Monday, October 19, 2009; 9:00 AM
In 1922, the Latvian chess composer Johann Sehwers created an extraordinary study (White: Kc4,Rb3,Ne2,P:a2,g2; Black: Kf5,Qg7,P:d6,e7) in which the rook runs amok, chasing the black king until he is forced to step into a fork. Can you find how white wins? (Solution next week.)
World's Youngest Grandmaster
The U.S. Junior champion Ray Robson will turn 15 on Sunday. He got himself a nice birthday present: the grandmaster title. Competing at the Pan-American Junior Championship this month in Montevideo, Uruguay, he scored seven straight wins and drew in the last round, securing first place and the GM title. He is currently the youngest grandmaster in the world. Together with GM Alex Lenderman, Robson will represent the United States at the 48th Junior World Championship, Oct. 21-Nov. 4, in Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
Zatonskih's Sweeping Victory
The defending champion, IM Anna Zatonskih, 31, did not leave anything to chance at this year's U.S. Women's Championship in St. Louis, winning the 10-player event with a remarkable 8½-½ score. She finished two full points ahead of her closest rival, Camilla Baginskaite, at 42 the oldest participant. Both players will represent the United States in the Women's World Championship next year. IM Irina Krush, 25, and the youngest player, Alisa Melekhina, 18, shared third place with 5½ points.
Last year, the pieces were flying during the U.S. Women's championship blitz playoff between two Ukrainian-born players, Zatonskih and Krush. With a few seconds left on her clock, Zatonskih won the game on time, triggering a debate whether blitz games should be deciding national titles. I don't believe they should. Just look at the book "Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate" by Hikaru Nakamura and Bruce Harper, recently published by Russell Enterprises. It is a collection of blunders at high speed when chess ceases to be the royal game. Those who do it well make it look as if the hand playing the moves is faster than the mind. The trick is to anticipate the opponent's moves quickly, and only a few players can excel at it. The authors admit that this is not chess, but the book may still find a good number of readers.
This year, the game between the two highest rated players, Zatonskih and Krush, was different. In 1998, the 14-year-old Krush became the youngest U.S. Women's champion. GM Ron Henley praised her at the time as a good positional player. "She is not a tactical wizard, but follows good strategical plans. And that's unusual at her age," he said. The legendary GM David Bronstein, known for his extraordinary tactical skills, once explained: "There are no plans in chess, only moves." It is not a coincidence that the attacking maestro and the author of the classic "The Art of Sacrifice in Chess," the Austrian Rudolf Spielmann, embraced the Lasker defense in the Queen's gambit and even defeated the world championship challenger Efim Bogoljubow in mere 16 moves. Zatonskih chose the same defense against Krush, and after white played carelessly with the heavy pieces, entombing her queen, black found a surprising tactical way to win material and the important third-round game. The road to Zatonskih's overall victory was open.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bg5 h6 (The game Bogoljubow-Spielmann, Semmering 1932, went 5...0-0 6.e3 Ne4 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Qc2 Nxc3 9.Qxc3 c6 10.Bd3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 b6 12.b4 a5 13.b5 cxb5 14.Bxb5 Bb7 15.0-0?? Bxf3 16.gxf3 Qg5+ and white resigned.) 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 Ne4 (The Lasker defense of the Queen's gambit. The simplifying maneuver, exchanging a couple of light pieces, was played in many different versions. It was the main weapon of the world champion Emanuel Lasker in his title defense against the American champion Frank Marshall in 1907, hence the name.) 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Rc1 Nxc3 10.Rxc3 c6 11.Qc2 Nd7 12.cxd5 (White has a slight edge, but black should not have any problems. After the waiting move 12.h3 black can try 12...dxc4 13.Bxc4 e5 14.0-0 e4 15.Nd2 Nf6 16.Bb3 Re8 17.Rc5 and now 17...Be6!? since 18.Nxe4? is met by 18...Nd7!) 12...exd5 13.Bd3 Nb6!? (Zatonskih moves the knight to the queenside where she expects action. The usual 13...Nf6 controls the center.) 14.0-0 Be6 15.Rb1 a5!? (A key defensive move, preventing the minority attack with 16.b4.)
16.Nd2 (Covering the square c4. After 16.a3 black can prepare a positional pawn sacrifice 16...Rfe8 17.b4?! axb4 18.axb4 Nc4! since after 19.Bxc4 dxc4 20.Ne5 b5 21.Nxc6 Qd7 22.Ne5 Qd5, threatening 23...f6 and 24...Bf5, black dominates the board and has a strong pressure against the b-pawn.) 16...Nc8 17.Ra3? (White is losing the thread, but after 17.Nb3 Nd6 18.Nc5 black can create her own minority attack with 18...Bc8 19.b4 axb4 20.Rxb4 f5 21.a4 f4 with good game.) 17...Nd6 18.Qc5 (After 18.Nb3 b6!? 19.Qxc6 black has a move repetition 19...Rfc8 20.Qxb6 Rcb8 21.Qc5 Rc8 etc.) 18...Qc7!? (Sharper than the equalizing attempt 18...Bf5 19.Bxf5 Nxf5 20.Qxe7 Nxe7.) 19.Rc3?! (Krush is entombing her queen, but after 19.b4 b6 20.Qc2 axb4 21.Rxa8 Rxa8 22.Rxb4 c5 black has no problems.) 19...Rfc8 20.Rbc1 Qd8 21.h3? (Not realizing she is on the verge of losing.)
21...Bf5?! (White's heavy pieces are standing in each other's way, and Zatonskih could have taken advantage of it immediately with 21...b5!, threatening to win either with 22...Nb7 23.Qa3 b4 or with 22...b4 23.Rb3 Nb7 24.Qc2 c5.) 22.Bf1? (A blunder. White should have tried 22.Bxf5 Nxf5 23.Nc4 Ra6 24.Ne5 with a playable game.) 22...b5! (White has to lose material.) 23.Rb3 (The alternative 23.Bd3!? Nb7 24.Bxf5 Nxc5 25.Bxc8 Nd3 26.Rxd3 Rxc8 27.Nb3 only prolongs the game.) 23...Nb7 24.Qa3 (After 24.Qc3 b4 wins.) 24...b4 25.Qa4 c5 26.dxc5 (Trying to solve the congestion with 26.e4 dxe4 27.d5 is equally hopeless for white after 27...Qxd5, threatening 28...Bd7.) 26...Nxc5 27.Qb5 Rab8! 28.Qe2 (After 28.Rxc5 Rxb5 29.Rxb5 Bc2 black wins.) 28...a4 White resigned.
Book of the Year
"Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 2: Kasparov vs. Karpov 1975-1985," published by Everyman Chess last year, won the English Chess Federation 2009 Book of the Year Award. Kasparov won the award in 2003 and 2005 for two of his volumes in the series "My Great Predecessors."
Solution to Last Week's Puzzle
White mates in two moves by Murray Marble (White: Ka6,Qa8,Rc3,Rh3,Ba1,Bg6,Ng7; Black: Kd4,Qh1,Re2,Rf4,Nf2,Ng5,P: a3,b6,d5,e5): 1.Be4! Black can capture the bishop seven different times and is mated seven different ways: 1...Kxe4 2.Rc4 mate; 1...Qxe4 2.Rc2 mate; 1...Rexe4 2.Rc1 mate; 1...Ngxe4 2.Ne6 mate; 1...Nfxe4 2.Rhd3 mate; 1...dxe4 2.Qd8 mate; 1...Rfxe4 2.Nf5 mate. Brilliant work!