- 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.

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.

Thus: 18. b5! bxc5 (cxb5 19. Nd5! Rxe1 20. Rxe1+ Kd8 21. c6 Nf6 22. c7+ Kd7 23. Ne5+ Kd6 24. Nxf7+ and White is winning) 19. bxc6 Nb6 20. dxc5! Nxc4 21. Rxe7+ Kxe7 22. Nd5+, putting the Black king to flight.

As is often the case, a single inaccuracy trips up the defender: 22…Kf8? (the wrong choice - 22…Kd8 23. Nb6+ Kc7 24. Nxa8+ Be6 still makes White work to extricate his knight) 23. Nc7 Rb8 24. Rd8+, setting a nice geometrical finish. With 24…Ke7 25. Re8+ Kf6 26. Nd5 mate, one knight delivers the final blow, the rook covers the e-file, and the other knight blocks the escape square via g5. With such teamwork, who needs a queen?

Soffer-Mikrut
XXI Krakow Open, January 2011
1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.e4 e5 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.f4 Nd7 8.Nf3 c6 9.Be2 Ke7 10.0-0 f6 11.g3 Nh6 12.b4 Nf7 13.c5 Nf8 14.fxe5 fxe5 15.Ng5 Nd8 16.Be3 Nfe6 17.Rad1 Nd4 18.Bc4 Be6 19.Nxe6 N8xe6 20.Nd5+ cxd5 21.exd5 Nd8 22.Bxd4 exd4 23.Rde1+ Kd7 24.d6 Bh6 25.Re7+ Kc8 26.b5 Bg5 27.Rc7+ Kb8 28.c6 d3 29.Rxb7+ 1-0.

Semcesen-Lundvik
Swedish Team Championships, January 2011
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.Qc2 Nd7 8.e4 dxe4 9.Qxe4 Qf5 10.Qxf5 exf5 11.Bd3 g6 12.0-0-0 Bg7 13.Rhe1+ Kd8 14.c5 Re8 15.Bc4 Re7 16.Kc2 Ke8 17.b4 b6 18.b5 bxc5 19.bxc6 Nb6 20.dxc5 Nxc4 21.Rxe7+ Kxe7 22.Nd5+ Kf8 23.Nc7 Rb8 24.Rd8+ Ke7 25.Re8+ Kf6 26.Nd5# 1-0.

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

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