Richard Francisco’s Quest for the Elusive IM Norm at the Summer 2019 CCCSA GM/IM Norm Invitational

The CCCSA Summer 2019 GM/IM Norm Invitational was held at the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy June 6-9. There were three sections, GM; IM B; & IM C. After an overview we will focus on the IM B section for reasons which will become clear soon enough. But first I would like to mention the GM section ended in a tie between GM Karen Grigoryan, of Armenia, and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy, from the USA. Grigoryan was running away with the tournament until losing to IM Kassa Korley in the penultimate round. In the last round Grigoryan lost to Ostrovskiy while still clinging to a share of the lead.

In the IM C section GM Carlos Antonio Hevia Alejano, from Texas, shared first place with NM Aydin Turgut of Indiana. Full standings can be found @

GM Alonso Zapata,

now a resident of the Great State of Georgia, ran away with the section, finishing a clear point ahead of the field with 7 1/2 points. IM Felix Jose Ynojosa Aponte,

from Venezuela, was second with 6 1/2 points. They met in the seventh round:

Felix Jose Ynojosa Aponte (VEN) vs Alonso Zapata (COL)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 07

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. Bd3 Ne7 6. O-O (SF plays 6 b3 a move not seen since 1999, according to 365Chess. The move has appeared in only four games. There are no games at the ChessBaseDataBase with the move)
O-O 7. h3 (SF plays 7 Re1; Komodo plays 7 b3 a TN) c6 8. Re1 Ng6 (TN-SF plays 8…Na6) 9. c4 ½-½

Granted, this was the second game of the day so there must have been little thought from the GM other than to accept the gift. Zapata was born in August, 1958 and is currently sixty one years old. Aponte was born in 1996, and had the white pieces, yet did not even attempt to make a game of it against his much older rival. This reminds of the time decades ago when Ron Burnett had been paired with Sammy Reshevsky at a tournament such as the US Open, or maybe a World Open. Ron was ready for the battle, talking trash about what he was about to do to his opponent. “But Ron,” I said, “Sammy is a legend.” Ron shot back, “He ain’t nothing but an old man.” Once a player reaches a certain age he becomes the Rodney Dangerfield of Chess.

This was Aponte’s moment and what did he do? He offered a draw…Aponte has no cojones and unless he grows a pair in the near future the GM title will remain out of reach. Contrast the “game” and I use the term loosely, with Zapata’s last round game:

Alex Kolay (USA)

vs Alonso Zapata (COL)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 09

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 Nbd7 7. Bg5 e5 8. d5 a5 9. g4 Nc5 10. Nd2 c6 11. Be2 Bd7 12. Rg1 a4 13. b4 axb3 14. axb3 Qb6 15. Rb1 Qb4 16. Qc2 Ra3 17. Kf1 Rfa8 18. Kg2 Na6 19. Qb2 Nc7 20. Be3 Nfe8 21. f3 R3a5 22. Ra1 Rxa1 23. Rxa1 Rxa1 24. Qxa1 Bf6 25. Qb2 c5 26. Na2 Qa5 27. b4 cxb4 28. Nxb4 Bd8 29. Nd3 b5 30. c5 f6 31. g5 Qa8 32. cxd6 Nxd6 33. Nc5 Be8 34. f4 Nf7 35. fxe5 fxe5 36. d6 Nxd6 37. Qxe5 Nf7 38. Qg3 Qc6 39. Ndb3 Qd6 40. Bf4 Qe7 41. h4 Ne6 42. Nxe6 Qxe6 43. Qd3 Bb6 44. Nd4 Qe7 45. Be3 b4 46. Nc2 Bc7 47. Nd4 Qe5 48. Nf3 Qe6 49. Nd2 Bd7 50. Bf2 Ne5 51. Qc2 Qh3+ 52. Kg1 Bd6 53. Qa2+ Kf8 54. Qd5 Nf7 55. Nf3 Qe6 56. Qa8+ Qe8 57. Qxe8+ Kxe8 58. Bc4 Bc6 59. Nd2 Ne5 60. Bg8 Kf8 61. Bb3 Bb5 62. Kg2 Nd3 63. Kf3 Nxf2 64. Kxf2 Bf4 65. Nf3 Bc6 66. Nd4 Bd7 67. Kf3 Bd2 68. Nc2 Bc3 69. Ke3 Bg4 70. Nd4 Be1 71. Nc6 Bxh4 72. Kf4 Be2 73. Nxb4 Be1 74. Nd5 Bd2+ 75. Ne3 Kg7 76. e5 Bd3 77. Kf3 Bc3 78. e6 Bb5 79. Nd5 Be5 80. Nb6 Bd6 81. Ke4 Be7 82. Kf4 Bd6+ 83. Ke4 Kf8 84. Nd7+ Bxd7 ½-½

Tying for third place were Georgia native NM Richard Francisco,

now thirty five years of age, and his last round opponent NM Zachary Dukic,

from Canada. They both finished with 6 points; 6 1/2 were required to earn an IM norm.

In the first round Richard faced a young (birth year 1997) IM Martin Lokander, from Sweden.

NM Richard Francisco (USA) – Martin Lokander (SWE)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 01

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Bd7 5. Nf3 a6 (5…Nc6 SF) 6. Bd3 cxd4 (Komodo and Stockfish at the CBDB both play 6…Nc6, but the SF at ChessBomb considers 6…Qc7, a potential TN, equal to Nc6) 7. cxd4 Bb5 (SF prefers 7…Nc6)

8. O-O? (This shows a lack of understanding of the position and is the beginning of problems for Richard. Both the Fish and the Dragon would play 8 Bc2. There are many other, better, moves, such as 8 Bxb5+; 8 Nc3; and 8 Bg5, all shown at the ChessBomb) Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Ne7 10. Nc3 Nbc6 (For 10 N3c6 see Papahristoudis v Savoglou below) 11. Ne2 Rc8 12. Bd2 Nf5 13. Nf4 Be7

14. g3? (This is obviously a very weak move and gives the advantage to black. There was no need to voluntarily weaken the castled position. Richard needs to read Sam Shankland’s book…Stockfish says 14 Rac1 keeps the game balanced. Unfortunately for our hero Richard, the game went downhill from here. This is my last comment on the game, which can be found here, along with input from Stockfish, albeit with little time to “cogitate.”

g5 15. Ne2 f6 16. g4 Nh6 17. exf6 Bxf6 18. h4 Nxg4 19. hxg5 Bg7 20. Nf4 O-O 21. Nxe6 Qd6 22. Nxf8 Rxf8 23. Ne5 Ngxe5 24. dxe5 Nxe5 25. Qg3 Nf3+ 26. Kg2 Qxg3+ 27. fxg3 Nxd2 28. Rxf8+ Kxf8 29. Rd1 Nc4 30. Kf3 d4 31. b3 Nd6 32. Rc1 Kf7 33. Rc7+ Kg6 34. Kf4 h6 35. gxh6 Bxh6+ 36. Kf3 Kf6 37. Ke2 Be3 38. Kd3 Kf5 39. a4 Bf2 40. Rg7 a5 41. Rg8 Nf7 42. g4+ Kf6 43. Rb8 Ne5+ 44. Ke2 Bh4 45. Rxb7 d3+ 46. Kd1 Nxg4 47. Rd7 Nf2+ 48. Kd2 Bg5+ 49. Ke1 Be3 50. Rd5 Ke6 51. Rd8 Ke5 52. Rd7 Ke4 53. Rd8 Bc5 54. Re8+ Kf3 55. Rb8 Ne4 56. Kd1 Bb4 57. Rd8 Ke3 58. Re8 Kd4 59. Kc1 Nf2 0-1

Anastasios Papahristoudis (2111) vs Nikolaos Savoglou (1890)

Ambelokipi op 75th 01/17/2007

C02 French, advance variation
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.Nf3 a6 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Bb5 8.O-O Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Ne7 10.Nc3 Nec6 11.a3 Nd7 12.Bf4 Be7 13.Rac1 Nb6 14.b4 O-O 15.Nd2 Qd7 16.Be3 f6 17.f4 fxe5 18.fxe5 Rxf1+ 19.Rxf1 Rf8 20.Rxf8+ Bxf8 21.Nf3 Be7 22.h4 Nc4 23.Bc1 b5 24.Ne2 Qe8 25.Nf4 Qf7 26.g4 g6 27.Nh3 Nd8 28.Bg5 Kg7 29.Kg2 h6 30.Bxe7 Qxe7 31.Nf4 Qf7 32.Kg3 Nc6 ½-½

It must have been devastating to lose, especially with the white pieces, in the very forst round when one needs 6 1/2 points to earn an IM norm. To make matters worse, Richard had to face the only GM in the tournament in the second round.

Richard Francisco (USA) vs Alonso Zapata (COL)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 02

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. f4 a6 7. Nxc6 Qxc6 8. Bd3 d6 9. a4 Nf6 10. O-O Be7 11. Kh1 Qc7 12. Qe2 O-O 13. e5 Nd7 14. exd6 Bxd6 15. Ne4 Be7 16. f5 exf5 17. Bf4 Ne5 18. Ng3 Bd6 19. Bxf5 Ng6 20. Bxd6 Qxd6 21. Rad1 Qc7 22. c3 Bxf5 23. Nxf5 Rad8 24. Rd4 Rfe8 25. Qf3 Rxd4 26. cxd4 Qd7 27. h4 Nf8 28. d5 f6 29. h5 Re5 30. d6 Kh8 31. h6 g6 32. Ng3 Qxd6 33. Qxb7 Re7 34. Qa8 Rf7 35. Ne4 Qe5 36. Nxf6 Qg5 37. Qe8 Qxh6+ 38. Kg1 Qg7 39. Qd8 h5 40. b4 Qh6 41. Qe8 Qg7 42. Qd8 Qh6 43. Qe8 ½-½

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. f4 (Not the best move in the position. Stockfish 10 at depth 49 would play 6 a3, a move which does not appear at the ChessBaseDataBase. SF 080219 at depth 46 plays 6 Be3, the most often played move, while SF 9 at depth 38 plays the second most often played move, 6 Be2) 6…a6 7 Nxc6 (The most often played move, but Komodo would play 7 Be2) 7…Qxc6 (Although the most often played move, SF 10 would play 7…bxc6) 8. Bd3 d6 (SF plays 8…b5, by far the most often played move) 9. a4 (SF 10 simply castles) 9…Nf6 10. O-O Be7 11. Kh1 (SF & Komodo prefer 11 Be3) 11…Qc7 (SF would castle) 12. Qe2 (Unfortunately, Qe2 is not always the best move. SF would play 12 a5) 12…O-O (SF 10 would play 12…b6) 13. e5 Nd7 14. exd6 Bxd6 15. Ne4 Be7 16. f5 (Komodo plays 16 Be3)

exf5 17. Bf4 SF plays 17 Ng3) Ne5 18. Ng3 Bd6 19. Bxf5 Ng6 (SF shows 19…Nc4 best) 20. Bxd6 Qxd6 21. Rad1 Qc7 22. c3 Bxf5 (SF prefers 22…Ne5) 23. Nxf5 Rad8 24. Rd4 (SF plays 24 Qg4) 24…Rfe8 (SF would play 24…Ne5)

25. Qf3 Rxd4 25 f6 SF) 26. cxd4 Qd7 (Houdini plays the “in your face” 26…Qf4) 27. h4 Nf8 (SF plays 27…Qe6) 28. d5 (28 h5 SF) f6 29. h5 Re5 (The Fish would rip off the pawn with 29…Qxa4) 30. d6 (The Dragon would play 30 b3) 30…Kh8 (Komodo would play 30…Qe6) 31. h6 g6 32. Ng3 (SF considers 32 Ne3 a much better move) 32…Qxd6 33. Qxb7 (Stockfish 10 would play 33 Ne4. The Fish at DaBomb would play 33 Qxf6) Re7 34. Qa8 (Komodo prefers 34 Ne4) Rf7 (SF 10 likes this move) 35. Ne4 Qe5 36. Nxf6 (Both the Fish and the Dragon prefer 36 b4) 36…Qg5 (36…Qe2 Komodo) 37. Qe8 (Both the Fish and the Dragon would take the pawn with 37 Qxa6) 37…Qxh6+ (37…Qh4+) 38. Kg1 Qg7 39. Qd8 h5

40. b4? (40 g4! SF) Qh6 41. Qe8 (41 Qd4 or Qb6) Qg7 42. Qd8 Qh6 43. Qe8 ½-½
The game can be found at ChessBomb:

Richard bested CM Abhimanyu Mishra with the black pieces in round 3 and FM Sahil Sinha with the white pieces in the fourth round before holding the draw with the black pieces against FM Seth Homa in the following round. He drew with the white pieces with the aforementioned Aponte in the first game played Saturday, June 8 before winning with black against FM Nikhil Kumar in the second Saturday game. This put Richard in the postition of needing to win both games the following day, Sunday.

Richard Francisco (USA) – Alex Kolay (USA)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 08

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bd7 6. a3 f6 7. Bd3 Qc7 8. O-O O-O-O 9. Re1 c4 10. Bc2 fxe5 11. dxe5 Bc5 12. Nbd2 Nge7 13. b4 cxb3 14. Nxb3 Bb6 15. a4 Na5 16. Nxa5 Bxa5 17. Ba3 Be8 18. Nd4 Qd7 19. Qf3 Bg6 20. Bxg6 hxg6 21. Rab1 Bb6 22. Bd6 Nc6 23. Qg4 Rde8 24. h3 g5 25. Qxg5 Bd8 26. Qe3 Na5 27. Rb5 b6 28. Reb1 Nb7 29. Ba3 Be7 30. Bxe7 Rxe7 31. a5 Nxa5 32. Rxa5 bxa5 33. Qd3 Kc7 34. Qa6 Qc8 35. Qd6# 1-0

Now it was time for the final round, a game Mr. Francisco needed to win to obtain an IM norm. His opponent was a Canadian NM, born in 1997, the lowest rated player in the event, who was having a very good tournament. Like Richard the Canuck also had 5 1/2 points and needed a win to garner the coveted IM norm.

Zachary Dukic (CAN) – Richard Francisco (USA)

Charlotte Summer Invitational IM 2019 round 09

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 Re8 (SF 8…d6) 9. Nxc6 (9 f3 SF) dxc6 10. Qxd8 Rxd8 11. a4 Ng4 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxe7 Re8 (13…Bxc3+ was played in Simacek v Zwardon below) 14. Ba3 Bxc3+ 15. bxc3 Rxe4+ 16. Kf1 Bf5 17. h3 Nf6 18. f3 Ree8 19. Kf2 Nd5 20. g4 Be6 21. c4 Nb6 22. Rhe1 a5 23. Bc5 Nd7 24. Be3 Kh7 25. c5 Bxb3 26. cxb3 Nf6 27. Bd2 Rxe1 28. Rxe1 Nd5 29. h4 Kg7 30. f4 f5 31. gxf5 gxf5 32. Re6 Kf7 33. Rd6 Nf6 34. Ke3 Re8+ 35. Kd3 Ne4 36. Rd4 Nxc5+ 37. Kc4 b6 38. Bxa5 Nxb3 39. Kxb3 bxa5

40. Kc4? (This move gave Richard the opportunity for which he was hoping. 40. h5 and it’s about an even game)

40…Re4? (SF at the Bomb has 40…Kg6 best and gives the following variation to prove it: (40… Kg6 41. Rd6+ Kh5 42. Rxc6 Re4+ 43. Kb5 Rxf4 44. Rf6 Rf1 45. Kxa5 f4 46. Kb5 f3 47. Kc4 Kxh4 48. Rxh6+ Kg5 49. Rh8 Ra1 50. Kb5 Rb1+ 51. Kc5 f2 52. Rf8 f1=Q 53. Rxf1 Rxf1 54. a5 Kf6 55. a6) 41. Rxe4 fxe4 42. Kd4 Kf6 43. Kxe4 h5 44. Kd4 Kf5 45. Kc5 Kg4 46. f5 Kxf5 47. Kb6 Kg4 48. Kxa5 Kxh4 49. Kb6 ½-½

During research for this post the following comment by Mr. Dukic was found:

“Well guys I almost got the norm. I needed a 2450 performance but since I drew my last game I only managed 2437.

I had 4.5/7 going into the final day and I would need 2/2 to secure the norm, including winning a game with black against a Swedish International Master. I managed to win this, so I only needed to win with white in the last round to secure the norm. If my opponent were to win, then he would win the norm. If we drew, nobody would get it. It was truly the money game!

It came down to a king and pawn endgame (see below) where I was one tempo short of victory. It resembles the endgame in Searching for Bobby Fischer except for one key detail: black’s pawn on c6 prevents my queen from controlling his queening square 😥

For those of you who followed along, hope you enjoyed it!”

I spent much time following the games from Charlotte via the internet, when it was up. The service received from AT&T leaves much to be desired. Frankly, having AT&T is like living in a third world country, with constant outages. The internet is frequently down and when down, stays down for many hours. Nevertheless, I persevered, while either muttering expletives, or screaming things like, “That blankety blank AT&T!!!”

One of the best things about viewing the games was they were given at ChessStream ( sans annotations so I could think for myself before heading over to the ChessBomb to learn what Stockfish, with little time and depth, had to say about the move and/or position.


Ga Open Final Round Board One: The Pipe Cracks

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 ( 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