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SANDS: Aronian grabs the early lead in London challenger chess tourney
Question of the Day
With wins over Israeli Boris Gelfand and Ukraine’s Vassily Ivanchuk in successive rounds, world No. 3 Levon Aronian is the early leader in the FIDE candidates’ tournament that kicked off Friday in London. Aronian held a half-point lead over top-seeded Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Russian GM Peter Svidler, both at 2-1, going into Monday’s first rest day.
We’ll have updates and highlights in the coming weeks about the tournament to pick a challenger to Indian world champ Viswanathan Anand for a title match later this year.
There’s no “i” in team, but there’s no question that a nice individual win can ease the sting of a match loss in team play. The American women did not medal at the recent FIDE Women World Team Championship event in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Ukraine claiming the gold, China the silver and Russia the bronze.
But U.S. IM Irina Krush scored an impressive double in the event, defeating former women’s world champion WGM Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia and reigning women’s champ WGM Anna Ushenina of Ukraine in consecutive rounds on her way to a 7-2 result and a gold medal for best score on Board 2.
Krush’s tense win over Kosteniuk paced the American women to a 2 1/2-1 1/2 upset win, and it featured two uncompromising competitors ready to compromise their positions in the quest for an edge. This Richter-Rauzer Sicilian finds White rushing ahead on the kingside, while Krush as Black presses on the other flank — with her king still marooned in the center of the board.
After 17. Bxf6 gxf6 (very intriguing was 17…exd3!? 18. Bxe5 Qxe5 19. Nc6 Qd5 20. Nxb8 dxe2 21. Qxe2 Qb7 22. Qe5 f6 23. Qa5, with complex play) 18. Bxe4 Bd7 18. Qf4 Ke7!? 20. Qg3 Bh6 21. f4 Nc4 22. Rhe1 f5, Black parries 23. Nxf5+ exf5 24. Bxf5 Bxf5 25. Nd4+ with 25…Kf8 26. Nxf5 Qxf4.
Both players navigate some sharp tactical shoals involving knight forks on 28. Bb5 Qc7!? (virtually taunting White as now a fork at e6 collects the Black queen) 29. Bxa4 (Rxe6!? Nxb5! 30. Nxb5 Rxb5 31. Red6 Rb8 holds) Ne4 30. Qb3 Bxf4 31. Qxe6!? fxe6 32. Nxe6+ Kf7 33. Nxc7, when White recovers her piece on 33…Bxc7 34. Rd7+.
The White knight appears to occupy a dominating central position, but Kosteniuk fails to appreciate that its position is less than secure: 39. Ne6 Be3 (cutting off all the dark-squared escape routes) 40. a4? (c3 bxc3 41. bxc3 Rh6 42. Ng7 Rf6 43. Kc2 was one way to save the knight) bxa3 41. Rg7 Rh6!, with the threat of 42…Rxb3 43. cxb3 Rxe6 44. bxa3 f4 and Black is winning.
After 42. Nc7 (Re7 f4 43. Ng7 Kg4 44. bxa3 Rxh2) axb2 43. Re7 (Kxb2?? Bd4+) Bc1, Black is a clear exchange to the good and the White king is caught in a dangerous mating net. After 44. Ne6 Ra8 45. Ba2 Rhh8 (with the lethal idea of 46…Rxa2! 47. Kxa2 Ra8+) 46. Nc7 Ra7 47. Rd7 f4 48. Rg7 f3 49. Rf7 f2, White resigned, as she can’t both stop the pawn and save her still-stranded knight.
And while we’re on the women-and-team theme, here’s one last bonbon from the giant 1,200-entry Amateur Team East tournament last month in Parsippany, N.J., won by the Princeton A team. Expert Hana Itkis of the coveted “Best Name Award” team, RG3: Offensive Rook of the Year, takes the measure of expert Tim McEntee in a second-round match, finishing off with a nice queen sacrifice.
This classic Nimzo-Indian battle finds Black taking potshots at White’s imposing but static pawn center. But White alertly repositions her queen as Black temporizes with his knight on 13. d5 Nf6 14. Ng3 Ne8?! (better was 14…Ba6 immediately) 15. Qd1! Ba6 16. Qe2, and White can build on her space advantage at her leisure while Black struggles to find counterplay.
McEntee’s bid to break out of his bind redounds to the benefit of the better-developed player: 23. Rf2 f5?! (helping White’s attack, though passive play would have been no better in the long run) 24. exf5 Nxf5 25. Bg5 Raf8 26. Qg4 Qc8 27. Nd2!, when trying to drive White back with 27…Nh6 is met by 28. Qe4 Ng8 29. Raf1 Qd7 30. Rxf7 Rxf7 31. Qe2 Rxf1+ 32. Qxf1 Bc8 33. Ne4, and White has all the play.
White’s pressure on the f-file and the overworked Black rooks produce a pleasing finale: 27…Ng7 28. Qe4 Ne8 (defending against mate on the move, but now Black’s rook on f7 is horribly overburdened; if 28…Nh5, White has 29. Rxf7 Rxf7 30. Qh4 Nf4 31. Bxf4 exf4 32. Ne4 Nb7 33. Ng5 and wins) 29. Bh6! Kg8 (see diagram; 29…Nf6 30. Rxf6!) 30. Qxh7+, and Black resigns as 30…Rxh7 31. Rxf8 is mate.
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About the Author
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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