Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (2022)

Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (1) Cherry Blossom Co-Champion GM Elshan Moradiabadi. Photo: Paul Swaney

If Memorial Weekend is meant to kick off the summer tournament circuit, then one of the best places to get started was the 6th Annual Cherry Blossom Classic, held May 25-28 in Dulles, Virginia. The 51-player open section featured7 GMs and 1 IM and offered 150 Grand Prix points; there were 252 players overall vying for a $15,500 prize fund.GMs Elshan Moradiabadi and Fidel Corrales Jiminez tied for first with a score of 6/7. They kept pace with each other by each winning their last round games, respectively, against me and against GM Nikola Nestorovic. Going into the final round 7, Moradiabadi and Jimenez were already a half-point over the rest of the field, with 5/6, while Nestorovic, GM Jesse Kraai, IM Ron Burnett, and I each had 4.5/6. In round 7, Burnett held the draw against Kraai, so they both emerged with 5/7 and a tie for third place.

Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (2) Cherry Blossom Co-Champion GM Corrales Jimenez. Photo: Paul Swaney

The two victors had incredibly parallel results throughout the event: both players won their first three games, then Jiminez drew with Kraai while Moradiabadi drew with GM Alder Escobar Forero; then in round 5 both Moradiabadi and Jiminez defeated the player that the other had drawn with in the previous round; in round 6 they drew with each other, setting up the round 7 finale described above.

Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (3) GMs Jesse Kraai, Alder Escobar Forero, and Moradiabadi. Photo: Paul Swaney

The Cherry Blossom Classic comes on the heels of a 2-section invitational event, the 2ndNortheast Masters, held in the same location the weekend before. That confluence generated the presence of many strong players who played in both the Northeast Masters and the Cherry Blossom, including Escobar Forero and fellow Colombian GM Alonso Zapata, and Serbian GM Nestorovic, and his student 14-year-old Californian FM Josiah Stearman. This summer‘s jam-packed summer schedule afford players many options; Cherry Blossom competes by offering top players hotel rooms if they reached out in advance.I chose the CBC partly because I did well here last year and found it to be a good warm-up in the transition period from focusing on scholastic chess to participating in some of the big summer opens.

Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (4) Esobar Forero. Photo: Paul Swaney

In round 5, Fidel Corrales-Jimenez, a recent graduate of Susan Polgar's program at Webster University, took the battle to Alder Escobar-Forero's Philidor's Defense.

[pgn][Event "Cherry Blossom Open"][Site "Dulles, VA USA"][Date "2018.05.27"][Round "5"][White "Jimenez, Fidel Corrales"][Black "Forero, Alder Escobar"][Result "1-0"][PlyCount "143"][EventDate "2018.??.??"]1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 a5 {Analternative is 7 ... c6 8 Re1 b6, and then White usually plays 9 d5, so thatif 9... c5, 10 a5, disrupting Black's ability to threaten to expand with andeventual ...b5. The text dispenses with all of that and instead acts to securethe c5 square for the later use of Black's minor pieces.} 8. Re1 c6 9. h3 h610. Be3 Re8 11. Qd2 exd4 {On 11... Bf8 12.Ba2 Qc7 13.Nh4, Black has yet todemonstrate equality.} 12. Qxd4 Nc5 13. Rad1 Ne6 {13... Be6 looks ok after 14.Bxe6 Nxe6 15.Qc4 Nd7, but perhaps White should react with 14.Bf1, intendingNf3-d4.} 14. Qd2 Qc7 {14... Bf8 15.e5 also leaves Black uncomfortable.} 15.Bxh6 {There is no point resisting temptation on this sacrifice.} gxh6 16. e5 {In comparison to the position after 16.Qxh6 Nh7, now White will have moreactive options in the event of 16... dxe5 17.Qxh6 Nh7.} d5 {Energeticallyfighting back, while inviting yet another stock sacrifice. If the c4 bishopretreats, Black will be ok after ... Bf6-g7.} 17. exf6 Bxf6 18. Bxd5 cxd5 19.Nxd5 Qd8 20. Qxh6 Bg7 21. Qh5 {With 3 pawns for the piece and a continuinginitiative, White has good chances here.} Ra6 22. Re4 Rd6 23. c4 b6 24. Ne5 Ng5{In an extremely complex position, Forero chooses to enter an endgame withrook, bishop and knight versus queen and about 3 pawns.} 25. Nc6 Nxe4 26. Nxd8Rexd8 27. Ne7+ Kf8 28. Rxd6 Nxd6 29. Nxc8 Rxc8 30. Qd5 Nxc4 31. b3 Ne5 32. Qd6+Kg8 33. Qxb6 Rc1+ 34. Kh2 Nc6 35. Qe3 Rc2 36. Qe8+ Bf8 37. f4 Nd4 38. Qd8 Ne639. Qb8 Rf2 40. Qa8 Rxf4 41. Qxa5 Bd6 42. Qa6 Rd4+ 43. Kg1 Bg3 44. Kf1 Nf4 45.Qc8+ Kh7 46. Qf5+ Ng6 47. Qxf7+ Kh6 48. Ke2 Bf4 49. g4 Rd2+ 50. Ke1 Rh2 51. a5Rxh3 52. a6 Rh1+ 53. Ke2 Rh2+ 54. Kd1 Rd2+ 55. Ke1 Ra2 56. Qe6 Ra5 57. b4 Ra358. Ke2 Kg5 59. b5 Ra5 60. Qf5+ Kh6 61. Qd5 Be5 62. Kd1 Ra4 63. Kc2 Kg5 64. Kb3Ra1 65. Qe4 Bf4 66. Qd3 Nh4 67. Qc3 Rb1+ 68. Ka4 Ng6 69. a7 Be5 70. Qe3+ Bf471. Qa3 Bc1 72. Qa2 1-0[/pgn]

In the other key round 5 game, Elshan Moradiabadi turned in a positional masterpiece against Jesse Kraai (although Kraai would avenge this loss in the very next round by winning against Elshan's wife Sabina Foisor).

[pgn][Event "Cherry Blossom Open"][Site "Dulles, VA USA"][Date "2018.05.27"][Round "5"][White "Moradiabadi, Elshan"][Black "Kraai, Jesse"][Result "1-0"][PlyCount "73"][EventDate "2018.??.??"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Bf4 Bb7 5. e3 Bb4+ 6. Nfd2 {This move appearsto prepare for a more comprehensive battle over the e4 square.} O-O 7. a3 Bd6 {The key line here is 7... Be7 8.Nc3 c5 (8... d5 9.cxd5 Nxd5 is also typical) 9.d5 because White has the resource Qd1-f3.} 8. Bxd6 cxd6 9. Nc3 d5 10. Qf3 {Again this move plays a central role. Now Black would like to get more muscleover to the kingside with 10... Ne7, but 11.cxd5 creates issues.} Na6 11. Be2Qb8 12. Qh3 Nc7 13. O-O dxc4 14. Bxc4 Ncd5 15. Ne2 {Dodging trades inpreparation for a king-side buildup.} Rc8 16. Bd3 a5 17. Rac1 Bc6 {ProbablyBlack should get in a minor piece trade with 17... Ba6.} 18. f4 Ne7 19. g4 g620. Qh4 Kg7 21. e4 b5 22. f5 {This is decisive.} exf5 23. gxf5 Neg8 24. e5 Nh525. Rf2 Bd5 26. Rcf1 Rf8 27. Ng3 Nxg3 28. f6+ Kh8 29. hxg3 Qb6 30. Rh2 h6 31.Qf4 Kh7 32. Rff2 Rac8 33. Rxh6+ Nxh6 34. Rh2 Rc1+ 35. Nf1 Kg8 36. Rxh6 Rfc8 37.Rh8+ 1-0[/pgn]

In preparing for his critical 7thround game against Jiminez, Nikola Nestorovic assumed from his own colors that he would be Black. With limited time left, Nestorovic found out that in fact he would be White. Good news to be sure, but what about the preparation?

[pgn][Event "Cherry Blossom Open"][Site "Dulles, VA USA"][Date "2018.05.28"][Round "7"][White "Nestorovic, Nikola"][Black "Jiminez, Fidel Corrales"][Result "0-1"][PlyCount "70"][EventDate "2018.??.??"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8.O-O-O h6 9. Nxc6 {9 More popular are Be3 and 9 Bf4} bxc6 10. Bf4 d5 11. Qe1Be7 {If 11... Bb7, 12 Be5 Be7 13 f4 O-O 14 Qg3 sets up pretty nicely.} 12. f3Qb6 13. g4 {Here I think 13. Be5, again with the idea of Qe1-g3, would bebetter. Had Black castled on move 12, then 13. g4 would work better.} Bb7 14.Bd3 c5 {Provoking central clarification before Black steps into the king-sidepawn storm.} 15. exd5 Nxd5 16. Nxd5 Bxd5 17. Be4 Bf6 18. c3 O-O 19. h4 {Alsofine for Black was 19.Bxd5 exd5 20.Rxd5 Rfe8 21.Qd2 Qb5.} Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Qa5 21.Qc4 Qb5 22. Qxb5 axb5 23. g5 Be7 24. Kb1 Ra4 25. Be3 Rfa8 26. gxh6 {Based onthe tournament situation, Nestorovic tries to inject some imbalance. But itwas better to settle for 26.a3.} Rxa2 27. Kc2 b4 28. cxb4 Bf6 29. Bc1 c4 30.Rh2 R8a4 31. b5 c3 32. Kb3 Ra5 33. hxg7 cxb2 34. Bxb2 Rxb2+ 35. Rxb2 Rxb5+ 0-1[/pgn]

Jimenez, Moradiabadi Bloom at Cherry Blossom (5) Author GM Michael Rohde. Photo: Paul Swaney

My game against Moradiabadi in round 7 could have been a real donnybrook – until a crazy endgame came to an abrupt finish.

[pgn][Event "Cherry Blossom Open"][Site "Dulles, VA USA"][Date "2018.05.28"][Round "7"][White "Moradiabadi, Elshan"][Black "Rohde, Michael"][Result "1-0"][PlyCount "95"][EventDate "2018.??.??"]1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nbd2 g6 5. e3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 {Selling off the light-squared bishop and then placing all the pawns on lightsquares is a simple and safe strategy, but runs the risk that it cedeslong-term possibilities due to White's slight space advantage and two bishops.}8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 e6 10. b3 Nbd7 11. Bb2 Qe7 12. Rc1 Rfd8 13. Qc2 a5 {Neitherside has a viable central break - for example, any e-pawn move will weakenthat side's d-pawn - so the play moves to the edges.} 14. Rfd1 a4 15. Bc3 axb316. axb3 h5 17. Qb2 Nh7 18. Ra1 Ng5 19. Be2 Nf6 20. Rxa8 Rxa8 21. Ra1 Rb8 {White will be better in an endgame, so Black preserves some majors forpotential kingside counterplay.} 22. Qa3 Qe8 23. Bd3 b5 24. cxb5 cxb5 25. Bb4Nge4 26. Nf3 g5 {Provoking a crisis, but Black has to begin using his forceswhich are stacked on the kingside perimeter.} 27. Ne5 g4 28. Qa7 {Thisinvasion threatens Ne5xf7 or Ne5-c6.} g3 29. fxg3 Bh6 30. Bxe4 Nxe4 31. Nc6Bxe3+ 32. Kh2 {Now Black is faced with the loss of the Exchange. Are there anymiraculous resources?} h4 33. Qxb8 {On 33.Nxb8 hxg3+ 34.Kh1 Nf2+ 35.Kg1, Blackcan retrieve a piece with 35 ... Nd3+ 36.Kf1 Nxb4 but then have to face 37.Qc7or 37.Nd7; instead Black can remain a rook down but try to unleash the queenwith 35 ... Qc8 36.Bc5 Qd8. Also unclear is 33.Be1 Rc8 34.Ne7+ Kg7 35.Nxc8Qxc8, leaving the pawn on h4 so that if 36.gxh4 Qd8 or possibly 36... Qc8.}Qxb8 34. Nxb8 hxg3+ 35. Kh1 Nf2+ 36. Kg1 Nd3+ 37. Kf1 Nxb4 38. Rd1 {After thetransition in time pressure to an unclear ending, inaccuracies abound. Betterwas 38.Ra5} f6 {38...Nc2 may equalize after 39.Nc6 Bf2 40.Rd3 - forced - Ne3+41.Rxe3 Bxe3 42.Ke2} 39. Nd7 Kf7 40. Ke2 Bf2 41. Rc1 Bxd4 {41...Ke7 42.Nb8 Kd6may also not be good enough due to 43.h4 Bxd4 44.h5 f5} 42. Rc7 Kg6 {42...Ke7looks messy but is probably better} 43. Nf8+ Kf5 44. Rh7 {Suddenly Whitestarts a dangerous attack.} e5 45. Rh5+ Ke4 46. Nh7 f5 {Black has to give theking elbow room and also not lose the knight on b4 to a skewer. Most realisticis 46...Be3, although White is working with a decent edge now.} 47. Ng5+ Kf448. Nf7 {Reproducing the mate threat on a new rank. And on 48... Ke4, thereare two ways to mate in two.} 1-0[/pgn]

In its six years, the Cherry Blossom has increased its prizes every year, and is now recognized as a Virginia Chess Federation VCF Cup event. THe event was directed by NTD and IA Anand Dommalapati, assisted byGreg Vaserstein, Andy Rea, Sathish Nath and Maggie Luo.Organized by Dommalapati and Jonathan Kenny (who also provided all of the equipment), the Cherry Blossom runs smoothly with 10 DGT boards broadcasting the top six boards in the Open and top four boards in the U2200 section. Live viewing of the action was possible viafollowchess.comand game replay is available onlivecloudchess.com. Credit goes to Grishmeshwar Sinha who helped set up the DGT Boards and handled the technical challenges as well as making sure the games were live on Follow Chess App.In addition to the main event there were 3 side events – Friday night Open Rapid, Saturday Night Open FIDE Blitz and the Saturday Scholastic that had a total of 107 players. Thanks are also due toVCF President Adam Chrisney for his support, book vendor Todd Hammer, and photographer Paul Swaney.

Below are the Champions in each Section:


GM Elshan Moradiabadi – 6.0/7.0 ($2,300)

GM Fidel Corrales – 6.0/7.0 ($2,300)

U2200 (USCF & FIDE Rated)

Evan Rabin – 6.0/7.0 ($1,500)


Edward Xiao – 6.0/7.0 ($1,200)


Kevin Zimmer – 5.5/7.0 ($1,000)


Long Hua – 5.5/6.0 ($500)

Open Rapid

William Barrow - 4.5/5.0 ($90)

Open FIDE Blitz

GM Alder Escobar Forero – 9.0/10.0 ($200)

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