- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. GM Gata Kamsky has drawn a tough opening assignment in the world championship qualifying matches, which start in May in Kazan, Russia. Organizers at the international chess federation, FIDE, announced last month that Kamsky will play Bulgarian former world champion Veselin Topalov in the quarter-final match for the right to challenge titleholder Viswanathan Anand of India.

The three other matches pit Russian former world champ Vladimir Kramnik against Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, Armenia’s Levon Aronian against Alexander Grischuk of Russia, and Israeli Boris Gelfand and Azeri Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Conspicuous by his absence is world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who pulled out of the qualifying cycle late last year complaining that the system imposes too great a burden on prospective challengers. The survivor of the candidates’ matches is set to meet Anand for a 12-game title match in the first half of 2012.

Congratulations to the Virginia Assassins, anchored by multiple state champ Daniel Miller. The team finished third in the giant U.S. Amateur Team East event completed late last month. The annual event in Parsippany, N.J., is the nation’s largest and easily the most colorful team competition. Virginia expert Eric Most tied for a top individual prize with a perfect 6-0 score holding down Board 3.

Soffer-Mikrut after 19...N8xe6.
Soffer-Mikrut after 19…N8xe6. more >

We’ll have more details and some action from the event next week.

Trading queens is the classic defensive strategy to slow an opponent’s attack - but there are exceptions. In both of today’s offerings, the queens come off the board by Move 10, but the king is tipped in defeat by Move 30, the victim of a ferocious attack.

In a game from the recent Krakow Open between Israeli GM Ram Soffer and Polish IM Dariusz Mikrut, the queens are already off the board by Move 6 in this Modern Defense, but Black’s king finds itself on an open file, having lost the right to castle.

Mikrut seems on the edge of consolidating after 18. Bc4 Be6 19. Nxe6 N8xe6 (see diagram), needing just to play a move like 20…Rhf8 to equalize. But White never gives him the chance with the speculative 20. Nd5+!? cxd5 21. exd5 Nd8 22. Bxd4 exd4 23. Rde1+ Kd7 24. d6, and deadly threats abound despite the absence of the queens.

In the finale, White’s rooks, bishop and pawns weave a mating net that Black can’t escape: 25. Re7+ Kc8 (Kc6?? 26. Rc7 mate) 26. b5! Bg5 (on 26…d3, White pushes ahead with 27. c6 bxc6 28. Rc7+ Kb8 29. bxc6 Be3+ 30. Kg2 Bb6 31. Ba6!! Bxc7 32. Rb1+ Nb7 [Bb6 33. c7 mate] 33. Rxb7+ Kc8 34. dxc7 d2 35. Rxa7 mate) 27. Rc7+ Kb8 28. c6! d3 (moves like 28…a6 lose to 29. bxa6 b6 30. Rb1 Be3+ 31. Kg2 d3 32. Re7 Bc5 33. a7+! Rxa7 34. c7+ Kc8 35. exd8=Q+ Rxd8 26. Rxa7 and wins) 29. Rxb7+!.

Black resigns as 29…Nxb7 30. c7+ Kc8 31. Be6 is a nice, economical mate.

Swedish master Daniel Semcesen sees the queens go off on Move 10 of his QGD Semi-Slav against fellow master Jonas Lundvik in today’s second game, taken from the Swedish team championships in January.

But once again, Black finds his king in a precarious spot and his development lagging as White’s rooks and minor pieces go to work. And once again, the attacker is willing to give up material to accelerate his mating effort.

Story Continues →