Grandmasters Stukopin and Belous Storm the Midwest

7/1/2017 – Russian Grandmasters Andrey Stukopin and Vladimir Belous won the 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival, topping a 64-player field with a convincing 7.5/9. Both University of Texas at Brownsville students took the event by storm, going undefeated in nine games and living up to their expectation as the top two seeds. Report and analysis by GM Joshua Friedel.

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Grandmasters Stukopin and Belous Storm the Midwest

by GM Josh Friedel

The festival took place at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin.  The centrally located state capital is a multicultural city home to UW Madison, one of the top public universities in the country.  It’s also well known for its lakes, parks, and excellent food, making it an ideal place to visit for a tournament.  It’s located within driving distance of Chicago and much of the Midwest, with some players even making the trek up from St. Louis.  One player had trouble finding the event only because they confused the Wisconsin Chess Festival with the Wisconsin Cheese Festival.  In their defense, I should point out, however, that Wisconsin is famous for its cheese production, so this mistake is actually quite understandable. 

TDs Jim Hodina and Glenn Panner with Organizer Alex Betaneli

The tournament was run by FM and experienced organizer Alex Betaneli.  Alex is extremely detail-oriented, which is a very valuable quality in an organizer, and thus every aspect of the event was handled with precision and care.  There was coffee and snacks provided with each round, padding on doors to minimize noise, boxes for cell phones during the games to avoid penalties, as well as many other things I’m probably not even aware of.  The result was a smoothly-run event with little to no hiccups.  The tournament directors were also quite experienced and skilled.  TDs Glenn Panner and Jim Hodina handled the floor superbly and made sure none of the players got too out of line.  There were some nice tournament extras as well.  Some were the more usual sort, like a blitz tournament, while others were less typical, like a concert with Russian folk songs sung in English.  It should be mentioned that most hotels probably wouldn’t allow this, and it was appreciated that this one did.  Those blitz tourneys really get out of hand.

As mentioned, Stukopin and Belous won in convincing fashion.  Here are a couple of their crucial victories.

Aman Hambleton - Andrey Stukopin (annotated by GM Josh Friedel)

[Event "2017 Wisconsin International"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.06.16"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Hambleton, Aman"] [Black "Stukopin, Andrey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2471"] [BlackElo "2577"] [Annotator "GM Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.06.11"] {Black against an extremely strong IM in one of the critical rounds of the tournament, GM Stukopin played a nearly flawless game to secure his position at the top of the table.} 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. Bf4 d5 7. e3 Bb4 8. Be2 Ne4 9. Ndb5 O-O 10. O-O Bxc3 11. Nxc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Qf6 14. Rc1 {This move is a touch passive for my tastes.} (14. Qh5 $5 Qxc3 15. Rfc1 {allows White to keep some initiative and prevent Black from finishing his development.}) 14... e5 $1 15. Bg3 Be6 {Now Black is quite comfortable.} 16. Bd5 Bxd5 17. Qxd5 Rad8 18. Qc4 h5 19. f4 {This move is a little too panicky.} (19. Rcd1 {is simple and solid, with a level position.}) 19... exf4 20. Bxf4 Rd2 {Andrey doesn't miss his chance to activate his rook.} 21. e4 Rb2 22. Bg3 Qg6 23. Rf2 Rxf2 24. Bxf2 Rd8 {White was already in time trouble, which probably doubles the positional pressure Black has. Things went downhill quickly.} 25. Re1 (25. Qe2 {was a better defense, keeping the rook out of d2.}) 25... Ne5 $1 {Black's initiative begins and doesn't let up until the king is tipped over.} (25... Rd2 26. Re2 {is OK for White.}) 26. Qc7 (26. Qe2 {runs into} Rd2 $1 {and if} 27. Qxd2 Nf3+ $1 {picks up the queen.}) 26... Nf3+ 27. Kh1 Rd2 28. Rf1 Ng5 {Precise play from both players, but now White's position is nearly impossible to hold together.} 29. Be3 {[#]} Rxg2 $1 { The only move that maintains the edge, but it's a mighty powerful one.} 30. Qc8+ (30. Qxb7 {is the best move according to the silicon beast, with the idea that after} Nxe4 31. Qxf7+ $1 Qxf7 32. Rxf7 {and White has chances for survival, though after} Re2 $1 33. Rf3 Rxa2 {I'd suspect Black should win with best play.}) 30... Kh7 31. Kxg2 (31. Qf5 {would have lasted longer, but after} Rg4 $1 32. Qxg6+ Kxg6 {The ending should be pretty hopeless.}) 31... Qxe4+ { Now Black picks up the whole world with check.} 32. Kf2 Qf3+ 33. Ke1 Qxe3+ 34. Kd1 Qd3+ $1 {Precise to the last.} 35. Ke1 Nf3+ 36. Kf2 Nxh2 {An impressive win.} 0-1

Tournament Winners GM Vladimir Belous and GM Andrey Stukopin

Joshua Friedel - Vladimir Belous (annotated by GM Josh Friedel)

[Event "2017 Wisconsin International"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.06.15"] [Round "5"] [White "Friedel, Joshua"] [Black "Belous, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2528"] [BlackElo "2567"] [Annotator "GM Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.06.16"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.06.16"] {Another key game of the tournament, as I was a leader by a half point going into this game (I had 4/4 while he had 3.5/4). Unfortunately for myself, I failed to capitalize on a large advantage and was duly punished.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 c5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bg2 Qa5+ 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. Qd3 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nc5 9. Qd1 Nc6 10. e3 Ne6 11. O-O O-O 12. Nxe6 dxe6 13. Bd2 Qb6 {Not a square I'd recommend for the queen, since Rb1-b4 is a nice idea for White anyway, but it's tough to recommend clear improvements.} (13... Bd7 {would probably be my choice, just trying to finish development.}) 14. Rb1 Rd8 15. Qe2 Ne5 16. Rfd1 Qc7 17. b3 a6 18. a4 Bd7 19. f4 Nc6 20. b4 {Black's position is quite cramped, but it's not so terrible just yet.} Rac8 (20... a5 21. b5 Nb4 {is likely a better choice, but I still like White's position.}) 21. Rdc1 Nb8 {[#] A sad move to play, but Black is just trying to hang in there.} 22. a5 {Not a terrible move, but not the one I wanted to play.} (22. b5 {was my intention, but I missed something crucial at the end of the main line.} Qxc4 23. Bxb7 Qxe2 24. Nxe2 Rxc1+ 25. Rxc1 axb5 26. a5 $1 {The main idea.} Bc6 27. Bxc6 Nxc6 28. Rxc6 Rxd2 29. Rc8+ Bf8 {and I thought Black was doing OK, but I missed that I had} 30. Nc1 $1 {and the a-pawn will be nearly impossible to stop. Quite a line!}) 22... Bc6 23. e4 Bd4+ 24. Be3 Be8 {Black's problem is that every piece wants to use the c6 square. He's defending quite well, however, which makes my life difficult.} 25. Nd5 Bxe3+ 26. Nxe3 Nc6 27. Qb2 b6 28. axb6 Qxb6 29. c5 Qb5 30. Bf1 Qb7 {Despite not being super accurate, I still have some edge here. Unfortunately, I decided to lose my mind here.} 31. b5 {anti-positional nonsense. I wanted to force the queens off, but this doesn't help in the least. } (31. Nc4 {is the logical move, and after} Nd4 32. Bg2 {White still has some advantage.}) 31... axb5 32. Qxb5 Qxb5 33. Bxb5 (33. Rxb5 {was the better choice, but I was already off in the woods.}) 33... Nd4 {Vladimir doesn't miss his chance.} 34. Ba6 Ra8 35. Bb7 Ra2 36. Rf1 Rb8 37. Rf2 Ra5 38. Rb4 Nc6 39. Bxc6 Rxb4 40. Bxe8 Rxe4 {Since my crazy streak on move 31 I've defended reasonably, but Belous continues to apply pressure.} 41. Ng4 Rxc5 42. Ne5 f6 43. Nf3 Kg7 44. Kg2 Re3 45. Bd7 Kf7 46. Ba4 h6 47. h4 {I wasn't crazy about loosening g3, but allowing g5 seemed like the worse option.} Rcc3 48. Bd1 Kg7 { Black wants e5.} 49. Rb2 e5 50. fxe5 fxe5 51. Kf2 e4 52. Nd2 (52. Ne5 {is a stronger move which I didn't consider.} Rxg3 53. Re2 {followed by Rxe4 with a likely draw.}) 52... Rxg3 {[#]} 53. Rb7 {A blunder ends the game immediately.} (53. Nxe4 Rh3 54. Kg2 (54. Nxc3 Rh2+ 55. Kg3 Rxb2 {and I liked Black's chances here with the rooks off.}) 54... Rcd3 55. h5 $1 {and White has good holding chances.}) 53... e3+ {and I resigned, realizing that after Kxg3 he plays not ed+ but e2+! Not the smoothest game, but Vladimir defended well and made the most of the chances he got.} 0-1

Tying for 3rd with 6.5/9 were GMs Akhshat Chandra, Denes Boros, and myself as well as Canada’s IM Aman Hambleton.

Alex Betaneli and GM Akshat Chandra

GM Denes Boros and IM Aman Hambleton turned in strong results

Your author, GM Josh Friedel, playing against Wisconsin junior, Rithwik Mathur

Despite coming up short of 1st place, the strong Canadian IM had a solid showing by tying for 3rd.  In this game against a talented junior, he displayed nasty opening preparation followed by nice tactics.

Aman Hambleton - Justin Wang (annotated by GM Josh Friedel)

[Event "2017 Wisconsin International"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.06.17"] [Round "8.4"] [White "Hambleton, Aman"] [Black "Wang, Justin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2471"] [BlackElo "2232"] [Annotator "GM Josh Friedel"] [PlyCount "147"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.06.11"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. e3 Nc6 5. Nbd2 d5 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Bd3 b6 9. e4 Be7 10. e5 Nh5 11. Ng5 Bxg5 12. Qxh5 g6 13. Qe2 cxd4 14. h4 Bh6 15. h5 g5 16. Nf3 dxc3 17. bxc3 f5 18. exf6 Qxf6 19. O-O {All played instantly by Aman, while Justin has been using up buckets of time. This doesn't bode well for the youngster.} Bg7 20. Bb5 {So far Justin has defended remarkably well, but with little time he makes a couple hasty pawn pushes and allows White to break through spectacularly.} e5 (20... Bd7 {and while White's position would be my preference, it still isn't so easy to break through.}) 21. Rad1 e4 22. Nxg5 Ne7 23. Nxe4 $1 dxe4 {[#]} 24. h6 $1 {This spectacular diversion completely discoordinates Black.} Bxh6 25. Bc4+ Kh8 26. Rd6 Qg7 27. Rxh6 { The rook is immune to capture due to the diagonal check.} Bf5 28. Rd6 {Black's position is in ruins and he still has no time on the clock. He fights admirably, but there isn't much he can do.} Ng6 29. Bd5 Rae8 30. Bc6 Re7 31. Rd4 Rc8 32. Qh5 Qf6 33. Rd6 Re6 34. Rd7 Nf8 (34... Ne5 {was perhaps a missed chance, but White should still preserve his edge with} 35. Ba4) 35. Rf7 Qg6 36. Qxf5 Qxf5 37. Rxf5 Rexc6 38. Rf7 Ng6 39. Rd1 Rxc3 40. Rdd7 Rc1+ 41. Kh2 R1c6 42. Rxh7+ Kg8 43. Rdg7+ Kf8 44. Rxa7 Kg8 45. Rhd7 Ne7 46. Rxe7 Rh6+ 47. Bh4 Rxh4+ 48. Kg3 Rh6 49. Rxe4 Rf6 50. Rg4+ Kh8 51. Raa4 Rc3+ 52. f3 Rd6 53. Rg5 Rh6 54. Rag4 Rc7 55. a4 Kh7 56. Rh4 Rxh4 57. Kxh4 Ra7 58. Rg4 Kh6 59. Rc4 Kg7 60. f4 Kf6 61. g4 Rh7+ 62. Kg3 Ra7 63. Rc6+ Kg7 64. Rxb6 Rxa4 65. f5 Rc4 66. Kh4 Rc1 67. Kh5 Rd1 68. Rb7+ Kf6 69. g5+ Kxf5 70. Rf7+ Ke6 71. Rf2 Ke7 72. Kh6 Rh1+ 73. Kg7 Rg1 74. g6 {Nice game and nice prep by Aman, but look out for Justin Wang, as he is bound to be a force to be reckoned with in coming years.} 1-0

The festival was a great experience, and I hope it continues in future years. Thanks again to organizer Alex Betaneli as well as TDs Glenn Panner and Jim Hodina.

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