Sam Shankland, the winner of the 3rd Chinggis GM International, writes about the tournament and analyzes some of his games.

Last year, I won the 2nd Chinggis International at the Chinggis Club in Burlingame, Calif. Of course, I wanted to defend the title, so last week I was there again, as the co-top seed (along with Jeffery Xiong). Though there were some bumps along the way (as will be apparent in the games below), I successfully defended the title, scoring 7 points, finishing a half point ahead of Alexander Shimanov and Zviad Izoria. 

It always feels great to win a tournament, and I’m happy to share some of my experiences from the competition. 

The tournament was a 10-player round robin invitational, with two games per day, held Feb. 22-26. The field was very strong. Apart from two lower-rated local players, there were seven grandmasters, six of whom were rated over 2600, and an international master rated over 2500.

In Round 1, playing White against Shimanov, I obtained an edge, but I did not manage to convert the point.

Shankland, Sam vs. Shimanov, Alexander
Chinggis GM International | Burlingame, California | Round 1 | 01 Mar 2017 | 1/2-1/2
20. Qxc1 I thought I had a pretty pleasant position because I have more space and control the c-file, but the computer is unimpressed. Still, it remains difficult to play as Black
20... Qb8?! This move is dubious.
20... Nb6! This should equalize. The point is that after
21. Nxb6 Qxb6 22. Qc3 a4! White has a permanent weakness on a3. After:
23. Rc1 Rb8 White dominates the open c-file, but can't invade because he always has to keep an eye on the pawn on a3. The game should end in a draw as I can find no credible plan for either side.  )
21. Qc3! My opponent overlooked this move. Now Black has to make an unpleasant decision: Allow Rc1, after which White completely dominates the open file, or lose the pawn on a5.
21... b6
21... Rc8 The engine prefers this move, but after:
22. Qxa5 Rc2 23. Bd1 Rc8 24. Qd2 Black does not have enough compensation for being down a pawn.  )
22. Rc1 White's chances are now much better. Black has no counterplay and White dominates the only open file.
22... Rd8 23. Bf3
23. Qb3! This move was also tempting as White can try to invade on c6 with the rook, but I rejected it because of:
23... Rc8 24. Rc6 Rc7 Black can follow with Bd8, after which he has improved the placement of his pieces. But I had overlooked that
25. g4! Is very strong. The threat is f5, undermining the Black d-pawn and Black is hard pressed to deal with that problem. White would have very good chances to win.  )
23... Nf8 24. Qb3! Another good move. White is ready to invade with Rc6, and Black can no longer play Rc8 without the knight on d7 as b6 will be unprotected.
24... Rc8! Anyway! I was shocked to see this move as I thought it just lost the pawn on b6 and then White would have a huge edge. But things are not so simple.
25. Rxc8 Qxc8 26. Nxb6 Qc2! Another good move that I had not anticipated.
26... Qc7 This traps the knight since Na4 fails to Bc2, but I had calculated that:
27. Nxd5! exd5 28. b6 Qc4 29. Bxd5! Qe2 30. Kh1! Should be winning for me. My pawns are much stronger than Black's knight.  )
27. Qxc2 Bxc2 28. Bc1 I am up a pawn, but it's hard to hang on to all of them. I still had a decisive edge, but I needed to play precisely.
28... Bd8 29. Nc8 Bd3 30. Nd6 Not a bad move, but not the best.
30. a4! This move was stronger. I had seen:
30... Bc2 31. b6 Bxa4 32. b7 Nd7 And thought Black is better coordinated in addition to having won back one of his pawns. But I did not notice that I could play:
33. f5! Which should win. Surprisingly, Black is helpless to prevent fxe6 followed by Bg4.  )
30... Bc7 31. Bd1! This way I am able to play a4.
31. a4 Bc2 And Black will win the pawn on a4.  )
31... Bxd6 32. exd6 Bxb5 I lose a pawn, but after:
33. a4! Bc6 34. Bd2 I win another one. I still have a big edge, but Black has a super solid structure and good chances to create a blockade on the light squares.
34... Nd7 35. Bxa5 Kf8 36. Bb4? Missing my last chance. Now I think Black should by fine.
36. Bc7! I probably should still be able to win. It's very important to stop the knight from getting to b8.  )
36... Ke8 37. a5 Bb5 38. Kf2 Nb8! 39. Be2 Bxe2 40. Kxe2 Kd7 And I was unable to break this fortress. Black can play f5, put his king on c6, and shuffle Na6-b8 for the rest of the game.

Round 2 was a relatively uneventful draw, so I was not off to the fastest start. In Round 3, I started having some doomsday thoughts as I was absolutely being crushed by Elshan Moradiabadi. But then strange things started happening:

Shankland, Sam vs. Moradiabadi, Elshan
Chinggis GM International | Burlingame, California | Round 3 | 01 Mar 2017 | 1-0
bxc3 White is much better, but the position is very sharp and black clearly has counterplay. The cost of a mistake will be high.
31. Qd3? A bad move. I was hoping to make it possible to play g5 by defending f5, but my move just does not work.
31. Qf2! This quiet, but strong move puts Black in a lot of trouble. The threat is Nd7 followed by g5.
31... Qb4 32. Nd7 Rac8 33. Nxf6+ gxf6 34. Bh6  )
31... Rac8 At this point, I realized that g5 fails:
32. Bg3 Not a happy move to have to make.
32. g5 Bxe5 33. Bxe5 Qc5+ 34. Bd4 Qc4! I overlooked this obvious move when I played Qd3. I should lose as I cannot play f6.  )
32. Rac1! This was the best move. I was worried about
32... Nc6 But the computer show that I am okay after:
33. Ng6 Qc5+ 34. Be3 Still, I would definitely prefer to play Black after:
34... Nb4! 35. Qe2 d4 And I thought I might be dead lost despite being up an exchange.
36. Nxf8 Kxf8 37. Bf2 Somehow White is surviving, according to the computer.  )
32... c2! 33. Rac1 Qb4! A nice tactical resource. The pawn on c2 cannot be taken and Black will invade on c3 on the next move.
34. Kh2
34. Rxc2 Bxe5! And White loses material.
35. Rxc8 Bd4+  )
34... Rc3 35. Qd2 Mentally I was just about ready to resign, but I still had dreams of getting the kingside going. Every now and then one has to be a little lucky.
35... Qb3
35... Bxe5! 36. Rxe5 Qa3 And White cannot survive.  )
36. Qg2 Bg5 37. Nd7 Rfc8 38. Be5 At this point, I would have resigned if my opponent had played Rf3. Instead with time control just a few moves away, he erred badly:
38... Re3? This move looks tempting, but after
38... Bxc1 This also wins  )
38... Rf3 This is the simplest win. I cannot play f6, not now, or ever, and White will lose on the next move.  )
39. Rxe3! Black is in a dilemma. If he takes with the queen on e3, then c2 will hang, but if he takes with the bishop I am able to play f6!
39... Bxe3? This doesn't lose just yet, but Black will have to find an insanely difficult move. Instead, Qxe3 was an easier route to a draw.
39... Qxe3 40. Rxc2 This is a bit unpleasant for Black, but he should hold after:
40... Rxc2! 41. Qxc2 h5!  )
40. f6 gxf6? The last move before time control seals Black's fate
40... Ng6! This holds by a thread. For example:
41. f7+ Kh8 42. e7 Nxe7 43. Qf1 Ng6! The only defense to the threat of Bxg7+ followed by Qf6 mate
44. Qf5 Qc4 And Black holds on.  )
40... Bxc1? 41. Qf2 and Black is mated as he cannot stop the many threats. The biggest one is f7+ followed by Qf6 mate.
41... Ng6 42. f7+ Kh8 43. e7 And White will win.  )
41. Nxf6+ Kf8 42. Qf1 Black resigned as he cannot avoid mate.

After that game, I was counting my blessings. It made me completely forget about my squandered half point in Round 1. I now felt that I had half a point more than I deserved, and this helped me face the next couple rounds with optimism. In particular, after beating one of the locals in Round 4, I was able to punish Timur Gareev (who set the world simultaneous blindfold record last year) for his opening follies in Round 5.

Shankland, Sam vs. Gareyev, Timur
Chinggis GM International | Burlingame, California | Round 5 | 01 Mar 2017 | *
9. Bc4 I was shocked to see Timur play the Grunfeld for the first time in his life, dodging all of my preparation. In this position, without a second's thought, he played
9... cxd5?! At this point, I thought I am have walked into some incredible home preparation. But, in fact, it is just a poor move.
9... b5! This is the most common move. After:
10. Bb3 b4 11. Nce2 cxd5 12. h4! The position is very interesting  )
10. Bxd5 I am now up a pawn. If I can develop my pieces with Nge2 followed by 0-0, I will just be better.
10... Nc6 11. Nge2 Bg4 Black tries to play energetically. It is not easy to defend the center.
12. f3! I didn't want to play this move but I did not see a way to avoid it.
12. O-O Bxe2! and Black equalizes material.
13. Qxe2 Nxd4  )
12... Bf5 13. Qd2! Prophylaxis against Qb6.
13. O-O Obviously, this was the most natural move, but I was not sure about:
13... Qb6 When both b2 and e5 are attacked. After:
14. Na4 Qa6 15. Bxc6 Qxc6 It looked to me like Black had decent compensation for his material deficit.  )
13... Na5 Timur played this move instantly as well. So far, he had spent almost no time thinking. I thought I might be getting hit with nasty home preparation, but the more I calculated, the more I liked my position.
13... Qb6 14. Na4 Qc7 15. Rc1! Black cannot prevent his pawn structure from being compromised by bxc6. After:
15... Rad8 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. Qc3 White looks much better to me. My knights are no worse than Black's bishops and my center remains intact.  )
14. b3! Anticipating e6, White does not put the knight on c4.
14. b4 This was tempting as well, though after:
14... e6 15. Bxe6! Bxe6 16. bxa5 Qxa5 I didn't love opening the position for the bishops and giving Black a queenside pawn majority. Still, I would be clearly better with my big center and extra pawn.  )
14... Rc8 15. Rc1 I had no interest in letting Black invade along the c-file
15. f4 This was also very strong, clearing f3 for the bishop.  )
15... e6
15... b5 16. Be4  )
16. Be4 Bxe4 17. Nxe4 Rxc1+ 18. Qxc1 Nc6 19. Qc5 Timur was still playing very fast, but now I was totally comfortable. I have traded a bunch of pieces, been able to maintain my pawn center, and I am one move away from completing development.
19... Qh4+? This just sidelines the queen.
19... Qb8 20. Kf2 Rd8 21. Rc1 White is much better but black can fight on. At least his queen is reasonably close to the action.  )
20. g3 Qh6 21. Kf2! Stopping Qe3.
21... Rd8 22. h4! I am up a pawn and Black has no compensation for it.
22... Bf8 23. Qc3 Be7 24. Qe3 Qxe3+ Not a happy move to make, but after:
24... Qg7 25. h5 It's very clear that White's queen is better than Black's  )
25. Kxe3 Nb4 26. Rc1! With an extra pawn, more central space, and more active pieces, I won easily.

At this point, I was tied for first with four games to go. I was feeling pretty good about my form and I easily held Izoria to a draw with Black. I was quite happy until I got back to the room and checked the game with an engine. It showed that I had missed a simple one-move win!

Izoria, Zviad vs. Shankland, Sam
Chinggis GM International | Burlingame, California | Round 6 | 01 Mar 2017 | 1/2-1/2
Rfc8 White played a pretty toothless line of the Catalan and I found all the best moves. The game was heading for a draw and we both were almost counting down until move 30 the rule in effect for the tournament that all games must go at least 30 moves. But this can lead to complacency.
20. Rxc5? I do not understand why White would give up control of the only open file.
20. Ne1 Why not play this without trading rooks? The position is dead equal.  )
20... Qxc5 21. Ne1 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 h6 Now White has to be a little careful, as the game demonstrates:
23. e4?!
23. Nd3 Qd4 24. Kg1! And White is ready to play Rc1, when chances will be equal.
...   )
23... Qb4! Now White needs to be careful.
24. Qe2?
24. Qxb4! Nxb4 25. Kf3! Nc2 26. Rd1 And White holds since Black cannot occupy the second rank.
26... Nxe1+ 27. Rxe1 Rc2 28. Re2  )
24... Nf6 25. f3 Rd8 At this point, I was very optimistic: How can White stop Rd2?
26. Nd3?? At first when I saw this move, I thought White had blundered and that after Qc4, he will lose the pawn on a2. But then I realized his idea and resigned myself to a draw. This was the grossest case of mutual blindness I can ever recall in my chess career.
26. a3! This was best. White should hold after:
26... Rd2 27. axb4 Rxe2+ 28. Kg1! It will be difficult for White for a while.  )
26. Rd1 Rxd1 27. Qxd1 Qxb2+  )
26... Qc4??
26... Rxd3 This move is not even remotely difficult to calculate. It is just one move and it would be time for White to resign.  )
27. Rd1! The pawn on a2 is immune. The game was drawn shortly afterwards.
27... g5
27... Qxa2? 28. Nb4! The queen and the rook are both attacked.
28... Qa5 29. Nc6 White is winning.  )
28. b3 Qc3 29. Nf2 Rxd1 30. Nxd1 Qd4

Normally such a shock would be hard to get over and that is why many coaches and strong players recommend that you not check your games with an engine until the tournament is over. But for me it felt like weird justice — I had drawn two games that I felt that I should have won, but I had also won a completely lost position. I had earned 2.0/3 in those games — the score I deserved — even if the points came in weird ways.

The draw against Izoria kept me in a big tie for first, but I pulled ahead ahead in the next couple of rounds with good wins over Andrey Gorovets (the international master rated over 2500) and Ganbold Odondoo, a Bay-Area international master rated over 2300. The Odondoo game was especially amusing, as it was decided by a huge blunder — not unlike many of my other games.

Shankland, Sam vs. Odondoo, Ganbold
Chinggis GM International | Burlingame, California | Round 8 | 01 Mar 2017 | 1-0
8. e5 Black is slightly worse after a somewhat unusual opening, but now he blunders:
8... Nfd7??
8... Ng8! 9. f4 Ne7 I prefer White's position, but the game would continue.
10. Nf3 O-O 11. Nc3 c6 12. O-O-O  )
9. Bg5 Just 10 minutes into the game, and it's already over. The queen is trapped and after:
9... f6 White decisively invades with:
10. Ne6 Qe7 11. Nxc7+ Kd8 12. Nxd5 Qxe5+ 13. Be3 Black cannot even take on b2 because of Bd4, trapping the queen. White has a pleasant lead in development, is up a pawn, and Black's king is on d8. The rest took less than half an hour to finish.
13... f5 14. Nbc3 f4 15. Nxf4 Re8 16. Nfd5 Bh6 17. Kf2 Bxe3+ 18. Nxe3 Nc6 19. Rd1 Ke7 20. Bc4 Kf8 21. Ned5 Rd8 22. Qh6+ Qg7 23. Qxg7+ Kxg7 24. Nc7

Heading into the last round, I was half a point ahead of the field and playing Black against Xiong. I won the opening battle and got a very nice position, but I played cautiously as a draw was enough to win the tournament. 

On the whole I really enjoyed the event, and I look forward to others in the future. I never had opportunities to play with guys over 2300 in the Bay Area when I was growing up, and it brings me great joy to see strong round robins in my home territory. I’d like to thank the Chinggis Chess Club for inviting me, and I hope to be back next year.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.