- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

Youth is not being served as the Category 20 Linares SuperGM Tournament rounds the final turn.

The veterans are hogging the top of the leader board while the three youngest contestants Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain, 20; Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, 19; and too-young-to-shave Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, 14 are all clustered near the bottom. With three rounds to go at deadline, classical world champ Vladimir Kramnik of Russia is a half-point ahead of compatriot Garry Kasparov and Hungary's Peter Leko (a relative graybeard at 23).

Leko, however, has played one less game than Kramnik, and India's Viswanathan Anand is just a point back, leaving the tournament wide open.

Kasparov and Ponomariov are set to square off in the semifinal round of the world-title reunification effort. (Kramnik and Leko play in the other qualifier.)

Kasparov has established a clear psychological edge over his young Ukrainian rival, with his Round 5 domination just adding to the former champ's advantage going into the match.

The psyche job here begins on Move 1, as Kasparov varies from his more normal 1. e4. Perhaps intimidated by the Russian's home cooking, Ponomariov decides on a Queen's Indian, an opening he has never played in an elite event.

Black's 12…Na6?! sidelines the knight for a long stretch of the game after 13. e4! axe 4 14. Nd2 g5 (seeking complications, but Black's breakout move has to be …c5 and a central counterattack) 15. Be3 (interesting would have been ChessBase analyst Miguel Greengard's 15. Nxe4 Bxe4 16. Bxe4 gxf4 17. Qh5 Re8 18. Qxh7+ Kf8 19. Bb7 c5 20. Bxa6 cxd4 21. Rfd1, and the Black king looks highly uncomfortable) Re8 16. f4! ex 3 17. Bxf3 Bd5 18. Bxd5 Qxd5 19. Rxf6 Rxe3 20. Qg4.

Black is on the defensive, and the threat to infiltrate with the knight after 24. Nf3 induces 24…f6, another loosening move.

Ponomariov decides to give back his extra pawn to get the queens off the board, but the passivity of his pieces does him in after 28…Qe4 29. Rf1 Qxf4 30. Rxf4 Rg4 31. Rfxf5 Nd7 32. Rxf8+ Nxf8 33. Kf2. White will simply march his king up the board, with his knight and rook keeping the Black monarch pinned back.

Black's helplessness is demonstrated convincingly after 41. Ke5 Rd7 42. Ke6 Rf7 43. Rf6! Nxf6, and Ponomariov gave up before White could play through lines like 44. gxf6 Rf8 45. Nh6+ Kh8 46. Ke7 Ra8 47. Nf7+ Kg8 48. Nd8 Rxd8 49. Kxd8 Kf7 50. Kxc7 Kxf6 51. d5 with an elementary endgame win.

Radjabov had the tournament's most sensational upset, beating Kasparov with Black in Round 2, but his French Defense has not held up well against the sharp openings favored by the world-class field. In Round 8, Leko pressured the young Azerbaijani's setup from the very start, eventually launching an attack along the very lines Black had hoped to exploit.

As happens so often in the French, the funky White king position after 9., Bd3 Nxd2 10. Kxd2 proves remarkably secure, and on 14. fxg5 Qa5 15. dxc5 d4 16. Nf3!, White simply ignores the Black queen-side demonstration as he hustles to develop his forces.

Black's 19…Qc7 may not qualify as a blunder, but the Black queen at a5 was at least keeping the White forces occupied. The initiative falls firmly into White's hands, and the half-open b-file is soon crowded with a White bishop and a menacing pair of White rooks.

On 22. Rb3 Nd5 23. Rhb1, a better defensive try might have been the unbalancing 23…f5!? 24. ex 6 Nxf6 25. Bxd7+ Rxd7 26. Qe5 Rd2+ 27. Ke1 (Nxd2?? Qxe5+) Qxe5+ 28. Nxe5 Rd4, with chances to hold.

But the timid 23…Bc6?! 24. Bxc6 Qxc6 25. Nd4 Qa6+ 26. Ke1 Rd7 runs into 27. c6!, breaking down the Black defenses.

It's rapidly downhill now for Radjabov: 27…Rc7 (bxc6 28. Rb8+ Kc7 29. Rxg8) 28. Rxb7 Rxb7 29. Rxb7 Nb6 (Qxa2? 30. Nb5! is decisive) 30. Qh7 Rf8 31. Qg7 Qa3 (see diagram).

Black's last move sets a small trap as 32. Nb5? Qc1+ leads to perpetual check. But Leko has his own surprise in store: 32. Qxf8+!!, forcing immediate capitulation, as on 32…Qxf8 33. Nb5 Qc5 34. Nd6+ Kd8 35. c7+ Qxc7 36. Rxc7 Kxc7 37. h6! and the pawn can't be stopped. A very slick finish.

We'll have a full roundup of Linares (and a little commemoration of Bobby Fischer's 60th birthday) in next week's column.

XX Linares SuperGM Tournament, Linares, Spain, February 2003


1. Nf3Nf623. Qh5Rf8

2. d4e6 24. Nf3f6

3. g3b6 25. Nh4Rg7

4. Bg2Bb726. Qh6Nb8

5. c4Be7 27. Rh5f5

6. Nc3Ne428. Qf4Qe4

7. Bd2Bf629. Rf1Qxf4

8. 0-00-030. Rxf4Rg4

9. Rc1d531. Rfxd5Nd7

10. cxd5exd532. Rxf8+Nxf8

11. Bf4Nxc333. Kf2Nd7

12. bxc3Na634. Nf5Kh8

13. e4axe 435. Kf3Rg8

14. Nd2g536. Rh6Rf8

15. Be3Re837. g4Nf6

16. f4ex 338. c4Kg8

17. Bxf3Bd539. Kf4Rf7

18. Bxd5Qxd540. g5Ne8

19. Rxf6Rxe341. Ke5Rd7

20. Qg4Re642. Ke6Rf7

21. Rf5Qc643. Rf6Nxf6

22. Qxg5+Rg6and Black resigns

XX Linares SuperGM Tournament, Linares, Spain, March 2003


1. e4e6 17. Rab1dxc3+

2. d4d5 18. Ke2Rhg8

3. Nc3Nf619. Qe4Qc7

4. Bg5Bb420. g4 Ne7

5. e5h6 21. Bb5hxg5

6. Bd2Bxc322. Rb3Nd5

7. bxc3Ne423. Rhb1Bc6

8. Qg4g624. Bxc6Qxc6

9. Bd3Nxd225. Nd4Qa6+

10. Kxd2c526. Ke1Rd7

11. h4Bd727. c6Rc7

12. h5g528. Rxb7Rxb7

13. f4Nc629. Rxb7Nb6

14. fxg5Qa530. Qh7Rf8

15. dxc5d431. Qg7Qa3

16. Nf30-0-032. Qxf8+Black


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

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