US CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP 2006
By Rick Aeria
ELLIOTT FALLS TO VANESSA WEST!
There are a million stories when you put 64 dedicated and determined contestants to compete for this nation's highest chess titles. This webpage is dedicated to one of these brave contestants. A young teenager from Olivenhain in San Diego's North County. His name is Elliott Liu, born 1990 in Boston, Massachussetts, at age 15 Elliott is one of the youngest participants in what is being hailed as one of the strongest US Championships this century! Elliott attends Bishop's School in La Jolla. I am boggled by how he has the time between school work, playing his cello, football, basketball, travel and yes, his computer video games- to study and improve at chess.
His age (15) and his participant in the U.S. Championship echo of another prodigy -about half a century ago - Bobby Fischer! Yet, his chess instructor IM Cyrus Lakdawala who has been working with Elliott for over six years does not regard Elliott as a prodigy. Hard work, a solid opening repetoire and the resiliency to absorb demoralizing losses and come out fighting again. These are Elliott's characteristics. Cyrus adds that Elliott's inclination to opt for chaotic, incalculable positions make him a very dangerous player. "Elliott's tactical vision," Cyrus modestly opines "clearly surpasses mine." And yet, Elliott can show a very balanced, sturdy and rock solid positional side just play over his draw with GM Kaidanov in round two.
Round 1: Elliott faces the dreaded "Yerminator" in GM Alex Yermolinsky. Elliott plays a spirited King's Indian Defence but has the worse of it. Then suddenly the "Yerminator's" circuits go on a 'fritz' and Elliott is lucky to salvage a precious half point. Click here for game.
Round 2: A rock-ribbed solid draw against yet another former Soviet grandmaster, Gregory Kaidanov. Elliott essays another Bobby Fischer favorite - The Ruy Lopez and Kaidanov steers it to the time-honored Tchigorin Variation. Elliott closes the center and in a blocked position. Play evolves around the two wings. Play through game here. Elliott later confided that this game took so much nervous energy out of him that he was drained for many days after that.
Round 3: In a promising position, Elliott goes astray and loses to IM Stanislav Kriventsov. Play through the game here.
Round 4: Coming off a disheartening loss, Elliott unleashes a tactical barrage on young Tatev Abrahamyan's position. Abrahamyan defends coolly then flicks out a lethal and brilliant retort 25. Bd5! Elliott spends an enormous amount of time mentally regrouping and steers the game toward survival. Play through the game here.
Round 5: No easy pairing for Elliott. This time he faces the strong Miami IM Blas Lugo. Once again the Ruy Lopez. Lugo deviates early with 5. ... b5 , 6. ... Bb7 and 7. ... d5 and pretty soon a sharp middlegame is reached. Once again Elliott ignites the fireworks with 21. f5 but his queenside looks underdeveloped. Lugo's play comes faster and Elliott gets saddled with an overloaded Queen which Lugo exploits deftly. Peruse this game here.
"If Fischer is God then I'm the Devil!"
- quote from Grandmaster Walter Shawn Browne from the late 1970's. Elliott's opponent today.
Round 6: Omigod! The kid can't catch a break! You would think that at 1 1/2- 3 1/2 Elliott would finally get a cream-puff pairing! No such luck! Instead, Elliott gets paired with a demiurge from the post-Fischer era. None other than Grandmaster Walter Browne who has won or tied for the U.S. Championship title at least six times! Ironically enough, this great man is making his appearance in this U.S. Championship as the U.S. Senior Champion! I sense a major battle looming. Don't miss this clash of generations!
Commentary on game that was in progress
Browne opens with 1. e4 and after 1. ... c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 Elliott uncorks his preparation 6. ... Bc5 !? I call it Cyrus' Indian Cobra a deceptively little-analyzed, tricky variation that he has worked with for about six months. A perfect choice against a booked-up veteran like Browne. Browne goes in for 7. Nd6+ Ke7 and then Browne goes into a trance as if mesmerized by the hidden complexities of the position. This is the added bonus of the Cobra, eating up the opponent's clock. Against a notorious time-trouble addict like Browne, nothing could be better planned! The surprise move reaps immediate dividends as Elliot is up half an hour after only 7 moves. After much thought Browne decides to simplify and at least grab the bishop pair by 8. Nxc8+ Rxc8 Then Browne aggressively posts his own king-bishop 9. Bc4 d6 10. Nd5+ Kf8 Slithering away 11. Nxf6 Qxf6 More piece exchanges to defang the cobra? 12. 0-0 Ne7 13. Kh1 To get out of the away a potential Bxf2+ in the future. 13. ... Qh4 Browne is already down to about 40 minutes to Elliott's one hour, but Browne's position looks much more better. Two bishops, better pawn structure. Black's king and central pawns look awkward.
14. Qf3 A multi-purpose move threating mate on f7 and protecting the e4-pawn. 14. ... Qf6 I would have riskily ventured with 14. ... d5 ?!? 15. Qe2 Browne eschews 15. Qxf6 gxf6 16. Bh6+. Time situation: Browne 27 minutes for 25 moves to Elliott 54 minutes. 15. ... g5 ! The cobra uncoils. Elliots has 46 minutes left. Browne wastes little time to reply 16. g3 Qg6 17. Bd2 Browne has picked up the pace. 17. ... Rg8 18. Rae1 Browne brings in his final reserves to the battle. He has 17 minutes left to make 23 moves. 18. ... Rc7 19. c3 Ke8 20. Rd1 Browne has 13 minutes 15 seconds left for 20 moves. 20. ... Kf8 21. b4 Bb6 22. Bb3 Now it's at blitz speed 22. ... Kg7 23. f4 gxf4 24. gxf4 Re8 25. fxg5 Kf8? Perhaps a desperado try like 25. ... Nf5?! 26. Bxf7 Qxf7 27. Rxf7+ Kxf7 1-0
Round 7: Elliott is paired with Natasha Christiansen, GM Larry Christiansen's spouse. this has been a tough debut for Elliott. The youth scores his first win in the US Championship! Here is Elliott's first win at the U.S. Championship.
"Victory" a poem from Rupert Brooke
"All night the ways of Heaven were desolate,
Long roads across a gleaming empty sky.
Outcast and doomed and driven, you and I,
Alone, serene beyond all love or hate,
Terror or triumph, were content to wait,
We, silent and all-knowing.
Suddenly Swept through the heaven low-crouching from on high,
One horseman, downward to the earth's low gate.
Oh, perfect from the ultimate height of living,
Lightly we turned, through wet woods blossom-hung,
Into the open. Down the supernal roads,
With plumes a-tossing, purple flags far flung,
Rank upon rank, unbridled, unforgiving,
Thundered the black battalions of the gods."
Round 8: Amid a small controversy about a blog remark that Elliott made a couple days ago. Eliott faced `avenging angel' WFM Hana Itkis in a roiling struggle which at one point seemed very even. The teen from Olivenhain was able to extract a full point from the encounter to go 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 but remains chastened and contrite about his earlier remarks. Here is the game.
Round 9: A match-up between two of the Southland's young teen stars with Elliott and Vanessa West of Gardena, California. This time it was attacking whiz Vanessa who triumphs with white pieces! Here is their game.
Young Eliott at age 12 at the San Diego Chess Club in Balboa Park circa 2003. If you like to see more pictures of Elliott then visit our Exploits of Elliott album. Read write-up on Elliott winning the SDCC June 2005 Player of the Month.