- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

Russian titleholder Vladimir Kramnik put his crown on the line as FIDE’s world championship tournament got under way Thursday in Mexico City.

Kramnik may not even be the favorite in the eight-grandmaster, double-round-robin tournament, which runs through Sept. 30. In an interview this week, former world champ Garry Kasparov tabbed India’s Viswanathan Anand, who tops the world ratings, as the player to beat.

With American Gata Kamsky eliminated in the candidates’ matches, no U.S. player is in the field, which includes three Russians — Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich and Alexander Grischuk — as well as Hungary’s Peter Leko, Boris Gelfand of Israel and Armenian Levon Aronian. Aronian eliminated Spain’s Alexei Shirov to qualify for the tournament and many consider him a dark-horse contender if Kramnik and Anand falter.

FIDE being FIDE, a few organizational oddities surround the tournament. Left out of the party is former champ Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, who lost the crown to Kramnik in a bitter contest last year. Topalov is still a legitimate contender, but FIDE somehow forgot to give him an automatic berth in Mexico.

And although all the players in Mexico start off even, Kramnik for some reason has been given the right to a one-on-one match against the new champion, assuming he does not finish first.

•••

Edward Lu, a junior at Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, is the new Virginia state champion, having taken the title during the traditional Labor Day tournament in Richmond. The Northern Virginia expert was an undefeated 5-1 in the event, tying Maryland master Stan Fink for first. Lu beat Fink in their individual matchup.

Tying for third a half-point back were Daniel Miller, Adithya Balasubramanian, Edward Kitces and Larry Larkins.

Michael Neal is the Virginia Amateur champion, finishing alone in first in the Under-1800 event at 5½-½, a full point ahead of Matthew Freeman, Joe Faries, Jason Kong, Balkrishna Sharma, Jonathan Bode, Michael Donovan and Adam Chrisney.

It was the 71st edition of the state title tourney. Faries took the prize for top senior, Eric Most was the top junior finisher, and Katherine Wu was top female, finishing 3½-2½ in the Open section.

•••

New York’s state championship, which has been held since 1878, is one of the oldest continuous events in the game. GMs Alexander Ivanov and Ildar Ibragimov won the tournament at 5-1, but former U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura won the state title as the highest-scoring New York resident.

Nakamura probably deserved the crown after risking a wild Danish Gambit against Ibragimov in the sixth and final round. He lost, but the fans got their money’s worth.

The Danish is a very rare visitor to top-level chess, and Ibragimov prudently declines to enter the sharpest line with 4…cxb2. By 10. Nc3 Ng6 11. Be3, White’s position is easier to play, but he still has not justified the pawn gambit.

With 19. Bxa7 Rxa7 20. Nxa7, White gets two minor pieces for rook and pawn, but now the initiative swings decisively in Black’s favor: 20…g5 21. h3 g4! 22. f4 (not wanting to give Black the half-open g-file, but Ibragimov finds another way to open lines) Nf3+!, when White’s king is on borrowed time after 23. gxf3 gxf3 24. Qf1 Rg8+ 25. Kf2 (Kh2 Bxh3 26. Qxh3 Rg2+ 27. Kh1 Qxh3 mate) Rg2+ 26. Ke3 (Ke1 Qa5+ and 27…Qxa7) Re2+ 27. Kd3 e5!.

But declining the knight can’t save White’s game: 23. Kh1 Rg8 24. e5 gxh3 25. g3 (gxf3 Rg2 26. Qe3 [Qf1 Qh4 27. Rc4 Qg3] Qg6 27. Qe1 Rh2+! 28. Kxh2 Qg2 mate) Rxg3 26. exd6 Bf6 27. Qc2 (attacking to the last) Rg2!, and Nakamura resigned because mate can’t be stopped after 28. Qc7+ Ke8 29. Qb8+ Bd8.

•••

Even when its top dozen players are otherwise occupied, Russia can still stage a world-class national event.

The 60th Russian Higher League Championship is wrapping up in the city of Krasnoyarsk. Even with the likes of Kramnik and Svidler out of the picture, the event features some high-class chess by some very accomplished grandmasters. Exhibit A might be IM Boris Savchenko’s demolition of fellow IM Alexey Kostin, featuring one of the year’s more picturesque conclusions.

In a Taimanov Sicilian, Black’s pawn grab (13…Nxb2) leaves him playing defense the rest of the game. Savchenko breaks down the barriers with the forceful 22. f5! gxf5?! (e5 23. fxg6 fxg6 may hold out longer, but Black still has big problems after 24. f7!) 23. Qh5 Nd6 24. Nxf5! exf5 (Nxf5 25. Qxf7 mate, while 24…Be8 loses to 25. Nxh6 Rc8 26. Nh7+! Rxh7 27. Qg5 Rxh6 28. Qg7 mate) 25. Re7 Be8 (see diagram).

With a king, knight and bishop watching the f7-square, Kostin may have thought he had held the line for now, but White’s sparkling 26. Qg6!! forces instant resignation. White threatens 27. Qg7 mate, and taking the queen runs into 26…fxg6 27. Ne6+ Kg8 28. Rg7 mate.

129th New York State Championship, Colonie, N.Y., September 2007

NakamuraIbragimov

1. e4e515. Ncb5cxb5

2. d4exd416. Nxb5Kd8

3. c3dxc317. Rfd1Bd7

4. Bc4Nc618. a4Be7

5. Nf3d619. Bxa7Rxa7

6. Qb3Qd720. Nxa7g5

7. 0-0Na521. h3g4

8. Qxc3Nxc422. f4Nf3+

9. Qxc4Ne723. Kh1Rg8

10. Nc3Ng624. e5gxh3

11. Be3c625. g3Rxg3

12. Nd4Ne526. exd6Bf6

13. Qe2Qg427. Qc2Rg2

14. f3Qh5White resigns

60th Russian Higher League Championship, Krasnoyarsk, Russia, September 2007

SavchenkoKostin

1. e4c514. exf6g6

2. Nf3e615. Rae1Nc4

3. d4cxd416. Qf2Qa5

4. Nxd4a617. Ne4d5

5. Nc3Qc718. Ng5Qb6

6. Bd3Nc619. c3Bd7

7. Be3Nf620. Kh1h6

8. 0-0Bd621. Qh4Kf8

9. h3Bf422. f5gxf5

10. Qc1Bxe323. Qh5Nd6

11. Qxe3Ne524. Nxf5exf5

12. f4Nxd325. Re7Be8

13. e5Nxb226. Qg6Black

resigns

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

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