The magnificent run of Magnus Carlsen at the prestigious Morelia-Linares tournament made headlines last week. The 16-year-old Norwegian grandmaster was outplaying some of the world's best players and after six rounds led the formidable field with four points. He edged India's Vishy Anand and Armenia's Levon Aronian by half a point before yesterday's last round of the first half. The double-round robin event moves from Morelia, Mexico, to Linares, Spain, this week.
Meantime in Moscow, the 21-year-old Russian champion Evgeny Alekseev triumphed over nearly 80 grandmasters and won the Aeroflot Open on Thursday. He scored seven points in nine games, and his victory earned him the right to participate in the elite tournament in Dortmund, Germany, this summer. The best American finisher was Jaan Ehlvest with four points.
Rook-Pawn StormingTwo games from the Aeroflot Open had a common theme: using the rook-pawn as a battering ram to break down the gates of black's kingdom. Alekseev was able to push his h-pawn all the way against his countryman Stanislav Novikov, the winner of the last year's Czech Open.
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6 4.h3 d5(The hybrid of the Caro-Kann and the Modern defense is the lazy player's opening.) 5.Nf3 Nf6?! 6.e5 Ne4 7.Nxe4 dxe4 8.Ng5 c5 9.Bc4! 0-0 10.c3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nc6(Protecting the pawn on e4 with 11...b5 12.Bb3 Bb7 leads to a strong attack for white after 13.h4!, for example 13...h6 14.Nxf7 Rxf7 15.Bxf7+ Kxf7 16.h5 g5 17.Bxg5! hxg5 18.h6 Bh8 19.Qh5+ Ke6 20.Qh3+ wins; or 13...Bd5 14.h5 h6 15.hxg6 hxg5 16.Bxg5 fxg6 17.Bxe7! with white's advantage.) 12.Be3 b5(Sensing the danger on the kingside, some players sacrifice a pawn with 12...Na5 13.Bb3 Nxb3 14.Qxb3 b6 15.Nxe4, aiming for the central blockade 15...Be6 16.Qa3 f5 with a playable game. That strategy is black's best bet.) 13.Bb3 Bb7(With the intention to meet 14.Nxe4? with 14...Nxe5!)
14.h4!(Marching the rook-pawn creates a raging attack against the black king.) 14...Qa5+(It is too late to go after white's light bishop with 14...Na5, since after 15.h5! Nxb3 16.axb3, white's attack is too strong, for example 16...Qd5 17.hxg6 hxg6 18.Qg4 Rcf8 19.Rh7! f6 20.Rxg7+! Kxg7 21.Ne6+ Kf7 22.Nf4 wins; or 16...Qd7 17.Nxh7! Kxh7 18.hxg6+ Kg8 19.Qh5 fxg6 20.Qh7+ Kf7 21.Bh6 Rg8 22.Rh4! g5 23.Bxg5, threatening to win with 24.Rf4+.) 15.Kf1 h5(Trying to slow white's assault.) 16.g4!(Insisting on the kingside breakthrough.) 16...Rad8 17.gxh5 Nxe5(After 17...Nxd4 18.Bxd4 Bxe5 19.hxg6 Rxd4 20.Qh5 wins.) 18.hxg6 Nf3(Black is paying a high price for preventing the white queen from joining the attack.) 19.Nxf7 Rxf7(Blocking the diagonal a2-g8 with 19...Rd5 does not work after 20.Rh3! Rh5 21.Nd6+ Bd5 22.Nxe4 and white wins.) 20.Bxf7+ Kf8(After 20...Kh8 21.h5 b4 22.h6 Bf6 23.Rh5 e5 24.Qb3 wins.) 21.h5 b4 22.h6 Ba6+ 23.Kg2 Bf6 24.h7 Kg7 25.d5(Alekseev misses the simple 25.Bh6+ Kh8 26.Bg8, threatening to promote the h-pawn after 27.g7+.) 25...Qc7 26.h8Q+(Touchdown! Playing for the gallery, white goes for a forced winning sequence, including a queen sacrifice. Otherwise 26.Qa4, with a double threat 27.h8Q+ and 27.Qxa6, is sufficient to win.) 26...Rxh8 27.Rxh8 Kxh8 28.Qh1+ Nh4+ 29.Qxh4+! Bxh4(On 29...Kg7 30.Qh6 mates.) 30.Bd4+ Bf6 31.Bxf6+ exf6 32.Rh1+ Kg7 33.Rh7+ Kf8 34.g7+(After 34...Kxf7 35.g8Q+ Kxg8 36.Rxc7 wins.) Black resigned.
Uzbekistan's Timur Gareev used his h-pawn to stage a vicious attack against Sweden's Emanuel Berg in the Exchange variation of the Queen's gambit. Gareev found a marvelous way to take down black's kingside pawn barrier.
1.c4 e6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.cxd5 exd5 7.e3 Be7 8.Qc2 0-0 9.Bd3 Re8 10.h3(A modest move, keeping open the option of where to castle.) 10...Nf8 11.Bf4 Ne6 12.Be5 g6 13.0-0-0 a5 14.h4!(The pawn is slowly gathering speed.) 14...Ng7 15.Ng5 Nfh5?(Exchanging the dark bishops with 15...Bd6 was the best way to equalize.) 16.Rdg1! f5(After 16...f6 17.g4 fxe5 18.gxh5 e4 19.Ncxe4! white wins.)
17.Nxh7!(Clearing on the diagonal b1-h7 begins with an amazing knight sacrifice.) 17...Kxh7 18.g4 Nf6 19.h5!(Black's position collapses like a house of cards.) 19...gxh5(After 19...Nxg4 white hits with 20.Rxg4! fxg4 21.Bxg6+ Kh6 [On 21...Kg8 22.Bf7+! wins.] 22.Bh7! Nf5 23.Bxf5 Bxf5 24.Qxf5 Rg8 25.Qe6+ Kh7 26.Qf7+ Kh6 27.Ne2! Qf8 28.Qe6+ Kh7 29.Nf4, threatening 30.Qg6+!! Rxg6 31.hxg6+ Kg8 32.Rh8 mate.) 20.gxh5(Threatening 21.h6.) 20...Rg8 21.h6 Ne6 22.Bxf5+ Kh8 23.Bxe6 Bxe6(After 23...Rxg1+ 24.Rxg1 Bxe6 25.Rg7 Bg8 26.Qg6, black does not have a good defense against 27.Rh7+! Bxh7 28.Qg7 mate.) 24.Rg7!(The threat 25.Rh7 mate forces black to open the h-file.) 24...Rxg7 25.hxg7+ Kxg7 26.Rh7+ Kf8 27.Qg6! Bg8(After 27...Nxh7 28.Bg7+ Kg8 29.Bh6+ Kh8 30.Qg7 mates.) 28.Rh8(Threatening 29.Rxg8+ Nxg8 30.Bg7 mate. White could have won also with 28.Bf4!, threatening 29.Bh6 mate.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's two-mover by V. Bartolovic (White: Kc8,Rb3,Rf5,Bc2,Nd5,Nf3, P:a6,b4,d2,e2; Black: Kb5,P:a7,c3,d6,e3) 1.d4! Kxa6 2.Bd3 mate; or 1...Kc6 2.b5 mate; or 1...Ka4 2.Nxc3 mate; or 1...Kc4 2.Nxe3 mate.