- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

The troubled world championship unification effort got a double presidential endorsement this month as the leaders of Russia and Ukraine have offered a sponsorship boost to the semifinal match between Russia’s Garry Kasparov and Ukraine’s Ruslan Ponomariov.

FIDE, the international chess federation, announced that the much-delayed match will be played in the Ukrainian port city of Yalta starting Sept. 19. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who will be in town for a political summit, will make the ceremonial first moves.

The second of the two semifinal matches, between Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik and Hungary’s Peter Leko, remains on hold following the bankruptcy of the British media firm that had been seeking sponsors for the contest. The winners of the two matches were to play a match by the end of the year to patch up a decade of division in the chess world.

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After a brief break from top-flight tournament play, Russian GM Alexander Morozevich has returned to the scene in spectacular fashion. One of the most original players of his generation, the 26-year-old Morozevich was his old scintillating self in the very first round of the Biel International Chess Festival’s premier invitational event, a Category 16 double-round-robin featuring six strong GMs.

Against Swiss GM Yannick Pelletier, Morozevich sacrifices with abandon, attacks when he probably should defend, comes dangerously close to losing — and pulls out the win in a brisk 30 moves.

In a Winawer French Defense, Morozevich’s aggressive style is evident early on 9. h5 h6 10. Rh4!? (this sharp development will pay dividends down the line) Bd7 11. Rg4 Qc7 12. Nf3 (Rxg7?! cxd4 13. Nf3 Nf5 14. Rg4 Nxe5, and White’s center collapses) g5 13. hxg6 fxg6 14. Rb1, with pressure on both wings.

But the French setup is a sturdy one, and Pelletier appears to have at least equalized on 18. c4 Ng6 (Rxf3!? 19. gxf3 Nxe5 20. Rg3 Nxd3+ 21. cxd3 dxc4 also was playable, and might have thrown an attacking player like Morozevich off stride) 19. cxd5 exd5 (see diagram).

With a rook en prise and nothing much going his way, Morozevich finds a characteristic solution — more complications. Thus: 20. Ba6!?! bxa6!? (Bxg4 also deserved a long look; e.g. 21. Rxb7 Bxf3 22. Rxc7+ [Qb5? Qxe5+ 23. Kf1 Bxg2+! 24. Kxg2 Nh4+ 25. Kf1 Rxf2+! 26. Kxf2 Qh2+ 27. Ke1 Nf3+ 28. Kf1 Qg1+ 29. Ke2 Qg2+ 30. Kd3 Qxd2 mate] Kxc7 23. gxf3 Ngxe5 looks very pleasant for Black) 21. Qxa6+ Kd8 22. Rb7 Qc8 23. e6! (White has to keep hammering away, given his large and growing material deficit) Bxe6 24. Nd4.

Pelletier finally cracks under the pressure on 24…Bd7 (Bxg4? 25. Nxc6+ Ke8 26. Rb8 pins the queen) 25. Ba5+ Ke8 26. Qe2+ Nge7? (Nce5! 27. Rc7 Qb8 28. Rg3 Qb1+ 29. Kd2 Rf4 snuffs out the White attack) 27. Rc7 Qb8? (the last chance was 27…Nxa5 28. Rxc8+ Bxc8 29. Rg3, with unbalanced material and tricky play for both sides) 28. Nxc6 (attacking the queen and threatening mate on e7) Qb1+ 29. Kd2 Rg7 30. Rb4!.

The rook that has been hanging since Move 19 delivers the coup de grace. If 30…Qa2, White wins with 31. Rb8+ Kf7 (Bc8 32. Qxe7+! Rxe7 33. Rxe7 mate) 32. Qxe7+ Kg6 33. Qxf8, with a decisive material edge. Pelletier resigned.

Wild sacrifices, crazy tactics, blunders and brilliancies — Morozevich is only following the trail blazed by the late, great Soviet world champion Mikhail Tal. Tal himself cheerfully admitted that some of his greatest victories might not have been completely sound, but no one showed a greater ability to fish in troubled waters.

A half-century ago, a 17-year-old Tal won a classic over master Michael Pasman on his way to winning the championship of his native Latvia, his first major title. “Pasman likes to play to a clearly defined positional plan,” Tal would recall, “and so it was with particular pleasure that I strove in this game for tactical complications, reckoning that only in this way could I hope for success.”

In a Sicilian, Tal loads up on the king-side and then unleashes a purely speculative double-piece sacrifice on 20. Raf1 f6 21. h4? (Tal thought 21. b4 was safer and stronger but was tempted by the position he foresaw in six moves) Kh8 22. R5f3 f5 23. exf5 Qxd5! (gxf5 runs into the unexpected 24. Bxf5 Qxd5 25. Bxh7! Rxf3 [Kxh7? 25. Qh5+ mates] 26. Rxf3 Kxh7 27. Qh5+ Kg7 28. Rf5!, with 29. Qg4+ on tap) 24. fxg6 Rxf3 25. g7+ (Rxf3 e4 26. Rf7 exd3) Kg8 26. Bxh7+! Kxh7 27. Rxf3.

White thought the shaky king and the lack of coordination in the Black knights gave him compensation. (As is so often the case in these games, Tal’s opponent also faced severe time pressure.)

Pasman could have saved things now with 27…Qe6! 28. Rf5 (Qh5+ Qh6!) Nf6! 29. Qg5 Nce4, winning, but loses his way on 27…Ne4? 28. h5 Ndf6 29. Qg6+ Kg8 30. h6, when it was time for Black to bail out with 30…Nh7 31. Rf8+ Rxf8 32. gxf8+ Kxf8 33. Qxh7, “with a probable draw,” according to Tal.

Instead, White takes over on 30…Ra7 31. Kh2! (sidestepping the queen check) Re7? (the last chance was 31…Ra8! 32. Rh3 Nh7 33. Rd3 Qb7 34. Qe6+ Qf7 35. Qc6 Qf4+, drawing) 32. Rh3 Nh7 33. Rd3 Qa8 34. Qxe4!. The Black queen is decoyed to allow the g-pawn to queen, and a series of checks chases the Black king down the board.

Black’s extra piece is useless after 39. g3+ Ke3 40. Rd3+ Qxd3, when White will have a queen and several pawns against Black’s rook and knight. Pasman resigned before White could make his 41st move.

Biel International Chess Festival, Biel, Switzerland, July 2003


1. e4e616. Bd3Rhg8

2. d4d517. Qe2Rdf8

3. Nc3Bb418. c4Ng6

4. e5Ne719. cxd5exd5

5. a3Bxc3+20. Ba6bxa6

6. bxc3c521. Qxa6+Kd8

7. h4Qa522. Rb7Qc8

8. Bd2Nbc623. e6Bxe6

9. h5h624. Nd4Bd7

10. Rh4Bd725. Ba5+Ke8

11. Rg4Qc726. Qe2+Nge7

12. Nf3g527. Rc7Qb8

13. hxg6fxg628. Nxc6Qb1+

14. Rb1g529. Kd2Rg7

15. dxc50-0-030. Rb4Black


Latvian Championship, Riga, Latvia, 1953


1. e4c521. h4Kh8

2. Nf3d622. R5f3f5

3. d4cxd423. exf5Qxd5

4. Nxd4Nf624. fxg6Rxf3

5. Nc3a625. g7+Kg8

6. f4e526. Bxh7+Kxh7

7. Nf3Nbd727. Rxf3Ne4

8. Bd3Be728. h5Ndf6

9. 0-00-029. Qg6+Kg8

10. Kh1b530. h6Ra7

11. a3Qc731. Kh2Re7

12. fxe5dxe532. Rh3Nh7

13. Nh4Nc533. Rd3Qa8

14. Bg5Qd834. Qxe4Qxe4

15. Nf5Bxf535. Rd8+Kf7

16. Rxf5Nfd736. g8=Q+Kf6

17. Bxe7Qxe737. Rd6+Kf5

18. Nd5Qd638. Qg6+Kf4

19. Qg4g639. g3+Ke3

20. Raf1f640. Rd3+Qxd3

and Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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