I have written some 760 chess columns for The Washington Post, and this one is the last. For those who enjoyed solving problems and endgame studies, I conclude with a miniature by the "Puzzle King" -- the brilliant American chess composer Sam Loyd (1841-1911). His work was magical, witty, ingenious. White mates in two moves is the task in this composition (White: Kd1,Qb7,Bg6,Ng5; Black: Kd8,Qg8,Nb8,P:e7,e6), published in the prestigious magazine La Stratégie in 1867. (Solution below.)
All that chess
Magnus Carlsen, 19, walks into the new decade as the world's top-rated player. His January FIDE rating is 2810, five points ahead of Veselin Topalov and 20 points ahead of the world champion, Vishy Anand. An incredible accomplishment!
In 2004, Carlsen played a brilliant game in Holland. His victory made a great impression and I called him the Mozart of chess. He was 13 at that time and, according to my good friend, the late Washington Post music critic Joseph McLellan, he was too old to be compared to the great music composer. But it was too late. The name stuck.
From club players to grandmasters, from recreational enthusiasts to world champions -- a great spectrum of chess players appeared in this column over the years. They shared a love for chess and it was a pleasure to comment on their games. Some players appeared more frequently and were closely connected with my chess career.
Bobby Fischer was one of them. Born five months apart on different sides of the Atlantic, we became good friends during the world championship match he played against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972. Although I was reporting for Voice of America, I did not hesitate when Bobby asked me to help him with the adjournment of the 13th game. From then on until the end of the match we analyzed together.
Bobby was obsessed with winning and was not happy until he had exhausted all possibilities. This became clear when we analyzed the adjourned position of Game 18. We soon realized that every winning attempt was doomed. The chances tilted to Spassky, but was Boris winning? Bobby's eyes lit up when I suggested a queen maneuver, forcing Spassky to repeat the moves. "Great! We have a draw. Let's go for the win again," and we spent four more hours trying to find something that wasn't there. For a single victory, Bobby would work himself to exhaustion, always giving his all.
Fischer strived for perfection even after the match was over and he had won the world title. He wanted me to do the first interview. Brad Darrach waited outside of Bobby's house when I arrived. He was covering the match for Life magazine and was the only other reporter with daily access to Fischer. "Bobby insisted you go first," Darrach told me. The conversation with Bobby went fine, but he wanted to check the tape over and over, just like the analysis. "Just to be sure you have everything there," he said. An excerpt from it ended up in the World Chess Hall of Fame.
In the last three decades, chess underwent significant changes. Preparation for world championship matches improved a lot. Fischer drew battle plans practically alone. Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov surrounded themselves with several excellent analysts and turned teamwork into an art. Anand, the universal world champion, added a computer and excelled in using it to its fullest. It helped him to win the world title under different systems and time controls. To prepare today without a computer is unthinkable.
Quality Chess recently published a remarkable book, "Genius in the Background," by Tibor Karolyi and Nick Aplin. It is a wonderful tribute to the coaches who sacrificed their playing careers and helped young talents to become great players. We are introduced to the creative minds around Veselin Topalov and Kasparov, but also to the extraordinary works of chess composers, analysts and other chess personalities. The book is loaded with many fascinating ideas and attractive games.
The following Grunfeld Indian encounter between the imaginative Armenian International Master Ashot Nadanian and the former Russian champion, Konstantin Sakaev, was played on the Internet in 2005.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Na4 (Nadanian's invention against the Grunfeld Indian. White avoids the knight exchange, threatening 6.e4 and preventing c7-c5 at the same time.) 5...Bg7 (After this normal developing move, Nadanian's idea clicks. Perhaps the only way to punish the white knight's venture to the edge of the board is to strike in the center with 5...e5 6.dxe5 Nc6 and the black pieces fly out quickly.) 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be3 0-0 8.Nf3 f5?! (Attacking the white center this way is too optimistic. It exposes the black king.) 9.exf5 gxf5 10.Nxb6 axb6 11.Bc4+ Kh8? (Black had to play 11...e6, but he most likely underestimated the force of white's attack.)
12.Ng5! Qe8 13.Bf7!! (A shocking deflection allowing the white queen to join the attack.) 13...Rxf7 14.Qh5 Kg8 (After 14...Bf6 15.Nxf7+ Kg7 16.Qh6+! Kxf7 17.Qh5+ Kf8 18.Bh6+ wins.) 15.Qxh7+ Kf8 16.Ne6+!! (The knight sacrifice entombs the black king.) 16...Bxe6 17.Bh6 (A clincher! Black has no good defense against 18.Qh8 mate.) Black resigned.
The last news
Several tournaments finished during the last week of 2009. Alexander Grischuk won the 62nd Russian championship with a 6 1/2 -2 1/2 score, a half-point ahead of the five-time Russian champion, Peter Svidler. The eight-game rapid match between two great old-timers, Viktor Korchnoi, 78, and Spassky, 72, in Elista, Russia, ended 4-4. The team of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) triumphed at the 2009 Pan-American championship in South Padre Island, Tex. They won all six matches and finished first among 28 teams. Alex Lenderman scored 7-1 and won the Eastern Open in Washington.
Last week: White wins by Gleb Zakhodyakin (White: Ka7,Rc6,Nc3,Bh2; Black: Ka1,P:a2,c2,d3,g2): 1.Ne2 dxe2 (or 1...Kb2 2.Rb6+ Ka3 3.Bd6+ Ka4 4.Nc3+ Ka5 5.Bb4 mate.) 2.Be5+ Kb1 3.Rb6+ Kc1 4.Bf4+ Kd1 5.Rd6+ Ke1 6.Bg3+ Kf1 7.Rf6+ Kg1 8.Bf2+ Kf1 (or 8...Kh2 9.Rh6 mate.) 9.Bc5+ Ke1 10.Bb4+ Kd1 11.Rd6+ Kc1 12.Ba3+ Kb1 13.Rb6+ Ka1 14.Be7 c1Q 15.Bf6+ Qb2 16.Rxb2 g1Q+ (or 16...e1Q 17.Rb3+ Qe5 18.Bxe5 mate.) 17.Rb6+ Qd4 18.Bxd4 mate.
Today: White mates in two moves by Sam Loyd (White: Kd1,Qb7,Bg6,Ng5; Black: Kd8,Qg8,Nb8,P:e7,e6): 1.Be8! Kxe8 2.Qc8 mate; 1...Qxe8 2.Nxe6 mate; 1...Qxg5 2.Qxb8 mate.
International grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek began to write for The Washington Post about chess in 1986 and continued for the next 23 years.