- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

The U.S. Championships have begun in earnest in Seattle with a trio of grandmasters sharing the lead as they enter the homestretch.
Kentucky GM Gregory Kaidanov, long one of the country's top players but never a U.S. titleholder, defeated fellow grandmasters Alexander Fishbein and Gennadi Zaitshik on his way to a 3-0 start and the early lead. But Fishbein has fought back admirably and now shares the lead after six rounds with Kaidanov and Pittsburgh GM GM Alexander Shabalov, all at 4-1.
A host of worthy contenders in the 58-player field are waiting in the weeds, including former champs Boris Gulko, Joel Benjamin, Alex Yermolinsky, Alexander Ivanov and Yasser Seirawan, all among a dozen players just a half-point behind.
Play concludes this weekend in the nine-round Swiss, with the winner taking home a hefty $25,000 top prize. We'll have a full roundup of the action and more games in next week's column.
Trying to make a late move was yet another former champion, GM Grigory Serper, who ended a string of four draws with an impressive knockout of IM Dean Ippolito in Round 5. Serper's rook sacrifice here is one of the highlights in a tournament that already has seen an impressive number of attacking games.
Beginners should be cautioned that neither contestant's early play in this Classical Nimzo-Indian is to be recommended. White appears to thrust his pawns recklessly up the board, while Black spends seven of his first 16 moves on a roundabout tour to get his queen's knight from b8 to d7, a journey it usually makes in one move, where its primary function seems to be to block in Black's own queen's bishop. Odd.
They look a little ragged, but White's pawn thrusts (especially 10. c5) have their point, embarrassing the knight on e4 by cutting off its best retreat routes. Ippolito's king-side knight do-si-do is designed to find productive squares for his steeds, but he never quite succeeds.
On 16. g4 Nd7 (the final knight move in a wearying journey), White quickly builds up an impressive attacking array with the pawn sacrifice 17. g5! hxg5 (h5 18. Be2 b6 was to be considered, keeping the h-file closed) 18. hxg5 Qxg5 (Qc7 19. f4 f5 20. g6, followed by the winning 21. Qh2) 19. 0-0-0 e5 (and not 19…Qg3 20. Bd3 Nef6 21. Ne2 Qxf3 22. Rdf1 Qg2 23. Rfg1 Qf3 24. Bh7+ Kh8 25. Be4+, winning the queen) 20. f4!.
The collapse of the Black center dooms any chance of organizing a defense: 20…exf4 (Qg3 21. Ne2 21. Qf3 22. Rh3 Qf2 23. fxe5, followed by 24. e4, traps the queen) 21. Nh3 Qh6 22. Bd3 fxe3, grabbing material and just hoping to hold on.
But the two White bishops, the open h-file and the exposed Black queen invite a pretty concluding combination: 23. Ng5! Qxg5 (see diagram) 24. Rh8+!!. The cute part of the sacrifice is how the Black king is lured to a square where the g-pawn will be pinned after 24…Kxh8 25. Qh2+ Qh6 (Kg8 26. Qh7 mate) 26. Qxh6+ 27. Kg8 27. Qh7 mate. Ippolito resigned.

The first outing of the year for the world's elite grandmasters is also well under way, this time in the noted chess center of Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands. The Category 14 Corus Chess Tournament features the two rival claimants to the world chess champion's crown, Russia's Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated former titleholder Garry Kasparov in a 2000 match, and 19-year-old Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, who won FIDE's championship tournament last year in an upset.
Kramnik has more experience and a higher rating, but it was Ponomariov who claimed the bragging rights in their Round 2 matchup, when Kramnik blundered under pressure in a difficult position. Kramnik bounced back in the next round with a win over compatriot and 2002 Corus winner Evgeny Bareev.
Kramnik has been uncharacteristically inconsistent in his recent play, but his win against Bareev showed the Russian at his very best, outmaneuvering his opponent in a positionally placid game and then striking with an inspired tactical shot to put him away.
After 21. Nd2 Kd7 22. Kc2 Bd8, White enjoys a slight spatial edge and more scope for his rooks, but Black's position remains solid. But Kramnik takes over the play with 23. Nf3 Bf6 24. Ne5+ Kc7 25. c5! Bxe5 26. dxe5 Nc8 27. Rh3. White will control the d-file, put pressure on the f-pawn and continually threaten a king-side break at g5, while Black's hoped-for queen-side counterplay is contained easily.
After 30 g5 hxg5 31. Bxg5 Nf5, the Black knight finally has found a good post, but the White bishop's control of d8 means Black will have a hard time ever challenging the White dominance of the d-file. By 35. Rd8+ Rxd8 36. Rxd8+ Kb7, the Black rook and king are shunted out of play, and what follows is a masterpiece of delicate timing as Kramnik prevents Black from freeing his game while preparing the final blow.
Black is about a move away from finally busting free when the roof caves in: 44. Rd3 Kc8 45. Rd8+ Kb7 46. Bf6!!, a magnificent concept all the more impressive for the paucity of pieces on the board. The profound point is that 46…gxf6 loses to 47. exf6 Rc8 (Nh6 48. Kg5) 48. Rxc8 Kxc8 49. Kg5 Kd7 (Nd4 50. h6 Nf3+ 51. Kh5 Ne5 52. h7 Ng6 53. Kh6 Kd7 54. Kg7 Ke8 55. h8=Q+ Nxh8 56. Kxh8 e5 57. Kg8 a3 58. f3 Kd8 59. Kxf7, winning) 50. h6 Nxh6 (forced) 51. Kxh6, resulting in a pawn ending in which the Black king eventually must give way; e.g. 51…e5 (Ke8 52. Kg7 e5 53. a3 e4 54. Kg8) 52. Kh7 Ke6 53. Kg7 e4 54. a3, and Bareev is in zugzwang.
Black prefers a more prosaic fate with 46…g6 47. hxg6 fxg6 48. Kg5, when the g-pawn falls and with it Black's hopes of saving the endgame. If 48…Ne7, White wins with 49. Bxe7 Rxe7 50. Kf6!, driving the rook off of the e-pawn. Bareev resigned.

U.S. Championships, Seattle,
January 2003

1. d4Nf613. Bd4Ne8
2. c4e614. h4Nh7
3. Nc3Bb415. e3Nhf6
4. Qc2c516. g4Nd7
5. dxc5Na617. g5hxg5
6. a3Bxc3+18. hxg5Qxg5
7. Qxc3Nxc519. 0-0-0e5
8. b4Nce420. f4exf4
9. Qb2d521. Nh3Qh6
10. c5h622. Bd3fxe3
11. Be30-023. Ng5Qxg5
12. f3Ng524. Rh8+Black

65th Corus Chess Tournament, Group A, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands,
January 2003

1. e4c625. c5Bxe5
2. d4d526. dxe5Nc8
3. Nc3dxe427. Rh3Ne7
4. Nxe4Bf528. Rf3Rhf8
5. Ng3Bg629. Rd6a5
6. h4h630. g5hxg5
7. Nf3Nd731. Bxg5Nf5
8. h5Bh732. Rd1a4
9. Bd3Bxd333. b4Kc8
10. Qxd3Ngf634. Rfd3Ra7
11. Bf4e635. Rd8+Rxd8
12. 0-0-0Be736. Rxd8+Kb7
13. Ne4Nxe437. Kc3Ka6
14. Qxe4Nf638. Kd3Rc7
15. Qd3Qd539. Ke4Kb7
16. c4Qe440. Rd1Kc8
17. Qxe4Nxe441. Rd8+Kb7
18. Be3Nd642. Kf4Rc8
19. b3Bf643. Rd7+Rc7
20. g4b544. Rd3Kc8
21. Nd2Kd745. Rd8+Kb7
22. Kc2Bd846. Bf6g6
23. Nf3Bf647. hxg6fxg6
24. Ne5+Kc748. Kg5Black

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

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