Imagination Over Experience

By Lubomir Kavalek
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 9, 2008

You don't have to live in a big city to become a grandmaster. Joshua Friedel comes from the small New Hampshire town of Goffstown, where he was born in 1986 and lived most of his life. For several years he was regarded as one of the most talented American juniors, and last month he met the final requirements for the grandmaster title.

Imagination Over Experience

Friedel plays attractive chess, resembling the style of his coach, grandmaster Larry Christiansen, who was inducted into the U.S. Hall of Fame in Miami last month together with Nick DeFirmian and Joel Benjamin. Like Christiansen, Friedel often creates chaos on the board with appealing sacrifices. At the recent U.S. championship in Tulsa, Okla., his daring play in the Classical Defense of the Spanish confused even the experienced veteran grandmaster Boris Gulko.


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 (The Classical Defense, one of the oldest defenses against the Spanish, still has its charm.) 4.0-0 Nf6 5.c3 0-0 6.d4 Bb6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 d6 9.Qd3 exd4!? (Instead of the solid but passive 9...Bd7, Gulko makes a radical decision in the center.) 10.cxd4 g5 11.Bg3 d5!? (Black is close to equalizing. White may claim an edge after either 11...g4 or 11...Nh5.)

12.exd5!? (A new move, keeping the game open and razor-sharp. Neither 12.e5 Ne4 13.Nc3 Nb4 14.Qd1 Bf5; nor 12.Bxc6 bxc6 seems dangerous to black.) 12...Nxd5 13.Nc3 (13.Bxc6 is met by 13...Nb4.) 13...Ndb4 14.Qe4!? (Without seeing a clear path to an advantage, Friedel is trying to confuse his opponent with a piece sacrifice and eventually succeeds.) 14...f5! (Gulko is not scared. After 14...Re8 15.Qb1 g4 16.Bc4! white takes advantage of black's weakened kingside.) 15.Qe2 f4 16.Qc4+ Kg7! 17.d5 fxg3 18.hxg3 Nc2? (Gulko avoided the perils excellently, but now blunders. He would have kept the edge with 18...Rxf3!, for example 19.dxc6 Rxc3 20.Qxc3+ Qd4!; or 19.gxf3 Qd6!, threatening 20...Qxg3+.)

19.dxc6! (Friedel feeds his hungry opponent with a splendid rook sacrifice. It leads to white's decisive advantage.) 19...Nxa1 (Black does not have time for 19...a6 because after 20.Rad1! axb5 21.Nxb5 Qf6 22.Nxc7! Bxc7 [or 22...Ra7 23.Nd5!] 23.cxb7 Bxb7 24.Qxc7+ Rf7 25.Qxc2 Bxf3 26.gxf3 Rxa2 27.Rd2 Qxf3 28.Rd6! the black king is under fire and white is a healthy pawn up.) 20.Rd1 Qf6 21.Ne4! Be6 (The black queen does not have a safe square to go to, for example 21...Qe6 22.Qc3+ Kg6 23.Ne5+ Kh7 24.Bd3!; or 21...Qf5 22.g4!; or 21...Qxb2 22.cxb7 Bxb7 23.Rd7+ Kh8 24.Qe6!; or 21...Qe7 22.cxb7 Bxb7 23.Rd7; or 21...Qg6 22.Qc3+ Kg8 23.cxb7 Bxb7 24.Bc4+ Rf7 25.Bxf7+ Qxf7 26.Nf6+ Kg7 27.Rd7, winning in all cases.) 22.Rd7+! Rf7 (After 22...Kg6 23.Qd3! Qf5 24.g4! wins.)

23.Nxf6? (Friedel almost throws the win away. After 23.Qc1! black is in dire straits, e.g. 23...Qg6 24.cxb7 Raf8 25.Qc3+ Kg8 26.Rxf7 Qxf7 27.Nf6+ Kg7 28.Ne8+ wins.) 23...Bxc4 24.Nh5+ Kf8? (Black misses the best defense: 24...Kh7 25.Bxc4 Rxd7 26.cxd7 c6 when white is still better, but black can fight.) 25.cxb7 Rb8 26.Ne5 Bxf2+ 27.Kh2 Re7 28.Bxc4 (After 28...Rxe5 29.Rf7+ Ke8 30.Nf6+ Kd8 31.Rd7 mates.) Black resigned.

Solution to today's study by H. Rinck (White: Ka1,Qh3,Ne4,P:c3,d4; Black: Kc4,Qg8,Bd6,P:a7,e7,f4): 1.Qf1+ Kd5 2.Nf6+! exf6 3.Qb5+ Ke4! 4.Qe2+ Kf5 (or 4...Kd5 5.Qa2+! wins.) 5.Qc2+ Kg5 (or 5...Ke6 6.Qa2+ wins.) 6.Qg2+ wins the queen.

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