- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This column lost a good friend — and a reliable source of Grade-A material — with the untimely passing of IM Emory Tate earlier this month at the age of 56.

With a gunslinger’s mentality and a fabulous flair for attack, the Chicago-born Tate claimed dozens of grandmaster scalps in his career, despite a rating that peaked at 2508. A pioneer for African-Americans in chess, he authored some of the most brilliant combinations of the past 20 years, and was never shy about letting fans in on his brilliance.

He was also very well known to Washington-area chess fans, winning a record five U.S. Armed Forces championships while serving in the Air Force, as well as numerous Maryland Opens and other local titles in the 1980s and 1990s. According to a nice remembrance at Chess.com (Chess.com/news/emory-tate-1958-2015-7615), Tate played in a stunning 600-plus tournaments just since 1991.

Fittingly, he died the way he lived, being stricken while at the board at a weekend tournament near San Jose, California, Oct. 17 and passing away shortly afterward.

I recall vividly the crowds that would gather around Tate’s board when one of his mind-blowing attacks was gathering force. I would be right there among them, hoping to transcribe the moves for this column.

With so many great Tate games to choose from, we’re going with one that we ran in a January 1997 column. Tate’s result in the 32nd Eastern Open that year was one of his best D.C. performances, taking clear first over a field that included GMs Alex Shabalov and Alexander Ivanov. Along the way he defeated 20-year-old IM Josh “Waiting for Bobby Fischer” Waitzkin, a two-time former U.S. junior champion*.

(The game is not included in the massive Chessgames.com archives, so this might be a “you-can-only-see-it-here” offering.)

It’s a classic Tate performance — an aggressive opening leading to a scintillating, sacrificial attack, with scads of subtle points and critical decisions along the way. Tate chooses a characteristically sharp Sicilian line as Black, and the two players later agreed that White was already on his back foot after 10. Kh1 Bd6 11. Na4?! (apparently clearing the way for c2-c4) h5! (a signature Tate move, using the h-pawn to pry open lines to the enemy king; bad was 11…Bxh2? 12. f4 Bg3 13. Qf3 Bh4 14. g3, winning a piece) 12. h3 Be5 13. c3 (the knight is obviously immune) Bf4 14. c4 Nxg4!, threatening 15…Bxd2 16. Qxd2 Qh2 mate and inviting the suicidal 15. hxg4? hxg4+ 16. Kg1 Bh2+ 17. Kh1 Bg1+! 18. Kxg1 Qh2 mate. White tries 15. Bc3, but Tate doubles his pleasure by putting a second piece en pris with 15…Be3!, renewing the threat of 16…Qh2 mate and also menacing f2.

Waitzkin fights back, organizing a dangerous counterattack: 16. f4 Bxf4 17. Qf3! (see diagram; the queen eyes the f7 square) Bd2!! (an unbelievably brave move, renewing the mate threat on h2) 18. Qxf7+ Kd8. Here I wonder whether White can finally risk 19. hxg4!?, setting a trap with 19…hxg4+ 20. Kg1 Be3+ 21. Rf2 g3?? 22. Bf6+! gxf6 23. Qxf6+ Ke8 24. Qxh8+ Ke7 25. Qf8 mate, while it’s still anyone’s game on 19…hxg4+ 20. Kg1 Be3+ 21. Rf2 Qh2+ 22. Kf1 Bxf2 (or Qh1+ 23. Ke2 Qxa1 24. Kxe3) 23. Kxf2.

White instead pauses to close the lethal diagonal with 19. e5?! Bxc3 20. Qxg7 Qxe5! 21. Rf8+ Kc7! 22. Qxe5+ Bxe5 23. Rxh8, and, incredibly, after all the mauling and brawling, a tiny finesse — 23…Nf2+! 24. Kg1 Nxh3+ 25. gxh3, and only now 25…Bxh8 — wins a critical pawn for Black. White’s weak b-pawn soon falls, and in the final position, the woozy Waitzkin walks into mate after 42…h4 43. Rh8 Ra1+, when 44. Kh2 Rh1 ends things. “A fantastic effort on both sides!” we wrote at the time, a judgment holds up well today.

Waitzkin-Tate, 32nd Eastern Open, Washington D.C., December 1997

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. 0-0 Qc7 9. Bd2 Rb8 10. Kh1 Bd6 11. Na4 h5 12. h3 Be5 13. c3 Bf4 14. c4 Ng4 15. Bc3 Bd6 16. f4 Bxf4 17. Qf3 Bd2 18. Qxf7+ Kd8 19. e5 Bxc3 20. Qxg7 Qxe5 21. Rf8+ Kc7 22. Qxe5+ Bxe5 23. Rxh8 Nf2+ 24. Kg1 Nxh3+ 25. gxh3 Bxh8 26. Rb1 d5 27. Rf1 Bxh2 28. Rf7+ Bd7 29. Nxb2 Rxb2 30. cxd5 cxd5 31. a4 Kd6 32. a5 e5 33. Rf6+ Kc5 34. Rf7 Bxh3 35. Rxa7 e4 36. Bc2 Kd4 37. Ba4 e3 38. a6 Rg2+ 39. Kh1 Ra2 40. Bb5 Bg2+ 41. Kg1 Be4 42. Ra8 h4 43. Rh8 Ra1+ White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

*Josh Waitzkin’s age was misstated in the original version of this story. It has been corrected. 

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