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A New Club Champion Arises!

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David Bassett (left) deep in concentration against Henry Castro.
David Bassett (left) deep in concentration against Henry Castro.
Congratulations to David Bassett (2191) who won the Mel Clark Club Championship. In addition to being our new Club Champion, Bassett also regained his Master status by pushing his rating up to 2209.

Bassett knew he would need to beat Henry Castro (2070) with the black pieces in order to guarantee outright first place. A draw would be good enough to guarantee at least a share of first but he would then be relying on results on other boards to go his way. With that in mind, Bassett played the always provocative King's Indian against Castro's d4 opening. The line that followed is slightly unusual, with black voluntarily giving up his light squared bishop (usually a big "no no" in the King's Indian) but, in this particular line, black is trying to control the d4 square and thus exchanges his bishop for white's knight on f3. Black was able to lodge an annoying pawn on f4, supported by the traditional King's Indian pawns on e5 and d6. In the ensuing complications, white "won" the exchange but black had lots of compensation by way of white's somewhat loose king on e2 and a pin on a rook on f3. Black then played a well timed e4!! which was completely crushing as it undermined white's defense of f3 and resulted in the win of the f3 rook. Although black was "only" up a piece, as he had been down the exchange, the resulting position was an easily won endgame. To Castro's credit, he tried some tricks and made Bassett work for it but had to resign when he was going to have to give up his rook to stop black's h pawn from queening in a couple of moves.

On board 2, David Argall (2000) was white against Matthew Hayes (2105) and both players needed a win, and anything other than a Bassett victory on top board, to move into a tie for first place. Black played the Grivas Sicilian (sometimes known as the Qb6 Sicilian), which is rare but can catch unwary opponents out. Argall played very solidly, avoiding any tricks, and castled queenside. Black's development was a little slower but he soon had threats of his own with his a and b pawns harassing white's knights on b3 and c3. When white surprisingly allowed the trade of his dark squared bishop for one of black's knights, the game started to swing in Hayes' favor. Although white was able to get both rooks on the 7th rank, they had no real targets and were soon chased away. The final few moves were amusing as first black skewered white's bishop and knight and white then moved the knight so that he could fork black's king and rook should black capture the now loose bishop. However, the cute point was that black could allow this because he was able to skewer white's knight and rook with his light squared bishop afterwards. Argall resigned, not seeing any way for his lone rook to stop both of black's bishops and passed f pawn.

Joey Perez (1792) took on Tom Zapanta (2005) on board 3. Zapanta played the Najdorf and white responded with the more conservative, but popular and good, Be2 line. The game swung back and forth wildly, with white possibly missing a win and definitely missing a knight move on f4. He then gave up his queen but got both of black's rooks in return, usually a good trade for the player who is left with the rooks. In this case, Zapanta did still have a passed a pawn, though a pawn on any other file (except h!) would have been preferable. Unfortunately, white's rooks were not able to coordinate and his position was too loose. Perez resigned when black's queen was going to force the win of one of the rooks with a series of checks.

Board 4 saw one of the evening's earlier games to finish as Melandro Singson (2009) had white against Daniel Manahan (1934). An asymmetrical English (1. c4 e5) opening was played and white soon enjoyed a very pleasant space advantage, particularly on the queenside. Singson was able to exchange his knight for black's dark squared bishop, a favorable situation given the open nature of the position and the fact that black's queenside pawns were on dark squares. Singson was soon pressing hard on the b and c files, targeting black's b6 pawn with his bishop on e3 and his rook and queen which were both on the b file. Something had to give and, although black was able to keep defending the threats against the pawn, his position cracked after white played a5! which hit b6 and undermined black's entire queenside. Singson then used his masterly technique to bring home the full point.

The tournament's biggest rating gainers were Daniel Manahan (1934 to 1979), Daniel Zhou (1586 to 1657), Bob Head (1443 to 1474), Michael Xu (1216 to 1270), and Raphael Manahan - like father like son! - who went from 1222 to 1294.

A new tournament with two sections, the Spring Challenge, starts Monday, April 14.