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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 The Road to Spiegel 2014
 Nathan Smolensky
  April 2014

2014 marked the debut of the Spiegel Cup Series, an additional route to qualification for the vaunted state scholastic championship through tournaments held at MACA’s affiliate clubs. Though this new path was added, the total number of participants in the invitational sections (14 and Under, 11 and Under, and 8 and Under) remained the same. Through aggregate SCS results, triumphs at the four automatic qualifiers, or the excellence demanded for those qualifying by rating, the fields were set for the February 9 the Barry S. Spiegel Cup Finals:

14 U

  • Evan Meyer 2079 Q1 Winner
  • Henry Liu 1786 Q2 Winner
  • Jason Tang 1899 Q3 Winner
  • Alvin Tan 1880 Q4 Winner
  • Anton Barash 1619 SCS Winner
  • Nithin Kavi 2043 Q by Rating
  • Conway Xu 2027 Q by Rating
  • Danny Angermeier 2013 Q by Rating
  • Carissa Yip 1991 Q by Rating
  • Allen Wang 1821 Q by Rating

11 U

  • Maxwell Zhao 1699 Q1 Winner 
  • Michael Yu 1618 Q2 Winner 
  • Eric Feng 1776 Q3 Winner 
  • Andrew The 1410 Q4 Winner 
  • Danila Poliannikov 1424 SCS Winner 
  • Brandon Wu 1828 Q by Rating 
  • Alex Yu 1765 Q by Rating 
  • Suraj Ramanathan 1671 Q by Rating 
  • Eddie Wei 1640 Q by Rating 
  • Lucy Cai 1629 Q by Rating

8 U 

  • Achyuta Rajaram 1292 Q1 winner 
  • Nicholas Belous 907 Q2 winner 
  • Derek Zhao 1115 Q3 winner 
  • David Zhou 1135 Q4 winner 
  • Arnon Kuzmin 1033 SCS winner 
  • Derek Jin 1390 Q by Rating 
  • Dustin Liang 1215 Q by Rating 
  • Bernie Xu 1104 Q by Rating 
  • David Xie 904 Q by Rating 
  • John Archibald 863 Q by Rating 

The high school section, meanwhile, was held as an open tournament, as it has been in recent years. It featured four masters: Grant Xu, Andrew Liu, Siddharth Arun, and Mika Brattain, the highest rated and eventual champion of the group, who has annotated his crucial final-round victory over Andrew Liu for CH:

NM Mika Brattain 2405
NM Andrew Liu 2336
Barry S. Spiegel Cup Finals
English [A21]
Annotations by M. Brattain

1. c4

After being the last to finish Round 3, I found myself with the only perfect 3-0 score. There were two competitors with 2.5: Andrew Liu and Siddharth Arun. I was playing Andrew, and Siddharth was playing Grant Xu who was 2-1. While a draw would clinch a tie for me, I still viewed this game as a must-win because I did not want to deal with any of the randomness associated with a blitz tiebreaker. Of course, both Andrew and Siddharth were in real must-win situations. This helped narrow down my opening choice in the final round.

As it turned out, Siddharth won his game which made my own win crucial to avoid the tiebreaker.

1… g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. g3

Rather than play into what I believe was preparation for a sharp King's Indian Defence, I chose a quieter "pure" English where Black cannot simply memorize a bunch of variations and cause trouble over the board.

3… e5 4. Bg2 d6 5. d3 f5 6. e4

One of several options for White in this position

6… Nf6 7. Nge2 O-O 8. O-O c6 9. h3 Be6 10. b3

I wanted to be able to meet ...fxe4 with dxe4, so the c4 pawn had to be defended

10… Qd7

(10... d5? 11. exd5 cxd5 12. Bg5±)

11. exf5!

This is a good time to release the tension and start harassing the Black pieces. 11. Be3? would be met with 11… fxe4 12. dxe4 Bxh3

11... Bxf5

(11... gxf5 12. d4)

12. g4 Be6 13. d4 exd4 14. Nxd4

My opponent began using a lot of time around this point, and after his next move was down to around thirty minutes. White is slightly better due to superior centralization and a weak d6-pawn as well as f4-f5 and g4- g5 ideas. Black's only chances revolve around an equalizing ...d6-d5 break, which makes trying to win the position (as I'm sure my opponent was still hoping to do) from the Black side very difficult. My job here was simply to retain both a positional and time advantage and force him to keep thinking.

14… Bf7 15. Be3 Na6 16. Qd2 Rfe8 17. Rad1 Nc7 18. Nde2 Rad8?

18... Red8 was necessary, for which I had planned 19. Qc2 d5 20. Rfe1 with a pleasant position.

19. Bxa7

It is easy to forget about this pawn when all the pieces are concentrated in the center. After losing a pawn, Black is under significant pressure to force something immediately, but his position has left him inadequately prepared to do so.

19… d5 20. Bb6±

20. g5 could be thrown in for good measure.

20... Qc8 21. Qf4!

I began burning my time advantage around here. I did not really mind, because these next few moves were the climax of this game, and it was important to avoid messing things up after gaining a significant advantage.

21… Ne6

21... Rd7 avoids losing a second pawn

22. Qg3 Rd7 23. cxd5 cxd5 24. Nxd5

There are no tricks despite Black's bishop hiding on f7 and undefended White pieces on b6 and e2. I was very careful and spent a solid ten minutes on this move, after which White is a solid two pawns ahead and clearly winning.

24… Ng5

(24... Nxd5 25. Rxd5 Rxd5 26. Bxd5 Qd7 27. Rd1!+- (27. Bg2?? Qb5-+ really would really hurt))

25. Nxf6+ Bxf6 26. Rxd7 Qxd7 27. Be3+-

Everything is nicely defended and the rest is a matter of technique.

27… Ne4 28. Qf3 Be5 29. Qxe4 Bh2+ 30. Kxh2 Rxe4 31. Bxe4 Qb5 32. Ng3 h5 33. gxh5 gxh5 34. h4 Bd5 35. Bxd5+ Qxd5 36. Rc1 Qf3 37. Rc4 Qd1 38. Rc5 Qb1 39. Rxh5 Qxa2 40. b4 Qb1 41. b5

It was a long day having to win all four games, three of which were against the #2, 3, and 4 seeds, each game lasting over two hours. Overall, I came away pleased with how I played in such a tough field.


Interestingly, Brattain would be the only player in the entire Spiegel finals to emerge as a sole section winner, though this is owing partially to the format and resulting ratings range of that section (close to a 2000-point spread between fourteen players). Three-way ties between players with three points apiece would top each invitational section:

Evan Meyer, Danny Angermeier, and Carissa Yip would share first in the 14 and Under. The 11 and Under was won by Brandon Wu, Suraj Ramanathan, and Michael Yu.

And finally, the 8 and Under was thrown for a bit of a loop when top-rated Derek Jin was upset in the first round by NESA team member Bernie Xu:

Bernie Xu 1234
Derek Jin 1428
Barry S. Spiegel Cup Finals (4)
Nimzo-Indian [D38]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 Nbd7 7. e3 c5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Nf3 Qc7 10. Be2 Ne4 11. O-O cxd4 12. Nxd4 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Qxc3 14. Qxc3 Bxc3 15. Rac1 Ba5 16. Bf3 Nb6 17. Nb3 Bb4 18. Nd4 Be6 19. Nxe6 fxe6 20. Rc7 g5 21. Bg3 Rc8 22. Bh5+ Kd8 23. Rxc8+ Kxc8 24. Rc1+ Kd8 25. Bf7 Ke7 26. Rc7+ Kf6 27. Bh5 Rc8 28. Rf7#

Xu would go on to share first in the section with Derek Zhao and Daniel Zhou. As for Jin, to his credit, this slight setback has not deterred his run of chess success. In recent outings at the Boylston Chess Club, he bested two A-players, quite the feat for a youngster not far removed from his 7th birthday.

The day would be a shining moment for many top scholastic players. How far they go remains to be seen, but for the moment they are the brightest stars on the Massachusetts chess horizon.