- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

In the opening manuals, the Swiss Gambit (1. f4 f5 2. e4 fxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g4) is a rare offshoot of the rarely played Bird’s Opening.

In modern open tournaments, however, the Swiss Gambit is often the ticket to the winner’s circle.

An early loss in Swiss-style tournaments puts a player in the chess equivalent of the “losers’ bracket,” often pitting him against lower-rated and lower-scoring opponents while his top rivals slug it out against each other. Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian played the gambit to perfection in the recent Gibtelecomper chess sites.cwthe British island of Gibraltar.

The second-seeded Akopian was upset by New York WIM Irina Krush in the first round but stormed back with 71/2 points in his next eight games to win the strong open event. U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura tied for second a half-point back with GMs Emil Sutovsky of Israel and Alexander Areshchenko of Ukraine.

We have the bookends of Akopian’s down-and-up tournament — the loss to Krush and his powerful last-round smash of Ukrainian GM Yuriy Kuzubov.

Krush, who also upset the great Swiss GM Viktor Korchnoi in Gibraltar, filed her own, highly engaging account of her roller-coaster win over Akopian on Chess Life Online (www.uschess.org). The analysis here relies heavily on her dispatch.

Krush admitted she was not prepared for Black’s Nimzo-Indian, but noted that the higher-rated Akopian felt compelled to play a double-edged variation (8…dxc4) just to avoid safer, more drawish lines. But grabbing the pawn proves hazardous to the health of Black’s game, and White quickly builds up a powerful kingside attack.

With Black back on his heels, White actually missed two potential knockouts in the space of three moves. After 22. Qc3 Ne5, 23. f4! dxe4 24. fxe5 leaves Black with massive defensive headaches, as can be seen in lines like 24…Qe6 25. Rd6 Qe7 26. Bxh6! gxh6 27. Rxh6+ Qh7 28. e6+ and mate next move. Again, according to Krush, the simple 25. Bd4! Rae8 26. Re3 gives White winning pins on both the e-file and the long diagonal.

But 25. Rxd5?! Rae8 26. f4 Qh4! dissipates all of White’s edge, and White faces the difficult psychological chore of saving a previously won position. Black now misses a win after 28. b4?! cxb3 29. Bf3?, when 29…Ng4! 30. Bxg4 Rxd5 31. Be6 Rg5!! is crushing — 32. fxg5 Nd6!, and the threats of 33…Ne4 and 33…Rxe6 are decisive.

The sprint to time control at Move 40 produces a queen-and-pawn ending, one that is objectively drawn but in practice full of tactical land mines. Akopian steps directly on one with 41. Qe4 Qxa3 42. Qd5+ Kh8??, putting the Black king too far from the passed White d-pawn.

Krush says 42…Kf8 holds the draw, with the idea that in lines like 43. Qd8 Kf7 44. Qd7 Kf8 45. e6+, White’s king can’t escape the coming barrage of checks because any move to the d-file allows …Qd4+. With Black’s king in the corner, White’s king can safely charge up the board, with Akopian’s own pawns providing shelter from the Black queen.

Black at one point is three pawns to the good, but it is the lone White pawn on e7 that proves critical. In the final position, the checks run out after 53…Qf3 (Qh3+ 54. Qd7) 54. e8=Q Qa8+ 55. Kc7 Qa7+ 56. Kc6 Qa6+ 57. Qb6, with an easy win for White; Akopian resigned.

n n n

Eight rounds later, Akopian had clawed his way back into a tie for first with Kuzubov, with the two paired in the final round. The Armenian GM as White chose a stolid line in the 3. Bb5 Rossolimo Sicilian, but unexpectedly wraps up the point with a tactical flourish barely out of the opening.

After 10. 0-0-0 e5, Black has blocked White’s freeing d-pawn thrust, so Akopian attacks the center from the flank with 11. Nh2 Be6 12. f4 exf4?! (not wrong, but simplifying White’s choices in a way that waiting moves like 12…Qc7 do not) 13. Bxf4 Qd7 14. Nf3 0-0-0 15. d4, getting in the central push after all.

Kuzubov’s 16. Nxd4 17. Qe2 Qe7? (see diagram; 17…Qc8 was good for equality, and Black even can try the trickier 17…Ne5 18. Bxe5 fxe5 19. Nf5 Qc7 20. Nxg7 Qxg7 with a perfectly respectable game) sidesteps White’s threatened discovered attack, but puts the queen on an undefended square and leads to disaster.

Thus: 18. Nxc6! Kxc6 (White also holds the edge on 18…Rxd1+ 19. Rxd1 Kxc6 20. Nd5 Bxd5 21. exd5+ Kd7 22. Qb5+ Kd8 23. Qc6 Qd7 24. Qa8+ Qc8 25. Qxa7 Qd7 26. Qxb6+, though this might be Black’s best try) 19. Nd5! Qe8 (Bxd5 20. exd5+ Kd7 21. Qb5+ Kc8 22. Qc6+ Qc7 23. Qxc7 mate) 20. Qa6!, with the nasty threat of 21. Nb4+ Kc5 22. Be3+! Kxb4 23. a3 mate.

Now both 20…Bh6 21. Bxh6 Nxh6 22. Rhe1 Qf7 23. Re3! and 20…Bxd5 21. exd5+ Rxd5 22. Qc4+ Rc5 23. Qa4+ Kb7 (b5 Qa6 mate; 23…Rb5 24. c4, winning) 24. Rd7+ Qxd7 25. Qxd7+ Ka6 26. Qxf7 are clear wins for White, but even the game’s 20…Bf8 21. Qxa7 Bc5 (Rb8 22. Rd3) offers no salvation for Black’s besieged king.

Akopian wraps things up with 22. b4 Qd7 (Bxd5 23. bxc5 Qxe4 24. Qxb6+ Kd7 25. c6+ Ke7 26. Rhe1) 23. Qa6!, threatening, among other things, 24. b5 mate. As 23…Ne5 24. b5+ Kd6 25. Nxf6+ surrenders a ton of material, Kuzubov resigned.

per web sites.cw

Masters Chess Festival, Catalan Bay, Gibraltar, January 2007

KrushAkopian

1. d4Nf628. b4cxd3

2. c4e629. Bf3Nc5

3. Nc3Bb430. Bxc5bxc5

4. e3b631. Rxe5Rexe5

5. Nge2Ba632. fxe5Rg5

6. a3Bac3+33. Bd1Rxg3

7. Nxc3d534. Qxg3Qd4+

8. Be2dxc435. Ke1Qe4+

9. e4Nc636. Kd2b2

10. Be3Na537. Bc2b1=Q

11. Qc20-038. Bxb1Qxb1

12. Rd1Nd739. Qf4Qa2+

13. h4Bb740. Ke1Kg8

14. h5h641. Qe4Qxa3

15. Rh3f542. Qd5+Kh8

16. d5f443. e6Qe3+

17. Bxf4exd544. Kd1c4

18. Be3c645. Qd8+Kh7

19. exd5Qe846. e7Qg1+

20. Rg3Kh847. Kc2Qxg2+

21. Ne4cxd548. Kc3Qf3+

22. Qc3Ne549. Kb4a5+

23. Nd6Qe750. Kc5Qxh5+

24. Nxb7Nxb751. Kc6Qg6+

25. Rxd5Rae852. Kc7Qg3+

26. f4Qh453. Kc8Black

27. Kf2Rf5resigns

per web sites.cw

Masters Chess Festival, Catalan Bay, Gibraltar, February 2007

AkopianKuzubov

1. e4c513. Bxf4Qd7

2. Nf3Nc614. Nf30-0-0

3. Bb5g615. d4cxd4

4. Bxc6dxc616. Nxd4Kb7

5. d3Bg717. Qe2Qe7

6. h3b618. Nxc6Kxc6

7. Nc3Nh619. Nd5Qe8

8. Be3f620. Qa6Bf8

9. Qd2Nf721. Qxa7Bc5

10. 0-0-0e522. b4Qd7

11. Nh2Be623. Qa6Black

12. f4exf4resigns

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

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