On the last weekend in September, for the first time since Bobby Fischer led the U.S. team to the silver medals at the 1966 chess olympiad in Havana, an American chess team played in Cuba. Following the baseball diplomacy of the Baltimore Orioles, a Maryland chess team flew to Havana for a two round match on five boards at the Pan-Am hotel. The Cubans won the match with the score 7 to 3, but on the top board International Master Larry Kaufman of Potomac outscored his Cuban opponent, Felix Gomez, drawing the first game and winning an exciting duel.
Kaufman followed the latest opening trends in the Benko gambit, but did not play it accurately and allowed Gomez a strong attack. After missing a few good moves, black went for a remarkable queen sacrifice, but Kaufman was on guard and drove black's attack back.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.f3 (Unlike many variations in the Benko gambit this one lets white build a solid center and at the same time prevents black's counterplay on the queenside by keeping a grip on the square b5 with as many as three light pieces.) 5...g6 (A solid move, preferred by the top English grandmaster Michael Adams. Black can play more sharply with 5...axb5 6.e4 Qa5+. Then white has a choice between the flashy 7.b4!? Qxb4+ 8.Bd2 Qa4 9.Qc1 threatening 10.Qxc5 or 10.Nc3; or the good and simple 7.Bd2 b4 8.Na3 d6 9.Nc4 Qc7 10.a3!, which leads to a creation of a passed a-pawn. A double pawn sacrifice 5...e6 6.e4 c4!? is the sharpest line based on a counterplay through the black squares.) 6.e4 d6 7.a4 Bg7 8.Na3 0-0 9.Ne2 e6!? (More common is 9...axb5, but breaking the center makes sense.) 10.Nc3?! (Preferable is GM Levitt's idea 10.dxe6 Bxe6 11.Nf4 d5 12.Be2!, for example 12...dxe4 13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.0-0 and a bishop pair gives white the edge.) 10...exd5 11.exd5?! (Invites an assault through the kingside. Better was 11.Nxd5, hoping to grip the central square d5 after 11... Bb7 12.Bc4. But black can improve with M. Adams' 11...Nxd5 12.Qxd5 Ra7 13.Bc4 Bd4 with a good chances.) 11...Nh5! 12.Ne4 (The knight move defends against 12...Qh4+, but it moves too often and eventually gets destroyed. Another idea was 12.g3 Re8+ 13.Kf2 Bd4+ 14.Kg2 and the king is safely blanketed with pawns.) 12...Re8 13.Be2 Rxe4!? (An entertaining exchange sacrifice, forcing the white king to walk.) 14.fxe4 Qh4+ 15.Kd2 Qxe4 16.Bd3 (It is hard to give a good advice to white. Even after the better 16.Qb3 Nf4 17.Bf3 Qd4+ 18.Ke1 Nd3+ 19.Ke2 Qf2+ 20.Kd1 Bf5 black's attack becomes dangerous, for example 21.Nc4 axb5 22.Qxb5 Nxb2+ 23.Bxb2 Bc2+ 24.Kc1 Bh6+ mates soon.) 16...Qb4+ (The queen should have gone the other way: 16...Qxg2+ 17.Qe2 [Or 17.Be2 Qxd5+ 18.Kc2 Bf5+ wins] 17...Qxh1 18.Qe8+ Bf8 19.Qxc8 and now black can collect pawns after 19...Qxh2+ 20.Kd1 Qh1+ 21.Kc2 Qg2+ 22.Kb1 Qxd5 with advantage.)
17.Kc2 Nd7 (Black brings another piece out, but could have opened the queenside instead with 17...axb5, for example 18.Bxb5 Rxa4 19.Bxa4 Bf5+ or 18 Nxb5 c4 19.Be4 Rxa4 with advantage.) 18.Kb1 (Black must have been thinking about a queen sacrifice after 18.Nc4 axb5!? 19.Bd2 bxc4 20.Bxb4 cxd3+ 21.Qxd3 cxb4 with unusual material forces on the board and unclear consequences.) 18...Ne5 19.Nc2 Qb3 20.Be2 axb5?! (Playing with passion and for the galleries, black sacrifices his queen for a mere knight and two pawns. This gives white chances to give something back when needed. But was there something else? Black might have looked at 20...Nf6 21.Ra3 Qxd5 22.Qxd5 Nxd5 23.Rd1 and not liked it at all.) 21.Ra3 (Why not?) 21...bxa4 22.Rxb3 axb3
23.Ne3 (White has to guard the square f5, where a check by a bishop could be deadly, for example 23.Na3? Bf5+ 24.Ka1 Rxa3+! 25.bxa3 Nc4+ 26.Bb2 Bxb2 mate.) 23...Nf4 24.Bb5 c4 ( Protects the b-pawn. After either 24...Ng4 25.Re1 Nxe3 26.Rxe3 Bf5+ 27.Rd3 or 24...Nxg2 25.Rf1 white stops the attack.) 25.Rf1 Bh6 26.Qd4 Ne2 (After 26...Nxg2 27.Nxc4 Ne1 28.Qc3 Nc2 29.Na5 white blocks the a-file.) 27.Qh4 Bxe3 28.Bxe3 c3 (The attempt to clear the 8th rank first 28...Bf5+ 29.Rxf5 c3 fails to 30.bxc3!, but not 30.Bxe2 c2+ 31.Kc1 Ra1+ 32.Kd2 c1Q mate.) 29.Qd8+ Kg7 30.Qf6+ (White wins after 30.Bh6+ Kxh6 31.Qf8+ Kg5 32.Bxe2, e.g. 32...Ra2 33.h4+ Kxh4 34.Qh6+ Kg3 35.Qf4+ Kxg2 36.Rf2+ Kh3 37.Bf1 mate.) 30...Kg8 31.Bxe2 Ra2 (On 31...Bf5+ white has 32.Qxf5! gxf5 33.bxc3 Ra2 34.Re1 winning.) 32.Qd8+ Kg7 33.Qf6+ (Again 33.Bh6+! leads to mate.) 33...Kg8 34.bxc3 Rxe2 35.Bh6 (The mate cannot be avoided.) Black resigned.
D.C. Chess League
The new season of the D.C. Chess League, a local team competition played over the last 30 years, starts on October 29. Deadline to register the teams is October 15. New players are welcomed. For more information contact Elias Mallis by phone (301) 594-1220 or by e-mail at
Solution to a 12-knight puzzle by K. Wait (White: Ka8,Nb3,Nb6,Nc1,Nd7,Nf1,Ng7,Nh5,Nh2; Black:Ke4,Nb2,Nb7,Ng1,Nh6): 1.Nhg3+ Kf42.Ne6 mate.