- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

Philadelphia may be known best for the midsummer World Open, but this year's edition of the National Chess Congress, played last weekend in the "City of Brotherly Love," may be ready to give the World a run for its money.

Five grandmasters topped the strong Open section, all scoring 5-1: Igor Novikov, Leonid Yudasin, Alex Shabalov, Alex Stripunsky and Gennadi Zaitshik. Among the illustrious also-rans were GMs Maurice Ashley, Alexander Onischuk, Alex Fishbein and Ildar Ibragimov.

The Swiss-style format used in these massive tournaments can be cruel. Players who perform far above expectations are "rewarded" with tougher and tougher opponents as the rounds proceed. Young New York master Lev Milman (rating: 2312) had a great run in Philadelphia, defeating Ashley, drawing Onischuk and upsetting Ibragimov in consecutive rounds.

But that just left him with a last-round pairing with Shabalov, and the streak came to an abrupt halt.

Black holds on to the gambit pawn in this QGD, but after 12. e4 0-0 13. Bd6 Rd8 14. e5, taking control of f6, Milman's king-side starts looking alarmingly underdefended. Against an attacking wizard such as Shabalov, the punishment isn't long in coming.

Black is happy to give back the pawn to free his queen-side pieces but never gets the chance to complete his development: 15…c5 16. dxc5 Qc6 (allowing a pin on the long diagonal, but Black cannot allow lines such as 16…Qa5? 17. Ng5, threatening both 18. Qd5 and 18. Qh5) 17. Qh5 h6 (Nf8 18. Ng5 Qe8 19. Bxf8 h6 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Ne4, with a big edge) 18. Nf6+!!.

White alertly exploits Black's lack of defensive resources. If now 18…N7xf6, then 19. exf6 Qe8 20. Be5 gxf6 21. Qg4+ Kf8 22. Bd6+ Rxd6 23. cxd6 Qd7 24. Bxd5 exd5 25. Qf4 Kg7 26. Rad1 wins material. But accepting the sacrifice with 18…gxf6 19. Qxh6 Bb7 (Nxe5 20. Bxe5 fxe5 21. Qg5+ Kh7 22. Qxd8) fares no better on 20. exf6 N7xf6 21. Be5! Qd7 22. Rfd1, renewing the pin on the knight on d5 and setting Black an impossible defensive chore.

After the desperate 22…Nxc3 (Qe7 23. Bxd5 Rxd5 24. Bxf6, and Black must give up his queen to stop mate) 23. Rxd7, mate would be unstoppable after 23…Rxd7 24. Bxf6. Milman resigned.

'Tis the season for national championships.

With the Olympiad over, a number of countries are holding their national title tournaments, including Italy, Germany, Israel and Greece. National events typically make for fighting chess, as the players know one another's styles and local bragging rights are on the line.

The Greek championships may not boast the strongest field, with just two grandmasters, but even here, there are some fighting gems to be savored. IM Dimitrios Mastrovasilis found himself in a sharp fight with master Anastacios Mihailidis in the Athens tournament but found a nice combination to earn the point.

White's London System (3. Bf4) is usually a safe, solid choice, but here things sharpen quickly after Black's queen-side thrust with 5. Qb3 c4!? 6. Qc2. With the pressure off of d4, White can open the center at his leisure, so Mihailidis is pretty much forced into an aggressive queen-side expansion to stay in the game.

The action shifts to the king-side, where White's determination to win the two bishops ignites a tactical dust-up: 8. h3 Bh5 9. Nh4!? h6 (safer is simply 9…e6 10. g4 Bg6 11. Nxg6 hxg6 12. Bg2 Be7) 10. g4 g5 11. Bh2 Bxg4 12. hxg4 fxh4 13. f3 a5 14. e4 e6 15. dxe5. Black has to allow the central file to open up because White is better on 15…Nxd5 16. Nxc4 Qd8 17. Qb3 Qd7 18. Be5.

After 16. 0-0-0, Black can't follow suit because 16…0-0-0? 17. Qf5+ Nd7 18. Qxd5 wins, and a move later, 17…0-0 runs into 18. Bf4 Kg7 19. Rxh4 Rh8 20. Qf5, with a very dangerous attack.

Neither player backs down on 18. Qf5 Re8 19. Bh3! (the shut-in bishop suddenly threatens to seize a critical diagonal) Nb4!, offering a full piece in an effort to keep his queen-side attack in motion. Play grows increasingly intricate; e.g. 20…c3!? 21. Nb3 axb4 22. Be5 Qc6 23. Bxf6 Bxf6, with a double-edged position.

On 21. g5 c3 22. gxf6 cxd2+ 23. Kb1 dxe1=Q+ 24. Rxe1, Black is up the exchange and a pawn but faces the dual threats of 25. fxe7+ and 25. Qd7 mate. White's two monster bishops prove critical in the concluding combination.

The game concluded: 24…Qc6 25. Rc1! (fxe7+ Rxe7 26. Rxe7 Kxe7 27. Qe5+ Kd8 28. Qh8+ Qe8 29. Qf6+ Qe7 30. Qb6+ Ke8 31. Be5 is also strong, but Black can fight on) Qe6? (see diagram; 25…Bc5 is the only hope, and sets a devilish trap 26. Rxc5?? Re1+ 27. Kc2 Qa4+ 28. b3 [Kd3 Qd1 mate] Qxa2+ 29. Kd3 Qe2 mate, but White still wins with 26. dxc5 Re2 27. Rg1! Re8 [Rxh2 28. Rg8+ Kc7 29. Qc8+! Rxc8 30. Rxc8 mate] 28. Rd1 Re2 29. Rxd5+ Ke8 30. Re5+ Rxe5 31. Qxe5+ Kf8 32. Bf4 Kg8 33. Bxh6 Kh7 34. Bf5+! Kxh6 35. Qf4+ Kh5 36. Qg4+ Kh6 37. Qxh4 mate) 26. Qxd5+!.

The queen is immune (26…Qxd5 27. Bc7 mate), but 26…Bd6 27. Bxd6! Rg8 28. Bb8+! Qxd5 (Ke8 29. Bxe6 fxe6 30. Qxe6+ Kd8 31. Bc7 mate) 29. Rc8 is also mate. Mihailidis resigned.

33rd National Chess Congress, Philadelphia,

December 2002


1. d4d513. Bd6Rd8

2. c4e614. e5Nd5

3. Nc3c615. Ne4c5

4. Nf3dxc416. dxc5Qc6

5. Bg5Qc717. Qh5h6

6. g3Nd718. Nf6+gxf6

7. Bg2Ngf619. Qxh6Bb7

8. 0-0Bb420. exf6N7xf6

9. Nd2Bxc321. Be5Qd7

10. bxc3b522. Rfd1Nxc3

11. Bf4Qb623. Rxd7Black

12. e40-0 resigns

Greek Championships, Athens,

December 2002

Mastrovasilis Mihailidis

1. d4d514. e4e6

2. Nf3Nf615. exd5exd5

3. Bf4c516. 0-0-0Be7

4. c3Qb617. Re1Kd8

5. Qb3c418. Qf5Re8

6. Qc2Nc619. Bh3Nb4

7. Nbd2Bg420. cxb4axb4

8. h3Bh521. g5c3

9. Nh4h622. gxf6cxd2+

10. g4g523. Kb1dxe1=Q+

11. Bh2Bxg424. Rxe1Qc6

12. hxg4gxh425. Rc1Qe6

13. f3a526. Qxd5+Black


David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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