- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2008

We travel from the Connecticut backwoods to the heartland of Bulgaria in our never-ending quest to serve up the best in chess around the globe.

Five players shared top honors at the just-completed Foxwoods Open, held at the Ledyard, Conn., casino and resort. Grandmasters Yuri Shulman, Alexander Shabalov, Julio Becerra Rivero, Alexander Ivanov and 16-year-old IM Robert Hess all ended up at 7-2, with Shulman defeating Ivanov in a blitz playoff to take home the tournament title.

Hess, a New York high school junior, had a fabulous outing, defeating four grandmasters and easily earning his own first grandmaster norm. His win over Ivanov featured an inspired positional piece sacrifice that led to a winning attack.

The veteran Ivanov tries a hypermodern Modern Defense setup against his young opponent, giving up castling on Move 7 and accepting some soft points at e6 and along the half-open g-file. But after 18. Rdg1 Be7 19. Nc3 Qd8 (see diagram), Black’s unconventional position appears to be well-protected, with no obvious way for White to break open the game.

But with an eye to liberating his boxed-in bishops, Hess finds a startling piece sacrifice: 20. Ne4!! dxe4 21. fxe4. White gets only a pawn for the piece and has no imminent threats, but now both the f- and d-pawns can advance, allowing the two bishops to occupy devastating diagonals. The locked center will soon be blown wide open.

One problem for Ivanov is that White’s open-ended sacrifice leaves him with a multitude of possible defensive plans to consider, in some ways a more difficult task to solve than to find a string of “only” moves. Right away, the alternative 21…Nxd4!? 22. Qxd4 Bc5 23. Qc4 Bxg1 24. Rxg1 wins more material but only adds fuel to the White attack.

In the game, Black opted for 21…Nh6 22. f5! Ng4?!, but after 23. fxe6+ Kg7 24. Rxg4! hxg4 25. Rxg4! (much less impressive is 25. exd7 Qxd7 26. exf6+ Bxf6 27. e5 Bxh4, with good counterplay) Nf8 (again, Black could try the plausible 25…Rh5, although White keeps the initiative on 26. exd7 fxe5 27. Bc4 Rf8 28. Qg1 g5 29. dxe5) 26. exf6+ Bxf6 27. e5, White’s positional gambit has paid off handsomely.

Clearing the a1-h8 diagonal for White’s dark-squared bishop clinches the game on 27…Rh5 (Be7?? 28. Qf7 mate) 28. exf6+ Qxf6 29. Rf4 Qxe6 30. d5! Qxd5 31. Rf7+!. As 31…Qxf7 (Kh8 32. Qf6+ leads to mate) 32. Bc3+ Kh6 33. Qxf7 is hopeless, Ivanov resigned.

•••

Across the ocean we go for today’s second game, taken from the Bulgarian national championship tournament held earlier this month in the ancient city of Plovdiv. With local superstar GM Veselin Topalov not in the field, GM Vasil Spasov took clear first with a 9½-3½ score, with a brilliant win over master Ilia Tsvetkov greatly helping his cause.

The opening here, a King’s Indian Defense, plays out far more conventionally than Hess-Ivanov until 12. Nb5 Qd7 13. 0-0-0?!, when Tsvetkov as White appears to place his king right in the path of his opponent’s attack. Far more logical was 13. 0-0 f5 14. f3, when White can pursue his queenside initiative at leisure.

After 15…Nf4! 16. Nxf4 exf4 17. Bxf4, Black has liberated his KID bishop at the tiny cost of a pawn, and the pressure on the long diagonal will prove critical to the coming assault. Spasov ups the ante with a pair of sacrifices on 18. Na3 Bxc4! 19. Nxc4 Qb5 20. Bd3 Nb3+! 21. axb3 axb3, when Black’s threat is the brutal 22…Qc4+! 23. Bxc4 Ra1 mate.

White survives the first tactical wave, but Black reloads on 24. e5 Ra8 25. Rc1 R8xa3! 26. bxa3 (Rxc5 Ra1 mate, again) Qxa3 27. Qc3 dxe5, when 28. Bxe5? loses to 28…Re2! 29. Bxe2 Qa2 mate.

In desperation, White tries to deflect the fianchettoed bishop with 28. Bh6 Bxh6 29. Bc4 (Qxe5 fails to 29…Rd2 30. Qa1 Qa2+! 31. Qxa2 bxa2+ 32. Ka1 Bg7+ 33. Rc3 Bxc3 mate), but is deflected in turn by Spasov’s 29…Be3! 30. Qxb3 (Qxe3 allows 30…Qb2 mate) Ra1+.

White resigned, as he can’t escape the mating net after 31. Kc2 Rxc1+ 32. Kd3 Qc5! 33. Rxc1 Qd4+ 34. Kc2 Qd2+ 35. Kb1 Qxc1+ 36. Ka2 Bd4 37. Qb5 Qc2+ 38. Ka3 Bc5+ — a beautifully conducted attack.

10th Foxwoods Open, Ledyard, Conn., March 2008

HessIvanov

1. e4g617. Rg2Bf8

2. d4Bg718. Rdg1Be7

3. Nc3c619. Nc3Qd8

4. h4d520. Ne4dxe4

5. e5f621. fxe4Nh6

6. f4h522. f5Ng4

7. Bd3Kf723. fxe6+Kg7

8. Qe2Nh624. Rxg4hxg4

9. Be3Bg425. Rxg4Nf8

10. Nf3Nf526. exf6+Bxf6

11. Qf2Nd727. e5Rh5

12. Bd2Bxf328. exf6+Qxf6

13. gxf3Qb629. Rf4Qxe6

14. Na4Qc730. d5Qxd5

15. Rg1e631. Rf7+Black

16. 0-0-0Rag8resigns

72nd Bulgarian Championship, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, March 2008

TsvetkovSpasov

1. d4Nf616. Nxf4exf4

2. c4g617. Bxf4Ba6

3. Nc3Bg718. Na3Bxc4

4. e4d619. Nxc4Qb5

5. Be20-020. Bd3Nb3+

6. Bg5Na621. axb3axb3

7. Qd2e522. Kb1Ra2

8. d5Qe823. Na3Qc5

9. Bd1Nc524. e5Ra8

10. Bc2a525. Rc1R8xa3

11. Nge2Nh526. bxa3Qxa3

12. Nb5Qd727. Qc3dxe5

13. 0-0-0b628. Bh6Bxh6

14. f3a429. Bc4Be3

15. g4Nf430. Qxb3Ra1+

White resigns

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

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