- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2007

He scored his first big U.S. triumph eight months ago by tying for first in Washington’s own Eastern Open at the tender age of 14.

Now a year older and with the grandmaster title in sight, New York IM Fabiano Caruana this month notched his biggest international triumph to date, taking first place in the strong HZ Open in Vlissingen, Netherlands. Caruana won on tiebreaks after finishing in a four-way tie for first with Dutch GMs Sergei Tiviakov and Migchiel De Jong and German IM Ralf Appel.

Among the also-rans in Vlissingen were former FIDE world champ Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan and veteran Ukrainian GM Oleg Romanishin, who once was a world championship candidate. Caruana defeated Indian GM Dibyendu Barua in the penultimate round and held Kasimdzhanov to a draw in the ninth and final round to land in first.

The New Yorker earned his third and final GM norm last month and is on track to break Hikaru Nakamura’s record as the youngest American grandmaster ever. In Vlissingen, Caruana raced out to an early lead, surviving a loss to Tiviakov in Round 7 to claim a share of first. His win over Dutch master Alan Van Der Heijden was key to his early surge.

After 13. g5 e5 14. f5, White has built up a strong spatial edge without conceding much to Black on the queen’s wing. A temporary pawn sacrifice opens the g-file and leads Van Der Heijden to give up material in turn to ease his defense: 16. Rg1 hxg5 17. hxg5 Bxg5 18. Kb1 Rh6 19. Nb6! Rxb6 (a5 20. Nc4 Be7 21. Rxg7 is good for White) 20. Bxb6 Qxb6 21. Rxg5.

Black defends well, but Caruana pounces on a tactical inaccuracy to take charge: 31. Qf1 Rh6? (protecting g7 with 31…Rh7! was needed, as Black survives after 32. Qg1 Bxe4 33. Qa7 d5!) 32. Qg1! Qf6 (guarding the g-pawn, but now the White queen infiltrates via an unexpected route) 33. Qa7! Bxe4 (Bc6 34. Rxd6! Qe7 35. Qb8+ Be8 36. Rxh6 gxh6 37. Qb6 is also winning) 34. Rxd6!, exploiting the fact that the Black queen dare not desert her watch over the f7-square.

The finale features a cute finesse: 34…Bxc2+ 35. Ka2! (the only move, as 35. Ka1?? Rh1+ 36. Ka2 Bb1+ 37. Ka1 Bxf5+ 38. Ka2 Bb1+ 39. Ka1 Bg6+ 40. Ka2 Rxd6 wins for Black, and 35. Kxc2? Qxf5+ 36. Bd3 [Kc1?? Rxd6] Qc8+ 37. Bc4 Qf5+ 38. Bd3 Qc8+ only draws, as 39. Kb1?? loses again to 39…Rxd6) Bb1+ 36. Ka1!, and Black resigns, as there’s no defense against 36…Kg8 37. Bxf7+ Kh7 38. Rxf6 gxf6 39. Be6+ Kh8 40. Rg8 mate.

•••

It’s been a couple of centuries since the British and the Dutch squared off in a really decent war.

There’s been no bloodshed at the 5th Staunton Memorial in London, but the Category 13 event does feature six Dutch and six English players in a round-robin invitational with an informal nation-vs.-nation competition on the side. At midweek, Dutch GM Loek van Wely and English star Michael Adams were atop the leader board, while the Dutch contingent as a whole was outpointing the English side.

Dutch great Jan Timman, the West’s best player in the decade after Bobby Fischer quit the game, no longer ranks among the world elite. Nevertheless, the 55-year-old Timman is still a dangerous opponent, as he showed in his victory over Scottish GM Colin McNab at the Staunton.

In a Four Knights English, Timman does well to preserve his advanced d-pawn with 28…Ne7 Re1 29. Nf5, a pawn that cramps White’s plans. Play is balanced, but Black finds a couple of forcing moves that uncover unexpected weaknesses in the White king’s defenses.

Thus: 32. Re4 h4! (with the Black queen and White king on the same diagonal, this softening of the White pawn cover will prove highly effective) 33. g4 Ng3 34. Re6 (see diagram) Rxf4!?, offering up the exchange for strong pressure on the dark squares.

McNab’s best might have been to take up the gauntlet with 35. Bxf4!? Qxf4 36. Kg1, leading to complex play in lines like 36…Be5 37. Rc2 Rf8 38. Bf3 Ne2+! 39. Rxe2 (Bxe2 Qh2 mate; 39. Qxe2 d3! 40. Qxd3 Qg3+ 41. Rg2 Qe1+ 42. Qf1 Bd4+ 43. Rf2 Qxe6) Qg3+ 40. Rg2 Qe1+ 41. Qf1 Qe3+ 42. Qf2 Qc1+, with a perpetual check.

However, in time trouble, White crumbles after 35. Rd6?! Rf2 36. Rcxd4 Rdf8 37. Be1? (Black threatened 37…Ne1+ 38. Kh1 Rxd2, but Timman remains in charge even after the tougher 37. g5 Nf1+ 38. Kh1 Rxd2 39. Rxh4+ Kg8 40. Qc4+ Rf7 41. Bxf1 Rxd6 42. cxd6 Qxd6) Re2! 38. Bxg3 hxg3+ 39. Kxg3 (Kh1 Re1+; 39. Kg1 Re1+ 40. Bf1 Qf7! is deadly) Be5+, and the White king is fatally exposed.

The Dutchman concluded things with a flourish: 40. Kh4 Qe7+ 41. g5 Qh7+ 42. Kg4 Qh5 mate.

HZ Open, Vlissingen, Netherlands, August 2007

CaruanaVan der Heijden

1. e4c519. Nb6Rxb6

2. Nf3e620. Bxb6Qxb6

3. d4cxd421. Rxg5Kf8

4. Nxd4Nc622. Nc1Nd4

5. Nc3d623. Qf2Bb7

6. g4Nge724. Nb3Qd8

7. Be3a625. Qg3Nh5

8. Nb3b526. Qe3Nf4

9. f4b427. Rg4Nxb3

10. Na4Rb828. axb3Rh1

11. Qd2Ng629. Qf3Rh6

12. 0-0-0Be730. Bc4Rh3

13. g5e531. Qf1Rh6

14. f5Nf432. Qg1Qf6

15. h4h633. Qa7Bxe4

16. Rg1hxg534. Rxd6Bxc2+

17. hxg5Bxg535. Ka2Bb1+

18. Kb1Rh636. Ka1Black

resigns

5th Staunton Memorial, London, August 2007

McNabTimman

1. c4e522. Nxd4exd4

2. Nc3Nf623. Ne4Qc7

3. Nf3Nc624. c5Ne7

4. a3g625. Nd6Nc8

5. g3Bg726. Nc4Be6

6. Bg20-027. f4Bxc4

7. 0-0d628. Rxc4Ne7

8. d3Nh529. Re1Nf5

9. e4f530. Qf3h5

10. exf5Bxf531. Qd3Rad8

11. h3Bd732. Re4h4

12. Nd5Nf633. g4Ng3

13. Bg5Qc834. Re6Rxf4

14. Kh2Kh835. Rd6Rf2

15. Rc1Ng836. Rcxd4Rdf8

16. b4h637. Be1Re2

17. Be3Nce738. Bxg3hxg3+

18. d4Nf539. Kxg3Be5+

19. dxe5dxe540. Kh4Qe7+

20. Bd2c641. g5Qh7+

21. Nc3Nd442. Kg4Qh5

mate

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