- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2004

In the War of the wunderkinds, the American prodigy came out on top.White Plains, N.Y., GM Hikaru Nakamura, fresh from his victory in the U.S. Chessmaster Championship the week before, defeated fellow teenager GM Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine in a six-game match in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Nakamura won four, drew one and lost only once for a decisive 41/2-11/2 triumph.

The two players are among the most promising young talents in the game today. At 17, Nakamura has drawn comparisons to Bobby Fischer with his early successes and well-rounded game. He is the youngest player to win the U.S. title since Fischer won in 1957 at age 14.

Karjakin set a record by earning the grandmaster title at the tender age of 12 years and seven months and turned in a superb performance on Ukraine’s gold-medal Olympiad team earlier this year.

Game 2 of the match saw the American employ the Center Counter Defense, which he also used to defeat GM Nick DeFirmian in the U.S. title tournament. The ancient defense (1…d5) has its drawbacks, but it allows Black to dictate the opening and sidesteps reams of theory in other, more popular openings.

With 7. Ne5 e6 8. g4, Karjakin opts for one of the most aggressive variations, and Nakamura shows he’s ready for a double-edged struggle with his own 12. Bd3 Nbd7 13. Re1 g6!?. Black will castle queen-side and go after the White king, but his pawn structure will be weak, and the Black king itself will soon become a target.

After 14. Qe2 Bxe5 (the threat was 15. Nxf7! Kxf7 16. Nxd5 Qxd5 17. Bc4 Qe4 18. Bxe6+ Kxe6 19. Qc4+, winning material) 15. dxe5 Ng8 16. Bd2 Qc7 17. Nxd5 cxd5 18. c4, White seeks to pry open the c-file leading to the Black king.

Badly lagging in development and facing a strong attack, Nakamura shows a Fischer-like ability to clarify a position to his advantage, returning some of his ill-gotten booty to break White’s initiative: 23. Rad1 gxh5! 24. g5 h6! 25. Rd3 hxg5 (Qxc4? 26. Qxf7) 26. Rb3 b6 27. c5 (see diagram), and now the surprising 27…Qxc5! turns the tables.

The pawn grab looks supremely risky, but after 28. Qxf7 Ne7! 29. Qxe6+ Kb8 30. a4?! (Re2 Rhe8 31. Rc2 Qx5 32. Rc1 Nd5 33. Qc6 might have offered better survival chances) Nd5 31. Rb5 Nc7! 32. Qf7 Rhf8! 33. Rxc5 Rxf7, White’s attack has evaporated and Nakamura still enjoys an extra pawn.

Black’s advanced d-pawn soon costs White the exchange, and once again Nakamura shows a nice sense of knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em on 52. Bc4 Rxa5 53. Kd3 Rxe6! 54. Bxe6 Kxe6. The rook-and-pawn ending is a book win, and Karjakin could have resigned right away.

After 60. Rh4 Rg7, the Black rook will swing over to support the connected passed pawns. White gave up.

• • •

Last month’s 35th annual National Chess Congress lost a bit of its traditional luster, as the Philadelphia tournament coincided with the U.S. Championships across the continent in California. GM Jaan Ehlvest and Leonid Yudasin finished in a tie for first at 5-1 in the 66-player Premier section.

Maryland Master John Rouleau, now part of the University of Maryland/Baltimore County chess juggernaut, upset GM Gennady Zaitshik in the tournament, a 22-move demolition that led Zaitshik to drop out of the tournament.

Grandmasters are not often beaten this soundly, but Black’s game comes apart almost as soon as the opening skirmish is over. Zaitshik’s aggressive 12. Qf3 f5?! comes off as too ambitious, and after 14. a5 Nbd7 15. exf5 Rf8?, Black’s game never really recovers.

After 16. Qxc6 Bb7 17. Qxd6 gxf5? (Rf6 may be the last chance for respectable inferiority after 18. Qd1 Rxf5 19. Bg5 Bf5 [Qxa5?? 20. Bf7+, while 19…Qc7 20. Nb5 leaves Black reeling], and Black is still fighting) 18. Bg5!, all of Black’s choices are bad.

The finale: 18…Bf6 (the queen can’t flee because of 19. Qe7 mate) 19. Nd5! Bxd5 (Bxg5 20. Nc7+ wins the queen, but 20. hxg5! might be even more powerful; e.g. 20…Bxd5 21. Bxd5 Rb8 22. Rxh7 Qxg5 23. Bc6 Rd8 24. Qxe5+ Ne6 25. Qxe6+ Qe7 26. Qxe7 mate) 20. Bxd5 Rb8 21. Bc6!.

The bishop move pins the knight on d7, and Black’s position collapses. The threat is simply 22. Qxc5, and 21…Kxf7 22. Rd1 Qxa5+ (Kg8 23. b4 Rxb4 24. Bxd7 Nxd7 25. Qxb4) 23. c3 Rbd8 24. b4 wins a piece. Zaitshik resigned.

Duel of the Prodigies, Cuernavaca, Mexico, December 2004

KarjakinNakamura

1. e4d531. Rb5Nc7

2. exd5Qxd532. Qf7Rhf8

3. Nc3Qa533. Rxc5Rxf7

4. d4c634. Rc6Re7

5. Nf3Nf635. Rd6Red7

6. Bc4Bf536. Rg6g4

7. Ne5e637. f3d3

8. g4Bg638. fxg4d2

9. h4Bd639. Rd1Rd4

10. h5Be440. Bf3hxg4

11. 0-0Bd541. Bxg4Nd5

12. Bd3Nbd742. Kf2Rf8+

13. Re1g643. Bf3Rd3

14. Qe2Bxe544. Rg3Ne3

15. dxe5Ng845. Rxd2Rxd2+

16. Bd2Qc746. Kxe3Rxb2

17. Nxd5cxd547. Bd5Re8

18. c4d448. e6Kc7

19. Bb4Nc549. Rg7+Kd6

20. Bxc5Qxc550. Rd7+Ke5

21. Qf3Qc751. a5Rb5

22. Be40-0-052. Bc4Rxa5

23. Rad1gxh553. Kd3Rxe6

24. g5h654. Bxe6Kxe6

25. Rd3hxg555. Rh7Kd6

26. Rb3b656. Kc4Kc6

27. c5Qxc557. Rh6+Kb7

28. Qxf7Ne758. Rh7+Ka6

29. Qxe6+Kb859. Kb4Rg5

30. a4Nd560. Rh4Rg7

White resigns

35th National Chess Congress, Philadelphia, November 2004

RouleauZaitshik

1. e4g612. Qf3f5

2. d4Bg713. dxc6bxc6

3. Nc3c614. a5Nbd7

4. Bc4d615. exf5Rf8

5. Qf3e616. Qxc6Bb7

6. Nge2Nd717. Qxd6gxf5

7. a4Ngf618. Bg5Bf6

8. h4e519. Nd5Bxd5

9. d5Nb620. Bxd5Rb8

10. Qd3Nfd721. Bc6Black

11. Ba2Nc5resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington times.com.

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