Composing chess problems has its rules. For example, the starting position in a chess problem must be legal and must give the impression that it is an ending to a regular game. Let's have a look at a position created in 1911 by H. Hjorth (White: Kg5,P:f7,h7; Black: Kh8,P:g7). White mates in three moves. But there is a problem with this problem: What was black's last move? Since no legal move was possible, it becomes only a nice amusement. (Solution next week.)
Happy birthday, Magnus!
Next Monday, the Norwegian superstar Magnus Carlsen turns 19. What an astonishing journey it has been! Carlsen is just one tournament away from becoming the world's top player on the official FIDE rating list this January.
After sharing second place with Vassily Ivanchuk at the Tal Memorial this month, Carlsen triumphed in Moscow at the World Blitz Championship, a 22-player double round-robin tournament. He demolished the impressive field, scoring 31 points in 42 games. The world champion Vishy Anand of India finished second with 28 points, followed by Sergei Karjakin of Ukraine with 25 points and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia with 24 1/2 points. Carlsen's performance was immediately compared to Bobby Fischer's victory at Herceg Novi in 1970. The American grandmaster scored 19-3 and finished 4 1/2 points ahead of his nearest rival, Mikhail Tal.
Kramnik's best game
For the last several years, Vladimir Kramnik tried to make sure he did not lose games. It was a perfect style for the world championship matches and for his duels against chess computers, but it was not good enough to win major tournaments. After playing listlessly and losing the match for the world title to Anand last year, Kramnik decided to play more sharply. It paid big dividends. In July, Kramnik won in Dortmund, Germany, and this month, he was victorious at the Tal Memorial in Moscow. He finished ahead of Carlsen in both events. Their rivalry will continue next month in London.
Kramnik considered the Grunfeld Indian duel against his countryman Peter Svidler his best game at the Tal Memorial. After Svidler avoided an early queen exchange, considered to give black fair chances to equalize, Kramnik launched a strong attack against the black king with the help of unexpected novelty 12.h4. To defuse the assault, Svidler finally exchanged the queens at the cost of a pawn. Flawlessly, Kramnik converted his advantage into a victory.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 (In the World Blitz Championship, Kramnik played the Moscow variation 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 against Svidler and won in 43 moves.) 4...Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 (A positional version of the Exchange Grunfeld.) 7...c5 8.Rc1 Qa5 9.Qd2 (By clever move order, Kramnik eliminated 9...Nc6 because of 10.d5 Ne5 11.h3, threatening 12.f4 with white's edge.) 9...0-0 10.Nf3 Bg4 (Acknowledging Kramnik's endgame virtuosity, Svidler avoids the queen exchange 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ 12.Nxd2, which leaves white with a slight edge. The Armenian grandmaster Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played 10...e6 in two games at the World Blitz in Moscow. Alexander Grischuk played 11.Bh6 and after 11...Nc6 12.h4 cxd4 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.cxd4 Rd8 15.Qxa5 Nxa5 16.Kd2 h5 17.Ke3 Bd7 18.Bd3 Rac8, white was only slightly better and won in 33 moves. Carlsen played 11.Be2 and after 11...Rd8 12.Bg5 Re8?! 13.0-0 Nc6 14.Rfd1 cxd4 15.cxd4 Qxd2 16.Rxd2 Bd7 17.Rb1 b6 18.Ba6 black blundered with 18...e5? and resigned after 19.dxe5 because of 19...Nxe5 20.Bb7 Rab8 21.Nxe5 Rxe5 22.Rxd7 Rxg5 23.Bd5 and white wins material.) 11.d5 Na6!? (An active defense, threatening to attack the center with 12...c4 and 13...Nc5. It also prevents 12.c4 since 12...Nb4! gives black the edge.)
12.h4!? (A novelty. Launching a strong attack against the black king, Kramnik simply wants to play 13.h5! Bxh5 14.Bh6 with numerous threats. In the game Serper-Ehlvest, played last year on Internet Chess Club, black was fine after 12.Be2 c4 13.Bd4 Nc5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Bxc4 Nxe4 16.Qd4+ Nf6 17.Ne5 Qb6.) 12...f5?! (Svidler tries to undermine the center, because after 12...c4 13.Bh6! white has a clear advantage either after 13...Nc5?! 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Ne5; or after 13...Bxf3 14.gxf3 f6 15.Be3!?, followed by 16.h5. The immediate 13.h5 should be countered with 13...Nc5! 14.hxg6 Nxe4! and black is fine.) 13.exf5 Bxf5 (After 13...Bxf3 14.gxf3 Rxf5 Kramnik gets his beloved bishop pair and can continue the attack with 15.Bh3 Rxf3 16.Be6+ Kh8 17.h5 or even with 15.h5.) 14.h5 Rad8 15.hxg6 Bxg6 16.Bh6 Bxh6 17.Rxh6 Rf6 18.Ne5 Qa4!? (Svidler is preparing a nasty surprise.)
19.Qe3! (Kramnik is on guard, eliminating black's trick: 19.Bc4 or 19.f3 would be met by 19...Re6! and black escapes.) 19...Qf4 (Svidler decides to go into the endgame pawn down. Muddying the waters with 19...Nb4?! backfires after 20.Nxg6! and now 20...Rxg6 loses to 21.Rxg6+ hxg6 22.Qe4!; and 20...hxg6 is met by 21.Qh3! and white wins, for example 21...Rxd5 22.Rh8+ Kf7 23.Rh7+ Kg8 24.Rxe7; or 21...Nxd5 22.Rh8+ Kf7 23.Qh7+ Ke6 24.Rxd8 Qe4+ 25.Be2 Nf4 26.Rd2.) 20.Qxf4 Rxf4 21.Nxg6 hxg6 22.Rxg6+ (White is a pawn up with a better position. The black knight is out of play.) 22...Kf7 23.Rg5 Re4+ 24.Be2 Kf6 25.Rh5 Kg6 26.g4 Rf8 27.Rd1 Rf6 28.Rh8! (The rook is threatening to go around the corner to the queenside.) 28...Kg7 (Removing the king from the diagonal b1-h7.)
29.Rd8! (Planning to break through with the d-pawn.) 29...Rb6 (After 29...c4 30.d6! exd6 31.R1xd6 white creates two connected passed pawns.) 30.f3 Re3 31.Rd3 Re5 32.Kf2 Rh6 (After 32...Rb2 33.Re3 Rxe3 34.Kxe3 Rxa2 35.Rd7 wins.) 33.Bf1 Rh2+ 34.Kg3 Rxa2 35.d6! (Finally! The break decides the game quickly.) 35...exd6 36.R3xd6 Re7 37.R6d7 (After 37...Rxd7 [37...Kf6 loses to 38.g5+.] 38.Rxd7+ Kf6 39.Rxb7 white wins. White also wins with 37.g5 Ra4 38.Bb5 Ra1 39.Bc4, threatening mate in two moves.) Black resigned.
The 2009 World Cup, the 128-player knockout tournament, is underway in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, with 10 U.S. grandmasters participating. Gata Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk won their first round matches. Varuzhan Akobian, Alexander Shabalov and Yuri Shulman are in today's playoff and can still advance. Jaan Ehlvest, Josh Friedel, Robert Hess, Alexander Ivanov and Ray Robson were eliminated.
Two American youngsters won silver medals at the World Youth Championship in Antalya, Turkey, yesterday. Tanuj Vasudeva in the Under 8 group and Samritha Palakollu in the Girls Under 8 group scored 8 1/2 points in 11 games each and finished second on tiebreaks. Virginia's Abby Marshall took 19th place with 6 1/2 points in the Girls Under 18 section.
Solution to last week's puzzle
White wins by Richard Réti (White: Kd5,Rf1,Bc4; Black: Kh2,P:g3): 1.Rf3! g2 2.Bf1! g1Q 3.Rh3 mate.