Sixth North American FIDE Invitational in Chicago

10/31/2007 – The “windy city's” biggest claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of one Robert J. Fischer. But now Chicago has, as Yogi Berra might say, a great history ahead of it. The North American Chess Association is staging an invitational with nine titled player – an ideal event for the event’s norm seekers. Most intriguing is an FM who who turned 13 just a few days before the event started. Illustrated report.

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6th North American FIDE Invitational

Early-round report by Dennis Monokroussos

Chicago, Illinois, is one of the biggest and most interesting cities in the United States, and enjoys a rich chess history as well. The “windy city”, adjacent to Lake Michigan, is a remarkable metropolis, renowned not only for its business district (the “Miracle Mile”) but also for its museums and the Shedd Aquarium. And for its sports teams, notably Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Bears of American football, and the poor, cursed Chicago Cubs baseball team.


The Chicago skyline, stretching from the Shedd Aquarium on the left to the Navy Pier at right (click image to enlarge and scroll in Firefox)

In chess, Chicago's biggest claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of one Robert J. Fischer, but thanks to North American Chess Association founder Sevan Muradian, it has, as Yogi Berra might say, a great history ahead of it, too. Despite the United States’ size and the number of strong players and promising juniors living here, there really aren’t that many events available to those seeking IM and GM norms here. Mr. Muradian is therefore meeting a great need, and the American chess community certainly owes him a debt of gratitude.


Sevan Muradian with another important American organizer – who happens to be a famous grandmaster, too... [For cave dwellers: it's former Women's World Champion Susan Polgar]

His current project is the 6th North American FIDE International chess tournament, which is taking place at IM Angelo Young’s Touch Move Chess Center. The event started on Sunday, October 28, and runs through Saturday, November 3. It stars three international masters, five FIDE masters, a WIM and one untitled player, making this an ideal event for the event’s norm seekers.

Among the notable stories so far, we have one of the favorites, IM David Vigorito (above), who has raced ahead with 3.5/4. Some chess authors experience a dip in their results after they write, but Vigorito’s play in the wake of publishing his excellent book on the 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian tells another story. The last few months have seen Vigorito turn into a mortal terror, and I expect his FIDE rating to jump from 2399 to at least the mid-2400s by the end of the year. Is he inexorably headed for grandmasterdom?

Vigorito,David (2399) - Muhammad,Stephen (2384) [E99]
6th North American FIDE Invitational Chicago (3), 29.10.2007
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 Bg7 5.e4 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.a4 a5 14.Nd3 b6 15.b4 axb4 16.Nb5 Nf6 17.Be1 g4 18.Bxb4 g3 19.h3

19...Ng6N 19...Ng6 is a common move in the Classical King's Indian, but timing is everything. White now overprotects the vulnerable h3, g2 and f3 squares, after which his queenside counterattack is ready to roll. 19...Bxh3 20.gxh3 Qd7 and now if 21.Kg2 Ng6 22.Rh1, apparently covering everything, Black has the explosive 22...Nh4+ 23.Kg1 Nxe4 24.fxe4 f3 , winning.

20.Re1. A good move, clearing f1 for the bishop. This and his ensuing moves take all the sting out of the dangerous ...Bxh3 sac. 20...Ne8 21.Bf1 Nh4 22.Qe2 Rf6 23.Reb1 Rg6 24.Ne1. How will Black ever break through this defensive array? 24...Bf8 25.a5 Ba6 26.axb6 c6. 26...cxb6 leaves Black with ugly, chronic queenside weaknesses White can start to exploit with 27.Ra2 Still, it may have been better for Black – though a lot less entertaining for the fans – than Muhammad's choice in the game.

27.Nc7! Nxc7 28.dxc6! Here come the pawns! 28...Ne6 29.Bc3 Nc5 30.Qd1 Qe8 31.Qd5+ Kh8

32.Rxa6. It might not be best, but it's not bad and it's definitely spectacular. 32...Nxa6 [32...Rxa6 33.b7 wins] 33.c5 [33.Ra1!] 33...Nc7 [33...Nxc5!] 34.bxc7. Now everything's back on track again. 34...Rc8 35.Rb7 Rf6 36.Bc4 Kg7 37.Qg8+ Kh6 38.Qg4 Qxc6 39.Qxh4+ Kg7 40.Qg4+ Rg6 41.Qxc8 Qxc5+ 42.Kh1 Qxc4 43.Qd7+ Kh6 44.Qxh7+! Kg5 45.h4+ Kf6 46.Qh8+ Ke6.

In the King's Indian, Black often has a chance even when almost everything goes wrong, and so it is here. He's down a piece, his king's in a mess, White threatens the bishop on f8 and has a passer ready to queen, but even so the threat of ...Qf1# is annoying. Vigorito finds a convincing solution. 47.Nd3!! Qxc3 48.Nxf4+ Kd7 49.Rb1 Rh6 50.Qxf8 Rxh4+ 51.Nh3 Rxh3+ 52.gxh3 g2+ 53.Kh2 1-0. [Click to replay]


FM Mehmed Pasalic concentrating on how to win the game (which he did)

Mehmed Pasalic is still well in the hunt for an IM norm, despite the one loss, and it’s still early enough that if any of the other players gets hot he (or she – WIM Ludmila Mokriak opened the event with draws against IMs Vigorito and Angelo Young!) still has a norm shot as well.


WIM Ludmila Mokriak who held two draws against two IM's with the black pieces.

Most intriguing is FM Ray Robson (above), who turned 13 just a few days before the event started. Ray's FIDE rating is already a very healthy 2396, and he’s tied for first place now with Vigorito, having defeated IM Stephen Muhammad, FM Albert Chow, FM Mehmed Pasalic and drawn FM Todd Andrews. He’s definitely a player to watch.


The tournament site, run by IM and event participant Angelo Young


IM Stephen Muhammad looks relaxed against his young opponent Ray Robson, but that was before getting swindled at the end!

Muhammad,Stephen (2384) - Robson,Ray (2368) [D47]
6th North American FIDE Invitational Chicago (2), 28.10.2007
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2 Bb7 9.e4 b4 10.e5 bxc3 11.exf6 Nxf6 12.bxc3 Bd6 13.0-0 0-0 14.Bg5 c5 15.Rb1 Qe7 16.Ne5 Rfd8 17.Bf3 Bxe5 18.Rxb7 Qe8 19.Qe2 Bd6 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Bh5 Rd7 22.Rxd7 Qxd7 23.Qg4+. White's clearly better, and after Black's next, he's winning. 23...Kf8 [23...Kh8] 24.Qe4. White picks up a very useful pawn, but it's not over yet. 24...Rb8 25.Qxh7 cxd4 26.cxd4 Rb7 27.h4 Qa4 28.Rc1 Qd7 29.g3 Rb8 30.d5 Be5 31.Re1 Rb2

32.Qh8+. White's still winning after the queen check, but he missed an elegant way to finish the game immediately: 32.Rxe5! fxe5 33.d6!! 32...Ke7 33.Qg8 Qxd5 34.Qxf7+ Kd6

35.Qf8+. 35.Rc1 was best, keeping Black's king in the box and getting the rook into the attack with tempo – 36.Qc7# is the threat. 35...Kc7 36.Rd1 Bd4. Now Black's pieces look rather menacing, and it's now anyone's game. 37.Rc1+ Kb6 38.Qb8+ Ka5 39.Qc7+ Ka6

40.Rc6+? What could be more natural? Unfortunately for Muhammad, Black's slippery king survives this final attacking flurry, leaving his own monarch helpless against Robson's beautifully placed pieces. 40.Rf1! leaves White with some advantage. 40...Bb6-+ 41.Qc8+ Kb5 42.a4+ Kb4 43.Qf8+? Kb3 44.Rxb6+ axb6 45.Bg6 Qf3. White's attack is over, he's behind in material, and worst of all, mate is inevitable. A close scrape for the youngster! 0-1. [Click to replay]


Our young hero, who looks unbearably cute – until you have to play him!

Above is our proprietor in action against WIM Mokriak. You can see he has castled queenside, hoping to whip up an attack against her king, but she defended well and drew.


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