- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Zugzwang is the well-known phenomenon in chess in which the player with the move would be just as happy to pass. The position on the board may hold no particular danger, but any move the player in zugzwang makes invariably makes things worse.

Pure zugzwangs (German for “compulsion to move”) are seen most often in simplified endings, in which a king must give way or a pawn advance to its doom. But there are more positional variations of the basic idea in which one player finds his pieces frozen by his opponent’s pressure. There are moves to be made but no way to stave off the inevitable.

Reigning U.S. champion GM Alexander Shabalov of Pittsburgh gave a textbook illustration of the latter case in a critical last-round game against young Canadian master Mark Bluvshtein at the 12th annual Chicago Open last month. The win allowed “Shabba” to ease into the winner’s circle alone with a fine 6- score.

This line of the Advanced French, in which Black closes the queen-side with 6…c4, can lead to some highly blocked positions, and that’s just what happens here. Bluvshtein concedes his opponent a space advantage but gets some nice compensation in his pressure on the backward White b-pawn.

But 24. g4 g6 25. Rbe1 Rff8, Black appears to be making good progress: White has to keep his eye on the b-pawn as well as on the coming pawn breaks on the king-side, where his own king resides. But a moment’s inattention allows Shabalov, a superb tactician, to completely change the game’s equation.

Thus: 26. g5 Qb6? (see diagram; wanting to get the queen away from the masked attack of the fianchettoed bishop is understandable, but Black should have been keeping a weather eye on d5) 27. Bxd5! exd5 28. Nxd5 Qe6 29. Nxe7 Qxe7 30. d5.

White has two pawns for the bishop, but those two are connected central passers, while White’s major pieces suddenly enjoy great maneuvering room behind the advancing phalanx. The positional zugzwang arises on 35. Re6 Qd7 36. Rde2, when Black’s queen, two rooks and bishop are all completely occupied with the chore of restraining the White pawns.

While they are distracted, Shabalov administers the elegant tactical knockout: 41. Qb6 (less effective is 41. Qxh8? Rxh8 42. e8=Q+ Rxe8 43. Rxe8+ Ka7 44. R2e7 Qh3 45. h7 Qg3+ with a perpetual check) Kb8 42. R2e4 Kc8 43. Qc5+ Kb8 44. Rxa6! (fatally exposing the Black king) bxa6 45. Re6. White’s threat now is 46. Rb6+ Ka8 47. Rxa6+ Kb8 48. Qb6+ Qb7 49. Qd6+ Kc8 50. Rc6+, winning the queen.

Black tries 45…Qc8 46. Rc6 Qb7, but it’s over on 47. Rb6 (Qd6+ Ka7 48. Rc7 was marginally more efficient, but White’s move is also winning) Rxe7 48. Rxb7+ Rxb7 49. Kg2 Rd8 50. Qxc4 Rc7 51. Qxf4 Rxd5 52. h7 Rh5 53. Qb4+. Since 53…Ka7 54. h8=Q! Rxh8 55. Qd4+ hits both the rook and the king, Bluvshtein resigned.

A slightly more conventional zugzwang arose in Georgian GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili’s recent bishop-and-pawn ending win over Slovenian GM Dusko Pavasovic. The 43-year-old “Azmai” scored one of the best results of his long career by winning the 4th Individual European Men’s Championships outright in Silivri, Turkey, besting a field of 207 that included more than 160 grandmasters.

Sweden’s Pia Cramling won the European women’s title in Silivri in a two-game playoff over Lithuanian WGM Viktorija Cmilyte.

Azmaiparashvili is one of the world’s great Pirc Defense adherents but often uses this positional defense to steer toward open, tactically complex games. That’s exactly what happens here as a series of early central exchanges results in open lines and powerful fianchettoed bishops for both players.

With 19…Nc4 20. Bd4 e5, Black has solved all his opening problems and may have a slight edge. White’s 23. a4!? (Re1 b6 24. Be3 Nxe3 25. Rxe3 f5 is pleasant for Black, too) kicks the annoying bishop on b5, but the a-pawn is weak and falls on 25. Rd1 (a5 Rd5) Rxd1+ 26. Qxd1 Bf6 (and not 26…Nxb2?? 27. Qd8+ Bf8 28. Qxf8 mate) 27. Qe2 Qxa4.

Pavasovic’s 28. Qg4 poses problems for Black, pinning the knight on c4 and threatening an annoying check on c8, but Azmaiparashvili has the answer in 28…Nb6! 29. Bxb6 Qxb3 30. Qc8+ Kg7, when the Black b-pawn is indirectly protected by a pin after 31. Qxb7? Bd8.

A pawn up in a difficult ending, Black makes an inspired choice with 34. c4 Qe6! 35. Qxe6 fxe6, allowing his prized king-side majority to be wrecked. But Black plays the ending with model clarity, centralizing his king, evicting the White bishop from the key diagonal, occupying the central post with his own bishop, and obtaining an outside passed pawn on the king-side.

White’s king and bishop are preoccupied with holding the center, and soon Pavasovic simply runs out of moves: 47. Bd2 Kh3 48. Be3 e5! (White can’t afford to fix Black’s pawns by exchanging) 46. b4 Kg2! 47. b5 axb5 51. cxb5 b6!, and rigor mortis has beset the White defense.

White has no good pawn moves; he dares not trade bishops, and giving way with 52. Kd2 allows the decisive infiltration with 52…Kf3. White drops the f-pawn with 52. Bc1, but resigns before Azmaiparashvili can administer the kill.

12th Chicago Open, Chicago, May 2003


1. e4e628. Nxd5Qe6

2. d4d529. Nxe7Qxe7

3. e5c530. d5Bd5

4. c3Qb631. e6Rd8

5. Nf3Bd732. Qd4+Ka8

6. a3c433. Rd2Qd6

7. h4Nc634. e7Rde8

8. g30-0-035. Re6Qd7

9. Bh3f536. Rde2h6

10. Ng5Nh637. Qb6Kb8

11. Nd2Na538. gxh6f4

12. 0-0Be739. f3Ba6

13. Ndf3Nb340. Qd4Ka8

14. Rb1Nxc141. Qb6Kb8

15. Qxc1Kb842. R2e4Kc8

16. Bg2Rc843. Qc5+Kb8

17. Re1a544. Rxa6bxa6

18. Nd2a445. Re6Qc8

19. Nf1Rcf846. Rc6Qb7

20. Qf4Ka747. Rb6Rxe7

21. Ne3Qc648. Rxb7+Rxb7

22. Re2Nf749. Kg2Rd8

23. Nxf7Rxf750. Qxc4Rc7

24. g4g651. Qxf4Rxd5

25. Rbe1Rff852. h7Rh5

26. g5Qb653. Qb4+Black

27. Bxd5exd5resigns

4th Individual European Chess Championships, Silivri, Turkey, May 2003


1. e4d627. Qe2Qxa4

2. d4Nf628. Qg4Nb6

3. Nc3g629. Bxb6Qxb3

4. g3Bg730. Qc8+Kg7

5. Bg20-031. Bc5h5

6. Nge2Na632. Bb4Qd1+

7. h3c533. Kh2Qd5

8. Be3cxd434. c4Qe6

9. Nxd4Nc735. Qxe6fxe6

10. 0-0d536. b3e4

11. exd5Nfxd537. Bc5Be5

12. Nxd5Nxd538. Kg2Kf6

13. Bc1Nb639. Kf1Kf5

14. c3a640. Ke2Bb2

15. Qe2Qc741. Bb6Ke5

16. Rd1Re842. Bc5Bd4

17. Nb3Bd743. Bf8Kf5

18. Be3Bb544. Ba3g5

19. Qc2Nc445. Bc1g4

20. Bd4e546. hxg4+Kxg4

21. Bc5Rad847. Bd2Kh3

22. Rxd8Rxd848. Be3e5

23. a4Bc649. b4Kg2

24. Bxc6Qxc650. b5axb5

25. Rd1Rxd1+51. cxb5b6

26. Qxd1Bf652. Bc1 and White


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

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