April 29th 2003

We had four Grandmasters and two newcomers in the 54th NY Masters. Our first newcomer was Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian is the 2002 Samford Fellowship winner (The 2003 Fellowship was just won by New York’s own, Dmitry Schneider) and is one of the strongest young talents in America. Akobian is also well known for being just one win away from winning the 2003 US Championships. While everyone else took draws, he slugged it out with GM Alexander Shabalov, but in the end the GM prevailed and took home clear first. Akobian is in town playing in the Generation chess tournament, the fantastic event in which draw offers before move 50 are not permitted. This has lead to a remarkable number of decisive games, which shows that even when strong GMs and IMs play out seemingly equal positions, very often there will be a victor.

Our other first time player was Marc Esserman, who is currently a student at Harvard University. Esserman also competed in the US Championships, as he qualified for the event in the 2002 Chicago Open.

Before we continue on, I have to give congratulations to Eugene Perelshtyen who is having an AMAZING result in the Generation event, as he has 6/7 and has wrapped up a GM norm with 2 rounds to go! This may turn out to be the most impressive result by an American non GM in a long time!

On the GM side we had Ehlvest, Yudasin, Stripunsky and Schmaltz. Stripunsky had been away for a few weeks, so it’s nice to see him back in the action!

Participant List for 54th NY Masters:

1. GM Jan Ehlvest
2. GM Leonid Yudasin
3. GM Alex Stripunsky
4. GM Roland Schmaltz
5. IM Varuzhan Akobian
6. IM Greg Shahade
7. IM Jay Bonin
8. IM Mikhail Zlotnikov
9. NM Evgeny Gershov
10. FM Ilye Figler
11. NM Rafal Furdzik
12. FM Boris Privman
13. NM Oliver Chernin
14. NM Marc Esserman
15. Qualifier – David Grasso
16. Filler – Larry Tamarkin


1st - $380
2nd - $150
3rd - $60
U2400 - $100



1 Zlotnikov – Ehlvest 0-1
2 Yudasin – Furdzik 1-0
3 Privman – Stripunsky 1-0
4 Schmaltz – O.Chernin 1-0
5 Esserman – Akobian ICC GAME!
6 G.Shahade – Grasso 1-0
7 Tamarkin – Bonin 0-1
.5 bye for Gershov and Figler

Everything seemed like it was going normally in the first round. All the top rated players were knocking around the lower rated ones, when suddenly chaos ensued. Schmaltz was up a pawn against Oliver Chernin and had a winning position when all of the sudden Chernin fought back with all his power and got down to a queen+pawn endgame that was most likely drawn. However Schmaltz created an extremely dangerous passed pawn and despite the fact that it MIGHT have still been a draw, Chernin flagged (even with the 5 second increment).

Meanwhile Stripunsky was up a piece against Privman and on his way to an easy victory when Privman swindled him and scored a shocking first round upset!

The two newcomers, Akobian and Esserman, were paired in round 1, lets check that game out….

(1) Esserman,M (2217) - Akobian,V (2634) [B07]
54th New York Masters New York (1), 29.04.2003

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 Qa5 5.Bd3 e5 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.fxe5 Ng4 8.Nf3 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Qxe5 10.Qf3 Bd6 11.g3 Nd7 12.Bd2 Qe7 13.0-0-0

13...Ne5 14.Qg2 Be6 15.Kb1 0-0 16.Ne2 Rad8 17.Nf4 Bc8 18.Rhf1 Bc5 19.h3 Bd4 20.Ne2 Bb6 21.Bc3 Bc5 22.g4 Bb4 23.Bd4 b6 24.Bxe5 Qxe5 25.Qg3 Bd6 26.Qf3 b5

Black has a great home on e5 in front of white’s isolated pawn. This once again proves the old maxim, that sometimes it’s not the isolated pawn that’s weak, but instead the square in front of it.

27.Rg1 a5 28.Ng3 a4 29.a3 Be6 30.Nf5 Bc5 31.Qg3 Qxg3 32.Rxg3 g6 33.Nh6+

The knight will eye the f7-pawn, but it’s firmly defened and meanwhile the knight may become very out of play on h6.

33...Kg7 34.g5 Bd6 35.Rf3 Be5 36.h4 c5 37.c3

Note that …Rxd3 – Bc4 tricks don’t work for black, because white has counterattacks involving Rxf7+.

37...Rd7 38.Rdf1 Rb8 39.Bc2 b4

40.axb4 cxb4 41.Bxa4

41...Ra7 42.b3 bxc3

This pawn on c3 looks monstrous…

43.Kc2 Rd8 44.Rd1 Rb8 45.Rdd3 Rab7 46.Rf1 f6 47.Rfd1 fxg5 48.hxg5 Rf8 49.Rd8 Rf2+ 50.Kd3 c2 51.Rc1 Rc7

A picturesque finish. Rc3 is coming with force……if white tries to run with Ke3, black can play Bf4xc1 and will queen soon



Key Pairings

1 Ehlvest – G.Shahade 1-0
2 Akobian – Yudasin ICC GAME!
3 Bonin – Schmaltz 1/2 - 1/2
4 Privman – Gershov 1/2 - 1/2

The second round started out with a crush, as Ehlvest tore me apart when I made some early mistakes in the Grunfeld. Schmaltz was up a piece against Bonin, when he missed a cute, yet simple tactic. Bonin had knight+5 versus bishop+4 at this point, but his low time, and Schmaltz’ active king, meant that Bonin could only draw the game. Privman, hot on the heels of his big first round victory, didn’t put up much fight against Gershov, and their game was agreed drawn relatively quickly.

The live internet game promised to be a good one. With the white pieces, we had newcomer and 19 year old IM, Varuzhan Akobian, facing off against the experienced GM, Leonid Yudasin.

(2) Akobian,V (2634) - Yudasin,L (2666) [E47]
54th New York Masters New York (2), 29.04.2003

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 d6 7.Ne2 b6 8.e4 Bb7 9.Ng3 Nbd7 10.0-0 c5 11.f4 cxd4 12.cxd4 e5

13.fxe5 dxe5 14.d5 Ne8 15.Nf5 Nc5 16.Rf3 Bc8 17.Nh6+

And now the fireworks begin! Akobian is giving up 2 pieces for the rook, but hopes to get a strong initiative in return.

17...gxh6 18.Bxh6 Qd6 19.Rg3+ Kh8 20.Bxf8 Qxf8 21.Qh5 f6 22.Rf1


At this point the crowd wondered, why didn’t Akobian play 23.Qxe5? I asked Akobian after the game and he answered that he wasn’t sure of the evaluation of the position after….23.Qxe5 Nxd3 24.Rxd3 Qc5+ 25. Qd4

23.Bc2 Qe7 24.Qh4 Nd6 25.Rgf3 Rf8 26.Rxf6

White gets the pawn anyway, but black has everything firmly blockaded in the ensuing endgame, and the 2 pieces should be extremely powerful. Everyone knows that knights are the best blockaders, and its rare that you see two knights blockading as well as they are in this position.

26...Rxf6 27.Qxf6+ Qxf6 28.Rxf6 Nxc4 29.Rf7 Kg8 30.Re7 h5 31.Bb3

Things have become hairier for Yudasin. White is going to oust the knight on c4, which is in turn defending the pawn on e5. Once white eliminates the e5 pawn, those central passers could become dangerous.

31...b5 32.d6 Kf8 33.Bxc4 bxc4 34.Rxe5 Nd3 35.Re7 c3 36.Rxd7 c2 37.Rc7 c1Q+ 38.Rxc1 Nxc1

After the previous tactical flurry, we have reached a VERY interesting endgame….. Will the 3 pawns prevail, or will Yudasin’s knight pick off that a-pawn, thus clearing the path for his own pawn to achieve queendom.

39.a3 Kf7 40.Kf2 Ke6 41.Kg3 Ne2+ 42.Kh4 Nc3 43.e5 a5 44.Kxh5 Nb5 45.a4 Nc3 46.g4 Nxa4


An incredible position!!! It was slowly dawning on Yudasin that his knight was not going to make it back to stop the g-pawn. The pawns on d6 and e5, cover the key squares e7 and f6, the very two squares that the knight needs access to in order to stop the g-pawn!

47...Nc5 48.g6 a4


49.Kh6 Kxe5 50.g7 Kxd6 51.g8Q

The march of the g-pawn has ended with a new white queen. A very exciting game, the spectators definitely got their money’s worth.

51...Kc6 52.Qc4 1-0

Leaders after Round 2

2 pts – Ehlvest, Akobian
1.5 pts – Schmaltz, Bonin, Privman


Key Pairings

1 Akobian – Ehlvest ICC GAME
2 Schmaltz – Privman 0-1
3 Yudasin – Bonin 1-0

Privman is EN FUEGO!!! Schmaltz was completely crushing Privman from the opening, but Boris didn’t give up and managed to muddle things. Privmans 2 pawns on the 7th rank were too much for Roland to handle, even with his extra bishop, and thus Privman moved to 2.5/3. Privman has now beaten both Stripunsky and Schmaltz in this event, and will be playing the winner of Akobian – Ehlvest for first place!

Bonin’s dreams of glory were extinguished by Yudasin. Bonin went on a kamikaze attack that ended with Yudasin having three pieces for a rook.

Now onto the battle of the undefeateds, Akobian versus Ehlvest…..

(3) Akobian,V (2634) - Ehlvest,J (2705) [D94]
54th New York Masters New York (3), 29.04.2003

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.b4 b6 7.Qb3 e6 8.Ba3 Bb7 9.Be2 dxc4 10.Qxc4 Nbd7 11.0-0 a6 12.Bb2

Akobian likes to play positional, maneuvering lines against the Grunfeld Defense, relying less on opening preparation and more on his middlegame understanding.

12...c5 13.bxc5 bxc5 14.dxc5 Qc7 15.Na4 Rfc8 16.Rfc1 Bc6


Akobian felt that 17.Bd4, trying to hold onto the extra c5 pawn, would have been stronger.

17...Bxa4 18.Qxa4 Nxc5 19.Qa3 Nd5 20.Rc2 Qb7 21.Rac1 Bf8 22.Bf3 Rab8 23.Qa5?!

Instead of Qa5, it may have been wiser to make “luft” with g3 or h3. You never know when a back-rank trick is going to bite you in the ass…… (Am I foreshadowing enough here?)

23...Nd3 24.Bxd5?

A losing move….forced was 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.Rxc8 Qxc8 26.Qd2, and white should hold on.


A stunning blow, utilizing Akobians back rank weakness.

25.Qd2 Qxc1+ 0-1

With this win, Ehlvest moves to 3-0. We were all expecting an Ehlvest – Schmaltz, final round showdown, but Privman dashed all those expectations with his terrific result.

Leaders after Round 3

3 pts – Ehlvest
2.5 pts – Privman
2 pts – Yudasin, Stripunsky, Akobian, G.Shahade, Zlotnikov


Key Pairings

1 Privman – Ehlvest 1/2 – 1/2
2 G.Shahade – Yudasin ICC GAME!
3 Stripunsky – Akobian 1-0
4 Zlotnikov – Schmaltz 0-1

Ehlvest became the champion, but Privman concluded what could be the tournament of his life. Ehlvest and Privman agreed to a quick draw, as it guaranteed Ehvlest first place, whereas I don’t think Privman was expecting to beat a 3rd GM tonight. Privman gained over 40 USCF points from this event, and I promise you that is hard to do in a 4 round event.

In a battle for 2nd place, we have my game against Leonid Yudasin….

(4) Shahade,G (2495) - Yudasin,L (2666) [B85]
54th New York Masters New York (4), 29.04.2003

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 d6 9.Bf3 Nc6 10.Kh1 0-0 11.Be3 Bd7 12.Qe1 Rfe8 13.Qg3 Bf8 14.Rad1 Rac8 15.Nb3 e5

Black had a very difficult opening and now its showing. If black tried a normal move such as 15…b5, the blow 16.e5 would have been very strong, for example… 15…..b5 16.e5 de5 17.fe5 Qe5 18.Bf4 Qf5 19. Bg5 and white has too many threats.

After e5, the d5 square is going to be terminally weak, after I play f5 and Bg5.

16.f5 Kh8 17.Bg5 Be7 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Rd2 Ne7

This move seems to ignore the idea of Rd2, which was to simply double on the d-file and pressurize the d6 pawn, however Yudasin realized that he had no chance to effectively hold onto this pawn, and thus decided to sacrifice it for some queenside pressure.

20.Rfd1 b5 21.Rxd6 Bc6 22.a3 a5 23.R6d2 b4 24.axb4 axb4 25.Ne2 Bb5 26.Ng1 h6 27.Be2 Bc6 28.Bd3

I knew that I had an extra pawn (I’m a rocket scientist), and that I should win the game, but I also didn’t have very much time left, and black’s pieces are bearing down on my queenside….

28...Bg5 29.Re2 Ng8 30.Nf3 Bf6 31.h3 Rcd8 32.Qe1 Qb6 33.Ra1 Ra8 34.Rxa8 Rxa8 35.Bc4 Ra7 36.Rd2 Qc7 37.Qe3 Be8 38.Bd5 Ra2

39.c4 bxc3 40.bxc3 Ra3 41.Rd3 Ne7 42.Nbd2 Nc8 43.c4 Ra1+ 44.Kh2 Be7 45.Qf2 Ra2 46.Qg3

46...Bf6 47.c5 Rc2 48.Nc4 Qxc5 49.Ncxe5 Nd6 50.Ng4 Bb2 51.f6

Despite having just 19 seconds at this point (with a 5 second increment), I was confident that I was completely winning now. I’m tearing his kingside apart, and he really has no counterplay…. 51...Bb5 52.Rd1?!

52.Rb3 was simpler.


53.Nge5 gxf6 54.Nxf7+

Funny as it may sound, the move 54.Ng6+ might be even stronger

54...Nxf7 55.Bxf7 Qf8 56.Rd7?

This was by big chance!! I had to play 56. Nh4 and then I would be still winning. After 56.Nh4 Qxf7 57. Ng6+ Kh7 58.Rd7! Qxd7 59.Nf8+, picks up the queen and conveniently defends against …Be5 as well. I only had about 20 seconds left so I don’t blame myself for overlooking this trick, but I do blame myself for allowing such time pressure in the first place. Even when you get a winning position like this, it is never as winning as it seems, because it is nearly impossible to play all the most accurate moves with only 5-10 seconds per move. Yudasin did a good job of mixing it up at the end, by making moves which gave me about 4-5 tempting attacking choices, as it’s not easy to choose one with your clock winding down.

56...Bxf3 57.Qxf3 Be5+

The first thought that went through my head was that now I was going to get checkmated….but then I realized that everything was under control because I could block any back rank checks with Rd1.

58.Kg1 Qc5+ 59.Kh1 Rc1+

60.Rd1 Qc2 61.Bb3 Rxd1+ 62.Qxd1 Qxd1+ 63.Bxd1 1/2-1/2

Yudasin has a funny way of offering a draw in obviously drawn positions. He simply reaches out his hand without a word, all the way across the board, so that I have almost no option but to accept it. It’s how you would expect one to act only after you have offered them a draw yourself. I have an extra pawn, but it’s meaningless with the bishops of opposite color.

And as we drew, it left us out of the real money. Privman and Stripunsky split up the 2nd place prize and the U2400 prize to each get $125. I was feeling very lucky to get a prize with 2.5/4 as Yudasin, Schmaltz and I each got $20 for our efforts.

54th New York Masters Action USA (USA), 29 iv 2003
                                     1   2   3   4   Total
    1. Ehlvest, Jaan        g  2705 + 9 + 6 + 7 = 3   3.5  ($380)
    2. Stripunsky, Alex     g  2643 - 3 +16 +14 + 7   3.0  ($125)
    3. Privman, Boris       f  2283 + 2 =11 + 5 = 1   3.0  ($125)
    4. Yudasin, Leonid      g  2666 +12 - 7 + 8 = 6   2.5  ($ 20)
    5. Schmaltz, Roland     g  2642 +10 = 8 - 3 + 9   2.5  ($ 20)
    6. Shahade, Greg        m  2495 +15 - 1 +11 = 4   2.5  ($ 20)
    7. Akobian, Varuzhan    m  2634 +14 + 4 - 1 - 2   2.0
    8. Bonin, Jay           m  2462 +13 = 5 - 4 =11   2.0
    9. Zlotnikov, Mikhail   m  2367 - 1 +15 +13 - 5   2.0
   10. Chernin, Oliver         2221 - 5 -13 +15 +14   2.0
   11. Gershov, Yevgeniy    f  2334 =   = 3 - 6 = 8   1.5
   12. Furdzik, Rafal          2287 - 4 -14 +16 =13   1.5
   13. Tamarkin, Lawrence      2100 - 8 +10 - 9 =12   1.5
   14. Esserman, Marc          2217 - 7 +12 - 2 -10   1.0
   15. Grasso, David           2118 - 6 - 9 -10 +16   1.0
   16. Figler, Ilye         f  2318 =   - 2 -12 -15   0.5

PRIZES 1ST - $380 2ND - $150 3RD - $ 60 U2400 - $100