Caruana targets first US crown
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2019 - 12:00am

The US  Championship, the strongest and richest national championship anywhere, is underway at the Saint Louis chess club and scholastic center in Missouri.

Top-seeded Fabiano Caruana, ranked second in the world, will be seeking his first national title and the $50,000 champion’s prize. Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, and Leinier Dominguez are expected to provide stiff competition.

Twelve invited GMs are seeing action in the $194,000 single round robin event,  which selects representatives for the next world championship cycle.

After three rounds, the standings read:  Jeffrey Xiong, 2.5, So, Nakamura and Dominguez, at 2.0 apiece, Caruana, Alexander Lenderman, Varuzhan Akobian, Samuel Sevian, 1.5, Samuel Shankland, Awonder Liang and  Ray Robson, 1.0 and Timur Garayev, 0.5.

* * *

Kiril Alekseenko of Russia,  Kacper Piorum of Poland, Maxim Rodshtein of Israel and Ferenc Berkes of Hungary shared the lead by one-half point after five rounds of the European Individual Championship in Skopje, Macedonia.

The leaders scored 4.5 points in the 11-round Swiss system tournament, which brought together 361 players, including 132 GMs, from various federations of the European Chess Union. The championship chooses 22 qualifiers for the World Cup.

* * *

In this game, with equal fervor, if not equal success,  both players proved that tactics are 100 percent of chess.       

European Championship 2019

W) T. Baron (Israel)

B)  K. Piorun (Poland)

Dutch Defense

1. d4           f5

2. Bf4         ....

This is a rarely played line, sharp and risky, but not necessarily bad. The main line  is 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 d5 5. Nf3 c6 6. 0-0 Bd6 7. b3 Qe7 8. Bb2 b6 9. Nbd2 Bb7 10. Ne5 0-0, with a slight edge for White. Or 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nc3 0-0 7. 0-0 Qe8 and the game hangs in the balance.

2....                              Nf6

3. e3                            g6

4. h4                            h6

5. Nc3                         d6

6. Qf3                          Bg7

7. Qg3                         Kf7

8. O-O-O                    Nc6

9. Be2                          e6

10. Bf3                         Qe7

11. Nge2                     e5

12. Nd5                       Nxd5?

Not a good idea. Instead, the engine’s 12....exf4 is better and after 13. Nexf4 Nxd5 14. Bxd5ch Ke8 15. Nxg6 Qf6 16. Nf4 h5 17. Qf3 Bd7, The game is probably equal.

13. Bxd5ch                  Kf8

14. dxe5?                    ....

This error gives Black a decisive advantage.14. e4 is probably the best reply E.g. 14....exd4 (14...exf4? 15. Nxf4, White obtains a dangerous initiative) 15. Qxg6 fxe4 16. Rde1 Qe8 17.Qxe4 Qxe4 18. Bxe4 Bd7, chances are about even.

14....                            dxe5

15. e4                          exf4

16. Nxf4                      Ne5!

After the text, White’s K-side attack will fizzle out.

17. Bb3                        c6

18. Rhe1                     g5

19. exf5?                     ....

Giving up another piece out of desperation. But White is lost anyhow. For instance 19. Nh5 f4 20. Qc3 b5 21. f3 a5 22. a4 Qb4, and Black wins easily. Its time for White to hoist the white flag at the point.

19....                            gxf4

20. Qxf4                      h5

21. Kb1                        a5

22. a4                          Qf6

23. Qd4                       Bxf5


* * *

Solution to last week’s puzzle

Black to move and win.

white=Kg1, Qh5, Rb1, Pa3, Pe5, Pg2, Ph2

black=Kg8, Qc4, Bh6, Nd3, Nf2, Pe6, Pf5,

1....            Nh3ch!

2. gxh3       Be3ch


If 3. Kh1 Qe4ch; or 3. Kf1 Nf4ch 4. Ke1 Ng2ch 5. Kd1 Qd3 mate, and 3. Kg2 Qc2ch 4. Kh1(4. Kf3 Qf2 mate) . Qc6ch 5. Qf3 Qxf3 mate.

White to play and win.

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