The PNWCC G/60 Online Masters

Amidst the troubling times of COVID-19, and with the wreckage of all the cancelled over-the-board tournaments, I decided to compete in the Pacific Northwest Chess Center (PNWCC) G/60 Masters Online Swiss over the Memorial Day weekend in order to not get too rusty when in the distant future OTB tournaments resume. The organization was phenomenal! The G/60+5 time control was slow enough for serious chess, yet quick enough to squeeze in three games per day. There were strict anti-cheating measures, which included showing the face of the player as well as the device they played on, and the chessboard they made moves on. Players would be watched on Zoom by the organizers. In the case of top 15 boards, screen sharing was obligatory in the final round. The lineup included 2700 FIDE players and many GMs. I played three GMs and three IMs in the tournament! There are certain advantages to playing slow chess online. You can play from your own home, hassle free. Of course, you don’t spend money on travel, exorbitant dining expenses, and hotel. Plus, it reduces your likelihood of catching and illness or some other “unforeseen circumstance”. Of course, nothing will replace OTB in the long run but at the moment I see no better way to pursue my passion for tournament play than to participate in these slow online tournaments. In addition, it’s positive that the players were allowed to ponder their moves over a real board and then relay them on

Kirk Ghazarian (photo courtesy of subject)

As for my own result, I scored a respectable 5/9 (no byes). Overall, I scored only half a point against the three IMs I played. I drew two GMs and beat one of them. Finishing with a score of 2/3 against grandmasters in this tournament was unexpected! In round 1 I played a young American talent Neeraj Harish who has a ridiculously underrated rating of 1472 FIDE!  He is at least 1900 ELO in strength, by my estimate. Well, there are so many strong up-and-comers these days… (Editor’s note: Kirk is a wizened 14 years old. Sigh.) I played 1. e4 but the position was quiet for a long time, and I only won because he couldn’t defend a central pawn due to his slightly uncoordinated pieces. I faced Ukrainian IM Anatoliy Polivanov in the second round and got squashed in 18 moves after he executed a stunning sacrifice of two knights and two pawns! My rooks and bishops were all on their starting squares and my queen was on the edge of the board. In the end, my exposed king faced an unstoppable mate.

[pgn] [Event "PNWCC 60+5"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.23"] [Round "2"] [White "Polivanov, Anatoliy"] [Black "Ghazarian, Kirk"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "2452"] [BlackElo "2182"] [Annotator "Ghazarian,Kirk"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Be2 {French Defense, Advanced variation, 6.Be2. This variation has undeservedly fallen out of favor in recent years but a sharp variation containing venom.} cxd4 7. cxd4 Nh6 8. Bxh6 Qxb2 9. Nbd2 gxh6 10. O-O Nxd4 11. Rb1 Nxe2+ 12. Qxe2 Qa3 13. Nd4 $1 (13. Qb5+ $6 {black is already better here} Bd7 14. Qxb7 Rc8 15. Nb3 Bg7 16. Rfc1 Ke7 $15) 13... a6 14. Rfd1 $5 (14. Rfc1 {Lead to a wild game at the near elite level where black was losing but won with a king-walk.} Bg7 $6 (14... Bd7 $13 { Is difficult to assess. White's initiative compensates for black's pawns.}) 15. Nf1 Qe7 16. Ng3 f6 17. Qh5+ Kd8 18. f4 {0-1 (65) Jones,G (2683)-Howell,D (2676) London 2019} (18. Qh4 $1 $18)) 14... b5 $4 {With view to play Bd7 next move but here white uncorks a double knight sac. I had seen the entire combination but overlooked white's final move, which was silent but deadly.} (14... Qa4 { Is the top engine recommendation but it's of course better try to make a more sensible move work for black.}) (14... Rg8 $1 15. Nf1 (15. Kh1 Bc5 16. N2b3 Ba7 $13) (15. f4 $6 {Opens the diagonal too early.} Bc5 $1 16. N2b3 Ba7 17. Kh1 ( 17. f5 $6 exf5 $17) 17... Bd7 18. f5 O-O-O 19. Qd2 Bb6 $15 (19... Rg4 20. h3 Re4 21. Qxh6 Kb8 $13)) 15... b5 16. Ng3 Bd7 {with chances for both sides although the position is both materially and dynamically imbalanced.}) 15. Ne4 $1 dxe4 16. Nxb5 $1 axb5 17. Qxb5+ Ke7 18. Qc6 $1 {A very picturesque position, something you'd see in an old Greco game. Black's king is in the uncaslted, all his pieces are in their starting positions, and the queen went offside grabbing pawns.} (18. Rbc1 Qa7 $3 $19 {Would infact win for black! There's no mate, or even perpetual check. Eventually black will excute f5 and swing his king to the kingside.}) 1-0 [/pgn]
Isaac Vega’s queen couldn’t stop my passed a-pawn in round 3. I was paired against the strong IM (with 4 GM norms!) Justin Sarkar in round 4. He played an opening with an ECO of C19 and he told me after the game that this was in relation to COVID-19. After shuffling around a bit in a position which was difficult to make progress for either side, we agreed to a draw on move 24. A former World Champion U12 Nikhil Kumar was my adversary in round 5 and after a long complex endgame of Queen+Knight vs. Queen+Knight, the game was drawn. According to’s measurement, we both played with 99% accuracy. It was a joy in round 6 to face multiple-time US champion GM Alexander Shabalov. It was an extremely complicated position and Shaba dared me to capture a pawn. I did. Then the complications escalated from there with a disappointing anticlimax of Shaba blundering in a holdable endgame.
[pgn] [Event "PNWCC Masters 2020"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.05.24"] [Round "6.9"] [White "Shabalov, A."] [Black "Ghazarian, Kirk"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D47"] [WhiteElo "2528"] [BlackElo "2181"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2020.05.23"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1334"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.06.01"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.06.01"] [SourceQuality "2"] {[%evp 0,21,33,2,38,26,30,35,40,35,44,44,44,38,51,51,29,29,73,31,33,49,42,-42] } 1. c4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. a3 Bb7 11. b4 a5 12. Rb1 axb4 13. axb4 Nd5 14. Ne4 Bxb4 15. Neg5 h6 16. e4 Nc3 17. Qb3 Nxb1 18. Qxb4 hxg5 19. Bxb1 g4 20. Ng5 e5 21. h3 Ra4 22. Qb3 Rc4 23. Qe3 exd4 24. Qf4 Qf6 25. Qxg4 Ne5 26. Qh4 Qh6 27. Qg3 Rxc1 28. Rxc1 f6 29. f4 fxg5 30. fxe5 g4 31. Ba2+ Kh7 32. Rd1 Qe3+ 33. Qxe3 dxe3 34. e6 g3 35. Re1 Bc8 36. Rxe3 Re8 37. e5 Bxe6 38. Bb1+ Kg8 39. Rxg3 c5 40. Kf2 b4 41. Ke3 c4 42. Kd4 c3 43. Kc5 Rc8+ 44. Kxb4 c2 45. Bxc2 Rxc2 46. Rg5 Kf7 47. h4 Rc4+ 0-1 [/pgn]
My Round 7 my opponent was Russian GM Daniil Lintchevski. Although I was outplayed throughout the game, a small inaccuracy let me wriggle free and I liquidated into a slightly worse but drawn endgame. Legendary American GM Jim Tarjan tortured me endlessly in round 8, with his bishop pair in a Maroczy bind endgame which I managed to draw with precise defense.
[pgn] [Event "PNWCC Masters 2020"] [Site " INT"] [Date "2020.05.25"] [Round "8.13"] [White "Tarjan, J."] [Black "Ghazarian, Kirk"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B36"] [WhiteElo "2381"] [BlackElo "2181"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2020.05.23"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1334"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.06.01"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.06.01"] [SourceQuality "2"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. e4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Be2 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. Qe3 Be6 11. Bd2 Nd7 12. Rac1 Qb6 13. b3 Qxe3 14. Bxe3 a5 15. Nd5 Bf6 16. Nc7 Rac8 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Bg4 Kf7 19. f4 Nc5 20. e5 Bg7 21. Rcd1 dxe5 22. fxe5+ Ke8 23. Rfe1 b6 24. g3 Rd8 25. Rxd8+ Kxd8 26. a3 Kc7 27. b4 axb4 28. axb4 Nd3 29. Rd1 Nxe5 30. Bxe6 Rf6 31. Bg8 Rf8 32. Bd5 Rd8 33. Rc1 Nd3 34. Rb1 b5 35. Rb3 Ne5 36. Bf4 g5 37. Bxe5+ Bxe5 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
In the final round I was better, then equal, then winning, then drawing, before making a ghastly blunder and losing to young Russian star IM Volodar Murzin. But now it’s time to see how the real stars did! Congratulations to Russian super grandmaster Vladimir Fedoseev for winning clear first with 7.5/9. He took home $2,000.
[pgn] [Event "PNWCC 60+5"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Yoo, Christopher"] [Black "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B94"] [WhiteElo "2438"] [BlackElo "2678"] [Annotator "Ghazarian,Kirk"] [PlyCount "116"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 {The theory dense, top level, extremely popular, Najdorf Sicilian.} 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Qe2 h6 8. Bh4 g6 9. f4 e5 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. O-O-O Qc7 12. Nb3 b5 13. Rxd7 $5 {Obviously preparation! This is topical line in modern theory.} Nxd7 14. Nd5 Qd6 15. Na5 g5 16. Be1 Nb6 17. Bb4 $1 Qg6 18. Qd2 {A weak novelty. In this very dangerous position Fedoseev capitalizes on white's innacurate play.} (18. Nc7+ $1 Kd8 19. Qd2+ $4 (19. Bc3 $5 Kxc7 20. Bxe5+ Bd6 21. Bxh8 f6 22. e5 $13 {White's initiative rages on}) (19. Bxf8 Kxc7 20. Qe3 Na4 21. Bc5 Bb7 22. b3 Nxc5 23. Qxc5+ Bc6 24. Qe7+ Kb6 (24... Bd7 25. Qc5+ {Is a draw.}) 25. b4 $1 Rhd8 26. c4 Rd7 27. Qc5+ Kc7 28. cxb5 axb5 29. Bxb5 Rxa5 30. bxa5 Qxe4 31. Rf1 f5 32. Bxc6 Qxc6 33. Qxc6+ Kxc6 34. Rxf5 Rd5 35. Rf6+ Kc5 36. Rxh6 Kc4 {Is crazy engine line ending in a drawn rook ending.}) 19... Kxc7 {White couldn't mate black here, so black was just up a piece.} 20. Qc3+ Kd7 21. Bxb5+ axb5 22. Rd1+ Ke8 23. Qxe5+ Be6 24. Qxb5+ Nd7 25. Nc6 Bxb4 26. Qb7 Kf8 $19 { 0-1 (26) Haubro,M (2365)-Ziska,H (2544) Kollafjord 2017}) 18... Nxd5 19. Qxd5 Bxb4 20. Qxe5+ Qe6 21. Qxh8+ Ke7 22. Nb3 Bb7 23. Qg7 Bxe4 24. Qd4 Bd6 25. Nc5 Bxc5 26. Qxc5+ Ke8 {Unfortunately it's white's king here that is weak, not black's.} 27. Qe3 Rc8 28. c3 Kf8 29. h4 Re8 30. Bd3 {Probably played in severe time pressure.} Qxa2 31. Kc2 (31. Qd4 {Might have caused black headaches to win.} Qa1+ 32. Kc2 Qxh1 33. Qh8+ Ke7 34. Qe5+ Kd7 35. Qd4+ Kc7 36. Bxe4 Re6 37. Qa7+ Kd6 38. Qxa6+ (38. Qd4+ Ke7 39. Qc5+ Rd6 40. Qc7+ Ke6 41. Qc8+ Kf6 42. Qf5+ Ke7 43. Qe5+ Re6 44. Qc5+ Kd7 45. Qa7+ Ke8 46. Qb8+ Ke7 47. Qc7+ (47. Qa7+ ) 47... Kf8 48. Qd8+ Re8 49. Qd6+ Kg7 (49... Kg8 50. Qxh6 $13) 50. Qd4+ Kg8 $19 {Black escaped the checks}) 38... Ke5 $19) 31... Qa4+ 32. Kb1 Bxg2 33. Qc5+ Kg8 34. Rg1 Be4 35. Bxe4 Qxe4+ 36. Ka1 Qxh4 37. c4 Qxc4 38. Rxg5+ hxg5 39. Qxg5+ Kf8 40. Qh6+ Ke7 41. Qe3+ Qe6 42. Qg5+ f6 43. Qg7+ Kd8 44. Qa7 Qd6 45. Qa8+ Ke7 46. Qh1 Rc8 47. Qh7+ Kd8 48. Qg8+ Kc7 49. Qg1 Kb7 50. Qh1+ Qc6 51. Qh7+ Rc7 52. Qh8 Qd5 53. Qh6 f5 54. Qg5 Qe4 55. Ka2 f4 56. Qh6 f3 57. Qf8 Qd5+ 58. Ka1 Rc1# 0-1 [/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "PNWCC 60+5"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.24"] [Round "?"] [White "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Black "Tanenbaum, Zachary"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C77"] [WhiteElo "2678"] [BlackElo "2137"] [Annotator "Ghazarian,Kirk"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 {Ruy Lopez} a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. Nc3 $5 {This move is the 8th (!) most common move in the position, but Fedoseev wants to lure a potentially bookish talent into the unknown.} Nf6 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 c5 $6 {It's difficult when you are playing such a strong player as Fedoseev but white really captalized on the subtle weakness this move created in the game.} (8... Bd7 9. O-O Be7 10. Re1 O-O 11. h3 Re8 {Black's position is solid with the bishop pair and while he has doubled pawns this weakness isn't immediately exploitable.}) 9. Nc6 Qd7 10. Na5 Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. Re1 Rb8 {Controlling the open file and provoking b3} 13. b3 Re8 14. h3 Bb7 15. Qd3 Qc8 $6 {Black's position is objectively difficult to play but Zach fights on, weaknesses and all.} 16. Bf4 Nd7 17. Nxb7 Qxb7 18. Nd5 Bd8 19. Rad1 Nf6 20. Nc3 Be7 21. e5 dxe5 22. Bxe5 Qc6 23. Qg3 Bd6 24. Nd5 Rxe5 $4 25. Nxf6+ $2 (25. Qxe5 $1 { Ends the game instantly} Bxe5 (25... Nxd5 26. Qxd5 $18) 26. Ne7+ Kf8 27. Nxc6 $18) 25... Kh8 26. Rxe5 gxf6 27. Rxd6 Qxd6 28. Rf5 Qxg3 {Sadly there is no hope for black in this rook ending where EVERY SINGLE pawn is weak} 29. fxg3 c4 30. Rxf6 cxb3 31. cxb3 a5 32. Rxf7 Rb7 33. g4 Kg8 34. Rd7 Ra7 35. Kf2 a4 36. b4 a3 37. Ke3 Rb7 38. Rd4 Kf7 39. Kd3 c5 40. bxc5 Rb2 41. c6 Rxa2 42. c7 1-0 [/pgn]
[pgn] [Event "PNWCC 60+5"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.05.25"] [Round "?"] [White "Belous, Vladimir"] [Black "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A20"] [WhiteElo "2524"] [BlackElo "2678"] [Annotator "Ghazarian,Kirk"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. c4 {English Opening. The GM with white pieces got crushed in a miniature.} e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c6 4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 d5 6. cxd5 Qxd5 7. e3 Qe5 8. Nc3 Bc5 9. Nb3 $6 ( 9. O-O $1 Bxd4 10. exd4 Qxd4 11. Re1 O-O 12. Nxe4 Nbd7 $11) 9... Bb6 10. d4 exd3 11. Qxd3 O-O 12. O-O Rd8 13. Qc2 Na6 14. a3 Be6 15. Nd2 Nc5 16. Nf3 Qh5 17. b4 $2 (17. Nd4 {Is the only hope to stay in the game but black is much better after} Rxd4 $1 (17... Bc4 18. Nce2 (18. Rd1 a5 $17) 18... Ba6 {Is also promising for black.})) 17... Bf5 $1 {Zwischenzug! Potentially the move white overlooked.} 18. Qa2 Nd3 {Black's forces are optimally placed while it's difficult to even move as white.} 19. Ne1 Ng4 20. h3 $6 Nxc1 $1 21. Rxc1 Nxe3 $1 22. g4 (22. fxe3 Bxe3+ 23. Kh2 Bxc1 $19) 22... Bxg4 $1 23. hxg4 Nxg4 24. Nf3 Rd3 $1 {Removing the guard} 25. Rfd1 (25. Ne4 Rxf3 26. Bxf3 Qh2#) 25... Nxf2 0-1 [/pgn]
Clear second place went to Armenian grandmaster Hrant Melkumyan who earned $1,500 with 7/9. Volodar Murzin was the top IM, and Rohan Talukdar and Nico Chasin were top FMs. Many young talents scored 5.5/9 but Zachary Tanenbaum from New York was most exceptional. I clearly observed exemplary tenacity in his great fighting chess throughout the event and he couldn’t deserve the top LM (Life Master) prize more! I greatly appreciate the effort of those who made this tournament possible. I would also like to thank the organizers for their efforts in anti-cheating by creating a contest of nicest setup. Finally, I want to thank the new editor of Chess Life, John Hartmann, for offering me this opportunity to write an article.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If players were allowed to use a real board to ponder their moves, how would the TD know that they weren't analyzing on the real board as well? I see you had a camera in the background which appears to capture both the real board and the screen board. Was this camera showing both boards for the entire length of the game? Did all the players have cameras covering showing their screens for the entire game? If the camera in the laptop were the only one being used while a player is on Zoom while simultaneously playing the game online, could you still see if there were another board being used in the background (looking from the front instead of from the back)? Is a separate camera needed, so that the player and his laptop screen can be shown in the same picture?

In reply to by Steve Immitt (not verified)

We all had to have a separate camera (either on a cellphone or an external webcam) to capture ourselves, our computer screen, and our physical board if we used one. The Zoom meeting (I think the organizers might have used the same Zoom meeting for the entire tournament) was recorded, so if the arbiters had a problem with the camera during any of the games, they could take appropriate action. Also, they introduced screen sharing for selected boards for the last three rounds, including for the top fifteen boards in the last two rounds. Players were allowed to go to the bathroom/leave the camera view three times per game, at most.

In reply to by Steve Immitt (not verified)

For Pete's sake, Steve. It's online chess. Treat it accordingly.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks for the kind words and for annotating one of my games! I definitely could have played the opening better against Fedoseev; Bd7 instead of the immediate c5 is an improvement, since the Nc6-a5 manuever is quite annoying for Black. Still, my result is a personal best for me in classical chess, and it is certainly memorable.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

who's checking the shoe?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great article! Thanks for the shout-out. My game with you was my first of 3 draws, on my birthday. In that Advance French game with the Ukrainian IM: Back in the day when I used to play the French regularly, taking on h6 in that line was basically considered unplayable for white. I always played 5...Qb6 against the Advance Variation and against 6.Be2 would also take on d4 followed by 7...Nh6 (I suppose the objection to 7...Nge7 would be 8.Na3 followed by Nc2). Almost everyone would play with 8.Nc3 Nf5 9.Na4, etc. Nobody took on h6. I'll have to look into it. In your Accelerated Dragon Maroczy Bind game against Tarjan, I also had that move ten position with white a bunch of times back in the day. Think I always put my queen on d3 (the main move), instead of e3. Well 10.Qe3 Be6 was first reached in Korchnoi-Benko, Candidates tournament in Curacao 1962. White played the alternative 11.Rb1 whereas your game with 11.Bd2 Nd7 12.Rac1 Qb6 13.b3 followed along the footsteps of Geller-Matanovic, 1964. Your 14...a5 was a novelty in a theoretical position. Regarding Yoo-Fedoseev, it appears that interestingly enough they repeated their game up to move 19 in another online blitz game 2 weeks later. In their next game Fedoseev played 19...Qe6 instead of 19...Bxb4 (and also won). Thus, Yoo repeated his "weak move" (18.Qd2). In Fedoseev-Tanenbaum: Apparently 5.Nc3 was first played in Walbrodt-Janowski, 1894 followed by Janowski himself a bunch of times against Mieses in Paris 1895. 5...Nf6 transposed the game from ECO code C71 to ECO code C77.

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