Older grandmasters may have a hard time these days competing against their younger opponents, but there are exceptions. Victor Korchnoi was still winning strong tournaments last year at the age 67. The former world champion Vassily Smyslov decided at age 63 to drive for another world championship and astonishingly made it to the Candidates Final in 1984. He was stopped by Garry Kasparov, one step from playing for the world title. Last month, at the 1999 U.S.Championship in Salt Lake City, Boris Gulko, age 52, won more games than anybody else and made it to the Final Four from the first preliminary group.

Gulko scored a remarkable 5.5 points in 7 games. Alex Yermolinsky had 4 points,winning one game and drawing the rest. Both players advanced to the Final Four. They were followed by Larry Christiansen and Dmitry Gurevich with 3.5 points. John Fedorowicz, Sergei Kudrin and Igor Shliperman all scored 3 points. Alexander Shabalov was last with 2.5 points.

"I play by hand," Smyslov once asessed his play in his sixties, relying mostly on a good feel for the position and on an intuition. May be an imaginary Smyslov's hand was involved in Gulko's victory against Kudrin, a positional masterpiece with a fine tactical ending.

Gulko-Kudrin

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 d6 (Black tries a Hedgehog set up placing his dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal. The trouble is that this bishop gets often exchanged and black is left with holes around his king.) 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Be3 a6 11.Rac1 0-0 12.Qd2 (Preparing to exchange the bishops with 13.Bh6. It can be also accomplished with 12.Qh4.) 12...Rc8 13.b3 Re8 14.Bh3 (Finding a new diagonal for the bishop, white keeps more light pieces on the board.) 14...Rc7 15.Bh6 Qa8 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Nd4 (Black's queen-bishop battery on the long diagonal is shooting nowhere.) 17...Rc5 18.f3 Rh5 (The rook is out of place and Gulko increases his advantage with a simple plan, forcing the rook back.) 19.Bxd7 Nxd7 20.e4 Rc5 21.Nd5 e6 (Creating weaknesses, but who would like to stare at such a strong knight.) 22.Ne3 f5?! (This aggressive move only weakens black's position.)

23.b4! (Chases the rook away to hit hard on the f-pawn.) 23...Rc7 24.exf5 Ne5 (This move doesn't work, but was made out of necessity, because after 24...gxf5 25.Nexf5+! exf5 26.Nxf5+ Kh8 27.Qb2+ [Covering the square g2] 27...Ne5 28.f4 wins.) 25.f4 Nf3+ 26.Nxf3 Bxf3 27.Qxd6 Rf7 28.Qe5+ Kg8 29.fxe6 (It's over. Almost anything wins.) 29...Bxd1 (After 29...Rfe7 both 30.f5 and 30.Rd6 win.) 30.Rxd1 Rfe7 31.Ng4 (After 31...Rxe6 32.Nh6+ Kf8 33.Qh8+ Ke7 34.Qg7 mates.) Black resigned.

Kudrin always played a role of a spoiler in the U.S. championships and rather than winning the title, he prefers creating brilliant games. Many players who felt under his attacking spell could not have forecast where would Kudrin's dangerous pieces would land. Against Fedorowicz Kudrin choose the Fischer line against the Sicilian Najdorf and when black grabbed a central pawn Kudrin spun the attack with a tornado's power.

Kudrin-Fedorowicz1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 b5 8.0-0 b4 9.Na4 Bd7 (An old move of Russian player Semion Dvoiris, also recently fancied by India's Vishy Anand. The bishop protects the pawn e6 and black is ready to develop with Nb8-c6.) 10.c3!? (More to the point than 10.Re1.) 10...Nxe4?! (Courageous, but hardly advisable. Leaving the king in the middle invites a powerful attack.) 11.Qf3! d5 12.c4 (Undermining the center.) 12...Nc6 (Hoping to consolidate, but overlooking white's reply. After 12...dxc4 13.Qxe4 cxb3 14.Qxa8 Bxa4 15.axb3 white comes ahead in material.)

13.Nxe6! (An absolute bombshell! White wins by force, opening the position for the assault on the king.) 13...Bxe6 (After 13...fxe6 white simply plays 14.cxd5 exd5 15.Bxd5 Nf6 16.Bxc6 with a big advantage.) 14.cxd5 Nd4?! (More complicated, but also inadequate was 14...Bxd5 15.Rd1 and white gets a winning advantage after 15...Nf6 16.Rxd5 Nxd5 17.Bxd5 Ne5 18.Bc6+ Nxc6 19.Qxc6+ Ke7 20.Bh6 f6 21.Qb7+ Ke8 22.Bxg7; or after 15...Ne5 16.Qe2; or after 15...Bxb3 16.Rxd8+ Rxd8 17.axb3.) 15.Qxe4 Nxb3 16.dxe6! (White goes for a mate without hesitation.) 16...Nxa1 17.Qc6+ Ke7 18.Qb7+ (Winning easily after 18...Kxe6 19.Re1+ Kf6 20.Qf3+ Kg6 21.Qg4+ Kf6 22.Qg5 mate; and after 18...Kf6 white has a choice between 19.Re1 fxe6 20.Qf3+ Ke7 21.Bg5+; or the king hunt 19.Qxf7+ Ke5 20.Bf4+ Ke4 21.Re1+ mating soon.) Black resigned.

Grigory Serper won the second preliminary group with 4.5 points. Yasser Seirawan, Joel Benjamin and Alexander Ivanov all with 4 points with Seirawan winning the play-off to qualify for the semifinals. The defending champion, Nick DeFirmian, scored 3.5 points. Roman Dzindzichashvili and Gregory Kaidanov got 3 points. Benjamin Finegold got 2 points.

In the semifinals Seirawan played Gulko and Serper played Yermolinsky.

Solution to today's study by A. Sobolevsky (White:Kf1,Rh6,Bc1,P:b4,e2; Black:Kh8,Rd5,Bh2,P:f7,h7): 1.Bb2+ Be5 2.Rd6!! Rb5 (2...Rxd6 3.Bxe5+ the double attack wins.) 3.Rd8+ Kg7 4.Rb8! Rd5 5.e4 Kh6 6.Re8 wins.