Burke, fellow Yanks score high in Maryland’s ‘International’ chess showcase

Burke, fellow Yanks score high in Maryland’s ‘International’ chess showcase

It was the Washington-area’s 9th International Tournament, but it was the Americans who claimed some of the top honors.

U.S. GM John Burke took home the trophy earlier this month in the strong annual Rockville event put on by the Maryland Chess Association, with the best tiebreaks among the four players who finished atop the Championship section at 6½-½.

Americans GM Andrew Tang and junior IM Andrew Liang matched Burke’s total, along with Slovakian IM Viktor Gazik, with a number of strong foreign GMs kept out of the winner’s circle.

NM Roman Rychkov opened with two draws then reeled off seven straight wins to take the Under-2300 Premier section and Benjamin Lu Gin captured the Under-1800 Contenders tournament with a fine 7½-½ result.  

When paired with a higher-rated player, I tended to lose from playing too meekly rather than too aggressively, giving too much deference to my opponent’s supposed superior calculating and analytical skills, going down not with a bang but a whimper.

That wasn’t the case for young NM Davis Zong, who gave recently crowned U.S. Open champ GM Viktor Matviishen of Ukraine all he could handle and more before succumbing in 24 sharp and complex moves. White is leaning in from the get-go in this Ragozin QGD, not backing away from complications offered after 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5!? 10. Bxf6! (Black scores a major psychological point after moves like 10. Bd2?! e5 or 10…0-0; now the grandmaster wins material but finds his king facing a vicious attack) Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 (Qxc4+? 12. Kg1 gxf6 13. Rc1) 12. Rc1 Qa5 13. h4!, and White’s last major piece is about to be activated while the Black king is marooned in the center and his queenside pieces have yet to make a move.

Davis dictates the play with a string of aggressive ideas: 15. Re3! Nc6 (e5 is met by 16. Qh5!, hitting f7 and pinning the e-pawn from the side, presenting Black with landmine-laced options such as 16…Be6 [Rf8 17. Bxf7! Rxf7 18. Rxc8 Qa6+ 19. Kg1 exd4 20. Rc7+ Nd7 21. Rxd7+! Kxd7 22. Qxf7+ Kc6 23. Qxf6+ and White is winning] 17. Nf5+ Bxf5 [Kf8 18. Qxh7 Ke8 19. Bxe6, and mate is not far off] 18. Qxf7+ Kd6 19. Rd3+ Kc5 20. Ba6+! Kb6 21. Qxb7 mate) 16. Nf5+! exf5 17. exf5+ Ne5 18. Qh5 — Black is now up a full piece but the fight is far from over, as his king is pinned down by a withering crossfire from White’s major pieces.

The Ukrainian GM’s 18…Kd6! looks suicidal, but appears to be the only move to hold the position (Rf8? 19. f4 Qd2 20. Rxe5+ fxe5 21. f6+! Kd8 [Kxf6 22. Qg5 mate] 22. Rd1 is winning), and White finally stumbles amid the game’s exploding complexities.

Thus: 19. f4 Nxc4 20. Rxc4 Be6 (see diagram; it’s still a battle after 21. Qd1+! Bd5 22. Qd4 Re8 23. Rec3! — introducing the nasty threat of 24. Rc5 — Ke7 24. Rc5; e.g. 24…Qa6+ 25. Kg1 Bxg2 [Bc6? 26. Re3+ Kf8 27. Qd6+ Kg8 28. Rg3+ Kh8 29. Qxf6 mate is one illustration of the tightrope Black is walking] 26. Kxg2 Kf8 27. Rc7, with perhaps a slight edge for Black) Kc7 22. Qd1 (unfortunately, after 22. Rxd8 Rxd8, it’s White’s f-pawn that is now pinned and dare not take the bishop, and 22. Rxe6 is answered by 22…Rxd4 23. Qxf7+ Rd7, defending) Qc5, and White’s once-proud attack is in tatters.

After 24. Rxd4 Bc4+, Davis could honorably resign as 25. Kf2 Rd8 26. Ke3 Rxd4 27. Qxd4 Qxd4+ 28. Kxd4 b5 is an elementary endgame win for a grandmaster. A loss is a loss, but Zong definitely got his money’s worth.


A better example of fortune favoring the brave — or at least the unintimidated — can be seen in NM Shelev Oberoi’s upset win over GM and former U.S. Junior Champion Akshat Chandra from the Rockville event. Truth is, the grandmaster has much the better of the early play of this Caro-Kann Advance, but when Black’s defensive radar flags for just a second, Oberoi is there, ready to pounce.

Black wins a clear pawn in the early middle game, with White having only vague hopes of an attack against his opponent’s slightly compromised kingside. After 25. Rg3 a6 26. Nd4, some well-timed greed would have boosted Chandra’s cause with 26…Qxb2, when 27. Nxe6 fxe6 28. Qe7 is turned aside by 28…Rg8 29. Qxe6 Qc2 30. Qxd5 Rc7, defending and winning.

Instead, this happened: 26…Qd8?! (not wrong, but letting White set a sly trap) 27. Qh5 Rc4?? (failing to sense the danger and the weakness of the g6-square; 27…Bxd4 28. cxd4 29. Qd1 Qb6 still leaves Black in charge) 28. Nxe6! (a crushing fork) Qf6 (what else? on 28…Rh4 [out of the question is 28…fxe6?? 29. Qg6+ Kg8 30. Qxg7 mate], White plays 29. Rxg7+ Kh8 30. Qxf5, with mate to come on h7) 29. Nxg7 f4 30. Rg4 f3 31. Rxc4 dxc4 32. Nf5 fxg2 33. Re1 Rg8 34. Nd4, and Black, a piece down with no real compensation, resigned.

Zong-Matviishen, 9th Washington International, Rockville, Md., August 2022

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 c5 7. Bxc4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 10. Bxf6 Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 gxf6 12. Rc1 Qa5 13. h4 Ke7 14. Rh3 Rd8 15. Re3 Nc6 16. Nf5+ exf5 17. exf5+ Ne5 18. Qh5 Kd6 19. f4 Nxc4 20. Rxc4 Be6 21. Rd4+ Kc7 22. Qd1 Qc5 23. Ree4 Rxd4 24. Rxd4 Bc4+ White resigns.

Oberoi-Chandra, 9th Washington International, Rockville, Md., August 2022

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 6. Ne2 Qa5+ 7. c3 Qa6 8. Qd1 c5 9. O-O Nc6 10. a3 Nge7 11. dxc5 Nxe5 12. Nd4 g6 13. a4 Bg7 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bh4 Nf5 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. Bg3 Qc6 18. Na3 Qxc5 19. Bxe5 Bxe5 20. Qh5 Bg7 21. Rae1 O-O 22. Nb5 Kh7 23. Qh4 Rac8 24. Re3 Qb6 25. Rg3 a6 26. Nd4 Qd8 27. Qh5 Rc4 28. Nxe6 Qf6 29. Nxg7 f4 30. Rg4 f3 31. Rxc4 dxc4 32. Nf5 fxg2 33. Re1 Rg8 34. Nd4 Black resigns.

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