US Open Round 8: Can Danya Do It?

by admin on August 8, 2010

The penultimate round of the 2010 US Open was a very strange one for me. The last two rounds are being played on a one-a-day schedule, so I had to wait around all day (until 7:30 pm) to play my game. And then it took all of 14 minutes to play! My opponent blundered a piece on move 12 and resigned!

This is actually the second time an “accident” like this has happened in my favor in this particular opening line. Although you shouldn’t choose your openings based on traps, it’s always nice when there are some traps built into an otherwise good variation.

For fans of the Two Knights Defense, here is the complete game:

Greg Churchill – Dana Mackenzie

1. e4 e5 2. d4 …

Interesting move order. This avoids the currently trendy Petroff Defense.

2. … ed 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Qxd5 8. Nc3 …

All book so far. The double pin (on e4 and d4)  enables White to win back all of his material. Now there are two book moves for Black, 8. … Qh5 and 8. … Qa5. However, the second is considered a bit more reliable and has more theory. Therefore I play the other move. My general principle in all openings is to choose the less popular move, as long as there is no intrinsic reason for its being less popular.

8. … Qh5 9. Nxe4 Be7

Now this is a seriously unusual move. 9. … Be6 is usual, and has been played 600+ times in ChessBase. My move has only been played about 60 times. Nevertheless, I think it is completely sound. I have analyzed it thoroughly at home, although I have to admit that my analysis was all done 20 years ago in the pre-computer era. If you want to check it out on Rybka, be my guest.

10. Bg5 Bg4!

Black refuses to be intimidated.

Now 11. Bxe7 is the correct move. Black must avoid recapturing: if 11. … Nxe7? 12. Qe2 and Black’s king is caught in the center. Notice that it is too late to play 12. … Bxf3? because 13. Nf6+ leads to mate. However, after 11. Bxe7 Bxf3! immediately leaves White with a wrecked pawn formation and equality at best.

However, in last night’s game White took leave of his senses and played

11. Nf6+??

immediately. He must have convinced himself it was going to be mate. But after

11. … gf 12. Bxf6 Bxf3!

the tables are turned on him. He can’t play Qe2 and can’t capture on f3 because of … Rg8+. Basically, White has sacrificed a piece in order to give Black a mating attack. White resigned here.

I used 2 minutes for the whole game, because I was still in my home analysis. My opponent used 12 minutes.  Maybe I should demand a refund for getting to play only 14 minutes of chess all day, but I’m not going to complain.

It was a great day for both of my companions as well. Thadeus won his game quite easily because his opponent blundered a piece on move 20. Cailen won a long endgame with three pawns against a knight, which he said might have been his best endgame ever. So we all have scores of 4-4 going into the last round. As for the other players I know, I think that Dan Burkhard drew and stands at 4½ points. Pablo Pena lost and has 5. Robin Cunningham (my old friend from North Carolina who now lives in California, and is returning to chess after a long absence that included a dalliance with poker) won a really nice game with 20-year-old home preparation. Does that sound familiar? His preparation was deeper than mine, though. I believe he has 5½ points now.

By the way, I met Jim Krooskos, longtime ChessLecture subscriber and reader of this blog. He was happy, too; he said he had just gotten lucky in his game. I believe he is tied with me at 4. I’m starting to get worried about all the people I know at 4 points. The last thing I want to do is play one of them. My tournament is already ruined, and I don’t want to ruin the tournament for a friend!

With my game over so quickly, I had the chance to watch all the action on the top boards. To my surprise, Alejandro Ramirez whipped Alex Shabalov on board one. Who is Alejandro Ramirez? Well, according to this Wikipedia entry, he is a 22-year-old native of Costa Rica who is now studying at the University of Texas at Dallas. According to his bio at, “He is a GM.” That is his entire biography — four words, seven letters total! Well, whoever he is, he is now leading the US Open with 7½ points.

On board two, Max Cornejo (whose game with Thadeus I showed in my previous blog entry) got outplayed in the endgame by Varuzhan Akobian. However, on board three Daniel Naroditsky kept the youth movement going with a victory over Enrico Sevillano. Naroditsky played the Grand Prix Variation of the Sicilian (surprise!) and got nothing out of it. But then on the 20th move IM Sevillano committed a rather surprising oversight.

Black to move.

Here I basically thought that nothing was happening, and after a move like 20. … h5 (threatening 20. … Ng4) I think that the game would probably be drawn. But Sevillano, perhaps also lulled by the apparent harmlessness of the position, played instead 20. … Rc2?? Do you see what is wrong with this?

The answer is that Black has forgotten to leave his knight any places to move. So after 21. e5!, the knight was trapped! Sevillano sacrificed the exchange instead with 21. … Rxf2, but didn’t get any compensation for it and resigned several moves after the time control.

Thus, Naroditsky is in second with 7 points (tied with Akobian and maybe one or two other people) and thus in very good position to win the tournament if he can win in the last round. If so, he would almost certainly be the youngest US Open champion since Bobby Fischer. Fischer won in 1957 at the age of 14 years, 2 months, and Danya would be 14 years, 9 months. In today’s ultra-competitive chess world, I would consider Daniel’s achievement to be more impressive than Fischer’s.

But he has to win first.

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