- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

The just-published December 2003 Professional World Chess Ranking list makes for some melancholy reading: No American player is rated among the top 50 in the world.

The usual suspects fill out the top slots, led by Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, Indian GM Viswanathan Anand, Russian Peter Svidler and Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov. The hoped-for post-Bobby Fischer chess boom in the United States clearly has faded, at least at the elite level.

On the competing chess ranking put out by FIDE, the international chess federation, Ukrainian emigre GM Alexander Onischuk, who lives in the United States, ranks 36th, but the highest-rated native-born American on the FIDE list is the recently retired Yasser Seirawan at No. 74.

There is a little bright news south of the border, as 15-year-old Costa Rican IM Alejandro Ramirez earlier this month obtained his third and final qualifying norm for the grandmaster title, making him the second-youngest grandmaster in the world and the first from Central America.

Ramirez didn’t back into his new title, scoring two wins and three draws against titled GMs on his way to a tie for first place in the Santo Domingo International Chess Open, which ended Dec. 5 in the Dominican Republic. The young Costa Rican scored a critical point in a tough struggle with Russian GM Evgeny Alekseev. Ramirez, as Black, gambits a pawn out of the opening, finds himself in deep trouble as White takes charge, and then thoroughly outplays his more experienced opponent in an impressive endgame.

In a Rossolimo Sicilian, Black’s 8. cxd4 d6 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Qxc6 Bg4 11. Nbd2 Rc8 gives up a pawn for quick development. Black obtains strong pressure, but Alekseev patiently unwinds his forces and by 24. Na1 Rc8 25. Ke2 Ke8 26. Kd3 has relieved the pressure on his center and is ready to cash in on his healthy two-to-one queen-side pawn majority.

Surprisingly, though, the teen proves to have better technique than the veteran. The first misstep is White’s 36. Rb8+?! Rxb8 37. Bxb8 Bxc5, which eases the severe cramp on Black’s position while providing Ramirez a target for attack in the newly isolated White c-pawn.

On 44. Kd4 (b4? Nc6) Kc6 45. b4 Nb3+ 46. Ke5 d4, the passed Black pawn forces White’s king to retreat. The bishop should be stronger than the Black knight in these situations, but the White pawns all on dark squares severely restrict the bishop’s mobility.

Alekseev’s 53. Kb3 Nc1+ 54. Ka4?!, spurning the draw, turns out to be a bad bet on 54…Nd3 55. Bf6? (The obvious 55. c6 Kxc6 56. Bxd4 Nxf4 57. h4 Ne6 is a position where only White has winning chances; White’s king-side pawns disappear now with alarming speed.) Nxf2 56. Kb3 Nxh3 57. Be5 h4 58. Bf6 Nxf5 59. Bxh4 Ne6. Suddenly, it is Black who is up a pawn, with connected king-side passers to boot.

Remarkably, White’s 65. c6 is the first advance by Alekseev’s prized queen-side pawns in 20 moves, but things already have gotten out of hand — 65…f3+ 66. Kf1 f2 67. Bxf2 (Bd2 Kf3 68. b5 g2 mate) gxf2 — when Black wins easily on 68. Kxf2 Kd5 69. b5 Kc5 70. Ke2 Kxb5 71. c7 Nxc7 72. Kd3 Ne6. Alekseev resigned.

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The 30th-anniversary edition of the Eastern Open, the area’s premier Swiss event, is set for Dec. 26 through 29 at the Wyndham Hotel downtown, 14th and M streets NW. The eight-round, five-section event features $14,000 in guaranteed prize money and traditionally attracts an impressive complement of grandmasters and strong IMs from around the country.

Spectators are welcome, and chess books, equipment and other paraphernalia will be on sale. Call the U.S. Chess Center at 202/857-4922 for more information.

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The most benign-looking positions can contain a sting, as English GM Matthew Sadler found out in an all-too-short game last month against Swiss GM Yannick Pelletier. The game comes from last month’s play in the Bundesliga, the German team event that boasts some of the top players in the world.

In this Nimzo-Indian, Sadler as White gets a little careless around his king and panics when confronted with an unexpected challenge. Better might have been 13. h3 Bxf3 14. Qxf3 Ne5 15. Qf5 Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Rb8 17. c4, with roughly equal play, since White’s 13. Qc2?! Bxf3 14. gxf3 Qh3 breaks up the king-side fortress with dire consequences.

The f3-square proves White’s weak link on 16. Qd1 Rfd8 17. Rxb1 Ne4!. (Ng6 is premature because of 18. Kh1 Nh4 19. Rg1, defending.) Sadler should have resigned himself to 18. fxe4 dxe4 19. Qb3 Kh8! 20. Rxf7 Nf3+ 21. Bxf3 exf3 22. Rxf3 Qxf3 23. Qa4 Rf8, with an inferior but playable game.

Instead, it’s over on 18. Qd4?? Ng6! (much stronger than 18…Nxf3+ 19. Bxf3 Qxf3), as 19. Kh1 (Rd1 Nh4 20. Bf1 Nxf3+ 21. Kh1 Qxh2 mate; or 19. fxe4 Nh4 20. Bf3 Nxf3+ and mate again at h2) Nh4 20. Rg1 walks into 20…Nxf2 mate. Sadler resigned.

Santo Domingo International Chess Open, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, December 2003


1.e4c535. Rb7Nc4

2. Nf3Nc636. Rb8+Rxb8

3. Bb5g637. Bxb8Bxc5

4. 0-0Bg738. dxc5Kd7

5. c3Nf639. exd5exd5

6. Qa40-040. f4Kc6

7. d4cxd441. Bd6Kb5

8. cxd4d642. b3axb3

9. Bxc6bxc643. axb3Na5

10. Qxc6Bg444. Kd4Kc6

11. Nbd2Rc845. b4Nb3+

12. Qa4Qb646. Ke5d4

13. Re1Qb747. Ke4f5+

14. Qb3Qxb348. Kd3Kd5

15. Nxb3Rc249. Be5Nc1+

16. h3Bxf350. Kc2Na2

17. gxf3Rfc851. Kb3Nc1+

18. Rb1Nd752. Kc2Na2

19. Bg5Kf853. Kb3Nc1+

20. Rec1Nb654. Ka4Nd3

21. Kf1a555. Bf6Nxf2

22. Be3a456. Kb3Nxh3

23. Rxc2Rxc257. Be5h4

24. Na1Rc858. Bf6Nxf4

25. Ke2Ke859. Bxh4Ne6

26. Kd3Kd760. Kc2g5

27. Rc1Rb861. Bf2f4

28. Nc2d562. Kd3g4

29. Nb4e663. Ke2g3

30. Na6Ra864. Be1Ke4

31. Rc7+Ke865. c6f3+

32. Nc5Bf866. Kf1f2

33. Bf4Be767. Bxf2gxf2

34. Kc3h5White resigns

Bundesliga 2003-2004, Germany, November 2003


1. d4Nf610. dxc5Bxc3

2. c4e611. bxc3Bg4

3. Nc3Bb412. Rb1Qc8

4. e30-013. Qc2Bxf3

5. Bd3d514. gxf3Qh3

6. Nf3c515. Be2Ne5

7. 0-0Nc616. Qd1Rfd8

8. a3Ba517. Rxb7Ne4

9. cxd5exd518. Qd4Ng6

White resigns

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

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