Thunder Kings Capture 2018 Des Moines Fall Classic Open

Twenty-nine players competed in the 2018 Des Moines Fall Classic Open held at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines, Iowa on October 27-28. Reserve and RBO sections were held in conjunction with the main event. Fifteen players competed in the reserve section and 31 played in the RBO section.


Michael Takahashi and Nathan Chen scored 4 of a possible 5 points in the open section to tie for first place. Takahashi and Chen are members of the Thunder Kings from the Iowa City area. The Thunder Kings are a group of young talented players taught by NM James Neal. Ironically Neal withdrew from the tournament after a third-round loss. The students out-performed their teacher!

Four players, Valeriy Kosokin, Asish Panda, Cub Noble, and Edin Divanovic scored 3.5 points. Divanovic gained 76 rating points, Anjaneya Rao gained 64 rating points, and Chen picked-up 52 rating points, while Noble cracked 1900. Players from seven states, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin competed in the Open section.

Cross Table:

Both Takahashi and Chen won crucial 5th round games to tie for 1st place. The following is Chen’s fifth round games against NM Tim Mc Entee, a four-time Iowa state champion.

(3) Nathan,Chen (1933) - Tim,Mc Entee (2200) [B32] 2018 Des Moines Fall Classic (5), 28.10.2018 Annotated by Nathan Chen

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 Be7 [This move seems really passive, I think b5 is better but I guess it works.] [7...b5 8.Nd5 Nf6 9.Bg5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c4 b4 12.Nc2 a5 13.g3 0–0]

8.Nc4 b5 9.Ne3 Nf6 10.Bd3 0–0 11.0–0 Rb8 12.a4 b4 13.Ncd5 Nxd5 14.Nxd5 Bg5 15.Be3 [I don't want to make his queen active by taking the bishop, so instead I offer him to take my bishop which allows me to take back with the knight, giving me a pretty good position.] 15...Bxe3 16.Nxe3 Ne7 [He wants to play d5 and get rid of his d6 pawn.]

17.Bc4 Bb7 18.f3 Qb6 19.Qd2 Rbc8 20.Qf2 Rfd8 21.Rfd1 Rc5 22.Rd2 Qc7 23.Bb3 [This move is sort of iffy, I think b3 is better because it allows the bishop to also point at a6.]

[23.b3 I think double up rooks here would make my position better.] 23...Bc8 24.Rad1 Be6 25.f4 [25.Bxe6 fxe6 I really didn't like this because it allows him the chance of playing d5 later.; 25.Rd3 This doesn't allow black to double my pawns. So, I probably could’ve played this.]

25...Bxb3 26.cxb3 Rc1 27.Nc4 [27.f5 This could be interesting, maybe looking to play for a kingside attack.] 27...Rxd1+ 28.Rxd1 exf4 29.Qxf4 Qc5+ 30.Qf2 Qh5 31.Qd4 [31.Rd2 I think the queen is better on f2 then on d4 because the rook is already potentially creating a pin (with e5)] 31...d5 [31...Nc6 32.Qd3 Qg5 33.Nxd6 Qc5+ 34.Kh1 Ne5 35.Qd5 Qc2 This looks really weird.] 32.Ne3 h6 33.exd5 [33.Qxb4 Qe5 34.Nxd5 Nxd5 35.Qd4] 33...Rd6 34.Qxb4 [I think it's losing here.] 34...Qg6 35.Qb7 [35.Qc5 I could try to push on the queenside here.]

35...Qe4 36.Qb8+ Kh7 37.Qxd6 Qxe3+ 38.Kf1 Nf5 39.Qxa6 g6 40.Qd3 Qe5 41.Kg1 Nd6 42.a5 Qxb2 43.a6 Qa3 44.b4 Qxb4 45.Qd4


Takahashi defeated NM Valeriy Kosokin in the 5th round games to tie for 1st place. He stayed on pace to qualify for the Iowa Closed Championship. The Thunder Kings prevail in the 2018 Des Moines Fall Classic!

(1) NM Kosokin,Valeriy (2165) - Takahashi, Michael (2037) [C18] 2018 Des Moines Fall Classic Open Holiday Inn, Des Moines, Iowa (5), 28.10.2018 Annotated by Michael Takahashi

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 [An interesting reply. Although this is Kosokin's main reply against the French, he had played the Exchange Variation against Nathan Chen with great success. I was well prepared for both lines.] 3...Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qa4 8.h4!? [This move surprised me a bit. Kosokin had relied heavily on Qb1 in past games, winning several critical games against me. I rejected cxd4 for the correct reason:] 8...b6 [8...cxd4 9.Qg4 g6 (9...Ne7 10.Qxg7 Rg8 11.Qxh7±) 10.Bd3 Nc6 11.Nf3±] 9.h5 h6!? [As it turns out, ignoring the threat of h6 was also possible:]

[9...Ne7 10.h6 gxh6 11.Bxh6 (11.Nf3 Ba6 12.Bxh6 Bxf1 13.Kxf1 Nd7 14.Kg1 Rc8=) 11...Ba6 12.Nf3 Bxf1 13.Kxf1 Nd7 14.Qe2=] 10.Qg4 [These positions are quite different from the Winawer positions we see after Qb1. With Black's king on f8, king safety becomes more of an issue. However, White can still generate quite a bit of pressure in the center. White has more space on the kingside, therefore, he should concentrate his play there. Black has more space on the queenside, therefore, his focus should be on that side of the board.]

10...Kf8 11.Rh3 Ne7! [The best move, intending to meet Rg3 with Nf5.] 12.Bd3! [A very tricky reply. Black must play this move to stay in the game.] 12...Nf5! [Other moves would have been disastrous:]

[12...Ba6? 13.Rg3 Rg8 14.Bh7+–; 12...c4? 13.Rg3! Rg8 14.Bh7+–] 13.Ne2 Nc6! [This move is correct. Indeed, it does seem to break the logic of the Winawer in that Black likes to put his knights on d7 and c6. But here, the knight on c6 is fine without the other on d7 since White will never be able to take on c5 safely.]

4.Qf3 cxd4?! [This may have been one of my few mistakes during this game. Black would've been better served playing Ba6.] [14...Ba6! This is a surprising move because it seems to lose the exchange on f5. As it turns out, it works tactically. 15.Bxf5 (15.Qf4 Bxd3 16.cxd3 Kg8 17.dxc5 Qxf4 18.Bxf4 bxc5 19.g4 Nfe7 20.Be3 c4=; 15.g4 Nfe7 16.Qf4 Bxd3 17.cxd3 Kg8 18.dxc5 Qxf4 19.Bxf4 bxc5 20.Be3 Nxe5 21.Bxc5 N7c6=) 15...exf5 16.Qxf5 Bc8!–+]

15.Bxf5?! [Of course, White had intended this move when he played Qg4 on move 10. Although White does get his pawn back, he is much worse in these variations. He missed his chance to play:]

[15.Qf4 b5 16.Bxf5 exf5 17.e6 Bxe6 18.Qd6+ Ne7 19.Nxd4±]

15...exf5 16.Qxd5 Be6 17.Qd6+ Kg8 18.Nxd4 Nxd4 19.Qxd4 Qxc2 20.Rf3 Kh7 [This is a good time to evaluate the position. White doesn't have an attack on the king. Meanwhile, Black has many advantages such as White's king position and his bad bishop.]

21.Qd3 Qb3 22.Be3! [This is the best move and the best approach for White to put up a stubborn defense. The idea is to relocate the bishop to d4 where it protects crucial pawns at c3 and e5 and clogs up the d file. Other moves would have been worse:]

[22.Rf4?! Rhd8 23.Qe3 Qb2µ; 22.c4?! Qa4 23.Bb4 Rhd8 24.Bd6 Bxc4µ]

22...Rhd8 23.Bd4 Kg8 24.Re3 Rac8 25.Qb1 Qc4 26.Qb4 Qd5 27.f3?! [This seems to be a mistake. Objectively, White's king safety problems will cause him a lot of trouble, especially with the presence of opposite colored bishops. The more principled Kf1! would have been better.]

[27.Kf1 f4 28.Rf3 Qe4 29.Qe7 Bg4 30.e6 Bxe6 31.Qh4 Rxd4 32.cxd4 Qxd4 33.Re1 Rc4µ Black is still better, but White can fight on.] 27...Rc4 28.Qb2 [At this point, my opponent was defending fairly well so my goal was to create small problems for him.] 28...Qa5 29.Kf2 [Sidestepping Rxd4]

29...Qa4 [Another tricky move, threatening Rdxd4 and Rc2+]

30.Re2 Rd5 31.Kg3 Qd7! [This was the second stage of my plan. With White's pieces on the queenside, I tried to open a second front on the kingside to create another weakness (principle of two weaknesses).] 32.Rd2 f4+! [A strong move to gain space on the kingside, and creating issues for White's king safety.] 33.Kxf4?! [A mistake. White should not play f4, thereby inviting Black to play Rxe5.] 33...Rxe5!! [As it turns out, taking this rook will have severe consequences for White.]

34.Kg3 [If Kxe5, White gets mated in unique fashion.]

[34.Kxe5 Qd5+ 35.Kf4 Qg5+ 36.Ke4 Bf5+ 37.Kd5 (37.Ke5 Bc2+ 38.Kd6 Qd8+ 39.Ke5 Qf6+ 40.Kd5 Qe6#) 37...Bd3+ 38.Be5 Qf5! 39.Qxb6 axb6 40.f4 Qe6#] 34...Rg5+ 35.Kf2 Qc7 [The king hunt begins! After a long battle on the queenside, Black shifts to the kingside to stage a final assault against White's king. I try to make threats with each of my moves to have White continually looking for a solution.]

36.Rg1 Qg3+ 37.Ke2 Qh2 38.Bf2 Rc8 39.g4 [39.Rd4 Bc4+ 40.Kd1 Rxg2 41.Rxg2 Qxg2 42.Kc1 Qh1+ 43.Rd1 Qxh5–+ Is also hopeless for white] 39...Bc4+ 40.Kd1 Qf4 [Threatening the pawn on f3.]

41.Rg3 [The final sequence is quite interesting.] 41...Rb5 42.Qc1 Bd5! 43.Rd3? [This was move that lost White the game, but White was under a lot of pressure anyways.] 43...Bb3+! [A deflection of the king's protection of the white queen.

This was a memorable game for me, as I finished the event with 4/5 and a share for first place. Aside from being the first Iowa qualifying tournament that I had ever won, I played 5 high quality games from start to finish. I also gained 10.5 qualifying points, which put my qualification campaign for the Iowa Closed back on track.]



Fifteen players competed in the Reserve section. Mrithuul Madan Prasad scored 3.5 points out of four to claim first place. Steve Jacobs, Robert Vance, Rex Gray and Navneet Ramkumar each scored 3 points to tie for second through fifth. Jacobs, Vance, and Gray are longtime IASCA members. These players are the backbone of tournament chess! They’ve been playing for years and it was good to see them take home a little prize money. Gray gained 127 rating points in four games! Prasad gained 48 rating points and Ramkumar gained 33 points.

Cross table:


Thirty-one players battled five rounds in the RBO section. Anirudh Soni and Niko Nixon tied for first place scoring 4.5 points of five possible. Four players finished a half-point behind the winners with four points each: Wyatt Hammes, Ishan Harwani, James Martin, and Amogh Jithendra. Wyatt Hammes, gained 121 rating points, Nixon gained 91 points, Soni gained 71 and Noah Hammes picked-up 59 rating points.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you all for playing in this annual event.

Cross Table:

Congratulations to the winners and thank you all for playing in this annual event

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