- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2013

Young Iranian IM Idani Pouya was the surprise winner of the Under-18 open tournament at the just-concluded World Youth Championships held in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, becoming in the process the first player from his country to claim a world title.

The large American contingent claimed two medals, both in the Boys Under-10 division, with Wisconsin master Awonder Liang (who won the World Under-8 championship two years ago) claiming gold at 10-1 and expert David Peng of Illinois a point behind for the silver.

A late loss to Spanish GM David Anton Guijarro hurt the chances of American GM Daniel Naroditsky in the Under-18 event (Naroditsky finished in a tie for sixth), but the rising California star played several quality games in Al Ain. One of his best was a win over Polish FM Damian Lewtak, in which Naroditsky easily absorbs White’s early push and launches a powerful counterattack.

In a 5. d3 Ruy Lopez, White’s 13. Bh6 is meant to disrupt the coordination of Black’s pieces, but Naroditsky turns the tables after 17. c3 f6 18. Rd1?! (perhaps forgetting about the bishop lounging far from the action) g5! 19. hxg5 fxg5 20. Qe3 Rg8 21. g3 0-0- 22. Rh5. It seems Black can’t hold the pawn on g5, but he finds a way with the clever 22…Qf7! 23. Rh2 (the exchange sac only aids Black after 23. Rxg5? Nxg5 24. Bxg5 Rdf8 25. Ke2 Qxf3+! 26. Qxf3 Rxf3 27. Kxf3 Rxg5 and wins) Qf6 24. Rh5 Qg6!, and the imprisoned bishop will be a constant source of worry for Lewtak throughout the game.

With White’s pieces tied in knots on the kingside, Black begins a well-timed push aimed relentlessly at undermining the crucial White strong point at e4: 27. Rdh1 c4! (just in time — White threatened 28. Rh5 g4 29. Ng5 Rd7 30. Kf1 Nxg5 31. Bxg5 Kb8 32. R1h4, and Black’s advantage is gone) 28. bxc4 bxc4 29. Nd2 (dxc4? Qxe4 30. Nd2 Qc2 31. Rd1 [Re1 Rf3 32. Qb6 Rd3] Bf3+ wins) cxd3+, when White is hurting after 30. Qxd3 Nc5 31. Qc4 Kb8 32. Ra1 Rc8.

Grefe-Najdorf after 23...Na4
Grefe-Najdorf after 23…Na4 more >

The Black g-pawn plays a crucial role in the final assault: 30…d5 31. f3 d4! 32. Qxd3 Nc5 33. Qc4 Rc7 34. Qa2 dxc3 35. bxc3 (with all White’s major pieces marooned on the wings, one last pawn push destroys the White center) Rd8 36. Rh5 g4!, when Black wins on 37. Rg5 Nd3+ 38. Kf1 Qb6 39. Nc4 Rxc4 40. Qxc4+ Kb8 41. Qa2 Qe3 Rf5 (Qe2 Qc1+ 43. Kg2 gxf3+ 44. Qxf3 [Kh2 Qxh1+ 45. Kxh1 fxe2] Qc2+ 45. Kh3 Bxe4 46. Qxe4 Nf2+) Nf4 43. gxf4 Rd1+ 44. Kg2 Qxf3+ 45. Kh2 Rxh1 mate.

Things end even quicker on the game’s 37. Be3 gxf3 38. Kf2 Rxd2+! (finally ending White’s hold on e4), when White runs into a nice mate on 39. Bxd2 (Qxd2 Nxe4+) Nxe4+ 40. Ke3 (Kf1 Nxg3+; 40. Ke1 f2+ 41. Ke2 Qg4+ 42. Kd3 Rd7+ 43. Kc2 Rxd2+) Qb6+ 41. Kd3 (Kxf3 Qf2+ 42. Kg4 Qxg3+ 43. Kf5 Qg6+ 44. Kxe5 Qf6 mate) Qd4+!! 42. cxd4 Nf2+ 43. Ke3 Ng4+ 44. Kd3 e4 mate; Lewtak resigned.

It was a tricky time to come of age as a chessplayer.

John Grefe, the New Jersey-born master who burst on the scene by tying for first in the 1973 U.S. championship, was part of generation of American stars who came to prominence in the giant shadow of Bobby Fischer.

Fischer had won the world championship the year before and his clashes with chess authorities and subsequent withdrawal from the game dealt American chess a blow from which it is still recovering.

Grefe, who passed away Dec. 22 from kidney cancer in San Francisco at the age of 66, was a superb player, but never came near the heights attained by Bobby. His period of peak activity was largely over by 1980, but he managed to create some marvelous games in his prime. One of the best: His famous sacrificial attack against the great Argentinian GM Miguel Najdorf at the 1976 Lone Pine Invitational, one of a string of top tournaments played during the decade at the California town.

Najdorf, an Old World master, tries an old-school opening with the Philidor Defense, but the young American is not unsettled. Not content with just a small spatial edge, Grefe goes for an all-out attack with 19. Qh5! Ne6 20. Nf5 Qxa5 21. Rf3 Nb6 (d4? 22. Rg3 dxc3 23. Nh6+ Kh8 24. Qf7 Bc5+ 25. Kh2 Rf8 26. Qg8+! Rxg8 27. Nf7 is, appropriately, a Philidor’s Mate) 22. Rg3 g6 23. Qh4 Na4?! (see diagram); had Black had sensed the danger, he might have tried here instead 23…Qb4!, when 24. Rxd5 Nxd5 25. Bxd5 cxd5 26. Nxd5 is parried by 26…Qc5+ 27. Nfe3 Bg7.

Grefe sees he has a winning attack if he can get the knight on c3 to the kingside, and comes up with a stunning concept on how to clear its path: 24. Rxd5!!? (the computers would later find a better defense for Black, but White still wins big points for style, daring and ingenuity) Qb6+ (cxd5 25. Nxd5 Bg7 26. Nxg7 Kxg7 [Nxg7 27. Nf6+ Kf8 28. Nxh7+ Kg8 29. Rxg6 Be6 30. Nf6+ Kf8 31. Rxg7! Kxg7 32. Qg5+ Kf8 33. Nh7 mate] 27. Kh2! — sidestepping the queen check — Nb6 28. Nf6 Rh8 29. f5 Rg8 [Nf8 30. Qh6 mate] 30. Qh6+ Kh8 31. Qxh7 mate) 25. Be3, when it turns out Black can defend with 25…Nxc3! 26. Bxb6 Ne2+ 27. Kh2 axb6, when both of White’s rooks and his bishop on a2 are under attack. The battle would rage on in lines such as 28. Nd6 Be7 29. Qg4 Nxg3 30. Qxg3 Bxd6 31. Rxd6 Rxa2 32. f5, with an unclear position.

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