After a dramatic finish, the Russian team champion, Tomsk-400, was a surprise winner at the 21st European Club Cup in the Italian mountain town of St. Vincent on Saturday. The defending champion, NAO Chess Club of Paris, led by classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik, was expected to win the competition for the third time in a row. But the French team lost a match to Tomsk, missing its two star players, England's Michael Adams and Peter Svidler of Russia, who are participating in the FIDE World Championship, which begins tomorrow in Argentina. The Russian team, in turn, lost in the last round to Polonia Plus GSM from Poland, and all three teams shared first place with 12 out of a possible 14 match points. However, Tomsk won the title on a tiebreak scoring the most game points, Polonia finished second and NAO Club third. The seven-round Swiss competition attracted 48 European club teams. NTN Tbilisi from Georgia won the women's section on a tiebreak over Southern Ural of Russia and the Serbian team of Internet CG Podgorica.

Amazing Blitzkrieg

Hungarian grandmaster Gyula Sax, 54, belongs to the generation of talented players such as Anatoly Karpov, Jan Timman and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. In St. Vincent, Sax played for the Hungarian team from Zalaegerszeg. Against Swedish International Master Emil Hermansson from SK Rochaden Stockholm the Hungarian tactician showed that he did not forget his trade. Just one slip in the Advance variation of the Caro-Kann defense was enough to allow Sax a furious attack on the black king.


1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 (This tricky move prevents 4...e6 because of 5.g4 Be4 6.f3 Bg6 7.h5 and the bishop is trapped. The young Paul Keres played it at the 1932 Estonian junior championship, where he won all nine games. During the 1961 Tal-Botvinnik world championship match it was turned into a space-grabbing strategy after 4...h6 5.g4 Bd7 6.h5.) 4...h5 5.c4 e6 6.Nc3 Ne7 (Interestingly, this useful move, controlling vital central squares, stayed in the background for a long time, yielding popularity to the moves 6...Nd7 and 6...Be7.) 7.Nge2 (The pinning 7.Bg5 used to be played more exclusively, but 7...Qb6 seems to solve black's problems.) 7...dxc4 8.Ng3 Bg6 (This retreat is almost automatic, but black could have protected his c-pawn with 8...b5. The undermining 9.a4 b4 10.Nce4 Bxe4 11.Nxe4 Nf5 12.Bxc4 Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Nxd4 is not dangerous, and getting the h-pawn 9.Nxh5 is countered in the center with 9...c5!? with a wild play, for example 10.g4!? cxd4! 11.gxf5 dxc3 and black's chances are not worse.) 9.Bg5 (By pinning the knight, white threatens 10.Nge4, followed by the deadly 11.Nd6+.) 9...Qc7 (Karpov played 9...Qb6 against Adams in Tilburg 1996 and somehow managed to stay alive.) 10.Bxc4 Nd7 11.Rc1 Nf5 12.Nxf5 Bxf5 13.Bd3!? (Fighting for the square e4.) 13...Bxd3 14.Qxd3 f6? (Finishing the development is not easy for black, but his last move is an outright blunder. Perhaps Hermansson thought his king was going to be safe behind his wall of pawns. But for a great tactician like Sax it is not difficult to find a way to breach the wall. After 14...Bb4 15.0-0 Nb6 16.a3 white has the edge, for example 16...Bxc3 [On 16...Bf8 17.d5! exd5 18.Nb5 Qb8 19.e6! breaks through.] 17.bxc3 and the bishop is stronger than the knight.)

15.Qg6+ Ke7 16.exf6+ gxf6 17.0-0! (White's attack flows smoothly after this simple developing move, bringing the king's rook into action.) 17...fxg5 18.Nd5+!! (The line-clearing knight sacrifice opens the e-file and exposes the black king to a decisive rook strike.) 18...exd5 19.Rfe1+ Ne5 20.Rxe5+ Qxe5 (Forced, since after 20...Kd7 21.Qe6+ Kd8 22.Qe8 mates.) 21.dxe5 Kd7 (after 21...Rh6 22.Qxg5+ Ke6 23.f4 wins) 22.e6+ Kd6 23.e7+! (Shedding the pawn gives free rein to white's heavy pieces.) 23...Kxe7 24.Re1+ Kd7 25.Qf7+ (After 25.Qf7+ Kd6 26.b4! -- threatening 27.Re6 mate -- 26...Rh6 27.hxg5 and black can't defend the sixth rank anymore.) Black resigned.

Nakamura's Fable

The U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura, 17, finished second in the Lausanne Young Masters, a rapid knockout event in Switzerland this month, featuring some of the world's best young talents. Ukrainian champion Andrei Volokitin, 19, beat Nakamura in the final 2-0. The second game featured a queen sortie that the American had used in the past, but Volokitin was unfazed and took over the initiative in a mere six moves.


1.e4 c5 2.Qh5?! Nf6 3.Qh4 Nc6 4.Be2 (Nakamura is still following the "theory" we published in August.) 4...e5! 5.d3 Be7 (A possible discovered attack forces the third move with the queen.) 6.Qg3 d5 (Black has a dream position from the opening: a strong center, lead in development and an easy way to play. White can't make up for the lost time and is betting that black somehow blunders. I highly recommend avoiding this kind of play and will spare you the rest of the game. Perhaps Nakamura could have ended his suffering immediately with 7.Nf3, which nets black the queen after 7...Nh5.) Solution to today's composition by K. Knothe (White: Kg2,Re6,Bc4,P:f4,g3,h2; Black: Kg4,Rc8,Nd4,P:f5,g7,h7): 1.Rh6! gxh6 2.h3+ Kh5 3.Bf7 mate.

White mates in three moves.