When the game between Meruga and Studen finished, all eyes, or at least my two, turned to the game on top board. IM Ron Burnett, from the Great State of Tennessee, needs no introduction. He has played in, and won, so many tournaments in Georgia he should be made an honorary citizen. Of all the memories I have of Ron, several stand out. After losing the only tournament game we contested, Ron said, “I did not know you were so strong.” Hearing that assuaged my hurt pride to some extent. I happened to walk by a game in which Ron had just arrived at a position of Bishop & Knight versus King. I stood there while the International Master took about thirty seconds to consider the position before beginning to play his moves, which came with rapid fire once he began. Then there was the time at one of the US Masters in Hendersonville, North Carolina, when Ron was locked in battle with FM Miles Ardaman. Time was short and the players were playing as if it were a speed game. While they played, LM Klaus Pohl, for some unknown reason, was histrionically gesticulating while also making much noise. The two players sat transfixed, oblivious to the commotion. I asked NM Neal Harris, “Has Klaus lost his mind?” Neal said only, “Yes.” I never learned what caused the Dour Kraut to come unglued, but I did ask both players if they had been bothered by the outburst. “What outburst?” they said. The game ended in a draw.
Alan Piper needs no introduction to local readers as he has been one of the most prolific players locally for many years. Mr. Piper best typifies what used to be the motto of the USCF, “Chess is a lifetime sport,” until it became, “Chess is a children’s game.” The Pipe is a former Champion of the Great State of Missouri. I went to the website of the Missouri Chess Association (http://www.mochess.org/Champs.php) to determine when, and how many times Alan won the Championship, but the list of Champions only goes back to 1999. It is surprising it went back to the last year of the last century. I am not surprised it goes no further because to the new people who have taken over chess the players of an earlier era are dead, even if they still play the game. Suffice it to say Alan Piper has been a factor in every chess tournament in which he has participated since he set foot in Georgia. He is a taciturn, unprepossessing gentleman who loves the Royal game. As one of the few Seniors who still play, he is one of the players the herd of children must “kill” in order to advance in the ranks. Most do not succeed. One who did is Reece Thompson, by now old enough to be considered a veteran, who bested The Pipe in round four, the only blemish in Alan’s score as he sat down to face Ron in the last round.
Ron Burnett vs Alan Piper
Last round Ga Open Top Board
1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Nd5 Bc5 6.
e3 O-O 7. Ne2 d6 8. a3 a6 9. O-O Nxd5 10. cxd5 Ne7 11. d4 exd4 12. Nxd4 Nf5 13.
Nc2 Re8 14. b4 Bb6 15. Bb2 Bd7 16. e4 Nh6 17. Qd2 Bb5 (17… Ng4) 18. Qc3 (A natural choice, my choice, but Houdi shows 18 Rfc1 is better) Qg5 19. Rfe1 Ng4
20. Nd4 Qh5 21. h3 (h4!?) Ne5 22. a4 Bd7 23. g4 Qh4 24. a5 Ba7 25. f4 (This self-pins the Knight. 25 Re2!) Ng6 (25… Rac8 26. fxe5 dxe5 and “pin to win”) 26. Kh2 Bxd4
27. Qxd4 f6 28. Rf1 (28 f5 is one of the most ugly moves ever seen, severely weakening the dark squares and giving the e5 square to the Knight, but must be played because of the possibility of…) Bxg4 29. f5 (Closing the barn door after the horse has escaped) Ne5 30. Rf4 (The program thinks the White position so bad it plays 30 Qf2, allowing a trade, and then takes the Knight to boot. If that had happened we would not have what is about to follow. Sometimes a player must play a dubious move, knowing just how dubious it is!) Qh5 31. Ra3 Be2 32. Rg3 Kh8 33. Bc3
Rf8 34. Qd2 Rae8 35. Bxe5 Rxe5 36. Rf2 Bb5 37. Bf3 Qe8 38. Rfg2 Re7 39. Qd1 Qd8
40. Rg4 Be8 41. Rh4 Qd7 42. Bh5 Qa4 43. Qg4 Kg8 (43… Bxh5 44. Qxh5
h6 and if 45. Qg6 Qe8) 44. Bxe8 (Qf4!?) Qxe8 45. Rh5 Rff7 46.
Re2 (46 Rh4) Qb5 (46…Re5!) 47. Rh4 Re5 48. Qh5 (48. Rb2) Stop! Consider the position. Although Black has a “Beeg Pawn,” he is under a withering attack from his top-seeded IM opponent. How does one defend against the onslaught from the heavy artillery?
48…h6 ( 48…g5! A move I did not even consider because of my dogmatic thinking in adherence to the “rule” of “never moving a pawn in front of the King when under attack.” Sometimes the most beautiful defensive move is one not played…)
49. Rg2 Kf8 50. Rhg4 Qd7 (50… Qe8) 51. Qg6 Ke8 52. Qh7 (The program considers taking the Rook with 52 Qxf7 and going into a pawn down endgame best, but what do machines really know? The human is trying to WIN THE GAME!)
52…Ree7 (A natural defensive move, but it gives the advantage to White. Alan should have played, there it is again, 52…g5!) 53. Rxg7 Kd8 (53… Rf8 !?) 54. Rxf7 Rxf7 55. Rg8+ (55. Qh8+ and it is all over but the shouting) Ke7 56. Rg7 Qe8 57. Qxh6 (57. Rxf7+!) Qb5? (With this move the Pipe cracked. Simply 57…Kd8 is equal) 58. Rxf7+ Kxf7 59. Qg6+ Ke7 60. Qg7+ Ke8 61. Qg8+ Kd7 62. Qe6+ Kd8 63. Qxf6+ Ke8 64. Qg6+ Kd8 65. f6 Qe2+ 66. Kg3 Qf1 67. Qg8+ Kd7 68. Qe6+ Kd8 69. Qe7+ 1-0
A thrilling battle. There were many vicissitudes and missed opportunities by both players. This game is what chess is all about. It is the kind of all-out battle one would expect from a last round game, and should be the kind of game played in each and every round. Unlike the truncated early agreed draws that proliferate these daze, this game is a credit to both the victor and the vanquished. All I can say is, “Thank you, gentlemen.”
T bone Burnett – Kill Zone