- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

All I want to do, ever, is play chess.
Bobby Fischer

Bobby may have been one of the all-time greats, but not everyone followed his lead. The great Boston player Harry Nelson Pillsbury was known to throw a few games of whist into his simultaneous exhibitions.
Former world champ Anatoly Karpov of Russia is a keen bridge player, while American GM Roman Dzhinzhichasvili occasionally has had to be dragged away from the poker table to play his next match.
There's even been a fair amount of cross-pollination between chess and checkers. One of the greatest attacking players of all time, Rashid Nezhmetdinov of Kazakhstan, scored a rare double by earning master status in the Soviet Union as a chess and checker player.
Sometimes, it has to be admitted, the cross-pollination doesn't prove fertile. Two checker champs, Alfred Jordan and Newell Banks, produced this less-than-sparkling miniature in a 1917 game, presented in its entirety: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nd4 4. Nxe5? Qg5 5. Nxf7?? Qxg2 6. Rf1 Qxe4+ 7. Be2 Nf3 mate.
Japan's Yoshiharu Habu is making an even bigger leap, with some impressive early results.
The 31-year-old is a superstar of shogi, the Japanese distant cousin of chess, and has been playing the Western game for about seven years. He picked up an international norm in his second official tournament, and has just acquitted himself well in a strong invitational round-robin sponsored by the French NAO Chess Club.
Habu, with a FIDE rating of 2342, tied for fourth with a 4-4 score in the Category 5 event, with one of his three victories coming over the tournament winner, French master Cyril Marcelin. Habu told a ChessBase interviewer that he had trouble adjusting to the shifting tempos of a chess game, but he handled a tricky positional maneuvering struggle with Marcelin in impressive fashion.
Habu here does something Garry Kasparov never accomplished in his world title match against fellow Russian Vladimir Kramnik in London two years ago break through against the stout Berlin Defense (3Nf6) in the Ruy Lopez. With patient development, White holds on to the slight positional edge Black cedes in the opening.
Marcelin's 17. Nfg5 Rd8!? looks for quick simplification, since the more natural 17Bd5?! 18. Nf6+! gxf6 19. exf6 Rg8 20. f4 Rg6 21. fxe7 Nxe7 22. g3 is much more pleasant for White to play. But on 18. Rxd8+ Kxd8 19. Nxe6+ fxe6 20. c4, Black has no real compensation for his crippled queenside pawns and has surrendered his bishop pair to boot.
The shogi star shows nice patience in nursing his advantage home. Premature would have been the tempting 24. Bg5?! because of 24Bxg5 25. Nxg5 Rf5 26. Nxe6 Rxe5 27.Nd4 Rd5!, holding everything. And 31. g4 hxg4+ (h4 32. Nd2 Kf7 33. Ke4 g6 34. Nf3 Ke8 35. Bd4 Nf7 36. Bf2 g5 37. f5 is strong for White) 32. hxg4 Bd8 33. Bd4 Nf7 34. Ng3 leaves White primed for the decisive f4-f5 break.
Many experienced players would have automatically recaptured with the pawn after 39. f5 exf5, but White's 40. Nxf5! soon leads to the paralysis of the Black pieces: 40g5 (Be7 41. Nxe7 Kxe7 42. Bg5+ Ke8 43. Bxd8 Kxd8 44. Kf4, leaves White essentially a pawn ahead; e.g. 44Ke7 45.Kf5 Kf7 46. e6+ Ke7 47. g5 Kf8 48. Kg6 Kg8 49. e7, winning) 41. Nd4 Kg6 42. Ke4 Bf2.
Black's resistance cracks on 43. e6! Kf6 44. Bg5+!, when 44Kxg5 45. e7 leads to a new White queen. Marcelin resigned.

Cuba has been in the news a good bit lately, which is as good an excuse as any to check out the chess scene in the country that produced the sublime chess genius Jose Raoul Capablanca. There have been no new Capablancas, but the island nation still boasts plenty of quality grandmasters.
At the recent 37th Capablanca Memorial, a Category 13 event, Cuban players grabbed the top five places, paced by GM Lazaro Bruzon. Runner-up Lenier Dominguez scored an unexpectedly quick knockout of the strong Icelandic GM Hannes Stefansson, forcing his opponent's resignation just ahead of a cascade of mating sacrifices.
In a Sicilian, Black appears to squander a precious tempo with 12.Qa4 Qc7?! 13. Bxf6! Bxf6 14. Nd5 Qd8 15. f5, leaving Dominguez with a dominating knight, a strong lead in development and greater kingside space. Stefansson's decision to take the offered White h-pawn also costs time and opens lines for his better-developed opponent.
Still, despite White's clear edge, the denouement arrives with unexpected swiftness: 20. Qb3! (preparing to shift his strongest piece over to the kingside battlefield) b5 21. f6 h6 22. Ne7+ Kh7 (see diagram). The White knight and pawn crowd the Black king, but it's not obvious that just one move will decide the matter.
But 23.Qg3! does the trick, and the Iceland GM doesn't wait to be shown some of the pretty sacrifices at White's disposal: 23Bd2 (White threatens simply 24. Qxg5) 24. Rxh6+!! Bxh6 (Kxh6 25. Qh4 mate) 25. Rh1 Be6 26. Rxh6+! (again!) Kxh6 27. Qh4 mate; or 23…Bf4 24. Rxf4! exf4 25. Rxh6+! Kxh6 26. Qh4 mate; and finally, 23Bxf6 24. Rxf6 Qxe7 25. Qg5! h5 (Kg7 26. Rxg6+ fxg6 27. Qxe7+) 26. Bxh5! Kg8 (gxh5 27. Rh6 mate) 27. Bxg6! fxg6 28. Rxg6+ Kf7 29. Rh7+ Ke8 30. Qxe7 mate. Stefansson gave up.
2nd NAO Chess Club Masters, Paris, May 2002
1. e4e523. Bc1Nh4
2. Nf3Nc624. f4Nf5
3. Bb5Nf625. g3Rd8
4. 0-0Nxe426. Rxd8+Kxd8
5. d4Nd627. Kf2Ke8
6. Bxc6dxc628. Bb2Kf7
7. dxe5Nf529. Kf3Kg6
8. Qxd8+Kxd830. h3Nh6
9. Nc3Ke831. g4hxg4+
10. b3a532. hxg4Bd8
11. Bb2Bb433. Bd4Nf7
12. Ne4a434. Ng3Nh6
13. a3Be735. Ne2Bh4
14. b4h536. Bc3Nf7
15. Rad1Be637. Nd4Nd8
16. Rfe1b638. Bd2Kf7
17. Nfg5Rd839. f5exf5
18. Rxd8+Kxd840. Nxf5g5
19. Nxe6+fxe641. Nd4Kg6
20. c4Kc842. Ke4Bf2
21. Rd1b543. e6Kf6
22. c5Rf844. Bxg5+Black

Capablanca Memorial, Havana,
May 2002

Dominguez Stefansson
1. e4c513. Bxf6Bxf6
2. Nf3d614. Nd5Qd8
3. d4cxd415. f5a6
4. Nxd4Nf616. Kb1g6
5. Nc3Nc617. Be2Bg5
6. Bg5e618. h4Bxh4
7. Qd2Be719. Rdf1Bg5
8. 0-0-0Nxd420. Qb3b5
9. Qxd40-021. f6h6
10. f4Qa522. Ne7+Kh7
11. Bb5e523. Qg3Black
12. Qa4Qc7resigns

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

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide