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Wu Do You Think You Are?

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Rolf Kuiper (right) in his unexpected draw against Edward Wu.
Rolf Kuiper (right) in his unexpected draw against Edward Wu.
The penultimate round of the Mel Clark Club Championship has produced a clear leader in David Bassett (2141), the only played on 4.5/5. Behind him are six other players on 4/5, meaning it's all to play for in next week's final round.

The evening also saw the return of Ron Morris (1756), who was in the hospital and did not play in rounds 3 and 4. Ron is now missing his appendix but was clearly not missing any of his chess skill as he beat Richard Luchetta (1488) in a good comeback win. Welcome back, Ron!

Board 1 was definitely the featured game of the night as David Bassett (2141) took on Melandro Singson (2209). Singson had black and played the Najdorf, leading to a fairly standard position in which white had pawns on e4 and f4, with the f pawn soon marching on to f5. As is typical of the Najdorf, the main battle revolved around control of the d5 square and white was finally able to sink a pawn on that square, which had the effect of cramping black and made his dark squared bishop particularly unhappy. After a series of exchanges, including the queens, an endgame resulted where both players had rook and bishop but white's rook had infiltrated on the b file. It looked like Singson was getting some counter play he threatened white's d pawn, which couldn't be defended. True, white was also threatening black's a pawn which couldn't be defended either but it wasn't clear how white would then defend against black's rook checking and harassing the white pawns on the second rank. Bassett had it all worked out, though, and he simply delayed capturing the a pawn (since Singson couldn't defend it, there was no immediate rush) and played the delightful Kf1! followed by Ke2 and suddenly black's rook had no targets. Faced with having to allow a monster passed a pawn or allow white to have connected passed a and b pawns, the game was soon over and Bassett picked up a well earned win.

On board 2, Matthew Hayes (2105) was white against Ryan Chen (1910). Chen has been on a roll recently, dramatically increasing his rating and this tournament has proved no exception after he beat one expert and drew another in rounds 3 and 4. The opening was a symmetrical English in which black looked to have fully equalized except that he missed a trick that allowed white to swap off a knight for black's dark squared bishop, thus winning the bishop pair. The dark squares around black's king were suddenly very weak and this proved crucial. Black missed the best defense, which would have been a well timed Qe7 to hold things together, and his kingside collapsed after white's cute Nxh7! when suddenly the knight couldn't be taken because the proceeding discovered check would have cost black his queen. Even at this point, black could have still played Qe7 and just been down a pawn but he tried to kick white's queen away only to be punished with another knight "sacrifice", Nxf6+, which not only won a second pawn but in fact white could forcibly regain the piece a couple of moves later. Chen resigned when a further slip meant the loss of his bishop but, being three pawns down and with his king wide open, it was already looking grim.

Craig Faber (2150) had black against Daniel Manahan (1944) on board 3 and, after white opened with 1. d4, Faber played his favorite Dutch Defense. This time, however, things went awry and the Dutch did not prevail. Black appeared to have a good position early on, and indeed into the middle game he seemed to have things well under control. However, a combination of Manahan's tenacity and Faber's time trouble led to the game swinging in white's favor. After most of the pieces were traded off, material was even but white had sunk a pawn on g5 that was proving bothersome and black's bishop was having trouble making itself useful. Because both players had castled opposite (white queenside, black kingside), there were still attacking chances for both but, with his clock approaching zero, Faber had a meltdown and blundered right on move 40, prompting his immediate resignation. The result puts Manahan among the chasing pack on 4/5 and, should he win his last game, he will come close to regaining the expert rating he once had back in the 90s.

On board 4, Henry Castro (2080) had white vs Simon Slutsky (1879) and this time the rating difference told. The opening was the Tarrasch variation of the Queen's Gambit and, after the standard opening moves, black lashed out with his pawns on e5 and d4. Castro swapped one of them off and something of a standoff followed with black's bishops on f6 and e6 eyeing white's queenside but white's bishops on b2 and d3 looking at black's kingside! Castro then used his expert technique to bring home the full point and will likely face Bassett on board 1 in the final round.

In addition to the upset on board 3, Edward Wu (1777) continued his fine tournament by holding expert Rolf Kuiper (2039) to an excellent draw. Wu has earned a bit of a reputation for beating and drawing experts and can never be underestimated. Congratulations, Edward!

The evening's other big shock results came from Joey Perez (1792) who beat Raoul Crisologo (2026) with the black pieces, and Johan Akesson (1692) who held Dane Hinrichsen (2000) to a draw. Finally, many congratulations to Sophia Manahan (377) who beat Tommy Wen (575), a result notable not only for the near 200 point rating difference between the players but also because this was only Sophia's third win in Arcadia. It's tough to lose a lot of games but Sophia's perseverence is to be admired and hopefully this will be the start of many more wins!

The Club Championship will conclude Monday, April 7.

Another Quick Tournament to be Held on April 7!

Mike Carlson directed the club's second "Quextra" event last night which started at 7:15pm. Four players did battle in a round robin, double round quick play tournament. Mike has generously offered to direct another quick tournament next week (April 7) too. We have extended the entry criteria to include anyone playing in the main tournament but who requests a bye no later than 5pm on April 7. If you are interested in playing, please check the rules and then contact us ahead of time or turn up before 7:15pm on April 7.