- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It’s rapidly (no pun intended) becoming one of my favorite events of the year.

In addition to bridge, Go, checkers and other tournaments, the annual SportAccord World Mind Games, held earlier this month in Beijing, includes a “Basque rapid” chess event in which top grandmasters play two games simultaneously, one with the White pieces and one with the Black. In addition to posing unique strategic challenges, the format requires intricate clock- and game-management issues, as the players have to calibrate how much time to spend on each game.

This year’s Basque winners were Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and Chinese women’s GM Hou Yifan, both of whom managed to get through all ten games without dropping a point.

Winning both ends of the Basque battle is a great way to shoot up the wallchart. Azeri GM Teimour Radjabov earned a silver medal in the event behind Nepomniachtchi, aided by a last-round 2-0 whitewash of Indian GM Pentala Harikrishna. With the Black pieces, Harikrishna lost prosaically in 34 moves in a Catalan; with White, the loss was quicker and more painful, as Radjabov conducted a textbook sacrificial mating attack.

In a Giuoco Piano, White fails to come up with strong plan and finds his major pieces get caught on the wrong side of the board in the critical sequence: 12. Rfd1 Nf4 22. Qb3 d5! (not only taking over the initiative, but giving the rook on b6 a route to the kingside) 23. Nh4 (see diagram; Black crashes through on 23. exd5 Rg6 24. g4 Rxg4+ 25. hxg4 Qxg4+ 26. Kf1 Qxf3, and there’s no stopping 27…Qh1 mate) Nxh3+! 24. gxh3 Qxh3, when Black meets 25. Qxd5 with 25…Ree6! (even stronger than recovering the piece with 25…Qxh4) 26. Qd8+ Kh7 27. f3 Rg6+ 28. Kf2 Rbf6 29. Nxg6 Qxf3+ 30. Kg1 Rxg6+ 31. Qg5 Rxg5+ 32. Kh2 Qg2 mate.

White’s queen and rooks can play no part in the final assault, and Radjabov concludes things with 25. Nf5 Rg6+ 26. Ng3 Rxg3+ 27. fxg3 Qxg3+ 28. Kh1 (Kf1 Re6 29. Ke2 Qg2+ 30. Ke3 Rg6 31. Ra8+ Kh7 32. Rf1 Rg3+ 33. Rf3 Rxf3 mate) Qh3+ 29. Kg1 Re6, and White resigns facing 30. Kf2 Rf6+ 31. Ke2 Qh2+, and both 32. Ke1 and 32. Ke3 allow 32…Qf2 mate.

The U.S. didn’t send a team, but there’s still be some intriguing chess played at the World Under-16 Youth Chess Olympiad now wrapping up in Gyor, Hungary. Among the surprises — an upset of the top-ranked Russian squad by Iran, which barely lost out on a medal due to a last-round loss to Hungary. Russia rebounded to capture the silver behind the winning team from India.

Each round features a brilliancy prize award, and one of the best games came early when IM Murali Karthikeyan defeated Belarus master Mihail Nikitenko in Round 2 with a very nicely conducted attack.

In a Sicilian Scheveningen, Black fails to appreciate White’s designs on e6 after 10. e5 d5 11. Bg4!?, when 11…Nc5 12. Be3 Nc6 13. f4 keeps the position in check. After 11…Nxe5?! 12. Bxe6! Bc5 (the computer says Black can defend on 12…fxe6 13. Qh5+ Ng6 14. Re1 e5 15. Rxe5+ Kf7 16. Rf5+ Kg8 17. Nxd5 Nc6, but it doesn’t look like much fun) 13. Bxd5!, Karthikeyan makes a piece offer Black can’t refuse.

After 13…Bxd5 14. Nf5 Be6 15. Nxg7+ Ke7 16. Qh5 f6 17. Rd1 Nbd7, the Black king is a sitting duck and White has more than enough for his sacrificed pawn. In such positions, the combinational opportunities naturally present themselves; after 18. Nf5+, for example, 18…Kf8 allows 19. b4! Bxb4 20. Rd4! Bxc3 21. Bh6+ Kg8 22. Rg4+ Nxg4 23. Qxg4+ Kf7 24. Qg7+ Ke8 25. Nd6 mate.

Black’s pieces can’t protect their monarch from the White onslaught: 22. Qe4 f5 23. Ne7+ Kc7 24. Nxf5 Be7 (Nf6 25. Qe2 Ne8 26. Nxd6 Nxd6 27. Qxe5 is winning) 25. Bf4, and both Black knights are pinned. It doesn’t take much to push Black over the edge.

Thus: 25…Bf6 25. Rd6! Re8 27. Rad1 Ra7 28. Rxd7+, and Black resigned as White has an easy win after 28…Qxd7 29. Rxd7+ Kxd7 30. Qd5+ Kc8 31. Nd6+, picking up the exchange.

Harikrishna-Radjabov, Basque Rapid, SportAccord Mind Games, Beijing, December 2014

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nbd2 a6 6. c3 O-O 7. Bb3 d6 8. O-O Re8 9. h3 Be6 10. Nc4 b5 11. Ne3 Bb6 12. a4 Rb8 13. axb5 axb5 14. Ng5 Bxb3 15. Qxb3 Qd7 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. Qxd5 Nd8 18. Be3 h6 19. Bxb6 Rxb6 20. Nf3 Ne6 21. Rfd1 Nf4 22. Qb3 d5 23. Nh4 Nxh3+ 24. gxh3 Qxh3 25. Nf5 Rg6+ 26. Ng3 Rxg3+ 27. fxg3 Qxg3+ 28. Kh1 Qh3+ 29. Kg1 Re6 White resigns.

Karthikeyan-Nikitenko, World Under-16 Championship, December 2014, Gyor, Hungary

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. a4 e6 7. Be2 b6 8. Bf3 Nfd7 9. O-O Bb7 10. e5 d5 11. Bg4 Nxe5 12. Bxe6 Bc5 13. Bxd5 Bxd5 14. Nf5 Be6 15. Nxg7+ Ke7 16. Qh5 f6 17. Rd1 Nbd7 18. Nf5+ Bxf5 19. Nd5+ Kd6 20. Qxf5 Kc6 21. b4 Bd6 22. Qe4 f5 23. Ne7+ Kc7 24. Nxf5 Be7 25. Bf4 Bf6 26. Rd6 Re8 27. Rad1 Ra7 28. Rxd7+ Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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