- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

U.S. No. 1 Hikaru Nakamura won’t be there this year, but it will still be a strong field for next month’s U.S. Chess Championship, to be held at its familiar home at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Reigning champ GM Gata Kamksy will be back to defend his 2013 title against a field of 11 challengers, all grandmasters. The list includes some familiar veterans, including former champ Alex Onischuk, and a healthy contingent of young guns, led by such rising talents of Ray Robson, Alex Lenderman and Daniel Naroditsky, winner of the 2014 Samford youth chess fellowship. Nakamura bowed out to focus on qualifying for the next world championship candidates’ cycle.

In the women’s competition, defending champ GM Irina Krush and four-time former champ IM Anna Zatonskih are set to revive one of the fiercest rivalries in American chess. The youngest competitor in St. Louis will be 13-year-old California NM Asritha Eswaran, who was given a wild card spot in the 10-player women’s field.

Play starts May 7, and there’s a $64,000 standing bonus for any player who replicates Bobby Fischer’s 11-0 result from the 1963-1964 championship. We’ll have coverage here, and you can follow the play at www.uschesschamps.com

One of the great joys of chess is that it can provide consolation for an hour and enjoyment for a lifetime.

Korchnoi-Uhlmann after 27...Rb8.
Korchnoi-Uhlmann after 27…Rb8. more >

Russian-born Viktor Korchnoi and German star Wolfgang Uhlmann first crossed swords over the board more than a half-century ago. Korchnoi, now 83, and Uhlmann, 79, went at it again earlier last month in a two-game exhibition match in Leipzig, won by the now Swiss-based Korchnoi 2-0. Both games were full of intriguing points, especially Korchnoi’s Game 1 win in a throwback Classical King’s Indian battle.

With both sides probing for advantage, White finds the nice 19. Nxe4 Kh7 20. Ra3!, a multi-tasking move that allows White to dominate on the queenside. Korchnoi presses aggressively in the ensuing play to secure an advantage.

Thus: 23. Qb1 Bf5 24. Rc1 (the queen-rook array on the queenside puts Black clearly on the defensive) Qd7 25. b5 Nc7 (axb5 26. Bxb5 Qe7 27. Qb4 Bxe4 28. fxe4 Kg8 29. Be2 Nf6 30. Bb6 and the rook invades on the c-file) 26. bxa6 Nxd5!? (White is also better on 26…Nxa6 27. Bxa6 bxa6 28. Rc6 Bxe4 29. Qxe4 Ra8 30. Qb4 Bf8 31. Qc4 Kg8 32. Rxa6) 27. axb7 Rb8 28. a6!, not bothering to defend the loose piece on e3.

A White inaccuracy and Uhlmann’s tenacious defense keeps the game alive on 29. a7?! (Qb3! looks decisive here; e.g. 29…Bxe4 30. fxe4 Ng4 31. Bxg4 Qxg4 32. a7 and wins) Rxb7! 30. a8=Q Rxb1 31. Rxb1 Bxe4 32. fxe4 Qc7, and Black’s deficit in only a rook for bishop and pawn

But White engineers a queen trade, leaving Korchnoi’s king free to contribute to the final attack. After 53. Kg6 Be7 54. Bd7+ Kd8 55. Bb5 Bc5 (Nxg3 56. Rd7+ Ke8 57. Rd3+), Black resigned for another piece is lost after 56. Bxe2.

The Russian team championships are annually one of the strongest team competitions in the world, with top grandmasters salted throughout every squad. A nice battle from this year’s event was contested between veteran grandmasters Alexander Motylev and Evgeniy Najer. The Closed Ruy is a fashionable way for White to sidestep some of this line’s trickier variations, but the drawback is that Black is free to develop his own game.

Black’s 12. Nd5 Nd4 13. bxc5 Nxd5!? is a bid to seize the initiative by sacrificing the exchange, although at first it seems unclear what Black will get for this troubles. But the power of Najer’s two bishops and White’s kingside weaknesses become evident in the ensuing play.

The plays sharpens considerably on 19. d4 Qc8 20. Kg2 (the threat was 20…Qh3 21. dxe5 Bxf3) f5! (opening more lines to the White king) 21. dxe5 fxe4 22. Qd5+ Rf7! 23. e6! (fxe4?? Bf3+ 24. Kg3 Qg4 mate) Bxf3+ 24. Kg1 Re7! 25. Qxd6 Rxe6 26. Qd5, and White is relying heavily on the pin to slow down Black’s attack.

But the pressure gets to White after 26…h6 27. Rfd1? (Motylev had to try 27. h4! Kh7 28. Kh2 Rg6 29. Rg1, when Black’s best appears to be a draw on 29…Rg4 30. Qh5 Qc7+ 31. Qe5 Rxh4+ 32. Kg3 Rg4+ 33. Kh2 Rh4+) Kh7 28. Kf1 Rg6 29. Ke1 (Qd4 Qxc2 30. Rd2 Qc8 31. Re2 Qg4 32. Ke1 Bxe2 and wins) Qxc2, and White resigns facing 30. Qd2 Rg1 mate.

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