The largest turnout of the year produced a very exciting month of chess for the May Knights Tournament. The 20 player field was strengthened by the inclusion of Joseph Garnier (2003), who hadn’t played a standard rated game in over a year. Garnier won first place overall with a perfect 4/4 score.
Garnier was clearly looking to win the tournament in the fourth round after he sacrificed a pawn in the opening against Ben Boaz (1708). In typical Garnier-style, White found himself down a pawn with terrific piece play as compensation. Garnier missed a few chances to win the game earlier but never found himself in a worse position.
Joseph Garnier v. Ben Boaz // Annotation by GM Ben Finegold
Game of the Month
Round three was the real test for the May Knights champion. Joseph Garnier squared off with one of the highest rated players in the tournament – Jason Clark (1939). Both players are known for playing sharp, exciting chess, and the game promised to be one of the best games of the month from the start.
The game featured an exciting Sicilian Dragon – a favorite of Garnier's. Both players made several moves of theory, although Clark admitted after the game that he had to find many of the moves on his own.
The queens were traded on move 15, and a fascinating endgame ensued. All of the bishops and rooks were still on the board and White was temporarily up a pawn, but the safety of White’s king left Black with the more pleasant position.
Garnier could have maintained material parity on move 18 by playing a5, but he preferred instead 18. … Bf5 – increasing the activity of his pieces at the expense of his a-pawn. White remained up a pawn for the time being and by move 25, White had managed to bring his king to the defense of the a-pawn, freeing up the bishop on a7 to find a more active square.
Black always had plenty of compensation for the pawn due to his activity and the safer king, and by move 28 Garnier won his pawn back. White had an outside passed pawn on the a-file that gave him good chances to play for a win, but the careless 32. Bd4 allowed Black too much counter-play on the second rank. Black scooped up the g- and f-pawns, and the position of the White king finally began to haunt him. Garnier showed good technique to the end finding ways to maintain the pressure until White ultimately blundered mate in one in a complete lost position.
The hard fought battle between two of the highest rated competitors in this month’s tournament was Clark’s only lose. Clark finished with 3/4 points sharing second place with Daniel Coryea (1834).
Jason Clark v. Joseph Garnier // Annotation by GM Ben Finegold
In other news…
May was a good month for Chaim Zaromb – one of the youngest competitors in the field. Zaromb finished with 2/4 points and his rating spiked 145 points for his successful performance. Zaromb shared his split of the U1400 and U1700 prizes with Sean Malone (1358) and Manny Presicci (1600).
Zaromb’s biggest upset occurred in round three against Neil Schechter (1419). Zaromb emerged slightly better out of the opening due to Black’s isolated queen’s pawn, but Schechter was quick to trade off the weak pawn and the tables had turned. Schechter suddenly had a crushing position until he blundered with the move 25. … Rg4. After the trade of rooks, White played 27. Be4! and suddenly Black was helplessly facing a strong pin on the d-file. The wonderful turnaround is shown below:
Chaim Zaromb v. Neil Schechter // Annotation by GM Ben Finegold
The monthly Knights tournaments are month-long Swiss events where participants play one game every Wednesday night. A half-point bye may be requested for any round. The next Knights tournament will begin this Wednesday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. All participants receive free grandmaster analysis of all Knights games.