- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

Veteran GM Larry Christiansen is the 2002 U.S. men's champion, defeating GM Nick DeFirmian in a blitz playoff for the crown in Seattle last weekend. Christiansen, a Californian by birth now based in Massachusetts, reclaims the crown he has won twice before, in 1980 and 1983. He went 61/2-21/2 in the event, losing only to GM Alex Yermolinsky and playing some of the most assured chess of the event.
The expanded 56-player field and the new Swiss format worked well enough, but the cream again rose to the top with a number of usual suspects including Yermolinsky and GMs Joel Benjamin, Alexander Shabalov and Alexander Ivanov all clustered atop the leader board in the end.
Players report that the organization and facilities in Seattle were excellent. The only unsatisfactory aspect of the new format is having our national champion essentially decided by one blitz game. DeFirmian had to compete in the playoff just an hour after a brutally tough struggle with Yermolinsky.
Two of the best performances at Seattle were put in by rising stars. IM Boris Kreiman, 25, tied for third and earned a grandmaster norm, while WM Jennifer Shahade, 21, took the women's title by going 5-4 with a lofty performance rating of 2541.
Christiansen's Round 5 win over Shabalov pitted two of the country's best attackers against one another. When "Shabba" allowed his opponent a clear shot at his king, the new champion did not need to be asked twice.
In a Queen's Indian Petrosian System (5. a3), White's 9.0-0 Nbd7 10. Bf4!? can't be called a blunder, but it does put White on the road to a set-up in which he never gets comfortable. IM Jeremy Silman, analyzing the game for the Seattle Chess Foundation (see his annotations at www.seattlechessfoundation.org/uschamps), notes that White will play for pressure against the hanging Black c- and d-pawns, but accepts some weak squares around his king in the process. White's control of e5 also never compensates for the hole he leaves at e4.
By 15. Ng3 Rfd8 16. Bh3?! Rc7 17. Qe2 Nf8 18. Rfd1 Bc8 19. Bg2 Bg4, White appears to be drifting while Black steadily has improved the position of his pieces. With 21. Qc2 Rd6!, Christiansen bares his attacking intentions and White has to be extremely careful.
The battle heats up: 22. Re1 (Nxe4? dxe4 23. Rxd6 exf3 24. Bxf3 Bxf3 25. Rd2 Qe6 and Black dominates) Ng6 23. b4 (Silman says Black is winning on 23. Nxe4 dxe4 24. Nd4? [Ng5!] cxd4! 25. Qxc7 Qxc7 26. Rxc7 d3) h6!?.
Very sharp now is 25. Nb5 Nxg2 (Silman considers 25Bf3!? 26. Bh3 c4 27. Nxc7 Qxc7, with strong compensation for the lost exchange, but 26. Bh1 might be an improvement in this line) 26. Kxg2 Qh4! 27. f3 (Nxc7?? Qh3+ 28. Kg1 Bf3) Qh3+ 28. Kg1 Bxf3, with double-edged lines like a) 29. Nxd6 cxb4! 30. Qb2 (Qxc7?? Qg2 mate) Rxc1 31. Rxc1 bxa3 32. Qc2 Nxd6; and b) 29. Rf1 Rg6 30. Rxf3 Rb7! 31. Qe2! Nxg3 32. Rxg3 Rxg3+ 33. hxg3 Qxg3+ 34. Kf1 Qh3+ in the air.
It was clearly not Shabalov's day, as his weak defensive stand is brushed aside on 26. Qd3 Nxg2 27. Kxg2 Qh4 28. Kg1? (see diagram; White had to play 28. Rxc5 Nxc5 29. Qb5 Nd7 and hope to cover up on the kingside) Nxf2! 29. Qf1 (and not 29. Kxf2?? Qxh2+ 30. Kf1 Bh3 mate) Rxc1 30. Rxc1 Ne4.
Black has stolen a pawn and his pieces are all better placed. Christiansen finishes efficiently with 35. Rf1 (Rc5 Bf3! 36. Nxf3 exf3 37. e4 Rb6 38. Rc1 Rb2 is also winning for Black) Bh3! 36. Rc1 (Rf2 g5! 37. Qe5 Qd1+ 38. Rf1 Qxf1 mate) Bxf5 37. Nxf5 Rxf5. Another pawn falls and since 38. Qxe4 Qg6+ 39. Kh1 (Qg2 Rg5) Rf1+ picks off the queen, Shabalov resigned.

The FIDE World Championship match in Moscow got off to a stunning start as 18-year-old Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov defeated his much older compatriot Vassily Ivanchuk in just 23 moves.
Ivanchuk, who handled last month's series of elimination matches to reach the final with uncharacteristic aplomb, appeared to be beset by the nervousness that has plagued his career at critical points.
Ivanchuk pressed hard in Thursday's Game 2, but stumbled in time pressure and was held to a draw. Yesterday's Game 3 was also drawn. Play in the 8-game final winds up Jan. 24.
Ponomariov broke on top by playing simple, good moves, while his opponent virtually self-destructs.
In a French defense, the line White chooses is modest but has a sting, giving up the two bishops but getting an early clamp on e5. White also gets in the first novelty with 11. a3!, preventing Bb4 and making Black's early queen sortie look a little foolish. Black's defense is cramped but perfectly playable, but also is the kind of set-up where small inaccuracies can lead to major catastrophes.
Ivanchuk doesn't help matters with some time-consuming queen maneuvers (White's 13. Qe3! parries the threat of 13Bxa3 with the piece-winning 14. Na4!), and accepts a further cramp on his game with 19. Qf3 c6?!, when 19Nxc3+ 20. Qxc3 Bd6 21. f4 leaves White with the space advantage but no breakthrough in sight.
Things fall apart on 20. Ne4! (preserving the knight for the attack) Qc7 21. c4 Ne7?? (Nb6 22. h4 Nd7 23. Nd3 b5 was mandatory, and Black can even dream of a queenside counterattack; Ivanchuk's move suicidally disrupts the coordination of his defense) 22. Ng5! Nc8 (it's too late for 22Ng6 23. Nxg6 hxg6 24. Qh3 Bd6 25. Qh7+ Kf8 26. Rxe6!! fxe6 28. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Qxg7+ Bf7 29. Qxf7 mate) 23. c5!, paralyzing the Black game.
Ivanchuk is notorious for a quick resignation finger, but his choices are bleak. White threatens simply 24. Nxe6 fxe6 25. Bxe6+ and wins, and if 23h6, then 24. Nxe6! fxe6 25. Bxe6+ Kh7 26. Qf5+! (cleaner that 26. Qxf8 Bg6+ 27. Nxg6 Rxf8 28. Nxf8+) g6 27. Qxf8.
On 23g6, White has 24. Bxe6! fxe6 25. Qxf8+! Kxf8 26. Nxe6+ Kg8 27. Nxc7 Rb8 28. d5! cxd5 29. Ne6, winning the exchange and a pawn. Best of a slew of bad choices appears to be the craven 23Rd5 24. Bxd5 cxd5 25. Qd3 g6 26. f4, but Black has no compensation for the exchange and a suspect position to boot. Ivanchuk decided to call it a day.

U.S. Championships, Seattle, January 2002
1. d4Nf620. dxc5bxc5
2. c4e621. Qc2Rd6
3. Nf3b622. Re1Ng6
4. Nc3Bb723. b4h6
5. a3d524. Nd4Nh4
6. cxd5exd525. bxc5Rxc5
7. g3Bd626. Qd3Nxg2
8. Bg20-027. Kxg2Qh4
9. 0-0Nbd728. Kg1Nxf2
10. Bf4Bxf429. Qf1Rxc1
11. gxf4c530. Rxc1Ne4
12. e3Rc831. Nxe4dxe4
13. Rc1Ne432. Qf2Qh5
14. Ne2Qe733. f5Kh7
15. Ng3Rfd834. Qf4Rf6
16. Bh3Rc735. Rf1Bh3
17. Qe2Nf836. Rc1Bxf5
18. Rfd1Bc837. Nxf5Rxf5
19. Bg2Bg4White resigns

FIDE World Championship Finals, Game 1, Moscow, January 2002
Ponomariov Ivanchuk
1. e4e613. Qe3Nf6
2. d4d514. Ne5Rd8
3. Nc3Nf615. Bc4Bd7
4. Bg5dxe416. Bb3Be8
5. Nxe4Be717. Rhe1Bf8
6. Bxf6Bxf618. g4Nd5
7. Nf30-019. Qf3c6
8. Qd2Be720. Ne4Qc7
9. 0-0-0Qd521. c4Ne7
10. Nc3Qa522. Ng5Nc8
11. a3Nd723. c5Black
12. Kb1Qb6resigns

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

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