Black to play

Black to play

This ending looks promising for White. However, GM Stripunsky finds a power ful maneuver.

49 Kg7 50. b3 Kh6 51. Ra6 b4 52. axb4 axb4 53. Rc6 Kh5

Now White has to deal with ... Kg4 threats, making his task a lot tougher.

White wins the b4 pawn, but his king side falls in return. The resulting ending is easily drawn.

57 Rc2+ 58. Kf3 Rc3+ 59. Kf2 Kg4 60. Rb6 Rf3+ 61. Ke2 Kxg3 62. Rxg6+ Kxf4 63. Rb6 Rh3 64. Rb4+ Kg3 65. Ke3 Rh1 66. h5 Re1 + 67. Kd2 Re6 68. Rb8 f4 69. Rg8+, Draw agreed.

Becerra Rivero Hoyos was also quite a battle. Becerra Rivero seemed to have a slight edge out of the opening, and pushed it from a rook ending, to a king and pawn ending, and finally to a queen ending! However, he was unable to come away with the win.

In round eight, it seemed Ehlvest would totally pull away, but he blew a rosy posi tion against Stripunsky in time pressure.

French Defense, Classical System (C13)

GM Alexander Stripunsky (FIDE 2553) GM Jaan Ehlvest (FIDE 2581) Pan Am Cont (8), 11.06.2008

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6 7. Be2 f5 8. Ng3 c5 9. d5 exd5 10. Nh3 Qd6 11. Qd3 Nc6 12. 0-0-0 Nd4 13. c3 Nxe2+ 14. Nxe2 Be6 15. Nef4 0-0-0 16. g3 Qb6 17. Kb1 Rd6 18. Rhe1 Rhd8 19. Re2 Bf6 20. Ng1 c4 21. Qc2 d4 22. cxd4 Rxd4 23. Rxd4 Rxd4 24. Nf3

After 24. Nf3

Black has outplayed White for most of the game. He was in severe time trouble, which often leads to throwing away a win.

24. ... Re4 and Black maintains the extra pawn as well as a big advantage.

25. Nxe6, Draw agreed.

Now White wins back the pawn, and a draw is agreed upon. This allowed me to catch up to him with my win against Brazilian IM Everaldo Matsuura.

So, going into the last round, it was Ehlvest and I leading the pack, with a large number of people half a point back just waiting to catch us. He got the resur gent Shabalov as white, while I got black against Becerra Rivero. It was clear Shabba was going for it when he played a risky Dutch. It seemed like it was unclear for awhile, but then Shabalov went for a sacrificial melee which didn't work out at all. Ehlvest beat back his attack and mopped up pretty easily.

English Opening (A10)

GM Jaan Ehlvest (FIDE 2581) GM Alexander Shabalov (FIDE 2585) Pan Am Cont (9), 11.07.2008

As is often the case when first place is valued far above second, both players come to the board in a fighting mood.

2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e3 0-0 6. Nge2 Nc6 7. 0-0 a6 8. b3 Rb8 9. Bb2 b5 10. Rb1 e6 11. d4 Qe8 12. Nf4 g5 13. Nd3 d6 14. Rc1 bxc4 15. bxc4 e5 16. dxe5 Nxe5 17. Ba1 c6

(see diagram top of next page)

After 17. ... c6

Black's opening appears to be a suc cess. The position is not only double edged, but Black is somewhat solid, at least as solid as you could hope for in a Dutch.

18. Nxe5 dxe5 19. Qd6 Bd7 20. Rfd1 Qh5

This looks like the right idea, but Black's attack lacks some punch. 20. ... Rf7 is a more solid alternative, threaten ing to evict the queen with ... Bf8 if necessary.

21. Na4 Rbe8

21. ... f4 looks strong, but White can defend against it pretty easily, as shown after 22. exf4 gxf4 (22. ... exf4?? 23. Bxf6 loses apiece; 22. ... Bg4 23. fxe5 Bxdl 24. exf6 favors White) 23. Qxe5 Qg6 24. Nc5 and White seems to be on top.

22. Nb6

22. Nc5 looked better to me.

22. ... Re6 followed by ... Be8 and the position is still not so clear.

23. Qxe5

23. Qxc6 followed by Nd5 looks even clearer.

23. ... Bxc4 24. Qc3 Be6 25. Qxc6 and Black's position is falling apart.

24. Qc5 Ng4

This desperate attack doesn't work, though Black's situation was rather hope less anyway.

Now White should win easily, but time pressure always complicates matters.

This move is strange. I'd suspect both players were in time pressure at this point. 31. Rf1 kills Black's attack rather easily.

31 Bc8

31. ... Bxc4 was actually possible, though in time pressure it's tough to play such a move. It would still lose, but it's likely Ehlvest might not see it with limited time. 32. Qc6 (32. Qd4+ Kh6 33. Nxc4 Rxg2+ 34. Kxg2 Qf2+ with a perpetual; 32. Qb7 Re7) 32. ... Re6 33. Qd7! Rxb6 34. Rxc4 and White is still winning.

Now it is truly over.

33 Bb7 34. Nd5 Bxd5 35. cxd5, Black resigned.

A well deserved victory, propelling Ehlvest into the World Cup.

131-move marathon

GM Julio Becerra Rivero (FIDE 2602) GM Josh Friedel (FIDE 2498) PanAmCont. (9), 11.07.2008

After Ehlvest's win, only I could catch him. However, to do this I had to take down, with black, the highest rated player in the event. Alas, I was unable to do so. I managed to get a solid position out ofthe opening, and then a better one after my 40th move:

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