- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

German GM Wolfgang Unzicker, who died of a heart attack last week at the age of 80, may have been one of the last of his kind: the part-time grandmaster.

Unzicker, who dominated the West German chess scene in the first decades after World War II, rose to become one of the West’s best players while holding down a full-time job as a lawyer and administrative judge. He held his own against some of the great Soviet and East European players of his day but never seriously competed for the world crown in an age when chess professionals came to dominate the game.

Still, he played in a dozen Olympiads, 10 times as first board. He had wins over Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Korchnoi and other greats over his long career, and his 22-move wipeout of a young Bobby Fischer at the 1960 Buenos Aires tournament was one of the American’s worst losses in international play.

Unzicker was West German champion seven times, giving way to younger rival GM Robert Huebner as his country’s best player only when he was well into his 40s. He came in a highly respectable fourth in the great 2nd Piatigorsky Cup in Santa Monica in 1966, drawing twice with Fischer and losing only to winner Boris Spassky.

Unzicker’s victory over another quality opponent, Estonian great Paul Keres, claimed the “best game” prize at an international tournament in Moscow in 1956. In a sharp struggle, the German’s unexpected queen sacrifice upsets the equilibrium and leads his opponent to his doom.

A classical player much influenced by fellow German Siegbert Tarrasch, Unzicker as White gains a slight initiative after Black’s 14. Nb3 Bb7!? (a5, with a queen-side push, was more consistent), and it quickly becomes apparent to both sides that the open c-file is the game’s prime strategic prize.

The play sharpens on 22. Na5 Rxc2!? (perhaps banking on his 25th move, but Keres could usefully complicate matters with 22…Bxh4! 23. Nxb7 Bxf2+ 24. Rxf2 Qb6 25. Nxd6 Qxd6, with chances for both sides) 23. Nxb7 Qc7 24. Qxc2! Qxb7 25. Bxe7 Rc8 (see diagram; 25…Qxe7 26. Ba2 followed by 27. Rc1 would leave White in control).

Black’s rook zwischenzug seems to give him control of the key file, but White finds the inspired 26. Bxd6!! Rxc2 27. Bxc2 f6 28. Bb3. White is slightly down in material, but he banks on the fact that his two bishops will have the run of the board after the passed d-pawn advances.

Keres defends resourcefully after 30. Rd2 Nb6 31. Bc7?! (an inaccuracy, as 31. Bb4 Nc4 32. d6 Qd7 33. Nh4 Kf8 34. Bxc4 bxc4 35. Nf5 retains White’s long-term grip) Nc4! (Qxc7?? 32. d6+) 32. d6 Ne6 33. Ba5, but errs just when equality was in sight with 33…Qd7! 34. Bxc4 bxc4.

Instead, White wins on 33…Nc5? 34. Bb4 Nd7 (a sad retreat, but 34…Nxb3 35. d7 loses at once) 35. Rc2 a5 36. Bxa5 Qxe4 37. Nd2! Qd3? (a blunder just before time control, but Black won’t survive in the long run after 37…Qd4 38. Nxc4 Qd1+ 39. Kh2 bxc4 40. Bxc4+ Kf8 41. Rd2) 38. Rxc4! Kh7 (bxc4 39. Bxc4+ wins the queen) 39. Bc2, and Keres resigns as 39…bxc4 40. Bxd3+ cxd3 41. Bc7 is hopeless.

• • •

Combinations: They’re not just for the middle game anymore.

In his recent win over strong WGM Anna Zatonskih, GM-in-waiting Ben Finegold gave a neat demonstration of the tactical possibilities latent in endgames, even with just a couple of pieces on the board. The game comes in the Category 10 Spring North American FIDE Invitational held last week in Schaumburg, Ill. Finegold finished in a tie for fourth behind Israeli GM Victor Mikhalevski.

In a Grunfeld, Zatonskih as Black appears to be playing for the draw from the get-go, blocking the center and offering repeatedly to trade off the heavy artillery. By 28. Rxb1 Rb8 29. Rxb8+ Qxb8, Black appears to have gotten her wish.

White’s edge may be minimal, but it is enduring: He enjoys greater space, and his pawns hem in the Black bishop. When the f4 square opens up on 31. Ne5 Nxe5 32. fxe5, Black will find it hard to counter White’s activity on both sides of the board because of her cramped game.

Key is the dual-purpose 38. Qd3!, threatening not only 39. g4, exploiting the pin, but also the queen-side invasion by the White queen that will prove decisive. After 38…Kg7 39. Qa6 Qc7 40. Qc8, Zatonskih sidesteps the threatened 41. Bxh6+ Kxh6 42. Qxf8+ with 40…Be7.

But White is not deterred, finding a beautiful piece sacrifice on a nearly empty board: 41. Bxh6+!! (anyway!) Kxh6 42. Qh8+ Kg6 (Kg5 43. Qg7+ Kh5 44. g4+ fxg4 45. Qh7+ Kg5 46. h4 mate) 43. Qg8+ Kh6 (Kh5 44. Qh7+ Kg5 45. Kg3 Bf8 46. h4 mate) 44. Qh8+ Kg6 45. Qg8+ Kh6 46. Qxf7!. White has only two pawns for the piece, but Black’s bishop and queen are paralyzed and the Black king is under heavy siege.

The finale: 46…Qd7 (leads to mate, but the White pawns should win even after 46…Bd8 47. Qxe6+ Kg7 48. Qxf5) 47. h4! f4 48. h5, and Zatonskih resigns facing the unstoppable 48…Kg5 49.Qg6+ Kh4 50. exf4 and 51. g3 mate.

Moscow, 1956


1. e4e521. Rc2Qd8

2. Nf3Nc622. Na5Rxc2

3. Bb5a623. Nxb7Qc7

4. Ba4Nf624. Qxc2Qxb7

5. 0-0Be725. Bxe7Rc8

6. Re1b526. Bxd6Rxc2

7. Bb3d627. Bxc2f6

8. c30-028. Bb3Nf4

9. h3Na529. Rd1Nd7

10. Bc2c530. Rd2Nb6

11. c4Qc731. Bc7Nc4

12. Nbd2cxd432. d6Ne6

13. cxd4Nc633. Ba5Nc5

14. Nb3Bb734. Bb4Nd7

15. Bg5h635. Rc2a5

16. Bh4Nb436. Bxa5Qxe4

17. Bb1Rac837. Nd2Qd3

18. Re2Nh538. Rxc4Kh7

19. a3Nc639. Bc2Black

20. d5Nb8resigns

Spring North American FIDE Invitational, Schaumburg, Ill., April 2006


1. d4d525. Nf3bxc5

2. Bg5c626. bxc5Ng4

3. e3g627. Qd2Rxb1

4. Nf3Bg728. Rxb1Rb8

5. c4Nf629. Rxb8Qxb8

6. Nc30-030. h3Ngf6

7. Be2h631. Ne5Nxe5

8. Bh4Qb632. fxe5Nd7

9. Qc1Be633. Ne2Nf8

10. 0-0Nbd734. Nf4Ng6

11. Nd2Rfc835. Bg3Nxf4

12. c5Qd836. Bxf4Kh7

13. b4Bf537. Kh2Bf8

14. f4Bg438. Qd3Kg7

15. Bd3Bf539. Qa6Qc7

16. Be2Bg440. Qa8Be7

17. Bd3Bf541. Bxh6+Kxh6

18. Bxf5gxf542. Qh8+Kg6

19. Rb1b643. Qg8+Kh6

20. Rf3a544. Qh8+Kg6

21. a3axb445. Qg8+Kh6

22. axb4Rcb846. Qxf7Qd7

23. Rf1Qc747. h4f4

24. Qc2e648. h5Black


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



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