- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

Pittsburgh GM Alexander Shabalov won his third national title this week, finishing alone in first at 7-2 in the Frank K. Berry U.S. Championships in Stillwater, Okla.

The Latvian-born Shabalov, who shared the title in 1993 and won it outright in 2003, defeated GM Sergey Kudrin in Wednesday’s ninth and final round while co-leader and 2006 champ GM Alex Onischuk could manage only a draw against GM Boris Gulko. Onischuk was alone in second a half-point back. About 36 players competed.

Shabalov was a worthy winner, blazing to a 5-0 start and conceding just two draws in the event. His only loss in Stillwater, to Onischuk in Round 6, was one of the best-played games of the tournament and set up the exciting finale.

Both sides have major positional liabilities and uneasy kings in this line, but it is White that grabs the initiative for good on 15. Rd1! (already eyeing the shot two moves later) cxd4 16. Rxd4 Bc5 17. b4!! (Rh4 Rxh4 18. Bxh4 Rg8 19. Bg3 Qb6 leaves every Black piece pointed at the White king), posing several difficult choices for Shabalov.

Bad are 17…Bxb4? 18. Nxb5! Qxb5 19. Rxc4+ Bc5 20. Rb1 Qa5 21. Be3 and Black’s defense crumbles, and 17…cxb3? 18. Nxb5 b2 19. Qxb2 Bxd4 20. Nd6+ Kc7 (Kb8 21. Qxb7 mate) 21. Rc1+ Kxd6 (Bc5 22. Qxb7+ Kxd6 23. Rd1+ Ke5 24. Qf3, winning) 22. Qxd4+ Bd5 23. Bd2 Qb6 24. Bb4+. Both players later thought now was 17…Qc7!, attacking h2, though White still looks strong on 18. Bf4 Qc6 19. Bf3.

Black gets two rooks for his queen on the game’s 17…Qxb4?! 18. Rb1 Qxb1 19. Qxb1 Bxd4 20. Nxb5, but his king remains under intense fire. Even giving up the exchange with 22. Nd6+ Rxd6 23. Bxd6 c3 doesn’t ease Black’s plight, as White’s 24. Bf3 threatens 25. Bxc6 Bxc6 26. Qb8+ Kd7 27. Qc7+ Ke8 28. Qe7 mate.

Shabalov parries that with 24…Bb6, but it’s over anyway on 25. Bb4 Bd4 (Nxb4 26. Qxb4 Bxf3 27. Qc3+! Bc7 28. Qxf3 Bxh2+ 29. Kf1 Bc7 30. Qa3 a5 31. Qe7, and the king-side pawns will decide) 26. Bxc3!, and Black resigns as there’s no fight in 26…Bxc3 27. Bxc6 Bxc6 28. Qc2 Bxf6 29. Qxc6+ Kb8 30. Qd6+ Kc8 31. Qf4 Rd8 32. g4 Bd4 33. Qxf7.

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Plus-one got it done for Bulgarian star Veselin Topalov.

With another of his signature late-round comebacks, the former world champion this week won the annual MTel Masters in Sofia, Bulgaria, in what has to rank as one of the tightest tournaments ever.

Topalov won the Category 19 event with a modest 51/2-41/2 score. Four players, including U.S. GM Gata Kamsky, finished in a joint tie for second at 5-5, and English GM Michael Adams was last just a half-point behind at 41/2-51/2. Every player had at least two losses on his scorecard in the double-round-robin event.

As is his wont, Topalov fell behind early in the event and roared back in the homestretch. In the 10th and final round, he defeated tournament leader GM Krishnan Sasikiran of India to win the event outright.

In a Nimzo-Indian, Sasikiran’s decision to accept doubled d-pawns with 15. Ba3 Rc8?! (Black may not have liked his c-file weakness after 15…Bxa3 16. Rxa3 Rc8 17. Nf4 Rh6 18. Qb3 Ndf6 19. Ra2 Nd7 20. Rc2) 16. Bxd6 cxd6 (Rxd6 17. Nf4 Qe7 18. Rc1 h6 also was worth a look) 17. Rc1 proves fateful, as he never gets good compensation for his busted pawn structure.

Topalov methodically repositions his forces and is clearly in charge after 30. Qe1 Nf8 31. Qg3 Kh6. (See diagram.) But the Bulgarian characteristically rejects a slow positional squeeze in favor of a messier tactical approach: 32. Nxh5!? (a brave decision with the tournament on the line) gxh5 (Kxh5? 33. Qf4! g5 34. Ng3+ Kh6 35. Nf5+ Kh5 36. Qg4+ Kg6 37. Nxe7+ wins) 33. Qg8 f5 (the only move — 33…Ng6? 34. Bxg6 fxg6 35. Qh8+ Qh7 36. Qxe8) 34. Ng3 Ng7 35. Bxf5 (Qxg7+ Kxg7 36. Nxf5+ Kf6 37. Nxe7 Kxe7 38. g4 is only equal), with threats swirling around the Black king.

Facing the pressure of the tournament and the ticking of the clock, the Indian GM misses his best defensive chance after 37. Nxh5! (Topalov continually sets new problems for his opponent) Qxe3+ (Kxh5?? 38. Qh7 mate) 38. Kh2, when 38…Qxd4! appears to hold; e.g. 39. Kg3 Kh6! 40. Nf4? Nf5+ 41. Kg4 Ne3+ 42. Kg3 Qg7+, and Black wins.

By 44. Qxe7+ Kxe7 45. Kg3 Ne6 46. Nxe6 Kxe6, White has just two pawns for the piece, but his trio of king-side passers prove impossible to contain. The final finesse: 52. Kg5 Kf7 53. h7! Kg7 54. h8=Q+ Kxh8 55. Kf6 Bxb5 56. Ke7 Bd3 (axb5 would also win) 57. f6 Bg6 58. f7 Bxf7 59. Kxf7, and Black resigned as the g-pawn’s march to the queening square can’t be stopped.

Frank K. Berry U.S. Championships, Stillwater, Okla., May 2007


1. d4d514. Qc1c5

2. c4c615. Rd1cxd4

3. Nc3Nf616. Rxd4Bc5

4. Nf3e617. b4Qxb4

5. Bg5dxc418. Rb1Qxb1

6. e4b519. Qxb1Bxd4

7. e5h620. Nxb5Ne5

8. Bh4g521. Bf4Nc6

9. Nxg5hxg522. Nd6+Rxd6

10. Bxg5Nbd723. Bxd6c3

11. exf6Qa524. Bf3Bb6

12. Be2Bb725. Bg4Bd4

13. 0-00-0-026. Bxc3Black


MTel Masters, Sofia, Bulgaria, May 2007


1. d4Nf631. Qg3Kh6

2. c4e632. Nxh5gxh5

3. Nc3Bb433. Qg8f5

4. e3b634. Ng3Ng7

5. Bd3Bb735. Bxf5Ng6

6. Nf30-036. Bxg6Kxg6

7. 0-0d537. Nxh5Qxe3+

8. a3Bd638. Kh2Qe7

9. cxd5exd539. Nf4+Kf6

10. b4Nbd740. g4Qf7

11. b5Ne441. Qd8+Qe7

12. Bb2Re842. Qg8Qf7

13. a4Re643. Qd8+Qe7

14. Ne2a544. Qxe7+Kxe7

15. Ba3Rc845. Kg3Ne6

16. Bxd6cxd646. Nxe6Kxe6

17. Rc1Ndf647. f4Bc8

18. h3Re748. f5+Kf7

19. Qb3h649. h5Bd7

20. Rxc8Qxc850. h6Kg8

21. Rc1Rc751. Kf4Be8

22. Rxc7Qxc752. Kg5Kf7

23. Qc2Qe753. h7Kg7

24. Qc1g654. h8=Q+Kxh8

25. Nh2Kg755. Kf6Bxb5

26. h4Ne856. Ke7Bd3

27. f3N4f657. f6Bg6

28. Nf1h558. f7Bxf7

29. Nf4Nd759. Kxf7Black

30. Qe1Nf8resigns

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



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