The world’s best players were back in action as two powerful tournaments got under way in Europe this week.
Russian world champion Vladimir Kramnik is just one of the stars in the field at the Category 20 Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Germany, which once again looks set to be among the strongest tournaments of the year.
The eight-player field includes three players who will be joining Kramnik in September at the FIDE world championship tournament in Mexico City: India’s Viswanathan Anand, Hungarian GM Peter Leko and Israeli GM Boris Gelfand, who eliminated U.S. hopeful Gata Kamsky in a six-game candidates match earlier this month.
Kramnik, with early victories over Gelfand and young Norwegian star Magnus Carlsen, was alone in first in the early going at 3-1, with Anand and Russian GM Evgeny Alekseev a half-point back. We’ll have a full report on the action next month.
In Ukraine, hometown heroes GMs Vassily Ivanchuk and Sergey Karjakin were setting the pace in the Category 17 Aerosvit Super-GM Tournament in the city of Foros, tied for the lead with two rounds to go in the 12-grandmaster event.
Karjakin, who was a grandmaster at the age of 12(!), has been slightly overshadowed the past few years by the emergence of Carlsen, but he remains one of the most promising talents on the elite scene. He manhandled veteran Dutch GM Loek van Wely at Aerosvit, whipping up a sacrificial attack out of what seemed a placid position.
The early phases of this Sicilian Najdorf look like so much grandmasterly shadowboxing, as neither side makes a particularly aggressive impression. But Black gets tangled up in his own queen-side obsessions after 18. a4 b4?! 19. Nd5 Nxd5 20. exd5 Na5?, resulting in Black’s queen and rook being drawn far from the field of battle.
Even with most of his pieces still on the back rank, Karjakin strikes aggressively with 23. Nc4 Be7 (Nxc4 24. Bxc4 Qe7 25. a5! embarrasses the advanced Black b-pawn) 24. Qh5! (blunt but effective) Rf8 25. Nxa5 Qxa5 26. Bxh6!, sacrificing a piece.
White has a perpetual check if he wants it, but it turns out he wants much more: 26…gxh6 27. Qg6+ Kh8 28. Qxh6+ Kg8 29. Qg6+ Kh8 30. Re3!, eyeing the g3-square and a quick mate. Inadequate now are 30…Bh4 31. Qxd6 Bb7 32. Qh6+ Kg8 33. Qxh4, and 30…Qd8 31. Rg3 Bg5 32. Rxg5 Qxg5 33. Qxg5.
Black banks on 30…f4 (see diagram), only to run into 31. Rxe5!! dxe5 32. Qh6+ Kg8 33. d6!, opening up a lethal diagonal to the Black king. There followed: 33…Rf7 (Bf6 34. Bc4+ Rf7 35. Qg6+ Bg7 36. Qxf7+ Kh7 37. Qh5+ Bh6 38. Bf7 and mate to come; or 33…Rf6 34. Bc4+ Be6 35. Bxe6+ Rxe6 36. Qxe6+ Kh8 37. dxe7, winning) 34. Bc4 Bf5 35. dxe7, and Black’s cause is hopeless.
The threat is 36. Qg5+ Kh8 37. Bxf7 Qb6 38. Rd1, with an overwhelming game, and both 35…Qc5 36. Qg5+ Kh8 37. Bxf7 Bxc2 38. Qh6+ Bh7 39. Qf6 mate and 35…Qb6 36. Qxb6 Rxb6 37. e8=Q+ won’t reverse the verdict. Van Wely resigned.
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We noted last week that 14-year-old New York NM Marc Tyler Arnold is the new U.S. junior champion. This week we offer the last-round game from the Tampa invitational that clinched his title.
Tied with Florida master Ray Robson going into the game, Arnold took on another young Florida master, Eric Rodriguez, needing to win to guarantee at least a share of first place. Arnold prevailed in a sharp struggle with the help of some fancy-stepping bishops.
In a Bogo-Indian, Arnold as Black makes White work to recover his gambit pawn, but after 18. Nxd4 Nc5 19. Rc1 e5!?, both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Tempting for Black was the exchange sacrifice 20…Rxc6 21. Bxc6 exf4, as he gets good play in lines like 23. Qc2 Nb3 24. Rd1 Bf5 25. Qxf5 Bc5.