Checkmates at MLK Chess Tournaments and the Unstoppable World Chess Champion


Everyone was champion at the annual Scholastic MLK chess tournament in Birmingham. K-12 chess players test their skills in competitive play. Photo courtesy of Magic City U and Caesar Chess.

The annual MLK chess tournaments, held in Montgomery and Birmingham, have attracted many of Alabama’s top players and promising college players. Both events were organized and directed by Caesar Lawrence and evaluated by the United States Chess Federation.

The MLK Classic tournament took place on January 17th at the Frazer UMC in Montgomery. The event was unique in that a husband and wife chess couple both won their respective sections. Rex Blalock took first place in the classic MLK tiebreaker section against former Alabama State Champion Scott Varagona. The reserve section was won by Maria Blalock. Two school chess sections, one for ranked players and one for unranked beginners, attracted K-12 players from the Birmingham and Montgomery area.

MLK Classic Award Winners

Open section: 1st place (tied) – Rex Blalock (won the tiebreaker title) and Scott Varagona; 2nd place (shared) – Jonathan Raspberry, Douglas strout, and Thomas lawry, Reserve (U1600): 1st Place – Maria blalock; 2nd and 3rd Place (shared) – Dan Williams and Henry Leslie, Jr. Round (K-12): 1st Place – Sanjay Jagadeesh; 2nd place – Alexandre Jo Soi; 3rd place – Anirudh Harishankar; Gold – Dominique self; Silver – Miles Haughery, Novice (K-12; not classified): 1st place – Daniel Ratta; 2nd place – Nathan Ratta; 3rd place – Reena chen; Gold (tied) – Christophe Wang and Richard chen; Silver (tied) – Jasmine castillo and Jonathan Song; Bronze – Ryan malkemus

Former state chess champion Scott Varagona sends us his match against MLK Classic expert Rex Blalock. “What follows was probably the best game for both of us,” said Varagona.

“Rex doesn’t believe in the line I played in the classic Caro-Kann defense that allows the exchange of Black’s black square bishop for White’s knight. But I had some good plays with it. In this game. , I won a pawn and I have to hunt the White King for a while. However, with my own king exposed and my king’s tower undeveloped, I have found nothing better than to trade for an ending of tour, ”said Varagona.

The turn and pawn final starting at move 33 is instructive. Both players kept their Towers and Kings active in accordance with classic endgame principles. Varagona fell behind on the clock and didn’t have enough time to establish a precise victory late in the game. “I was pressed for time at the end, but I wish I could have pushed my last pawn past h2 just to see if Rex remembered the Vancura (an endgame turn and pawn technique when the turn of the attacker is in front of them the pawn and the defender tower attack the pawn from the lateral position – MC), ”said Varagona. “We even played naked kings!”

Rex Blalock vs. Scott Varagona, MLK Classic 2015, Montgomery

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 seven. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 ten. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Qc7 12. OOO Bd6 13.Ne4 Ngf6 14. Nxd6 + Axd6 15. Rb1 Qd5 16. Rh4 b5 17. Qa3 a5 18. Ne5 b4 19. Qg3 Rg8 20. c4 bxc3 21. Bxc3 Ne4 22. Qf3 Nxc3 + 23. bxc3 Qb5 + 24. Rc2 Qa4 + 25. Rc1 Qa3 + 26. Kc2 Qxa2 + 27. Rd3 Nxe5 + 28. dxe5 Rd8 + 29. Rd4 Rxd4 + 30. cxd4 Qb3 + 31.Ke2 Qxf3 + 32. Kxf3 Kd7 33. Ra1 Ra8 34. Ke4 a4 35. Ra3 Ra5 36. Kd3 c5 37. f4 Rc6 38. Kc4 cxd4 39. Kxd4 Kb5 40. Kc3 Ra8 41. Kb2 Rc8 42. Kg3 Kc4 43. Rxg7 Rxf4 44.g4 KB4 45. Kg8 Kf2 + 46. Kb1 a3 47. Rb8 + Rc5 48. Rd8 Rg2 49. Rd7 Rxg4 50. Rxf7 Rh4 51. Rf6 Rxh5 52. Rxe6 Kd5 53. Ra6 Rh1 + 54. Ka2 Kxe5 55. Rxa3 Rh2 + 56. Kb1 h5 57. Rc1 Rf4 58. Kd1 Kg2 59. Ke1 h4 60. Kf1 Kg8 61. Kf2 Rb8 62. Ra4 + Kg5 63. Kg2 Rb1 Draw agreed after several more strokes have been made.

MLK Scholastic chess tournament in Birmingham

CaesarChess hosted a second MLK Chess Tournament in Birmingham on January 20 at Phillips Academy, attracting huge numbers of chess players from the K-12 region. Along with the main tournament, an invitational event was held for several of the Birmingham area’s top rated school players.

Jomarlo Parker won first place at the MLK Scholastic Novice section, held in Birmingham on January 20. Photo courtesy of Joe Parker.

“The MLK Scholastic Chess Tournament was a successful event,” said Caesar Lawrence. “This was our first time hosting the ML King Holiday tournament. Special thanks to Phillips Academy, Chris Fine and the members of the PTA for hosting this memorable chess tournament.”

MLK School Tournament Prize Winners

Tour section: 1st place – Isaac Snow; 2nd place – Donnie Teague; 3rd place – Joshua Lin, Mid Section: 1st Place – Sid doppalapudi; 2nd place – Skyler robinson; 3rd place – Benjamin kennedy, novice section: 1st place – Jomarlo parker; 2nd place – Charles Adams; 3rd place – Hayes hopper

MLK Scholastic Invitational: 1st: Place – Jonathan Raspberry, Birmingham, homeschooled; 2nd place – Kenneth jiao, Birmingham, Indian Springs School; 3rd place – David Luo, Birmingham, Vestavia Hills Elementary

Chess tournament – mark your calendar

The 43rd annual Queen of Hearts Chess Tournament, February 7-8, will be held in Montgomery at the AUM’s Taylor Center. Open, Reserve, School (K-12), Premier (K-12, U1200), Novice (K-12, unranked) sections will be available. Prizes will be awarded for the best seats and welcome beginners. For more information: CaesarChess and the Alabama Chess Federation.

the Alabama School Chess Championship will take place March 14-15, at the Alabama School of Mathematics & Science, in Mobile.

World number one and two clash

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen, Norway, won the 77th Tata Steel Masters a half point ahead of the French grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri, the American grandmaster Wesley So and the Chinese grandmaster Liren Ding, all tied for second place.

Carlsen was unstoppable towards the end of the tournament with a breathtaking six-game winning streak. The 24-year-old world champion had edged his rivals in the annual Dutch tournament in Wijk aan Zee despite an early defeat and several draws.

The traditional Grandmasters tournament has always invited the best players in the world to participate. This year’s tournament saw the participation of female world chess champion Hou Yinfan of China, who played very credibly against 13 of her male colleagues. Besides Carlsen’s extraordinary performance, the game of American Wesley So, who is now a professional chess player, has been praised for his consistent and world-class performance.

World champion Magnus Carlsen takes on his rival and potential world title challenger Fabiano Caruana at the Dutch Tata Steel Masters tournament. Carlsen both won this match and the tournament. Photo: Tata Steel, Alina l’Ami.

The highly anticipated match of the event was that of world number one Magnus Carlsen against world number two, Italian-American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana. After Caruana’s extraordinary success in 2014, the peloton seemed to give way to him as Magnus Carlsen’s next potential challenger at the world championship. Carlsen was beaten by Caruana in the Sinquefield Cup last summer. But Caruana was clearly disappointed with his final score at Tata Steel where he finished with mixed results.

Caruana played the fashionable Rossolimo Variation against Sicilian Defense and 10.Qd2 Re8 11.Bh6 followed by Nh2, with a possible f4 being a thematic plan for White. Caruana’s novels 10.a3 and 11.Qb1 launched active operations on the queen side.

However, it was Carlsen who set the tone for the game with 11 … Nh5, 12 … f5 and 13 … f4. Black sharp 17 … g5 followed by g4 opened up lines and accelerated the attack on the king’s wing.

Caruana recovered a pawn with 20.Qxc5 and after 20 … Qf6 a critical position in the game was reached. It appeared that 21.Rfe1, followed by the king running away with Kf1-e2 seemed reasonable, but after 21 … Bxf3 22.gxf3 Kf7 followed by Bf8 and Tg7 Black’s attack continues. Another possibility where the White King tries to get out of the besieged sector: 21.Rfb1 Qg6 22.Kf1 Ng3 +! 23.Ke1! Nxe4! 24.Dc4 + Kh8 25. Qx4 Bf5 26.Nxe5 (26.De2 Qxg2 followed by e4) … De6 27.De2 Bxe5 28.Bc3 can hold, although Black still has considerable coin activity for his pawn investment .

Unresponsive to looming Carlsen plays, Caruana instead continued with 21.Nh2 ?! f3! deepening the position of white, 22.Nxg4 Qg6! and now 23.Qe7 !? (be careful not to play 23.Ne3? Nf4 24.Rfe1 Nxg2 or 24.g3 Ne2 + 25.Kh1 Dh5 mat) 23 … bxg2! fight your way to the white king.

Caruana had cleverly emerged from a precarious position and was on the eve of a reasonable defense with 29.Kh2! Kh8 (or Black could shoot with 29 … Bf6 30.Bh6 Bg7 31.Bg5) 30.Re1. Instead, he faltered with an untimely 29.Bxf4 trade? exf4 and if White tries to blunt Black’s bishop’s reach with 30.c3 is encountered by mortal 30 … f3.

Carlsen was interested in the mate and not in the simple victory of the exchange with his relentless 31 … Kf4! Protecting the pawn with 33.Td1 allows 33 … Rh4 34.Ke1 Bh6 to win.

Commentators were quick to point out that Carlsen missed the decisive blow 33 … Bxd4! 34.cxd4 Rh4 35.Kg1 (35.Ke1 Rxd4) Kh8! with companion to follow. Of course, it’s easier to find such a move comfortably after the game without the competitive pressures of the moment.

The White King couldn’t hide after Carlsen’s 35 … c5! like 36.Nxc5 Re2 wins.

After 39 … Re2 Caruana resigned from his desperate position because, for example, 40.Nc5 Te3 + 41.Rc2 Rc3 + 42.Rb2 Rb8 + 43.Ka2 Rb2 is mate. The whole game was an impressive demonstration of dynamic and uncompromising chess!

Fabiano Caruana v Magnus Carlsen, Tata Steel Festival Master, Wijk aan Zee, January 16, 2015

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. h3 Nf6 seven. Nc3 b6 8. Be3 e5 9. OO OO ten. a3 Qe7 11. Qb1 !? Nh5! 12. b4 f5! 13. bxc5 f4 14. Bd2 bxc5 15. Qb3 + Be6 16. Qa4 Rac8 17. Qa5 g5! 18. Na4 g4 19. hxg4 Bxg4 20. Qxc5 Qf6! 21. Nh2 ?! f3! 22. Nxg4 Qg6 23. Qe7 fxg2! 24. Rfb1 Qxg4 25. Qg5 De2 26. De3 Qg4 27. Qg5 Qxg5 28. Bxg5 Nf4! 29. Bxf4? exf4 30. Kxg2 f3 + 31. Kf1? Rf4! 32. c3 Td8 33. d4 Bh6 ?! 34. Ke1 Rxe4 + 35. Kd1 c5! 36. Kc2 cxd4 37. Kd3 Re2 38. c4 Rxf2 39. Rd1 Re2 0-1

Chess challenge – Winning moves

Solution to’s latest puzzle: Crouch v. Speelman, Hastings 1992. White missed 1.Rb8! Ra8 2.Ra1 !! Qxa1 (2 … Qdxb8 3.Qxa2 wins) 3.Rxd8 + Rxd8 3.Qxa1 wins

Chess challenge

White masts in 2 shots (by P. Benko). Grandmaster Pal Benko at 86 still composes endgame studies and chess problems. In his heyday, Benko was one of the few grand chess masters to defeat the legendary Bobby Fischer more than once.

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