Vasily Smyslov, 88, became the world chess champion in 1957, defeating Mikhail Botvinnik. Aside from having a great career as a practical player, Smyslov also produced more than 100 endgame studies, the most of any world champion. In his teens he tried his hand at composing problems. In 1935, at age 14, Smyslov created the following problem (White: Kf8, Qa8, P:c4,d3,e3,g4; Black: Kf6,Nf1,P:a7,c5,e6,f7,g5) in which white mates in three moves. (Solution next week.)
Magnus Carlsen to the summit
Magnus Carlsen has achieved his aim. With his victory in the London Chess Classic last week, the Norwegian grandmaster grabbed enough rating points to climb on top of the January FIDE rating list. What's next? The title of world champion, of course! But that might be out of his hands since FIDE often shuffles rules and regulations at whim. Magnus has to wait at least till 2011. For the time being, FIDE is scheduling the world championship match between the titleholder, Vishy Anand of India, and the challenger, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, next April in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.
Carlsen was playing hard in London, perhaps pushing his luck in a few games. After defeating Russia's Vladimir Kramnik in the first round, the Norwegian youngster won twice more and drew four games, finishing first undefeated. But he was chased by Kramnik, who maintained a chance to catch him till the last round. The former world champion finished with three wins, three draws and one loss.
It was the strongest event of his career for Hikaru Nakamura. The U.S. champion competed valiantly, but didn't win a single game, ending with one loss and six draws.
World Cup blues
The winner of the World Chess Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, is Boris Gelfand. The Israeli grandmaster won the final match against Ukraine's Ruslan Ponomariov in a tie-break last week. The players tied the regular and rapid games, but Gelfand triumphed in the blitz games, 3-1. At 41, the Israeli grandmaster was the oldest participant, and old players in general should not do well in tough 128-player knockout tournaments. But Gelfand was also the top seed, with plenty of experience. He is one of the world's best opening experts, hard to crack. When he is in good form he seldom loses.
Kramnik, who has been Gelfand's friend for many years, praised his consistency in realizing strategic concepts: "His moves, from the first to last, are linked in a single logical chain." Once Gelfand is on a roll, stopping him is difficult, as Ponomariov found out in one of the blitz games. The Ukrainian GM, who won the FIDE world championship knockout in 2002, tried to catch Gelfand in the Paulsen Sicilian and quickly won a pawn. But he lost time for development and invited such an attacking fury on his king that he lasted only 21 moves. The game is very instructive.
1.d4 e6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.e4 Nf6 (The game shifted into the Paulsen Sicilian. White decides to prevent the pin Bf8-b4 and to quickly develop the queenside.) 7.a3 b6 8.Be3 Bb7 9.f3 Nc6 10.Rc1 (The rook is looking at the black queen, threatening to clear the c-file with Nc3-d5.) 10...h5?! (Ponomariov hopes to improve on the dark-square strategy along the diagonal h2-b8, reversing the move order from the game Gelfand-Morozevich, Yerevan 2008, that continued: 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bd6 12.g3 h5 13.Na4 h4 14.c5?! bxc5 15.Nxc5 Bc6 16.Nxa6 Rxa6 17.Bxa6 hxg3 18.b4 Rxh2 19.Rxh2 gxh2 and black had the upper hand.)
11.Nd5! (A powerful pawn sacrifice, opening the central files.) 11...exd5 12.cxd5 Nxd5?! (Black does not have much choice. For example, after 12...g6 13.dxc6 dxc6 14.Nxc6! Bxc6 15.Qc2 Rc8?! 16.Bxa6, white wins a piece back with dividends.) 13.exd5 Qe5 14.Kf2 Ne7 (Capturing the pawn immediately with 14...Qxd5? leads to trouble after 15.Bc4!, for example 15...Qd6 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.Re1 Qxd1 18.Rcxd1 Be7 19.Bxb6 and black's position is in disarray; or 15...Qe5 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.Bd4 Qg5 18.h4 Qh6 19.Re1+ Be7 20.Be3 Qg6 21.Bg5 f6 22.Qe2 and white wins.) 15.Qd2! Nxd5?! (Black decides to snap up a pawn, asking white to demonstrate his attacking skills against the king in the middle.)
16.Bg5! (The black king is caught in the middle and white threatens to win the black queen with 17.Re1.) 16...Ne7 (Crawling backward, but after 16...Be7 17.Re1 Qd6 18.Nf5 Qc5+ 19.Be3 Nxe3 20.Qxe3, white wins material.) 17.Bc4! f6? (Losing the queen, but black was in dire straits anyway, for example 17...Qd6 18.Qe3 [threatening 19.Nf5] 18...g6 19.Bf4 Qf6 20.Be5 wins; or 17...b5 18.Rhe1 Qd6 19.Bxe7 Bxe7 20.Rxe7+! Qxe7 21.Re1 bxc4 22.Rxe7+ Kxe7 23.Qb4+ wins. Finally, after 17...g6 18.Rhe1 Qd6 19.Bf4 Qf6 20.Kf1! black is tied up and white should win, for example 20...Rh7 21.Ba2 Bc6 22.Nxc6 dxc6 23.Bg5 Qf5 24.Bxe7 Bxe7 25.Qd6 Qd7 26.Rxe7+ Qxe7 27.Qxc6+ etc.) 18.Bf4! Qa5 19.b4 Qa4 20.Bb3 Qxa3 21.Ra1 (Trapping the black queen.) Black resigned.
A fine opening manual
It has been a daunting task to squeeze all chess openings into one book and explain them well. One of the best books on the subject, "The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings," was written by American grandmaster Reuben Fine 66 years ago. "It has been said that ideas are weapons. That is certainly as true in chess as in any other field. A mastery of a little theory which conveys real understanding of the game is infinitely more valuable than a carefully memorized compilation of endless moves," Fine wrote in the preface to his 240-page classic.
The Dutch grandmaster Paul van der Sterren has taken Fine's idea into the 21st century. His book "FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings," recently published by Gambit Publications, is double the size of Fine's book. The Dutchman, one of the best opening experts, has observed trends for the last three decades. His book reflects the current standing of each opening and explains it logically in a nice, readable style. Variations are kept to a minimum, but there are enough of them to underscore the main ideas. The book should be an eye-opener for any chess player who is interested in openings and curious about how far they have progressed and where they are going.
The 36th Annual Eastern Open, a traditional eight-round Swiss event in five sections, is scheduled for Dec. 27-30 at the downtown Westin Washington hotel (1400 M St. NW). More information about one of the most important tournaments in the D.C. area is at http:/
Solution to last week's puzzle
White wins by Henri Rinck (White: Kf1,Ne4,P:b3,d4,e6,h6; Black: Ka5,Rg8,P:a6,b4,d7,h7): 1.e7 Re8! 2.Nd6 Rxe7 3.d5! (Zugzwang! Black has to move either the king or the rook into a fork and white wins.) 3...Kb6 4.Nc8+ Kc5 5.Nxe7 Kd4 6.Nc6+! Kc3 7.Na5 wins.