- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2003

Summer is championship season in Europe, with several countries on the continent holding their national title event in recent weeks.

In the strongest competition, GM Loek van Wely took the Essent Dutch Championships, a Category 11 affair that featured five grandmasters in the 10-player field. Some of Europe’s lesser chess powers also saw some sparkling play and fierce action in their national events.

Ireland produced some 19th-century greats, including Alexander McDonnell and James Mason, but hasn’t been a major force in international play for more than a century. At the 2003 Irish Championships, held earlier this month in Dublin, FM Stephen Brady (rating: 2336) won his fourth title and second in three years, besting the modest field by 11/2 points with an 8-1 score.

FMs Colm Daly and Philip Short, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, got into an entertaining brawl in Dublin, with Daly emerging with a very fortunate point.

This closed Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez, characterized by the knight retreat 9…Nb8, usually ensures an extended period of positional maneuvering with chances for both players on all sectors of the board. Here, Daly as White first probes along the b-file, only to cede the open line to Black’s rooks as he attacks in the center.

By 26. Rc6 Rb7 (Rxc6?! 26. dxc6 Nf6 28. Rd1 Ne8 29. Ne4, and the Black d-pawn is weaker than the White c-pawn) 27. Be3 Rb2 28. Qc1 Rab8, the White rook is a beast, but Black’s rooks on the b-file exert serious pressure.

With 35. Ne6 Bxe6 36. Rxe6 e4 37. Rxa6 Bd4, White has won a useful pawn, but his pieces are markedly inferior to Black’s and Short has at least dynamic equality. White plays to queen a pawn, but Black plays for mate, and his aggressiveness deserved a better reward.

Things become critical on 42. Ba4 Qh4 43. a7?! (White underestimates the danger; defending f2 with 43. Qe1? is also insufficient on 43…Rxf2! 44. Rxf2 Bxf2+ 45. Qxf2 Rb1+ 46. Qf1 Rxf1+ 47. Kxf1 e3 48. Kg1 e2 49. Re6 e1=Q+ 50. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 51. Kh2 Qe5+ 52. Kh1 Qa1+ and wins, but 43. Bc2! appears to hold after 43…Ra2 44. Qc1 Ra8 45. Qb1, when 45…R2xa6? 46. Rxa6 Rxa6 47. Qb8+ Kg7 48. Qb7+ would win for White) Ra8 44. d6.

The game hangs in the balance and is strongly reminiscent of the great double-edged wars McDonnell waged with the Frenchman Louis La Bourdonnais in their epic 1834 matches.

White gets two pawns to the seventh rank but should have lost following 44…Rxf2 45. Kh1 e3! 46. d7 e2!? (not losing, but not best; 46…Rxf1+! 47. Qxf1 Qf2 Rc8+ Kg7 49. Qb1 e2 is conclusive — 50. Re8 [d8=Q e1=Q+ 51. Qxe1 Qxe1+ 52. Kh2 Be5+ 53. g3 Qxg3+ 54. Kh1 Qh2 mate] Qf1+ 51. Kh2 Bg1+ 52. Kh1 [Kg3 Qf2 mate] Be3+ 53. Qxf1 exf1=Q+ 54. Kh2 Bg1+ 55. Kg3 Qf2 mate) 47. Rc8+ Kg7 48. Qxe2 Rxe2 49. Rxa8 (see diagram).

Winning now was 49…Re1! 50. Rg8+ (Rxe1 Qxe1+ 51. Kh2 Be5+ 52. g3 Qxg3+ 53. Kh1 Qh2 mate) Kh6! 51. d8=Q Rxf1+ 52. Kh2 Qf4+ 53. g3 Qf2 mate, but Short overlooks an amazing X-ray defensive motif on 49…Qe4?? (attacking the rook on a8 and threatening instant mate on g2) 50. Rg8+! Kh6 (Kxg8 51. d8=Q+ Kg7 52. a8=Q) a8=Q, and the new queen indirectly protects the vulnerable g2-square, leaving White a queen down.

After 51…Re1 52. Qf8+, Short gave up in light of 52…Kh5 53. Bd1+! Kh4 54. d8=Q+ Kg3 55. Qfd6+ Be5 56. Qxe5+! Qxe5 57. Qg5 mate.

A little further east, another country crowned another repeat champion as GM-elect Berge Ostenstad won his sixth Norwegian title in a 20-player Swiss tournament with a 61/2-21/2 score, just ahead of GM Rune Djurhuus.

FMs Helge Nordahl and Daniel Hersvik finished at the back of the pack, but their individual encounter in a very sharp and topical QGD Slav line definitely is worth a look. This defense, favored by GM Alexei Shirov among others, nets Black four pawns for a piece in a completely unbalanced position.

White’s 15. Qe1!? (clearing the line for the king’s bishop) Rd8 16. Bxc4 Qxg2+ 17. Kb3 gives up another pawn and forces the king forward, but flows logically from Nordahl’s plan for a quick counterattack: 17…Nc5+ 18. Ka3 Nxa4 19. Nxf7! (and not 19. Kxa4 b5+ 20. Ka3 bxc4 21. Nxc4 0-0 and Black is at least equal).

Suddenly, Black’s king is as insecure as his White counterpart. Taking the knight is fatal after 19…Kxf7?? (Qf3+ 20. Kxa4 Qxf7 21. Bxe6 Qe7 22. Kb3! a6 23. Rf1 Rd6 24. Bf7+ Kd8 25. Qg3 is tougher, but White’s still in charge) 20. Qxe6+ Kf8 21. Qf7 mate, but Black’s pawn structure — critical to his endgame hopes — is irreparably damaged on 19…Qxb2+ Kxa4 20. b5+ 21. Ka5 bxc4 22. Qxe6+ Kf8.

With both kings on the run, White misses a putaway after 24. Ka6 Re8, when 25. Qxc6! Kxf7 26. Rb7+ Re7 27. Qd5+ Kf6 (Kf8 28. Rb8+ Re8 29. Qd6+ leads to mate) 28. Rf1+ Kg6 29. Rg1+ Kf6 30. Qg5+ Ke6 31. Rxe7+ Kd6 32. Rd1+ Kc6 33. Qb5 mate.

Still, Black can’t save himself on 25. Qf5!? g6! 26. Qf4 Kg7 27. Nxh8 Kxh8 28. Re1!, when his back-rank weaknesses will force a hopeless ending.

Black may have given up a tad early, but lines like 28…Rd8 29 Qe5+ Qxe5 30. Rxe5 Rd2 31. Re7 Kg8 32. Kxa7 Rxh2 33. Kb6 Rf2 34. Ra8+ Rf8 35. Raa7 Rf6 36. Rg7+ Kf8 37. Rxh7 Kg8 38. Rhg7+ Kf8 39. Rgc7 Re6 40. Rc8+ Re8 41. Rxe6 illustrate the fatal weakness of the Black pawns; Hersvik gave up.

Irish Championships, Dublin, July 2003


1. e4e527. Be3Rb2

2. Nf3Nc628. Qc1Rab8

3. Bb5a629. Ne4Nxe4

4. Ba4Nf630. Bxe4f5

5. 0-0Be731. Bc2R2b4

6. Re1b532. Ng5Nc5

7. Bb3d633. Bxc5dxc5

8. c30-034. Qd1Bf6

9. h3Nb835. Ne6Bxe6

10. d4Nbd736. Rxe6e4

11. Nbd2Bb737. Rxa6Bd4

12. Bc2Re838. Rc6Rb2

13. Nf1Bf839. a6Ra2

14. Ng3g640. Rf1Qd8

15. a4Bg741. Bb3Rb2

16. d5Qe742. Ba4Qh4

17. b3c643. a7Ra8

18. c4bxc444. d6Rxf2

19. bxc4Nc545. Kh1e3

20. a5Rec846. d7e2

21. Bg5Rc747. Rc8+Kg7

22. Qd2Bc848. Qxe2Rxe2

23. Rab1cxd549. Rxa8Qe4

24. exd5Qf850. Rg8+Kh6

25. Rb6Nfd751. a8=QRe1

26. Rc6Rb752. Qf8+Black


Norwegian Championship, Fredrikstad, Norway, July 2003


1. d4d515. Qe1Rd8

2. c4c616. Bxc4Qxg2+

3. Nf3Nf617. Kb3Nc5+

4. Nc3dxc418. Ka3Nxa4

5. a4Bf519. Nxf7Qxb2+

6. Ne5e620. Kxa4b5+

7. f3Bb421. Ka5bxc4

8. e4Bxe422. Qxe6+Kf8

9. fxe4Nxe423. Rhb1Qc3+

10. Bd2Qxd424. Ka6Re8

11. Nxe4Qxe4+25. Qf5g6

12. Qe2Bxd2+26. Qf4Kg7

13. Kxd2Qd5+27. Nxh8Kxh8

14. Kc2Na628. Re1Black


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

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