For many world-class chess players, the age of 16 is memorable and often marks the beginning of their careers. Garry Kasparov scored his first international victory at that age in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka in 1979. Before the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila, Kasparov insisted that another 16-year-old should play for the Russian team. His name was Vladimir Kramnik. He performed magnificently, scoring 81/2 points in nine games and became the overall individual winner in Manila.
Youth in Action
Sometimes you need a bulldozer to remove an older, unproductive player from the team. Kasparov was surprised that the 16-year-old U.S. grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura did not get a chance to play at this year's Olympiad in Calvia, Spain. Nakamura had moved to second place, with Alexander Goldin, among active U.S. players on the latest FIDE rating list. But blocking Nakamura's way was the 57-year-old Boris Gulko, who threatened to sue if he were excluded from the team by the U.S. Chess Federation. The veteran grandmaster went to Calvia, played only five games and, as at the 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia, scored only 50 percent.
The winning Ukrainian team in Calvia was not afraid to utilize young talents. The country's champion, Andrei Volokitin, 18, scored 81/2 points in 12 games. And the famous 14-year-old prodigy Sergei Kariakin scored an incredible 61/2 points in seven games. The team had a strong leader in Vassily Ivanchuk, 35, who amassed 91/2 points in 13 games on the top board. One of his victims was Teimur Radjabov, another 16-year-old talent, playing on Azerbaijan's top board. Ivanchuk dismantled black's strong pawn center in the Kalashnikov Sicilian with a creative play and caught the dangerously walking black king at the end.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nb5 d6 (The Kalashnikov variation: The pawn on f7 is free to step quickly into action.) 6.N1c3 a6 7.Na3 b5 8.Nd5 Nce7?! (Exchanging this knight for white's knight on d5 allows black to develop his other knight on the natural square f6.)
9.Nb4! (Taking advantage of black's jammed position. It is surprising that nobody played this clever retreat before.) 9 . . . Bd7?! (Preparing to chase the white horses with a6-a5 and b5-b4. The more logical 9 . . . Nf6!? could lead to a messy play after 10.c4 Nxe4 11.cxb5 d5 12.bxa6 Nf5, but black's command of the center is a sufficient compensation for a pawn. Black should avoid 9 . . . Bb7? 10.Nxb5! and white wins.) 10.c4 a5 11.Nbc2 Nf6 (Black hopes to create an imposing pawn center. After 11 . . . b4 12.Nb5! Bxb5 13.cxb5 Nf6 14.Ne3! white has a strong grip on black's position, for example 14 . . . Nxe4 15.b6! opening up the square b5 for a deadly bishop's check and after
15 . . . Qxb6 16.f3! Nf6 17.Nc4 white should win; or 14 . . . d5 15.b6! Qxb6 16.exd5 with advantage.) 12.Nxb5 Bxb5 (The immediate 12 . . . Nxe4 allows 13.Qxd6!) 13.cxb5 Nxe4 14.Be3 d5 15.b6! (Threatening 16.Bb5+.) 15 . . . f5 (Making room for the king. After 15 . . . Qd7 16.Rc1 d4? 17.Nxd4! exd4 18.Rc7 Qf5 19.Qxd4 wins.)
16.Qe2!? (A clever way to prevent 18...d4, preparing the long castling at the same time.) 16...Kf7 (After 16...d4 17.Qb5+ Qd7 [On 17...Kf7 comes 18.0-0-0!] 18.Qxe5 dxe3? 19.Bb5 wins.) 17.0-0-0 Qd7 (Tickling the b-pawn with 17...Rb8 is preferable.) 18.Kb1 Qe6 (Radjabov moves the queen closer to his three central pawns and his king, but Ivanchuk finds a way to expose it to new attacks. 18...Qb7 seems safer.) 19.f3 Nd6 20.f4! (Not only undermining the pawn wall, it also allows white to gain control of the dark squares.) 20...Nc4 (After 20...e4 21.Qd2 white has a strong bind. And 20...exf4 21.Bxf4 Ng6 22.Qxe6+ Kxe6 23.Nd4+ is unpleasant for black.) 21.fxe5 Rb8 22.g4! (Ivanchuk is relentless in punching the position open to get to the black king.) 22...f4 23.Qf3! g5 (The support of the f4-pawn is only temporary. But after 23...Nxe3 24.Qxf4+ Kg8 25.Nxe3 Qxb6 26.Rd2 black's kingside is tied up and 26...Ng6 runs to 27.Qe4!) 24.Bxc4 dxc4 25.h4! (Another breaker.) 25...Qc6 (After 25...Kg8 26.Bf2 h6 27.hxg5 hxg5 28.Rxh8+ Kxh8 29.Rd6! wins.)
26.e6+! (A timely deflection.) 26...Kg6 (On 26...Kxe6 27.Nd4+ wins; and after 26...Qxe6 27.hxg5 the black position collapses.) 27.Qf2 (No need to exchange queens as long as the black king is a walking target.) 27...Qxe6 28.Bd4 Bg7 29.hxg5 Rbd8 (Speeding up the end, but there wasn't a good defense anyway, e.g. 29...Bxd4 30.Rh6+; or 29...Rhf8 30.Qh4 wins.) 30.Rde1 Qd6 (After 30...Qf7 31.Rh6+! Bxh6 32.Qh4! Bxg5 33.Qh5 mates.) 31.Bc5 Qd2 32.Re6+! (There was still time to blunder the winning game away: 32.Rxe7?? Qd1+ 33.Rxd1 Rxd1 mate.) Black resigned.
Four Great Years
Chess Today, a daily electronic publication, celebrated four years of remarkable existence on Saturday with its 1,460th issue. It is a brainchild of grandmaster Alexander Baburin, who assembled a wonderful team of chess journalists, analysts and book reviewers to present current events and commented games. It is worth the subscription. Details can be found at www.chesstoday.net. Solution to today's problem by M. Havel (White:Ke1,Qa2,Be8,Nf3; Black: Kf5,P:f4): 1.Kf2! Ke4 2.Bg6 mate; or 1...Kg4 2.Qe6 mate; or 1...Kf6 2.Qf7 mate.