Wesley in 3-man tiebreak

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro - The Philippine Star

Defending champion Wesley So gained a crack at a third US Chess Championships title after ending up in a three-way tie at first place with Fabiano Caruana and Samuel Sevian, and forcing a three-man playoff tiebreak.

The 27-year-old Cavite-born So, Caruana and Sevian wound up with identical 6.5 points after 11 rounds of play and would play in the rapid playoff to determine this year’s best American chesser.

So has won this annual event twice, the first in 2017 when he turned back Alexander Onischuk and the other last year when the event was held online for the first time amidst the pandemic.

The finals were being held at press time.

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Meanwhile, No. 1 seed Nikita Vitiugov enjoyed the solo lead midway through the Russian Championship Superfinal in the industrial city of Ufa.

Vitiugov completed the six rounds undefeated for a four-point total and a half-point lead in the single-round robin, 12-player event.

There were four players closely bunched for second spot with 3.5 points. They were Vladimir Fedoseev, Kiril Alekseenko, Andrey Esipenko and Maxim Matlakov.

The rest of the standings read Dmitry Andreikin and Aleksandra Goryachkina at 3.0 each, Pavel Ponkratov, Maksim Chigaev, Aleksander Motylev and Aleksandr Rakhmanov, 2.5, and Alexandr Predke, 2.0.

The absence of Russian top guns considerably lowered the strength of the tournament. Ian Nepomniachtchi is busy prepairing for next month’s world title match while Alexander Grischuk, Sergey Karjakin, Daniil Dubov and Peter Svidler will most likely compete in the upcoming FIDE Grand Swiss set Oct. 26 in Riga, Latvia.

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In the following game, a remarkable opening leads to a fascinating endgame in which white’s ruling pawns control the chessboard.

2021 U.S. Chess Championship

W- R. Robson

B-J. Xiong

Sicilian Defense

1. e4             c5; 2. Nf3            Nc6; 3. Bb5           ....

The Rossolimo Variation, popularized by American GM Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975).

3....               e5

A rarely played line, sharp and risky, but not necessarily bad. 3....g6 and 3....e6 are strongly recommended.

4. O-O           Bd6

After 4....Nge7 5. d3 a6 6. Bc4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. Re1 f6 10. Nc3 Be6, the game is rich in possibilities for both sides.

5. c3              a6; 6. Ba4            b5; 7. Bc2            Nge7; 8. a4              b4; 9. Re1            Ng6; 10. d4             bxc3

10....exd4 is better, according to the engine.

11. dxe5          ....

The alternative is 11. bxc3 cxd4 12. cxd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 exd4 14. Nd2 0-0 15. Ba3 Bxa3 16. Rxa3 Bb7 17. Rd3, and white enjoys a slight edge.

11....               cxb2; 12. Bxb2         Bxe5

12....Bc7 is an interesting alternative, that merits consideration.. The text leads to exchanges unfavorable for black.

13. Nxe5         Ngxe5; 14. Bxe5         Nxe5; 15. Qd5           Nc6; 16. Qxc5         Qe7; 17. Qxe7ch      ....

The engine’s 17. Qe3 seems stronger, as the black king is still stuck in the middle.

17....               Kxe7; 18. Nc3            Nb4

Activating the rook with 19....Rd8 is a good defensive riposte, according to the engine.

19. Nd5ch        Nxd5; 20. exd5ch       Kd8

After 20....Kf6 21. Rab1 d6 22. Rb6 Rd8 23. a5, white has the advantage.

21. d6!             a5

The immediate 21....Rb8 is necessary.

22. Bd3            Rb8; 23. Rab1          Rb7

23....Rxb1 24. Rxb1 Re8 25. g3 Re6 26. Rb6 also favors white.

24. Rec1!          ....

Threatening 25. Rxc8ch followed by 26. Ba6.

24....                Rb4?

This loses right off. Correct is 24....Rxb1, though white has a tangible advantage after 25. Rxb1.

25. Rxb4          axb4; 26. a5!              ....

It is white’s game, especially after the exchange of rooks. After the text black is lost..

26....                Bb7

Or 26....Re8 27. a6 Re5 28. Ra1 Rc5 29. Kf1 and white’s advantage is overwhelming.

27. a6              Ba8; 28. a7!              1-0

There is no defense to 29. Ba6 and if 29....Ba8, 30. Rc8 ch ends the story.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

Black to play and win.

White=Kh1, Qc2, Re2 Ba7, Nf1, Nh2, Pb4, Pc4, Pd5, Pf3,

Black-Kh8, Qh3, Rg2, Rg8, Bh4, Pc7, Pd6, Pe5, Pf4, Pf5 Ph7

1....           Bf2!

Threateniung 2....Rg1 mate.

2. Bxf2       ....

Or 2. Rxf2 Rg1 mate.

2....            Rxh2ch

3. Nxh2       Qg2 mate

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