John Burke and Other Yanks Score High in Maryland’s “International” Chess Showcase
It was the Washington area’s 9th international tournament, but it was the Americans who took home some of the highest honors.
US GM John Burke won the trophy earlier this month at the annual Rockville Solid event hosted by the Maryland Chess Association, with the best tiebreakers among the four players who finished atop the championship section at 6½-½.
US general manager Andrew Tang and junior IM Andrew Liang matched Burke’s tally, as well as Slovakian IM Viktor Gazik, with a number of strong foreign general managers kept out of the winner’s circle.
NM Roman Rychkov opened with two draws then went on to win seven straight to win the Under-2300 Premier section and Benjamin Lu Gin won the Under-1800 Contenders tournament with a fine result of 7½-½.
When paired with a higher rated player, I tended to lose by playing too softly rather than too aggressively, by giving too much deference to my opponent’s supposedly superior calculating and analytical abilities, by falling not with a bang but a moan.
That wasn’t the case for young NM Davis Zong, who gave everything he could handle and more before succumbing in 24 sharp and complex moves. White leans from the start in this Ragozin QGD, not shrinking from the complications offered after 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5!? 10. Bxf6! (Black scores a major psychological point after moves like 10. Bd2?! e5 or 10…0-0; now the grandmaster gains material but finds his king in the face of a vicious attack) Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 (Qxc4+? 12. Kg1 gxf6 13 .Rc1) 12. Rc1 Qa5 13. h4!, and White’s last major piece is about to be activated as Black’s king is abandoned in the center and his queenside pieces have no not played yet.
Davis dictates play with a series of aggressive ideas: 15. Re3! Nc6 (e5 is met by 16. Qh5!, hitting f7 and pinning the e-pawn from the side, presenting Black with anti-mine options such as 16…Be6 [Rf8 17. Bxf7! Rxf7 18. Rxc8 Qa6+ 19. Kg1 exd4 20. Rc7+ Nd7 21. Rxd7+! Kxd7 22. Qxf7+ Kc6 23. Qxf6+ and White is winning] 17. Nf5+ Bxf5 [Kf8 18. Qxh7 Ke8 19. Bxe6, and mate is not far off] 18. Qxf7+ Kd6 19. Rd3+ Kc5 20. Ba6+! Kb6 21. Qxb7 mate) 16. Nf5+! exf5 17. exf5+ Ne5 18. Qh5 — Black is now a full piece ahead but the fight is far from over, as his king is pinned down by a devastating crossfire from White’s major pieces.
The Ukrainian GM 18…Kd6! looks suicidal, but seems to be the only move to hold the position (Rf8? 19. f4 Qd2 20. Rxe5+ fxe5 21. f6+! Kd8 [Kxf6 22. Qg5 mate] 22. Kd1 wins), and White finally stumbles amid the explosive complexities of the game.
Thus: 19. f4 Nxc4 20. Rxc4 Be6 (see diagram; it’s still a battle after 21. Qd1+! Bd5 22. Qd4 Re8 23. Rec3!—introducing the nasty threat of 24. Rc5—Re7 24. Rc5; ex 24… Qa6+ 25. Kg1 Bxg2 [Bc6? 26. Re3+ Kf8 27. Qd6+ Kg8 28. Rg3+ Kh8 29. Qxf6 mate is one illustration of the tightrope Black is walking] 26. Rxg2 Kf8 27. Rc7, with maybe a slight advantage for Black) Rc7 22. Qd1 (unfortunately, after 22. Rxd8 Rxd8, it is White’s f-pawn that is now pinned and does not dare to take the bishop, and 22. Kxe6 is answered with 22…Rxd4 23. Qxf7+ Rd7, defense) Qc5, and White’s once proud attack is in tatters.
After 24. Rxd4 Bc4+, Davis could honorably step down as 25. Kf2 Kd8 26. Re3 Kxd4 27. Qxd4 Qxd4+ 28. Kxd4 b5 is an elemental late game win for a grandmaster. A loss is a loss, but Zong definitely got his money’s worth.
A better example of fortune favoring the brave – or at least the unintimidated – can be seen in NM Shelev Oberoi’s upset victory over GM and former US Junior Champion Akshat Chandra of the Rockville event. The truth is, the Grandmaster has the best of this Caro-Kann Advance’s early game by far, but when Black’s defensive radar signals a second, Oberoi is there, ready to pounce.
Black wins a clear pawn early in the middle game, with white having only vague hopes of an attack against his opponent’s slightly compromised kingside. After 25. Rg3 a6 26. Nd4, well-timed greed would have strengthened Chandra’s cause with 26…Qxb2, when 27. Nxe6 fxe6 28. Qe7 is hijacked by 28…Rg8 29. Qxe6 Qc2 30. Qxd5 Rc7, defending and winner.
Instead, this happened: 26…Qd8?! (not bad, but leaving white setting a sneaky trap) 27. Qh5 Rc4 ?? (not sensing the danger and weakness of the g6-square; 27…Bxd4 28. cxd4 29. Qd1 Qb6 still leaves Black in charge) 28. Nxe6! (a crushing fork) Qf6 (what else? on 28…Rh4 [out of the question is 28…fxe6?? 29. Qg6+ Kg8 30. Qxg7 mate]White plays 29. Rxg7+ Kh8 30. Qxf5, with mat to come h7) 29. Nxg7 f4 30. Rg4 f3 31. Rxc4 dxc4 32. Nf5 fxg2 33. Re1 Rg8 34. Nd4, and Black, one piece less without actual compensation, resigning.
Zong-Matviishen, 9th Washington International, Rockville, Maryland, August 2022
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 c5 7. Bxc4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 10. Bxf6 Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 12. Kf1 Qa5 13. h4 Ke7 14. Rh3 Kd8 15. Re3 Nc6 16. Nf5+ exf5 17. exf5+ Ne5 18. Qh5 Kd6 19. f4 Nxc4 20. Rxc4 Be6 21. Rd4+ Kc7 22. Qd1 Qc5 23. Ree4 Kxd4 24. Rxd4 Bc4+ White resigns.
Oberoi-Chandra, 9th Washington International, Rockville, Maryland, August 2022
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 6. Ne2 Qa5+ 7. c3 Qa6 8. Qd1 c5 9. OO Nc6 10. a3 Nge7 11. dxc5 Nxe5 12. Nd4 g6 13. a4 Bg5 h6 15. Bh4 Nf5 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. Bg3 Qc6 18. Na3 Qxc5 19. Bxe5 Bxe5 20. Qh5 Bg7 21. Rae1 OO 22. Nb5 Kh7 23. Qh4 Rac8 24. Re3 Qb6 25. Rg3 a6 26. Nd4 Qd8 27. Qh5 Rc4 28. Nxe6 Qf6 29. Nxg7 f4 30. Rg4 f3 31. Rxc4 dxc4 32. Nf5 fxg2 33. Re1 Rg8 34. Nd4 Black resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]