The world’s very best are squaring off at the Zurich Chess Challenge now underway in the Swiss city, with world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway showing no signs of coasting after capturing the crown in November. Carlsen and world No. 2 Levon Aronian of Armenia dominated the classical portion of the six-grandmaster event, which will feature a separate rapid round-robin event this week.
Carlsen won the first half of Zurich, played at classical time controls, on the strength of wins over U.S. star Hikaru Nakamura, Israel’s Boris Gelfand and Italian GM Fabiano Caruana, while the Armenian kept pace with wins of his own over Nakamura and ex-titleholder Viswanathan Anand of India, whom Carlsen dethroned just three months ago. A last-round loss to Caruana on Monday kept Aronian from catching the champ.
While the two top seeds were setting the pace, Nakamura got on the board with a nice win over Anand in Round 2. Anand, who recently announced he will enter the candidates cycle this year in hopes of a rematch with Carlsen, still seems to be dealing with the hangover from the loss of his title. Here he spoils a promising early position from the White side of a Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense, letting his queenside initiative lapse and allowing the American star a nice counterpunch on the other wing.
Sidestepping the more drawish Berlin lines, White seems to have promising prospects against the Black king after 13. Be3 Nf4 14. a5 b5, when the logical 15. a6! bxa6 16. Rxa6 g5 17. Qd2 h5 18. Rfa1 already leaves the Black king running for cover in lines such as 18…Kd7 19. b4 Ke8 (White threatened the queen-trapping 20. Bc5) 20. Bxf4 gxf4 21. Qc3 Bd7 22. Ra7 Rg8 23. Kh1 with a clear edge.
Instead, White switches gears, and Nakamura alertly seizes the chance to steal the initiative with a speculative piece offering: 15. d4?! (see diagram) Nxh3+! (an excellent practical decision that will net Black a rook and two pawns for the two minor pieces; more important, the rest of the game will be played in the vicinity of the White king, while Anand’s queenside play disappears) 16. gxh3 Bxh3 17. dxe5 Qe6 18. Nd2 Bxf1 19. Qxf1 Qxe5 20. c3 Kb8! 21. a6 b6 22. Qg2 Rd6, and Black has a free hand to embark on kingside operations.
It’s a difficult defense for White to conduct, and his queen proves more of a hindrance than a help. With White’s pieces under tremendous strain, Nakamura breaks through with a nicely timed combination: 31. Ne2 (Nf5 might have been White’s last best hope, though Black is still better on 31… Re6 32. Qd3 c5) Re8 32. Qg4 Rg6 33. Qh3 (Qf4 Qd5+ 34. f3 Qd7 35. Ng1 c5 36. Bf2 Re2! 37. Bxh4 [Nxe2 Qh3+ 38. Qh2 Qxf3+ and wins] Rxb2 and Black dominates) Qd5+ 34. Kh2 Rxe3! 35. fxe3 (Qxe3 Qg2 mate) Qd2 36. Qf1 Rf6, and White resigned because 37. Qe1 (Rd1 Qxe3 38. Qe1 Rf2+) Qxe3 38. Ng1 Rf2+ 39. Kh1 Qg3 40. Qxf2 Qxf2 is hopeless.
Gyula Sax, a key member of the Hungarian 1978 Olympiad team, which broke the long Soviet hegemony at the world team event, passed away last week at the age of 62 from a heart attack. Sax went an undefeated 5-0-7 on third board at the Buenos Aires event, winning an individual bronze medal. He was also a multiple Hungarian national champion and took first at the 1987 interzonal tournament in Yugoslavia, falling in the candidates matches to a young Nigel Short.
An excellent attacking player, Sax was a specialist in the King’s Indian in the golden age of that fighting defense.
His win over British GM Tony Miles in a strong 1980 tournament in London is a quintessential KID win — Black patiently absorbs White’s body blows on the queenside before unleashing a devastating kingside attack. After 17. Qc2?! (Qe1! a6 18. Na3 b5 19. Ba5 Qf8 20. Qf2 g4 21. Bc7 Qe7 22. Rc6 was a better way to increase the pressure) Ne8 18. a4 h5 19. Nf2 Bf8 20. h3 Rg7 21. Nxa7 Bd7 22. Nb5, White has invested a lot of time to win an unimportant pawn, allowing Black to dictate the play.
The position remains exquisitely balanced through 30. Rf2 (Ne6 Qf6 31. Rf2 Qg6 32. Qh3 Bh6 was also possible for White) Qg5 31. Qh3 Rg3 32. Qh1 (a wild draw results after 32. Qxg3!? Qxg3 33. Nxa8 f3 34. Rc8 Kg7 35. Nc7 Nxg2 36. Ne6+ Kg6 37. Kf1 Qh3 38. Kg1 Qg3 39. Kf1 Qh3, as White dare not play 40. Nxf8+?? Kh5 41. Kg1 Qxc8) Rc8, but White goes astray on 33. Be1? (Kf1 keeps the game going) Bh6 34. a6 (too late now) bxa6 35. Rc6 (Ne6 Rxc1! 36. Nxg5 Rxe1+ 37. Rf1 Rxg2+ 38. Qxg2 Nxg2 39. Nf7+ Kg7 40. Nxd6 Rxf1+ 41. Kxf1 Ne3+ and wins) Rg8, and Black has the ideal King’s Indian setup.
Sax wraps things up efficiently on 36. Rxd6 f3 37. Rxa6 Rxg2+! 38. Rxg2 Qe3+ 39. Bf2 Rxg2+ 40. Qxg2 fxg2, and White resigns facing 41. Bxe3 Bxe3+ 42. Kh2 g1=Q+ and wins.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. h3 Be6 7. Nc3 Qd6 8. O-O O-O-O 9. a3 Nh5 10. Na4 Bb6 11. Nxb6+ axb6 12. a4 f6 13. Be3 Nf4 14. a5 b5 15. d4 Nxh3+ 16. gxh3 Bxh3 17. dxe5 Qe6 18. Nd2 Bxf1 19. Qxf1 Qxe5 20. c3 Kb8 21. a6 b6 22. Qg2 Rd6 23. Nf1 f5 24. exf5 Qxf5 25. Ng3 Qd7 26. Qe4 Ka7 27. Kg2 h5 28. Qf5 Qe8 29. Qe4 Qf7 30. Kh1 h4 31. Ne2 Re8 32. Qg4 Rg6 33. Qh3 Qd5+ 34. Kh2 Rxe3 35. fxe3 Qd2 36. Qf1 Rf6 White resigns.
Miles-Sax, London, 1980