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50th Tennessee Open, 1996
Round 5 Board 1
White: Peter Bereolos
Black: GM Sam Palatnik

These notes are based on those originally appearing in Tennessee Chess News.

50 must be my lucky number. In 1991 I became the 50th Indiana state champion. Going into this last round game, I was leading the field with a perfect 4-0 score. Trailing me were Palatnik and Matthew Puckett at 3.5. Since Puckett is an Alabama resident, I knew I only needed a draw to take the title. However, I decided before the game to try to play a sharp game instead of playing for a draw.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5

I expected Palatnik to play his usual Benko Gambit, which suited me fine as white has several ways to complicate the game. 3. Nf3 would have been a quiter way to play.

3...b5 4. axb5 a6 5. Nc3!?

The ultrasharp Zaitsev variation. This is probably the crudest try to try and refute the Benko.

5...axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 d6

Of course not 7...Nxe4?? when 8. Qe2 wins a piece because of the mate threat on d6.

8. Bf4

The most common move in this position. Other tries include 8. Bc4 and 8. Nf3.


Platnik is also playing sharply. The more typical way of playing, first suggested by Benko, is 8...g5 when after 9. Bxg5 Nxe4 is with tempo.

9. Qe2

Another option here is Bd3 which would probably be met with the same reply.

9... g5

Counter-attacking the white Bishop to take pressure off of the d6 square.

10. Be5!?

A few years ago I lost a very short game to Boris Men with the move 10. Bc1, so I wanted to try a different approach.

10... dxe5 11. Qxe4 Bg7 12. d6 Ra5 13. Nc7+

Probably not the best move. White stops black from castling and obtains some pressure on the light squares, but 13. Rd1 keeping the central tension deserves more attention. I later tried this move in a game versus Boris Men and two games versus Bill Melvin getting good positions, but only scoring 2 draws. However, considering my record against those 2 players (+1 =3 -7 as of Oct. 1999 including several brutally short losses) maybe scoring 1/3 is not so bad.

13...Kf8 14. dxe7+ Qxe7 15. Nd5 Bb7

This pin will prove to be very awkward for white.

16. Bc4 Nd7 17. Qf5 Bxd5 18. Bxd5 e4!

Black takes the opportunity to open up his dark square Bishop. Now, 19. Bxe4 is terrible because of 19...Bxb2 20. Rb1 Bc3+ and Rxa2, so white looks to cover the c3 square.

19. Ne2 c4!

Lining the rook up against White's queen

20. 0-0 Nb6 21. Rad1 Be5

It looks like White is totally busted. His bishop is attacked and can't move because of Bxh2+ picking up the white queen. Likewise, 22. Qxe4 loses to Nxd5 and Bxh2+. Here I played my best move of the game, the only way to keep the game alive.

22. f4!

Blocking the bishop's diagonal and opening up the f file for attacking chances against the f7 square. I saw the upcoming forced sequence coming where white wins a piece but couldn't evaluate the ensuing ending because of black's powerful passed pawns. However, since I didn't see any other move that didn't lose immediately I played the text.


I think 22...exf3 23. Qxf3 f6 followed by Kg7 unwinding is better.

23. fxe5 Ne3 24. Rd8+Kg7 25. Qf6+ Qxf6 26. exf6+Kg6 27. Rxh8 Nxf1 28. Kxf1 Rxa2 29. Rc8 Rxb2 30. Rxc4

This was the position I saw when playing f4. At the time I wasn't sure how I was going to stop the black pawns, but now I think the position is equal.

30...e3 31. g4 b3

31...Kxf6 is better.

32. Rb4

I should have taken advantage of black's last move by playing Rc6 hanging onto my pawn. After 32...Rb1+ 33. Kg2 b2 34. Rb6 it is unclear how either side can make progress. During the game I missed that Black cannot play 34...Rd1 35. Rxb2 Rd2 because of 36. Rxd2 exd2 37. Nc3 winning.

32...Kxf6 33. Nc3 Kg6 34. Rb6+ f6 35. h3 Rf2+ 36. Ke1 Rf3 37. Rxb3 e2 38. Kxe2 Rxh3 39. Kd2 h5

Eliminating whites last pawn. The best white can hope for is an ending of R+N vs. R which is drawn although Kasparov did manage to beat Polgar in that ending earlier in 1996.

40. gxh5+Kxh5 41. Rb5 Rf3 42. Ne4 f5 43. Nxg5!?

Since black has all the winning chances I decided to bail out to the theoretical draw at this point to assure myself the state championship. Palatnik's flag was already hanging at this point, and now the story gets interesting

43...Kxg5 44. Ke2 Kg4 45. Rb4+??

On the last move of time control white throws everything away. Correct was 45. Rb8 with a simple draw. At this point Palatnik hesitated. He reached out for his rook, but then realized 45...Rf4 46. Rxf4+ Kxf4 47. Kf2 is an elementary draw.

Then he played 45...f4+?, but his flag fell before he could stop his clock

1-0 (time)

White now has his draw again with 46. Rb8. The correct move was 45...Kg3! When after 46. Rb8 Rf2+! 47. Ke1 f4! black wins. For example 48. Ra8 Rb2 49. Kf1 Rb1+ 50. Ke2 f3+ -+ or 48. Rg8+ Kf3 49. Ra8 Rb2 50. Rf8 Rb1+ 51. Kd2 Rf1 52. Rf7 Kg2 53. Ke2 f3+ 54. Ke3 Re1+ 55. Kf4 f2 56. Rg7+ Kf1 -+. An interesting game all the way and my first win ever against a GM.