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As is so often the case, the defender’s job proves much more difficult in these positions, as a single oversight can mean instant loss. That happens here with Xiu’s 15….Be6?, walking right into a brilliant concluding display of fireworks from White: 16. Rxb7+!! Kg8 (Black may have missed that 16…Nxb7 is refuted by 17. Nh6+!! gxh6 18. fxe5+ Kg7 19. Qxe6, and there’s no defense against the threat of 20. Bxh6 mate) 17. Rxg7+! (drawing the Black bishop away from the defense of the e7-square) Bxg7 18. Ne7+ Kf7 19. fxe5+ Bf6 (Ke8 20. Qxa8+ Kd7 21. Qc6+ Kd8 22. Nf5+ Bf6 23. Bxf6 mate) 20. Rxf6+ Kxe7 (Kg7 21. Bh6 mate) 21. Qxd6+, and Black resigns just ahead of the inevitable 21…Ke8 22. Rf8+! Rxf8 23. Qe7 mate.

Hammer-Hess, Aeroflot Open, February 2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 c5 5.d5 b5 6.e4 0-0 7.Nh3 bxc4 8.Bxc4 Nxd5 9.Bxd5 exd5 10.Qxd5 Ba6 11.Bg5 Qb6 12.Kf2 Nc6 13.Rhb1 Rae8 14.Be3 Ne5 15.a3 Bc4 16.Na4 Qb8 17.Qd1 Bb3 18.Qf1 Bxa4 19.axb4 Bc2 20.bxc5 f5 21.Bf4 Bxb1 22.Qxb1 fxe4 23.b4 exf3 24.gxf3 Qb5 25.Kg3 Ng6 26.Qb3+ Kh8 27.Bd6 Rf6 28.Ng5 h6 29.Ne4 Rxe4 30.fxe4 Rxd6 31.cxd6 Qe5+ 32.Kh3 Qxa1 33.Qf7 Qf6 34.Qxd7 Qf3 mate 0-1.

Kotronias-Xiu, Aeroflot Open, February 2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.f4 e5 8.Nf5 Qb6 9.Qf3 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qxc2 11.Bc4 Nxe4 12.0-0 Qxc3 13.Qxe4 Nc5 14.Bxf7+ Kxf7 15.Qd5+ Be6 16.Rxb7+ Kg8 17.Rxg7+ Bxg7 18.Ne7+ Kf7 19.fxe5+ Bf6 20.Rxf6+ Kxe7 21.Qxd6+ 1-0.

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