Chess: Alejandro Ramirez wins U.S. Open

Position No. 6120: White to play and win. From the game Jimmy Mardell-Joel Eklund, Sweden 2010.

Solution to Position No. 6119: White wins with 1 e5! Bc6+ 2 Kf2, as 2…dxe5 permits 3 Rxh6+! Qxh6 4 f6+ e4 5 Qg7 mate.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez of Costa Rica won the 111th U.S. Open in Irvine last Sunday. Ramirez, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, yielded draws only to top-seeded GM Varuzhan Akobian and his former UTD teammate, IM Julio Catalino Sadorra. His 8-1 score included a victory against GM Melikset Khachiyan and a crucial eighth-round upset of GM Alexander Shabalov.

Akobian, Sadorra, Shabalov and 14-year-old phenom Daniel Naroditsky shared second place at 7 1/2-1 1/2. Southern Californians Khachiyan, IM Andranik Matikozyan, IM Enrico Sevillano, masters Joel Banawa, Matthew Beelby, Ankit Gupta and Bryan Williams Paulsen and top expert Vanessa West all finished among the 18-way tie at 7-2. West defeated four masters and gained more than 70 rating points.

The official attendance of 468 players was the largest since the 2006 U.S. Open in Illinois.

The U.S. Open serves as the annual business meeting for the U.S. Chess Federation. The delegates discussed the USCF’s support of former world champion Anatoly Karpov’s campaign to unseat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as president of the World Chess Federation. Less momentous but more relevant to tournament players was the decision to eliminate a five-minute deduction for those who use digital clocks with a time-delay function. Such clocks have rendered analog models obselete.

Local news

The second annual Central California Open takes place next weekend at the Radisson Hotel, 2233 Ventura St. in Fresno. It’s a six-round Continental Chess Assn. tournament with a guaranteed minimum prize fund of $12,000. For details, see

The Westwood Summer Open, a five-round tournament of 40-minute games, will be held next Sunday at the Los Angeles Chess Club, 11514 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. See for information and online entry.

The Bill Smith Memorial, a six-round tournament, begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Senior Citizens building, 405 S. Santa Anita Ave. in Arcadia. More information is posted at

A new club, Metropolitan Chess, will meet five days per week in the penthouse (13th floor) of the California Market Center, 110 E. Ninth St. in Los Angeles. Call Ron Morris at (562) 587-1152 to learn more.

Today’s games

GM Alexander Shabalov-GM Larry Kaufman, U.S. Open, Irvine 2010: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Qb3 Botvinnik’s 1950s favorite against the Grunfeld Defense. dxc4 6 Qxc4 0-0 7 e4 a6 The Hungarian variation, developed in the early 1970s. 8 e5 b5 9 Qb3 Nfd7 10 e6!? A wild variation that fits Shabalov’s style. White has also tried the immediate 10 h4 and the more sedate 10 Be3 Nb6 11 Rd1. fxe6 11 Be3 White can gain material by 11 Qxe6+ Kh8 12 Ng5 Nf6 13 Nf7+ Rxf7 14 Qxf7, but 14…Nc6 fights back. Nb6 12 h4 Nc6 13 h5 Rxf3 14 gxf3 Nxd4 15 Rd1 c5 16 Bxd4 cxd4 17 hxg6 h6 The problem with 17…hxg6 18 Qc2 Qe8 is 19 Bd3! dxc3 20 Bxg6 Qf8 21 Bh7+ Kh8 22 Rh4, when White attacks relentlessly. 18 Rh4 Black has struggled in this variation since Kasparov beat Svidler in 1999 with 18 Rh5 Qe8 19 Ne2 Qxg6 20 Rh1 Kh8 21 Rg1 Qf7 22 Nxd4. Shabalov’s new move negates Kaufman’s preparation and retains a durable initiative. Nd5 Reasonable. Black can also consider 18…Bf6!? 19 Rh5 (not 19 Rxh6? Qf8) Kg7 or 18…Qd6 19 Ne2 Bb7 20 Nxd4 Bd5, but he should reject 18…Qe8? 19 Rhxd4! Bxd4 20 Rxd4 Bd7 21 Bd3, as White will attack h6. 19 Rhxd4 The alternative 19 Ne2 e5 20 f4 e6 21 Rh5 Nxf4 puts less pressure on Black. Bxd4 20 Rxd4 Bb7?! Inaccurate, as Black needs to defend e6. White has only a small advantage after 20…Qb6 21 Re4 Qc5 or 20…Qb6 21 Rh4 Qd6 22 Rxh6 Nf4. 21 Bh3 Qd6 22 Re4 Nf4?? Only 22…Bc8 23 Ne2 e5 resists. 23 Rxf4! The third exchange sac. Qxf4 24 Qxe6+ Kf8 No better are 24…Kh8 25 Qxe7 and 24…Kg7 25 Bf5. 25 Bf5! Qc1+ Hoping to defend f7 by 26 Ke2?? Qxb2+ 27 Kf1 Qc1+ 28 Ke2 (or 28 Kg2 Qg5+ 29 Kh2 Qf6) Bxf3+! 29 Kxf3 Qxc3+ 30 Kg2 Qf6. 26 Nd1 Qc4 27 g7+! Kxg7 28 Qg6+ Kf8 29 Be6 Qb4+ 30 Nc3, Black Resigns.

GM Melikset Khachiyan (U.S.A.)-GM Alejandro Ramirez (Costa Rica), U.S. Open, Irvine 2010: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 Nc3 a6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 Qc7 The Kan Sicilian. 6 Be2 Nf6 7 0-0 d6 8 a4 Nc6 9 Nb3 Harmless. Only 9 Be3 worries Black. b6 10 f4 Be7 11 Bf3 Bb7 12 Be3 0-0 13 Qe2 Nd7 Black has the cramped but explosive setup typical of the Scheveningen Sicilian. 14 Rad1 Rfe8 15 Kh1 Bf8 16 Bf2 Black reacts to the pawn storm 16 g4 Nb4 17 g5 with central counterplay: 17…d5!, inviting 18 exd5 exd5 19 Qf2 Rad8. However, the response 18 e5 Nc5 19 Nd4 keeps chances about even. Nb4 17 Bg3 To enforce e4-e5. e5! 18 f5 The pawn structure favors Black, despite his backward d-pawn, because he constantly threatens …d6-d5. Nf6 19 Bh4 Be7 20 Qd2 The start of a faulty plan. White should keep command of d5 by 20 Rd2 Red8 (not 20…Nxe4?? 21 Bxe4 Bxh4 because of the double attack 22 Bxb7 Qxb7 23 Qg4) 21 Rfd1. Rad8 21 Bxf6?! Bxf6 22 Nb1 a5 23 c3? Necessary is 23 Nc3, retracting his last move. d5! The refutation. Black imagines 24 cxb4 dxe4 or 24 exd5 e4! (even stronger than 24…Nxd5) 25 d6 Qc6 26 cxb4 exf3, unleashing his Bishop at b7. 24 Qe3 Neither 24 Qe2 Ba6 nor 24 Qe1 dxe4 25 Rxd8 Rxd8 26 Bxe4 Bxe4 27 Qxe4 Nd3 28 Qe2 Qc4 29 N3d2 Qxa4 suits White. d4! 25 Qf2 Na2! A creative way of attacking c3. 26 cxd4 exd4 27 Nxd4 Qc5 28 e5! Khachiyan puts up maximum resistance. After the natural 28 Nb5 Qxf2 29 Rxf2 Rxd1+ 30 Bxd1 Bxe4 31 Nd2 Bc6, White must yield a pawn, as 32 b3 loses more to 32…Nc3 33 Nxc3 Bxc3 34 Nf1 Re1. Bxf3 29 Qxf3 Bxe5 30 Nb5 Rxd1 31 Rxd1 Bxb2 Safely snatching a pawn, as Black can parry 32 Qb3 by 32…Qf2. 32 Nd2 Nc3 33 Nxc3 Qxc3 The tricky 33…Bxc3 34 Ne4 Qe5! 35 Nxc3 Qe1+ 36 Qf1 Qxc3 37 h3 Qb4 seems an even better transition to a winning endgame. 34 Qxc3 Bxc3 35 Nc4 Bd4 36 g3 Bc5 37 Rd7 Probably 37 Rb1 improves. Then 37…g6 38 fxg6 hxg6 39 Rb5 (threatening 40 Nxa5) Re4 40 Nxb6 Bxb6 41 Rxb6 Rxa4 42 Ra6 should draw. And 37…Rc8 38 Rb5 Rc6 doesn’t help, because 39 Ne5 Rd6 40 Nc4 Rc6 41 Ne5 repeats. h5 38 Nd6 Re1+ 39 Kg2 Re2+ 40 Kh1 Rd2! Far-sighted. Black gives up two pawns to create a decisive passer. 41 Rd8+ Kh7 42 Nxf7 Rxd8 43 Nxd8 b5! 44 axb5 a4 45 Nc6 After 45 Ne6 Be3 46 b6 Bxb6 47 Ng5+ Kg8 48 Ne4 a3 49 Nc3 Bd4 50 Na2 Kf7, the Knight is stuck and White lacks the solace of the b-pawn. a3 46 Na5 a2 47 Nb3 Kh6 48 h4 g6! 49 fxg6 Kxg6 White can dream of sacrificing his Knight for the a-pawn and drawing against the “wrong” h-pawn, but Black need not cooperate. 50 Kg2 Kf5 51 Kf3 Ke5 Heading for c4 to roust the Knight. 52 Ke2 Kd5 53 Kd3 Bd4 54 Kc2 Be5 55 b6 After 55 Kd3 Bxg3 56 Kc3, Black can abandon the a-pawn, by 56…Bxh4 57 Kb2 Bd8, push the h-pawn, and use his King to fend off the Knight. Kc6 56 Na1!? A clever try that falls one tempo short. Bxa1 57 Kb3 Kxb6 58 Kxa2 Be5 59 Kb3 Kc5! Avoiding 59…Bxg3?? 60 Kc4, when White’s King reaches h1 and draws. 60 Kc2 Kd4 61 Kd2 Ke4 62 Ke2 Bd4!, White Resigns.