Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ray Robson: 2009 US Closed Junior Champion

Chess Notes
By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
August 15, 2009

Ray Robson, originally from Guam, moved to Florida with his parents at the age of 3. In 2007, at the age of 13, Robson became the youngest International Master in US history and is certainly one of the rising stars of American chess. In a sense, he trails Robert Hess and Hikaru Nakamura as one of the young Turks of this country’s chess. Recently, he won the 2009 US Junior Closed title with a convincing score of 6-1.

Robson Coleman Sicilian Defense 2009 US Junior Closed

Robson Coleman Robson Coleman
White Black White Black
1. e4 c5 26. Qxf6+ Kg8
2. Nf3 d6 27. Qxe6+ Kf8
3. d4 cxd4 28. Bxc6 Qxc6 (g)
4. Nxd4 Nf6 29. Rf1+ Kg7
5. Nc3 a6 30. Qf7+ Kh6
6. h3 e6 31. Rf6+ Qxf6
7. g4 Be7 32. Qxf6+ Kh7
8. Bg2 Qc7 33. Ne4 Be3+
9. Be3 Nc6 34. Kb1 Bf4 (h)
10. f4 h6 35. Qf7+ Kh6
11. Qd2 Bd7 36. Qe6+ Kg7
12. O-O-O Rc8 37. Qd7+ Kg6
13. Qf2 b5 38. Qg4+ Kh7
14. g5! (a) Nh5 39. Qd7+ Kg6
15. gxh6 Rxh6 40. Qxb5 Rcd8
16. Nxc6! Bxc6 41. Qxa5 Kf5
17. a3 (b) Rh8 42. Nf2 Rd2
18. Rhf1 Qb7 43. Qc5 Rg8
19. f5 Nf6? (c) 44. Nd3 Rgg2
20. fxe6 fxe6 45. a4 Rd1+
21. Qg3! a5 46. Ka2 Rh2
22. Qg6+ Kf8 47. a5 Rhh1
23. e5! (d) dxe5 (e) 48. a6 Ra1+
24. Bc5!! Bxc5 (f) 49. Kb3 Rxh3? (i)
25. Rxf6+ gxf6 50. Qc8+ 1-0

Here is a game from that tournament: Robson vs. Maxx Coleman of Kansas, winner of last year’s title. Robson signals attack as early as the 7th move. His opponent keeps his king well fortified in the center. Robson tucks his king away on the queenside, and assaults his opponent’s fortifications. The key moves that expose Coleman’s position begin with move 22, in which Robson gives up a pawn, a bishop, and then the exchange. The Black king is helpless as Robson gradually takes back the sacrificed material and pushes a pawn toward the queening square.

a) Wasting no time! Now 14. . .hxg5 15.fxg5 Nh5 16.Nxc6! Bxc6 17.Rhf1 is problematic for Black.

b) White has secured an edge. Black’s counterplay on the queenside is stalled (e.g. 17. . .a5? 18.Bb6), his pieces are somewhat scattered, and his king is stuck in the middle of the board.

c) I think this is a misjudgment and 19. . .e5 was correct, with a tough fight.

d) Black appears to have miscalculated the consequences of this sequence.

e) Or 23. . .Bxg2 24.exf6 Bxf6 25.Rxf6+ gxf6 26.Qxf6+ Kg8 27.Qxe6+ etc. and White’s attack is obviously crushing.

f) Or 24. . .Bxg2 (note that 24Rh6?? loses to 25.Rxf6+ gxf6 26.Qxh6+) 25.Rxf6+ gxf6 26.Qxf6+ Kg8 (26Ke8 27.Qxh8+ Kf7 28.Qh5+ quickly wins a piece by pushing Black’s king to the right square and then capturing on e7 and forking the bishop on g2) 27.Qxe6+ Kf8 and White has several ways to win, e.g. 28.Bxe7+ Qxe7 29.Qxc8+ etc.

g) Not 28. . .Rxc6? 29.Rd8+ Kg7 30.Rd7+ and the roof caves in.

h) While the position requires some care, it is clearly winning for White with accurate play.

i) A blunder, but it doesn’t matter.

Annotations by grandmaster Patrick Wolff, a two-time US champion who offers chess exercises and more at

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