Alexey Root on the Texas Women’s Championship

Seated (left to right) are Margaret Bailon-Labednick (from Corpus Christi), Wendy Reed (from Roanoke), Clarese Roberts (from Fort Worth), Woman International Master Dr. Alexey Root (from Denton), and Sheba Yaru (from Allen).
Standing (from left to right) are Woman Candidate Master Camille Kao (from Austin), Nicole Niemi (from Garland), Ambriette Reed (from Roanoke), Yue Chu (from Plano), Woman FIDE Master and National Chess Expert Devina Devagharan, Rheanna English (from San Antonio), and Barb Swafford (from Crowley). Photo: Louis Reed
The Texas Women’s Chess Championship was held June 23-24, 2018 at the North Richland Hills Public Library. The top-rated player, WFM Devina Devagharan, won with 3.5 of 4. Other prize winners are listed and photos are posted at the Texas Chess Association (TCA) Web site and on the TCA Facebook page.
Dr. Maritta Del Rio Sumner and Devina Devagharan. Photo: Alexey Root
Devagharan’s favorite game was her fourth round win over Camille Kao.
[pgn][Event "Texas Women's Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.06.24"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Devagharan, Devina"]
[Black "Kao, Camille"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "2115"]
[BlackElo "1995"]
[PlyCount "74"]1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. e3 b5 6. a4 b4 7. Na2 Bf5 8. Nxb4
Nd5 9. Na2 e6 10. Bxc4 Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. h3 Nd7 13. Bd3 Bg6 14. Bxg6 hxg6 15.
Nc3 N7f6 16. Ne5 Qc7 17. Bd2 Qb7 18. Nd3 Rab8 19. Rb1 Nb4 20. Nxb4 Bxb4 21. b3
Nd5 22. Ne4 Rfd8 23. Qc2 Bxd2 24. Qxd2 Nb4 25. Qc3 Qc7 26. Nd2 Rd5 27. e4 Rdd8
28. Nf3 Qd6 29. Rfd1 Qf4 30. Qe3 Qd6 31. Rd2 a5 32. Rbd1 Qc7 33. Rc1 Qd6 34.
Ne5 c5 35. Rxc5 Rdc8 36. Nc4 Qd8 37. Rxc8 Rxc8 1-0[/pgn]
Although Kao tied for second, with 3 of 4, she was third on tiebreaks. However, her third round win against me earned Kao the “Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War Award (for most brilliant game).” Kao had an advantage out of the opening, as I got confused about whether (and when) to trade my dark-squared bishop in the Stonewall Dutch. I should have kept queens on the board too. On move 29, Kao played Rh4!
[pgn][Event "TXWCC 2018"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.06.24"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kao, Camille"]
[Black "Root, Alexey"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A84"]
[WhiteElo "1995"]
[BlackElo "2002"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "7r/1p4k1/p1p1p1p1/P1PpP3/3P1PpR/2P3P1/6K1/8 b - - 0 29"]
[PlyCount "30"]
[EventDate "2018.06.23"]29... Rxh4 30. gxh4 ({I calculated the following line before I played 29...
Rxh4.} 30. gxh4 Kh6 31. Kg3 Kh5 {Now White is in zugzwang, as any move she
plays loses a pawn.} 32. Kg2 Kxh4 {I was so excited about this line that I
played 29...Rxh4 quickly.}) 30... Kh6 31. Kf2 {White brilliantly triangulates,
losing a move and putting me in zugzwang. I lose the g4-pawn and the game.} Kh5
32. Kg3 Kh6 33. Kxg4 Kh7 34. Kg5 Kg7 35. h5 gxh5 36. Kxh5 Kh7 37. Kg5 Kg7 38.
f5 exf5 39. Kxf5 Kf7 40. e6+ Ke7 41. Ke5 Ke8 42. Kd6 Kd8 43. e7+ Ke8 44. Ke6
The only opening preparation I did was after the Saturday night banquet, where I learned that I would have Black on Sunday morning, in round 3, against Kao. I prepared the Stonewall Dutch if Kao played 1. d4 and the Rubinstein variation of the French Defense if she played 1. e4. Unfortunately, cramming lines meant that I lacked understanding of the themes of each opening and forgot necessary move orders. I had Black again in round 4 (my third Black of the tournament) against Yue Chu. I played the Rubinstein variation that I had prepared for round 3. As soon as I played 7…Qxf6 I felt very embarrassed, thinking my game would be the first one to finish in the final round. I was sure that my blunder would lead to a quick loss. Can you find White’s best line?
White to move.
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Texas Women's Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.06.24"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Chu, Yue"]
[Black "Root, Alexey"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C10"]
[WhiteElo "1889"]
[BlackElo "2002"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rn2kb1r/ppp2ppp/2b1pq2/8/3P4/3B1N2/PPP2PPP/R1BQK2R w KQkq - 0 8"]
[PlyCount "6"]8. Bg5 ({The game continued:} 8. Be2 h6 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be3 O-O 11. c4 Be4 12.
Nd2 Bc6 13. Bf3 Bxf3 14. Nxf3 c6 15. Qb3 Qe7 16. Rfd1 b6 17. Qd3 Nd7 18. c5 Bc7
19. Qe4 Rac8 20. cxb6 Bxb6 21. Ne5 Nf6 22. Qf3 Nd5 23. Rac1 Qb7 24. Qg3 Nxe3
25. Qxe3 f6 26. Nc4 Qd7 27. Nxb6 axb6 28. h3 Qd5 {and I offered a
draw.}) 8... Bxf3 {Both Yue and I saw that 9. Qxf3 Qxg5 and Black is up a
piece. However, as she was thinking about her move I was stressed out as I
remembered the following line.} 9. Qd2 Bxg2 10. Bxf6 Bxh1 {And White has an
advantage. I was very relieved that Yue did not see this line.} *[/pgn]
When I finally achieved an equal position against Chu, I offered a draw. I was glad when she instantly accepted my draw offer, as I was afraid to play on and make another blunder! The draw put Chu in the three-way tie (with Kao and Ambriette Reed) for second place. Chu won the second place plaque on tiebreaks.
Dr. Maritta Del Rio Sumner and Yue Chu. Photo: Alexey Root
The plaques were presented by Dr. Maritta Del Rio Sumner, a retired Air Force colonel. Dr. Sumner was one of several dignitaries who gave inspirational speeches at either the opening or closing ceremonies, or at the Saturday night banquet at Niki’s Italian Bistro. As mentioned in my previous article, I prepared with’s Tactics Trainer for the month leading up to the Texas Women’s tournament. My goal was to get five problems in a row right every day. I didn’t succeed. On a couple days, when my rabbit Denis was ill, I didn’t do any tactics at all. (Denis is fine again now.) Other days, I quit before reaching my goal. For example, on June 13 I completed 28 problems but could not get five in a row right. Since it was late at night, I gave up and went to sleep. Despite these failures, I spent more time on tactics during the last month than I had in the previous 10 years. I’m proud of my second-round tactical win, which earned the “Saint Joan of Arc Award (for most hard-fought victory).”
[pgn][Event "Texas Women's Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.06.23"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Root, Alexey"]
[Black "Niemi, Nicole"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E90"]
[WhiteElo "2002"]
[BlackElo "1809"]
[PlyCount "57"]1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 Nbd7 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bf4 O-O 8. Qd2
Kh7 9. h4 {An aggressive move on the wing by me. Since I am attacking on a
wing, Niemi should counter-attack in the center. In this particular position,
both Fritz and Stockfish recommend 9...c5 with near equality for Black.} Nh5
10. Be3 Nb6 11. O-O-O Bd7 {I expected 11...Bg4, which I thought would slow
down my planned g4. However, the computers list 11...Be6, which
counter-attacks the c4-pawn, as their main recommendation.} 12. Be2 Qe8 13. g4
{I was proud of this move, as I used my "Tactics Trainer" calculating ability
to see the following variation.} Nf6 (13... Bxg4 14. Ng5+ Kg8 15. Bxg4) 14. g5
{After 14. g5! the computers evaluate White as being the equivalent of three
pawns ahead.} Ng4 15. gxh6 Bxh6 16. Bxh6 Nxh6 17. h5 Kg7 18. hxg6 Rh8 19. gxf7
Qxf7 20. Rdg1+ Ng4 21. Qg5+ Qg6 22. Qxe7+ Qf7 23. Qxf7+ {Played after I
calculated that this move wins a minor piece, securing an overwhelming
material advantage.} Kxf7 24. Ng5+ Kf6 25. Nh7+ Ke7 26. Bxg4 Rag8 27. Bxd7
Rxg1+ 28. Rxg1 Rxh7 29. Bf5 {And Black resigned.} 1-0[/pgn]
My second-round opponent, Niemi, is a Chicago Cubs fan. After our post mortem, Niemi checked her phone for updates on the Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game. During the third inning, the Cubs had one run and the Reds had two. I cheerfully commented that it was still early, maybe the Cubs would make a comeback. Niemi said no, not with that day’s pitcher. She was right, as the Cubs lost 2-11. You can spot Niemi in the group photo, wearing her Cubs World Series T-shirt. Wendy Reed also is easy to spot in the group photo, wearing a store-bought chessboard dress with her own handmade chess-piece earnings. Wendy crocheted during her games, as crocheting relaxes her. Wendy made crocheted bags, for holding chess sets, for every player and every guest speaker. I told her that I thought it would be neat if she crocheted a chess queen. The next day, she brought one to the tournament.
Photo: Alexey Root
Reed’s quick turnaround on craft projects was amazing. But perhaps more unbelievable was the amount of food given to the players. Adjutant Dale Chaney brought donuts, coffee, and tea for our breakfasts. Louis Reed, volunteer, and Tom Crane, floor TD and organizer, carried in cases of bottled water. Chief Assistant TD Jeff French and Chief TD and Organizer Jim Hollingsworth told us that we could eat our Chick-fil-A sandwiches and fries (Saturday lunch) and Subway sandwiches (Sunday lunch) at our boards. And, as already mentioned, we were treated to Italian food on Saturday night. Though I gained weight during the Texas Women’s, I lost rating points. I am now sitting exactly on my floor of 2000. If I had my preparation to do over again, I would keep the tactics training but spend more time on my openings. My thanks to the organizers, tournament directors, volunteers, speakers, and my fellow players for making my return to tournament chess, after three years away, enjoyable. I look forward to playing in the Texas Women’s Chess Championship again next year.
About the Author
Alexey Root is a Woman International Master who was the 1989 U.S. Women’s chess champion. You can find her books on US Chess Sales and on Her handle is childrenandchess.