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SANDS: Kamsky rules World, winning blitz playoff

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2011

First the U.S., now the world. With 2 1/2 points in the final three rounds, reigning U.S. national champion Gata Kamsky surged into a tie for first with English GM Michael Adams in the 39th annual World Open that wrapped up in Philadelphia last week. The New York GM then won a blitz playoff to snag bragging honors as the two former top-five grandmasters shared the $28,800 first prize.

Dutch GM Loek van Wely, who dealt Kamsky his only loss of the event, faded with two late losses to finish in a five-way tie for third, a half-point back.

The early rounds of these mega-Swiss events are typically tuneups for the top players, but there was an interesting moment in Kamsky's Round 1 game against New York FM Kassa Korley. Spotting his opponent more than 400 rating points, Korley puts up an unexpectedly tough fight before succumbing.

In a Caro-Kann, Kamsky as White is willing to accept a clogged-up pawn center for a clear spatial edge. Give Black credit for not going down meekly with his 15. Rb1 g5!? 16. Nf3 h6 17. Re2 Ng6, and in the ensuing complex tactical play, he may have missed a shot that would have made the grandmaster sweat.

Critical was 27. Rxb6 Nf4 28. Nc5 Ra2 29. dxe5!?, when 29...Qc7! sets real problems for White. Kamsky's back-rank vulnerability would cost him in lines such as 30. Qxb4 Rc8! (less convincing is 30...Ne2+ 31. Kf1 Nxc1 32. Nxe6) 31. Kf1 Qxc5! 32. Rxc5 Ra1+ 33. Qe1 Rxe1+ 34. Kxe1 Nxd3+ 35. Kd2 Nxc5.

After the less effective 29...Nxg2?! 30. Nxe6 Nh4 31. Qe3!, White regains the tactical whip hand, nicely turning back Black's attempts to press his attack.

Korley's little combination to "win" the exchange ends up permitting White a devastating final attack on 32...Qh5 33. Rxb4! Qg4+ 34. Qg3 Nf3+ 35. Nxf3 Qxb4 36. Nxg5!, destroying the Black's king's defenses.

It's over after 36...Kh8 (hxg5 37. Qxg5+ Kf8 [Kh8 38. Rc6] 38. Qf5+ Kg8 39. Kh1 and wins) 37. Rc6, and Black resigns in light of lines like 37...hxg5 (Qf8 38. Qh3) 38. Rh6+ Kg7 39. Qxg5+ Kf7 40. Rh7+ Ke6 41. Qf6 mate.

Virginia expert Eric Most, playing in the Open section, had a fine stay in Philadelphia, drawing an IM, notching a couple of upset wins, and even taking second in the side Game/10 tournament held in conjunction with the main event. Today's diagram, taken from Most's Round 4 game against Michigan master Seth Homa, is a nice illustration of the axiom that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Most, playing White, is looking grim here, down a pawn and facing a powerful Black bishop in the ending where even a draw would be a minor miracle. Having just played 39...Bc3-e5. Homa threatens to win on the move with 40...f5, but things take a surprising turn.

Thus: 39. g4 Kf8 40. Kd3 Ke7 41. Nd2 h5?! (one can see the idea here, but Black is in the midst of outsmarting himself) 42. gxh5 (why not?) Bh2? (preparing to put the bishop on precisely the wrong diagonal) 43. Nc4 Bg1 44. h6 Kf6 45. Ne5!, and the knight can't be captured or the pawn queens.

Unfortunately for Black, the same principle applies after 45...Bc5 46. h7 Kg7 47. Nxf7! Kxh7 48. Nxg5+, and, suddenly, it's White who is now a pawn up. Stunned by the turn of events, Black goes down meekly after 48...Kg6 49. Ne4 Bg1 50. Kc4 Kf5 51. Nc3 Ke5 52. Nd5 Ke4 53. h4, resigning as he can't stop the outside passed pawn and preserve his queen-side pawns at the same time.

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We wrap things up with another Caro-Kann, taken from a tournament last month in Voronezh, Russia, where once again the lower-rated Black player — Russian master Eduard Barsamian — missed a real chance to make things more interesting.

U.S.-born IM Rashid Ziatdinov, playing White, shows his aggressive intentions early with 17. Qe3 Qb6 18. Ngf5!? Bd8 19. Qg3, virtually forcing Black to take the offered piece. Barsamian tries not to be greedy, but this time it backfires for the defender.

Thus: 19...exf5 20. Nxf5 Nxh5!? (Ne8 may be stronger, as 21. Bxg7 is answered by 21...Ne4!) 21. Rxh5 Qg6 22. Bxg7!?, when accepting White's offer may have been the stronger course: 22...Qxh5! 23. Bxf8+ Bg5 24. Re1 Re8! 25. Be7 (Rxe8?? Qd1 mate) Qg6, and White's position is falling apart.

Instead, on the game's 22...Bg5, White's aggression is rewarded in a neat finale: 23. Qxg5! Qxg5 (hxg5 24. Rh8 mate) 24. Rxg5 hxg5 25. Bf6! (Rh1 f6 26. Bxf8 Rxf8 is a much slower path to victory) Kh7 26. Ne7!, and the Black king is well and truly cornered. Black can do nothing to stop 27. Rh1 mate and Barsamian resigned.

Kamsky-Korley, World Open, July 2011

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 Nd7 6. Nf3 Ne7
7. Bd2 Nc8 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. cxd3 Qb6 10. O-O a5 11. a4 Bb4
12. Bc3 Nb8 13. Re1 Ne7 14. Nh4 Na6 15. Rb1 g5 16. Nf3 h6
17. Re2 Ng6 18. Ne1 Qc7 19. Nc2 b6 20. Bxb4 Nxb4 21. Nxb4 axb4
22. Ra1 O-O 23. Rc2 f6 24. Rac1 fxe5 25. Rxc6 Qf7 26. Qd2 Rxa4
27. Rxb6 Nf4 28. Nc5 Ra2 29. dxe5 Nxg2 30. Nxe6 Nh4 31. Qe3
Re8 32. Nd4 Qh5 33. Rxb4 Qg4+ 34. Qg3 Nf3+ 35. Nxf3 Qxb4
36. Nxg5 Kh8 37. Rc6 1-0.

Ziatdinov-Barsamian, Voronezh Master Open, June 2011

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. h4 h6 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. 0-0-0 Be7 13. c4 0-0 14. Kb1 c5 15. Bc3 cxd4 16. Nxd4 Nc5 17. Qe3 Qb6 18. Ngf5 Bd8 19. Qg3 exf5 20. Nxf5 Nxh5 21. Rxh5 Qg6 22. Bxg7 Bg5 23. Qxg5 Qxg5 24. Rxg5 hxg5 25. Bf6 Kh7 26. Ne7 0-1.

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

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