Thursday, September 04, 2008

Alex Cherniack - New England Open Co-Champion, 2008

Alex Cherniack, New England Open Co-Champion, 2008

Alex’s Excellent Adventure, or The Triumph of Mr. Magoo

The Boylston Chess Club’s own NM Alex Cherniack has achieved one of the very coveted honors available to New England chess players this Labor Day weekend, 2008. His name will be immortalized on the New England Open Championship trophy on a small plaque that will sing his praises until Kingdom Come.

I (Paul MacIntyre) and Libardo Rueda roomed with Alex this weekend, and our perspectives on chess were changed by the experience. Once we thought that great tournament victories were achieved by parabolically approaching perfection. By the end of the weekend, Libardo was explaining to me that chess was just a game of chance guided by freak accidents.

I have nothing but respect for Alex Cherniack’s chess game, and have been blown away by his skills on a number of occasions. At a recent Continental Open, he brilliantly smashed GMs Wojo and Kudrin in succession playing darn near perfect chess. This tournament result, one of his best, was won in a most ironic fashion.

Before his last round, Alex’s performance had already caused me to equate his play with that of a chessic Mr. Magoo,
that nearsighted cartoon master of serendipity who is able to blithely walk off a building and somehow step onto a randomly swinging girder hurtling through the air, only to be deposited softly on the sidewalk unharmed.

Alex started off with a good game in Round 1 paired down against expert Steve Brudno, who he beat efficiently enough. There followed his only loss which came in Round 2, an unpleasant one to FM Bill Kelleher who won following the simple formula, “pin and win.” In Round 3 Alex won against expert Sherif Khater, which required Sherif’s cooperation, but it was a relatively solid performance in which Alex was never lost.

In Round 4 Alex was paired as Black against IM Vigorito. Alex played the Dutch Stonewall as Black, which against a player of Vigorito’s aesthetic sense is the equivalent of a “Yo’ Momma!” Dave confidently applied the thumbscrews, depriving Alex of all counterplay, until the following position was reached, assessed by Fritz at +– (4.12).

Round 4, Vigorito–Cherniack, White to make his 38th move.

Both 38.ef and 38.Nf4 preserved a large, winning advantage. However, Vigorito opted for and saw nearly his entire advantage evaporate when Alex uncorked 38. . . .Rg8+ 39.Kf2 Rg6! when, in improbable Magoo fashion, Black is holding on just fine. Vigorito took me aside and said he was going to have to kill himself, but I applied my suicide hotline skills and he is still alive and well.

Our hero was up to his old tricks again when he was given the White pieces to play local legend John Curdo in the fifth round. Alex had been talking about aggressive ways of dealing with John’s Dutch defense, and indeed he stirred up the position and even decided to send his knight on a pre-castling raid to munch early on John’s f-pawn:

Round 5, Cherniack–Curdo after 13. Nxf5??

Kids from the scholastic tournament were undoubtedly sniggering as they anticipated Black’s fairly obvious reply, 13. . . . Qa5+ picking up the Knight. Here Alex finds himself giving a full piece to Curdo, who also has plenty of those open lines he loves. Dead as a doornail, right? Not! Alex managed to brew up an initiative similar to the wine he now brews in his cellar, putting Curdo under the influence and eventually netting a full point from this situation. Have a look at the game, appended at the end, if you’re into Ripley’s Believe it or Not! “Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again!”

As if to test the level of abuse our chessic Magoo could take and still come out unscathed, Alex was paired against none other than GM Alexander Ivanov in the last round. Ivanov had drawn early and somewhat inexplicably with IM Igor Foygel in Round 5, but nonetheless could still have offered Alex a draw and left with sole first and the New England Open Title. But Noooooo! He had to play to crush Alex. Word was that Ivanov was sick of giving up rating points to lower rated players in such situations, and was hoping to boost his rating high enough to get invited to the U.S. Closed Championships. “The best laid plans . . .” In the following position, in time trouble, Ivanov decided to apply a hammer-like “coup de grace” to our rubberized hero and played to grab two minor pieces for the rook . . .

Round 5, Cherniack–GM Ivanov after 26.d6

Ivanov played 26. . . .Rf3 27.Rf3 Re4, whence Alex Cherniack snapped the trap shut with 28 Qd5 winning the pinned Knight at f7 with checkmate to follow quickly. Ivanov resigned after 28. . . . Qc6 29. Qf7+. I guess Alex was lying low and, as he likes to say, “keeping his powder dry” for the right moment!

All joking aside, a hearty congratulations to NM Alex Cherniack for his fabulous accomplishment!
(Games below.)

Alex Cherniack - Steven Brudno [A65]New England Open (1), 30.08.20081.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 0-0 5.f3 d6 6.Be3 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Qd2 exd5 9.cxd5 a6 10.a4 b6 11.Nge2 Nbd7 12.Ng3 Ne5 13.Bh6 Ne8 14.h4 Bxh6 15.Qxh6 Qf6 16.h5 Qg7 17.Qd2 f5 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.exf5 Bxf5 20.Be2 Nc7 21.Nce4 Bxe4 22.Nxe4 Qf7 23.Nxd6 Qf4 24.Qxf4 Rxf4 25.0-0-0 Rxa4 26.Ne4 Kg7 27.Kb1 Rd8 28.d6 Ne6 29.Rd5 Nf7 30.g3 Rd4 31.Rd1 Rxd1+ 32.Bxd1 a5 33.f4 Nd4 34.Bg4 Nh6 35.Bh3 Nhf5 36.g4 Nh6 37.g5 Nhf5 38.d7 Kf7 39.Nf6 Ne7 40.Rd6 Black's flag fell 1-0

Alex Cherniack - Bill Kelleher [D30]New England Open (2), 30.08.20081.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nbd2 Nbd7 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.b3 e5 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Qe2 Bg4 12.Bb2 Re8 13.h3 Bh5 14.Rac1 Ne4 15.g4 Nxg4 16.hxg4 Bxg4 17.Kg2 Re6 18.Rg1 Bb4 19.Nf1 Rg6 20.Ng3 Nd2 21.Bxg6 Bxf3+ 22.Qxf3 Nxf3 23.Bxh7+ Kxh7 24.Kxf3 Rc8 25.Rh1+ Kg8 26.Bd4 Rxc1 27.Rxc1 Be7 28.Nf5 Bf6 29.Bxa7 b6 30.Ng3 g6 31.Rc6 Qa8 32.Rxb6 d4+ 33.Ne4 Qxa7 34.Nxf6+ Kg7 35.Rd6 dxe3 36.fxe3 Qxa2 37.b4 Qa8+ 38.Nd5 Qb8 39.Rc6 Qh2 40.Rc5 g5 41.b5 Qd6 0-1

Sherif Khater - Alex Cherniack [D32]New England Open (3), 31.08.20081.d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c4 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Be2 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.b3 a6 11.Bb2 Be6 12.Rc1 Qe7 13.Na4 Ba7 14.Nd4 Bd7 15.Nxc6 Bxc6 16.Bd4 Bxa4 17.Bxa7 Rxa7 18.Qd4 Raa8 19.Qxa4 Rac8 20.Bf3 Rc7 21.Qd4 Rd8 22.h3 h6 23.Rfd1 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Qa3 25.Rc2 Qa5 26.Qd2 Qb6 27.Qd4 Qxd4 28.exd4 Rd7 29.Rc8+ Kh7 30.Rc5 Kg6 31.Kf1 Kf5 32.Ke2 Ke6 33.Kd3 Kd6 34.g4 Rd8 35.h4 g5 36.h5 b6 37.Rc2 Ng8 38.Bd1 Re8 39.Re2 Rxe2 40.Bxe2 Ne7 41.Ke3 b5 42.a4 Kc6 43.axb5+ axb5 44.f4 f6 45.fxg5 fxg5 46.Bd3 Kb6 47.Bg6 Ka5 48.Kd3 Kb4 49.Be8 Ng8 50.Bd7 Nf6 51.Bc6 Kxb3 52.Bxb5 Nxg4 53.Be8 Nf6 54.Bf7 g4 55.Be6 g3 56.Ke3 Kc3 57.Bf7 g2 58.Kf2 Kxd4 59.Kxg2 Ke3 0-1

Dave Vigorito - Alex Cherniack [A92]New England Open (4), 31.08.20081.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.Qc2 c6 8.Nbd2 Ne4 9.Ne5 Nd7 10.Nd3 Ndf6 11.Nf3 Bd7 12.Nfe5 b6 13.f3 Nd6 14.c5 Nf7 15.Be3 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Ne8 17.Bd4 b5 18.a4 Nc7 19.e3 Qc8 20.f4 Be8 21.Rf2 Qb7 22.b4 h6 23.Qd1 g5 24.Bf1 Bg6 25.Rfa2 Rf7 26.Nc1 bxa4 27.Qxa4 Bd8 28.Nb3 Nb5 29.Bxb5 Qxb5 30.Qxb5 cxb5 31.Ra6 Re7 32.Bc3 Be8 33.Nd4 Kf7 34.Rd6 Bc7 35.Raa6 Bd7 36.Rxd7 Rxd7 37.Nxe6 gxf4 38.gxf4 Rg8+ 39.Ng5+ hxg5 40.e6+ Ke7 41.exd7 gxf4+ 42.Kf2 fxe3+ 43.Kxe3 Kxd7 44.Kd4 f4 45.Kxd5 Rg5+ 46.Ke4 Rh5 47.Rxa7 Kc6 48.Ra6+ Kb7 49.Ra2 f3 50.Rf2 Rh3 51.Kf5 Rxh2 52.Rxf3 Rh5+ 53.Ke6 Rh6+ 54.Kd5 Rh5+ 55.Ke4 Rh4+ 56.Kd3 Rc4 57.Rf7 Kc6 58.Bd4 Rxb4 59.Ke4 Bd8 60.Ra7 Ra4 61.Rxa4 bxa4 ½-½

Alex Cherniack - John Curdo [A86]New England Open (5), 01.09.20081.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d6 4.d5 c6 5.Bg2 e5 6.dxe6 Bxe6 7.Nd2 d5 8.Nh3 dxc4 9.Nf4 Bd5 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Nxc4 Nc6 12.Ne3 d4 13.Nxf5 Qa5+ 14.Bd2 Qxf5 15.Qb3 Qd7 16.0-0 Bc5 17.Rfc1 Bb6 18.a4 Na5 19.Bxa5 Bxa5 20.Rc5 Bb6 21.Rb5 Rb8 22.a5 Bc7 23.Rxb7 Rxb7 24.Qxb7 0-0 25.Qxa7 Qd6 26.Rc1 Bb8 27.Qb7 Qe6 28.Bf3 g5 29.Rc5 h6 30.Bd5 Nxd5 31.Qxd5 Qxd5 32.Rxd5 Bc7 33.b4 Rb8 34.Rxd4 Be5 35.Rc4 Bd6 36.Rc6 Bf8 37.Rc4 Rxb4 38.Rxb4 Bxb4 39.a6 Bc5 40.Kg2 g4 41.f3 h5 42.h3 gxh3+ 43.Kxh3 Kf7 44.f4 Be3 45.g4 hxg4+ 46.Kxg4 Kf6 47.Kf3 Ba7 48.e4 Kg6 49.Kg4 Kf6 50.e5+ Kg6 51.f5+ Kf7 52.f6 Ke6 53.Kg5 1-0

Alex Cherniack - Alexander Ivanov [A21]New England Open (6), 01.09.20081.c4 e5 2.Nc3 d6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.e3 f5 6.d4 e4 7.f3 exf3 8.Bxf3 Nf6 9.Nh3 0-0 10.Nf2 c5 11.0-0 Nc6 12.b3 Bd7 13.Bb2 Qe7 14.Qd2 Rae8 15.Rae1 h5 16.Nd5 Nxd5 17.cxd5 Nd8 18.dxc5 Bxb2 19.Qxb2 Bb5 20.cxd6 Qxd6 21.e4 fxe4 22.Nxe4 Qb6+ 23.Kg2 Bxf1+ 24.Rxf1 Rf5 25.Qd2 Nf7 26.d6 Rxf3 27.Rxf3 Rxe4 28.Qd5 Qc6 29.Qxf7+ 1-0

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