- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Congratulations to the U.S. Chess Center and its founder, David Mehler, who will be honored for their work with area youths at the U.S. Chess Federation 2012 annual awards next month in Vancouver, Wash. The center, located at 1501 M St. NW downtown, has been hosting tournaments, organizing lectures and teaching chess to area youths as a way to enhance their academic and social skills since 1991.

Mehler will be given the individual Scholastic Service Award and the center will be cited as the top organization in the country for fostering scholastic chess. The USCF awards will be distributed in conjunction with the U.S. Open, which will be played from Aug. 4 through Aug. 11 in Vancouver.

Fresh from his latest triumph in the Tal Memorial in Moscow, Norwegian star GM Magnus Carlsen has cemented his position atop the FIDE world rankings. At 2837, his highest ranking ever, Carlsen has opened up a 21-point gap on No. 2 GM Levon Aronian of Armenia and is a full 57 points above world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, who ranks No. 5.

For the first time in a good while, two players with deep American roots are ranked in the top 10 - St. Louis GM Hikaru Nakamura is in seventh place at 2778, and New York-born GM Fabiano Caruana, who now plays for Italy, is right behind him in eighth place at 2775.

They may look the same, but not all squares are created equal. If you were, say, a white knight, e5 or d6 is a much more favorable hitching post than h1.

The f7 square (f2 for the White player) is another patch of real estate that doesn’t get much love. Set up the pieces to start a game, and you’ll notice that the f-pawn on its home square is the only one solely defended by the king. Many of the game’s earliest motifs - from the Scholar’s Mate to classic Romantic-era openings such as the King’s and Evans gambits - were developed specifically to exploit that weakness.

Modern masters tend not to get mated in four moves, but the f7-square remains a problem child, even after the defender has castled. Young Moscow GM Daniil Dubov broke through on that very square in a key game that propelled him to a tie for first in the recent Russian Higher League Championship in Tyumen.

Against GM Vladimir Potkin in Round 3, Dubov attacks the unusual Black center in this QGD Slav right away with 7. f3! exf3 8. Nxf3, opening up the f-file as an avenue for future attack. By 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Bb3 Nc7, White clearly is dictating play, and Dubov repositions his rooks along the f-file as Black marks time.

Once White’s forces are in place, the end comes with surprising suddenness: 23. h3 Ngh5?! (best perhaps was 23. … Rxc3 [Nf5 24. Rxf5! gxf5 25. Qxf5 Nh7? 26. Bc2 Nf6 27. Qxg5+ Kh8 28. Rxf6! Bxf6 29. Qh6+ Kg8 30. Qh7 mate] 24. bxc3 Ne4 25. Rxf7 Nxg3 [Rxf7?! 27. Rxf7 Kxf7 27. Qxe4] 26. Rxf8+ Bxf8 27. Rf3 N3f5 28. e4, though White is still better) 24. Be5 g4 (Ne4 [Rc6 25. g4 Ng7 26. Bxf6 Rxf6 27. Rxf6 Bxf6 28. Nxd5] 25. Bxd5 Nxf2 26. Qxg6+) 25. Nxd5!, with the wicked threat of 26. Nxe7+ Qxe7 27. Rxf6 Nxf6 28. Qxg6+.

Potkin tries 25. … Nxd5, but the fatal square comes back to haunt him on 26. Rxf7! forcing immediate resignation as 26. … Rxf7 27. Qxg6+ Rg7 28. Qxh5 Rh7 (Bf8 29. Bf6! Qd7 30. Bxd5+) 29. Qg6+ Rg7 30. Qxg7 is mate.

Dubov, Russia’s youngest grandmaster, and fellow GMs Dmitry Andreikin and Nikita Vitiugov all earned slots in the national championship superfinal, to be played later this year.

The f7 square was the target and weak link in another nice attacking game from Russia, won by young GM Vladimir Fedoseev over Ukrainian GM Alexander Zubov (perhaps best known as a second to GM Sergey Karjakin) at a recent open tournament in Voronezh.

Zubov castles kingside and shores up f7 with a queen and a rook, but still cannot survive the White onslaught: 16. Qb5! (a very annoying move that sets up White’s coming central thrust) exd4 17. e5! dxe5 18. fxe5 (opening up the critical file) Nh7 (see diagram) 19. Rxf7! and again White crashes through.

The finale - 19. … Rxf7 20. Rxf7 Qc5 (Kxf7 21. Bc4+ Kf8 22. Qd5! is crushing) 21. Qd7 dxc3+ 22. Kh1 Bxe5 23. Rxh7 Rf8 24. Qe6+, and Black resigned facing 24. … Kxh7 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 26. Qh7 mate.

Dubov-Potkin, Tyumen, Russia, June 2012

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bd3 e5 5. Nc3 e4 6. Bc2 Be7 7. f3 exf3 8. Nxf3 Bg4 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd3 Na6 11. a3 Bh5 12. Nh4 Bg6 13. Nxg6 hxg6 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Bb3 Nc7 16. Bd2 Ne6 17. Rae1 Rc8 18. Re2 Ng5 19. Be1 Ne6 20. Bh4 g5 21. Bg3 g6 22. Ref2 Ng7 23. h3 Ngh5 24. Be5 g4 25. Nxd5 Nxd5 26. Rxf7 Black resigns.

Fedoseev-Zubov, Voronezh, Russia, June 2012

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 e6 3. e4 h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. c3 d6 6. Bd3 e5 7. Ne2 g6 8. O-O Bg7 9. f4 Qe7 10. Nd2 O-O 11. Nf3 Bg4 12. Qb3 b6 13. h3 Bxf3 14. Rxf3 Nd7 15. Raf1 Nf6 16. Qb5 exd4 17. e5 dxe5 18. fxe5 Nh7 19. Rxf7 Rxf7 20. Rxf7 Qc5 (20… Kxf7 21. Bc4+ Kf8 22. Qd5) 21. Qd7 dxc3+ 22. Kh1 Bxe5 23. Rxh7 Rf8 24. Qe6+ Black resigns.

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