The long-awaited battle of the top seeds. For two consecutive years these junior mega-stars have competed alongside each other in this event without crossing swords. Finally they go mano a mano, with everything on the line!
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 c5 4.d5 b5!? Thrusting all his chips into the pot, the defending champion selects the ultra-sharp Blumenfeld Gambit. Both players had already been nicked for draws, so another draw here was not an option!
5.Bg5 Qa5+ 6.Qd2 Qxd2+ 7.Nbxd2 bxc4 8.dxe6?! Black's audacious opening bears fruit. Seeking simplicity, White prematurely surrenders the center. Approved by theory is [8.e4 Bb7 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Bxc4 Typically contemporary, the position is difficult to assess long-term. What is indisputable, though, is that unlike in the actual game, White has retained a strong presence in the center.]
8...fxe6 9.Nxc4 Ba6 10.e3 d5 11.Ncd2?! The night before, participants were treated to a brillaintly articulate lecture on the "psychology of activity" by US women's champion, GM-elect Irina Krush. Though her examples primarily featured material sacrifices, she warned against the dangers of meeting initiative with passivity. It seems this might to some extent explain White's choice here. Both 11.Na5 and 11.Nce5, going forward, are recommended by my analysis engine above the retreat played in the game.
11...Bxf1 12.Kxf1 Nbd7 13.Ke2 Bd6 14.Rhe1 Rb8 15.Rab1 Kf7 16.Kf1 Rhc8 17.e4 Bc7 18.Kg1?! Once again, the pressures of defense wear on White, producing something of an enigmatic waiting move, objectively amounting to not much more than a loss of time. 18.b3, freeing the b1 rook, was logical.
18...a5! A nice technical move, gaining space.
19.exd5 exd5 20.b3 Rb6?! The immediate 20...a4, softening White's queenside, was probably stronger. In the case of 21.bxa4?!, Black has gained two powerful passed pawns in his d- and c-pawns, while White's a-pawns are little more than dead men walking.
21.Rbc1 Ra8 22.Be3 Bd6 23.Bg5?! The blatant repetition highlights White's difficulties in finding an active plan, difficulties traceable in large part to White's 8th. Thus do analysts speaking of "losing the thread".
23...a4=/+ Black, with initiative clearly in hand, is indisputably better.
24.Bxf6 Kxf6 25.g3 axb3 26.axb3 Bf8 27.Red1 g6 28.Nf1 Bh6 In open positions such as this, a bishop is usually better than a knight. From h6, the bishop discourages the f1 knight's intended redeployments, and targets c1, a potential queening square and present residence of one of White's comfortably situated towers.
29.Rb1 Ne5?! A sympathetic idea, to trade the hanging and x-rayed knight for the better of White's two knights, but now White is allowed a sequence that shuts Black's bishop out.
30.Nxe5 Kxe5 31.f4+ Ke6 32.Rbc1?! Missing the moment. [32.Ne3! provoking a premature d5-d4, makes the realization of Black's advantage far more difficult, i.e. 32...d4 (32...Rd8 33.Rd3 and White is developing some initiative of his own (Re1 soon is a thought) .) 33.Nc4 ]
32...Bf8 33.Rd3 Rb4 34.Ne3 Rd4 Activity trumps structure. Such is the age we live in. I think Irina would be proud.
35.Rxd4 cxd4 36.Ng4 Ra2 37.Nf2 Rb2 38.Rd1 Rxb3 39.Rxd4 Having literally every single one of your pieces on the color of the opponent's bishop does not often bode well.
39...Rb2 40.Rd3 Bc5 41.Rf3 Rxf2! And then there were none. These aren't the movies folks: defending tri-state and US junior champ Kapil Chandran doesn't even give his main opposition a chance to catch his breath. There were no sappy reminiscences here, just the stake driven straight through the enemy's heart.
42.Rxf2 Kf5 43.Kg2 Bxf2 44.Kxf2 Ke4 45.Ke2 d4 46.Kd2 h5 47.Ke2 d3+ 48.Kd2 Kd4 49.Kd1 Ke3 50.Ke1 Kf3 0-1