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Round 1 of the 37h Lebanese Individual Championship 2011: Fighting on all boards

By: Charles Kayle

The opening ceremony of the final stage of the 37thLebanese individual championship was held in the Naji ElAli hall of Assafir newspapers building, in the presence of Mr. Ahmad Salman, general manager of Assafir Newspapers, and Hajj Nabil Sinno the president of the Lebanese Chess Federation, and other members of LCF board. The organizing team is composed as follows: Director of the tournament is Mr. Hassan ElJundi,  Mr.  Ali ElJawish as deputy chief arbiter, and your servant, as Chief arbiter.

After 2 qualification phases held during the year, the final list of qualifiers reached 15 names. The only setback was the withdrawal of WIM Kanarik Mouradian from the competition due to extra –duty work charges, and the CM Nassim Sakr , due to personal familial matters. Their absence will be felt for sure in the competence for the highest national title.

Back to the games and board-by-board pairing, the top seeded and 3 times champion of Lebanon Faisal Khairallah was facing with the black pieces the young Bassel Sharaf. The double-Fianchetto or the Nimzo-Larsen opening was on the board, in which Faisal adopted the King’s Indian formation with an early f5, to be transformed later to a closed Sicilian with reversed colors.

A tense battle started to emerge on the whole board with strong and weak squares as theme of middle game. After queens exchange, the black king starts his march to support his g-passed pawn, sacrificing his queen-side ones, forcing white to sacrifice his rook for the passer, to reach this very interesting position:

Now Bassel pushed his c-pawn, which gave Faisal a great opportunity to show his technique and cool headed play, reaching several zugswang situations, forcing his opponent to drop his a-pawn and later the c-one, and the game.

Instead the b-pawn push could give White a lot of chances for win!!! Just one variation: 48 b5 Rg1 49 a6 Ra1 50 b6 Rxa6 51 c5 Ra5  52 Kc4 Ra4+ 53 Kb5 Ra2 54 c6 Kd4 55 c7  Rc2 56 b7  Rxc7 57 b8=Q with a Queen vs. Rook ending, in which black has to find the only moves to save himself.

Board two witnesses the fight between the experienced x-champion FM Ahmad Najjar, handling the White pieces, and the qualified Marwan Sharbel.  Equal chances were offered for both sides after the calm London system opening. But black was too ambitious, forget to secure his king, and started maneuvering with his night and queen. In the meantime, Ahmad castled, centralized his rooks and gaining important tempo by threatening to penetrate into the black’s position, using threats against Marwan’s queen. This forced the later to outside her majesty to the a3 square. And after Ra4, the black queen was trapped in open board, forcing Marwan to resign immediately.

Board three saw a normal Closed Sicilian between the young Daniel Koubaissi and the x-champion experienced CM Antoine Kassis. A typical and theoretical middle game arises, with a g-pawn push from the white, countered in a typical and classical reaction by advancing the f-pawn, supported by the d-one. After the opening of the g-file, some attacking schemes appeared on the board, where Kassis get profited from them, played on both sides of the board, and simultaneously creating attacking chances on the king side and in the center, which forced the white queen to look around searching for some targets, but in vain, which forced Daniel to seed materials and the game.

As mentioned earlier, the young FM Ibrahim Shahrour won his game by forfeit on the fourth board of CM Nassim Sakr.

Board 5 witnessed a tough battle between the current Champion FM Amr ElJawish, as Black, and the qualified Roland Akhrass. Amr didn’t handle correctly the middle game with hanging pawns for white, supported with 2 raging bishops. Roland applied the maxim of Steinitz, profiting from his advantage to initiate a king-side attack, to reach the following position:

Now Roland played: fxg6. Instead, the break-through e6 would create the desired damage in the Black position. Later Roland played some imprecise moves, allowing Amr to counter-attack and even reaching a winning position:

Amr played here: 30…  Bxc5+ which was still wining, but why not taking the Bishop on b2, keeping the mate threat on g2, and defending , when necessary , with Be7 or Bg7. But time trouble had his word. After 31 Kh1, he took the bishop, which gave Roland a gold opportunity to save the game by perpetual check: 32 Qf7+  Kh6  33 Qf4+ Kh7 34 Qh7+ etc.

Another experience –vs-young battle was taking place on the 6th board, between the experienced Dr.Mahmoud Maasarani and the young and talented player Michel Adeimi. An interesting and fighting opening was headline of the game. Michel sacrificed a pawn to pin the white knight. After 18 moves, they reached the following position:

Now, a possible move was 18 Nxf5 that could lead to a very interesting position, where white would sacrifice his queen for 2 pieces , getting profit from the presence of the black king in the center, But  Mahmoud played  19Be5, and the game was driven to a mass of exchanges, and entered the ending phase , and a 3-times repetition draw.

Board 7 saw the return of the qualified player Amin Haidar, after a long break from the competition. He faced the rising Marwan Nassar. Unfortunately for Amin, he got greedy, trying to defend his c5-pawn, neglecting his development, his center and his king, not to mention his wondering queen, to reach the following position after just 12 moves:

Marwan played: 12..Bxc5, leaving his knight en prise, as Bd4 was a threat. An insecure White king, a strong passed pawn for the opponent, not to mention the non-developed pieces, all this forced white to seed materials before resigning.

The last board witnessed the bizarre Sokolsky opening, played by the experienced Jamal Shamiyeh against the qualified Jihad ElHusseini:

Everything is possible under the sun. After the 20th move by white, they reached the following one:

Jihad played 20…d5 , in order to liberate his position, 21.cxd5, and now instead of the normal 21..cxd5, he played 21..Nxd5??, blundering the g4-bishop.

All in all, the games were very interested to follow.

The championship for this year is distinguished with the presence of young talented players who are fighting the experienced ones, and trying to prove that they deserve a place in the Lebanese Olympic team.