- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We start with a world exclusive today — a brand new, unpublished Garry Kasparov game that no other column, website or blogger can offer. I say that with some certainty since I was the only one in the room writing down the moves.

The setting last week was the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, specifically the crowded back office of Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamin Raskin.

The former world champ — some say the greatest player ever to push a pawn — was there to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding the U.S. Chess Center, whose mission is to teach chess to at-risk youth as a way to boost both their academic and social skills. Under the guidance of longtime director David Mehler and a devoted staff of chess teachers, the Center has helped more than 35,000 local youths learn both chess and the discipline, patience, etiquette and logical thinking skills that come with mastering the game. Members of the Anacostia High School chess club were also on hand to witness the proceedings.

Kasparov, a dominant presence in virtually any setting, spoke easily with the congressman about Kremlin politics, President Trump’s possible Russian finances, the state of a free press in Turkey, and even made a travel joke about the just-resigned Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He called his recent emergence from retirement to compete in the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament in August “my chess vacation,” saying he only agreed to play because St. Louis has become such an important world capital for the game.

He is bullish about the future of American chess, having worked with many of the country’s rising stars through his Kasparov Chess Foundation. The top American junior players are better than their Russian counterparts, he said.

And he strongly endorsed the mission of the Chess Center, which organizes lessons, chess camps and tournaments.

“The current education system does not serve the purposes of a world that is changing literally every minute,” he said. “Today’s classroom is the same model that’s been in use for hundreds of years. But you be sure my daughter, who is in fifth grade, will no doubt someday be getting a job that doesn’t even exist today.”

With the ubiquity of the internet and smart phones, “we need to stop teaching ‘what’ and start teaching ‘how,’ ” Kasparov said.

Raskin, a longtime advocate of chess instruction in the schools, has introduced a resolution to honor the Chess Center’s work (“which President Trump so far hasn’t vetoed,” he joked) and said he hopes to have Kasparov back next year when the Center opens its new permanent digs in downtown Silver Spring.

After the formalities were done, Kasparov and the congressman — a pretty decent club player, to judge from his playing here — sat down for an informal game. Raskin compared it to “getting to play piano with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,” but to my mind it’s more like one of those old 1930s movies where the hero tries to earn the rent money by surviving a few rounds in the ring with the heavyweight champion.

After a bit of a jocular start — White at first tried to play 7. Bxf7+?? “just to say I put Garry Kasparov in check” — the game was not without some competitive interest. After being persuaded to take back 10. Ne2? for the much better 10. c3, the congressman actually settled down to play a solid game, frustrating the hopes and expectations of many in the room for a quick, spectacular crush. After 10…Nxf3+ 11. gxf3 Bh3 12. Re1 e6, Black already has a pronounced positional edge, but White from here on makes Kasparov work for the point.

I like 17. Rb1!, getting the rook off the long diagonal and freeing the bishop to develop, and 20. a4! Rc6 21. b4 shuts down any Black hopes of a quick queenside rout. After the champ’s 21…b5!?, White may even have caused a little mischief with 22. Ra1! Ra8 232. axb5 Qxb5 24. Qa4 Qb7 25. b5 Rc4 26. Qa6, which the computer rates as just minimally better for Black.

Black is forced to switch flanks to cash in his advantage, a shift made easier by the passive position of White’s forces. By 27. Nf1 fxe5 28. fxe5 Qf7, the game is strategically won, and a nice exchange sac finally opens the floodgates: 29. Nd2 (see diagram) Rxd4! (Black’s advantage would be minimal after 29…Rc3?! 30. Rb3 Rxb3 31. Nxb3 Qf5 32. Nc5) 30. Bxd4 Nxd4 31. f3 Bxe5, and Black has two pawns for the exchange and a devastating attack.

It’s over on 35. Nc5 Nh4 36. h3 (the fork 36. Nxe6 fails to 36…Qf1+ 37. Qxf1 Rxf1 mate) Qg3 37. Nxe6 Qxh3+ 38. Kg1 Qxe6, and White resigned.

An impressed Kasparov graciously said after the game his opponent played “solidly,” and apologized for failing to find a good way to let White have his check.

The congressman has a nice write-up of the event and some pictures on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RepRaskin.

Raskin-Kasparov, casual game, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C., September 2017

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Nc6 5. Nc3 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. a3 O-O 8. Ne2 Bg4 9. Ng3 Nd4 10. c3 Nxf3+ 11. gxf3 Bh3 12. Re1 e6 13. d4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Rc8 15. Bf1 Bxf1 16. Rxf1 Qb6 17. Rb1 d5 18. e5 Nd7 19. Be3 Qa6 20. a4 Rc6 21. b4 b5 22. a5 Rc4 23. Re1 Nb8 24. Re2 Nc6 25. Reb2 f6 26. f4 Qb7 27. Nf1 fxe5 28. fxe5 Qf7 29. Nd2 Rxd4 30. Bxd4 Nxd4 31. f3 Bxe5 32. Nb3 Nxf3+ 33. Kh1 Bxb2 34. Rxb2 Qf4 35. Nc5 Nh4 36. h3 Qg3 37. Nxe6 Qxh3+ 38. Kg1 Qxe6 White resigns.

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

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