Jaan Ehlvest is the best Estonian grandmaster. He comes from a land that gave the chess world several legendary figures. Paul Keres, a national hero, had his portrait placed on Estonian bank notes and certainly deserved to be a world champion, but somehow, at the last moments, always let his chances slip away. Grandmaster Lembit Oll, a mad chess genius, died tragically this year near the city of Tallin.
Ehlvest played excellently in the 1988-89 World Cup tournaments, finishing fourth overall behind Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Valery Salov. After that his best chess years went by and lately he played mostly in open tournaments. This year he won several of them in America, including the National Open in Las Vegas in March.
Last month in Paide, Estonia, Ehlvest's team from Parnu was eliminated from the European Club Championship by the team from St. Petersburg led by a current FIDE world champion Alexander Khalifman. But Ehlvest played a nice attacking game against Finnish master Tero Kokkila in the Reti Opening.
One usually expects long maneuvering games when white plays the double-fianchetto, placing his bishops early on the longest diagonals. But Ehlvest found a shortcut to a victory, launching a powerful attack on the black king and scoring a full point in 29 moves.
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.b3 Nf6 4.Bb2 Be7 5.g3 0-0 6.Bg2 (Both bishops are on the long diagonals and the fight for the center begins.) 6...b6 7.0-0 Bb7 8.e3 c5 9.Qe2 Nc6 10.d3 (White will only move his d-pawn to the center after he places his rook behind it.) 10...dxc4 (Black surrenders the center immediately. This allows white to change plans and concentrate on the kingside.) 11.bxc4 Qc7 12.Nc3 Rac8 (Preferable is either 12...Rad8 with the intention of doubling the rooks on the d-file or 12...a6 pawn-breaking on the queenside.) 13.Ne1 a6 14.f4 Na7 15.g4! (No need to prevent 15...b5 with 15.a4.) 15...Bxg2 (The straight 15...b5 seems better.) 16.Nxg2 b5 17.g5 Nd7
18.Rf3! (Going straight for the black king. White plans to pile up his heavy pieces on the h-file.) 18...f5?! (Black plays it rather loosely, but who would believe that a passive defense 18...Rfd8 19.Rh3 Nf8 could hold the attack?) 19.Rh3 Rfe8 20.e4! (White cuts to the king with central play.) 20...b4 21.exf5! bxc3? (Better defense was 21...Bxg5 22.fxg5 bxc3 23.Bxc3 exf5, but after 24.Qh5 Nf8 25.g6 h6 26.Qxf5, white holds all the trumps.)
22.Bxc3? (Returning the favor. White had a forced mate 22.Qxe6+ Kh8 23.Nh4 Nf8 24.Ng6+ Nxg6 25.Rxh7+ Kxh7 26.fxg6+ Kh8 27.Qh3+ Kg8 28.Qh7+ Kf8 29.Qh8 mate.) 22...Nf8 23.f6 gxf6 24.gxf6 Bd8 (It does not help to play 24...Bd6, because 25.Nh4! Ng6 26.Nxg6 hxg6 27.Qg4 wins.) 25.Rg3+ (It was possible to play 25.Nh4, for example 23...e5 26.Rg3+ Kh8 27.Rg7 Qc6 28.Qg4 Qe6 29.Rxh7+ Kxh7 30.Qg7 mate.) 25...Ng6 26.Qh5 (All roads lead to victory:26.f5 or 26.Nh4 also win.) 26...Qf7 27.Nh4 Bxf6 28.Nxg6 Bxc3 29.Ne5+ Black resigned.
The variation, played by Ehlvest, was popular in the '60s and '70s. I was able to use it at the 1972 Skopje olympiad against the Spanish leading grandmaster, Arturo Pomar. Pomar was a famous child prodigy, who as a 12-year-old played to a draw with world champion Alexander Alekhine. In Skopje Pomar was forty, slowly closing on his chess career. Unlike Kokkila, the Spanish veteran choose to keep the center closed. After I broke it open, Pomar ran into many unpleasant pins. I don't know any of my games where I have concentrated so many forces against a single pawn. At the end white traps a black knight in his own camp.
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 c5 7.e3 (White needs to stop the advance 7...d4.) 7...Nc6 8.Bb2 b6 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.d3 Re8?! (Pomar keeps the game close and challenges white to open it up. Better was 10...Qc7.) 11.Rd1 (For the time being the rook x-rays the queen on the d-file.) 11...Bd6 12.Nc3 a6 13.d4! (The right time to strike in the center.) 13...cxd4 14.Nxd4 Nxd4 15.Rxd4 (Pinning the d-pawn diagonally and vertically.) 15...Be5 16.Rd3 a5 17.Rad1 (After 17.cxd5 Ba6 black can resist, but now he cannot escape the pin in a long run.) 17...Ba6?! (Stronger was 17...Qb8, forcing white to sacrifice an exchange with 18.cxd5 Ba6 19.dxe6 Ra7 20.exf7+ Rxf7, although after 21.f4 white has the edge.)
18.e4 (The concentration of the white forces on a poor central d-pawn is overwhelming.) 18...Qb8 19.exd5 Bxc3 20.Rxc3 Nxd5 (The knight is balancing on a tightrope, but at the end falls down. After 20...exd5 21.Re3 the diagonal pin decides.) 21.Rcd3! (Refuting black's play, it wins material by force.) 21...Nb4 22.Rd7! (Prevents 22...Bb7.) 22...Ra7 23.Rxa7 Qxa7 24.a3! (The final point. The knight is being caught. After 24...Nd5 25.Rxd5 the pin on the e-file decides, e.g. 25....exd5? 26.Qxe8 mate.) 24...Na2 25.Ba1 and black resigned.
Solution to today's problem by C. Behting (White:Kb1,Ra6,Rh7,P:d6,e7; Black: Ke6): 1.Ra5! Kxd6 2.e8R! Kc6 3.Re6 mate; or 1...Kf6 2.e8B! Ke6 3.Rh6 mate. Incredibly, queening the pawn does not mate as swiftly.