Monday, August 24, 2009; 10:00 AM
The Latvian chess composer Johann Sehwers (1868-1940), also known as Janis Zevers, was a prominent linguist and literary historian. "Endspielstudien," a collection of his 64 endgame studies, was published in Germany in 1922. In his amusing work from 1900 (White: Ka3,Rh5,Bh4; Black: Kb6,Qh8,Bg8,P:h7), white plays and draws. (Solution next week.)
Magic of the Champions
Last weekend, the Zurich Chess Club celebrated its 200th anniversary, the FIDE Grand Prix finished in the Armenian resort town of Jermuk and the U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura played a mind-twisting game in Amsterdam.
In Zurich, nearly all living world champions, including Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, invaded the main railway station on Saturday, circling around the boards in a simultaneous exhibition. It was the best collection of chess talent the major Swiss city has seen since September 1988 when we played there during the meeting of the Grandmasters Association. On Sunday, Kramnik won the Champions Rapid with a 5-2 score, a half-point ahead of Anand.
In Jermuk, the Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk continued to amaze his followers. He won the fifth leg of the FIDE Grand Prix Sunday, scoring 8½ points in 13 games. The Armenian GM Levon Aronian shared second and third place with GM Boris Gelfand of Israel, both finishing a half-point behind Ivanchuk. The Armenian grandmaster virtually locked in the overall Grand Prix victory. Earlier, Aronian won Grand Prix events in Russia, in Sochi and Nalchik.
The U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura is playing the NH Chess Tournament, Hope vs. Experience, in Amsterdam. His opponent in Saturday's third round was Alexander Beliavsky, a former Soviet champion who now plays for Slovenia. Beliavsky chose a sharp variation of the Classical King's Indian, considered to be better for white, but that line also saw stunning victories for black in the past. Queens were sacrificed and smothered mates delivered. Beliavsky threw in a new move order, catching Nakamura by surprise. But the U.S. champion came up with a few incredible sacrifices, targeting the white king. Perhaps there was a way out of the maze Nakamura created on the board, but Beliavsky could not find it. The high-octane game had the fans buzzing. After Nakamura won it, we learned that he played it while quite ill. Anybody want to face a healthy Nakamura?
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 (Beliavsky prefers the variation in which the knight aims for the square c4 after white advances his queenside pawns. The line with 9.Ne1and the Bayonet variation 9.b4 are slightly more popular.) 9...Ne8 10.b4 f5 11.c5 Nf6 12.f3 f4 13.Nc4 g5 (Off to the pawn races!) 14.a4 (Pressuring the pawn d6 immediately with 14.Ba3 Ng6 15.b5 is a viable option.) 14...Ng6 15.Ba3 Rf7 16.a5 (In the game against D. Solak, played in Saint Vincent in 2000, Beliavsky as white showed how dangerous for black it is to play passively. After 16.b5 Ne8 17.a5 Bf8 18.Na4 h5 19.b6 Bd7 20.bxc7 Qxc7 21.a6 bxa6 22.c6 Bc8 23.Nab2 Rg7 24.Nd3 Nh8 25.Nf2 Nf7 26.h3 black's attack was stopped, white invaded the queenside and won in 34 moves.) 16...h5 17.b5 dxc5 (Allowing white pawn breakthroughs on the queenside and in the middle, black bets on a speedy attack against the white king.)
18.b6!? (A new pawn sacrifice, accelerating an assault on black's queenside. In the previously played games, black players achieved some stunning victories after 18.Bxc5 g4 19.b6 g3 20.Kh1. The game Roussel Roozmon-Charbonneau, Montreal 2008, finished 20...Bf8 21.Bg1 Nh4 22.Re1 Nxg2 23.Kxg2 Rg7 24.Nxe5 gxh2+ 25.Kh1 Nxe4! and white resigned. But the most famous win came in the game Ftacnik-Cvitan, played in the German Bundesliga in 1997, in which black sacrificed the queen for a smothered mate with a pawn. After 20...Nh7 21.d6 Qh4 22.Bg1 Bh3, white could have blunted the attack with 23.gxh3! Qxh3 24.Rf2! gxf2 25.Bxf2 with advantage. He blundered with 23.bxc7?? instead, allowing a beautiful finish 23...Bxg2+! 24.Kxg2 Qh3+!! 25.Kxh3 Ng5+ 26.Kg2 Nh4+ and not waiting for 27.Kh1 g2 mate, white resigned.) 18...g4!? (Nakamura makes the most practical decision, since neither 18...axb6 19.axb6 cxb6 20.Qb3 Nd7 21.Na4, nor 18...Bf8 19.bxc7 Qxc7 20.d6 Qc6 21.Qa4 gets him out of trouble.) 19.bxc7 Rxc7 20.Nb5 g3! (A shocking series of sacrifices are not atypical in this King's Indian variation.) 21.Nxc7 Nxe4!! (Nakamura ignores material losses and throws all he has at the white king.)
22.Ne6?! (In a critical moment, white does not react well. The position is difficult to play over the board, but it seems only 22.Bd3! Qh4 23.h3 gives white winning chances, for example 23...Nc3 24.Qd2 e4 25.Ne6 exd3 26.Qxd3 Bxe6 27.dxe6; or 23...Nf2 24.Rxf2 gxf2+ 25.Kf1 e4 26.Bxe4 Bxa1 27.Nxa8 Qg3 28.Bxc5 Bxh3 29.Bxf2 and white should win. Of course, after 22.Nxa8 Qh4 23.h3 Bxh3! black mates soon, but other lines are not so clear. For example, accepting the knight with 22.fxe4 leads to 22...Qh4 23.h3 Bxh3 24.gxh3 Qxh3 25.Rf2 gxf2+ 26.Kxf2 Qg3+ 27.Kf1, where black can still muddy the waters either with 27...Qh3+ 28.Ke1 Qc3+; or with 27...f3 28.Nxa8 fxe2+ 29.Qxe2 Nf4 30.Qe3 Qg2+ 31.Ke1 Qh1+ 32.Kd2 Qxa1, for example 33.d6 Ne6 34.d7 Bh6!! 35.d8Q+ Nxd8 36.Qxh6 Qd4+ with good chances to equalize. Black seems to be doing fine after 22.Qc2 gxh2+ 23.Kxh2 Ng3 24.Nxa8 [After 24.Qxg6? Qh4+ 25.Kg1 Nxe2 mates.] 24...e4!, for example 25.Bxc5 Bf5 26.Qa2 Qh4+ 27.Kg1 e3 with a winning attack.) 22...Bxe6 23.dxe6 gxh2+ 24.Kxh2 Qh4+ 25.Kg1 Ng3 26.Bxc5 e4 (Opening the long diagonal gives black sufficient counterplay.)
27.Ra4?! (Running into unusual problems, but after 27.Ra2 e3 28.Nxe3 fxe3 29.Bxe3 Nf4 black has enough play. Black has a repetition after either 27.Re1 Qh1+ 28.Kf2 Qh4; or after 27.Ra3 Qg5 28.Bf2 Qh4.) 27...Rc8 28.Bxa7 b5! (A neat double attack, gaining back material.) 29.Rb4 (29.axb6? allows 29...Bd4+! 30.Qxd4 Nxe2 mate, and 29.Nd6 is met by 29...exf3 30.Bxf3 [30.Rxf3 Rc1!] 30...Rc2!! and black mates. After 29.Ra3 bxc4 30.fxe4 Qh1+ 31.Kf2 Nxe4+ black fairy-tale attack succeeds, for example 32.Ke1 Qh4+ 33.Bf2 Qe7 34.Qa4 Qd6! 35.Rh1 Rb8! 36.Bb6 Bc3 winning; or 32.Kf3 Nh4+ 33.Kxe4 Qxg2+ 34.Bf3 Qg6+ 35.Kxf4 Bh6+ 36.Ke5 Qg5+ and the white king is hunted down.) 29...bxc4 30.Bxc4 (30.Rxc4 is met by 30...Rd8!) 30...Qh1+!? (It wins, too, but closing the mating net with 30...e3! or even playing 30...exf3! with the idea 31.e7+ Kh7 32.Qxf3 Rxc4!, threatening 33...Qh1+, are stronger.) 31.Kf2 e3+ 32.Bxe3 fxe3+ 33.Kxe3 Nxf1+ 34.Bxf1 (After 34.Qxf1 Qh4! black combines the attack on the white king with material gains.) 34...Qg1+ (After 35.Ke4 or 35.Ke2 the rook invasion 35...Rc3! is deadly.) White resigned.
Solution to Last Week's Puzzle
Aug. 17: White mates in three moves by Godfrey Heathcote (White: Kh1,Qc8,Rc5,Bc1,Bf1,P: e4; Black: Kd4,Qd6,Ra4,Ng8,P: b4,c2,c3,g6,h2): 1.Qb8!! Qxb8 2.Rd5+ Kxe4 3.Bg2 mate; or 1...Qxc5 2.Qf4! and 3.Be3 mate; or 1...Kxc5 2.Be3+ Kc6 [2...Qd4 3.Qc7 mate] 3.Bb5 mate.