CHESS Lubomir Kavalek

By Lubomir Kavalek
Monday, March 28, 2005

Two world champions, who don't play competitive chess anymore, made the headlines last week. Both expressed high opinions about their skills. Last Tuesday, Bobby Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship, which may protect him from extradition to the United States. Two days later he flew from Japan to his new adopted country. The 24-hour journey ended in the middle of the night at the Reykjavik airport and suggested an extraterrestrial landing. The next day Fischer declared that he does not play the old chess, but added: "Obviously, if I did, I would be the best."

Garry Kasparov conducted several interviews in New York before he flew back to Moscow. He believes that nobody else can achieve what he has done throughout his 30-year chess career. He also thinks that he could keep the No. 1 rating in the world for another five years, but finds fighting for democracy and freedom in Russia more challenging.

Alive and Well

Kasparov's decision not to continue playing in serious tournaments shocked many chess players. Upon hearing about Kasparov's retirement, Hikaru Nakamura said that chess was dead. But that 17-year-old U.S. champion must have changed his mind. At the traditional Foxwoods Open, his pieces came to life and he won the first five games. And he clinched first place yesterday scoring 7 1/2 points in nine games. In a dramatic fashion, Nakamura downed the top-rated grandmaster, Ilya Smirin of Israel, in a mere 22 moves. The game, featuring one of the sharpest variations of the Austrian attack in the Pirc defense, is theoretically important.

Nakamura-Smirin

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e5 Nfd7 7.h4! (An idea of the legendary David Bronstein, who explained it with one word: "Attack!" White does not care about his center being destroyed as long as he can open the h-file for his heavy pieces.) 7 . . . c5 8.h5! cxd4 9.hxg6!? (Some theoreticians call this sharp knight sacrifice a mistake, but Nakamura does not seem to be impressed. In the inaugural game at the 1958 Munich olympiad against Fiorentino Palmiotto, Bronstein played 9.Qxd4, hoping to swing his queen to the h-file after 9 . . . dxe5 10.Qf2 and now the safest is 10 . . . e4. Otherwise white's attack can succeed quickly, for example the game Stein-Liberzon, from the 1965 Soviet championship in Yerevan, continued 10 . . . e6 11.hxg6 fxg6 12.Qg3 exf4 13.Bxf4 Qa5 14.Bd2 Nf6 15.Bc4 Nc6 16.0-0-0 Qc5 17.Qh4 Nh5 18.Ne4 Qb6 19.c3 Na5 20.Be2 h6 21.g4 Nf4 22.Bxf4 Rxf4 23.Rd8+ Rf8 24.Nf6+ Kh8 25.Qxh6+! and black resigned because of 25 . . . Bxh6+ 26.Rxh6+ Kg7 27.Rh7+ Kxf6 28.Rxf8 mate.) 9 . . . dxc3 10.gxf7+ Rxf7 11.Bc4! (Against Stuart Conquest in Reykjavik 1996, Bronstein chose the less accurate 11.Ng5? and after 11 . . . cxb2 12.Bxb2 Qa5+ 13.c3 Nxe5! 14.Qb3 Qc5 15.Be2 Qe3 16.Bc1 Qg3+ 17.Kd1 Bg4 18.Re1 Qd3+ 19.Bd2 Nc4 had to resign.) 11 . . . Nf8 (The alternative 11 . . . e6 seems better with the idea of answering both 12.Bxe6 and 12.Ng5 with 12 . . . Nxe5!)

12.Ng5! (Going for more. White already has a draw with 12.Bxf7+ as was demonstrated in the game Nadyrhanov-Tseshkovsky, Krasnodar 1999. After 12 . . . Kxf7 13.Ng5+ Kg8 [13 . . . Ke8 14.Qh5+ Kd7 14.Qf7! is worse for black.]14.Qh5 h6 15.Qf7+ Kh8 16.Qb3 Qa5 17.Nf7+ Kh7 18.Ng5+ Kh8 19.Nf7+ Kh7 20.Ng5+ white had a perpetual check.) 12 . . . e6 13.Nxf7 cxb2?! (An unsuccessful attempt to improve on the main defense 13 . . . Kxf7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Bd3 and now after 15 . . . Nbd7? 16.Bxh7+ Nxh7 17.Qxh7+ Kf8 18.Qh8+! Bxh8 19.Rxh8+ Ke7 20.exd6+ wins for white. Black has to play 15 . . . h6!? with the idea 16.Rh3 dxe5 17.Rg3 e4 18.f5 Qc7!, attacking the rook and winning a tempo for defense, for example 19.Qh4 exd3 20.Bxh6 Qe5+ wins.

What did Nakamura have in mind after 15 . . . h6? I suspect that he planned 16.Rh4!? and after 16 . . . dxe5 17.Rg4 when it is hard for black to organize his defense. For example, on either 17 . . . Nc6 or 17 . . . Qc7 18.fxe5 leaves white on top and after 17 . . . e4 18.f5! exf5 [On 18 . . . exd3 19.Rxg7+ Kxg7 20.Bxh6+ wins.] 19.Rxg7+! Kxg7 20.Bxh6+ Kg8 21.0-0-0! [the point!] Be6 [21 . . . exd3 22.Rxd3 wins.] 22.Bc4! cxb2+ 23.Kb1 Qf6 [After 23 . . . Qxd1+ 24.Qxd1 Bxc4 25.Qd4, threatening 26.Qg7 mate, wins.] 24.Bxe6+ Nxe6 25.Qe8+ Nf8 [or 25 . . . Kh7 26.Rh1!] 26.Bxf8 Qf7 27.Qc8 Nd7 28.Qxa8 Nxf8 29.Qxa7 white should win.)

14.Bxb2 Qa5+ (Smirin tries to prevent the long castling because after 14 . . . Kxf7 15.Qh5+ Kg8 white has 16.0-0-0 with a decisive pressure.) 15.Kf1 Kxf7 16.Qh5+ Kg8 (White wins either after 16 . . . Ke7 17.exd6+; or after 16 . . . Ng6 17.f5!) 17.Bd3 Qb4 18.Rb1! Bd7 (Taking the pawn 18 . . . Qxf4+ loses because it opens lines on the black king, for example 19.Ke2 h6 20.Rbf1 Qg5 21.Qf7+ Kh8 22.Bc1 Qxe5+ 23.Kd1 and white has all five pieces aiming at the black king and should win quickly.) 19.c4 (Cutting off the black queen from the kingside.) 19 . . . Qd2 (On 19 . . . h6 comes 20.Rh3, followed by 21.Rg3, white's attack can't be stopped. And after 19 . . . Nc6 20.Rh3 Ne7 21.exd6 Bxb2 22.Bxh7+ Kg7 23.Rg3+ wins.) 20.Bxh7+ Nxh7 21.Qxh7+ Kf8 22.Rh4 (There is no good defense to 23.Rg4.) Black resigned.

White draws.


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