Youth is served, elders dissed at St. Louis chess tourney

By – The Washington Times – Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The late, great D.C. city champion Oscar Shapiro, who was still playing in weekend tournaments into his 90s, once explained his strategy against hotshot players on the rise: “Beat ‘em when they’re young,” he once said. “They only get better.”

That would have been sage advice for the just-completed St. Louis Spring Classic at the St. Louis Chess Club. Taking the top prize was 18-year-old Texas GM at 6-3, a half-point ahead of 22-year-old Ukrainian-born GM Illya Nyzhnyk, now a graduate student at Webster University and a mainstay of its juggernaut chess team.

At the wrong end of the 10-player cross table, by contrast, were two of the most accomplished players in the field: Uzbek GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, 39, who won the FIDE version of the world championship in 2004, and Ukrainian legend GM , 49, whom many consider the greatest player of the past half-century not to have been world champion.

’s best win may have come against tournament No. 1 seed GM Le Quang Liem, a relative graybeard at 27, an absorbing Closed Catalan in Round 6 with some of the best action in variations not played.

Le sets up a Stonewall center, and as White takes the game in a much sharper direction on 18. fxe4 Qc5 19. Qb3!? (the quieter 19. exd5 cxd5 20. Rac1 Rxf1 21. Rxf1 dxc4 leaves White with a small edge) Qxc4 20. Qxb7, and White emerges with a strong grip on the f-file and a more active bishop. The pace picks up on 27. Rf7! Rac8 (Qxe4 28. Bc4 Qc2 b3, and the Black bishop can’t move without exposing g7) 28. Qa7! (better than 28. Qxa5?! Be8 29. R7f3 c5, with counterplay) Ra8 29. Qc5! (Qxd4? Be8 30. Qe3 Bxf7 31. h5 Qg5 32. Qxg5 hxg5 33. Rxf7 a4 and White’s edge is gone), and White has a clamp on the position.

On 31. Bd1 (very murky is 31. Bh5!? Qxh5 32. Rxg7+ Kxg7 33. Qf8+ Kh7 34. Qe7+ Bf7 35. Rxf7+ Qxf7 36. Qxf7+ Kh8 37. Qxe2 d2 38. Qxh6+ Kg8 39. Qe6+ Kg7) Rd7 (the threat was 32. Rf6 Qxe4 33. Rxg7+! Kxg7 34. Qf8+ Kh7 35. Rxh6 mate; on 31…Qxe4, White wins on 32. Rxg7+ Kxg7 33. Qf8+ Kh7 34. Qe7+ Bf7 35. Rxf7+) 32. Rxd7 Bxd7 33. Qd6 Be8 34. Bg4 Bf7? (Ra7 was tougher), White could have clinched things with the unexpected 35. Rf5! Rb8! (exf5 36. Bxf5 pins ) 36. h5! Qxg4+ 37. Kxg4 exf5+ 38. exf5 Rxb2 39. Qxd3, with a winning game.

But never loses his advantage and picks up a second pawn on 39. Qc3 Rd4 40. Qxa5. With 46. Kh2 Bg4, Black seems to have set up a promising fortress, but the back-rank proves a fatal weakness: 47. Qa8 Qh6 48. Qd8 Qg6 49. Rf8 Qxe4 50. Rh8+ Kg6 51. Qe8+, and Black resigned facing a very nice mate: 51…Kf5 52. Rxh5+! Bxh5 53. Qxh5+ g5 54. Qxg5 mate.

Here’s hoping bounces back, but he was clearly not at his best in St. Louis, spoiling some decent positions as in his game with Dutch GM Benjamin Bok (who is 24, if you were wondering). We pick up their game in today’s diagram, after has done a good job of covering up in the face of Black’s kingside threats on his exposed king.

But White just loses the thread in the ensuing play: 32…Nf5 33. exf7+ Kg7 34. f8=Q+? (pretty much the losing move; the simple 34. Rg1 holds everything together) Rxf8 35. Re7+ Nxe7 36. Rxe7+ (not sure what White missed, but his attack proves illusory while Black’s mating threats remain very real) Kh8 37. Be5+ Rff6! 38. Bxf6+ (not much better was 38. Re8+ Kg7 39. Rg8+ Kh6 40. Rxg6+ Rxg6 41. Bf4+ Kg7, losing the exchange) Rxf6 39. Re8+ Kg7 40. Qg8+ Kh6, and resigns as 41. Re1 (to stop 41…Qh1+ 42. Kg4 Qh5 mate) loses to 41…Rg6, winning because of the threat of 42…Qxg3 mate.

-Le, St. Louis Spring Classic, St. Louis, March 2019

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. Qc2 Ne4 9. Bf4 c6 10. h4 h6 11. Nc3 f5 12. Nxe4 fxe4 13. Ne5 Nxe5 14. Bxe5 Bf6 15. f3 Bxe5 16. dxe5 Qb6+ 17. Kh2 Bd7 18. fxe4 Qc5 19. Qb3 Qxc4 20. Qxb7 Rfd8 21. Rf4 Qxe2 22. Raf1 Qh5 23. Qc7 d4 24. Bf3 Qg6 25. Be2 Kh7 26. Kh3 a5 27. Rf7 Rac8 28. Qa7 Ra8 29. Qc5 Be8 30. Re7 d3 31. Bd1 Rd7 32. Rxd7 Bxd7 33. Qd6 Be8 34. Bg4 Bf7 35. Qxd3 h5 36. Be2 Rb8 37. b3 Rb4 38. Rf4 c5 39. Qc3 Rd4 40. Qxa5 Be8 41. a4 Rb4 42. Bc4 Bxa4 43. Qxc5 Rxb3 44. Bxb3 Bxb3 45. Qc6 Bd1 46. Kh2 Bg4 47. Qa8 Qh6 48. Qd8 Qg6 49. Rf8 Qxe4 50. Rh8+ Kg6 51. Qe8+ Black resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email .

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