-Sweeper" and the pawns are worth more than a piece.] 28...Bd6 Now Black is fine. 29.Rfe1 [29.Nd2! Maybe try again!] 29...f5 Black makes a break for it. 30.gxf5 Bxf5 31.Na5?! [31.Nd2 -- e4 is the key square!] 31...Rf7 Black could bide his time more effectively: [31...Rb8 is a good stopper for now. 32.b3 e4!? offering to trade distant pawns, after which Black would have a couple passed pawns.] 32.Rc3?! [32.b4!?] 32...Re8 33.Rce3 Bg6? Neither player appreciates the dynamic possibilities in this sor of position. [33...e4! again, would be in Black's favor.] 34.Nc6 Rf2 35.Nxe5?! [35.Be4 is a way to head for a draw, which Black gets by doubling rooks on the 7th.] 35...Bxe5? [Black has chances after 35...Bf5 to get an advantage still.] 36.Rxe5 Rxe5?! [36...Rd8 although White still sets up the precious connected passed pawns after 37.Re6 Bf5 38.Rc6 Rb8 39.Rf1! breaking up the danger on the 7th rank.] 37.Rxe5 Rd2 38.Re7 [38.b4! cxb4 39.c5 and there they are again.] 38...Bf5 39.Rxa7 Rd1+ Rather giving up. [Although admittedly 39...Rxb2 40.Rc7 Rxa2 41.d6! Rd2 42.Bd5+ Kh8 43.d7 is fairly prospectless as well.] 40.Kh2 Rd2 41.Kg3 Rxb2 42.a4 Rb4
43.d6! Rb8 44.Bd5+ Kh7 45.d7 Rd8 46.Bc6 Kg6 47.a5 Kf6 48.a6 Ke7 49.Rb7 Kd6 50.a7 Kxc6 51.Rb8 Rxd7?! 52.a8Q+ Kd6 53.Qd5+ Ke7 54.Qxf5 Kochi222 won by resignation. Interesting and instructive from start to finish! 1-0

(5) Anagha Dhurjati (amdink) (1269) - Jocelyn Chen (treehouseplant123) (1799) [B95] Age 10 and under
Live Chess, 10.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qf3 A very old line in the Najdorf Sicilian, it has to be taken seriously, so seems a worthy surprise weapon. Nepomniachtchi has played it more than a couple times, as has Christopher Yoo. [7.f4 still remains the overwhelmingly Main Line.] 7...Be7 [7...Nbd7!? is recommended by Vigorito in his Playing the Najdorf book (2019), and is the most popular and best-scoring move.] 8.h4!?

[Oh just play 8.0-0-0 like 85% of the games...] 8...e5?!N [8...Nbd7 9.0-0-0 Qc7 like most games in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf, when h2-h4 will have to work to fit in.] 9.Nf5!+/- with the standard light-square bind 9...Bxf5 10.Qxf5 [10.exf5!? is more troublesome for Black. d5 is still under control (since Bxf6 is always available).] 10...0-0?! The modern trend in many sharp Najdorf lines is to castle in the face of White's kingside pawn storm! But here it's just not helping shake White's positional advantage (d5!). 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.0-0-0 h6 As quietly as possibly, Black sets up... 13.g4?? [13.g3! padlocks the kingside, followed by Bh3 and trouble on that diagonal.] 13...Bxh4 Suddenly White is down a pawn. There is some compensation with the light squares and d5 in particular, but it's not enough. 14.f3?? [14.Bc4 Bg5+ (14...g6?? 15.Qxg6++-) 15.Kb1 Nc6-/+] 14...g6!
Now it is, or should be, a slam dunk... 15.g5 [15.Qxe5 dxe5 16.Rxd8 Bxd8] 15...Bxg5+ [15...gxf5!] 16.Qxg5 Qxg5+ 17.Kb1 Nc6 18.Rxd6 Rad8 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Bc4 b5 21.Bb3 a5?! 22.Nxb5 Qd2 [22...Qg2 23.Rc1 h5] 23.Nc3 Qg2 24.Rc1 Qxf3 25.a4 Nd4 26.Bc4 h5 27.Rf1 Qxf1+ Black blanches at the sight of a little blood. [27...Qg2 28.Rxf7 Qxc2+ 29.Ka2 Kh8 followed by another queen...] 28.Bxf1 h4 29.Nd5 Rxd5 And again! It's hard to say "blunder" when Black is still winning, and the technique of trading into an easily winning ending is often an excellent practical approach, but this doesn't really make it easier, does it? 30.exd5
30...Kf8? But now it gets too close for comfort. And for the record, neither player was short on time. [30...e4 gets on with getting those FOUR passed pawns going (and should win); 30...Kg7 somehow also wins, according to the cryptic computer.] 31.c4? [31.b4! creates the dreaded rook pawn vs. knight situation, and it might well be drawn. 31...axb4 32.a5 If Black doesn't want to lose (!) he must divert the bishop with 32...h3 33.Bxh3 Nb5 34.Kb2 Ke7 35.Kb3 Kd6 36.Kxb4 Nc7 37.c4! and both players must tread carefully for the draw. 37...f5! 38.Bg2 e4 39.Bh3! when all (or at least four) roads just lead to 0.00.] 31...Ke7? [31...e4! 32.Kc1 e3 33.Kd1 Ke7 34.c5 g5 Black is swarming!] 32.Kc1? [32.b4! still draws!] 32...g5 There are other moves, but this is now good enough. 33.c5 [33.b4 e4! (33...axb4 34.Kb2 Kd8! (34...Kd6? 35.a5 Kc7 36.a6) 35.a5 Kc8 36.a6 e4) ] 33...g4 34.d6+ Kd7 35.Bb5+ Nc6 36.Kd1 g3 [36...h3 would require White unpin the knight, but Black is in control regardless.] 37.Ke1 h3 38.Kf1 h2 39.Kg2 f5 40.b4 Way too late! 40...axb4 41.a5 b3 42.Bxc6+ Not that it mattered -- it's raining passed pawns. 42...Kxc6 43.a6 b2 44.a7
44...h1Q+ The standard trick. 45.Kxh1 b1Q+ 46.Kg2 Qa2+ 47.Kxg3 Qxa7 48.d7 Qxd7 49.Kf2 Kxc5 50.Kf1 Qd1+ 51.Kf2 e4 52.Ke3 Qf3+ 53.Kd2 Kc4 54.Ke1 Qg2 55.Kd1 Kc3 56.Ke1 Kd3 57.Kd1 Qd2# All's well that ends well, but it could have been a disaster, after having one a queen for a bishop! 0-1

(6) Henry Li (TeamLiquids1mple) (1635) - NM Sriram Krishnakumar (2008king) (2192) [C53] Age 16 and 18 and under
Live Chess, 10.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 There are many other moves here, but this has certainly been run through by many of the absolute best. 6...h6 Most common. [6...a6 has done well as well.] 7.Bh4 g5 [Or 7...a6 here also has been seen a lot.] 8.Bg3 Qe7 9.Qc2

[9.Nbd2 is more flexible and retains the possibility of the bishop retreating that way.] 9...Be6N [And they're on their own. The only previous occasion for this position was another mismatch (but not as extreme!): 9...Bd7 10.h3 Bb6 11.Nbd2 Na5 12.0-0-0 Nh5 13.Nh2 Nf4 14.Bxf4 gxf4 15.b4 Nxc4 16.Nxc4 0-0-0 0-1 (40) Rojas,M (1689)-Chaves,J (2065) Dresden GER 2008] 10.Nbd2 Bb6 11.h3 0-0-0 12.Bxe6+ Qxe6 13.Nc4 Kb8 14.Nxb6 axb6 15.0-0 Not the safest place for White's king, what with those pawns already halfway to contact. [The best move was 15.a4 getting his own pawns going.] 15...Nh5 [If 15...Rdg8 16.Nd2 White could dodge the file opening with; But 15...g4! 16.hxg4 Rdg8! 17.Nh4! Rxg4 18.Nf5 at least gets to a nice outpost, even if Black opposes it with ...Ne7 (now or soon).] 16.Nh2 [16.d4!?] 16...Rhg8 [16...f5!] 17.Qe2 [17.Ng4! and 18.Ne3, but obviously Black is still ahead when it comes to the attack.] 17...Nf4 18.Bxf4 gxf4-/+
Black has an easy initiative down the g-file. 19.Kh1 Rg7 [Opening further fronts is best here: 19...f5! 20.Nf3 d5!-/+] 20.Rg1 Rdg8?! [20...f5] 21.b4 White's problems have abated, and the game is, at least momentarily, even. 21...Ne7 22.Qh5?! [22.Nf3+/= and if anybody has anything it could well be White.] 22...Rg5 [22...f5!] 23.Qh4? [(-0.62) The best move was 23.Qe2 Qg6 24.Qf1 f5=/+ with an actionable advantage still.] 23...f5 24.f3 Qg6 25.Qf2 d5 Finally Black gets the idea, to put maximum pressure on White. 26.Rae1 fxe4 27.dxe4 d4?! [27...dxe4 28.fxe4 (28.Rxe4 b5 and ...Nd5 or . ..Nf5 as it goes.) 28...Rg3 29.Nf3 Qf6 when ...Ng6 and ...Nh4 tightens the screws.] 28.cxd4 exd4 29.Rd1 c5?! [29...Nc6] 30.b5? [30.Qd2!] 30...Qe6 31.Qc2?! [31.Qd2 Qd6 with ...h5 to keep White out of g4ff] 31...Ng6 32.Rd2? Nh4 Too much -- now Black's winning. 33.Rf2?
Overlooking the point. [White could hope against hope with 33.Qc1 h5] 33...Qxh3 34.g3 fxg3 35.Re2 gxh2 36.Rxh2 Rxg1# White succumbed to persistent pressure, starting way back with ...h6 and ...g5. 0-1

(7) Jerry Zhang (jerry65321) (unr) - Harvey Hanke (Chess4Pumpkin) (1366) [C50] Age 8 and under
Live Chess, 10.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.Nc3 [5.d3 d6 6.c3] 5...d6 6.d3 Bg4

White has castled and Black hasn't; this provides the second player with attacking thoughts. 7.h3 Bh5 [7...Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Nd4 9.Qd1=] 8.Bg5 White has tried everything under the sun, but Black keeps doing well. [8.g4?! dares Black to sacrifice, and in fact Black has scored 19-1 after 8...Nxg4! 9.hxg4 Bxg4] 8...Nd4 9.Re1 [9.g4 Bg6 10.Nd5 c6] 9...Nxf3+ 10.gxf3

10...h6! [10...Qd7!?] 11.Bh4 g5 [11...Qd7 12.Kg2 0-0-0!] 12.Bg3 Qd7 13.Kh2 Bg6 [13...0-0-0!] 14.Rg1 [14.Ne2 0-0-0 Clear plus Black: the placement of the kings makes all the difference.] 14...h5 15.h4 g4?! 16.fxg4? [16.Kg2!=/+ c6!-/+] 16...Nxg4+ 17.Kh1? [17.Kg2 f5 should win as well.] 17...Nxf2+ 18.Bxf2 Qh3# Stiff lesson: "castle early" is not a panacea. 0-1

(1) Ariv Debmisra (arivdebmisra) (761) - Andrew Zou (anicestep) (1235) [E90] Age 6 and under
Live Chess, 10.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3!? Much less played than the usual 6. Be2. This at least takes a King's Indian player to little know ground. 6...Nc6 [6...Bg4 is a good alternative] 7.0-0 [kicking the knight with 7.d5 Nb4 8.Bb1 e6 9.a3 Na6 10.0-0 Re8 11.h3 gives White a little edge] 7...Nb4 [7...Bg4!] 8.Be3 Nxd3N [Previously seen was 8...Ng4 9.Bg5 c5 when 10.Be2 would be very good for White] 9.Qxd3 Nd7 10.Rad1 b6 11.e5!

11...dxe5? This opens the d-file and White's lead in development causes a lot of trouble. 12.dxe5 Qe8 13.e6?! [13.Nd5! Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.Qe4 Bd6 16.Nxc7 wins the exchange] 13...Nf6 14.exf7+ Qxf7 15.Ng5 Qe8 16.Nd5! Qd7? [16...Bf5!] 17.Nxf6+ exf6 18.Qxd7 Bxd7
19.Nxh7? After playing a great opening arivdebmisra goes from winning to losing in one move, This desperado tries to get a pawn for the knight but it just gets trapped. [19.Rxd7 fxg5 20.b3 c5 21.Bxg5 is a terrific pawn up ending] 19...Rf7! now Black wins a piece 20.Nxf6+ Bxf6 21.Bf4 Bxb2 22.Bxc7 Ba4 23.Rd8+ Rxd8 24.Bxd8 Rd7 25.Bg5 Rc7 26.Bc1 Bxc1 27.Rxc1 Bb5! now it will only be one pawn for the bishop 28.c5 Rxc5 29.Rxc5 bxc5 30.f3 c4 31.Kf2 c3 32.Ke1 Bc4 33.a3 Bb3 34.Ke2 c2 35.Kd2 Kf7 36.g3 Kf6 37.h4 Kf5 38.g4+ Kf4 39.Kc1 Kxf3 40.h5
40...g5! keeping the g-pawn takes the point 41.h6 Bg8 42.Kxc2 Kxg4 43.Kd3 Kh3 44.Ke2 g4 45.Kf2 Kh2 46.Kf1 g3 47.h7 Bxh7 48.a4 g2+ 0-1

(2) CM Nitish Nathan (BreatheChessAlways) (1941) - Sanjay Selvam (SanjaySelvam) (1931) [A45] Age 14 and under
Live Chess, 11.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d5 3.e3 e6 4.Nd2 Bd6 5.Bg3 This is also the way Carlsen plays the London System 5...0-0 6.c3 [Opening theorists may find Black's plan in the following game interesting: 6.Ngf3 b6! 7.Bd3 Ba6 8.0-0 c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Qe2 Bxd3 11.cxd3 Nc6 12.Rac1 Rc8 13.d4 Bd6 14.Qb5 Qd7 15.Bxd6 Qxd6 16.Rc3 Qb4 17.Qxb4 Nxb4 18.Rfc1 Rxc3 19.Rxc3 Nxa2 20.Ra3 Nb4 21.Rxa7 Nd3 22.Rb7 Nxb2 23.Rxb6 Na4 24.Rc6 Rb8 25.h3 Nb6 26.Ne5 Nfd7 27.Ndf3 Nxe5 28.Nxe5 h6 29.g4 Rb7 30.Kg2 g6 31.Rd6 Kg7 32.Rd8 Rc7 33.h4 Nc4 34.Rd7 Rxd7 35.Nxd7 1/2-1/2 (35) Nihal,S (2620) -Vachier Lagrave,M (2784) INT 2020] 6...c6 7.Ngf3 b6 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.0-0 c5 10.Ne5 Nc6 11.Re1N [Previously seen was 11.f4 Ne7 12.Qe2 Nf5 13.Bf2 1/2 (24)-1/2 (24) Krizsany,L (2264)-Hajdu,I (2033) Hungary 2007] 11...a6 12.a4 Qc7 13.f4 Rfd8?! [13...Ne7 14.Qf3 Nf5 would be a good plan] 14.Bh4! Be7 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Rf1

White has the strong e5 point, which is so often seen in the London System. 16...g6 17.Ndf3 a5 18.Bb5 Ne7?! [18...Be7 would defend better] 19.Ng5! Bxe5 20.fxe5 The dark squares on Black's kingside are weak. 20...Nf5 21.Qe2 Qe7 22.Nf3 h5 23.Bd3 Rdb8 24.Rfe1 Rd8 25.Qf2 Bc6 26.Bxf5 This gets good knight vs (semi) bad bishop. 26. h3 would be a good alternative 26...exf5 27.h4 Rab8 28.Qg3 b5?! This takes away the a4 pawn as a target 29.axb5 Rxb5 30.Reb1 [30.dxc5! Rxc5 31.Nd4 is a great place for the white knight] 30...Rdb8 31.Qf4 c4 32.Ng5 Ra8 33.Qg3 a4 34.e6!? f6 35.Nh3 Kg7? The wrong square for the king, losing a pawn. The game was about equal after [35...Kh7] 36.Nf4!
[36.Ra2] 36...Be8 37.Nxh5+ Kh7 38.Nf4 Rba5 39.Qh3 Kh6 40.h5? Better to keep the pawn on h4 so the knight has the good f4 post 40...g5 41.Ne2 Qxe6 42.Rf1 Bd7 43.Rae1?!
[43.Ng3] 43...Qd6? This lets the white attack come through. Black would have the advantage with keeping the queen on e6 to help the defense [43...Rb5 44.Ng3 Rxb2 45.Nxf5+ Kh7] 44.Ng3 f4? [44...Kh7 45.Nxf5 Qe6 is unpleasant but would hold on] 45.Nf5+ Bxf5 46.Qxf5 fxe3?! [46...Kg7 47.exf4 is hopeless anyway] 47.Qg6# BreatheChessAlways won by checkmate. 1-0

April 2021 TNM

Rounds 3&4 of the April 2021 Tuesday Night Marathon saw some fierce resistance to the tournament favorite GM Gadir Guseinov, but the Grandmaster showed his class yet again in keeping his cool and getting the wins. NM Ruiyang Yan fought back from a very difficult position out of the opening to reach a queen and pawn endgame that appeared drawn, but time pressure and the need for precision proved too much in a critical moment, as a blunder allowed the trade of queens, which would lead to an eventual pawn promotion and the win for Guseinov. IM Josiah Stearman, a former student of Guseinov's, had a clear advantage out of the opening in a very complex looking game. However, Guseinov chipped away and found his opportunity with Stearman under time pressure to get the win. This is one of the first times we saw Guseinov pushed hard in two consecutive games, and while we were all rooting for our Mechanics' underdogs, it was instructive to see how the top players get it done. IM Brian Escalante also came through in both of his games, which including another thrilling win against FM Max Gedajlovic. NM Eric Hon showed he appears to be taking his chess to the next level, declining a draw offer from FM Kyron Griffith and grinding down a win. GM Gadir Guseinov is in sole first going into the final 2 rounds next week, with IM Brian Escalante and NM Eric Hon at 3.5.

In the under 1800 section, Sos Hakobyan and Ivan Zong are on top of the leaderboard at 3.5/4, with their only draws coming against each other. Joshua Lamstein picked up a big win against Sebby Suarez to go to 3/4 along with 5 other players including Nicholas Brown, Ethan Sun, Sebby Suarez, Rajtilak Jagannathan, and Anton Bobkov. 

Here are some games from rounds 3&4, annotated by GM Nick de Firmian.

(1) IM Josiah Stearman (josiwales) (2513) - GM Gadir Guseinov (GGuseinov) (2633) [E73]
Live Chess, 21.04.2021
[de Firmian]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Be3 Nc6!? 7.Nf3 [7.d5 Ne5 8.f4 Neg4 9.Bd2 also seems to give White an opening edge.] 7...Ng4 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 e5 11.d5 Preferable was 11...Nd4 12.Nxd4 [12.h4 f5 13.hxg5 hxg5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.Bd3 with an edge] 12...exd4 13.Nb5 Nf6 14.f3 Nh5 15.Bf2?! [15.Qd2 Nxg3 16.hxg3 c5 17.dxc6 bxc6 18.Nxd4 Qb6 19.Rd1 d5 would be a sharp position with equal chances] 15...d3?! [Black could have taken the opening advantage with 15...c5! 16.dxc6 bxc6 17.Nxd4 c5 18.Nb5 Bxb2 19.Rb1 Be5] 16.Bxd3 Bxb2 17.Rb1 Bg7 18.h4 c5?+/- This gets into trouble [much safer is 18...Nf4 19.g3 Nxd3+ 20.Qxd3 f5 21.hxg5 fxe4 22.fxe4 Qxg5 23.Nxc7 Rb8 24.Bxa7 Bg4 with about even chances. White should not take the exchange here as 25.Bxb8? Rf3! wins for Black] 19.hxg5 Qxg5

20.g4?! [20.Qd2! would really cause Black trouble. The queen exchange would be lost and 20...Nf4 (20...Qxg2 21.Rxh5) 21.Nxd6 Nxg2+ 22.Kd1 would also win for White] 20...Nf4 21.Nxd6 Bd7?! [21...Be5! 22.Nxc8 Rfxc8 is just a pawn down for Black] 22.Kf1 b6 23.Nf5 Bxf5 24.exf5 Be5 25.Bh4 With an extra pawn and strong pawn structure White is objectively winning here. 25...Qg7 26.Be4 f6 27.Qd2 Rae8
28.Bf2? [White has two bishops, a strong extra pawn and the black knight unable to move from the f4 square. With 28.Bg3 Qg5 29.d6! Rd8 30.d7 Rf7 31.Bc6 Black would be tied up and the win would be easy.] 28...Qc7 29.Be3 Kg7 30.Rd1 Qd6 31.a4 Rh8 32.Rh4 h5 33.Kf2?! Putting the king on the same diagonal as the rook on h4 gives Black a tactic [33.a5 is still much better for White] 33...Nd3+! 34.Ke2 [34.Qxd3 Bg3+] 34...Nf4+ 35.Kf2 Nd3+ 36.Ke2 Nb2!? Such fighting spirit! Guseinov plays for the win even though objectively Black should take the draw. With Josiah low on time this was a good practical decision. 37.Rc1 hxg4 38.Bh6+ Kf7 39.Rxg4 Ke7 40.a5 Kd8 41.axb6 axb6 42.Ra1?! Josiah was very low on time and can't find the best moves anymore. [42.Kf1 Rh7 43.Rg6 keeps the advantage for White] 42...Qb8 43.d6?-/+
[43.Rc1 is equal] 43...Nxc4! suddenly Black is winning. 44.Ra8 This doesn't work, but nothing else does. 44...Qxa8 45.Bxa8 Nxd2 46.Bxd2 Bf4+ GGuseinov won by resignation. A great battle. Josiah was winning for much of the game. It should't be too long now before the student starts to take some points from his teacher. 0-1

(2) GM Gadir Guseinov (GGuseinov)(2620) - NM Ruiyang Yan (jij2018) (2127) [B23]
MI April TNMo (3.1), 20.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.d4 cxd4 6.Qxd4 One of Guseinov's pet lines -- he's played it at least a dozen times. 6...Nc6 7.Qd3

7...e6 [Plans with a fianchetto are more common. The only player to nick Gadir for a whole point has been Kyron, admittedly in a blitz game though. 7...g6 8.Nf3 Bg7 9.0-0 Nf6 10.Nd5 0-0 11.Bg5 Guseinov plays this way without wasting a minute. 11...Nxd5 12.exd5 Ne5 13.Nxe5 dxe5!? Trying to mix it up somehow. (13...Bxe5 14.c3 has shown up a few times as well; White combines the half-open e-file and f4 to get some light pressure. Mostly these have been blitz games, but Guseinov will play this in longer games as well.) 14.c4 Rac8 15.Rac1 h6 16.Be3 b6 17.b4 Rfd8 18.Rfd1 f5 19.f3 White has met Black move for move, and now as so often Guseinov's opponents overplay 19...e6?! 20.Qb3?! (20.d6+- would be extremely troublesome for Black. Major pieces have a hard time with passed pawn blockading.) 20...exd5 21.Rxd5 Qf7 22.Rcd1 Rxd5 23.Rxd5 Kh7 24.Qd3 Rc7 25.a3 Qe6 26.c5 bxc5 27.Bxc5 e4 28.fxe4 fxe4 29.Qd2 Bc3!? and in a flurry of blitz chess, Black got the better of it (although White was doing fine), 0-1 (54) Guseinov,G (2858)-KyronGriffith (2356) 30 May 2020; 7...Nf6 8.Nf3 e6 9.Bf4 Be7 10.0-0-0 Rd8 11.h4 was similar to this game, except White has been enticed into Nf3. Still, 1-0 (36) Guseinov,G (2915)-1e41-O (2525) 2020] 8.Bf4 Nf6 9.0-0-0 Rd8 10.h4!? Keeping options like f2-f3, or even some f2-f4 at some point. 10...Be7 11.h5 h6 12.Qg3!
And here Black defends too heavily. 12...Kf8? Now she will have her hands full just getting her pieces in order. Castling (not here, not now!) should not be underestimated for its value in putting the king and the rook where they should be. [12...Qc7!+/= when 13.Nb5? backfires: (13.Nf3 a6 14.Kb1 b5 15.a3 Rd7 Black still might have to resort to ...Kf8 and ...Kg8, but progress has been made on the queenside.) 13...Qa5 14.Nxd6+ (14.Nc3 Nxh5! 15.Rxh5 Qxh5 16.Qxg7 Kd7-+) 14...Rxd6! 15.Bxd6 Nxe4 16.Qxg7 Bf6 17.Qg4 Nxf2-+] 13.e5! Nd5 14.Nxd5 exd5 15.exd6?! [It was time: 15.Nf3! dxe5 16.Bxe5! when unusually knight vs. bishop will make Black's life more difficult.] 15...Bxd6 16.Nf3 Bxf4+ 17.Qxf4
A typical middlegame position: the combination of the isolated queen pawn and the misplaced king (well, it's the rook that's all wrong) give White a working edge. But also Guseinov's long-earned experience is a factor, as is the clock: so far both players have all but blitzed the opening out, and at 25:46-28:06 Ruiyang has even used less time, but in a few moves she will start to eat away at her bank. 17...Qd6 18.Qa4 White keeps the queens on (oh does he!) 18...Kg8 19.Rd2 Kh7 20.Rhd1 Rhe8 Finally! 21.Qb3 But the d-pawn is a goner. 21...Ne7?! Ruiyang almost imperceptably slips into a passive position, and this move is a culprit. Coincidentally this is where Gadir goes ahead on the clock (21:39-20:27). [21...Kg8!? finds, maybe, adequate counterplay by giving up the pawn right away: 22.a3!? a) 22.Rxd5?! Qf4+ 23.Kb1 (23.R5d2?! Rxd2 24.Nxd2 (24.Rxd2 Nd4!-+) 24...Qxf2 25.Qxb7?? Nd4-+) ; b) 22.Qxd5 Qf4 23.Qb5 Rxd2 24.Rxd2 Re7+/=; 22...Qc7 23.Rxd5 Rxd5 24.Qxd5 Qf4+ 25.Qd2+/- /+/=] 22.Kb1 Standard caution. [But jumping on the e-file is fine, better even. 22.Re1; or 22.Re2] 22...Qc7 23.Nd4 a6 [23...Nc6!?] 24.a3 Kg8 25.Qf3!? Now White transfers over to see if the kingside will give a little. 25...Qb6 26.Re2 Nc6
[The computer is fond of 26...Nc8+/- but humans can't see any point to it.] 27.Nf5! White targets a new weakness, g7, before Black can do the same on the queenside (...Na5-c4). 27...Rxe2 28.Qxe2 Kh8 29.Qg4 Rg8 30.Qf4 guards f2, and the d-pawn is finally coming off. 30...Nd8 31.Rxd5 Solidly enough for a win, but: [31.Ne7! Re8 32.Re1! is almost impossible to appreciate, but Stockfish's needle goes crazy: +6 and climbing.] 31...Ne6 32.Qd2 Rd8 33.c4 [33.Rxd8+ Qxd8 34.Qxd8+ Nxd8 35.Ka2 when the Arrival of the King will herald victory.] 33...Qc7 34.Nd6 Kg8?!
[34...Rf8] 35.Nxb7! Hardly necessary but demoralizing. Guseinov might seem to be almost sleeping but he's very awake. 35...Rxd5 36.cxd5? Or maybe not! [36.Qxd5 just wins.] 36...Qxb7 37.dxe6 fxe6?! One second? [But 37...Qe4+ 38.Ka1 Qxe6+/- is a difficult technical task for White.] 38.f3 (14:30 5:27) 38...Qb5 39.Qe3 Qf1+ 40.Ka2 Qxg2 41.Qxe6+ Kh7 42.Qf5+ Kh8 43.a4
White looks to win. But one thing in Black's favor is the fort for her king. It could shield her from cross-checks on the 2nd rank at a critical time. 43...Qe2 44.Qc8+ Kh7 45.Qf5+ [Comp likes 45.Qc6] 45...Kh8 46.a5 Qc4+ 47.Ka3 Qc6 48.Kb3 Qb7+ 49.Kc3 8:33 vs. 2:32 49...Qc6+ 50.Kd2 Qd6+ 51.Ke3 Qe7+ 52.Kf2 Stockfish thought the king was fine on the queenside, but the path forward wasn't clear still. 52...Qb4?! 53.Qc8+ [53.Qe5!] 53...Kh7
54.Qxa6?! Qxb2+?! [54...Qd2+! appears to draw. If the a-pawn goes, the b-pawn is far enough back that Black can organize ongoing harassment.] 55.Qe2 6:55 vs.1:56 55...Qd4+ 56.Kg2 Qc5 57.Qe4+ Kh8 58.Qe8+ Kh7 59.Qg6+ Kh8 60.a6 Qe3 61.Qe4 Qg5+ 62.Qg4! Qd2+ 63.Kh3 Qe3 64.Qe4 Qf2 65.Qe8+ Kh7 66.Qc6 Qf1+ 67.Kg3 Qg1+ 68.Kf4 Qh2+ 69.Ke4 Qh4+?! [69...Qe2+ 70.Kf5 Qa2 is still difficult. 71.Qb7?! Qc4 72.a7 Qc5+ and the first occasion of "0.00" appears.] 70.Kd3 Qd8+?! [70...Qf2] 71.Kc4 Qa5 72.Qb5 Qa2+ 73.Kc5 1:46-0:43 73...Qc2+ [73...Qf2+!+/=] 74.Kd6 Qd2+ 75.Kc6 Qc2+ 76.Kb7+- Qc3? Saving White quite a bit of work. [76...Qa2 77.Qf5+ Kg8 78.a7 Qb3+; or 76...Qd1] 77.Qf5+ Kh8 78.Qc8+ What a struggle! Ruiyang eventually went under but only after giving Gadir quite a run for his rating. A lot of interesting positions and of course, the queen ending, provided a lot of nail biting for the spectators. 1-0

(3) FM Max Gedajlovic (MMSANCHEZ) (2222) - IM Brian Escalante (BrianEscalante) (2447) [A58]
MI April TNMo (4.2), 20.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 The Benko Gambit Accepted. 5...g6 [5...Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 (6...g6) 7.e4 Bxf1 was the classic idea, preventing castling by White, but (7...g6 lets White get castled: 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.0-0) 8.Kxf1 g6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.g3 0-0 11.Kg2 tucks the king away after all -- and sometimes White gets an attack rolling with h2-h4-h5 (rook on h1!).] 6.Nc3 Bg7 [Whatever the theoretical status of the Benko, it's good enough for blitz at the highest possible level: 6...Bxa6 7.Nf3 (7.e4!?) 7...Bg7 8.e4 Qa5 9.Bd2 Bxf1 10.Kxf1 0-0 11.g3 d6 12.Kg2 Nbd7 13.Re1 Rfb8 14.Qc2 Ng4 ½-½ 45, Firouzja,A (2749)-Carlsen,M (2862) match (9), 27 Feb 2021] 7.Nf3 [7.e4] 7...0-0 8.a7! This has been the forefront idea, to disrupt Black's smooth queenside ideas by drawing the rook to a7, where a knight can later gain time against it with Nb5. 8...Rxa7 9.e4 e6 And this is the cutting edge as well, sharpening the play. [The other moves are fairly well handled; best source is, as often, Avrukh's 1.d4 repertoire books. 9...d6; or 9...Qa5; or 9...Qb6] 10.Be2 exd5 11.exd5 d6 12.0-0 Na6 Keeping opening a useful ...Bf5.

White 32:33, Black 33:26 The two players have all but blitzed out their moves to reach this position, which appears to be the latest battleground for the Benko, with sixty or so games in the last few years, mostly master-strength competition. [12...Ba6 13.Re1 Bxe2 14.Rxe2 Nbd7 15.Bf4 is Avrukh's improvement on Perunovic's "Modernized Benko Gambit" book, when White moves queen, plays rook to d1 and keeps Black's counterplay and compensation to a minimum.] 13.h3 It appears Max's knowledge of this line wears thin. [13.Nb5!? is "book vs. book" -- and it always helps to be the later one (Perunovic 2018, Avrukh 2019)! The former's "18...Bg7 with compensation" found the latter tacking on a few more moves with "23.h4! ... White's chances are clearly higher." Worth a look if you're wondering what the furthest work on the Benko is: 13...Rd7 (13...Re7?! 14.Bf4; 13...Rb7!? 14.Bc4) 14.Bc4 Bb7 15.Bg5 Both authors are staying with it. (Here's a previous game by the current player of Black: 15.Qb3 Qa8 16.Rd1 Nb4 17.Bf4 Rfd8 18.Nc3 (both sides give everything they've got to d5) 18...Ba6 19.a3 Nc2 20.Rac1 Rb7 21.Nb5 Qb8 22.a4 Nb4 23.Bd2 Bxb5 24.axb5 1-0 (40) Cardoso Cardoso,J (2401)-Escalante Ramirez,B (2456) Medellin 2020. He might have had something new in mind.) 15...h6 16.Bh4 (16.Bxf6!? could well be the point of future investigations) 16...Qa8 (16...g5!? also might be timely.) 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Qd2 Bg7 first book 19.Rfe1 Nb4 20.Rad1 Rb8 21.Nc3 Ba6 22.Bxa6 Nxa6 23.h4 second book. Was Alpha-Zero already influencing humans at the time of Avurkh's writing this?] 13...Re7N [Previously played was 13...Nc7 14.Bf4 Re8 (14...Ba6 15.Bh2 Re8 16.Bd3!? 1-0 (36) Keymer,V (2432)-Macovei,A (2370), European U18 Teams op, Rymanow-Zdroj POL 2017) 15.Bc4 Ne4 16.Nxe4 Rxe4 17.Bg5 f6 18.Bd3 Rb4 19.Bc1 Bb7 20.a3 Rb6 -- quite a trip for that rook! -- ½-½ (30) Batsiashvili,N (2466)-Cordova,E (2620) Benasque 2016] 14.Bg5 And sure enough, White starts to think. 14...h6 15.Bh4 [15.Bxf6!? Bxf6 16.Qd2 Bg7 17.Bc4 is similar to Avrukh's line, although if White pushes the h-pawn again it will be an obvious loss of time.] 15...Nc7 16.Re1
16...g5! Black plays actively, not too concerned with his king cover. 17.Bg3 Ne4! 18.Nxe4 Rxe4 White is having trouble with his b- and d-pawns, often the case in the Benko. 19.Nd2 [19.Qc2 f5! looking for a chance to shut the bishop out with ...f4 (after doing something about the rook on e4 of course!) 20.Rad1 Rfe8 That's something.] 19...Rd4 There goes the d-pawn, but if White can get the a-pawn going it will be an advantage in position still. 20.Qc2 [20.a4 Nxd5 21.a5 is a dynamic situation, where Black can contain the a-pawn.] 20...Nxd5 21.a3 Nf4 22.Bf1?! [lets the bishop go. One computer line goes 22.Nf3 Nxe2+ 23.Qxe2 Rd5 24.Rad1 Be6 25.h4 gxh4 26.Rxd5 Bxd5 27.Nxh4 Be6 28.b4 c4 29.a4 Qb6 30.b5 Qc5 31.Bf4 c3 32.Qd3 Rd8 with Black's pawn the farthest advanced, but White might be more likely to continue their journey to coronation.] 22...Qf6 23.Nb3 Bf5 24.Qc3 Re4 Black sees that the coming exchanges won't solve White's problems. 25.Qxf6 Bxf6 26.Rxe4 Bxe4 27.Bxf4 gxf4 The kingside might look "ruined" but it doesn't matter. Black has two healthy pawns on the c- and d-files, and should the b-pawn go they'll be free to march. 28.Nd2 Bc6 29.Rd1 d5!
Classic Steinitz Principle: keep the knight away from good squares. 30.b4? [A better try to hold was 30.Ne4!? dxe4 31.Rd6 Bxb2 32.Rxc6 but 32...Rd8! (32...Bxa3 33.Rf6 Bc1 34.Bc4 Kg7 35.Rf5 e3 36.Kf1=/+ /-/+; 32...Bd4 33.Bb5 Rd8 34.a4=/+) 33.Rxc5 Rd1-+ and White can't untangle.] 30...Ba4 31.Rc1 c4 32.Nxc4!?
32...dxc4?! White now gets a lot of pawns, even if it eventually isn't sufficient. [32...Rc8 avoids even that, with a sure win.] 33.Rxc4 Be5 34.Rc5 Bd6 35.Rd5 Rd8 36.Bc4 Bc7 37.Kf1 Rxd5 38.Bxd5 Be5 39.Ke2 Bb2 40.Kd3 Bxa3 41.Kc4 Kf8 42.b5 Ke7 43.b6 f6 44.Be4 Kd6 45.Bf3 Bc5 46.Kd3 Bxb6 47.Ke4 Bxf2 48.Kxf4 Bd7
Black is winning, but does have to take care not to slip into some dark-squared bishop plus h-pawn ending with White's king on or near h1 -- a famous, quixotic drawing resource. But he deftly avoids any hint of trouble. 49.Be4 Be1 50.Bd3 Bd2+ 51.Kf3 Bc6+ 52.Kf2 Ke5 53.g3 Kd4 54.Bf5 Be4 55.Bd7 Ke5 56.Ke2 Bb4 57.h4 Bf5 58.Bc6 Bg4+ 59.Kf2 Bc5+ 60.Kg2 Kd4 61.Bb7 Ke3 62.Bc6 Bd6 63.Bb7 Bf5 64.Ba6 Be4+ 65.Kh3 Kf2 66.g4?! Bg2# BrianEscalante won by checkmate 0-1

(4) FM Kyron Griffith (KyronGriffith) (2340) - NM Eric Hon (microbear) (2298) [B61]
MI April TNMo (4.3), 20.04.2021
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Bg5 Bd7 Less played than 6...e6. The late great Bent Larsen used this move a lot, 7.Qd2 Rc8 8.0-0-0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Qa5 10.Bd2 a6 No need to fear the discovered attack from the bishop yet. 11.Kb1 Qc5 12.Qxc5 Rxc5 13.Be3 Rc8 14.f3 g6 15.g4

So we have an endgame that looks like a Dragon without the queens, White holds a small edge hear, but problably both players were satisfied with their opening. 15...Bg7 16.Bd4 [Perhaps 16.h4 anyway is the best move. White can't play for checkmate without the queens but can still take space on the kingside.] 16...0-0 17.g5 Nh5 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.e5? This aggressive move just gets into trouble. It doesn't win a pawn (as the game continuation shows) while it weakens many squares in the center 19...Bc6! 20.exd6 Bxf3 21.dxe7 Rfe8 22.Bh3
22...Rxc3! 23.bxc3 Bxh1 24.Rxh1 Rxe7 The weak white pawns make this endgame hard to hold. 25.Rf1 Re5 26.c4!? Kyron is doing his best to complicte matters by going for acdtivity 26...Rc5 [26...b6!] 27.Rd1 [27.Bg2! Rxc4?! 28.Rxf7+! Kxf7 29.Bd5+] 27...Nf4 28.Bg4 Rxc4 29.Rd7 b5 30.Ra7 Rc6?! [30...Rb4+] 31.Bd7! Rd6 32.Be8 The master of swindles has generated chances in this difficult ending. 32...Nh3 33.Rxf7+ Kg8 34.Rd7 Rxd7 35.Bxd7 Nxg5 White is a pawn down yet the bishop is better than the knight in this open board. Now the kings need to come up to help. 36.Kb2 Kf7 37.Kb3 Ke7 38.Bc8 a5 39.Ba6?! [39.c4! bxc4+ 40.Kxc4 Nf3 41.h3 would be the most direct way to draw] 39...Nf3 40.h3?! [40.Bxb5] 40...Ng5?! [40...Nd2+! 41.Kc3 Ne4+ 42.Kd4 Nd6 43.Kc5 g5! 44.Bxb5 Nxb5 45.Kxb5 h5 wins] 41.Bxb5 Nxh3

42.Kc4?! [42.Ka4 Nf4 43.Kxa5 would make it much more difficult in the time pressure. Black would have to find 43...g5 44.Kb6 g4 45.a4 g3 46.Bf1 g2 47.Bxg2 Nxg2 48.a5 Kd6 49.a6 Ne3! 50.a7 Nd5+ 51.Kb7 Nc7] 42...Kd6 43.Kd4 Nf4 44.c4 Ne6+ Now it's easy and mircobear reals in the point. 45.Ke4 Kc5 46.Ke5 Nc7 47.Bd7 Kxc4 48.Kf6 Nd5+ 49.Kg7 Kd4 50.Be6 Nf4 51.Bf7 h5! 0-1

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SwissSys Standings. April 2021 TNM: 1800+

# Name Handle ID Rating Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Total Prize
1 Gadir Guseinov gguseinov 17343590 2674 W36 W8 W6 W4     4.0  
2 Brian Escalante BrianEscalante 16836558 2542 W21 D11 W20 W7     3.5  
3 Eric Hon microbear 13778105 2203 H--- W25 W11 W15     3.5  
4 Josiah Stearman josiwales 14006506 2494 W22 W19 W10 L1     3.0  
5 Elliott Winslow ecwinslow 10363365 2278 W37 L20 W21 W19     3.0  
6 Ruiyang Yan jij2018 15462690 2242 W23 W12 L1 W18     3.0  
7 Max Gedajlovic MMSanchez 14947382 2141 W34 W24 W9 L2     3.0  
8 David Askin David_Askin 13776967 2041 W14 L1 W23 W20     3.0  
9 Eric Li kingandqueen2017 15688436 2344 W26 W18 L7 D13     2.5  
10 Michael Walder FlightsOfFancy 10345120 2135 W13 W31 L4 D12     2.5  
11 Michael Wang coalescenet 13605850 2098 W30 D2 L3 W27     2.5  
12 Jeffery Wang twangbio 16291100 1871 W33 L6 W32 D10     2.5  
13 Pranav Sathish championps 16464655 1768 L10 X36 W17 D9     2.5  
14 Ethan Guo LightningDragon8 16761994 1745 L8 D22 W34 W25     2.5  
15 Kyron Griffith KyronGriffith 12860484 2490 H--- H--- W16 L3     2.0  
16 Daniel Lin SmilyFace4 15176393 2027 D27 W35 L15 D22     2.0  
17 Cailen Melville Mangonel 14006141 1940 L31 W27 L13 W29     2.0  
18 Ashik Uzzaman ashikuzzaman 13178575 1940 W28 L9 W24 L6     2.0  
19 Jonah Busch kondsaga 12469525 1934 W32 L4 W31 L5     2.0  
20 Chelsea Zhou mwncklmann 15239016 1870 W29 W5 L2 L8     2.0  
21 Vishva Nanugonda 3Ke31-0 16380312 1832 L2 W30 L5 W31     2.0  
22 Max Hao Joseph_Truelsons_Fan 16083648 1812 L4 D14 W28 D16     2.0  
23 Philip Gerstoft pgstar3 12913356 1788 L6 W33 L8 W32     2.0  
24 Nursultan Uzakbaev rimus11 17137317 1513 B--- L7 L18 W30     2.0  
25 Thomas Maser talenuf 10490936 1900 H--- L3 W35 L14     1.5  
26 Kagan Uz uzkuzk 16434922 1809 L9 D28 L27 W35     1.5  
27 Callaghan McCarty-Snead DoctorBanner 14948275 1700 D16 L17 W26 L11     1.5  
28 Shravan Sriram Ragingbeast360 15894655 1655 L18 D26 L22 W34     1.5  
29 Marina Xiao programmingmax 16380642 1512 L20 D34 W37 L17     1.5  
30 Jason Ochoa Barok44 12440572 1759 L11 L21 W33 L24     1.0  
31 Georgios Tsolias GiorgosTsolias 17266862 1679 W17 L10 L19 L21     1.0  
32 Vedant Talwalkar serverbusy 16408266 1644 L19 W37 L12 L23     1.0  
33 David Rakonitz MechAnjin 12931024 1622 L12 L23 L30 W37     1.0  
34 Kevin M Fong chessappeals 17254586 1783 L7 D29 L14 L28     0.5  
35 Sanjeev Anand chessp1234 14436451 1766 H--- L16 L25 L26     0.5  
36 Samir Alazawi samiralazawi 14690016 1866 L1 F13 U--- U---     0.0  
37 Philip Warton hypermod 12541460 1800 L5 L32 L29 L33     0.0  

SwissSys Standings. April 2021 TNM: u1800

# Name Handle ID Rating Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Total Prize
1 Sos Hakobyan SacrificeandCrush 14452712 1771 W23 W15 W9 D2     3.5  
2 Ivan Zong ivanzong 30131397 unr. W26 W14 W7 D1     3.5  
3 Joshua Lamstein aveevu 15487526 1632 L17 W28 W11 W6     3.0  
4 Nicholas M Brown nmbrown2 12446259 1495 H--- H--- W19 W15     3.0  
5 Ethan Sun sfdeals 16964125 1456 D11 W19 D22 W16     3.0  
6 Sebastian Suarez Sebbymeister 16875347 1414 W20 W17 W16 L3     3.0  
7 Rajtilak Indrajit Jagannathan rtindru 30109752 1369 W8 W18 L2 W17     3.0  
8 Anton Bobkov texfan 30162536 unr. L7 W13 W26 W14     3.0  
9 Michael Xiao swimgrass 16380636 1363 W21 W31 L1 D10     2.5  
10 Ella Guo SunnyCountry 16380657 1197 L22 W33 W21 D9     2.5  
11 Adam Stafford aanval22 14257838 1014 D5 W12 L3 W18     2.5  
12 William Kelly wkelly 30161947 unr. H--- L11 W32 W22     2.5  
13 Michael Hilliard Echecsmike 12279170 1446 L19 L8 W28 W29     2.0  
14 Gabriel Ngam boozerrip 13553308 1350 W24 L2 W20 L8     2.0  
15 Prescott Yu prescott00000 16009618 1309 W30 L1 W29 L4     2.0  
16 Aryan Renjith SavageAryan 15027127 1274 W33 W22 L6 L5     2.0  
17 Ian Liao victor6688 16738735 1180 W3 L6 W30 L7     2.0  
18 Sean Wu dum2020arEEEWS 16802870 1015 W32 L7 W31 L11     2.0  
19 Charvi Atreya Charvii 16816706 984 W13 L5 L4 W31     2.0  
20 Justin Brunet night_breeze 30055583 963 L6 W32 L14 W30     2.0  
21 Rehaan Malhotra MrRap9 30118209 unr. L9 W27 L10 W26     2.0  
22 Ahyan Zaman ahyanzaman 15035222 1699 W10 L16 D5 L12     1.5  
23 Andrew Ballantyne andrewaballantyne 17079795 1227 L1 L30 W33 D24     1.5  
24 Jordan Orpia Jorpia42 30158430 unr. L14 L26 W27 D23     1.5  
25 Nursultan Uzakbaev rimus11 17137317 1513 W28 U--- U--- U---     1.0  
26 Massimo Jackson Mateojackson 17251318 1305 L2 W24 L8 L21     1.0  
27 Rodney Brown Bonaparte1984 16401545 1280 L31 L21 L24 W33     1.0  
28 Bruce Hedman Bruce_Hedman 17344551 1035 L25 L3 L13 W32     1.0  
29 Samuel Tsen Brown comfyqueso 16380615 811 H--- H--- L15 L13     1.0  
30 Rayna Yan ihaveyourcat 30157975 unr. L15 W23 L17 L20     1.0  
31 Andra Babigian QueenGma 30152085 unr. W27 L9 L18 L19     1.0  
32 Daniel Marcus radio_on 12905558 1458 L18 L20 L12 L28     0.0  
33 Victor Beauchamp Greatboomer 30154650 unr. L16 L10 L23 L27     0.0  

 Thursday Night Marathon

After 4 rounds, GM Gadir Guseinov and IM Elliott Winslow remain the only perfect scores at 4/4 heading into the final round next week. FM Kyron Griffith and FM Richard Koepcke are close behind at 3.5/4 with 8 players at 3/4. Here are the complete standings after 4 rounds.

SwissSys Standings. Open (Standings (no tiebrk))

# Name Handle ID Rating Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Total
1 GM Gadir Guseinov gguseinov 17343590 2700 W24 W37 W18 W5   4.0
2 IM Elliott Winslow ecwinslow 10363365 2278 W25 W8 W19 W7   4.0
3 FM Kyron Griffith kyrongriffith 12860484 2490 W12 H--- W30 W13   3.5
4 FM Richard Koepcke rkoepcke 10493269 2200 H--- W32 W15 W14   3.5
5 NM Michael Walder flightsoffancy 10345120 2135 W38 W9 W10 L1   3.0
6 Pranav Sairam chesspilot01 15424820 2084 W39 F10 W23 W21   3.0
7 Adam Mercado a-boy415 16571026 1831 W26 W21 W29 L2   3.0
8 Leo Wang mu3tang 16061785 1765 W27 L2 W39 W25   3.0
9 Callaghan McCarty-Snead doctorbanner 14948275 1700 W35 L5 W40 W29   3.0
10 Jeff Andersen zenwabi 11296106 1643 W45 X6 L5 W17   3.0
11 Joel Carron bigchampionofchess 16600505 1610 W36 L14 W41 W18   3.0
12 Kevin Sun kevin_mx_sun 16898540 1443 L3 W44 W20 W19   3.0
13 Kristian Clemens kclemens 13901075 1997 D34 W22 W31 L3   2.5
14 Cailen Melville mangonel 14006141 1940 W40 W11 H--- L4   2.5
15 NM Thomas Maser talenuf 10490936 1900 H--- W33 L4 W26   2.5
16 Jaryd Saevitzon thejuicerisloose 30144616 unr. B--- L19 H--- W30   2.5
17 Robert Smith maturner 12463327 1853 L41 W42 W24 L10   2.0
18 Aaron Nicoski kingsmasher35 12797931 1822 W42 W41 L1 L11   2.0
19 Kagan Uz uzkuzk 16434922 1809 W43 W16 L2 L12   2.0
20 Alexander Huberts cccalboy 16419664 1794 W47 L29 L12 X31   2.0
21 Bryan Hood fiddleleaf 12839763 1574 W48 L7 W35 L6   2.0
22 Nursultan Uzakbaev rimus11 17137317 1513 D28 L13 D33 W40   2.0
23 Marina Xiao programmingmax 16380642 1512 L29 W43 L6 W41   2.0
24 Akshaj Pulijala loltheawesomedude 16497860 1455 L1 W47 L17 W45   2.0
25 Michael Xiao swimgrass 16380636 1363 L2 W27 W37 L8   2.0
26 Katherine Sunny Lu 2nf31-0 16425316 978 L7 W48 W32 L15   2.0
27 Ivan Zong ivanzong 30131397 unr. L8 L25 W48 W38   2.0
28 Joshua Lu probablyjosh 30127073 unr. D22 L31 H--- W39   2.0
29 Justin Brunet night_breeze 30055583 unr. W23 W20 L7 L9   2.0
30 Zachi Baharav fastzachi 13464604 1813 H--- W34 L3 L16   1.5
31 Jason Ochoa barok44 12440572 1759 H--- W28 L13 F20   1.5
32 Jacob Wang jacobchess857 17083655 1623 H--- L4 L26 X44   1.5
33 Nick Reed nxbex 16154827 1433 H--- L15 D22 D35   1.5
34 Adam Stafford aanval22 14257838 1014 D13 L30 L38 W47   1.5
35 Pratyush Bhingarkar greenninja2019 30015889 unr. L9 W38 L21 D33   1.5
36 Jeff Rosengarden jrosengarden 30105422 unr. L11 L40 W47 H---   1.5
37 Bryan Lynch nycsheep 15493651 1769 W44 L1 L25 U---   1.0
38 Darren Yin dareonion 12846430 1323 L5 L35 W34 L27   1.0
39 Bruce Hedman bruce_hedman 17344551 1035 L6 W45 L8 L28   1.0
40 Jerry Li figsnoring 16551291 999 L14 W36 L9 L22   1.0
41 Charvi Atreya charvii 16816706 984 W17 L18 L11 L23   1.0
42 Jake Chi Hang Li jakech1123 17144246 946 L18 L17 L45 W48   1.0
43 Danny Cao caodanny 16939797 887 L19 L23 H--- H---   1.0
44 Cleveland Lee vincitore51745 12814843 619 L37 L12 B--- F32   1.0
45 Sean Liu seanyliu 30149285 unr. L10 L39 W42 L24   1.0
46 Vedant Talwalkar serverbusy 16408266 1644 H--- U--- U--- U---   0.5
47 Andrejs Gulbis andrejsg 16741331 826 L20 L24 L36 L34   0.0
48 Kaori Nguyen sillybunnyy 30156281 unr. L21 L26 L27 L42   0.0

Club Match Tour Begins Saturday Against Edinburgh Chess Club

The first our our Spring Club Match Tour matches begins Saturday as we take on Edinburgh Chess Club of Scotland. The match will begin at 11am PT and we will stream the match on our Twitch channel starting at 11am PT, with commentary by GM Nick de Firmian, FM Paul Whitehead, WCM Allyson Wong, and Chess Director Abel Talamantez. Dr. Judit Sztaray will be the Chief TD pairing and starting the games. Click here to follow on Saturday morning:

Dr. Alexey Root

Our good friend WIM Dr. Alexey Root just released an article in ChessBase about the ratings gap and gender, analyzed through the lens of US Championships. It is an interestinf read, and can be found by following this link:

Of additional interest is the photo used along with the article, which can be seen above. It is from Chess Life magazine March 1996 and in it is our very own Grandmaster in Residence GM Nick de Firmian along with Chair of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Committee GM Patrick Wolff. 

IM John Donaldson Interview

Listen to an interview by IM John Donaldson regarding his newly released book Bobby Fischer and His World on The Chess Circuit podcast by following this link:

Reciprocity Partnership With Marshall Chess Club

The Mechanics' Institute and the Marshall Chess Club entered into a partnership last year in which we agreed to recognize each organization's members so that our players can enjoy the benefits our respective clubs. Now that there are so many course offerings and USCF online-rated events, we wanted to let our chess community know again that if you are a member of the Mechanics' Institute (meaning you have a membership card and paid the annual fee), you may enjoy playing at Marshall or taking one of their courses at the Marshall member rate. Marshall has also promoted this reciprocity agreement with Mechanics' Institute in their newsletter the Marshall Spectator. To subscribe to their newsletter, please follow this link:

To see their list of events, click this link:

If you are a member and wish to be added to the list of members to participate in Marshall events, please send an email to [email protected] and list your USCF number. We will verify membership and place you on the list.

We look forward to this partnership between our two historic clubs in an effort to continue bringing communities together through chess!


Take on the Mechanics' Chess Staff Live on Twitch!

The chess room staff at the Mechanics' Institute are taking on all comers now weekly, as each of us will live stream an arena tournament where we will commentate our own games! You might be playing 3-time US Champion GM Nick de Firmian, or perhaps our commentator and instructor extraordinaire FM Paul Whitehead. 

Arenas are an hour long, and the chess staff will be paired against the first available player to play at the conclusion of their games. All other players will be paired with the next available opponent. This will continue for the whole hour. While there is no guarantee you will be paired against a chess staff member, you will have a very good chance at it, depending on the number of players playing. All games will be streamed live on our Twitch channel:

GM Nick de Firmian/FM Paul Whitehead Arena: Tuesdays 5pm-6pm, 4/27:

See you in the arena!

Mechanics' Institute Regular Online Classes

  1. Monday's 4:00-5:30PM - Mechanics' Chess Cafe
    Ongoing casual meeting to talk about chess, life, and pretty much everything else of interest. Join 3-time US Champion GM Nick de Firmian and FM Paul Whitehead as they give a lecture and class in a fun casual atmosphere where you can discuss games, learn strategy, discuss chess current events and interact in a fun casual atmosphere. Enter our Monday chess café for the pure love of the game. Class suitable for ALL level of players and FREE for MI members.
    FREE for Mechanics' members. $5 for non-members.
    More information:

  2. Monday's 6:00-7:00PM -- NEW 6-week Specialty Class: Modern Chess Openings (MCO) with GM Nick de Firmian with FM Paul Whitehead
    Course Dates: April 5 - May 10, 2021

    Modern Chess Openings was a revolutionary text, and it has come back to life as it was featured in The Queen's Gambit. Mechanics' Institute Grandmaster in Residence GM Nick de Firmian was the editor of several editions of that book and now it will come to life as a class! This will be club players of various strengths and will focus on about 5 key openings. He will cover open game openings that reinforce fundamentals such as piece development, control of the center and king safety, and he will also cover more complex openings that need deeper understanding such as the Sicilian, Queen's Gambit, and Ruy Lopez. The purpose of this class is to gain a better understanding of the ideas behind playing these openings and what to look for. The class will be interactive and engaging. FM Paul Whitehead will also be on to facilitate the class. The class will be fluid and interaction in the class is encouraged. We hope to enlighten the student on what it means to play openings and hpw they can lay the foundation for the course of the entire game. More information:

  3. Wednesday's 5:00-6:30PM - Free Adult Beginner Class for Mechanics' Members

    Are you an adult who wants to put learning chess on top of your New Year's resolution? Get a head start with us at the Mechanics' Institute! This virtual class is open to any MI member who has no knowledge of the game or who knows the very basics and wants to improve. Taught by MI Chess Director Abel Talamantez along with other MI staff, we will patiently walk through all the basics at a pace suitable for our class. Our goal is to teach piece movement basics, checkmate patterns, importance of development, and general strategy. We will also show students how to play online so they may practice. The goal of the class is to open a new world of fun and joy through the magic and beauty of chess, from one of the oldest and proudest chess clubs in the world.
    Registration: Current class is full.
    Next class starts June. Free for MI members. Members will have to register online to secure their spot and to receive an email confirming the Zoom link:
    More information:

  4. Wednesdays 6:30-8PM -- New offerings start next week: Advanced Attacking Techniques by FM Paul Whitehead
    Course Dates: April 28 through June 2 (6 classes)

    Special class for players with 1800+ USCF rating to learn, discuss and improve on their attacking skills.
    $150 Mechanics' members. $180 for non-members. Few single class registrations are available -- Registration is needed to receive the zoom link.
    More information:

  5. Wednesdays 7-8PM - Tactics for the Developing Players
    Course Dates: March 31 through June 2 (10 classes)

    I am IM (International Master) Elliott Winslow, and I’ll be teaching this course! I will go over one of the greatest players (world champions, groundbreakers, players who advanced chess theory and practice) per week, including some of the history of the player and the time period in which they made their mark, and use their games to instill basic tactical and positional thinking to those in the class. I will do weekly game analysis of at least one game from the star of the week, and show how to find tactics in that game and through puzzles, and at the end of class either leave time open to go over games sent by the participants ahead of class, or for the students to play some games.

    More information:

  6. Sundays 10AM - 12PM -- Free Women's Online Chess Class by FIDE Trainer Sophie Adams

    Come join us on Sundays as we are offering a free class for women from 10am-12pm(noon) online.
    Coached by FIDE Trainer Sophie Adams, this class is for women and girls looking to develop their chess skills with a community of women. Knowledge of piece movements and mates is expected. Registration is required so we may send the links for players to join. Zoom will be required to participate, and we will include optional links to participate in online platforms like if players would like to play with each other online.

    Be sure to be a part of the Mechanics' Women's Chess Club on

    More information:
    Class is free, but must register to receive class information:

Mechanics' Institute Regular Online Events Schedule

The Mechanics' Institute Chess Club will continue to hold regular online events in various forms. Here is the upcoming schedule for players:

4/27 Tuesday - April 2021 Tuesday Night Marathon
Format: 6SS G/35+2

Join Now!  May/June 2021 Thursday Night Marathon (May 13-June 10)
Format: 5SS G/60+5

Past Club Tournament results are here:
Before playing in our online tournaments, be sure to do the following:
1. Sign up and log in to
2. Sign up to be a member of Mechanics' Institute Chess Club at You need to become a member before you can play.
3. Please fill out the Google Form, so we know who you are, and can inform you about changes, and ad hoc events:

Any questions? [email protected]


Scholastic Corner

By Judit Sztaray

Spring Session of our Virtual Chess Classes are starting
March 22 through May 31
Not too late to join - Prorating is available!

  • All Girls Class with Coach Colin -- Mondays 4-5PM - Register HERE
  • Intermediate Class with Coach Andrew -- Thursdays 4-5PM - Register HERE
  • Advanced Class with Coach Andy -- Thursdays 5-6PM - Register HERE
  • Tactics, Tactics, Tactics with Coach Andrew for players rated 1000+ (ChessKid rating) -- Friday 3-4PM - Register HERE

Upcoming Tournaments

Players have to be part of Mechanics' Group on ChessKid. Need help how to join? Watch the tutorial here:

1) Free daily non-rated tournaments on

Tournaments start at 4PM and players can join the tournaments 30 minutes before the tournament.

2) USCF Online Rated Tournaments on the weekends

More information:

4/24 Saturday - 6SS G/10+2 affecting USCF Online Quick rating.
Register online:

5/2 Sunday - 6SS G/15+2 affecting USCF Online Quick rating.
Register online:

5/8 Saturday - 4SS G/20+10 affecting USCF Online Regular rating.
Register online:

Scholastic Game of the Week: Annotations by GM Nick de Firmian

(5) ThinOvalPaw (1511) - chunky_tofu_icecream (1503) [B22]
Live Chess
[de Firmian, Nick]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 The delayed 2.c3 Sicilian. Black does best to respond with a move hitting the center - 3...d5 or 3...Nf6. 3...g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 Bg7 6.Bc4 [6.Nc3 is the most flexible move, so the bishop can develop to another square defending on Black's move.] 6...Nf6 7.Nc3?!

Allowing the fork trick. 7. d5 or 7. e5 would cause more trouble. 7...Nxe4! 8.Nxe4 [8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.Nxe4 would be somewhat better. Material is even, Black has two bishops but needs a move or two to get the king to safety.] 8...d5 9.Bxd5 Qxd5 10.Nc3 Qd6 [10...Qc4 stopping castling could make some trouble for White.] 11.Be3 0-0 12.Qd2?! [12.h3] 12...e5?! [12...Bg4! Threatens to take the knight on f3, doubling the pawns and taking support from the d4 pawn. Black would have a big advantage.] 13.0-0 exd4 14.Bh6?! tricky, but objectively not as good as [14.Nb5 Qe7 15.Nbxd4 getting the pawn back] 14...Bxh6?! This lets the white queen come to a dangerous spot. Black keeps a good edge with development - [14...Bg4 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Ne4 Qd5] 15.Qxh6 dxc3??

Oh no! Too eager to take the knight. 16.Ng5! Rd8 There is no way out of mate. 17.Qxh7+ Kf8 18.Qxf7# 1-0

Finishing Tactics from the World Championship Matches 11: Lasker – Capablanca 1921

FM Paul Whitehead

[email protected]

Emanuel Lasker’s 27 year-reign as World Champion ended in Havana, 1921.  His challenger, Jose Raoul Capablanca, had basically twisted Lasker’s arm with the offer of a large fee - he even refused Lasker’s offer to resign the match before it started.  Everyone was happy, and even though Lasker had the excuses of age and a hostile climate, the inevitable outcome was not really in doubt.  The “Invincible Cuban” finally wrested the title from his old rival, +4 -0 =10.  The games are languorous: carefully played and a bit tired – especially on Lasker’s part - as though the players were just going through the motions. 


1. Capablanca – Lasker, 5th Match Game 1921.

Black moves.  Pick your king move carefully…


2. Lasker - Capablanca, 10th Match Game 1921.

Black moves.  A little one-two punch.


3. Capablanca - Lasker, 11th Match Game 1921.

White moves.  Yet another classic combination.


4. Lasker – Capablanca, 14th Match Game 1921.

White moves.  Why not 1.Kh2, as played by Lasker?

GM Nick de Firmian

The Return of the Candidates Tournament

The long awaited resumption of the Candidates Tournament began on April 19th for the second half of the double round robin. The best thing about this was the absolutely superb level of chess that is being played there. After a year of online rapid play events, it is a great pleasure to see deeply thought out strategies and very few errors. These quality games are works of art that will be saved in books for future generations to enjoy. I recommend the reader to spend your time viewing many of the games of this event as they are so unlike the chess that has been played in the last year. We all have gotten used to managing life in the pandemic times, but there are many things that will simply be much better when life returns to normal. The high intensity of over the board chess games is one of those, and right now you can enjoy it’s return.

The resumption after a year continued with the scores from the pre-pandemic half, with Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave in the lead,  Caruana and Giri 1 point behind. Ding Liren has returned, but he needed a miracle to overtake the leaders and that doesn’t seem to be happening. The race for first took a twist in the first round of resumption when Caruana played co-leader Vachier-Lagrave (MVL). Caruana had saved his best opening preparation for months to surprise MVL, who nonetheless responded with incredible resourcefulness. We give this epic encounter below – a game I consider to be the best of the last year.  The other tournament games are also incredible battles. As a second choice we give the encounter between the two Chinese players, world #3 Ding Liren and underrated Wang Hao (who is a favorite of MI staff).

(1) Caruana,Fabiano - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxim [B97]
Candidates Tournament, 19.04.2021

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 This game was destined to be a real fight. Fabiano Caruano is the best prepared opening player in the world. Maxim Vachier-Lagrave is the best Najdorf player in the world and he plays the opening religiously like Bobby Fischer years ago. While many players are reluctant to play the Sicilian in the computer age Maxim feels he can survive any complications the opponent (with deep computer preparation) can throw at him. 6...e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2

The famous Poisened Pawn Variation of the Najdorf. This is fighting chess at it's maximum. The white player believes in development and piece play, while the black side player must believe in pawn structure and control of key squares to hold off the attack. This epic battle of ideas is usually determined by violent sacrifices. 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 h6 11.Bh4 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nfd7 13.Ne4 Qxa2 14.Rd1 Qd5 15.Qe3 Qxe5 16.c3 Bc5 17.Bg3 Qd5 18.Bc4!
Caruana had already sacrificed 3 pawns and now adds a piece to to deficiency. This amazing move is his opening preparation which his seconds and the computers helped him find. There is an interesting aspect that Caruana had this novelty ready for the classic Wijk aan Zee tournament in January, but chose not to use it there and save it for this event. This shows the gravity and quality of play in this most important of all tournaments. 18...Qxc4 19.Bd6 Nf6! Vachier-Lagrave is on is own against the computer preparation but finds an excellent defense by giving back the piece. On [19...Bxd4 20.Rxd4 Qb3 21.Qg3 gives White a very dangerous attack against the uncastled black king - quite worth the material. e.g. 21...Qb1+ 22.Kf2 Qxh1? 23.Qxg7 Rf8 24.Nf6+ Kd8 25.Bxb8 and nothing works for Black.] 20.Nxc5 Nd5 21.Qe5 Rg8 22.Ndxe6!
The spectator must just enjoy the following pyrotechnics. 22...fxe6 23.Nxe6 Qxc3+! An accomplishment by MVL - he has forced an endgame, though the tactics continue. 24.Qxc3 Nxc3 25.Nc7+ Kf7 26.Rd3
MVL deserves great credit for surviving the storm (more like a hurricane). He now makes a small inaccuracy which leaves him a tad worse. 26...Ne4?! [with 26...Ra7! 27.Rxc3 Kg6 Black would in no way be worse.] 27.0-0+! How often do you castle this late in the game? 27...Kg6 28.Nxa8 Nc6 29.Nb6 Rd8 30.Nxc8 Rxc8 31.Ba3 Rc7 material is even in the endgame but the black pawns on both edges of the board make White's rooks more potent than usual and Black's knights needing to be defensive on two sides. 32.Rf4 Nf6 33.Bb2 Ne7 34.Bxf6 gxf6 35.h4 h5 36.Rg3+ Kf7 37.Rg5 Now White will end up winning a pawn. We see Caruana fighting like a World Champion - in all phases of the game from opening to ending. 37...Rc1+ 38.Kh2 Ng6 39.Rf2 Nxh4 40.Rxh5 Ng6 41.Rh7+ Ke6 42.Rxb7 Ne5 43.Rb6+ Rc6 44.Rxc6+ Nxc6 If Black's pawns were together it would be an easy draw. Here there is no way to defend the far distant a-pawn. 45.Kg3 Kf7 46.Rc2 Nb4 47.Rd2 Nc6 48.Kf4 Kg6 49.Rd6 Ne5 50.Rxa6 Nf7 51.Ke4 Nh6 52.Ra5 Nf7 53.Ra3 Nd6+ 54.Kf4 Nf5 55.Rd3 Nh6? This ending can be played perfectly by consulting Table Base, where positions of 6 or less pieces are analyzed to perfection by computers. For a human that is imposssible and the players go back and forth in the next moves. We should note that MVL could reach a draw with [55...Ng7!
with a kind of fortress where the knight covers the white kings entry squares around the black pawn.] 56.Rg3+ Kf7 57.Ke4 Ng8 58.Kf5 Ne7+ 59.Kf4 Nd5+ 60.Kg4 Kg6 61.Kf3+ Kf7 62.Ke4 Ne7 63.Kf4 Nd5+ 64.Kf5 Ne7+ 65.Ke4 Ng8 66.Rh3 Kg6 67.Ra3 Kf7 68.Kf4 Nh6 69.Rg3 Ng8 70.Kg4 Ne7 71.Kh5! Caruana finds the way! The white king infiltrates into the black defenses via the h-file. 71...Nd5 72.Rf3 Ke6 73.g4 Ke5 74.Kg6 MVL resigns as there is no way to hold on now. e.g. 74...Ke6 75. Rf1 Ke5 76. Rf5+ Ke6 77. Rxd5 Kxd5 78. Kxf6. An epic battle. 1-0

(2) Wang,Hao - Ding,Liren [C45]
Candidates Tournament, 19.04.2021

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 The Scotch Opening was very popular in the 1990's when Kasparov revived it. Nowadays it's seen once in a while. 3...exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Wang Hao chooses the sharpest variation instead of the classic 6. Nc3 Bb4 7 Bd3 6...Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.b3 g6 10.Ba3 Nb4 11.Bb2 White has provoked the black knight to the b4 square. There are a lot of nuances in this variation, so now the white bishop comes back to the important b2 square with the different placement of Black's knight. 11...Bg7 12.a3 Nd5 13.Nd2 0-0 14.0-0-0! Clearly prepared for all out battle. The kings are on opposite wings and the struggle for central squares is heating up. 14...Rfe8 15.Qf3 Nb6 The black knight's only retreat. Now what can White do about the loose e-pawn? 16.Ne4

16...Bxe5! 17.Bxe5 Qxe5 18.Nf6+ Winning the exchange, but clearly there is more going on here. 18...Kf8 19.Nxe8 Qa1+ This is necessary. [19...Rxe8? 20.Kc2 would be simply up material] 20.Kc2 Qa2+ 21.Kc1 Qxa3+ Ding could repeat moves but tries to see if he can get more. 22.Kb1
22...Na4! 23.Qf6! The only move to hold the game. On [23.bxa4? Rb8+ 24.Kc2 Rb2+ 25.Kc1 Qa1#] 23...Qxb3+ 24.Kc1 Qa3+ 25.Kc2 Qa2+ 26.Kc1 Qa3+ 27.Kc2 Qa2+ 28.Kc1

The players agreed a draw by repetiton. Ding could not take the white knight since 28...Rxe8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Re1+ Kd6 31. Qd4 is mate. 1/2-1/2



1. Capablanca – Lasker, 5th Match Game 1921.

Under pressure, and in an eerie echo from the final match game with Karl Schlechter long ago, Lasker blundered with 1…Kf8?? The alternatives 1…Ke6 or 1…Kf6 would have kept the balance. After 2.Qb8+! Lasker resigned, as 2…Kg7 is mate: 3.Qh8+ Kg6 4.Qh6#,  or 2…Ke7 3.Qe5+ trades queens AND wins the knight. 1-0.


2. Lasker - Capablanca, 10th Match Game 1921.

1…Rxb3! wins a pawn in this model endgame squeeze.  Lasker could not hold it: 2.Ke3 (2.Rxb3? Nxd4+ wins yet another pawn) 2…Rb4 3.Nc3 Ne7 4.Ne2 Nf5+ 5.Kf2 g5 6.g4 Nd6 7.Ng1 Ne4+ 8.Kf1 Rb1+ 9.Kg2 Rb2+ 10.Kf1 Rf2+ 11.Ke1 Ra2 12.Kf1 Kg7 13.Re3 Kg6 14.Rd3 f6 15.Re3 Kf7 16.Rd3 Ke7 17.Re3 Kd6 18.Rd3 Rf2+ 19.Ke1 Rg2 20.Kf1 Ra2 21.Re3 e5. Preparations are completed, black makes his move. 22.Rd3 exd4 23.Rxd4 Kc5 24.Rd1 d4 25.Rc1+ Kd5 0-1. Capablanca notes that the advance of the black d-pawn will cost white his knight.


3. Capablanca - Lasker, 11th Match Game 1921.

1.Qxf8+! ‘Removing the guard’ was the final, beautiful move of the game. 1-0.  If 2…Qxf8 Rxh7#.


4. Lasker – Capablanca, 14th Match Game 1921.

As though he wished to use his king as a proxy in abdicating the throne, Lasker blundered in the final match game with 1.Kh2? allowing 1…Ng4+ 2.Kh1 Ne5, and Capablanca picked up the Exchange. Lasker put up a long but ultimately futile resistance: 3.Qd2 Nxf3 4.Nxf3 Qf6 5.a4 g6 6.fxg6 fxg6 7.Re3 Bf5 8.Qd3 g5 9.Nd2 Bg6 10.b4 Qe6 11.b5 axb5 12.axb5 Ra8 13.Qb1 Qe5 14.Qe1 Kh7 15.bxc6 bxc6 16.Qg3 Qxg3 17.Rxg3 Ra3 18.Kh2 Rb7 19.c5 dxc5 20.Nc4 Ra1 21.Ne5 Rc1 22.h4 Re7 23.Nxc6 Re6 24.Nd8 gxh4 25.Rd3 Rf6 26.Rd7+ Kh8 27.Nd5 Rff1 28.Kh3 Bxe4 0-1.


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