- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

The chess world marks a melancholy milestone this year: It has been a full decade since we have had a world champion without an asterisk next to his name.
In 1993, reigning Russian world champion Garry Kasparov and British challenger Nigel Short made an ill-fated pact to break with the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to stage their own private title fight for a bigger purse. FIDE promptly stripped Kasparov of his crown and awarded it to longtime rival Anatoly Karpov.
Russian Vladimir Kramnik, who upset Kasparov in a 2000 match, and Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov, the current FIDE champ, are just the latest rival pretenders to the throne.
A plan, largely spearheaded by American GM Yasser Seirawan, is in the works to reunify the title. Kasparov is to play Ponomariov in one semifinal match, and Kramnik will meet Hungary's Peter Leko in the other, with the two winners to play for a crown by the end of the year.
Truth be told, the world championship matches of the past did not produce particularly distinguished masterpieces. The players were too good, the stakes too high for spectacular brilliancies.
But every title match has proved a compelling psychodrama, with the game's immortals working through fear, nerves and mental stress over a lengthy series of games where the momentum can swing wildly from one player to the other.
The German Emanuel Lasker won the title in 1894 and held it for a record 28 years, but he was nearly dethroned in 1910 by Austria's Carl Schlechter, who lost the final game of their Berlin match to allow Lasker to tie.
The final game is justly famous for Schlechter's near miss (he had an almost certain win and then a clear draw, before finally losing in 71 moves), but the game before also proved a fascinating battle.
Schlechter as White adopts an aggressive plan based on preventing Black from castling, and the complications come early: 12. 0-0 Be6 13. Bg5!? (very aggressive, especially considering White's one-game lead in the match) h6 14. f4!? (Rad1 is simpler and strong) exf4 15. Rae1, threatening 16. Rxe6+.
Now 15 … 0-0? 16. Bxh6 gxh6 17. Qxh6 leads to a raging attack, but Schlechter keeps the pressure on even after 15…Kd7 16. Bf5!! Raf8! (hxg5? 17. Qxf7+ Kc8 18. Qxe6+; while 16 … Qb6+ 17. Kh1 g6 18. Bxe6+ fxe6 19. Qxg6 hxg5 20. Qxe6+ Kc7 21. Qf7+ Kb8 22. Nd4, with the idea of 23. Rb1 was good for White, according to Lasker) 17. Bxf4 Bxf4 18. Nc5+ Kc8 19. Bxe6+ fxe6 20. Nxe6.
Trying to save the Black bishop leads to trouble in lines like 20 … .Qb6+ 21. Kh1 Bd6 (g5 22. Nxf8 Rxf8 23. g3 Bd6 24. Rxf8+ Bxf8 25. Re8+ Nd8 26. Qh3+ Kc7 27. Rxf8) 22. Nxf8 Rxf8 23. Rxf8+ Bxf8 24. Qf5+, winning a piece. But Black wriggles to safety on 20 … Bxh2+ 21. Qxh2 Rxf1+ 22. Rxf1 Qd7.
White misses one more attacking shot (28. Ne6! was strong), and Black enters the endgame with a distinct advantage because of the crippled White queenside majority. Lasker was a brilliant endgame specialist, but the pressure of the moment, a little bad luck and White's determined resistance cause the win to slip away.
The critical passage comes on 52. Kd2 (the sealed move) Rc4! 53. Rd7 (Nd4? Nxc3 54. Rxc3 Rxd4+ is winning for Black) Rg4 54. c4? (an oversight at the climax of a long struggle that should have proved costly) Kc6! (and not 54 … Rxc4? 55. Rxb7+! Kxb7 56. Na5+) 55. Rd3 Nd6 56. d4+ Kc7? (a rare Lasker slip, allowing an unexpected drawing resource; 56 … Kb6 is close to winning). Schlechter finds 57. Ne6+ Kc6 58. Nd8+! Kc7 59. Ne6+ Kd7 60. Nxg7! Ke7 (Rxg7 61. c5 Rg6 62. c4 b6 63. cxd6 leaves nothing to play for) 61. Nh5, and White has eliminated his biggest worry. The knights come off a few moves later, and the exhausted combatants split the point.
The two title matches of the late 1960s between Soviet stars Boris Spassky and Tigran Petrosian of Armenia featured a sharp contrast in styles, with the fiery Spassky trying to break down the ice-cold Petrosian.
In their first match in 1966, won by Petrosian on a 12-11 decision, the Armenian champ wove a positional masterpiece, first blunting Spassky's queenside hopes and then remorselessly pressing his kingside attack.
There are fewer fireworks than in the Schlechter game, but Petrosian as Black scores some subtly telling early points. His unexpected 12 … h6! 13. b4 g5 14. Bg3 h5 15. h4 gxh4! opens up the g-file for the long-range Black attack. And Spassky is completely buffaloed by 17. a4? (bxc5 bxc5 18. Rb1 provides at least some counterplay) c4!, snuffing out any hopes of a White attack on the castled king.
Petrosian owns the patent on positional exchange sacrifices, and the one here 24 … Nxe5! 25. Nxg4 hxg4 creates a massive Black pawn steamroller that White will be unable to stop.
The pawn storm sweeps all before it: 36. Re1 h3 37. Bf1 (gxh3 g2+ 38. Kg1 Qd7!, eyeing h3, wins) Rh8 38. gxh3 Bxh3 39. Kg1 (Bxh3 Qd7! wins again) Bxf1 40. Kxf1 e4! 41. Qd1 (see diagram) Ng4! 42. fxg4 (there's nothing better: 42. fxe4 Ne3+ 43. Rxe3 fxe3 44. Rg2 Qf4+ 45. Kg1 e2! 46. Qxe2 Qc1+ 47. Qf1 Rh1+! 48. Kxh1 Qxf1+ 49. Rg1 Qh3 mate) f3 43. Rg2 fxg2+.
A triumph of the pawns. As 44. Kxg2 Qf4 45. Qe2 Rh2+ is deadly, White resigned.

World Championship Match,
Game 9, Berlin, February 1910

1. e4c534. Nd4Rf7+
2. Nf3Nc635. Rf3Rc7
3. d4cxd436. Ne6Re7
4. Nxd4Nf637. Re3Kc8
5. Nc3e538. Ke2Nd8
6. Nb3Bb439. Nd4Rf7
7. Bd3d540. Rf3Kd7
8. exd5Nxd541. Rd3Ke7
9. Bd2Nxc342. Re3+Kd6
10. bxc3Bd643. Rd3Ne6
11. Qh5Qc744. Nf3+Kc5
12. 0-0Be645. g3Nc7
13. Bg5h646. Nd2Kc6
14. f4exf447. Nf3Kb5
15. Rae1Kd748. Rd4Kc5
16. Bf5Raf849. Nd2Nb5
17. Bxf4Bxf450. Nb3+Kb6
18. Nc5+Kc851. Rd3Rc7
19. Bxe6+fxe652. Kd2Rc4
20. Nxe6Bxh2+53. Rd7Rg4
21. Qxh2Rxf1+54. c4Kc6
22. Rxf1Qd755. Rd3Nd6
23. Nc5Qe756. Nd4+Kc7
24. Qh3+Kb857. Ne6+Kc6
25. Ne6Ka858. Nd8+Kc7
26. Nd4Qc759. Ne6+Kd7
27. Qf5Rc860. Nxg7Ke7
28. Qc5Nb861. Nh5Rxc4
29. Qxc7Rxc762. Re3+Kf7
30. Rf3a663. Rf3+Kg6
31. Kf2Nc664. Rf6+Kxh5
32. Ne6Re765. Rxd6Draw
33. Re3Kb8agreed

World Championship Match,
Game 7, Moscow, April 1966

1. d4Nf623. Rad1Bf8
2. Nf3e624. Nh2Nxe5
3. Bg5d525. Nxg4hxg4
4. Nbd2Be726. e4Bd6
5. e3Nbd727. Qe3Nd7
6. Bd3c528. Bxd6Qxd6
7. c3b629. Rd4e5
8. 0-0Bb730. Rd2f5
9. Ne5Nxe531. exd5f4
10. dxe5Nd732. Qe4Nf6
11. Bf4Qc733. Qf5+Kb8
12. Nf3h634. f3Bc8
13. b4g535. Qb1g3
14. Bg3h536. Re1h3
15. h4gxh437. Bf1Rh8
16. Bf40-0-038. gxh3Bxh3
17. a4c439. Kg1Bxf1
18. Be2a640. Kxf1e4
19. Kh1Rdg841. Qd1Ng4
20. Rg1Rg442. fxg4f3
21. Qd2Rhg843. Rg2fxg2+
22. a5b5White resigns
David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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