After Reece Thompson dispatched Maxwell Feng in the last round all eyes turned to the battles taking place on the first two boards. Reece was the leader in the clubhouse with six points. On board two both Shanmukha Meruga and Damir Studen had five points. On the first board Alan Piper had five points, with IM Ron Burnett the lone player with five and a half points.
I have known Damir since he first came to the House of Pain. He had that “look.” Most chess players will know what I mean by the “look.” Call it “desire” or “will to win,” or whatever you would like to call it. Damir’s eyes burned with a fierce intensity; likewise Shanmukha Meruga. His will to win was so intense that the boy had a problem accepting defeat. It was no surprise for me to see Mr. Meruga playing on second board in the last round of the Georgia Open.
Damir had drawn with Grant Oen in round four and IM Burnett in round six.
Damir Studen (2373) vs Grant Oen (2072)
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4 4. Bd2 Qe7 5. a3 Bxd2 6. Qxd2 d6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. e4 e5 9. d5 a5 10. Rb1 a4 11. Qc2 Nbd7 12. Bd3 Nc5 13. O-O Nh5 14. Ne2 f5 15. Nd2 f4 16. f3 Rf6 17. Rf2 Rh6 18. Nf1 g5 19. h3 Ng7 20. Nc1 Bd7 21. Be2 Rg6 1/2-1/2
Damir Studen (2373) vs IM Ron Burnett (2467)
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. h3 O-O 7. Be2 a6 8. c5 Nfd7 9. Na4 e5 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nd4 Ned7 12. O-O b5 13. cxb6 Nxb6 14. Nc5 N6d7 15. Qc2 Nxc5 16. Qxc5 Bb7 17. Nb3 Nd7 18. Qb4 Rb8 19. Nc5 Qe7 20. Nxa6 c5 21. Qb5 Bxa6 22. Qxa6 Bxb2 23. Bxb2 Rxb2 1/2-1/2
Meruga had earlier beaten lower rated opposition and drawn with class “A” player Jhonel Baniel in round three, and Expert Kevis Tsao in round five.
Kevis Tsao (2082) vs Shanmukha Meruga (1888)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be6 7. Nd4 Qd7 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. Bd3 Nc6 10. Qh5 Qf7 11. Qxf7 Kxf7 12. Bf4 Be7 13. O-O-O Bf6 14. Rhe1 Rae8 15. Bg3 Re7 16. f4 Rhe8 17. Re2 h6 18. Rde1 e5 19. Bc4 Kg6 20. Bd3 Kf7 21. Bc4 Kg6 22. Bd3 Kf7 23. Bc4 1/2-1/2
The time control for the final two rounds was an almost classical, G/2. The difference between today and “back in the day” is that, if one is fortunate enough to make it to an endgame, one has little or no time to THINK. This is ironic in that high class games between good players are usually decided in the endgame. Because the games were almost real chess, and because my Sunday afternoon was spent riveted to the ‘puter screen, with a wooden board and pieces on which to cogitate, I have decided to share my notes and thoughts by annotating the games on the top two boards. And yes, I did utilize program assistance in order to spare you some of what GM Yasser Seirawan would no doubt call “howlers.”
Shanmukha Meruga (1888) vs Damir Studen (2373)
Final round Ga Open
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. h3 (This move was played by Jacob Murey (2485) against Heikki Westerinen (2385) at Brighton, 1983: 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. h3 Bf5 6. b4 Qb6 7. a3 e6 8. Bc4 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. d3 c6 11. Qe2 Nbd7 12. Nh4 Bg6 13. Nxg6 hxg6 14. Bd2 Bd6 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16. dxe4 Be5 17. Rad1 Rfd8 18. Be3 Qc7 19. f4 Bf6 20. Bb3 a5 21. Qg4 Bb2 22. f5 Nf6 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. Qf3 gxf5 25. exf5 exf5 26. Qxf5 axb4 27. axb4 Qe5 28. Qxe5 Bxe5 29. g4 Bd4 30. Bxd4 Rxd4 31. b5 Nd5 32. Ra1 Nf4 33. Kh2 Rd2+ 34. Kg3 g5 35. Ra7 Ne2+ 36. Kf3 Nd4+ 37. Ke4 Nxb3 38. cxb3 cxb5 39. Rxb7 Rh2
40. Rxb5 f6 41. Kf5 Kg7 42. Rb7+ Kh6 43. Rf7 Rf2+ 44. Ke4 Rf4+ 45. Kd5 Kg6 46. Rc7 Rf3 47. b4 Rxh3 48. b5 Rg3 49. b6 Rxg4 50. Rc5 Rb4 51. Kc6 g4 52. b7 Rxb7 53. Kxb7 f5 54. Kc6 Kg5 55. Kd5 g3 56. Ke5 g2 57. Rc8 Kg4 58. Rg8+ Kf3 1/2-1/2. Although little played, it has scored as well as the most often played move, 5 d4, according to the CBDB, 57%.) c6 (SF & Hou play e6) 6. Bc4 (The programs prefer d4) Bf5 7. d3 (Missing the first opportunity to play Qe2! It has become popular lately to play this, d3, move in lieu of d4, but it has not scored as well as the older move.) 7…e6 8. O-O (Missing the second opportunity to play Qe2! ) 8…Nd5 (It cannot be correct to move a piece twice in the opening, thereby delaying the development of other as yet undeveloped pieces) 9. Ne2 (The simple Bd2 is best. Even taking with Bxd5 is better) Be7 10. Ng3 Bg6 11. Ne5 O-O 12. Nxg6 hxg6 13. a3 Nd7 14. Re1 Qb6 15. c3 Rad8 16. Qc2 N7f6 17. Bg5 Rfe8 18. Rad1 Qc7 19. Ba2 Rd7 20. Re2 (d4) Bd6 21. Ne4 Bf4 (Nxe4 and Be7 should be considered) 22. Nxf6+ (22. Bxf6 Nxf6 23. Nc5 Rdd8 24. d4 and White has a slight advantage) Nxf6 (22… gxf6!?) 23. Bxf4 Qxf4 24. Red2 g5 25. Bb1 (25. d4 !?) g4 26. g3 Qh6 27. h4 g5 28. hxg5 Qxg5 29. d4 Kg7 30. Kf1 (30. Qd3 !) Rh8 (30… Qd5 !) 31. Ke2 (31. Qd3!) Rh2 32. Rf1 Rd8 (32… Qd5 !) 33. Qd3 Nd5 34. Ba2 Ne7 35. Qe3 Qb5+ 36. Ke1 Qf5 37. Re2 Ng6 38. Qe4 Qg5 (38… Qh5!) 39. Qe3 (Missing his chance to get back in the game with 39 f4!) Qh5 40. Bb1 f5 (Possibly 40… Ne7 improves) 41. Kd1 (Trying to get outta Dodge. Taking the pawn with 41 Qxe6 is obviously fraught with danger. Back in the day the time control would have been reached with additional time being added, so the players would have had time to THINK. These daze the fatigued players have no time to do anything other than continue to push themselves, racking their exhausted brains for a move…any move. 41 Qd3 may be best) e5 42. Rd2 e4 43. d5 Rh1 (43… Rxd5 ! Now White has an advantage) 44. Rxh1 Qxh1+ 45. Kc2 Rxd5 46. Rxd5 cxd5 47. Qxa7 (The more circumspect 47 Qd4+ Kh6 48 Ba2 keeps the advantage) Qf3 48. Qxb7+ (48 Kb3, getting outta Dodge) Kh6 49. Qxd5 (It was imperative to play either 49 Qa7 or Qb6 to guard the pawn on f2) Qxf2+ (49…e3!) 50. Kd1 (With this move the young man let go of the rope. He should have played 50 Kb3!) e3 51. Qd3 Ne5 52. Qe2 Qxg3 53. Bxf5 Qf4 54. Be6 Kg5 55. b4 Qe4 56. Qc2 Qh1+ 57. Ke2 Qg2+ 0-1
A fine last round battle between one who has already made a name for himself and one who is coming on strong. Mr. Meruga has shown he is a force with which to be reckoned with in Georgia.
Signum- Coming On Strong