- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

The 2003 U.S. Chess Championships got under way Thursday in Seattle, the second year in a 10-year sponsorship deal for the America's Foundation for Chess.

Defending champion GM Larry Christiansen of Massachusetts and top-seeded GM Gregory Kaidanov of Kentucky headline a field of 58 men and women competing in the nine-round Swiss-style tournament. Among the contestants are locals IM Larry Kaufman of Potomac and University of Maryland Baltimore County students IM Eugene Perelsteyn and WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg.

The hybrid format, in which a restricted number of seeded and qualifying players compete, worked well in its debut last year. Fans can follow the action at the tournament Web site (www.af4c.org), and we will have regular updates over the next couple of weeks in this column. Play ends Jan. 18.

The annual tournament at the English city of Hastings is the chess equivalent of the Rose Bowl: the granddaddy of all year-end tournaments but not quite the glorious attraction it once was.

The immortal Hastings tournament of 1895 was one of the strongest of all time and is remembered as the coming-out party for American great Harry Nelson Pillsbury, the unknown Bostonian who took first in a field that included Lasker, Tchigorin, Tarrasch and many of the other top European players of the day.

In subsequent tournaments, Hastings has regularly introduced great talents to the world. In the 1971-72 tournament, a fresh-faced 19-year-old Russian named Anatoly Karpov made his international debut by blitzing through the field and landing in a tie for first with established Soviet star Viktor Korchnoi at 11-4, 1½ points ahead of American GM Robert Byrne and rising Brazilian GM Henrique Mecking.

Karpov, who would go on to hold the world title for a decade starting in 1975 and is still among the top 20 on the international ratings list, showed at Hastings the famously precise and lethal style that would become his trademark. Mecking was rocketing to the top of the ratings charts himself at the time, but he is completely outplayed by Karpov in this Najdorf Sicilian.

White's play here is impeccable, deftly judging the positional situation, trading advantages at just the right moment and finally weaving a mating net around the helpless Black king.

Karpov has always preferred the clear advantage to the speculative thrust, and he expertly sidesteps some tempting but less productive byways in the opening: 9. a4 Nc6? (accurate here is 9…Nbd7, so Black can answer White's next with 10…Bc4) 10. f5! Bxb3 11. cxb3 Qb6 12. Bg5! Be7 13. Bxf6! (surrendering bishop for knight but seizing control of the monster d5 square) Bxf6.

Now 14. Qxd6?! Rd8 wins a pawn but gives Mecking plenty of counterplay, so Karpov steers for a queenless middle game where White has all the chances: 14. Nd5! Qa5+ 15. Qd2 Qxd2+? (a serious misapprehension of the situation; Black needs his queen for defense, and the craven 15…Qd8 is preferable) 16. Kxd2 Bg5+ 17. Kd3 0-0.

Ironically, it is Black's king that eventually will get run down in a mating net, but even here, one can see that White completely dictates the play. He can try a king-side rush, prepare to push the b-pawn or invade along the c-file, depending on how his opponent reacts.

Once again, 21. g4 Nb4 22. Bc4! Nxd5 23. Bxd5 is classic Karpov, giving up the beautiful knight but steering for an opposite-colored bishop game where Black's bishop can't cover such chronically weak squares as f7.

A series of probes leaves Black's king-side defenses full of holes: 28. Rf1 f6 (the threat was 29. h6+ Kg8 30. Rf6, setting up 31. Rxg6+, winning) 29. hxg6 Kxg6 (very unpleasant, but 29…Rh8 allows 30. Rh5! Kxg6 31. Rhf5 Rhf8 32. g5!) 30. Rhf1 Rbe8 31. Rh7 Kg5 32. Ke2! (blocking one escape route for his Black counterpart) Kf4 (Kxg4 33. Rg7+ Kf4 34. Rh4 mate).

The jaws of the trap spring shut on 33. R1h3 Bd4 (Kxg4 34. Rh1 forces 34…Rg8 35. Bxg8, winning the exchange) 34. Rg7!, when 35. Rf3 mate is unstoppable. Mecking resigned.

Danish GM Peter Heine Nielsen took the latest edition of the Hastings Premier tournament last week, going 6-3 in the Category 12 event. Nielsen won despite two midtourney losses, including a 20-move debacle at the hands of young English star Luke McShane.

The most eagerly awaited matchup at Hastings was the Round 7 pairing of Russia's Alexandra Kosteniuk, runner-up in the women's world title match last year and something of a chessic Anna Kournikova wannabe, and 12-year-old Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine, who recently became the youngest grandmaster in the history of the game.

The game doesn't quite live up to the hype, although Karjakin, who finished a respectable 5-4 at Hastings, clearly is an enormous talent. Kosteniuk fails to respond to Black's aggressive handling of this Ruy Lopez, and her exchange sacrifice 22. Rxb3?! axb3 23. Qe6+ Kh8 24. f6 proves to be unjustifed against the stalwart Black defensive setup.

Despite the holes on the Black king-side, White never works up a real attack, and with 32…Na2! 33. Qa5 (Bxa2 Qxa2 34. Nxf8 Rxf8 35. Bxg5 Qb1+ 36. Nf1 Qf5 37. Bh4 Qe5 snuffs out the White initiative) Nb4 34. Qc7+ Qf7 35. Qa5 Ne4, Kosteniuk is even pushed back on the defensive.

The contest is pretty much decided, but the young Ukrainian finds a slick final shot: 40. Be3 Qe7 (threatening 41….Rxe3 42. fxe3 Qxg5) 41. Qa3 Re1+ 42. Kh2 Qe5+ 43. g3 (see diagram) Kg6!, clearing the way for the queen to invade via h8.

Now 44. Qa5 (Qc3 Rxe3! 45. fxe3 Qxc3 46. bxc3 Kxg5 47. cxb4 cxb4 is hopeless for White) Qh8+ 45. Kg2 Qh1 is nice wraparound mate. Kosteniuk gave up.

Hastings International Chess Congress, Hastings, England, January 1972


1. e5c518. h4Bd8

2. Nf3d619. Rac1a5

3. d4cxd420. Kd2Rb8

4. Nxd4Nf621. g4Nb4

5. Nc3a622. Bc4Nxd5

6. Be2e523. Bxd5g5

7. Nb3Be624. fxg6hxg6

8. f4Qc725. Kd3Kg7

9. a4Nc626. h5Bb6

10. f5Bxb327. Rh3Bc5

11. cxb3Qb628. Rf1f6

12. Bg5Be729. hxg6Kxg6

13. Bxf6Bxf630. Rfh1Rbe8

14. Nd5Qa5+31. Rh7Rg5

15. Qd2Qxd2+32. Ke2Kf4

16. Kxd2Bg5+33. R1h3Bd4

17. Kd30-034. Rg7Black


Hastings Premier Tournament, Hastings, England, January 2003


1. e4e523. Qe6+Kh8

2. Nf3Nc624. f6Nxf6

3. Bb5a625. Nh4g5

4. Ba4Nf626. Ng6+Kg7

5. 0-0Be727. h4Qd7

6. Re1b528. Qxb3Re8

7. Bb3d629. Bd2Qf7

8. c30-030. Qf3Qd5

9. h3Bb731. hxg5hxg5

10. d4Re832. Qc3Na2

11. Nbd2Bf833. Qa5Nb4

12. a4h634. Qc7+Qf7

13. Bc2exd435. Qa5Ne4

14. cxd4Nb436. Bxe4Rxe4

15. Bb1c537. Nxf8Qxf8

16. d5Nd738. Nf3g4

17. Nf1f539. Ng5Re2

18. exf5Rxe140. Be3Qe7

19. Qxe1Bxd541. Qa3Re1+

20. Ra3bxa442. Kh2Qe5+

21. N1h2Bb343. g3Kg6

22. Rxb3axb3White resigns

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