IM Justin Sarkar Wins Hartford Open

IM Justin Sarkar won the 10th Hartford Open (September 20-22, Hartford, CT) with a score of 4.5 – 0.5 to take the first place prize of $1000.
Justin Sarkar (photo John Hartmann)
The Hartford Open is one of the smaller events on the CCA calendar. This year’s tournament drew 115 players pursuing a guaranteed prize fund of $7,000. With 9 of 24 players in the Major section having FIDE titles, and a total of 10 being over 2200, competition was fierce! Sarkar got some real breaks in the pairings through the first three rounds, as his first three opponents had an average rating of only 1941! He took advantage of this by going 3-0. Sarkar then played GM Alex Ivanov and WGM Carissa Yip on Sunday and scored 1.5/2 in those games to win the tournament. In round one, there were no upsets and no draws. The second round was much different, especially in the 3 day schedule. Newly-minted WGM Carissa Yip defeated top seeded GM David Berczes on board one. She annotates that game for CLO readers:
Carissa Yip (photo Hanks)

[Event "Hartford Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.09.21"]
[Round "2.1"]
[White "Berczes, David"]
[Black "Yip, Carissa"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A15"]
[WhiteElo "2555"]
[BlackElo "2440"]
[Annotator "Yip"]
[PlyCount "120"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 O-O 5. g3 a5 {hoping to provoke Nc3 and
then I can play d5 and take back with the knight without exchanging bishops} 6.
Bg2 Nc6 {stops b4 after a4} 7. O-O a4 8. Na3 d6 9. d4 Bf5 (9... Bd7) 10. d5 Nb4
11. Nd4 Bd7 12. Qd2 c5 13. Ndb5 h5 {trying to start something on the kingside
to put off white's e4 f4 e5 push} 14. h3 Kh7 15. e4 Qc8 (15... axb3 16. axb3 {
should've played this at some point because then White can't play bxa4
followed by a3 and my knight is forever good on b4}) 16. h4 {don't really
understand the logic behind playing h3 and then h4. but i have some h4 ideas
followed by sacrificing on g4} (16. Kh2 axb3 17. axb3 h4 18. g4 Bxg4 19. hxg4
Qxg4) 16... Bh6 17. Qe2 Ng4 18. f4 Ra6 19. bxa4 Rxa4 20. Nc3 Rxa3 (20... Ra5
21. Nab5 Bg7 22. a3 Nc6 {key move that I missed} 23. dxc6 bxc6 24. a4 cxb5 25.
axb5 Bd4+) 21. Bxa3 Bg7 22. e5 (22. Rf3 b5 23. cxb5 Qb8 {Black has decent play
thanks to the knight on g4, but obviously is still down an exchange}) (22. Bb2
Bd4+ 23. Kh1 Ne3 24. f5 {only chance for white} (24. Rfc1 Bg4) 24... Nbc2 25.
Rac1 Nxf1 26. Bxf1 Ne3 {I prefer Black here}) 22... dxe5 23. Bb2 exf4 24. Rxf4
(24. Ne4 {White should exchange off the dark squared bishops even if it's at
the expense of two pawns} Bxb2 25. Qxb2 fxg3) 24... Bf5 25. Be4 (25. Rd1 Nc2
$11) 25... Bd4+ {Black's winning material by force} 26. Kg2 Ne3+ 27. Kh2 Ng4+
28. Kg2 Ne3+ 29. Kh2 Bxe4 (29... Bg4 30. Bf3 e5 31. dxe6 fxe6 32. Rxf8 Qxf8 33.
Bxg4 Nxg4+ 34. Kh1 Nf2+ 35. Kh2 Qf5) 30. Rxe4 (30. Nxe4 Bxb2 31. Qxb2 Nd3 32.
Qb3 Nxf4 33. Ng5+ Kg8 34. Qxe3 {knight is unfortunately trapped} f6 35. Qxf4
fxg5 36. Qxg5 Qg4) 30... Ng4+ 31. Kg2 Nf2 32. Rxd4 cxd4 33. Nb5 (33. Kxf2 dxc3
34. Bxc3 Nxd5) (33. Qxf2 dxc3 34. Bxc3 Qxc4) 33... Nbd3 34. Bxd4 Qh3+ (34...
Qxc4 {i saw this right after I blitzed out Qh3} 35. Kg1 Qxb5 36. Bxf2 Qxd5 37.
Rd1 Rd8) 35. Kf3 Qg4+ 36. Ke3 Qxg3+ 37. Kd2 Qf4+ 38. Kc3 Qxh4 (38... e5 39.
dxe6 fxe6 {bringing the rook into the game} 40. Qxe6 Ne4+) 39. Rf1 Qh3 40. Kc2
(40. Be3 e6 41. d6 f5) 40... Nb4+ 41. Kb2 Ne4 {now my knights are untangled
and I am winning} 42. Rf3 Qg4 43. a3 Na6 44. Qf1 f5 45. Rf4 Ng3 46. Rxg4 Nxf1
47. Rg2 Rf7 48. c5 h4 49. d6 e5 50. Bg1 Kg7 51. Re2 h3 52. Rf2 h2 53. Bxh2 Nxh2
54. Rxh2 Nxc5 55. Rc2 b6 56. Nc7 Rd7 57. Rh2 g5 58. Ne8+ Kg6 59. Rh8 Ne4 60.
Rf8 g4 0-1

Meanwhile on board two FM Gabriel Petesch held IM Yaacov Norowitz to a draw. Sarkar got a very favorable pairing as he played the lowest rated player (Ryan Sun, who had the bye in the first round) in the tournament! At the merge, there were four perfect scores: GM Alex Ivanov, IM Justin Sarkar, WGM Carissa Yip and Class A player Daniel Zhou, who got very favorable pairings in the two day schedule to be paired down twice and get to 2-0. Ivanov defeated Yip on board one and Sarkar defeated Zhou on board two, so going into Sunday thee would be only two perfect scores: Ivanov and Sarkar. In round four, Sarkar and Ivanov drew on board one. FM Petesch could have caught the leaders, but he drew with FM Max Lu to remain half a point back. Two other players would also win to remain within striking distance of the leaders: Berczes defeated NM Zachary Tanenbaum on board three and WGM Yip defeated Zhou on board four. Because of the small number of players, many of the leaders had already played each other and the last round pairings were interesting. Ivanov and Sarkar could not play again, so they faced the highest players at 3-1. Ivanov played Berczes on board one while Sarkar faced Yip on board two. Sarkar won against Yip and annotates the game for CLO.

[Event "Hartford Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.09.22"]
[Round "5.2"]
[White "Yip, Carissa"]
[Black "Sarkar, Justin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C24"]
[WhiteElo "2440"]
[BlackElo "2441"]
[Annotator "Sarkar"]
[PlyCount "134"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. Qe2
O-O {We appeared to both be "out of book" by around move 8 and the middlegame
position I got in a few moves seemed good. Indeed I was better but had tough
decisions on various moves to make and got into my time pressure.} 9. Bg5 dxe4
10. dxe4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Nc5 12. Rd1 Qe7 13. O-O Nxb3 14. Nxb3 h6 15. Bh4 b6 16.
Rfe1 Ba6 17. Qc2 Qe6 18. Nbd2 Nh5 19. Nf1 Nf4 {Why the rush? 19. ... f6 or 19.
... Bc5} 20. Ne3 Bc5 {I had 25 minutes remaining to reach move 40.} (20... f6)
21. Rd2 f6 (21... g6 22. Nf5) 22. Red1 h5 23. Bg3 g6 24. b3 Be7 25. Bxf4 exf4
26. Nd4 Qf7 27. Nc4 (27. Nf1 Rac8) 27... Bxc4 28. bxc4 Qxc4 29. Nf3 Rad8 30. e5
f5 {[#] I think I have slightly over 10 minutes left. Suddenly the game had
become unclear and messy by this point, with slight dangers for me such as
with a slightly exposed king. Yet I managed to weather the storm and in fact
achieve a won game by time control} 31. Rd4 Rxd4 32. Rxd4 Qe6 33. h4 Rd8 34.
Qd2 Rxd4 35. Qxd4 b5 36. Qxf4 Kg7 37. Nd4 Qd5 38. e6 bxa4 39. Qc7 Qd6 40. Qxa5
c5 (40... a3 {is also good}) 41. Nb5 (41. Nf3 Qd1+ 42. Kh2 Bd6+ 43. g3 Qxf3 $19
) 41... Qxe6 42. Qa7 Qe1+ 43. Kh2 Kf7 44. Nd6+ Ke6 45. Nc8 Bf6 (45... Bd8) 46.
Qxa4 {[I had underestimated this move. I knew I was probably but miscalculated
when trying to find a winning variation, relying here on my next move 46...
Be5+, forcing her to give the h- and f-pawns.} Be5+ 47. f4 Qxh4+ 48. Kg1 Qe1+
49. Kh2 Qh4+ 50. Kg1 Qxf4 {After this attempt to play for a win (instead of
giving the perpetual), my king is forced to go to d5 and then e4 not to get
mated.} 51. Qe8+ {[#]} Kd5 (51... Kf6 $4 52. Qe7#) 52. Nb6+ Ke4 53. Qa4+ Kd3 {
I had the option to bail out with 53. ... Bd4+ 54. cxd4 Qc1+ sacrificing the
bishop and giving a perpetual} 54. Qd1+ {This is what I missed from afar. Now
I have to play 54. ... Qd2 and white forks the king and bishop.} Qd2 55. Qxd2+
Kxd2 56. Nc4+ Kxc3 57. Nxe5 {I felt the position was a draw but worth playing
out. White has to be careful to defend against the pawns.} g5 58. Kf2 (58. Nf3
g4 59. Nh4 f4 60. Ng6 $11) 58... g4 59. Ke3 h4 60. Kf4 c4 61. Kxf5 h3 62. gxh3
gxh3 63. Nf3 Kd3 {I already had slightly under a minute and ran my clock to 4
seconds. I noticed that 63. ... Kb2 (or similarly 63. ... Kb4) would draw as
she has the important resource of staying on f3 with the knight: 64. Kg4 c3 65.
Kxh3 and meeting 65. ... c2 with 66. Ne1! c1=Q 67. Nd3+ I was almost certain
she saw it and decided on 63. ... Kd3 as the only try by method of elimination.
It turned out to be a good try as she chose the wrong king move in response.
Incidentally, I was Ok with going down to 4 seconds: the tournament was played
under USCF rules, so had my time run out, I would've gotten a draw due to my
opponent having insufficient mating material. Under FIDE rules I'd lose due to
it being theoretically possible (through a legal series of moves) to get mated
(such as putting my king on h1 and pawn on h2.) So i guess it helped to know
that I had clinched a draw by that point.} (63... Kb2 64. Kg4 h2 65. Nxh2 c3
66. Nf3 c2 67. Ne1) 64. Kg4 $2 (64. Kf4 $1 {would hold the draw}) 64... Ke3 {
I knew that if I could win it had to be by playing the king to e3, disrupting
the white king and knight coordination and gaining a crucial tempo to win,
with e3 being a key square for my king. Indeed, within another second or two
of playing 64. ... Ke3 I saw that I had chosen the right square for my king
and the knight won't be in time to stop the c pawn after needing to invest a
tempo to take the h pawn.} 65. Kg3 {[#]} h2 {Very important , to deflect the
knight, which wanted to go to e1.} 66. Nxh2 c3 {My king is in a perfect
positon on e3 to make the knight unable to reach any key squares in time to
stop the c pawn from queening. A bit to my credit, I had worked things out
under time pressure and found the pretty win I was given.} 67. Nf1+ Kd3 0-1

GM Ivanov also could have scored 4.5, but he was only able to draw with GM Berczes.  He finished at 4-1 in clear second place and won $600. Tannenbaum defeated Petesch, while IM Norowitz defeated FM Lu. This meant that GM Berczes and IM Norowitz shared third place, winning $200 each. The section winners were: U2010 Peter Wolfe, 4.5 – 0.5 $700 U1610 Scott Sheff and Justin Trey, 4.5 – 0.5, $460 U1210 Michael Boisselle, 5-0, $300 Mixed Doubles Sandy-Rose Bilodeau-Savaria & Car;-William Bilodeau -Savaria. 6 points, $100 to each player Blitz IM Yaacov Norowitz, 8-0, $55 NTD Steve Immitt directed for Continental Chess assisted by Bob Messenger. Full tournament details can be found at Previous Continental Chess tournaments can be found at the Continental Chess website at

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