Vir­ginia puts on a show as Len­der­man soars in 108th U.S. Open

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS

The Old Do­min­ion did it­self proud. The first U.S. Open to be held in Vir­ginia in 20 years proved a well-run af­fair that pro­duced a wor­thy cham­pion. With wins in the last two rounds over 2016 Open champ GM Alex Sha­balov and ris­ing Texas ju­nior star GM Li Ruifeng over the week­end, New York GM Alex Len­der­man cap­tured his third Open ti­tle (he was co-champ in 2009 and out­right win­ner six years ago in Or­lando) with an un­de­feated 8-1 score at the Sher­a­ton Nor­folk Water­side Ho­tel.

Five grand­mas­ters tied for sec­ond a half-point back: Il­lia Nyzh­nyk, Sergei Azarov, Evgeny Postny, An­gel Ar­ribas Lopez and Con­rad Holt. Vir­ginia GM Sergey Eren­burg went into the fi­nal round tied for the lead, but fell to Nyzh­nyk to fin­ish in a 10-way tie for seventh at 7-2. There were over 400 en­tries for the tour­na­ment, the 108th run­ning of the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious open event.

Also in that large pack with Eren­burg was an­other Vir­ginian who had him­self quite a time in Nor­folk. IM Praveen Balakr­ish­nan’s only loss in the Open came at the hands of Li, and fol­lowed his tri­umph in the Denker Tour­na­ment of High School Cham­pi­ons, tra­di­tion­ally held just be­fore the Open. The Chan­tilly High stu­dent went 5-1 in the Denker, win­ning a $5,000 schol­ar­ship and the ti­tle on tiebreaks over three ri­vals.

Key to Balakr­ish­nan’s Denker win was a smooth Round 5 vic­tory over Wash­ing­ton State’s SM Bryce Tiglon from the White side of a Si­cil­ian Na­j­dorf. Once White gets a small but no­tice­able po­si­tional ad­van­tage, Balakr­ish­nan never lets his op­po­nent back in the game.

White’s 15. exd5 Bd7 16. Nc5!? doesn’t re­ally qual­ify as a sac­ri­fice, as Black’s bishop has nowhere to run af­ter 16…dxc5 17. d6. But Tiglon’s de­ci­sion to al­low the g-file to open up will have fate­ful con­se­quences af­ter 17…Bf6?! (Bf5 18. Bxc5 Bxc6 19. Qxd6 Re8 is a best a tiny edge for White) 18. gxf6 Qxf6 19. Bxc5 Nf4 — White’s ex­tra pawn is far less im­por­tant than his po­si­tional edge, while Black can’t play 19…Qxf3? be­cause of 20. Bg2.

White’s 25. Bxe6!? is an in­ter­est­ing de­ci­sion. The op­po­site-col­ored bish­ops set up a draw­ish endgame, but in the com­ing at­tack, White’s bishop can now at­tack squares that Black’s bishop can’t de­fend. Every time Black tries to cover up, Balakr­ish­nan finds a new way to keep the po­si­tion alive with moves such as 28. h4! and 31. Ba5!, repo­si­tion­ing the bishop to join the at­tack.

White’s dom­i­nance is sealed with the pow­er­ful cen­tral­iza­tion 31…Re6 (see di­a­gram) 32. Qd5!, par­a­lyz­ing Black’s clus­tered pieces. Tiglon’s in­creas­ingly des­per­ate ef­forts to break the bind only has­ten his demise.

Thus: 32…Re8 33. Bc3 (Rxg7+ was also strong, but White is in no hurry) Be6 34. Qc5 (again strong, but deadly now was 34. Rxe5! Rd7 [Bxd5 35. Rxe8+ Rf8 36. d7 wins] 35. Qd4 Rxd6 36. Qxd6 Bxa2+ 37. Kxa2 Qxd6 38. Rxe8+ Kf7 39. Re4) Bf5 35. R5g2 (head­ing for the e-file to tar­get the vul­ner­a­ble e-pawn) Qe6 36. Re2 Qd7 37. Rxe5 Rd8 38. Re2 b4 (Qxd6 39. Qxd6 Rxd6 40. Re8+ Rf8 41. Rxg7+ Kh8 42. Rxf8 mate) 39. Qxb4 Re8 40. Reg2 Bh3 (g6 41. Qd4 Rg7 42. h6 is eas­ily win­ning) 41. Rxg7+, and Black con­ceded as 41… Rxg7 42. Rxg7+ Qxg7 43. Bxg7 Kxg7 44. Kc1!, end­ing any back-rank tricks, is eas­ily won for White. While the rest of the world goes on va­ca­tion, chess play­ers get down to work. Au­gust is tra­di­tion­ally one of the busiest months for tour­na­ments, and a re­ally big one is just past the halfway point in St. Louis. Through Sun­day’s Round 5 of the 5th Sin­que­field Cup, French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is set­ting the pace at 31⁄2-11⁄2, a half-point ahead of cur­rent world champ Mag­nus Carlsen of Nor­way and former world champ Viswanathan Anand of In­dia.

The Cat­e­gory 22 event may be the strong­est ever con­tested on U.S. soil. We’ll have fi­nal re­sults and some of the ac­tion here next week.

Balakr­ish­nan-Tiglon, Denker Tour­na­ment of High School Cham­pi­ons, Nor­folk, Au­gust 2017

1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Qd2 Be7 9. f3 O-O 10. O-O-O Nbd7 11. g4 b5

12. Rg1 Nb6 13. g5 Nh5 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. exd5 Bd7 16. Nc5 dxc5 17. d6 Bf6 18. gxf6 Qxf6 19. Bxc5 Nf4 20. Be3 Ne6 21. Bh3 Rfd8 22. Bb6 Rf8 23. Kb1 Rab8 24. Bc7 Ra8 25. Bxe6 Qxe6 26. Rg3 f5 27. Rdg1 Rf7 28. h4 Re8 29. h5 f4

30. Rg5 Qf6 31. Ba5 Re6 32. Qd5 Re8 33. Bc3 Be6 34. Qc5 Bf5 35. R5g2 Qe6 36. Re2 Qd7 37. Rxe5 Rd8 38. Re2 b4 39. Qxb4 Re8 40. Reg2 Bh3

41. Rxg7+ Black re­signs

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