Wesley reigns supreme

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Top-seeded Wesley So lived up to his billing by winning the $150,000 US Chess Championship last Thursday, posting an impressive 9.0 out of 11.0 for a half-point victory.

The Philippine-born So, 27, broke free from a ninth-round tie with Jeffrey Xiong to notch his second US championship with an unblemished seven wins, four draws record, and achieving one of the most convincing victories in US national championship history.

The most convincing win to date was registered by Bobby Fischer, when he literally pitched a perfect 11-0 no-hitter in the 1963-64 US championship held in New York City.

GM Xiong, 20, was second, half-a-point behind while Ray Robson, 19, wound up third at 7.5. These two are among the youngest GMs in the world.

American reliables Lenier Dominguez and Sam Shankland finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while defending champion Hikaru Nakamura landed eight.

American world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana did not compete.

* * *

In his march to victory in this tournament, So won seven games. This one might have become the best of the tournament, certainly Wesley’s best.

2020 Online US Chess Championship

W) S. Shankland (USA)

B) W. So (USA)

Nimzo-Indian Defense

1. d4       Nf6; 2. c4     e6; 3. Nc3    Bb4; 4. f3        d5

In the game Caruana vs Aronian, 2020 Altibox Norway tournament, play went 4....c5 5. d5 b5 6. e4 d6 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 b4 9. Bd2 0-0 10. Ne2 Nh5 11. Be3 f5 12. dxe6 Bxe6 13. exf5 Rxf5 14. Qd2 Nd7 15. 0-0-0 Qa5 16. Kb1 Bxc4, and Black obtained a good game (0-1=52).

5. a3        ....

The Samisch Variation, an old fashioned line named after German master and author Friedrich Samisch (1898-1979). The system has gained popularity during the Tal vs Botvinnik 1960-61 world championship match.

5....        Bxc3ch; 6. bxc3       c5

After 6....0-0 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 Nh5 9. Qc2 Re8 10. g4 Nf4 11. h4 c5 12. Kf2,  White is slightly better. Gheorghiu vs Fischer, Havana Olympiad, 1966.

7. cxd5      Nxd5; 8. dxc5      Qa5

Also possible is 8....f5!? 9. e4 (9. e3 Qh4ch 10. g3 Qf6 is equal) 9....fxe4 10. Qc2 0-0 11. fxe4 Qh4ch 12. g3 Qf6 13. Bg2 Qxc3ch 14. Qxc3 Nxc3 15. Bf4 Bd7, and the game hangs in the balance.

9. e4        Ne7; 10. Be3      O-O; 11. Qb3      Qc7; 12. Bb5      e5; 13. Ne2      Be6; 14. c4       Nbc6; 15. Nc3?!     ....

A dubious move which allows Black to wrest the initiative. Safer is 15. 0-0.

15....        Na5; 16. Qb4      Nec6; 17. Qa4      a6; 18. Bxc6     Nxc4!

After this fine Zwischenzug, complications quickly mounts in Black’s favor due to the vulnerability of White’s uncastled King.

19. Bxb7?    ....

In the jungle of bewildering possibilities White loses his way. 19. Nd1 is necessary to stay in the game.

19....        Nxe3; 20. Bxa8     Qxc5; 21. Nd5      Nxg2ch

21....Nc2ch is also winning, according to the engine.

22. Kf1      ....

22. Ke2 is met by 22....Bxd5 and after 23. Bxd5 Qe3ch 24. Kd1 Qd3ch  25. Kc1 Qc3ch, White should win.

22....       Nf4; 23. Qc6     ....

If instead 23. Nxf4 exf4 24. h4 Qc3 25. Qd1 Bc4ch 26. Kg1 Qe3ch 27. Kg2 Be2 28. Qe1 Rc8 30. Ra2 Bxf3ch, Black is winning.

23....       Qa5; 24. Rd1?     ....

The losing move. 24. Ra2 is necessary to hold out for the time being.

24....       Bxd5; 25. exd5     Qxa3; 26. d6       Qb2!

This is the end, as Black’s attack is too powerful to handle. The rest needs no comment.

27. Qe4      Qg2ch; 28. Ke1      Qxh1ch; 29. Kd2      Qxh2ch; 30. Kc3      Ne2ch; 31. Kc4      Nd4; 32. d7       Qa2ch; 33. Kc5      Qa3; 34. Kb6      Qb3ch; 0-1

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to play and win.

White-Kh2, Qg5, Rb8, Nf3, Pa2, Pc4, Pg2, Ph3

Black=Kd7, Qe6, Rf2, Bg6, Pc5, Pc7, Pd6, Pg7, Ph7

1. Rd8ch     Kc6; 2. Nd4ch!    cxd4; 3. Qb5 mate.

* * *

Black to move and win.

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