Up-and-com­ing Burke ar­rives with GM ti­tle

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

Afriend of mine makes it a point to go to as many high school drama pro­duc­tions as he can, in or­der to brag one day that he once saw Meryl Streep play Emily in “Our Town” or Lin-Manuel Mi­randa as Curly in “Ok­la­homa.” Catch ‘em while they’re young and on the rise is his motto.

Chess is called the “Royal Game,” but it can be the most demo­cratic of pas­times. In big-money Swiss events, the top-ranked com­peti­tors may be up on a stage, but many top play­ers reg­u­larly find them­selves play­ing among the hoi pol­loi, rub­bing el­bows with their rat­ings in­fe­ri­ors.

I will never be paired with Roger Fed­erer or play a com­pet­i­tive round with Tiger Woods, but I was the sac­ri­fi­cial lamb — the high­est-rated player of the sec­ond half of the field — in an ac­tual rated game at a week­end Swiss tour­na­ment in Ar­ling­ton against a young Alex Sherzer, shortly be­fore the then-IM from Fall­ston, Mary­land, went on a tear and nearly won the 1993 U.S. cham­pi­onship. (I got crushed, but still...)

I thought of my friends ad­vice upon re­al­iz­ing Wash­ing­ton-area fans reg­u­larly got some up-close­and-per­sonal looks at Amer­ica’s new­est grand­mas­ter, New Jer­sey’s John Burke, 17, as he played in lo­cal tour­na­ments and rock­eted up the rat­ings charts. As a young ex­pert, Burke gave a fore­taste of things to come at the 2013 Con­ti­nen­tal Class Cham­pi­onship in Crys­tal City, with a nice Round 1 win over higher-rated New York ex­pert Pi­eter Bierkens.

In a Ruy Lopez Ex­change, one small hint of the chess mastery to come can be seen in Black’s 11. d4 Bg4 12. Ba3 Bxf3!, a sur­pris­ing de­ci­sion that takes ad­van­tage of the fact that a queen re­cap­ture would cost White the d-pawn.

As the fight de­vel­ops on the king­side, Bierkens’ bishop proves to be badly mis­placed on a3. When the game opens up af­ter 16. Qd2 f5 17. Rad1 Nh4, it’s Black who’s clearly bet­ter placed for the bat­tle. The holes on the White king­side prove de­ci­sive in the fi­nal play — with White’s un­for­tu­nate bishop play­ing no role in the out­come.

Thus: 19. fxe4 Nf3 20. dxe5 (Rg3 Nxd4 loses a pawn with no com­pen­sa­tion) Qh3! 21. Rg2 Rf4! (very pre­cise; White al­ready has no de­fense) 22. e6 Rg4!, and the des­per­a­tion de­fense 23. Rdg1 (Rxg4 Qxh2 mate) runs into 23...Qxh2+! 24. Rxh2 Rxg1 mate. Bierkens re­signed.

Burke was back in the area at last Au­gust’s the 6th An­nual Wash­ing­ton In­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment in Rockville, Mary­land, in­clud­ing the game we pick up from to­day’s di­a­gram.

There was an up­grade in the qual­ity of com­pe­ti­tion — veteran Be­larus’ GM Sergei Azarov is play­ing White — and in the dif­fi­culty of the strug­gle, as Burke as Black spent a good part of the game fend­ing off White’s scary king­side ini­tia­tive in a Si­cil­ian Na­j­dorf. Now, how­ever, af­ter White’s 42. Ka1-b1 (see di­a­gram), Black fi­nally switches from de­fense to at­tack with dev­as­tat­ing re­sults.

There fol­lowed 42...b4! (just the right time for a pawn break) 43. cxb4 axb4 44. a4 (try­ing to keep lines closed) b3!, lock­ing the White king in along the back rank. Azarov tries 45. Nf3?! (tougher was 45. Qe3 [and not 45. Rg3?? Rd1+ leads to mate], but Black’s clearly win­ning af­ter 45...Rd8 46. Nc4 Qb4 47. Qc3 Qxc3 48. bxc3 Bxg5) Rb8 46. Rc1 Rb4 47. Qe3 Qa6!, block­ing any rook checks on c8 while set­ting up deadly a-file threats.

It’s over on 48. Rgd1 Rxa4 49. Qxb3 Ra1+ 50. Kc2 Qe2+, and White must lose ma­te­rial af­ter 51. Nd2 (Rd2 Rc5+ 52. Qc3 Rxc1+ 53. Kxc1 Rxc3+ 54. bxc3 Qxf3; or 51. Kc3 Rxc1+ 52. Rxc1 Qd3 mate) Rc5+ 52. Qc3 Rxc3+ 52. Kxc3 Qc5+ 53. Kb3 Rxc1; White re­signed. Bierkens-Burke, Con­ti­nen­tal Class Cham­pi­onships, Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, Oc­to­ber 2013 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 f6 6. O-O Bd6 7. Nbd2 Ne7 8. Nc4 O-O 9. b3 b5 10. Nxd6 cxd6 11. d4 Bg4 12. Ba3 Bxf3 13. gxf3 Ng6 14. Kh1 Qd7 15. Rg1 Rad8 16. Qd2 f5 17. Rad1 Nh4 18. Qc3 fxe4 19. fxe4 Nf3 20. dxe5 Qh3 21. Rg2 Rf4 22. e6 Rg4 White re­signs

● David R. Sands can be reached at (202) 636-3178 or by email at dsands@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

Azarov-Burke af­ter 42. Ka1-b1

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