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Last U.S. hopeful loses
With his 3½-1½ win, the 39-year-old Gelfand earned a spot in the eight-player FIDE world championship tournament to be held in September in Mexico City. Also qualifying in match play this week were top-seeded Armenian GM Levon Aronian, who edged Spain’s Alexei Shirov 3½-2½; Hungary’s Peter Leko, a 3½-1½ winner over Russian Evgeny Bareev; and Alexander Grischuk, who defeated fellow Russian Sergei Rublevsky in a rapid playoff after the two split their match at 3-3.
Already seeded into the 14-round double-round-robin event in Mexico are defending FIDE champ Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, India’s Viswanathan Anand and Russians Alexander Morozevich and Peter Svidler. The most prominent no-show will be former FIDE titleholder Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, who, by a quirk of the rules, was not given a slot in the Mexico event.
Kamsky, returning to the game after an absence of nearly a decade, did well to reach the second round of matches in Elista. He was badly outclassed in the openings by the supersolid Gelfand and fell behind early with a shaky loss in Game 2.
Forced to take chances, Kamsky predictably was punished by Gelfand in Game 5, a smooth performance that exposed some holes in the American’s repertoire.
In a Rossolimo Sicilian, Black’s clever 10. f3 Rc8 11. b3 d5! is not new, having been first played by Ukrainian GM Vassily Ivanchuk in 2003. The move is known to give Black a fully equal game, but Kamsky apparently was unfamiliar with the line and drifted into an inferior position with a big deficit on the time clock.
White’s 16. c5?! Na6! (a player of Gelfand’s caliber isn’t likely to fall for 16…Rxc5?? 17. Nf5+ Qxf5 18. Qd4+) 17. Nc2 Nxc5 18. Qd4+ f6 19. Ne3 Ne6 gives him nothing, and he comes to grief pressing for more than the position affords.
Thus: 20. Qh4? (a bad move dictated by White’s deficit in the match; Kamsky gives up the pawn to chase nonexistent king-side-attacking chances) Rc5! 21. Rad1 d4 22. Ng4 Rf8 23. Rfe1 Rh5 24. Qg3 Rd5, and the force of Black’s passed extra pawn starts to tell.
With 26…h5! and 27…g5!, Black decisively turns back the White attack, obtaining an overwhelming edge as his passed pawn advances. On 39. Kg2 Nc2 (Nf5 was also strong) 40. Rxc2 (Black threatened the deadly 40… Ne3+) dxc2 41. Qxc2, Black has won the exchange, and Gelfand retains strong pressure on the White king.
The Black infiltration triumphs on 50. Qe3 Rc1+ 51. Kf2 Qc2+ 52. Kf3 Rf1+ 53. Nf2 (see diagram) Rxf2+!, a cute tactic eyeing 54. Qxf2 Qe4 mate. White resigned.
n n n
Rublevsky came back to tie Grischuk in the six-game match but put himself in the hole again by losing the first game of the four-game rapid playoff with White. After a second-game draw, Rublevsky, like Kamsky, came to grief trying to squeeze too much out of an unpromising position in the match-deciding third game.
The Scotch Opening did not serve Rublevsky well in the overtime session, as he lost with White in both games with the opening. By Bxe5 dxe5 18. Qf3 Rd6, Black’s easy development and strong bishop fully compensate for his slight king-side weaknesses.
A draw does Rublevsky no good, but he drifts into an inferior position pushing for more on 22. Rh6 Ne8 23. Qh7 Qf8 (Black rejects the pawn after 23…Rg7 24. Qh8 Rxd5 25. Bc4 Rd4, as White gets some counterplay) 24. Rh1 Nf6 (again, 24…Bxf2 25. Ne4 Nf6 26. Qf5 Be3+ is playable but less clear) 25. Qf5 Nxd5 25. Ne4?! Ne7! 27. Qh7 Rxd1+ 28. Kxd1 f5, and Black has solved his king-side problems.
White tries to unbalance the position again with 29. Bc4!? fxe4 30. Bxg8 Nxg8 31. Qxe4 a6 32. Rh8, with a pin on the knight, but Black’s 32…Ka7! shields his king and invites 33. Qg6 Qxf2! 34. Qxg8 Qg1+ 35. Kd2 Qxg2+ 36. Kc3 Qf3+ and the White king is in a mating net. White will get a rook and two pawns for the two minor pieces, but the material balance cannot offset his positional problems.
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