- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top seeds GM Gata Kamsky and IM Irina Krush are setting the early pace at the U.S. men’s and women’s championships that got underway Friday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, with each posting three wins in their first three games. Krush already has booked a win over arch rival IM Anna Zatonksih, while Kamsky’s two closest pursuers are a surprise: young GM Conrad Holt and FM John Bryant, both among the lower-rated entrants in the men’s 24-player field.

Four-time U.S. champ Alex Shabalov had the bad fortune to be paired with Kamsky in Round 1, but bounced back with wins in his next two games to get back into the hunt. The Pittsburgh GM’s Round 3 win over FM Sam Sevian, the 12-year-old California prodigy who is the youngest player in the field, was a classic demonstration of how a pair of queens may be nice in poker, but is almost always decisive in chess.

In a Sicilian Scheveningen, White’s laborious repositioning of his pieces leads Shabalov to sacrifice a pawn for the initiative with 16. Be2 f5 17. Nb1!? (very slow) e4 18. Nc3 Ne5 19. Bd4 Bf6 20. Nxa4 Nbd3 21. c5!? (safer was 21. Bxe5 Nxe5 22. Nc3 Qd7 23. Qb3, with approximately equal chances) Ng4!, when already White faces dangers in lines such as 22. Be3 Nxe3 23. fxe3 Be5 24. Bxd3 exd3 25. Qxd3? Qh4 26. Rf4 Bxf4 27. exf4 Rxa4, winning material.

After the tricky 22. Bxf6 Ngxf2+ 23. Kg1 Qxf6 24. Rxf2 Nxf2 25. Kxf2 f4 26. Nc3 Rae8, Black has only a rook for two minor pieces, but his major pieces are all well-positioned behind the advancing e- and f-pawns for the coming attack. With 27. Bg4 Re5!, Black keeps his rook from being locked out of the game in preparation for the winning assault.

Thus: 28. Be6+ Kh8 29. Qd4 (cxd6 f3 30. Kg1 Rg5! 31. g3 e3 32. Kh1 f2 33. Bh3 Qh6 34. Bg2 [Kg2 Qxd6, and Black is better] Rh5 35. h4 Rxh4+ 36. Bh3 Rxh3+ 37. Kg2 Rh2+ 38. Kf1 e2+ 39. Nxe2 [Kxe2 f1=Q mate] Qh3 mate) f3! (a decisive line opening that will in time produce a second Black queen) 30. Nxe4 (g4 Qh4+ 31. Kg1 e3 32. Rf1 Qh3 and wins) Qh4+ 3.1 Ke3 fxg2 32. cxd6 Rf1 33. Rxf1 gxf1=Q, and the rest is a mop-up operation. In the final position after 40. Nd2 (Kc3 Qbxb2 mate) Qxe5, Sevian faces a hopeless material deficit and resigns.

He hasn’t been part of the conversation for a couple of years now, but Bulgarian GM and former FIDE world champ Veselin Topalov is firmly on the comeback trail with last week’s impressive triumph in at the Category 20 FIDE World Cup event in Zug, Switzerland. With a last-round win over Russian GM Sergey Karjakin, Topalov finished at 8-3, 1 points clear of U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura, with a performance rating of 2,924. The top two finishers in the World Cup series of six events are guaranteed slots in the 2014 World Chess Championship candidates’ cycle.

In another big-name event, Armenian GM Levon Aronian and Israeli GM Boris Gelfand tied for first in the last month’s Alekhine Memorial Tournament, played in Paris and St. Petersburg. World champion Viswanathan Anand of India, gearing up for a title defense later this year against Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, finished alone in third a half-point back.

It still boasts the deepest talent pool in the world, so it’s always interesting to check out the rising talent in Russia. At last month’s Under-21 Championships in the Black Sea city of Sochi, it was a Vladislav and a Vladimir who turned heads with the promise of greatness to come.

Fifteen-year-old IM Vladislav Artemiev took the title with a 6-3 score, but it was runner-up IM Vladimir Belous — who beat Artemiev in their head-to-head match-up — who may have made a bigger impression. The 19-year-old Belous, who first attracted notice with a surprise win at the 2011 Moscow Open, played a couple of scintillating attacking games at last month’s event which had the editors at Chessbase.com comparing his play to the immortal Latvian world champ Mikhail Tal.

Tal was perhaps the best there ever was at keeping an attack alive, finding new tactical resources and sacrifices just as a position appeared to be bogging down. Belous showed a similar aptitude in his fine win over Urii Eliseev, finding one star move after another to overwhelm Black’s defenses.

Eliseev is already back on his heels in this Queen’s Gambit Accepted after 8. Bd3 0-0-0?! (the Black king will not find it hospitable here) 9. Qa4 g5?! (another aggressive move when Black should be focused on consolidating) 10. e5!, opening up the position further by exploiting the Black knight’s need to guard the a-pawn.

White is definitely channeling Tal in the ensuing play: 14. Nc4 Qc5 15. Bxg5! f6 (Qxc4? 16. Bxd8 Kxd8 17. Qb8+ Kd7 18. Rfc1 Qe8 19. Rxc6 Qxc6 20. Qxf8, and the rook on h8 can’t be saved by 20…Qh6 21. e6+ Qxe6 [Kxe6 22. Qe8+] 22. Re1 Qf6 23. Qe8+ Kd6 24. Ne5, leading to mate) 16. Rfc1 fxg5 (see diagram) 17. b4! (throwing the attack into overdrive) Qd5 (Qxb4 18. Rab1) 18. b5! Qxb5 19. Rab1 Qc5, when White could have shortened his workday with 20. Rxb6 Kd7 21. e6+ Ke8 (Kxe6 22. Qxc7) 22. Qxc7, with the deadly threat of 23. Qf7 mate.

White’s 20. Qa6+! Kd7 21. Nxb6+ cxb6 22. e6+ Kxe6 23. Qe2+ Kd7 24. Ne5+ Kc7 25. Nxc6 is still good enough to win, as Eliseev’s poor queen remains en pris for 12 full moves before Belous finally snaps it off. With Black king constantly harassed by White’s queen, Eliseev calls it quits after 39. Qxc4+ Kd7 40. Qg4+, when it’s hopeless after 40…Kc6 41. Qg7, picking off the rook.

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