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Timur Gareyev turns back hometown chess hero Awonder Liang to win U.S. Open

August 8, 2018

It was all set up for the local hero to shine until GM Timur Gareyev spoiled the party.

The Uzbek-born California GM on Sunday captured the 119th U.S. Open in Madison, Wisconsin, with a tough last-round victory over Madison-born GM Awonder Liang. Gareyev, who earns a slot in the 2019 U.S. Championship with the win, bounced back from a loss to Peruvian GM Jorge Cori to finish at 8-1, a half-point ahead of five players.

Liang, fresh off a victory in the U.S. Junior Championship, was one of seven players at 7-2.

Veteran Virginia FM Macon Shibut gave Liang all he could handle in their engrossing Round 4 game, a classic Closed Ruy Lopez where the battle is fought out on every sector of the board. Black’s central counterpunch on 14. hxg4 d4! threatens to keep White’s critical light-squared bishop bottled up, but after 16. Bd2 dxc3!? (more logical seems 16...a5 17. a3 Be6) 17. bxc3 b4 18. Ba4 Bd7 19. cxb4 Nxb4 20. Bb3!, the bishop finds another useful diagonal to occupy. After 20...Nc6 21. Qf3! Qf6 (risky is 21...Be6 22. Ne2 Bxb3 23. axb3 Rb8 24. Qh3) 22. Ne2 Qxf3 23. gxf3 Bf8 24. 0-0 Nb4 25. Rfc1, White has clawed his way back to equality and the fight begins anew.

The battle for the initiative intensifies on 29. Ne2 Ne5 30. Bd5! (Kg2? c4 wins material) Nxf3+ 31. Kg2 Bxg4!? (Nd4 32. Nxd4 cxd4 33. Rac1 Rxc2 24. Rxc2 Rb8 35. Kf3, and Black’s extra pawn may not be enough to win) 32. Bxa8 Rxa8 33. Bc3 Re8 34. Nf4 Rxe4?! (harder to meet was 34...Ng5!; e.g. 35. e5 Bf3+ 36. Kg3 Bc6, repositioning the bishop along the long diagonal and threatening 37...Ne4+ 38. Kh3 Nxc3 39. Rxc3 Rxe5) 35. Nd5!, threatening all manner of nasty forks and eventually installing the White bishop on the powerful f6-square.

After 41. Kg1 g5 42. Rb8, both sides have to worry about getting snared in mating nets, but it is the grandmaster who proves just a bit stronger in the crunch: 47. Rc5+ Ke6 48. Re8+? (tempting but wrong, giving Black the time he needs to resuscitate his own attack; the computer recommends 48. f4! gxf4 49. Kf2 Kf7 50. Rh8 Kg7 51. Rb8, with double-edged play) Kf7 49. Re3 Rd1+ 50. Be1 (Kh2 Nf3+ 51. Kg3 Rg1 mate) Nf3+ 51. Kf1 (pinned and pinned down, White’s pieces can’t organize a defense) Ra1 52. Rcc3 (Ra5 Nd2+ 53. Kg2 Nc4; 52. a3 h4 53. Rc7+ Kg6 54. Rce7 Bh3+ 55. Ke2 Nd4+ 56. Kd3 Nf5 57. Bc3 Bf1+ 58. Ke4 Rxa3) Bh3+ 53. Ke2 g4 54. Rc7+ (Rxf3 gxf3+ 55. Kd2 [Rxf3 Bg4] Bf1 56. Rxf3 Rxa2+ and wins) Kg6 55. Bc3? (in a lost position, White walks into a picturesque mate) Bf1 mate.

A game that does credit to both combatants.

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GM Alex Fishbein was one of the quintet of grandmasters sharing second, thanks in part to a quick point he scored over Cori thanks to his deep familiarity with the niceties of Sicilian set-ups where White fianchettoes the king’s bishop. We pick it up from today’s diagram, where Cori, having just played 12...Rf8-e8, is about to get rolled.

There followed: 13. e5!? dxe5 14. fxe5 Nxe5 15. Bf4 Nfd7? (safer was 15...Rd8) 16. Qe2 g5?! (panic sets in as Black realizes he’s run into a better-prepared opponent) 17. Nxe6! fxe6 18. Qh5! Rd8?? (the final mistake, though the defense was difficult in any case) 19. Be4!, and Black resigned facing 19...gxf4 (Nf8 20. Bxe5 Qxe5 21. Qf7+ Kh8 22. Qxe7; or 19...h6 20. Qxh6 gxf4 21. Qh7+ Kf8 22. Rxf4+ Nf6 23. Rxf6+ Bxf6 24. Qxc7) 20. Qxh7+ Kf8 21. Rxf4+ Nf6 22. Rxf6+ Bxf6 23. Qxc7 and wins.

Shibut-Liang, 119th U.S. Open, Madison, Wisconsin, August 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Qe2 Be7 7. d3 O-O 8. Nbd2 b5 9. Bc2 Re8 10. Nf1 Bf8 11. Ng3 g6 12. h3 Bg7 13. Nh2d5 14. Ng4 Nxg4 15. hxg4 d4 16. Bd2 dxc3 17. bxc3 b4 18. Ba4 Bd7 19. cxb4 Nxb4 20. Bb3 Nc6 21. Qf3 Qf6 22. Ne2 Qxf3 23. gxf3 Bf8 24. O-O Nb4 25. Rfc1 Rec8 26. d4 exd4 27. Nxd4 Nd3 28. Rc2 c5 29. Ne2 Ne5 30. Bd5 Nxf3+ 31. Kg2 Bxg4 32. Bxa8 Rxa8 33. Bc3 Re8 34. Nf4 Rxe4 35. Nd5 Bg7 36. Rb1 h5 37. Nf6+ Bxf6 38. Bxf6 Kh7 39. Rxc5 Re6 40. Bc3 Nh4+ 41. Kg1 g5 42. Rb8 f6 43. Rf8 Kg7 44. Rfc8 Rd6 45. R5c7+ Kg6 46. Rg8+ Kf5 47. Rc5+ Ke6 48. Re8+ Kf7 49. Re3 Rd1+ 50. Be1 Nf3+ 51. Kf1 Ra1 52. Rcc3 Bh3+ 53. Ke2 g4 54. Rc7+ Kg6 55. Bc3 Bf1 mate.

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

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