Shakmaty Bereolos - The Official Chess Site of Peter Bereolos

3/22/06 - US Masters

I'm back from a fairly horrible US Masters. Superficially, my +2 score and =7th place looks good, but my play was of a very low quality. I missed a simple win in round 2 and a one move draw in round 5. I rallied to win my final 3 games, but even those had some shaky moments. I was never in contention in the qualification for the US Championship. I'll post some more comments and analysis next week.

3/8/06 - US Championship - Rounds 4&5

The US Championship has passed the halfway point. In Group A, Alexander Onischuk was finally nicked for a draw in Round 4 by Nick deFirmian. This allowed Dimitri Gurevich to catch up with a win over Alexander Goldin. In Round 5, Onischuk had a big space advantage in the endgame against Gurevich, but was unable to break down Dima's defense. The other top boards were also drawn leaving Onischuk and Gurevich atop the Group at 4/5. Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura got back to even with 2 wins, but still looks like a long shot to defend his title trailing by 2.5 with only 4 rounds left and a lot of players to climb over. Plus, his terrible start isn't going to leave his tiebreak points in any sort of decent shape.

Yuri Shulman has taken control of Group B. In Round 4, he and Shabalov played a crazy game where Shabba sacrificed a piece for 4 pawns. In the ensuing melee Shulman found a way to directly attack Shabalov's king. In Round 5, Shulman won again, over Alexander Ivanov and is now a full point clear of the pack on 4.5/5.

In the women's competition, I figured defending champion Rusudan Goletiani and top-rated Anna Zatonskih would have relatively easy trips to the finals. Indeed, both are on 3/5, but while Goletiani is a point clear in Group A, Zatonskih trails Batchimeg Tuvshintugs by half a point. The 19-year-old "Chimi" is having the tournament of her life so far. She had no GM scalps entering the tournament and has now collected 3.

For my featured opening, I'm going to look at the ...a6 Slav, which was played 3 times in Round 5. This line has become very popular in recent years, but the theory on it is still being developed, so most of the games are of some theoretical importance. The starting point for this variation is the position after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6

I think one way to judge how developed an opening is can be determined by how deep the "main line" runs. Here, only 4 moves in there is a large branching with 5. c5, 5. e3, and 5. cxd5 being the most popular. Yermolinsky chose a less popular, but still often played, line versus Kamsky 5. a4 This was also Onischuk's choice a few rounds earlier against Gonzales. White seeks to stop Black's expansion with b5. Now, play often transposes into other Queens Gambit lines with the extra moves a4 and a6. It is not clear which side this favors. Obviously, White has weakened his b4 square, but he does this in the main lines of the Slav. Black has weakened his queenside as well and must be vigilant that a timely a5 by White does not cripple his queenside. Kamsky chose 5...g6 transposing to a Schlechter system. This doesn't seem to take advantage of the insertion of a6 and a4 since fianchettoing the bishop lessens Black's control of b4. Gonzales chose to develop with 5...Bf5, but after 6. Qb3 Ra7 Black is a bit awkward and White has scored very well from that position. Probably, steering back to orthodox Queens Gambit positions with 5...e6 is best. Yermo chose simple development with 6. Bf4 Bg7 7. e3 O-O 8. Be2 8. Qb3 is thought to be more testing. The text has rarely been seen since 8... c5 was played in the game Khalifman-Sokolov, 1993 PCA Interzonal 9. O-O Khalifman chose 9. dxc5 Qa5 10. O-O dxc4 11. Ne5 Qxc5 12. Nxc4 Nc6 13. a5 Be6 when Sokolov assessed the position as slightly advantageous to Black, who went on to win. After, 9... cxd4 10. exd4 I think White's space advantage still gives him his normal opening edge, but the game ended in a rather unadventurous draw.

The other two games featured 5. e3 In Finegold-Gonzales after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. Nc3 b5 6. b3 Bg4 7. Be2 e6 8. O-O Nbd7 9. h3 Gonzales opted for 9...Bxf3 Which has mostly been supplanted by 9... Bh5 (see below). While it makes sense to swap the bishop after placing all of the pawns on light squares, White has generally been able to open the position for his bishops with e4. 10. Bxf3 Bb4 10... Be7 11. e4 b4 12. exd5 bxc3 13. dxc6 Nb6 14. c7 Qxc7 15. Bxa8 Nxa8 16. Qf3 O-O 17. Qxc3 is similar to the game, but looks like an improved version for White. 11. Bd2 Vyzmanavin beat Shirov in a rapid game with 11. Qc2 11... Be7 this looks odd, but provoking the bishop to d2 has the point that now after 12. e4 b4 13. exd5 bxc3 the bishop is attacked. Still, after 14. dxc6 cxd2 15. cxd7+ Nxd7 16. Bxa8 Qxa8 17. Qxd2 I still think White should be slightly better in this unbalanced position. He has more space, and the Black knight seems to be lacking an outpost. Although Ben didn't seem to come up with a good middlegame plan, I still didn't think he was worse until much later in the game when time pressure starting taking effect.

The battle between the two leaders, Onischuk and Gurevich, saw the retreat of the bishop to h5 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. e3 b5 6. b3 Bg4 7. Be2 Nbd7 8. h3 Bh5 9. O-O e6 10. Bb2 Be7 Earlier in the tournament, Hana Itkis played the more active 10... Bd6 against Dean Ippolito reaching an equal position after 11. Ne5 Bxe2 12. Nxe2 Qc7 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. Rc1 Qb8 15. Nxd7 Kxd7 although she later lost. 11. Ne5 Bxe2 12. Nxe2 12. Qxe2 is a suggestion of Prie which has scored very well in limited outings. 12... Nxe5 13. dxe5 Ne4 This looks to be a novelty. All previous games that I found continued 13... Nd7

14. Nd4 Qd7 this square is now available for the queen and seems a a slightly better placement than b6. 15. cxd5 cxd5 16. Rc1 O-O and Black had every reason to be satisfied with the results of his opening.

This will likely be my last post until the tournament is over. I'm heading to the US Masters so that hopefully I can be playing in this event next year instead of merely commentating.

3/6/06 - US Championship - Round 3

And then there was 1. In the A Group, Alexander Onischuk beat Renier Gonzales to become the only player with a perfect score. He got a space advantage in the opening and then brought the point home after a knight sacrifice netted him 3 connected passed pawns while exposing Gonzales' king. Onischuk seems to be in great form. In the B Group, board 1 was a sharp struggle between Igor Novikov and Yury Shulman. Novikov sacrificed a piece for an attack, but it was only good enough for perpetual check. There is now a 5 way tie atop this group as Shabalov, Christiansen, and Ivanov all won to catch up with the leaders. Meanwhile, the troubles continued for the defending champion Hikaru Nakamura. He spurned a repetition against Camilla Baginskaite (a/k/a Mrs. Yermo) and went down for the second time in 3 games.

For this round's featured opening, I've selected ECO code C91, the 9. d4 variation of the closed Ruy Lopez. This opening was played in the games Becerra-Kamsky and Benjamin-Friedel. Both games reached the same position after 15 moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O Following the Kamsky game. The other game reached the same position via 7... d6 8. c3 O-O 9. d4 8. d4 On 8. c3 Kamsky would have likely gone for the Marshall Gambit 8...d5 8... d6 9. c3 Bg4 10. d5 Na5 11. Bc2 c6 The main alternative is 11... Qc8 with which I was unsuccessful against Becerra in the 2005 Chicago Open. 12. h3 Bc8 The idea of 11...Qc8 is that in the current position the retreat 12... Bd7 allows White to grab to two bishops with 13. Nxe5 dxe5 14. d6 Be6 13. dxc6 Qc7 14. Nbd2 Qxc6 15. Nf1 Re8 In a similar position (without h3 and Bc8 included) against Karnjanasirim in the 2004 Knoxville City Championship I played ... h6 anticipating Ng5, but both games seem to show that it isn't necessary for Black to be concerned about this.

Here is where the games finally diverged 16. Ng3 Nc4 Kamsky had this position as White against Anand in a blindfold game at the 1996 Amber tournament. Vishy opted for the immediate 16...Be6 and the game ended in a draw after a long struggle. 17. a4 Be6 Nunn suggests 17... Bb7 as unclear. I prefer the development to e6 in case Black needs to take a knight off on f5 (again see my game against Karnjanasirim) 18. Ng5 Bd7 with a level position that ended in a draw.

From the diagram, Benjamin-Friedel continued 16. a4 Be6 17. Ng5 Bd7 18. Ne3 h6 19. Nf3 Be6 20. Nd2 g6 This seems unnecessary, and as in my game with Becerra, doesn't deter White from playing Nf5 20... Nc4 looks about equal. 21. Qf3 Nb7 22. a5 Qc7 Now Benjamin sacrificed 23. Nf5!? Nowhere near as devastating as it was in Becerra-Bereolos, and possibly unsound. It certainly didn't seem like White had enough compensation after 23...gxf5 24. exf5 Bd5 25. Ne4 Bxe4 26. Bxe4 d5 27. Bxd5 Nxd5 28. Qxd5 but Benjamin managed to keep pressure all the way to the endgame which ended in a draw with Black still having his extra piece.

3/5/06 - Tennessee to join USCL

The US Championship had an off day yesterday, but there was still big news in US chess. League commissioner Greg Shahade announced that Seattle and Tennessee will be the two expansion teams in the US Chess League this fall. All the details (such as our team name) have not been worked out yet, but it looks like our primary lineup will be quite familiar to readers of this site: Ron Burnett, Todd Andrews, myself, and Jerry Wheeler. We may not lack the star power of some other teams, but we are ready to show the rest of the country what we can do. After all, the core of this team came very close to winning the US Open (not Amateur) Team in 1999 and now we have an IM on first board. I'll post more information as it becomes available. Finally, much kudos to Todd for doing the hard work needed for the bid.

3/4/06 - 2006 US Championship - Round 2

Things tightened up considerably in Round 2 of the US Championship. Despite the rule this year that forbids draw offers before move 30, most of the top boards ended in draws. Only 4 players, two in each group, remain undefeated. Alexander Onischuk beat Gregory Serper and Renier Gonzales upset last year's runner-up Alex Stripunsky in Group A. In Group B, Igor Novikov and Yury Shulman beat Boris Kreiman and Batchimeg Tuvshintugs to stand atop that group. Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura was very close to losing against Jake Kleiman and still had a quite difficult position when Jake agreed to a draw.

I'm going to stick with opening coverage again. The featured ECO code for the round was B66, the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer with ...a6 with 3 games. It's a refreshing change of pace to see the Rauzer since all the top guys seem to be playing the Sveshnikov these days. Even Walter Browne, who used to be Mr. Najdorf, played the Sveshnikov this round.

Alex Yermolinsky is no stranger to the Black side of the Rauzer. There is a section in his book, The Road to Chess Improvement, that should be must reading if you want to play this opening. In Round 2, Yermo defended against Stanislav Kriventsov 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Be7 10. f4 b5 11. Be2 11. Bxf6 is more common 11... Bb7 12. Bf3 Rc8 13. Bxf6

13... Bxf6 Against Judit Polgar at Wijk aan Zee 1998, Alexei Shirov went for the more complex 13... gxf6. Taking with the bishop is more Yermo's style, trying to grind out a win from a slightly better pawn structure. 14. Qxd6 Qxd6 15. Rxd6 Bxc3 16. bxc3 Rxc3 17. Rhd1 O-O 18. Kb2 Polgar gives 18. Rd7 Ba8 intending ...f5 with equality. I thought Yermolinsky had a small advantage in the ensuing ending, but it petered out to a draw.

Blas Lugo and Vanessa West also discussed the Nxd4 variation 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8. O-O-O a6 9. f4 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. f5 12. e5 is an important alternative 12... Qc7 13. Be2 Qc5 14. Qxc5 dxc5 15. fxe6 fxe6 16. Bh5+ Kf8

17. Rhf1 Short-Yermolinsky, Wijk aan Zee 1997 continued with the immediate 17. e5 f5 18. g4 Ra7 17... Ra7 18. e5 f5 19. g4 Bg5+ This looks like the first new move. In Tseitlin-Epishin, 1997 St. Petersburg Championship, Black got his king off of the f-file with 19... Kg7 and achieved a good position 20. Kb1 Rd7 21. Rxd7 Bxd7 22. Ne4 Be3 23. gxf5 exf5 24. Bg4 winning a pawn, but Black gets considerable activity 24... Ke7 25. Bxf5 Bxf5 26. Rxf5 Ke6 27. Rf3 27. Rh5 Rg8 28. a3 Rg1+ 29. Ka2 Rg2 shouldn't pose Black any problems. 27... Bg1?! It was important to activate the rook with 27... Rg8 since White now has tactics based on the placement of the rook on h8. 28. Ng5+ Kxe5? 28....Ke7 29. Rf7+ is great for White so Black has to go for the complicated 28...Kd5 29. Rd3+ Bd4 30. c3 h6, but it still looks good for White 29. Rf1! The correct move order to win the exchange. White gains nothing from 29. Nf7+? Ke4 30. Rf1 Rg8 29... Bd4 30. Nf7+ Ke6 31. Nxh8 Bxh8 32. Rf8 Be5 33. h3 h5 34. c3 Bf6 35. Ra8 Kf5 36. Rxa6 Bg5 37. Ra5 Kf4 38. Rxb5 Be7 39. a4 Kg3 40. a5 [1:0]

The lines with Nxd4 are somewhat of a sideline in this system. Sergey Kudrin and Ben Finegold played one of the two primary main lines 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O h6 8...Bd7 is the other main line 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Bf4 d5 11. Qe3 Be7 12. Be2 Nd7

This move seems very double-edged. 12...0-0 is the main move, which has been played by Kramnik and Ivanchuk, but it seems to give White a ready made attack. Ben has previous experience with the text with the idea of not castling, which means Rh8 is out of action for awhile.13. h4 Albert Chow played the immediate 13. Qg3 Kf8 against Ben in the 2004 Chicago Open, but as in the present game, Black won despite the position looking quite good for White. 13... Bb713... Bxh4 gets smashed by 14. exd5 cxd5 15. Nxd5 14. Qg3 Kf8 15. Kb1 and I think White must be considerably better here although Black went on to win. You can see Finegold's comments to this game as well as his draw with Bercys on his blog

3/3/06 - 2006 US Championship - Round 1

The US Championship got off with a bang in San Diego. The big sensation of the round was the loss with the White pieces by defending champion Hikaru Nakamura on Board 1 of group A to Joshua Friedel. Nakamura went for the throat right from the opening and sacrificed two pieces and a rook to win Friedel's queen and force his king into the open. It all looked very unclear, but eventually Friedel's material advantage prevailed. On the top board of group B, Gata Kamsky won with black in an instructive Sicilian endgame versus Walter Browne, in the only GM vs. GM matchup. The craziest game of the day was Eugene Perelshteyn's win over Tatev Abrahamyan. That back and forth struggle was materially unbalanced throughout with Perelshtyen having 5 pawns for a rook at one point.

For my coverage of this round, I'm going to look at the Kings Indian Defense. It had the most popular ECO code of the round, with 3 games in the Classical Variation [E92] and a couple of other games of theoretical interest.

Probably the most surprising approach was taken by Jesse Kraai against Iryna Zenyuk opting for the exchange variation 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Bg5 Rf8 More common is 9...Re8, but the text is perfectly playable. Kraai's next move was the real stunner to me

10. Nxe5?! 10. Nd5 to try and keep a microscopic edge because of a little more space and a little better development seems like the only way to challenge Black who should be completely equal after 10... Nxe4 11. Nxe4 Bxe5 although White eventually managed to win.

Alex Yermolinsky also went off the beaten path early against scholastic champion Eliot Liu 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 Na6 7. Nd2!?

Attempting to take advantage of Black's move order. Normally, White plays 7. 0-0 or 7. Be3 and play transposes back into the main line after 7...e5. Yermo's move has a couple of points. First, if Black tries to switch gears to a Benoni with 7...c5 the move Nd2 is very useful in the Benoni. Second, after 7...e5 8. d5 the e-pawn is already covered, so 8...Nc5 is met by 9. b4. Now the knight could be a little awkward on a6. Liu opted for a Old Benoni structure with 8...c6 9. O-O c5 Yermolinsky applied pressure the whole game, but was unable to covert what looked like a very favorable rook ending.

Justin Sarkar and Yuri Shulman played down one of the main lines of the Gligorich variation. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 Ng4 8. Bg5 f6 9. Bc1 Nc6 10. d5 Ne7 11. h3 Nh6 12. h4 Nf7 13. h5 c6 14. hxg6 hxg6

15. Be3 Karpov played 15. Qb3 here in a rapid game against Ljubojevic at the 2001 Amber tournament when the opposition of Qb3 to Kg8 on the long diagonal discouraged Ljubo from playing 15...f5. There have also been some games where White was successful with 15. Bd2 which avoids the problems of ...Qa5 that happened in the present game 15... f5 16. g3?! I guess White has to go 16. dxc6 here, although Black would certainly be at least equal. Instead, White had some trouble with his d-pawn after 16...fxe4 17. Nxe4 cxd5 18. cxd5 Qa5+ 19. Nc3 e4 with a solid edge to Black.

Alexander Onischuk and Andrei Florean played an interesting game in one of the sidelines of the ...Nbd7 system. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 Nbd7 8. O-O Re8 9. d5 Nh5 10. g3 Bf8 11. Ne1 Ng7 12. Nd3 f5 13. f3 Be7

14. b4 14. Qd2 is more common to prevent...Bg5 14...Rf8 declining the option to option to play ...Bg5. It seems odd that Black should be able to still play a kingside race versus Whites queenside race after all the tempi he has spent, but he has gained a hook on g3 that is not normally available. Onischuk won a complex attacking game after 15. c5 Nf6 16. Rc1 h5 17. Nf2 h4 18. g4 f4 19. Bd2 dxc5 20. Nd3 cxb4 21. Nb5 c6 22. d6 Qb6+ 23. Kh1 Bd8 24. Nxe5 cxb5 25. Nxg6 Rf7 26. Bxf4 Be6 27. Qd2 Nd7 28. Be3 Qa5 29. Bd4 Kh7 30. f4 b3 31. Qe3 b2 32. Bxb2 Qb6 33. Qd2 Bc4 34. Rxc4 bxc4 35. Bxc4 Kxg6 36. f5+ Kh7 37. Bxf7 Qb5 38. Rg1 Bf6 39. g5 Nxf5 40. g6+ [1:0]See the official site for additional comments on this game

Finally, Ben Finegold tried a specialty of Epishin's in the Bayonet Attack against Salvijus Bercys.1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Nf3 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. b4 Nh5 10. Qc2

This is Epishin's move, but I'm not quite sure what the point really is. It seems that the queen is usually better placed on b3 in most lines in this system 10...f5 11. Ng5 Nf4 12. Bxf4 exf4 13. Rae1 fxe4 Another way was 13... Nc6 14. dxc6 Qxg5 15. Bf3 bxc6 16. b5 Bd7 17. exf5 Qxf5 18. Be4 Qg5 19. bxc6 Bh3 20. Qd3 Bxg2 21. Bxg2 Bxc3 22. h4 Qf6 23. Re6 Qg7 24. Bd5 1/2-1/2, Epishin-Nijboer, Apeldorn 2001. 14. Ncxe4 Nf5 15. Qd1 Nd4 16. Nf3 Nxe2+ 17. Rxe2 with a level game, although Ben tried for 153 moves before agreeing to a draw.

3/1/06 - Eve of the Championship

The US Championship starts tommorrow in San Diego. Hikaru Nakamura will try to defend his title against 63 other contenders. The format is slightly different this year. The competitors have been broken into two sections and the winners of each section will face off in a rapid match after the last round. I guess they liked the drama of last year's tiebreaker between Nakamura and Alex Stipunsky, but personally I don't really like a rapid match (or perhaps even blitz) deciding the title.

The sections are supposed to be evenly balanced, but in this sort of structure the question will always arise, which section is tougher? From my point of view it is pretty much a no brainer. My record against the players in group A isn't stellar: 10 wins, 10 draws, and 27 losses. However, that looks great compared to group B: 0 wins, 5 draws, and 20 losses.

The field of 64 also includes 14 women who will vie for the woman's championship as a tournament within the tournament. The inclusion of women in the field seems to generate controversy every year, and this year is no exception. The point seems to be to promote women's chess. Yet, they moved the dates of this year's championship into conflict with the FIDE women's world championship. Thus, former champion Irina Krush will not be playing in the US Championship. The top US woman, Susan Polgar, also dropped out when the dates were changed. There seems to be some disinterest in the Championship by women players. Former champion Jen Shahade seems to be more interested in writing and poker these days. At the National Open, Ben Finegold's wife, Kelly Cotrell, was the only woman who paid the qualifiers fee and thus qualified despite a minus score in that event and a 1700 rating. I'm not sure the solution is, but it seems that women's chess in the US is in a bit of a crisis.

Fortunately for Tennessee chess fans, all the withdrawals opened up a spot for Jake Kleiman, who makes it into the championship for the second straight time. I'll be rooting for him, even though he just inched past me on the last rating list.

I'm going to try to do daily posts on this event, hopefully I can keep up. 32 games a day with only one off day is a lot to cover, but I'll try to find some highlights that aren't covered on the major chess sites.