In the mid-1970's an unknown Russian chessplayer walked into to the legendary Manhattan Chess Club in New York, looking for $10,000. He did not want to use violence nor take hostages. He had something more powerful to offer. He wanted to sell the secrets of the Soviet School of Chess.
The man in this anecdote hit a hot potato with a hammer and a sickle. Soviet Chess was a phenomenon, the strongest influence on chess history in the last 80 years. It is still being exploited by some former Soviet grandmasters nine years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. They "reveal" the secret training methods and try to cash on propaganda once officially designed to scare players from other countries.
If anyone deserves to make money on Soviet chess it is the American grandmaster Andrew Soltis. In his new book "Soviet Chess 1917-1991", issued last month by McFarland, Soltis recounts the fascinating history with all its brilliant and dark moments. Some players disappeared, were sent to gulags or were shot. Others bent their spines to survive the brutal regime and there also were the victors, who exploited others to stay on the top. The book has 450 pages and includes 249 games. It is well researched and Soltis had to go through lot of propaganda to sort out the facts, but he did it fabulously. In my opinion, this monumental work is the best book of the last year.
One would assume that the Soviet phenomenon would fade away once the former Soviet players went west to find "gold." Last month, the Russian championship was won by GM Konstantin Sakaev, but the superstars were nowhere in sight. Still, the FIDE champion, Alexander Khalifman lives in Russia and there is plenty of young talent to follow him. The American hopeful, Hikaru Nakamura, found that out in a recent World Youth championship, played in Oropesa del Mar in Spain. For the last two years Hikaru was the top rated player under the age of thirteen, although he only turned 12 last month. But in Spain, in the Boys under 12 division he only shared 13th-20th places, two points behind the winner, Wang Yue of China and behind players coming mostly from the former Soviet Union.
Still, Hikaru Nakamura can play brilliantly as he proved last week at the Eastern Open in Washington, D.C., against Oladapo Adu of Nigeria. In a sharp Sicilian Hikaru broke through with amazing knight and queen sacrifices. The Open was won by Alexander Ivanov, scoring 6.5 points in 8 games. Hikaru shared 4th-7th places with 5.5 points.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f4 Nc6 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.g4!? (Atacking straightaway. Kasparov also suggested the preparatory 10.Rg1.) 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 (Black is refraining from 11...e5!? 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.Qg3 Bd6 14.Be3 Bc6 analyzed by Kasparov as unclear.)] 12.Bxf6!? (Planning to generate pressure against the e6 pawn, white's play is well timed.) 12...gxf6 13.f5 Be7 (After 13...Qe7 14.Bc4 b5 15.Bd5! black has problems either after 15...exd5 16.exd5 winning, or after 15...Bxd5 16.exd5 e5 17.Ne4 with white's edge.) 14.Bc4! (Placing the bishop on the right diagonal.) 14...b5 15.Bb3 b4 16.Ne2 e5 17.Ng3 (Prevents any play on the kingside.) 17...a5 18.Kb1 a4 19.Bc4 Rc8 20.b3 Qb7 21.Qe2 Rb8 22.Rhe1 Rg8 23.h3 Qd7 24.Qd2 Rg5 (Preventing 25.Qh6.) 25.Nh5 Qb7?! (Black had problems, but the queen move allows a nice combination.)
26.Nxf6+! (This sacrifice breaks black's position apart. Suddenly the black king becomes vulnerable.) 26...Bxf6 27.Qxd6 Be7 (After 27...Bg7 28.h4 Rxg4 29.f6 Bh8 white has a wonderful winning shot 30.Ba6!! and the queen is overloaded and cannot cover e7, c6 and b8 at the same time.) 28.Qxe5 f6 (After 28...Kf8 29.h4 Rxg4 30.Rg1 Rxg1 31.Rxg1 Bxh4 32.Qg7+ Ke7 33.Rd1! white wins, e.g. 33...Be8 34.Qe5+ Kf8 35.Qd6+ Qe7 36.Qh6+ Kg8 37.Rg1+ and white mates soon.) 29.Qe6 Rg7 (Preventing 30.Qf7 mate.) 30.e5! (An obvious pawn break, but white had to see the pretty queen sacrifice that flies with it.) 30...Bd7
31.Qxf6!! Bxf6 (Black has to accept the gift. The passive 31...Bf8 leads to a beautiful mate 32.e6 Bc6 33.Qf7+! Rxf7 34.exf7 mate.) 32.exf6+ Kf8 33.fxg7+ Kxg7 34.Re7+ Kf6 (Hiding in the corner with 34...Kh8 leaves black without a counterplay and after 35.Rexd7 Qc6 36.R7d6 Qc7 37.f6 white simply smothers the black king by advancing the kingside pawns.) 35.Rexd7 (Of course, 35.Rdxd7 Qh1+ 36.Kb2 a3 mate, has to be avoided.) 35...Qe4?! (Speeds up the end, but other queen moves would not save black in a long run anyway, for example 35...Qf3 36.h4 Qc3 37.R7d3 Qe5 38.g5+ Kg7 39.Rd7+ Kf8 40.f6 creating a mating net.) 36.g5+! Kxg5 (Black also loses his queen after 36...Kxf5 37.Bd3; or after 36...Ke5 37.Re7+.) 37.Rg1+ (White wins the queen after either 37...Kf6 38.Rf7+ Ke5 39.Re7+ or after 37...Kf4 38.Rg4+) Black resigned.
CAPTION: White winsSolution to today's composition by F. Lazard (Ke1,Nh3,P:e7,g7; Black:Kh5,Rb8): 1.Nf4+ Kh6 2.Ne6 (Threatening 3.Nd8.) 2...Re8! 3.g8Q! Rxg8 4.Nf8 (It seems that white queens and the game is over.) 4...Rg5!! (Tremendous resource! After 5.e8Q? comes 5...Re5+! 6.Qxe5 stalemate.It is now white turn to perform miracles...) 5.Ng6!! and white queens, reaching a theoretically won end game queen vs. rook.