Traveling to chess competitions can be scary and adventures whether you go by plane, train or automobile.
Almost 33 years ago most of the top teams from Europe, including the mighty Soviets,perhaps the most impressive array of chess talent ever assembled in one plane, boarded a four engine propeller plane in Prague and flew to Havana for the 1966 olympiad. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we lost one engine and after some adventures finished our odyssey in three days.
Speeding 140 miles an hour was common when we were driven by a race car driver to the matches in the German Bundesliga in the Seventies. The former world champion Boris Spassky sometimes thought that our car would fly to Paris more quickly than a plane.
Just this month a former Soviet champion, Alexander Belyavsky, who now lives in Slovenia, took a speedy French TGV train and overslept his last French stop, where he was supposed to change trains. He woke up in a tunnel under the English channel, turned around in London and made it to safely back to France. Unfazed by his detour, Belyavsky went on to beat the new French champion, Etienne Bacrot, in the city of Albert by a close score, 3.5 to 2.5 in a six-game match. The decisive game ended in a mere 17 moves with a crashing rook sacrifice.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 (Avoiding the over-analyzed Botvinnik variation 5...dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6, since Belyavsky wrote an opening monograph about it.) 6.Bh4!? (This pawn sacrifice is more risky than the Moscow variation 6.Bxf6, but at the same time more exciting.) 6...dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Nbd7 10.d5!? (The sharpest. White believes that with a lead in development he can benefit from opening up the game.) 10...b4 (At the FIDE world championship in Las Vegas, Akopian as black held his own against Bareev with 10...cxd5 11.exd5 Nb6 12.dxe6 Qxd1+ 13.Rxd1 Bxe6 14.Be5 Bg7 15.Nxb5 0-0.)
11.dxe6 bxc3 12.exd7+ Qxd7 (Trying to improve on Sveshnikov's idea 12...Bxd7 13.bxc3 Nxe4, when black is fine after 14.Be5 f6 15.Qc2 Bf5 16.Nd4 Bg6 17.Bf3 Qd5; but after 14.Qd4!? Nxg3 15.hxg3 Rg8 16.Qxc4 the position is more pleasant for white.) 13.Qc2! (White has to keep the queens on the board to get his attacking chances going.) 13...g4 14.Rd1 (Black was hoping for 14.Ne5?! Qd2+ 15.Qxd2 cxd2+ 16.Kxd2 Nxe4+ with an advantage. The rook move forces the queen to the b-file, creating a double attack on the b-pawn.) 14...Qb7 15.Ne5 Qxb2 (Black had a dilemma: how to take the pawn. He chooses the more dangerous way. After 15...cxb2 16.Bxc4 white is better after either 16...Be6 17.0-0; or after 16...Rh7 17.0-0 Be6 18.Rb1 winning the b-pawn.) 16.Qa4! Qb5? (Losing outright, but after 16...Bb7 17.Nxc6 Qa3 18.Qb5 Ba6 white throws in a blocking move 19.Bb8! Be7 [19...Bxb5 20.Rd8 mates] 20.Qe5 Kf8 21.Bd6 Bxd6 22.Qxf6 with a winning advantage. Also after 16...Qb7 17.Bxc4 Be6 [or17...Rh7 18.0-0] 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Qc4 white has the edge.) 17.Rd8+! (A decisive deflection since after 17...Kxd8 18.Nxc6+ black loses the queen.) Black resigned.
Short victories between grandmasters do not occur every day. John Nunn carefully selected some of these short gems for his book "101 Brilliant Chess Miniatures," issued in London by Gambit Publications. It is highly recommended together with Steve Giddins' "101 Chess Opening Traps."
Nunn presents one game by the new FIDE world champion Alexander Khalifman, who destroyed one line in the French Winnaver, playing against the super solid Bosnian grandmaster Predrag Nikolic in Moscow in 1990.
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 0-0 8.Bd3 Nbc6?! (Khalifman now shows how this is inferior to main line 8...f5.) 9.Qh5 Nf5 10.Nf3 f6 11.g4! c4 (Black has no time to clear the center. After 11...fxe5 12.gxf5 e4 13.Ng5 h6 14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Rg1! exd3 16.Rxg7+! white's attack wins.) 12.gxf5 cxd3 13.Rg1 exf5 (Nunn suggests 13...Ne7 as better, but after 14.exf6 Rxf6 15.Rxg7+ Kxg7 16.Qg5+ Ng6 17.fxg6 hxg6 18.Bf4! Bd7 19.Be5 dxc2 20.h4! gives several reasons why it is inadequate for black.) 14.Bh6 Rf7 15.Kd2! (Nunn likes this move, which clears the first rank for the white pieces to join the attack.) 15...Be6 16.Bxg7! Rxg7 17.Rxg7+ Kxg7 18.Rg1+ (Black position is hopeless after 18...Kf8 19.Qxh7 Rc8 20.Rg7 Ne721.exf6 Ng8 22.f7; or after 18...Kh8 19.Nh4 winning in both cases.) Black resigned.
Chess follows the baseball diplomacy of Baltimore Orioles, who went to Havana to play the Cuban national team earlier this year. Last week five players of Maryland's chess team flew to Havana to challenge the Cubans. The Maryland team is lead by IM Larry Kaufman and his son Ray, who were both playing most of the summer in Europe. At UMBC Open in Catonsville on Sept. 18-19, the father shared first place with his son.
Solution to today's study by W. von Holzhausen (White:Kb4,Qd3,P:b2,d6; Black:Kc6,Qf8,Ra7,Rb7,P:a4,b3,b6): 1.Qb5+ Kxd6 2.Qc5+!! bxc5+ (2...Ke6 3.Qxf8 is roughly equal) 3.Ka3 creates a stalemate after any black's move. Fascinating composition.