Armenia seems to have an abundance of chess talent. Last year, the Armenian grandmasters swept the top three places at the New York Open. This month, the Armenians won the European team championship in Batumi, Georgia, although two of their prominent grandmasters stayed home.
Vladimir Akopian, the runner-up in this year's world championship in Las Vegas did not play and Rafael Vaganian, one of the most successful player in various team events, also did not show up. And their talented attacker Sergei Movsesian now plays for the Czech Republic. It did not matter, as others picked up the torch. Armenia finished first with 22.5 points, ahead of Hungary, powered by the talented Peter Leko and Judit Polgar, scoring 22 points for second place. Germany finished third with 21 points. Another big surprise was Slovakia, winning thewomen competition ahead of Romania and Yugoslavia.
Russia, the powerhouse in team events in decades, tied for 4th to 8th place, unable to lure their superstar to the boards in Batumi. Team events require steady performances and Russia did not have them this time. Take the case of Russia's Sergei Volkov, last month's co-winner of the Chigorin memorial in St. Petersburg. One day he played brilliantly against an experienced Ukrainian GM Oleg Romanishin, winning masterfully.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 (This sharp variation against the Nimzo-Indian is coming of age.) 4...d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Nbd7 (Romanishin likes to create original ideas. He is avoiding a theoretical dispute in the variation 6...c5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.dxc5 f5 9.e4 fxe4 10. Qc2, which was popular already in the late fifties.) 7.cxd5 exd5 8.e3 0-0 9.Bd3 Nb6 10.Ne2 (White aims for a strong pawn center, preparing the advance of his e-pawn. Black, on the other hand, is satisfied with control of some key squares on the queenside, from which he can limit the mobility of white's pieces.) 10...Bd7 11.a4 a5 12.0-0 Bc6 13.Ng3 Re8 14.Re1 Qd7 15.Bf5! Qd8 16.Bc2 (White is now ready to push his e-pawn, increasing the range of his other bishops.) 16...Nfd7 17.e4! (Expanding his space.) 17...Nf8 18.e5 g6?! (Weakening the black squares around his own king, black hopes to block white's pawns.) 19.f4 f5 (It seems that black has succeeded in his plan, but white prepared a nasty surprise.)
20.Nxf5!! (An elegant solution. With a piece sacrifice white opens up roads to the black king. His pawns soon start to roll like an avalanche.) 20...gxf5 21.Bxf5 Nc4 (Preventing white from switching his rook to the third rank. For example after 21...Qh4 22.Re3 is very strong.) 22.Bc2 Bd7 23.f5 Ra6 24.Qf3! (Attacking the d-pawn straightaway. Less accurate is 24.Qg4+ Kh8! [But not 24...Rg6 25.Qf3 and white wins.] 25.Bg5 Rg6 still keeping the game alive.) 24...Bc8 25.Qg3+ Kh8 26.Bg5 (The sleeper wakes up. Its entry into the game is decisive.) 26...Qd7 27.e6 (After 27...Qg7 28.f6 Qg8 29.f7 a single pawn dominates both the queen and the rook. Giving up the piece 27...Nxe6 does not help either 28.Bf6+ Ng7 29.Rxe8+ Qxe8 30.Qxg7 mates.) Black resigned.
However, against the Hungarian Judit Polgar a different Volkov showed up. Taking flight with his queen to a dangerous zone on a queen side did not go unpunished and Polgar took a full advantage of black's reckless play.
Polgar - Volkov
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.Qe2 Qd5 (Aimed to prevent the long castle by hitting the a-pawn. More popular choices are 9...Nd7 or 9...c6.) 10.0-0 (After 10.c4 Qa5+ black is fine as in Klovans-Bronstein, Jurmala 1978.) 10...Nd7 11.Rfe1 0-0-0 12.a4!? (Polgar believes that the road to the black king leads through the open a-file. Less dangerous to black is 12.c4 Qh5.) 12...f5? (Cutting off the escape to the kingside leaves the queen dangerously exposed.) 13.Nc3 Qa5 (On 13...Qd6 14.Bxf5 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 exf5 16.Nb5 Qf6 17.Nxa7+ Kb8 18.Nc6+ white wins; and after 13...Qc6 14.a5 Rhg8 15.d5 white's attack comes first.)
14.Nb5! (Constricting the queen.) 14...Rhg8 (After 14...a6 comes 15.c3 closing on the queen like in the game.) 15.c3 (Threatening 16.b4.) 15...c5 16.g3! (Preparing to attack the queen with the knight on f3.) 16...a6 (After 16...f4 17.Ne5 fxg3 18.fxg3 Nxe5 19.Qxe5 Rd7 20.b4! Qa6 21.Qe2 black is hopeless against almost any jumps of the white horse.) 17.Nd2 axb5 (Black is giving up any hopes and parts with his queen. After 17...Bd5 18.b4! cxb4 19.c4! b3 20.cxd5 b2 21.Na7+ Kb7 22.Nc6 wins.) 18.axb5 Qxa1 19.Rxa1 cxd4 20.cxd4 Bd6 21.Nc4 Bc7 22.Qc2 Nf6 (After 22...Kb8 23.Qa4 Rg4 24.Qa7+ Kc8 25.Rc1! Rxd4 26.Na5! Nc5 27.Rxc5 bxa5 28.b6 white wins.) 23.Nxb6+ Kb8 24.Qc5 Bd6 25.Qc3 (The queen comes decisively to the a-file.) 25...h5 26.Qa5 Bf4 27.Ra4 (Threatening 28.Qa7+ Kc7 29.Rc4+ Kd6 30.Qa3 mate.) Black resigned.
CAPTION: White Wins Solution to today's study by L. Vlk (White: Ka8,Rf2,P:g5; Black:Kh1,Rc7,P:c5,d7): 1.Kb8! Rc62.Rf6! c4! 3.Rh6+! Kg2 (On 3...Rxh6 4.gxh6 c3 5.h7 c2 6.h8Q+ white wins.) 4.Rxc6 dxc6 5.g6c3 6.g7 c2 7.g8Q+ wins.