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QUEST PLAYER SCORES BIG AT ILLINOIS OPEN

By Jeff Caveney

Michael Malis, who is a regular and long-time Quest player and Jeff Caveney's [RKnights teacher] student, swept the under-1000 section with a perfect 5-0 score.Michael's key game was his win in Round 4 over a very strong unrated opponent, who later learned he had a 1652 provisional rating from a previous tournament! The game itself was hard fought, exciting, and went back and forth. Here is the story of how Michael pulled off the 680 point upset:
 
White: Michael Malis (972)
Black: Leodegario San Miguel (1652)
 
Illinois Open, Round 4
 
Annotations by Jeff Caveney, Expert, RKnights teacher and Michael Malis' coach
 
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3 a6
4. a4 e6
5. Bc4 g6
6. d3 Bg7
7. Be3 b6
8. O-O Nge7
9. d4
 
Just in time to avoid the threat of 9...d5 10. exd5 exd5 11. Bb3 d4 winning a piece!
 
9 ... cxd4
10. Nxd4 O-O
11. Nxc6 Nxc6
12. Qd2 Qc7
13. Rfd1 Rd8
14. Qd6
 
Usually in this opening, the Sicilian Defense (1. e4 c5), White's winning chances are better in the middlegame and Black's are better in the endgame, so this queen exchange helps Black.
 
14 ... Be5
15. Qxc7 Bxc7
16. Bh6 Ne5
17. Be2 d6
18. f4 Nc6
19. Bf3 Bb7
20. f5 Ne5
21. fxe6 Nxf3+
 
Black's powerful knight, blockading White's pawn and never attackable by any White pawn, was much stronger than White's bad bishop stuck behind his own pawn. So this exchange helps White.
 
22. gxf3 fxe6
23. e5 d5
 
This move blocks the long diagonal of the Black bishop on b7 with his own pawn.
 
24. f4 Rd7
25. b4 Rc8
26. Ra3 Bd8
27. Bg5
 
This is not the best move, since it doesn't deal with Black's threats on the c-file, which are a good example of how the endgame is usually better for Black in the Sicilian Defense. Fortunately for White, he got another chance to play the right idea 3 moves later...
 
27 ... Bxg5
28. fxg5 Rf7
 
Black misses his chance. His advantage in this position is not on the open f-file but on the half-open c-file. 28...d4! was a powerful move, not only winning the c2 pawn and getting his rook on the 7th rank, but also opening the long diagonal for his bishop again. After 28...d4 29. Ne2 Rxc2, 30. Nxd4 allows 30...Rg2+ showing the power of the rook and bishop working together. Then after 31. Kf1 Rf7+ 32. Ke1 Rff2 Black has a dominating position because every Black piece is stronger and more active than every White piece.
 
29. b5 a5
30. Ne2!
 
An excellent move! White sacrifices the c2 pawn to move his knight to the powerful square d4, to blockade the d5 pawn and keep the Black bishop stuck behind it.
 
30 ... Rxc2
31. Nd4
 
Now the roles are reversed from the position before move 21: White has the strong knight and Black has the bad bishop. Black wishes his own d5 pawn could disappear, opening the long diagonal for his bishop.
 
31 ... Rcf2
32. Rg3 Ra2
33. Nxe6 Rff2
 
Black would have liked to seize the opportunity to play 33...d4 now to open the long diagonal for his bishop, but then White would have played 34.Nd8! attacking the rook on f7 and the bishop on b7.
 
34. Nd8
 
Aggressive play, preparing to push the passed e-pawn.
 
34 ... Ba8
 
34...Bc8 looks like a better try, so the bishop can help stop the passed e-pawn.
 
35. e6 Kf8
 
Black should have put his rook behind the passed pawn to stop it with 35...Rfe2. Then the game might have ended as a draw by repetition after 36. Kf1 Rf2+ 37. Kg1 Rfe2.
 
36. Re1
 
White puts his own rook behind his passed pawn to support its push to the queening square.
 
36 ... Ke7
 
Again Black needed to put his rook on the e-file with 36...Rfe2.
 
37. Nc6+ Bxc6
38. bxc6 Rxh2
39. c7 Rhc2
40. Rh3!
 
With the c-pawn stopped by Black's rook, White switches his attack to the h-file. If Black tries 40...Rg2+ now, White plays 41.Kh1 and his king is safe from checks.
 
40 ... Rxc7
41. Rxh7+ Kd6
42. Rxc7 Kxc7
43. e7
 
The pawn is unstoppable and White will get a queen for nothing.
 
Black resigns.
 
This was not only an exciting game, it also teaches an important lesson:
The active, well-placed pieces you have are usually more important than the number of pawns you have.
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