Las Cruces Chess Club
July Open

Cruces Chess Club was proud to host its July Open tournament on 8 July 2023 at the Butterfield Rec Center in Las Cruces. Twelve players came out to be part of the three round G60/d5 fun. Four of the twelve players were from out of town; two coming from the Tularosa Basin (Alamogordo and Tularosa), one from Santa Teresa and one from El Paso. Three of the twelve players, all locals and Cruces Chess Club members, were playing in their first US Chess rated tournament! We appreciate all the people who took the time to join our tournament.

We had a wide array of skill levels, with ratings ranging from 1902 to 630, yet the games were very competitive. The first round saw all six top- rated players win, but that doesn’t mean the games they played were walkovers! Rebekah Grace Holguin (785) fought top-rated Matt Grinberg (1902) to a virtual standstill before eventually losing on time. The results from the first round set the pairings up perfectly for the second round, especially when it came to alternation of colors.

The competitive chess continued in the second round. Matt Grinberg again found himself in a tough game, this time against Lucas Omar Reyes (1367) of Santa Teresa. Lucas appeared to have the upper hand in the middle game, being a pawn ahead and holding some initiative, but when all the pieces came off the board, the resulting king and pawn endgame proved to be a draw. That is not a bad result for a young man rated nearly six hundred points below his opponent’s rating! Two of the other first-round winners also battled to a draw, with Bill Daly (1519) and Grace Yarborough (1333) splitting the point. John Helwick (1434) was the only first-round winner to win his second-round game, defeating tough Mack Pokorny (1118). The second round also saw two of our three unrated players notching their first rated wins, with Isaac Arellano beating Rebekah Grace Holguin and Jake Jasmin defeating Fernando Porras (630).

When I initially posted the tournament announcement, I listed three prizes based on eight entries. When the turnout proved to be 50% larger than expected, we added a fourth prize. So it was that, going into the final round, nine of the twelve players were in the running for at least a tie for one of the four prizes. John Helwick was a lock with his two-point score, but he was paired against top-seeded Matt Grinberg. That game would prove to have the biggest impact on how the prizes would be divided, as John was the only player who could achieve a perfect score and secure sole first prize.

The third-round games did not disappoint! After struggling in his first two games, Matt Grinberg scored a solid win over John Helwick to raise his tally to 2½. John was still in the money at 2. Bill Daly and Lucas Omar Reyes engaged in a tight struggle and it was just a slight miscalculation by Lucas in the end game that allowed Bill to secure the full point. Bill thus joined Matt in the 2½ point group, while Lucas, unfortunately, was left in the 1½ point group and out of the money. At this stage, it all came down to the game between Grace Yarborough and Matt Pokorny to see if there would be a three-way tie for first-second-third prize money. Grace, at 1½ was the only one of the two who could attain the three-way tie. But Mack played spoiler, winning the game with some sharp play, knocking Grace out of the money, and placing himself in the 2-point group, splitting the money for third and fourth prizes. The game between Isaac Arellano (UNR) and Jake Jasmin (UNR) decided the final prize winner, with Isaac winning an exciting game against his good friend and fellow Cruces Chess Club member Jake. I’ve included their game below. Among those not in the running for a prize, Rebekah Grace Holguin won a 70-move game against John Winter (778) where Rebekah proved her two pawns were worth more than John’s knight in the endgame. Timothy Brackeen and Fernando Porras drew their final round encounter.

Here is the game between Jake Jasmin and Isaac Arellano.

Jake Jasmin (UNR) vs Isaac Arellano (UNR)
Cruces Chess Club July Open Rd3 8 July 2023

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d6 4. Bc4 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bxf3 7. gxf3? This is a bold move to open the g-file for offensive operations but the weakening of white’s kingside - especially the h4 to e1 diagonal - seems more dangerous than White’s threats. 7…Nh5! Black moves quickly to exploit the weak points in White’s kingside. Note that the ill-placed doubled pawn at f3 blocks the queen from preventing this move. 8. h4 played to take this square away from Black’s queen, but Isaac’s follow-up is devastating. 8…Be7! Black now gets in the threatened check on the h4-e1 diagonal, ending the possibility for White to castle. 9. d3 Bxh4+ 10. Kd2?! Ugly as it is, Ke2 might have been better, except that it walks into a fork. The text move blocks White’s dark-square bishop, but there aren’t many good choices here. 10…Nxf4 11. Qg1 Bg5 12. Kd1 Qf6 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Bxg5!? An interesting intermezzo, but Black has one of his own to save the tempo and the knight hanging on d5. 14…Qxf3+ 15. Kd2 Nf4 16. Rh2 played to stop Qe2+ without allowing a trade of queens, but Black’s next move is almost as painful. 16…Nh3! 17. Rxh3 Qxh3 18. Rf1 finally getting this piece into the action, but a lot of damage has been done already. 18…f6 19. Be3 Qd7 20. c3 O-O-O 21. Bxa7 Nxa7 22. Qxa7 Qh3 23. Rf5! Nice move to block the white diagonal, closing out the Black queen and threatening Be6+! Jake finally getting something going reminds me of a boxer having absorbed several devastating blows from Mike Tyson, only to rise from the canvas and continue fighting! 23… Kd7 24. Qxb7 Qg2+ A necessary intermezzo to set up the transfer of the queen back to the queenside to defend Black’s suddenly beleaguered king. 25. Kc1 Qg1+ 26. Kc2 Qb6 27. Qd5 Kc8 28. Qa8+ Qb8 29. Qc6 Qb6 30. Qa8+ trying for perpetual check? 30…Kd7 avoids the perpetual check 31. Qd5 c6 32. Qf7+ Kc8 33. Qxg7? The final error. This just creates an open file by which one of Black’s connected rooks can decisively invade White’s position. 33…d5 34. exd5 R(h)g8! Qxf6 0-1 and Black soon delivered check mate. In the end, Houdini could not escape. This was a hard-fought game. Congratulations to Isaac!

Rebekah Grace Holguin (785) vs John Winter (778)
Cruces Chess Club July Open Rd3 8 July 2023

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Bc5 3. Nf3 d6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. h3 Qe7 6. O-O Be6 7. Bxe6 Qxe6 8. d3 O-O 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bxf6?! Gives up the minor exchange. Black now has the sole remaining bishop 10…Qxf6 11. Nd5 nice outpost 11…Qd8 12. a3 Nd7 13. b4 Bd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 White is slightly better. 15. Re1 c6 16. Nf4 Ne5 nice outpost 17. Rc1 Qf6 18. Qd2?! Qg5! Pins the knight, threatens killer fork 19. Qe2? eliminates the pin and defends against the fork, but drops the knight 19…Qxf4 20. c3 dxc3 21. d4! creates central pawn duo 21…Ng6 22. Rxc3 Re8 23. Rf3 Nice rook lift! 23… Qg5 24. Rg3 Qb5 25. Qxb5 cxb5 26. d5? creates hanging e pawn 26…Nf4 27. Rge3 Ng6 better is 27. … f6, cementing backwardness (and weakness) of white’s e pawn 28. a4?! a6?! I’m not sure what either move accomplishes 29. axb5 axb5 30. Rc1 Re5 31. Rc7 R8e8 32. f3 Ne7 33. Kf2? Rc8? …Nxd5!! eliminates the d pawn with the threat of winning the exchange. 34. Rxb7 Rc2+ 35. Re2 Rxe2+ 36. Kxe2 One pair of rooks off the board. 36…Ng6 37. Rxb5 Nf4+ 38. Kf2 g5 39. Rb8+ Kg7 40. Rd8 Nd3+ 41. Kg3 Nxb4 42. Rxd6 Nd3 43. Kg4 Nf4 44. g3?? (44. Kg3) Ng6?? (44… h5#) 45. h4 creates needed “luft” for the king 45…gxh4 46. gxh4 h5+ 47. Kg3 Re7 48. Rb6 Ne5 49. Rb5 Rd7 blocks the passer 50. f4! “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, get them pawns a rollin’, Rawhide!” (Yes, I’m old, bringing up theme songs from 1950s TV westerns) 😊 51…Nd3 51. d6? why give up the advanced central passed pawn to grab an outside pawn? 51…Rxd6 52. Rxh5 Rg6+ 53. Kf3 Ne1+ 54. Ke2 Ng2 55. Kf3 Ne1+ 56. Ke2 Nc2 57. f5 Rh6 58. Rg5+! the trade of rooks is not yet favorable for white. 58…Kh7? the king needs to move toward the center, not away from it. White has two pawns for a knight in this position, but the two pawns are superior to the knight, especially with Black’s pieces largely misplaced on the edge of the board. 59. h5?! Nd4 60. Ke3 Nc6 61. Kf4 f6 62. Rg6 Rxh5 63. Rxf6 Nd8 64. Rd6 Nf7 65. Rd7 Kg8 66. e5 Rh7? This is a critical error. Black needs to get the rook behind the advancing white pawns 67. e6 Nh6 68. Rd8+ Kg7 69. e7! it’s all over now. 69…Nf7 70. e8=Q Nxd8 71. Qxd8 Resigns 1-0 An interesting struggle where two pawns prove better than a knight. Congratulations to Rebekah!

Ron Farrar, 7/11/2023