The chess composer and columnist Zdenek Mach (1877-1954) was one of the prominent representatives of the Czech problem school. He began publishing in 1894 and created nearly 420 problems before he died. The white pawns don't belong in chess problems, he believed, and used them seldom or not at all. In 1903, he created the following gem: (White: Kg6,Qg5,Bc5,Bf1,Nd3; Black: Kc4,Nb7,P:a3,a6,c6). White mates in three moves. (Solution next week.)
Kramnik leads in Moscow
The Tal Memorial, honoring the brilliant Latvian world champion, is underway in Moscow. Mikhail Tal (1936-1992) won the world title in 1960 and had great results throughout his playing career. But he is mostly remembered for the way he played. He enriched the chess world with incredible attacks and beautiful combinations, taking the element of risk to the edge. He was a wonderful storyteller who turned commenting on games into an art. It was a pleasure to work with him.
The Tal Memorial, which ends Saturday, is called the "tournament of stars." By coincidence, the Soviets insisted on the same name 30 years ago for the tournament I organized in Montreal. It was also a 10-player event and most participants were rated among the world's top 10. Unlike the Tal Memorial, Montreal 1979 was a double round robin. It was the most bizarre event of my career: I finished dead last in the first half, but I had the best result in the second half. Misha Tal shone once more, and it was a joy to watch him make a comeback. He led the tourney almost till the end, but was caught by Anatoly Karpov at the finish line and they shared first place.
The former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia is the sole leader in Moscow after four rounds with a 3-1 score. It took the players two rounds before they stopped drawing and began winning some games. The world champion Vishy Anand of India won the first game of the competition, defeating the five-time Russian champion, Peter Svidler, in the Grunfeld defense.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 (The defense, named after the Viennese master and theoretician Ernst Grunfeld, is making a comeback in Moscow. It was played eight times in the first four rounds.) 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 (The modest move prepares 6.e4 and after 6...Nxc3 7.Bxc3.) 5...Bg7 (Preventing the central advance with 5...Bf5 doesn't work: After 6.e4 Nxc3 7.Bxc3 Bxe4? 8.d5 f6 9.Qa4+ white wins a piece.) 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be3 0-0 8.h3 e5 (The other way to react against white's pawn center is 8...f5, but after 9.exf5 Bxf5 10.Nf3 Nc6 11.Qb3+ Kh8 12.d5 Ne5 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.Rd1, with the idea of 15.Bd3, white has the edge.) 9.Nf3 exd4 10.Bxd4 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Qe7 (After 11...Qxd4 12.Nxd4, white controls the center and dictates the play.) 12.Qe3 Nc6 13.Bb5 Nb4 (After 13...f5 14.Bxc6 bxc6 15.0-0, black has no compensation for his shattered pawn structure.) 14.Rc1 Be6 15.b3 a6 16.Be2 Nc6 17.0-0 f6!? (Repairing the dark squares, but white still has more space to maneuver.) 18.Rfe1 Rad8 19.Bf1 Bf7 20.Nh2 Be6 21.f4 Nd4?! (Black moves his knight to the only square in the center under his control. But the knight becomes vulnerable. The waiting move 21...Rfe8 was better. Anand is now able to strike.)
22.f5! Bf7 (After 22...gxf5 23.exf5, the pin along the e-file wins.) 23.Ng4 gxf5?! (Svidler tries to confuse Anand. After 23...c5 white can play 24.b4!?, for example 24...cxb4 25.Nd5! and the complications are in his favor. White is also clearly better after 23...Nc6 24.Ne2 Ne5 25.Nh6+ Kh8 26.Nxf7+ Nxf7 27.Nd4 Rd7 28.Ne6 Rb8 29.Be2 Ne5 30.Red1 because of his pesky knight on e6.) 24.Nh6+ Kh8 (After 24...Kg7 25.Qxd4! Kxh6 26.exf5 Rxd4 27.Rxe7 Rd7 28.Rxd7 Nxd7 29.Ne4 c6 30.Nd6, white has a clear advantage.) 25.Qf2! fxe4? (Losing. Also after 25...c5? 26.exf5 Qc7 27.Ne4 black's position collapses. Black had to keep the game closed at all costs with 25...f4, even though white keeps the edge after 26.Nxf7+ Rxf7 27.Nd5 Qe5 28.Nxf4.) 26.Rxe4 Qd6 (After 26...Ne6 27.Qe3 Rfe8 28.Re1, the heavy pin on the e-file wins material.) 27.Rd1! (Shifting the pin to the d-file.) 27...c5 28.Nxf7+ Rxf7 29.b4! (Undermining the knight on d4 decides the outcome.) 29...f5 (Black can't escape from the pin with 29...Rc8, since after 30.bxc5 Qxc5 31.Rexd4 Qxc3 32.Rd8+ wins the knight on b6.) 30.bxc5 fxe4 31.Qxf7 Nf3+ (After 31...Qxc5 32.Qf6+ wins.) 32.Qxf3 (After 32...Qxc5+ 33.Qf2 it's over.) Black resigned.
Young and old champions
In 1972, I shared first place with grandmasters Robert Byrne and Sammy Reshevsky at the U.S. championship in New York and we were pronounced co-champions. But only two of us could qualify for the Interzonal tournaments, and the sponsor of the playoff insisted that we also play for the U.S. title. Byrne won it and became the champion. And this is how it should be done. Playing blitz games and winning the title by a split second or getting it on tiebreaker is a lottery. What tiebreaking system are you going to use?
Last year, the organizers of the Senior World Championship announced on their Web site how they are going to treat ties. Larry Kaufman of the United States became the champion according their system, but FIDE rules would have granted the title to GM Mihai Suba of Romania. To remedy the mess, both became co-champions.
They got it right this year in Condino, Italy. Miso Cebalo of Croatia won the title on a tiebreaker over Janis Klovans of Latvia, each scoring 8 1/2 points in 11 games. The defending champions, Kaufman and Suba, finished just a half-point behind the winners. Other Americans: IM James Sherwin, 6 1/2 points in 40th place; Jude Acers, six points in 60th place. Former women's world champion Nona Gaprindashvili of Georgia won the Women's Senior title, scoring 7 1/2 points in nine games.
For the 35 years after the start of the Junior World Championships in 1951, only once have two players shared first place. In 1963, Florin Gheorghiu of Romania and the Czech Michael Janata tied in the tournament, and a few months later played a four-game match. It ended 2-2 and Gheorghiu won the title on a tiebreaker. These days they skip the playoff.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave became the World Junior Champion this month in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. He won the gold medal and the title with a better tiebreaker. The French grandmaster and the top-rated participant shared first place with GM Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus, each scoring 10 1/2 points in 13 games. The bronze went to the Polish GM Michal Olszewski, also on a tiebreaker over IM Alex Lenderman of the United States and GM Ivan Popov of Russia, each with a 9-4 score. U.S. Junior Champion Ray Robson finished with 7 1/2 points in the 18th place. India's Soumya Swaminathan won the Girls' championship on a tiebreaker.
Solution to last week's puzzle
White draws by Leonid Kubbel (White: Ke3,P:a5,a6; Black: Kc8,P:b5,d7): 1.Kd4 d6 2.Kc3! d5 3.Kd4! b4 4.Kxd5 b3 5.Kc6 Kb8 (On 5...b2 6.a7 wins.) 6.Kb6 b2 7.a7+ Ka8 8.Ka6 b1Q stalemate.