It may be the best result by a Cuban star since the great world champion Jose Raoul Capablanca departed the scene: Cuban GM Lenier Dominguez Perez, a solid but not spectacular player on the elite scene, took sole first earlier this month at the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Thessaloniki, Greece, topping a field that included former world champ Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, rising Italian superstar Fabiano Caruana and America’s two top-rated GMs, Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura.
Dominguez Perez had some help — he was busted against GM Vassily Ivanchuk in Round 3 before the Ukrainian blundered away a full point, and Kamsky lost his last-round game to Caruana when a draw would have clinched at least a tie for first. But Dominguez made his own luck with a strong second half in Thessaloniki, including wins over Caruana and Topalov in the closing rounds. His most impressive game may have been his win over Russian GM Alexander Morozevich, which features some intricate positional maneuvering before the Cuban seizes the initiative and never lets go.
On the Black side of a Ruy Lopez, Morozevich’s 11. d5 b5!? is an intriguing idea, giving up a negligible pawn for good piece activity. But White smartly returns the favor with 18. Qc3 f6 19. e6! Rxe6 20. Nd4, and suddenly the lonely White pawn on c6 isn’t so easy to capture. With White’s pieces steadily seizing the better squares, the Russian tries a second pawn sacrifice that doesn’t work out nearly so well.
Thus: 23. Rfe1 Be6?! 24. Bxe5 fxe5 25. Rxe5 Bf7 26. Rxe8 Qxe8 27. Re1 Qd8 28. Nc5 (threatening 29. Nd7) Bxc5 29. Qxc5 Rxb2 30. Qe7!, when the queen trade does nothing to lessen the pressure on Black after 30…Qxe7 31. Rxe7 Rd2 32. Nf5 d4 33. Rxc7 Be6 34. Nxg7. But White’s positional dominance starts to tell after 30…Qb8 31. Qe5 Qb6 (Qd8 32. Nf5 Qf6 33. Qxc7! Qxf5? 34. Qd8+ Be8 35. Rxe8+ Kf7 36. Rf8+ and wins) 32. Re3!, and White’s queen-rook-knight trio coordinates beautifully in the coming attack.
There followed 32…g6 33. Ne6 Rb1+ (Bxe6 34. Qxe6+ Kg7 35. Qe7+ Kg8 [Kh6 36. Qf8+ Kh5 37. g4+ Kg5 38. Re5+ Kh4 39. Qh6 mate] 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Re7+ Kf6 [Kh6 38. Qf8+ Kh5 39. Rxh7+] 38. Qf8+ Kg5 39. Re5+ Kh4 40. Qh6 mate) 34. Kh2 Qb2 35. Rc3 Qxc3 (Black must give up his queen to stop mate, as 35…Bxe6 36. Qxe6+ Kg7 37. Qe7+ Kg8 38. Rf3 Qb8 39. Rf7 doesn’t do the job) 39. Qxc3 Bxe6 37. Qe5, and the White queen dominates the Black rook and bishop.
In a final bit of irony, it is the lowly White c-pawn that forces resignation: 41. Qd6 g5 42. f4 gxf4 43. c7, and 43…Rc1 falls to 44. Qxf4+ Ke7 45. Qxc1.
Picking a representative game by Capablanca, perhaps the greatest natural talent the game has ever known, isn’t easy, so let’s just go by the calendar. Capa picked up the brilliancy prize in a tournament played 100 years ago in his hometown of Havana, although he would be nipped by American champion Frank Marshall for first place in the tournament.
Capablanca’s victim here is a familiar one — ex-Cuban champion Juan Corzo, who lost a famous match to the 13-year-old Capablanca in 1901 that first announced the young prodigy’s extraordinary talent. Corzo is mostly remembered as his legendary countryman’s punching bag, but he plays extremely well here, giving as well as he gets before succumbing to a beautiful combination.
The tricks start early in this Old Indian after 10. Nf3 g6! 11. Kf2! (not only is 11. Qxh8?? Qxe3+ 12. Be2 [Kd1 Nd4 13. Be2 Nf2+ 14. Ke1 Bd3 15. Nd4 Nxh1] Nd3+ 13. Kd1 Nf2+ winning for Black, but also bad was 11. 0-0-0?! Bg7 12. Qxg7 Qxe3+ 13. Rd2 0-0-0 14. Qd4 Rhe8) Rg8 12. Re1 Bg7 13. Qd1 Ne4+ 14. Kg1 Kf8!, sidestepping 14…0-0-0?! 15. Bxa7 b6 16. c5!. Corzo dodges a bullet with 15. Bd4 g5 16. Bxg7+!, instead of the diabolical 16. fxg5? Nxg5!! 17. Bxg7+ (Rxe7 Bxd4+ 18. Qxd4 Nh3 mate!) Rxg7 18. Nxg5 Qxg5, and Black is better.
White’s kingside is a mess, but Corzo is not without resources: 19. Qd3 Re8 20. Ne6+! fxe6 21. fxe6 Rxe6! 22. dxe6 Bc6 23. Qf3+ Qf4 24. Qe3!? (equal is 24. Qxf4+ gxf4 25. h4 f3 26. Re3 Ke7 27. Rxf3 Ng3 28. Rf7+ Rxf7 29. exf7 Nxh1 30. Kxh1 Kxf7) Ke7 25. b4 b6 26. b5 Bb7 27. g3 (see diagram; on 27. Bd3 Nc5 28. h3, White’s still cramped but he is also still an exchange ahead) Nd2!!, a remarkable idea that still doesn’t decide the affair.
Now White had to find 28. Bg2! (Qxf4 gxf4 29. Bg2 Nf3+ 30. Kf1 Nxe1 31. Bxb7 Nd3 is good for Black) Qxe3+ 29. Rxe3 Nxc4 30. Rc3 Bxg2 31. Kxg2 d5 32. Re1 Rg6, and Black has only a slight edge. Instead, Corzon finally cracks with 28. Qc3? Nf3+ 29. Kf2 Qf8! (withdrawing the queen but preserving all Black’s threats) 30. c5 Ne5+ 31. Kg1 Nf3+ 32. Kf2 bxc5 33. Qa5 Ne5+ 34. Kg1 Qf3! (allowing White some scary-looking checks, but Black’s dominance of the long diagonal will soon tell) 35. Qxc7+ Kf6 36. Qxd6 (Qd8+ Kg6 37. Rxe5 Qxh1+ 38. Kf2 Qxh2+ 39. Ke1 Qxg3+ 40. Kd2 Qxe5 and wins) Qxh1+ 37. Kf2 Qxh2+. and White resigned facing 38. Ke3 Qxg3+ 39. Ke2 (Kd3 Nf3+) Bf3+ 40. Kd2 Nc4+ 41. Bxc4 Qxd6+. An absorbing struggle right from the start.
Dominguez-Morozevich, FIDE Grand Prix, June 2013
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 d6 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Re8 9. d4 exd4 10. cxd4 Bf8 11. d5 b5 12. dxc6 bxa4 13. Qxa4 d5 14. e5 Ng4 15. Qd4 Rb8 16. a3 Rb6 17. h3 Nh6 18. Qc3 f6 19. e6 Rxe6 20. Nd4 Re8 21. N2b3 Nf7 22. Bf4 Ne5 23. Rfe1 Be6 24. Bxe5 fxe5 25. Rxe5 Bf7 26. Rxe8 Qxe8 27. Re1 Qd8 28. Nc5 Bxc5 29. Qxc5 Rxb2 30. Qe7 Qb8 31. Qe5 Qb6 32. Re3 g6 33. Ne6 Rb1+ 34. Kh2 Qb2 35. Rc3 Qxc3 36. Qxc3 Bxe6 37. Qe5 Kf7 38. Qxc7+ Kf6 39. Qf4+ Ke7 40. Qc7+ Kf6 41. Qd6 g5 42. f4 gxf4 43. c7 Black resigns.
Corzo-Capablanca, Havana, 1913