Eight great teams from different countries came to the Bosnian town of Bugojno at the end of October for the 15th European Club Championship final. It ended up as an exciting competition between two teams of the former Yugoslavia. The front runner Agrouniverzal, a team from Belgrade, loaded the first four boards with foreign superstars Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand, Nigel Short and Alexander Belyavsky. It wasn't enough. In the final match they were upset by Bosna Sarajevo with the score 3.5 to 2.5.
Sarajevo had a strong but more modest lineup in comparison. Evgeny Bareev of Russia, Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov, Bosnia's Ivan Sokolov and Jeroen Piket of Netherlands on the first four boards. But their last two grandmasters, Zdeno Kozul of Zagreb and Bojan Kurajica of Split, did the most damage. Kurajica was the only player in Bugojno, who had been on the winning team in the first European Club championship in 1976. He was one of my teammates on the team of Solingen, Germany, when we won it 23 years ago.
The Gruenfeld defense seemed to be a good opening choice against Bareev, but this time the Russian superstar was ready. He chose a variation where his bishop pair compensated for his weak central pawn. Spicing it with an exchange sacrifice, Bareev finished the game against his opponent from Israel with a precisely calculated bishop sacrifice.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 dxc4 7.e3 Be6 8.Ng5 Bd5 9.e4 h6 10.exd5 hxg5 11.Bxg5 Nxd5 12.Bxc4 Nb6 13.Bb3 Nc6 14.Ne2! (More tricky than 14.d5 Nd4 and black has not many problems.) 14...Qd6 (Brought to the light by the current FIDE world champion Alexander Khalifman. After the older 14...Na5 white can try a direct attack with 15.h4 Qd7 16.h5. Still the best seems to be Timman's 14...a5, for example 15.a4 Rc8 16.0-0 Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Qxd4 with roughly equal game.) 15.0-0 Rad8 16.Qc2 (The queen is looking at the pawn on g6, which is vulnerable because of the pinned pawn f7.) 16...Rd7 17.Rfd1 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Bxd4 19.Rxd4!? (This exchange sacrifice opens up two files against the black king. White may swing his rook to the third rank and use the bishop pair for a powerful attack.) 19...Qxd4 20.Qxg6+ Qg7 21.Qh5 Rd6?! (Hoping for a counterplay, but it is only an illusion. Better was 21...Qh7 22.Qg4 Qg6 23.Rc3, trying to get the rook to the kingside, black's defense is not easy, e.g. 23...Rfd8 24.Rg3 Kf8 25.h3! Ke8 26.Qh4 Qb1+ 27.Kh2 Rd1! 28.Rf3! Rh1+ 29.Kg3 Nd5 30.Qh8+ Kd7 31.Qd4 and white wins.) 22.Bxe7 Rg6 23.Bxf8 Rxg2+ 24.Kh1 Kxf8 25.Qc5+ Kg8 26.Bxf7+! (A surprising jab, knocking down the last resistence.) 26...Kxf7 (Black loses the rook either after 26...Qxf7 27.Kxg2; or after 26...Kh8 27.Qh5+.) 27.Qf5+ Kg8 28.Qe6+ Kf8 (On 28...Kh7 29.Qh3+ wins the rook.) 29.Re1! (The final point! Black cannot defend the rook and prevent 30.Qe8 mate at the same time.) Black resigned.
Variations like the Poison pawn in the Sicilian or one in the following game seem to be created for extreme players, who love to live on the edge. When they slip, the fall is grave. The Israeli GM Greenfeld cracked powerfully the risky opening choice of his Dutch opponent.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bg5 c5 (The Vienna variation of the Queen's gambit became popular among players, who like to play sharply, can calculated well and are excellently prepared for the worse.) 7.Bxc4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qa5 10.Bb5+ Nbd7 11.Bxf6 Qxc3+ 12.Kf1 gxf6 13.h4 (Preparing to bring his rook to the play via the square h3. A tricky sacrifice 13.Nxe6?! seems to work for white and it does after 13...fxe6? 14.Rc1 Qa5 15.Rxc8+ Rxc8 16.Qxd7+ winning. But after 13.Nxe6 black can defend better with 13...Qe5! 14.Nd4 0-0 and white has to be careful.) 13...a6 14.Rc1 Qb4 15.Ba4!? (Pinning the knight seems more logical than the usual retreat 15.Be2.) 15...Qd6 (Breaking the pin with 15...b5 runs into16.Nc6!, for example 16...Qxa4 17.Qd6 and black gets mated. The question is how Greenfeld wanted to improve on 15...Ke7 16.Rh3 Nc5 17.Bb3 Bd7 18.Rc4 Qa5 19.Qc2 Rac8 20.Rhc3 b6 with good chances for black as in P.Nikolic-Gelfand, Sarajevo 1991.) 16.Rh3 b5 (After 16...e5 17.Rhc3 Qxd4 18.Rxc8+ Ke7 19.R8c7 Rhd8 20.Rxb7 black is in dire straits.) 17.Rc6 Qe5 (After 17...Qb8 white may try the tempting 18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.Rxe6+ Kd8 20.Bb3 with plenty of play for the piece.) 18.Rhc3 Bb7 (Escaping from the center does not quite work. After 18...0-0 19.Bc2 b4 20.Rd3 Kh8 21.Nf3 black still have big problems coordinating the defense.) 19.Rc7 Bxe4 20.Nf5! (After this rampant jump black king is lost, e.g. 20...Rd8 21.Rxd7 Rxd7 22.Rc8+ andon 20...0-0 21.Qg4+ Kh8 22.Qg7 mates.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's composition by E. Melnichenko (White:Kg4,Rb1,Rh4,Ba8,P:d6,e3; Black:Kc4,Rc3,Re6,Na5,P:c6,d3,e5): 1.Kf5+ Kd5 2.d7 Rd6 3.Rb5+ Rc5 4.Rbb4! Nc4 (or 4...Rc45.Rhxc4 Nxc4 6.Rb5 mate.) 5.Rd4+! exd4 6.e4 mate.