Lubomir Kavalek on Chess

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By Lubomir Kavalek
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, April 6, 2009; 12:00 AM

Anand's Team Triumphs

The last weekend in March, world champion Vishy Anand traveled to Germany. The Indian grandmaster scored two victories and helped his team, OSG Baden-Baden, to clinch the title in the 2008-09 Bundesliga season. The team, with such superstars as Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Alexei Shirov of Spain and the five-time Russian champion Peter Svidler, went undefeated, winning 13 out of 15 matches with two ties. No other team came close.

Poisoned Pawn Slugfest

Anand will be 40 this year and you might expect him to take it easy. Instead, he picks one of the most complex and difficult opening lines in chess -- the Poisoned Pawn variation in the Najdorf Sicilian. It requires excellent memory, quick calculation, nerves of steel, intensive homework and plenty of experience and energy. You grab a pawn and try to survive, hoping it is not really poisoned. Play it and your hair turns gray. It can be a scary experience. I thought I was foolish, trying the line at age 14, until I saw a game between two 7-year-old boys, played last year at the Under 8 World Championship in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Mercifully, it lasted only 20 moves.

Early in March in Linares, Spain, Anand as black barely survived a Poisoned Pawn encounter against Alexander Grischuk. When the Dutch grandmaster Daniel Stellwagen, 22, challenged him again in the Bundesliga, the world champion did not back off. It was an action-packed epic battle -- a queen vs. three light pieces. The pendulum swung wildly from one player to another, both missing some chances as they navigated their way through the maze of treacherous variations. The last mistake belonged to Stellwagen and Anand won.


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 (Taking the venomous pawn.) 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Nfd7 12.Ne4 (The centralizing leap, first played by the magician Mikhail Tal more than a half-century ago, still has plenty of life.) 12...h6 (After 12...Qxa2 the original game Tal-Tolush, Leningrad 1956, continued 13.Rb3 Qa1+ 14.Kf2 Qa4 and Tal's pieces began to dance: 15.Bb5?! axb5 16.Nxb5 f6 17.exf6 gxf6? [Kasparov's 17...Qxe4! makes Tal's play doubtful.] 18.Re1!! and white's attack was too strong. But in 1957, my opponent Jan Filip improved on Tal's play in a club competition in Prague. Instead of 15.Bb5?!, he found the winning path: 15.Nxe6! fxe6 16.Nd6+ Bxd6 17.Qxd6 Rf8+, but he missed the decisive 18.Kg3! and blundered with 18.Rf3? Rxf3+ 19.gxf3 Qxc2+ 20.Kg3 Qc5 21.Qxe6+ Kf8 22.Bh3 Nc6 23.Qd6+ Qxd6 24.exd6 Nde5 25.f4 Bxh3 26.fxe5 Be6 and resigned. The following year Alexander Tolush and Boris Spassky also found Filip's 15.Nxe6!

(Last year, the two 7-year-old boys mentioned above, Ortik Nigmatov of Uzbekistan and Semen Elistratov of Russia, followed the recent trend after 12...Qxa2 with 13.Rd1 Qd5 14.Qe3 Qxe5 15.Be2 Qa5+ 16.c3 h6 17.Bh4?! [Here 17.Nxe6! hxg5 18.Nc7+ Kd8 19.Nxa8 wins] 17...Nc6 18.0-0 Bc5? 19.Kh1? [Missing a spectacular win 19.Rxf7!!, for example 19... Kxf7 20.Nd6+! Bxd6 21.Qxe6+ Kf8 22.Bc4 Nde5 23.Rf1+ and white mates; or 19...Bxd4 20.Nd6 mate; or 19...Nxd4 20.Bh5! Ne2+ 21.Kh1 wins.] 19...Qb6? [The brilliant queen sacrifice 20.Nd6+! Bxd6 21.Qxe6+! mates faster, e.g. 21...fxe6 22.Bh5+ g6 23.Bxg6 mate; or 21...Be7 22.Qxf7+ Kd8 23.Ne6 mate.] 20.Nxe6! and Elistratov resigned since white mates after 20...Bxe3 21.Nd6 mate or after 20...fxe6 21.Bh5+ g6 22.Bxg6 mate, but 20...Nce5 avoids a direct mate.)

13.Bb5!? (Try to explain this astonishing pin to little kids! Should not they move the other bishop? After 13.Bh4 the white pieces are lined up on the fourth rank and black should play 13...Qxa2 14.Rb3 Qa1+ 15.Kf2 Qa4! with the idea of 16.Bb5 axb5 17.Nxb5 Bc5+ 18.Nxc5 Qxh4+ as in Korchnoi-Tolush, Riga 1958. In the game Radjabov-Anand from the 2006 World Blitz Championship, black went down quickly after 13...Qa4?! 14.Be2 Nc6? 15.Nxe6! g5 16.Nf6+ and resigned since after 16...Ke7 17.Qd6 mates.) 13...axb5!? (After 13...hxg5 black has to walk a tightrope, but gets a draw as in the game Shabalov-Areshchenko, Port Erin 2006: 14.Rb3 Qxa2 15.Qc3 axb5 16.Qxc8+ Ke7 17.0-0 Qa7 18.Rd3 Nxe5 19.Nc5 Nbd7 20.Nf5+ exf5 21.Rxd7+ Kf6! [After 21...Nxd7 22.Qxd7+ Kf6 23.Qxf5+ Ke7 24.Qd7 mates.] 22.Rxf7+ Kg6! [but not 22...Kxf7? 23.Qe6 mate; or 22...Nxf7? 23.Qe6 mate] 23.Qxf5+ Kh6 and white has a perpetual check with 24.Qh3+ Kg6 25.Qf5+.) 14.Nxb5 (The threat 15.Nc7 mate forces black to give up the queen, but he has enough pieces for it.) 14...hxg5 15.Nxa3 Rxa3 16.0-0 Nc6 17.Rb5 Ra4! (Recommended by IM Dragoljub Minic in 1968.)

18.Nxg5!? (The computers and correspondence players prefer 18.Nd6+, but the Dutchman aims his forces at the pawn on f7.) 18...Ndxe5 19.Rxe5 Nxe5 20.Qc3 Nc6 21.Rxf7!? (Played with a reckless abandon, but after the previously tried 21.Nxf7, black limits the white knight with 21...Rh5! and after 22.Qg3 Rd5 23.Qg6 Kd7! takes over the initiative.) 21...Ra5! (Anand feasts his eyes on white's hanging pieces and the slugfest continues.)

22.Rxg7! Bc5+! (A paradox: Black needs to control the dark squares and the bishop does it better than the rook. After 22...Bxg7 23.Qxg7 Rf8 24.Ne4, black can't cope with both threats 25.Nf6+ and 25.Nd6+ and has to return an exchange.) 23.Kh1 Rf8?! (Anand could have coordinated his forces better with 23...Bd4! 24.Qd3! Rf5!, but not 24...Bxg7?! 25.Qg6+ Kd8 26.Qxg7 Re8 27.h4 and black is missing his dark bishop in stopping the h-pawn.) 24.Qd3 Rxa2 25.h4 (The h-pawn begins to sprint toward h8. It is white's only hope.) 25...Ra1+ (The sideways attack 25...Ra4 can be blunted by 26.g4!, for example 26...Rxg4 27.Qg6+ Kd8 28.Nf7+ winning the exchange.) 26.Kh2 Bd4 27.Qg6+ Kd8 (The game is entering a difficult stage. White bets on his h-pawn, while Anand tries to orchestrate harmony among his pieces.)

28.Rf7?! (Hitting the bishop with 28.Nf3! is stronger. After either 28...Bxg7 29.Qxg7; or 28...Bc5 29.Qg5+ Be7 30.Rxe7! Nxe7 31.Qg7 the white queen forks both rooks.) 28...Rxf7 29.Qxf7 Bg1+ 30.Kg3 e5 31.h5 (31.Nf3! Be3 32.Nxe5 Nxe5 33.Qf6+ Kd7 34.Qxe5 looks dangerous to black.) 31...Nd4! (Anand makes a great practical choice, giving up a pawn to hide his king.) 32.Qf6+ Kc7 33.Qxe5+ Kb6 34.Qd6+ Ka7 35.Qc5+ Kb8 36.Qd6+ Ka8 37.Qd8 Nf5+ 38.Kh3 Kb8? (Anand had to force the white knight back with 38...Ra3+ 39.Nf3 before playing 39...Kb8.)

39.Ne6? (Having the world champion on the ropes, Stellwagen fails to deliver the final blow 39.g4! White should win either after 39...Nd4 40.Qd6+ and 41.Qc7!; or after 39...Ra3+ 40.Kg2 Rg3+ 41.Kh1! Rxg4 42.Ne6, threatening to win a piece with 43.Qc7+.) 39...Ra3+ 40.Kg4 Nh6+ 41.Kf4 Bh2+ 42.Ke4 Nf7 43.Qf8 Nd6+ 44.Kd4 Ka7 45.Nc5 Ra5 (Threatening to win the knight with 46...Bg1+.) 46.h6? (The final blunder. 46.Qd8! still offered chances to survive.) 46...Bg1+ 47.Kd3 Bf5+ 48.Qxf5 Nxf5 49.h7 Ra3+ 50.Nb3 Bd4 51.Ke4 Bh8 52.Kxf5 Ra2 (After 53.g4 Rxc2 black stops the white pawns easily.) White resigned.

Puzzle of the Week

White: Kf2,Qf6,Bg2; Black: Kf4,Bf5

White mates in three moves. (Solution next week.)

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