In the final round I had Black against Robert Hydzik, the Knoxville Amateur (U2000) Champion. Robert successfully defended the Amateur title this year while simultaneously playing in the championship. However, his play in the main event suffered from some terrible blunders of the magnitude seen in this game. From the positions he reached, he likely should have won his other 4 games, but because of those mistakes, he only managed 1 point. 1. c4 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. Bg2 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. d3 Nf6 6... f5 has scored very well here in high level games. White can avoid that possibility with the move order 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O O-O 5. d3 d6 6. c4 e5 7. O-O O-O 8. Bd2 h6 9. Rb1 a5 10. a3 Be6 11. b4 axb4 12. axb4 Qd7 13. Qc1 More typical is 13. b5 for example 13...Ne7 14. Qb3 Bh3 15. c5 Bxg2 1/2-1/2 Andersson-Gelfand 1996 Yerevan Olympiad. 13... Kh7 14. Ne1 Bh3 15. f4 Rae8 16. e4 exf4 17. Rxf4 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Ng8 Better was 18... Nh5 meeting 19. Rh4 (19. Rf1 keeps Black's edge to a minimum) with 19... f5 19. Rh4 Nd4
20. Ne2?? 20. Nc2 is still roughly even. I sat there in a bit of disbelief for a few seconds, then he realized what he had done and resigned [0:1] without waiting for 20... Nxe2
Kipp Bynum had the most surprising result. Although he was one of the lowest rated players, he managed to finish in clear 3rd place and was the big rating winner. This game was not typical of the level he played in the tournament. 1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 3. e4 Bb7 4. Bd3 c5 The Benoni formation doesn't fit well with the queenside fianchetto, the normal moves 4... Nc6; 4... Bb4+; and 4... f5 are all better 5. d5 Bd6 this Snake-Benoni idea isn't great here either since the manuever Bd6-c7-a5 is blocked by the b6 pawn. 6. Nf3 For once, I resisted my natural impulse to throw all my pawns forward with 6. f4 and decided to just develop my pieces. 6... exd5 7. cxd5 Bc7 8. O-O Ne7 9. Nc3 a6 10. a4 O-O? 10... d6 had to be played, although Black's bishops look a bit rediculous. 11. e5 d6 Stopping d6, but White has another threat. However, no better was 11... Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Bxd5 13. Bxh7+ Kxh7 14. Ng5+ Kg8 15. Qxd5 gives White a massive attack with no material investment
12. Bxh7+! Kh8 12... Kxh7 13. Ng5+ Kg6 14. Qg4 f5 15. exf6+- 13. Ng5 dxe5 13... g6 14. Qf3 and Black doesn't have a good answer to the duel threats Qf6+ and Bxg6; 13... Ng8 14. Bxg8 Kxg8 15. Qh5 Re8 16. Qxf7+ Kh8 17. Qh5+ Kg8 18. Qh7+ Kf8 19. Qh8+ Ke7 20. Qxg7# 14. Qh5 [1:0]
In round 3, I had White against Boris' young son Isaac. While he has a fine rating for his age, he is still inexperienced and was in a bit over his head in this field, losing all his games. Hopefully, he will be able to take something positive away from it and continue to improve. 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Bb4 6. Qc2 Nc6 7. e3 O-O 8. Bd3 Bg4? Black needs to throw in ...h6
9. Bxh7+ Kh8 10. Bd3 Qd6 11. f3 Bd7 12. Nge2 Kg8 13. O-O Rfe8? 13... a6 prevents White's next move, but Black has a terrible position after 14. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Nb5 Qe7 15. Nxc7 Rac8 16. Nxd5 Qd8 other squares aren't any better 16... Qd6 17. Nxf6+ gxf6 18. Bf4;16... Qe6 17. Nef4 17. Qd1 Re6 18. Bc4 Qa5 19. Nxf6+ gxf6 20. Bxe6 Qxg5 21. Bxd7 Rc7 22. f4 Qg6 23. Bxc6 Rxc6 24. Rc1 Re6 Somewhere around this time I noticed that all 3 games were still continuing with a material imbalance of a rook. Hydzik resigned when E.K. won a second rook, but losing a second rook didn't slow Isaac down and he played it out all the way to mate. 25. f5 Qh6 26. fxe6 fxe6 27. Nf4 Bd6 28. Qg4+ Kf8 29. Rc8+ Kf7 30. Qxe6+ Kg7 31. Qg8# [1:0]
Boris Fine was the only participant besides myself who played in last year's Championship. I expected him to be my main competition this year since he was the second highest rated player by a wide margin. That turned out to be the case as he won all his other games to take second and gave me a big fight in this game. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. d5 a5 8. h3 Na6 9. Bg5 h6 10. Be3 Nc5 11. Qc2 11. Nd2 is much more common 11... Ne8 12. g4 f5!?
The macho move. It is probably saner to go for play on the queenside with 12... c6 The result of this game was a contributing factor in my loss a few weeks later to Andrew Boekhoff in the Kings Island Open. In that game, I went for a similar break in the opening, but his pieces were positioned much better to deal with it. 13. gxf5 gxf5 14. Bxc5 He should probably delay this until he Black plays ...f4 14. O-O-O has been successfully played here a couple of times. 14... dxc5 15. Bd3 15. O-O-O is an improvement, now the bishop ends up on the awkward e4 square where a knight would rather be. 15... fxe4 I also considered the blockading 15... f4, but I think the text is better as I get the f-file to work with. 16. Bxe4 Nd6 17. Qd3 Rf4 Piling up the big pieces on the f-file is the right idea, but I should have done so directly with 17... Qf6 forcing his king to stay in the middle 18. Ke2 18. O-O-O Qf8 19. Nd2 Rxf2 20. Rdg1 Nxe4 Black should be fine with 20... Qf4 but it was difficult to calculate the consequence of the long dangerous-looking variation 21. Bh7+ (21. Ne2 Qh4) 21... Kh8 22. Rxg7 Kxg7 23. Qg6+ Kf8 24. Qg8+ Ke7 25. Qg7+ Kd8 26. Qh8+ Qf8 and Black should win since 27. Qxe5 can be met by 27... Rxd2 21. Ncxe4 Bf5 22. Rg3 22. d6!? Rxd2 (22... cxd6 23. Qd5+ breaks the pin and leaves Rf2 hanging) 23. Kxd2 Qxd6 24. Nxd6 Bxd3 25. Kxd3 and White should have some winning chances 22... Rd8 23. Nf3??
The fight ends after this bad blunder. I was expecting 23. Rhg1 Rd7 24. Qe3 Bxe4 25. Nxe4 Rf1+ after the game we looked at 26. Kc2 (26. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 27. Kd2 Rf7) 26... Rxg1 27. Rxg1 Qf5 28. Rg4 White has full compensation for his pawn (28. Kd3 c6)] 23... Bxe4 24. Qxe4 Qf4+ 25. Qxf4 exf4 26. Rxg7+ Kxg7 27. Rg1+ Kf6 28. Ne1 b6 29. Nd3 Rf3 30. Kd2 Re8 31. Rg4 Re4 32. Kc2 Rxc4+ 33. Kb3 Rd4 [0:1]
In the first round, I had Black against Phon-Ek Rungrotkitiyot. Like most of the field this year, E.K., as we call him, was playing in his first Championship. This was a tough start for him, but he rebounded to finish 2-2 in the four games he played, which should give him a good rating gain. 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 Bg7 6. d4 d6 7. Nxg4 Bxg4 8. Qxg4 Bxd4 9. Nc3 Nf6 10. Qxf4 Rg8 11. Bc4 So far we had followed my game with Todd Rowland in the 2002 US Masters. I think Todd's 11. Bd2 was a better choice than the text. 11... Rxg2 I could have also grabbed the e-pawn with 11... Bxc3+ 12. bxc3 Rg4 13. Qf3 Rxe4+ 14. Kd1 Nbd7 but didn't like giving him 2 bishops versus 2 knights on a wide open board. 12. Rf1 He was worried about ...Rf2, but it isn't clear that this is a big threat. For example, 12. Qf3 Rf2 13. Qd3 looks fine for White, but Black improves with 12...Rxc2, which is probably the move White should be worried about, so 12. Bd2 Rf2 13. Qh6 and without the Rg6 defense Black has available in the game, he is only slightly better 12... Be5 I preferred putting the bishop on this great square, setting up ...Rg3 or ...Bg3+ over grabbing another pawn with 12... Rxc2 13. Qf3 Now White goes nowhere with 13. Qh6 Rg6 13... Rg3 14. Qf2 coming forward doesn't seem to work either 14. Qf5 Rxc3 15. bxc3 Bxc3+ 16. Ke2 Bxa1 17. Bxf7+ Kxf7 18. Qxh7+ Ke8 19. Qg6+ Kd7 20. Bg5 Qe8-+; so it seems like he must retreat 14. Qd1 when if Black continues as in the game with 14... Rxc3 (the simple 14... Nbd7 leaves White with no compensation for his pawn.) 15. bxc3 Bxc3+ (the computer suggests that Black is still much better after 15... d5) 16. Bd2 Bxa1 17. Qxa1 is great for White 14... Rxc3 [0:1]
perhaps a bit unexpected as he can regain the piece after 15. bxc3 Bxc3+ 16. Ke2 Bxa1 17. Bg5 but he'll still be two or three pawns down after 17... Qe7.
Congratulations to the San Francisco Mechanics who defeated the New York Knights to become the 2006 US Chess League champions. The final match was one of the more exciting I've ever witnessed with the expected result undergoing numerous changes before settling at a 2-2 tie forcing a dramatic tiebreaker. In a series of blitz games starting with the two 4th boards, players were eliminated as they lost or drew with the next highest board taking the eliminated player's place. San Francisco got a quick start as their bottom board, Sam Shankland, opened with a win and a draw to take out the bottom two Knights. After a lackluster draw between IM's Dmitry Zilberstein and Irina Krush, San Francisco had two shots at GM Pascal Charbonneau with IM's David Pruess and Josh Friedel. In what I thought was the most exciting game of the match, It looked like it was going to be over with Pruess launching an all out attack on Charbonneau's king. When the dust cleared, somehow Charbonneau was still alive, but had lost his queen for 3 disconnected minor pieces and still had a wide open king. However, he managed to coordinate his pieces and eventually won to set up a final showdown between the two top boards. The final game turned out to be a bit anticlimactic, Charbonneau got a passive position out of the opening and Friedel didn't give him any chances to wriggle out.