|BANIEL IS CHAMPION, DULGER MAKES HISTORY!|
|Written by Andres D Hortillosa on Thu, Jun 12 2008 (11:47)|
Specialist Jhonel Baniel of the Army Medical Department demolished Air Force surgeon Dr. (Colonel) Sam Echaure in the last round of the 2008 US Armed Forces Inter-Service Chess Championship to secure top honors finishing with 5.5 points. A week-long stellar performance earned him a hallowed place in the tradition-rich annals of military chess. His name is forever etched in the record books alongside world famous players like IM Emory Tate.
The sensation of the tournament, 21-year old Air Force Elena Dulger who originally hailed from Moldova, finished in second place with 5 wins and 2 losses. The young airwoman’s impressive performance commences a new beginning in military chess. For the first time ever, a woman player makes the roster of the US Armed Forces Chess Team for the NATO Chess Championship in Brussels, Belgium. The noted IM Elizabeth Phatz represented Germany last year.
Baniel nearly wasted his chance to become champion in his game against Echaure if lady luck was not on his side. He blundered two pawns after an inaccurate knight maneuver on the 17th move. Echaure’s 16th move set up a nasty trick which Baniel fell into.
Baniel continued with the inaccurate 17.Ne3? not seeing that the queen on a4 is undefended. After the simple 17…Nxd4, white retreated the queen to d1 avoiding the exchange to keep his middlegame chances alive. If black did not have …Nxe2+, an in-between move, in case white took on d7 first, the combination would not work. Because the knight obstructs the defense of the e5-pawn, he lost that too after 19…Bxe5. White was two pawns down and without a sliver of compensation. Luckily for Baniel, his pseudo attack on black’s king rattled Echaure who failed to mount the right defense. Echaure then blundered and handed the championship to Baniel on the 39th move. See game.
The US Armed Forces Inter-Service Chess Championship was a seven-round USCF-rated tournament held last week from June 9-12. Twenty players, six Air Force, six Army, six Navy, and two Marines came to the desert base for the annual team championship and the selection of the US Armed Forces Chess Team. The hosting responsibility is rotated between the services and this year’s event was successfully staged by the Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona. Next year, the Army will host the tournament at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Other members of the team for the prestigious NATO event are: Tech Sgt. Robert A. Bucholtz (Air Force), Lt. Commander Paul L. Choate (Navy), MSgt Dan P. Ranario (Air Force) and Corporal Carrelli (Marines). Three Air Force players made this year's team. Ranario's inclusion into the magic six came by beating Captain Christopher Pitts (Army) in a playoff game.
Organizers have adapted team composition rules which provide for a guaranteed team spot to the top scorer of each service regardless of final standing in the tournament. The Marine qualifier this year finished 17th in the rankings while the Navy qualifier finished in sixth place. Two other Air Force veteran players, Bucholtz and Ranario scored five points with Dulger but her higher tiebreaks earned her the vice-champion title.
Though Ranario and Pitts finished 4th and 5th places, respectively, they had to play a match for the last team spot. Ranario overcame Pitts in a G/90 playoff for the last team spot. Pitts had the white pieces while Ranario had draw odds. Unable to overcome Ranario's defenses, Pitts tried some dubious moves to open up the position for winning chances but his valiant efforts backfired against Ranario's cool-headed counter attack. Pitts resigned in a lost position reluctantly conceding the sixth spot on the squad.
Decisive results between the Army and the Air Force in the last round changed the ranking order from the previous round in a dramatic fashion. Pitts (Army) defeated Keough, the top seed for the Air Force. Macaspac (Army Champion) who normally makes the team lost to Ranario (Air Force). Both Pitts and Ranario pulled last round upsets to earn a playoff berth against each other with the winner taking the last spot on the team.
If the team is chosen by players’ respective standings, the members would be as follows: 1st - Baniel (Army), 2nd - Dulger (Air Force), 3rd - Bucholtz (Air Force), 4th - Ranario (Air Force), 5th - Pitts (Army) and 6th - Choate (Navy). In this configuration, two are Army, three are Air Force and one Navy will comprise the team. The Marines will not be represented but the team yields the strongest field for the NATO event.
The Air Force bested the Army for the team championship by one point, Air Force totaled 26.5 points and the Army totaled 25.5 points. Had West won his struggle against Adkins, the team event for this year would have been tied between the two perennial rivals at 26.5 points each. The Navy finished in the distant third with 11.5 points. The Marines with just two players finished with 6.5 points.
Prior to this contest, the Air Force and the Army held their respective championships in May. The Air Force held a seven-round Swiss tournament open to all rated Air Force players with the top six finishers forming the team. The Army, on the other hand, held its traditional championship by inviting only the top 12 rated players who are on active duty to participate in a round-robin play all format. Its top six placers represent the Army in the Inter-Service. The Navy and Marines are selecting teams via a nominating process.
Individual Final Standings
Team Final Standings