- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

This year’s edition of the annual supertournament in Linares, Spain, is shaping up as the sleepiest ever.

A plague of draws has descended upon the tournament, with six of the first 12 rounds featuring only split points. With two rounds to go at deadline, Russian world champ Vladimir Kramnik holds a one-point lead over compatriot Garry Kasparov and Hungarian GM Peter Leko.

Kramnik has two wins — over Leko and Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov — to go along with 10 often very short draws. Both of his games with Kasparov ended in draws. Kasparov and Leko, who both have played one fewer game than the leader, also have had huge numbers of draws and very few interesting games.

Many spectators already are complaining about the lack of sizzle in Spain, especially because it’s in a tournament once renowned for its fighting character. We’ll have the final scorecard and a rundown on the action in next week’s column and will spend the week praying for some late fireworks.

• • •

Serendipitously, your columnist this week took a brief business trip to Russia, still the reigning superpower of the game. In a Moscow bookstore, we chanced upon something called the “Anthology of Chess Beauty,” a fabulous collection of 1,640 games awarded a brilliancy prize, a “most interesting game” award or some other citation from tournaments dating from 1876 to 1995. Besides being a godsend for a chess writer on deadline, the collection includes a wealth of obscure gems from around the world.

Some of the usual suspects are here — Pillsbury-Lasker (1896), Botvinnik-Capablanca (1938), and Byrne-Fischer (1956) among them. But the charm of the anthology is discovering games that aren’t on the familiar “best hits” lists, including the two in today’s column, both played in the late 1940s and each featuring some fancy-stepping knights.

New Yorker Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) has long been considered one of the greatest talents this country ever produced. He was one of the strongest players in the world in the mid-1930s and was considered such an accurate and profound positional player that he was dubbed “the little Capablanca” after the great Cuban world champion.

But Kashdan could excel in tactical play as well, as can be seen in his brilliant prize-winning effort against master Boris Siff in the 1948 U.S. championship tournament. Kashdan — who shortly afterward gave up professional chess — finished second in the event to Sammy Reshevsky.

Siff as White is slowly outplayed in this Classical Nimzo-Indian, and by 16. Bxd6 Qxd6 17. Rfc1 Bf5, Black already has a slight pull. White shifts his pieces to the queen-side in preparation for a breakthrough there, leaving himself open to a scintillating sacrificial counterpunch.

Thus: 19. b4 Rae8 20. Rab1?! (Bxf5 Nxf5 21. Nf1, covering up, was much better) Bxh3! 21. gxh3 Rxe3!!. The second piece can’t be touched as 22. fxe3? Qg3+ 23. Kf1 Qxh3+ is winning for Black. But on 22. Bf1 Nf5! 23. fxe3 Qg3+ 24. Bg2 Qxe3+ 25. Kh1 Ng3+ 26. Kh2 Qf4 27. Nf3 (see diagram), it isn’t immediately clear how Kashdan breaks through.

The rambunctious 27…Re2!! neatly answers the question, leading to the forced: 28. Nxe2 Nxe2+ 29. Kh1 Nh5 30. Qd2 (Qxe2 Ng3+ 31. Kg1 Nxe2+ cleans house) Nhg3+ 31. Kh2 Nf1+ 32. Kh1. With White’s king already woozy, a nifty double-knight smothered mate ends his suffering: 32…Qh2+!! 33. Nxh2 Nfg3 mate.

An even rarer find is our second game, played in the Dutch city of Baarn just a year before Siff-Kashdan. White here is Baruch Harold Wood, a longtime chess columnist for the London Daily Telegraph, and Black is Belgian master Paul Devos. When Wood dallies over his development in another Nimzo-Indian, his king endures a forced march leading to a picturesque execution.

Both players wobble in the opening phases of the game, and White misses a very good line on 14. Bd4! Nxd4 15. Qxd4 Qe7 16. e3 Rad8 17. Qb2, holding onto his material edge and preparing to develop his king-side. Devos breaks on top after 14. Nd4? Qf6! 15. Ra2 (f3 Qh4+ 16. g3 Nxg3 17. hxg3 Qxg3+ 18. Kd2 Qf4+ 19. Ke1 Ne5 20. Qc3 Nd3+ is very strong for Black) Be6 16. Nxe6 Qxf2+.

As in today’s first game, a rampaging Black rook sends Wood’s king fleeing on 20. h4 Rd2+! 21. Bxd2 Qxd2+ 22. Kb3 Nd4+ 23. Ka4 Qd1+.

The White queen — and, effectively, the game — are lost on 24. Ka5 Ra6+ 25. Qxa6, but Devos has prepared one very pretty final flourish: 25…Qa4+!! 26. Kxa4 Nc3+ 27. Ka5 Nb3 mate. The Black steeds form an effective tandem, while White’s rooks, bishop and queen are all bystanders.

U.S. Open, New York, 1948

SiffKashdan

1. d4Nf618. Nd2Re7

2. c4e619. b4Rae8

3. Nc3Bb420. Rab1Bxh3

4. Qc2d521. gxh3Rxe3

5. a3Be722. Bf1Nf5

6. cxd5exd523. fxe3Qg3+

7. Bf4c624. Bg2Qxe3+

8. h30-025. Kh1Ng3+

9. e3Re826. Kh2Qf4

10. Bd3Nbd727. Nf3Re2

11. Nf3Nf828. Nxe2Nxe2+

12. Ne5Bd629. Kh1Nh5

13. 0-0Ne630. Qd2Nhg3+

14. Bh2g631. Kh2Nf1+

15. Nf3Ng732. Kh1Qh2+

16. Bxd6Qxd633. Nxh2Nfg3

17. Rfc1Bf5

Baarn International Tournament, Baarn, Netherlands, 1947

WoodDevos

1. d4Nf615. Ra2Be6

2. c4e616. Nxe6Qxf2+

3. Nc3Bb417. Kd1Rxe6

4. Qc2d518. Bc3Rd8+

5. a3Bxc3+19. Kc2Qe3

6. Qxc3Ne420. h4Rd2+

7. Qc2c521. Bxd2Qxd2+

8. dxc5Nc622. Kb3Nd4+

9. cxd5exd523. Ka4Qd1+

10. Nf3Bf524. Ka5Ra6+

11. b40-025. Qxa6Qa4+

12. Bb2d426. Kxa4Nc3+

13. Qc4Re827. Ka5Nb3

14. Nxd4Qf6

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

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