- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

It's the immovable object vs. the immovable object. Classical chess world champ Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Hungarian GM Peter Leko, two ultrasolid players who rarely suffer a loss, will meet in a 16-game match next spring for Kramnik's title. The 22-year-old Leko edged Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov 2-1 in the final elimination match at the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Germany last week.

Leko came in for criticism early in his career for his penchant for taking draws, going through several events with hardly a decisive game to show for it. His rating climbed steadily, but he rarely took risks at the board or a top prize in the tournaments he played.

Leko told journalists in Dortmund that a loss to Russian Evgeny Bareev in the early qualifying rounds helped jump-start his game. He wiped out Spain's Alexei Shirov, 2½-½ in the first elimination match and took the first two games of the four-game final against Topalov to virtually clinch a date with Kramnik.

Kramnik also has a reputation for careful calculation and risk aversion at the board. Intriguingly, Leko has a plus-2 career edge on Kramnik at classical time controls and could pose problems for the champ.

The best brawl of the finals was the seesaw Game 2, in which Leko on the Black side of Sveshnikov Sicilian absorbed Topalov's best blows, built up a near-winning edge, let his opponent back into the fight and won when Topalov pressed too hard in the game's sixth hour.

Down 1-0, Topalov chooses an aggressive line as White, seeking the early attack with 14. c3 Bg7 15. Qh5, while Leko adopts a defensive setup that served him well in the previous match with Shirov. On 22. Rg1 Bxb2 23. Qh6 Qc3!, Black shores up the long diagonal and begins to harass White's disconnected queen-side.

White's 26. Rf1!?, avoiding the rook trade, is the only way to keep the position unbalanced, as 26. Rh4? Rxg1+ 27. Kxg1 Qg5+ 28. Kf1 Qc1+ 29. Ke2 Nf6! is very pleasant for Black. As Topalov tries to reignite his attack, Leko relentlessly presses his passed d-pawn forward and appears to miss a clinching shot just before time control: 36…Ne4! 37. Qxd4 Rxd4 38. Kg2 Nc3 39. a3 (Bd1 Rxb4!) d1=Q 40. Bxd1 Rxd1, winning, as noted by John Henderson on the Week in Chess Web site (www.chesscenter.com).

The Black d-pawn still costs Topalov his bishop, but White retains some hopes in the shaky Black king position and the Black knight caught far behind enemy lines. Should Leko manage to extricate the knight, his position is an easy win.

Topalov's seconds claimed White could have claimed a quick half-point with 45. Qf5 Qe7 46. Qd3 Nb2 47. Qc2 Qb7+ 48. Kh2 Qg7 49. Rh5 f5 50. Rxf5 Rxf5 51. Qxf5. Leko fails to secure his king-side (51…h5!), and on 54. Qxh7+ Rg7 55. Qh5+ Kf8, White has an easy perpetual check with 56. Qh8+ Rg8 57. Qh6+ Rg7 58. Qh8+. Instead, White's inexplicable 56. Qf5?? (Topalov reportedly thought he was winning here) Nc4!, liberating the knight, instantly seals White's fate.

In the final position, 67. Kg2 g4 68. Rd6 Qc4 69. Rb6 Ke7, eventually ousting the rook from its protection of the b-pawn, will be fatal. Topalov resigned.


A team of Chinese male, female and junior stars has once against edged an American team by the narrowest of margins in the second annual summit between the two countries. Trailing by a point going into the fourth and final round, the Chinese players went 6-4 to take the overall competition in Shanghai on a 20½-19½ score.

China's strong women players spelled the difference in the match. While the American men and junior players more than held their own, the U.S. women were routed by their Chinese counterparts in Shanghai by a cumulative 6½-1½ score.

Former women's world champ Xie Jun won a critical point in the final round with an upset win over Pittsburgh GM Alexander Shabalov.

Shabalov appears to wait just one move too long on a winning tactical shot, allowing his opponent the time to ignite her own decisive attack.

In a classic Classical King's Indian duel, the moment for White's breakthrough appears to have been 25. Rfc1 Qg6 (see diagram), when 26. Nxa7! Rxa7 27. Nxb6 Nxb6 (Bxa6 28. Nxd7 Rxd7 29. bxa6) 28. Qxb6 Ra8 (Rgg7 29. Rxc8) 29. Qc6 Rb8 30. a7 is winning.

The critical difference after the game's 26. Rc3 Ndf6 27. Nxa7 Rxa7 28. Nxb6 is that now the Black light-squared bishop, often the critical piece in this opening, survives to wreak havoc near the White king: 28…Bxh3! 29. Nc8 (Black also gets in on the immediate capture with 29. gxh3 g4 30. hxg4 hxg4 31. Kf1 Rh7) Rag7 30. gxh3 g4 31. hxg4 hxg4.

An interesting defensive try here is cowardly flight with 32. Kf1, when Xie Jun still must reckon with the White queenside pawns; e.g. 32…gxf3 33. Bxf3 Qg1+?! 34. Qxg1 Rxg1+ 35. Kf2 Rxa1 36. a7 Nc7 37. b6 looks winning for White.

Shabalov stays and fights, however, and is rolled after 32. fxg4 Nxg4 33. Bxg4 (Rh3+ Rh7 34. Rxh7+ [Qf3 Ne3+ 35. Kh1 Rgg7 36. a7 Rxh3+ 37. Qxh3+ Rh7 38. Qxh7+ 39. Kg1 Qg7+ 40. Kf2 Qg3 mate] Qxh7 35. Bxg4 Rxg4+ 36. Kf1 Qh1+ and wins) Qxg4+ 34. Kf1 Rh7.

Black threatens both 35…Rh1+ and 35…Qxc8. White resigned.

Dortmund Sparkassen Finals, Game 2, Germany, July 2002


1. e4c534. hxg3Rc4

2. Nf3Nc635. Rf1d2

3. d4cxd436. f6Qxh6

4. Nxd4Nf637. Kg2Qd4

5. Nc3e538. Qc2Rc7

6. Ndb5d639. Qf5f6

7. Bg5a640. Rh1d1=Q

8. Na3b541. Bxd1Nxd1

9. Bxf6gxf642. Rh4Qd8

10. Nd5f543. Rh6Rf7

11. Bd3Be644. Qe6Rf8

12. 0-0Bxd545. Qe4Qd7

13. exd5Ne746. Qf3Kg7

14. c3Bg747. Rh5Nb2

15. Qh5e448. Rd5Qe6

16. Bc20-049. Rd4Rc8

17. Rae1Qc850. Re4Qc6

18. Kh1Rb851. Kh2Kf8

19. g4b452. Qf4Kf7

20. cxb4Nxd553. Qf5Rg8

21. gxf5Kh854. Qxh7+Rg7

22. Rg1Bxb255. Qh5+Kf8

23. Qh6Qc356. Qf5Nc4

24. Rxe4Qf657. Re2Rg5

25. Qh3Rg858. Qh7Ne5

26. Rf1Bxa359. Qh6+Kg8

27. Qxa3Rbc860. Qxg5+fxg5

28. Bd1Nc361. Rxe5Qf6

29. Re3d562. Re2Qf3

30. Rg3d463. Rd2Kf7

31. Bf3d364. a4Qb3

32. Qb2Qd465. Rd6Qxa4

33. Rd1Rxg366. Rb6Qa2

White resigns

Second China-USA Chess Summit, Shanghai, July 2002

ShabalovXie Jun

1. d4Nf618. Na2Ngf6

2. c4g619. f3g5

3. Nc3Bg720. Nb4Nd7

4. e4d621. Nc6Qf6

5. Nf30-022. Qe1Rg8

6. Be2e523. Qf2Bh6

7. 0-0Nc624. h3Bf8

8. d5Ne725. Rfc1Qg6

9. b4c626. Rc3Ndf6

10. Nd2cxd527. Nxa7Rxa7

11. cxd5Ne828. Nxb6Bxh3

12. Nc4f529. Nc8Rag7

13. b5Kh830. gxh3g4

14. a4Ng831. hxg4hxg4

15. Ba3f432. fxg4Nxg4

16. a5h533. Bxg4Qxg4+

17. a6b634. Kf1Rh7

White resigns

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

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