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Not by the Hair of Ryan's Chenny, Chen, Chen

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Ryan Chen (right) in his extraordinary game against Henry Castro.
Ryan Chen (right) in his extraordinary game against Henry Castro.
Round 4 of the Mel Clark Club Championship resulted in a real traffic jam at the top of the leader board, with no players having perfect scores now and a large swathe of players sitting half a point back waiting for the leaders to slip up.

Ryan Chen (1910) had the only 3/3 score going into the fourth round and he was paired against Henry Castro (2080) on top board. Castro was a clear favorite going into the game, with a near 200 point rating gap over Chen (though that might not be the case by the end of the tournament, given how well Chen has been doing!). The game started out as an English but soon turned into something more closely resembling a King's Indian. Chen, who had white, sacrified a bishop for two pawns and opening up the h file near black's king. However, the attack soon petered out and, even though white had a dangerous looking passed d pawn, it probably should not have been enough compensation, especially as black had the bishop pair. After several pieces were swapped off, Chen then found some nice tactics to win a third pawn and he suddenly had two connected passed a and b pawns. Black had to try to either swap off the queens (as his bishop could have held back the pawns) or whip up a mating attack. Indeed, Castro found some nice forcing moves to leave white's king with perilously few safe squares and black probably missed his best chance when he could have force white's king on to h3 and then rounded up the g pawn and threatened mate at the same time. As it was, he played the wrong move order and, with white's b pawn now defiantly on b7 threatening to queen, Castro opted to take a draw by perpetual.

On board 2, Melandro Singson (2209) got back to winning ways by defeating Kelly Zhang (2038) with the white pieces. Black had some difficulties in the opening and tried to play a Queen's Indian, only to allow white far too much play. In particular, white's bishops were on c3 and d3 and were eyeing black's kingside ominously. Zhang resigned not too long after in one of the evening's fastest games to finish. The result puts Singson in a tie for the lead on 3.5/4.

Craig Faber (2150) took on Tom Zapanta (2005) on board 3, wheeling out the London System and obtaining what looked like a clear edge out of the opening. True, black then won a pawn but white was far better developed and had dangerous looking threats against black's kingside. However, white was unable to find a way to take advantage of his better development, although he did win back the pawn leading to a position that looked drawn. Zapanta tried to mix things up, and actually by the end was better because, although it was 3 pawns vs 3 pawns with each side having one minor piece, two of white's pawns were doubled. Faber had to use his Masterly technique to hold things together and the draw keeps both players well in contention.

Board 4 saw David Bassett (2141) vs Oscar Ortiz (1960) in a game where things went horribly wrong for black. The poisoned pawn variation of the Najdorf is notoriously treacherous and this game was no exception. Ortiz, who had black, grabbed the customary pawn on b2 and would have known he was in for a long defense. However, white was able to entrench his knights deep in black's position on the queenside and then, to make matters worse, his rook then penetrated and captured the b7 pawn so that black wasn't even up material anymore. With his pieces totally bound up, something was bound to drop for black and so it proved when white's knights caused further havoc and forced a fork of black's king and rook on c7. Ortiz resigned without seeing the capture of the a8 rook.

The results mean that Ryan Chen, Melandro Singson and David Bassett are the three players on 3.5/4. There is a massive jam behind them, with 15 players (!) on 3/4, which will produce some fascinating pairings in round 5.

In a tournament full of shock results so far, there were relatively few this time around. Kaihao Wen (1030) had an excellent draw with Ryan Shirtz (1595), who may be ruing the departure of his lucky beard, and Daniel Zhou (1649) continued his recent good form by beating Gordon Brooks (1900). The evening's biggest upset came courtesy of Raphael Manahan (1196), who beat David King (1600) and with the black pieces too.

The Club Championship continues Monday, March 31.

"Quextra" Quick Tournament on March 31

The club's second "Quextra" event will take place at the same time as the main tournament next week at 7:15pm. Anyone interested in playing should check the rules and then contact us ahead of time or turn up before 7:15pm on the 31st.