SANDS: In famous small town, chess attack is in the water

It’s been a famous spa resort dating back to the Roman Empire days, so it’s no surprise that there seems to be something in the water in the Black Forest town of Baden-Baden.

The restorative powers of the hot springs in the German town seem to make chess players play more aggressively, to judge from two games there more than 140 years apart.

Propelled by two wins in his final two games, world champion Viswanathan Anand of India captured the first Grenke Chess Classic Sunday with a 6½-2½ score, a half-point clear of U.S.-born Italian GM Fabiano Caruana in the six-grandmaster double round robin event. Two of his wins came against German GM Arkady Naiditsch, who emerged as a fan favorite at Baden-Baden with just two draws in his 10 games.

Naiditsch’s win over fellow German GM Daniel Fridman was one of the highlights of the event. One of the virtues of the game’s great attackers — from Spielmann to Tal to Kasparov — is the serene confidence upon entering into a speculative assault that, basically, something will turn up. One can’t calculate all the tactics from the get-go, but if one has initiative, imagination and a little luck, the combinations almost magically will suggest themselves when needed.

In a classic Classical King’s Indian fight, Black’s sacrificial 20. Nc2 Ng5 21. Bd3? (overlooking the threat; Fridman later regretted rejecting the safer 21. Qd3) Ndf3+! 22. gxf3 Qd7 proves to be fully justified, but White puts up a spirited defense, and Naiditsch will have to find several more exclamation-point moves to sew up the point.

Fridman-Naiditsch after 29. Nf4.

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Fridman-Naiditsch after 29. Nf4. more >

White makes Black work right away with 23. Be2 Rf6 (threatening 24Nh3+ 25. Kh1 Nf4 26. Bxf4 [Ne1 Qh3+ 27. Kg1 Rh6] Qh3+ 27. Kg1 Rg6+ 28. Bg3 Rh6 and wins) 24. Nd5! (overlooked by Black; losing was 24. Ne3? Qh3 25. Ng4 Bxg4 26. fxg4 Raf8! 27. Qd3 Rh6) Rh6 25. f4 Nh3+ (Qh3? 26. Bf3 Nxf3+ 27. Qxf3 Bg4 28. Qg2 holds) 26. Kg2 exf4 (Nxf4+ 27. Kf3 Rh2! 28. Ke3! — and not 28. Bxh2?? Qh3+ 29. Bg3 Ng2!! 30. Nde3 Nh4 mate!) 27. Bh2 f3+! 28. Bxf3 Ng5 29. Nf4 (see diagram), when Black stokes the fire again with 29Rxh2+! 30. Kxh2 Be5.

White again appears on the verge of consolidating while keeping his material advantage when Naiditsch brilliantly exploits a fatal slip: 33. Kf1 Be6 34. Nd4 Bc4+ 35. Be2 Nxe4 36. Bxc4? (36. Rg1! would have kept White in the game; e.g. 36Qe5 37. Nf3 [Bxc4? Nd2+ 38. Kg2 Qg5+ 39. Kh3 Qh6+ 40. Kg4 Nxc4 and the White king is toast] Qxb2 38. Qd4+ Qxd4 39. Nxd4 Bd5, and Black’s bishops give him only a modest edge) Nd2+ 37. Ke2 d5!! (Qxd4? 38. Rxh7+! Kxh7 38. Qh1+ Kg6 40. Rg1+ Bg5 41. Bd3+ Kf6 42. Qh5 and things are getting hairy for both sides; 37Re8+? 38. Kd3 Qg6+ 39. Kc3 d5 40. Qh5! and White defends), when 38. Bxd5 leads to mate after 38Re8+ 39. Kd3 Qg6+ 40. Kc3 Rc8+ 41. Kg4 Qb6+ — one point of 37d5 was to clear the way for the queen to the queenside — 42. Nb5 Bd6+ 43. Ka4 Qa6 mate.

Fridman tries 38. Qc2, but his jumbled pieces allow yet one more serendipitous tactic: 38Re8+ 39. Kd1 Nxc4 40. Qc3 (Nf3 Nxb2+) Re4 41. Nf5 Nxb2+ 42. Kc2 Re2+ 43. Kb3 Qxc3+ 44. Kxc3 Be5+ 45. Nd4 Re4!, and White resigned as 46. Kxb2 Bxd4+ 47. Kb3 Bxa1 48. Rxa1 Rf4 is a trivial endgame win for Black.

Baden-Baden was the site of the first great modern tournament played on German soil way back in 1870, with former world champion Adolf Anderssen getting a measure of revenge on the man who dethroned him, Wilhelm Steinitz, taking first place and beating the Austrian twice along the way. (Baden-Baden broke ground in a number of ways, including being the first tournament to employ chess clocks to time moves.)

Anderssen was one of the great attacking players of the game’s Romantic Age, and his win with Black against Steinitz shows the same kind of something-will-turn-up confidence that Naiditsch displayed.

One doesn’t associate Anderssen with the King’s Gambit Declined, but he gets the sharp and unbalanced position he probably hoped for against the more positional-minded Steinitz. White eschews several sharper choices during the game (18. Nxf7!? Rxf7 19. Bxf7+ Kxf7 20. b4 looks promising, and 25. Ra5! — instead of the game’s 25. Rxa6? — might have clinched the contest), and when Black finally gets his licks in, he doesn’t miss.

Thus: 27. Bxc5? (Bc3! keeps White’s edge, while he could even try 27. Nh6+!? gxh6 28. Qxf6 Rxb4! 29. Qxh6 Rxe4+ 30. Kf2 Rf4+ 31. Kg3 Ne4+ 32. Nxe4 f6 with a double-edged game) Rb2+ 28. Ke3 Qa5!, threatening mate on the move.

By 32. Nh3 Re8, Anderssen’s forces are beautifully placed for the final assault and the tactics seem almost to play themselves. Black cashed in after 35. Kg3 Rxe4 36. Qf1 Qe5+ 37. Kh4 gxh3+ 38. Kxh3 Rb3+ 39. g3 Rf4 40. Nxh6+ Kf8 41. Qc4 (threatening 42. Qxb3 and 42. Qxf7 mate, but it’s not White’s turn) Rh4+! 42. Kg2 (Kxh4 Qh5 mate) Rxh2+! 43. Kxh2 (Kf1 Rf3+ 44. Kg1 Qxg3 mate) Qxg3+ 44. Kh1 Qh3+ 45. Kg1 Rg3+, and White gave up in light of 46. Kf2 Rg2+ 47. Ke1 Qe3+ 48. Qe2 Qxe2 mate.

Fridman-Naiditsch, Baden-Baden, Germany, February 2013

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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