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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 16, 2012

Ragan – Benko, Chicago 1974
Black to move and win

Chess Solution
If 25 ef or gf,
then 25…Nh3 mate

17-year-old girl ties for first in strong Grandmaster tournament

The annual Gibraltar Chess Festival hosts what may be the strongest open tournament in the world. This year, 256 players, including eight Americans, competed. Eleven players were rated over 2700, fifty-two players were rated over 2500, and the field included 55 Grandmasters.

Gibraltar has a reputation for attracting strong women chess players; it is one of the few open international tournaments to offer significant prize money to women. This year, the favorite was Judit Polgar, whose 2710 rating is 20th in the world and sixth highest in the tournament.

However, first and second places were shared by the Englishman Nigel Short and the 17-year-old Women’s World Champion, Hou Yifan, from China, with 8-2 scores. Although Yifan lost the playoff for the £20,000 first prize, she nevertheless received the £12,000 for second prize, in addition to £10,000 for being the top woman.

Yifan, although “only” rated 2605, is a true chess prodigy. At the age of 3, she was already defeating her father. She became a Grandmaster before the age of 15.

This tournament establishes her as one of the top Grandmasters in the world. She scored 4 ? - ? against players rated over 2700, including a victory over Polgar (who finished in a tie for 7-23 with a score of 7-3), and achieved a phenomenal 2872 performance rating.

The top American was United States Women’s Champion Anna Zatonskih, who was in a massive tie for 24th - 45th place and in a tie for third- through ninth-place woman with 6? - 3 ?.

Phillips is Schenectady Champ

John Phillips defeated Alan Le Cours to finish first in the finals of the Schenectady Championships with a score of 4 ? - ?.

Phillips was perhaps the most dominating player in any of the club championships, going undefeated in the preliminary section and winning the final section with only one draw. I am once again indebted to Bill Little for watching the game and posting the moves on the Easter New York Chess Association blog.

Phillips - A. LeCours
Schenectady Finals 2012

1.d4 d5, 2.c4 d:c4, 3.e4 e5, 4.Nf3 e:d4, 5.B:c4 Bb4+, 6.Bd2 B:d2+, 7.Nb:d2 Ne7

(This is a major blunder that should have lost the game outright, but White misses 8Ng5, which wins a pawn with a strong attack.)

8.0–0 0–0, 9.Nb3 Nbc6, 10.Nb:d4 Bg4, 11.Nb5…

(White could have kept his slight advantage with Qa4 or h3. Now the initiative shifts to Black.)

11…. Qc8

(Not the best move. Black plans to put his rook on d8 and wants to defend the c pawn, but Ng6 aiming at f4 and e5 was better.)
12.Be2 a6, 13.Nc3 Rd8, 14.Qc1 B:f3, 15.B:f3 Nd4, 16.Bd1…

(After this unnecessarily passive move, Black has a slight, but clear, edge. Qf4 would maintain equality.)

16…. c6

(After the game, both players thought this was a mistake. Bill Little suggests c5 or b5, but I think c6 is OK.)

17.Qg5 f6, 18.Qc5 Qc7, 19.Ne2 N:e2+, 20.B:e2 Kh8

(A mistake. Black needed to be more active. Perhaps try to double his Rooks on d file, perhaps challenge White’s Queen by Qe5.)

21.Rad1 Ng6, 22.g3 Re8

(Bill Little likes this move because it enables the Queen Rook to get into the game. I think White needed to fight for the d file.)

23.Rd4 Re5, 24.Qc2 Qb6, 25.Rfd1 Rae8, 26.Rd7 Nf8

(Black can’t play 26…R:e4 because 27 Q:e4 R:e4, 28 Rd8+ leads to mate. Still, 26 Kg2 threatening f4 was probably better.)

27.Rf7 c5, 28.Qd3 Qc6

(White was clearly winning. This mistake should have changed the game: 28…Kg8, 29 Qc4 R5e6 and Black will win material e.g. 30 Bh5 g6, 31 R:f6 gh, but Black is in severe time pressure.)

29.f4 R5e6

(Black used 3 ? of his remaining 4? minutes for this losing move. Bill Little notes R5e7 leads to a bad position, but Black still can fight on.)

30.Bg4 c4, 31.Qd5 Qb6+

(31 Qa3 is a more direct win: 31…Kg8, 32 B:c6 Q:c6, 33 Rc7)

32.Kg2 Rc6, 33.Rd2 Rc5, 34.Qd6 1–0

(Black lost on time a few moves later but the game is lost anyway. Black’s passive position is no match for White’s active Rooks.)

This week’s problem

The highest rated American at Gibraltar, Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian, was happy with the opportunity to compete with 2700 level players, but only finished with a score of 6-4.

In the position below, he unsuccessfully tried to salvage a draw in a difficult but probably lost end game, Queen and two pawns versus Queen, against the Azerbaijan Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, rated 2747. Mamedyarov won by forcing the trade of Queens, so that he could then Queen a pawn and win.

How did he do it?

— By Peter Henner

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