Smooth Moons at the Amateur Team South

L-R: Benjamin Moon (who I nicknamed "Smooth"), Carter Peatman, Jonathan Hrach, and Vishal Balyan

This year when US Chess contacted me about writing an article for the Amateur Team South in Orlando, Florida my exact reply was “(I) will be happy to cover the event.” That was it. In my head I was actually thinking “WTF angle am I going to go with this year?!” I quickly ruled out relying too much on my own personal experience, mainly because I had already done it before and my own team was likely not to be in contention with me on board 1. So armed with whatever time I had during my opponent’s moves I walked around and paid close attention to the top few matches every round. I was on the hunt for games and moves that made me wish I was playing them.

Round 1 We join the action at the start of the 2-day section where, as to be expected, we find pre-tournament favorite team “Hanging by the Thread” paired against “Make Pawns Great Again." Since hearing the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare as children, everyone loves a great underdog story. Except in this case the turtle was greased in mutagen ooze and driving a Tesla Roadster paid for by Bitcoin in December of 2017 (before the drop). This game existed for the very briefest of flashes on board 2 between a Class A player with the black pieces against a Master. By move 10 white had moved his queen 3 times and by move 15 he was getting mated. I was thoughtful enough to lose my own first round game versus a Fide Master quickly enough to catch this for you. You’re welcome!

[Event "US Amateur Team South"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mike Zaloznyy "]
[Black "Sam Sokhanvari "]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B10"]
[PlyCount "44"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]

1. e4 c6 2. Bc4 d5 3. Bb3 e6 4. Qe2 Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. d4 a5 7. c3 b6 8. h4 Ba6
9. Qg4 h5 10. Qg3 c5 11. Bg5 Qc7 12. Nd2 Nc6 13. Ngf3 cxd4 14. cxd4 Nb4 15. Kd1
Nd3 16. Rb1 Rc8 17. Nf1 Nxb2+ 18. Rxb2 Qc3 19. Rc2 Qd3+ 20. N3d2 Qe2+ 21. Kc1
Ba3+ 22. Kb1 Qd1+ 0-1[/pgn]
Alas, this was the only win scored by Sam Sokhanvari’s team in round 1. They also drew on board 3 but team chess is about winning the war, not the battle. Sam’s opponent Mike Zaloznyy recovered after this tough start-scoring 3.5/4 in the remaining games. Match result: Make Pawns Great Again (1.5) – Hanging by the Thread (2.5) Round 2 When the 2-day and 3-day schedules collided in round 2, spectators were treated to an archetypal King’s Indian Defense on board 2 of “Czech First Mate Follows” versus “Yu Kant Be Hy”. Pick a side, White’s queenside or Black’s kingside. Like Bill Murray in the classic movie Groundhog Day, would our anti-hero live to see another day or was he doomed to repeat the same fate of many a practitioner in such an all or nothing system? Truman Hoang playing with the black pieces got his pawn storm rolling but White, championed by Doug Hyatt, fought back with a bishop sac forcing a queen trade. This extinguished any potential immediate mating attack, allowing Doug to turn his attention back to the queenside.

[Event "US Amateur Team South"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Hyatt, Doug"]
[Black "Hoang, Truman "]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E84"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.27"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.02.27"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Nge2 Nc6 7. Be3 a6 8. Qd2
Rb8 9. Rc1 Bd7 10. Nd1 b5 11. c5 e5 12. d5 Ne7 13. c6 Bc8 14. b4 Ne8 15. Nec3
f5 16. Be2 Nf6 17. O-O f4 18. Ba7 Ra8 19. Bf2 g5 20. a4 bxa4 21. Ra1 Ng6 22.
Rxa4 h5 23. Nb2 g4 24. Rfa1 g3 25. hxg3 fxg3 26. Bxg3 h4 27. Bxh4 Nxh4 28. Qg5
Nh7 29. Qxd8 Rxd8 30. Bxa6 Ng5 31. Be2 Rb8 32. b5 Bh3 33. gxh3 Nhxf3+ 34. Bxf3
Nxf3+ 35. Kg2 Nd4 36. Nc4 Nxb5 37. Nxb5 Rxb5 38. Ra8 Rbb8 39. Rxb8 Rxb8 40. Ra7
Rc8 41. Na3 Bf6 42. Nb5 Bd8 43. Kf3 Kf7 44. Kg4 Ke8 45. h4 1-0[/pgn]
The game went on a bit further with black in zugzwang and losing additional pawns. This was the sole win in that very close match, making it all the more sweet. Match Result: Czech First Mate Follows (1.5) – Yu Kant Be Hy (2.5) Round 3 For me the highlight of round 3 was Vishal Baylan’s blistering black knights bombardment on board 4 for the “Moon’s Baboons”. William Bowman of the cleverly named team “Reti Set Alpha Go” made an aggressive decision on move 26 with Bxc7 instead of retreating his bishop back to e1. This allowed black’s knights to infiltrate and grab the f2 pawn . Bowman’s concept was based on using his own two knights and rook to capture black’s base c-pawn and create a passed pawn. Black’s attack came first and fast as Vishal’s scallywag knights wreaked complete havoc. For the analysts out there, Black did misstep on move 31. … Qe7 allowing White to escape with a draw (32. Kxh2 Qg5 33. Qf3 Rb2+) but instead White was too tempted by 32. Naxc6 forking the rook and queen.

[Event "US Amateur Team South"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Bowman, William"]
[Black "Baylan, Vishal"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "E16"]
[WhiteElo "1951"]
[BlackElo "1896"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.27"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.02.27"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. g3 b6 6. Bg2 Bb7 7. O-O d5 8. Qc2
Nbd7 9. a3 Bd6 10. b4 c6 11. Bb2 a5 12. c5 Bc7 13. Rfe1 axb4 14. axb4 Rxa1 15.
Bxa1 bxc5 16. bxc5 Ba5 17. Rb1 Ba6 18. Nb3 Bc7 19. e3 Ne4 20. Bc3 Bb5 21. Ra1
Ndf6 22. Be1 h6 23. Bf1 Qb8 24. Ba5 Bxf1 25. Kxf1 Ng4 26. Bxc7 Qxc7 27. Ra6
Nexf2 28. Qe2 Rb8 29. Na5 Ne4 30. Kg2 Nxh2 31. Ne5 Qe7 32. Naxc6 Qg5 33. Ng4
Nxg4 34. Nxb8 Nxe3+ 35. Kg1 Qxg3+ 36. Kh1 Nf2+ 37. Qxf2 Qxf2 38. Nd7 Qg2# *[/pgn]
Winning in style is great, but winning in style when your team needs you to makes you a freaking chess hero. Match Result: Moon’s Baboons (2.5) – Reti Set Alhpa Go (1.5) Round 4 Going into round 4 the “Moon’s Baboons” were the only unscathed team on 3/3. With two teams chasing on 2.5, the penultimate round was critical. If the Baboons were to be slowed down it needed to happen now. Last year Vlad Yanovsky’s team took 1st place at the expense of him taking some hard defeats on board 1 as the rating underdog round after round. This year big Vlad tried a different approach moving to board 3 on his new team “Hanging by the Thread." Would it pay off? For Vlad it certainly did. He scored 4/5 points with no losses on board 3 winning this cute game along the way.

[Event "US Amateur Team South"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Yanovsky, Vlad"]
[Black "Peatman, Carter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B34"]
[WhiteElo "2218"]
[BlackElo "2202"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.27"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.02.27"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nxc6 dxc6 8.
Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. O-O-O+ Nd7 10. Bc4 f6 11. e5 fxe5 12. Ne4 Kc7 13. Ng5 Nb6 14. Bb3
Bf5 15. f4 Rad8 16. Nf7 Rxd1+ 17. Rxd1 Rf8 18. Bc5 Nd5 19. Nxe5 Nxf4 20. Bxe7
Re8 21. Bd6+ Kc8 22. Nc4 Ne2+ 23. Kb1 Rd8 24. Ne3 Nd4 25. Nxf5 gxf5 26. Rxd4
Bxd4 27. Be6+ Rd7 28. Bxf5 Kd8 29. Bxd7 Kxd7 30. Bg3 Ke6 31. c3 Bb6 32. Kc2 Kf5
33. Kd3 Bg1 34. h3 Bb6 35. Ke2 a6 36. Kf3 Bd8 37. Bf2 Bg5 38. g4+ Ke5 39. h4
Bc1 40. b3 Bd2 41. Bd4+ Ke6 42. Ke4 Be1 43. h5 Bd2 44. c4 Bg5 45. Be3 Be7 46.
g5 Bd6 47. Bd4 Bg3 48. g6 hxg6 49. hxg6 c5 50. Bc3 1-0[/pgn]
A neat lesson in converting a queenless Sicilian. My favorite moves were 11. e5 and 18. Bc5, essentially giving up a pawn early on and winning two later for a net gain of a 1 pawn up winning endgame. The tactical shot on move 26. Rxd4 is about as hard to spot as an elephant in a petting zoo, but that doesn’t take away from how cool an elephant in a petting zoo still is. With this win and another on board 2 by Mike Zaloznyy, the Threads drew the Baboons. This kept their own winning chances alive. Match Result: Hanging by the Thread (2) – Moon’s Baboons (2) Round 5 Still in the sole lead with 3.5 points after 4 rounds, the Baboons had their work cut out for them in the 5th and final round. No less than 5 teams were on 3 points. This was no time for monkey business and their formidable final opponents “Yu Kant Be Hy” were anything but. Benjamin “Smooth” Moon had been figure skating his way through his opposition on board 1.   I was slow to take note of his fluid style for the first couple rounds because it is so easy to overlook transitions into winning endgames in search of mating attacks. To continue along with my analogy, the quadruple axel has 4.5 revolutions. Never has a quad axel jump ever been landed in a competition, until round 5. Benjy Smooth played this harmonious game to to finish with a phenomenal final individual score of 4.5/5, clinching the gold for the Baboons.

[Event "US Amateur Team South"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Moon, Benjamin"]
[Black "Pereolos, Peter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A48"]
[PlyCount "129"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.02.27"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.02.27"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. e3 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. c3 c5 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. Nbd2
Nc6 9. Qc2 Nd5 10. Bg3 e5 11. h4 h6 12. h5 g5 13. Rd1 Nc7 14. e4 Qe7 15. Nc4 f5
16. exf5 Bxf5 17. Qb3 Ne6 18. Be2 Kh8 19. O-O Nf4 20. Rfe1 Nxh5 21. Bxe5 Nxe5
22. Nfxe5 Nf4 23. Bf3 Qc7 24. Qxb7 Qxb7 25. Bxb7 Rab8 26. Nd6 Bxe5 27. Rxe5 Bg6
28. Rd2 c4 29. Be4 Nd3 30. Re6 Bxe4 31. Nxe4 Rxb2 32. Rxb2 Nxb2 33. Rxh6+ Kg7
34. Ra6 g4 35. Rxa7+ Kg6 36. Ra5 Nd1 37. Rg5+ Kh6 38. Rxg4 Ra8 39. Nf6 Rxa2 40.
Rxc4 Nxf2 41. Ng4+ Nxg4 42. Rxg4 Kh5 43. Rc4 Rc2 44. Kh2 Kg5 45. Kg3 Kh5 46.
Rc5+ Kg6 47. Kf3 Kf6 48. g4 Kg6 49. Kf4 Rf2+ 50. Ke3 Rg2 51. g5 Rg4 52. Kd3 Kh5
53. Re5 Kg6 54. c4 Rg1 55. Kd4 Rd1+ 56. Kc5 Rd8 57. Kb6 Rb8+ 58. Kc7 Rb4 59. c5
Rb1 60. c6 Kf7 61. Kc8 Rc1 62. c7 Rb1 63. Kd7 Rd1+ 64. Kc6 Rc1+ 65. Rc5 1-0[/pgn]
Throw in two scorching hot wins by board 2’s Jonathan Hrach and Vishal on board 4 and “Moon’s Baboons” had secured the full point and thus won the Amateur Team South outright. Match Result: Yu Kant Be Hy (1) - Moon’s Baboons (3) The “Moon’s Baboons” were the worthy and deserved champions and there was always excitement to be found in their games. Observing them really made a strong impression of how team chess should be played. “Hanging by the Thread” and “Magnus Chess” rounded out 2nd and 3rd place in the Open section, with teams “OCG Returns”, “Knights of the Chess Table” and the “FAU Chess Team” finishing in places 1-3 respectively in the Under 1500 section. On an important note of solidarity, many players at the event wore pins in honor of the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida. #MSDStrong Find full final standings from the US Amateur Team South on the official site.  
Pins given out and worn in memory of the students of Majorey Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

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