Two important tournaments for American players collided this month. The U.S. Open in Phoenix was depleted because some top U.S. players were trying to qualify for the FIDE World Cup at the American Continental Championship in Buenos Aires. In their absence, the Swiss grandmaster Vadim Milov and former U.S. champion Joel Benjamin became U.S. Open co-champions. Both scored eight points in nine games, but Milov won the trophy on a tiebreaker.
Benjamin's last-round victory against GM Alex Yermolinsky in the Queen's Indian defense was never in doubt, showing a model play against an isolated pawn.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 b6 4.Nf3 Bb7 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd3 c5 8.0-0 h6 9.Bf4?! (In 1993 Kamsky played against Benjamin 9.Bh4 and after 9...cxd4 10.exd4 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nc6 12.Ne2 d5 black equalized.) 9...d5 10.Qe2 cxd4 11.exd4 Nc6 12.Rad1 (After 12.cxd5 Nxd5 13.Nxd5 Qxd514.Be4? is met by 14...Nxd4!) 12...Rc8 13.Rfe1 Nb4 14.Ne5 dxc4 (Benjamin plays safely for the blockading square d5. Winning a pawn with 14...Nxd3 15.Rxd3 dxc4 was possible, but after 16.Rg3 Kh8 17.Rd1 the white rook on the third rank is too active.) 15.Bxc4 Nfd5 (The consequence of white's ninth move: Black blocks with a tempo.) 16.Bc1 (Exchanging 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Bd2 Bg5 also plays into black's hand.)
16...Nxc3! (Shifting the weaknesses. Black bets that white's pawn on c3 and possibly the a-pawn are going to be better targets than the isolated pawn on d4.) 17.bxc3 Nd5 18.Qh5 Bg5! 19.Bxg5 (A sad necessity. After 19.Ba3 Nf4 20.Qg4 h5 21.Qg3 h4 22.Qg4 f5 the white queen is in trouble.) 19...Qxg5 20.Qxg5 hxg5 (White is strategically outplayed. His attacking chances are gone, and the black pieces descend on the pawn on c3 with force.) 21.Bxd5 Bxd5 22.Rc1 Rc7! (Increasing the pressure. There is no need to let the white rook into play with 22...Bxa2 23.Ra1 Bb3 24.Rxa7 Rxc3 25.h3 and white can still fight.) 23.a3 Rfc8 24.Re3 b5 (White's pieces are contained and his weaknesses magnified.) 25.h3 f6 26.Nf3 Rc4 27.Rd3 a5 (Threatening 28...b4 or 28...Ra4 29. Ra1 b4, black is in the driver's seat and should eventually win material and the game. White got discouraged, but at least he should have tried to steer the game into a rook endgame with 28.Nd2 Ra4 29.c4!? Bxc4 30.Rdc3 Rd8! [Not 30...Kf7? 31.Ne4 and 32. Nc5] 31.Nxc4 bxc4 32.Rxc4 Rxa3 trying to resist.) White resigned.
Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon won in Buenos Aires with 81/2 points in 11 games. Americans Gata Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk were in a group a half-point behind the winner and qualified for the World Cup in a playoff. Peruvian grandmaster Julio Granda Zuniga was the top South American player before he left chess for a few years. Kamsky, a 1996 world championship finalist, studied law and began to play again in the last year. The game between those two comeback players ended with Kamsky's meticulous positional victory in the Dragon Sicilian.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Qd2 Ng4 (Gains a bishop pair but loses time. Black has better chances to equalize with 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Be6.) 11.Bxg4 Bxg4 12.Nd5! (White plans to jam black's queenside with 13.a5, creating a wonderful outpost for his knight on b6. Kamsky learned from his 1989 game against B. Rechel where he played 12.Nxc6 and did not achieve much.) 12...Rc8 (Black is hoping to prevent white's next move but tactics are on white's side. After 12...Na5 white simply plays 13.b3.)
13.a5! (The positional squeeze begins by securing the square b6.) 13...Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Bxd4 15.Qxd4 Rc6 (Black suddenly sees that 15...Rxc2 16.Ne3 drops the exchange.) 16.Qd2 Be6 17.Nb6 Qc7 (After 17...f5 18.exf5 Bxf5 19.c4 white controls the queen side and the central files.) 18.c3 Rc5 19.Rfe1 Re5 20.b4! (Arresting the black rook on e5.) 20...Qc6 (To free his rook, black would have to play f7-f5 at some point, but white would have a clear advantage. For example, after 20...f5 21.exf5 Rfxf5 22.f4! Rxe1+ 23.Rxe1 Bf7 24.Re4 Kf8 25.c4 black is in a terrible bind.) 21.Qd4 g5 (Granda seems to give up on the f-pawn break, trying to secure the rook on the square e5.) 22.Re3 (Kamsky prefers a slow buildup, since black does not have any active plan. 22.c4! was also good.) 22...f6 (Again after 22...f5 23.exf5 Rfxf5 24.Rae1! white is clearly better.) 23.f3 Qe8 24.c4 Qh5 25.Rae1 Kf7 (Now after 25...f5? 26.exf5 wins.)
26.Na4! (As if on a carousel, the horse comes around and picks up the rook trapped on e5.) 26...Rc8 27.Nb2 Kg7 28.Rc1 Bg8 29.Nd3 Re6 30.f4! (White threatens 31.f5 and after 30...gxf4 31.Nxf4 wins the exchange. The desperate 30...d5, with the idea 31.exd5? Rxc4!, can be refuted with 31.fxg5 or 31.e5.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's study by E. Somov-Nasimovich (White: Kh2,Rc5,Nf2,P:f3; Black: Kh7,Rb2,Bd8,P:a7): 1.Kg3! (Not 1.Kg1? Bb6 2.Rh5+ Kg6 3.Rh2 Rxf2 4.Rxf2 a5! And black wins.) 1...Rxf2! (1...Bb6 2.Nd3!) 2.Rh5+! Kg6 3.Rd5 Bb6 4.Rd6+ Kf5 5.Rxb6 Rxf3+! 6.Kg2!! (After 6.Kxf3 axb6, black has the opposition and wins.) 6...axb6 7.Kxf3 and white's opposition draws.