by Sam Sloan

SAN FRANCISCO - February 2, 1997 - In a surprising conclusion, Burt Izumikawa has won the State Championship of Northern California. Izumikawa tied for first last year, with Omar Cartagena. This year's final results were not much different from last year's, as this year Izumikawa won and Cartagena finished second.

This was for the State Championship of Northern California. As almost every chess player knows, the United States of America has 51 states. Northern California was divorced from Southern California some years ago by the United States Chess Federation, after a long and bitter child custody dispute.

Nobody was thinking that Izumikawa would win this year, as he was never in the lead until the last round. He started off badly, but won his last three games in a row, defeating Grefe, Margulis and Lobo in succession.

Going into the last round, Thomas Wolski of Germany was in first. However, Wolski got crushed in an exciting attack by Omar Cartagena. This made it appear that the tournament was headed for a three way tie, as Izumikawa had an inferior position against Lobo. However, in time pressure, Lobo failed to find the best way, and Izumikawa won.

Meanwhile, Cusi won a nice game against Cunningham. After the game, Steve Brandwein commented that Cusi could have won the brilliancy with this game, except that he failed to find the shortest way to win. Brandwein is the official judge for the brilliancy prize. Steve will have a tough time selecting the winner, as there were many nice games in this event.

In contrast to so many tournaments in which everybody agrees to a draw in the last round, here all of the last round games were decisive.

The tournament was held at the Mechanics Institute Chess Club in San Francisco. There were $3000 in prizes. Mike Goodall organized and directed. The average player in the tournament was rated 2445 USCF and 2358 FIDE. The event was also called the Linklater Memorial, named after a donor to the Mechanics Institute Chess Club. The games were exceptionally hard fought. Out of 28 games, only 8 were draws. Here are the complete chess games and results of this event:

Final Standings:

Izumikawa 5
Cartagena, Wolski 4 1/2
Grefe 4
Lobo, Cusi 3 1/2
Cunningham 2
Margulis 1

San Francisco (USA), I-II 1997		 cat. V (2358)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 Izumikawa, Burt USA 2395 * 0 1 1 1 = = 1 5.0
2 Cartagena, Omar PHI 2425 1 * 1 0 0 1 1 = 4.5
3 Wolski, Thomas GER 2320 0 0 * 1 1 1 = 1 4.5
4 Grefe, John m USA 2425 0 1 0 * 1 = = 1 4.0
5 Lobo, Richard ENG 2335 0 1 0 0 * = 1 1 3.5
6 Cusi, Ronald PHI 2380 = 0 0 = = * 1 1 3.5
7 Cunningham, Robin USA 2315 = 0 = = 0 0 * = 2.0
8 Margulis, Isaak USA 2270 0 = 0 0 0 0 = * 1.0
Round 1 (1997.01.17)

Grefe, John - Lobo, Richard 1-0 33 E14 Queen's Indian
Margulis, Isaak - Cunningham, Robin 1/2 26 B03 Alekhine
Izumikawa, Burt - Cartagena, Omar 0-1 34 D07 Tchigorin Defense
Wolski, Thomas - Cusi, Ronald 1-0 27 B33 Sicilian

Round 2 (1997.01.18)

Cunningham, Robin - Wolski, Thomas 1/2 30 B22 Sicilian
Cusi, Ronald - Izumikawa, Burt 1/2 14 E05 Reti
Cartagena, Omar - Grefe, John 0-1 27 B72 Sicilian
Lobo, Richard - Margulis, Isaak 1-0 35 E81 King's Indian

Round 3 (1997.01.19)

Lobo, Richard - Cunningham, Robin 1-0 84 D34 Tarrasch Defense
Margulis, Isaak - Cartagena, Omar 1/2 41 B22 Sicilian
Grefe, John - Cusi, Ronald 1/2 20 B25 Closed Sicilian
Izumikawa, Burt - Wolski, Thomas 1-0 47 B56 Sicilian

Round 4 (1997.01.25)

Cunningham, Robin - Izumikawa, Burt 1/2 55 B22 Sicilian
Wolski, Thomas - Grefe, John 1-0 30 E92 King's Indian
Cusi, Ronald - Margulis, Isaak 1-0 33 A87 King's Indian
Cartagena, Omar - Lobo, Richard 0-1 34 B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo Variation

Round 5 (1997.01.26)

Cartagena, Omar - Cunningham, Robin 1-0 50 B03 Alekhine
Lobo, Richard - Cusi, Ronald 1/2 47 B33 Sicilian
Margulis, Isaak - Wolski, Thomas 0-1 42 B66 Sicilian
Grefe, John - Izumikawa, Burt 0-1 35 A05 Irregular

Round 6 (1997.02.01)

Wolski, Thomas - Lobo, Richard 1-0 28 B56 Sicilian
Cunningham, Robin - Grefe, John 1/2 40 B22 Sicilian
Cusi, Ronald - Cartagena, Omar 0-1 32 A24 King's Indian
Izumikawa, Burt - Margulis, Isaak 1-0 78 B67 Sicilian

Round 7 (1997.02.02)

Cartagena, Omar - Wolski, Thomas 1-0 33 B50 Sicilian
Cusi, Ronald - Cunningham, Robin 1-0 37 A08 Reti
Lobo, Richard - Izumikawa, Burt 0-1 B70 Sicilian
Margulis, Isaak - Grefe, John 0-1 B06 Pirc

Here are some of the highlights of the games: International Chess Master and former US Co-champion John Grefe surged to an early lead in the California State Championship, winning his first two games. Grefe was lucky. He had a totally lost position against Richard Lobo of England in round one and a difficult position against Omar Cartagena of the Philippines in round 2. In round one, Lobo played several inaccurate moves and then blundered after declining a draw offer by Grefe. In round two, Omar Cartagena played as a "theoretical novelty" a move which has always been thought to be a beginner's blunder. Grefe made a suspect tenth move and Cartagena got a strong attack. However, Cartagena misplayed the attack and then blundered in a position where he still had winning or at least drawing chances.

Cartagena is a scrappy fighter who likes to play offbeat lines. If anyone else had played the seventh and eighth move he played against Grefe, everyone would have assumed that he had just made a beginner's blunder. Cartagena's move of 8. O-O-O has apparently never previously been played in master chess, as it gives up the bishop pair. However, Cartagena got a powerful attack, especially after Grefe's 10. ... h5, which was probably not best. Cartagena possibly had a winning position after this move. It is not clear exactly where he went wrong. However, his last move of 27. Qg2 was an outright blunder. Cartagena should have played 27. Rf1. Grefe said that in that case he intended 27. ... Rxd4 28. exd4 Rb5. However, in that event, Cartagena would have had the blockbuster move 29. Bd3, completely winning. (Check this out). Backward diagonal bishop moves are always the hardest see, and it is likely that Grefe would have missed this one. Had he seen it, Grefe could have retreated his rook to c7 defending the pawn on f7, and the game would have continued with Black having perhaps a slight edge.

In the final position, Cartagena resigned because no matter which way he captures the rook, he gets checkmated in a line ending in Qxb2 mate. (Check this out).

Perhaps the best game in the tournament was the first round battle between Grefe and Lobo. Although Grefe on the surface appeared to have the advantage throughout, both Grefe and Lobo agree that Grefe was completely lost, if only Lobo had found the right moves in an exceptionally complicated position. If anybody wants a good game to analyze, this is it! Get out your computers and go to work. Don't try to understand this game without a computer however.

Here are just a few highlights. 34. c4 was a mistake because, after 34. .... bxc4, the pawn cannot be recaptured. (Check this out). After that, White has many mates and mate threats involving Rxb7 and/or Qxf8 mate or Qxh8 mate. However, in spite of all of White's threats, Black probably had several ways to win. The losing move was 42. .... Rd8. Black failed to see that 43. d6 was winning. In the final position, Black resigned because the rook on d7 cannot be captured because of a devastating Qa8 check followed by checkmate.

In the game Lobo - Margulis, Black mixed up his lines and completely screwed up the opening. His 6. ... h6 was a weak move. Correct was either 6. ... c5 or 6. .... Nc6. His next move was probably wrong as well. Better was 7. .... e5. On move 13, Black gave up a pawn under circumstances which are sometimes good in a slightly different position, but in this position, because of losing time with his 6th and 9th moves, Black was simply a pawn down with no real compensation.

Former US co-champion John Grefe failed to get a lost position for the first time in the third round of the tournament. He drew with Ronald Cusi of the Philippines.

Richard Lobo of England achieved your typical two queens and a pawn against two queens ending against Robin Cunningham. Lobo managed to trade off the second pair of queens and the extra pawn proved decisive.

John Grefe's spate of good luck finally ran out, as he lost in both rounds 4 and 5 to fall back into the pack in the State Championship of Northern California. Meanwhile, Thomas Wolski, formerly of Germany, won two games to pull into a tie for first.

The games continued to be exciting and hard fought. In round 5, Robin Cunningham sacrificed his queen for two pieces against Omar Cartagena. Cunningham later turned down a draw to try for a win, but lost instead.

In a battle between the two leaders, Thomas Wolski of Germany defeated Richard Lobo of England to surge into the lead of the Northern California State Championship. The game was short and exciting. After the game, Lobo said that he should not have played 9. ... Nxd4 but should have castled instead. Lobo should have played 24 . ... Bf6 and, if he had played that, no clear win for White can be found.

In another exciting game, Omar Cartagena of the Philippines mated Ronald Cusi of the Philippines.

Wolski has been in the US for 8 years. Last year, after talking to Toti Abundo in Switzerland, Wolski had his chess affiliation changed back to Germany. Previously, both countries had sometimes claimed him as their own.

[Event "Northern California State Championship"]
[Site "San Francisco (USA)"]
[Date "1997.02.02"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Cartagena Omar"]
[Black "Wolski Thomas"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B50"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.b3 Nf6 4.Qe2 Nc6 5.Bb2 e5 6.c3 Be7 7.g3 O-O 8.Bg2 Ne8 9.d4 Bg4 10.dxc5 dxc5 11.Nbd2 Qb8 12.Nc4 Be6 13.O-O f6 14.Nh4 Nd6 15.Ne3 Re8 16.Rad1 Bf8 17.f4 b6 18.f5 Bf7 19.g4 Qb7 20.Nd5 Rad8 21.Bc1 Ne7 22.g5 Nxd5 23.exd5 Kh8 24.g6 Bg8 25.gxh7 Bxh7 26.Rd3 e4 27.Rh3 Qxd5 28.Rd1 Qa8 29.Ng6+ Kg8 30.Qh5 Nxf5 31.Qxh7+ Kf7 32.Rf1 Nd6 33.Rg3 1-0

[Event "Northern California State Championship"]
[Site "San Francisco (USA)"]
[Date "1997.02.02"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Cusi Ronald"]
[Black "Cunningham Robin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A08"]

1.g3 d5 2.Bg2 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.O-O Be7 5.d3 c5 6.Nbd2 Nc6 7.c3 Qc7 8.e4 b5 9.Re1 O-O 10.Nf1 a5 11.e5 Nd7 12.Bf4 Ba6 13.Qe2 b4 14.c4 dxc4 15.dxc4 Rfd8 16.h4 Nf8 17.h5 Rd7 18.b3 a4 19.N1h2 Rad8 20.Ng4 a3 21.h6 Ng6 22.hxg7 Nxf4 23.gxf4 Nd4 24.Nxd4 Rxd4 25.Nh6+ Kxg7 26.Qg4+ Kxh6 27.Re3 Rd3 28.Qh3+ Kg7 29.Rxd3 Rxd3 30.Qxd3 f5 31.Rd1 Kf7 32.Qh3 Kg7 33.Kh2 Kh8 34.Qh6 Bc8 35.Bf3 Kg8 36.Rg1+ Kf7 37.Bh5# 1-0

[Event "Northern California State Championship"]
[Site "San Francisco (USA)"]
[Date "1997.02.02"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Lobo Richard"]
[Black "Izumikawa Burt"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B70"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Bg5 Bg7 7.Be2 Qa5 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Nb3 Qd8 10.Bd3 O-O 11.O-O Nc6 12.Kh1 a6 13.f4 b5 14.Qf3 Ne8 15.Rae1 Rc8 16.Qf2 Be6 17.Qh4 f6 18.Bh6 Rf7 19.Bxg7 Rxg7 20.Qf2 Rf7 21.Nd4 Nxd4 22.Qxd4 Qc7 23.f5 Bc4 24.fxg6 hxg6 25.Qe3 Rh7 26.Qg3 Kf7 27.e5 Bxd3 28.e6+ Kg7 29.cxd3 Qc5 30.Re4 Nc7 31.d4 Qc4 32.Rfe1 b4 33.d5 Qc5 34.Na4 Qb5 35.Rc1 Nxd5 36.Nc3 bxc3 37.bxc3 Rxc3 0-1

[Event "Northern California State Championship"]
[Site "San Francisco (USA)"]
[Date "1997.02.02"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Margulis Isaak"]
[Black "Grefe John A"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Qe2 Nc6 5.c3 e5 6.d5 Nb8 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 O-O 10.Nbd2 Qe8 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.h3 Nd7 13.g4 Qe7 14.Qe3 Bg7 15.O-O-O c6 16.Rhg1 Nb6 17.Bb3 Bd7 18.Nf1 cxd5 19.exd5 Rfc8 20.Ng3 Nc4 21.Qe4 b5 22.h4 Qf8 23.Bc2 b4 24.cxb4 Rab8 25.a3 a5 26.Nd2 Nxa3 27.bxa3 Ba4 28.Nc4 Rxc4 29.Qxc4 Rc8 30.Qd3 Rxc2+ 31.Qxc2 Bxc2 32.Kxc2 axb4 33.axb4 Qc8+ 34.Kb3 Qxg4 35.h5 Qf3+ 36.Ka4 gxh5 37.Rc1 h4 38.Nh1 Qxd5 39.b5 Qd4+ 40.Ka5 Qa7+ 41.Kb4 Kh7 42.Rc8 d5 43.Rgc1 Bf8+ 44.Rxf8 Qe7+ 45.Rc5 Qxf8 46.b6 Qd6 47.b7 d4 48.Kb5 d3 49.f3 d2 50.Nf2 h3 51.f4 h2 52.fxe5 Qb8 0-1

Contact address - please send e-mail to the following address: Sloan@ishipress.com