- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

In a game that is supposed to simulate warfare, one would think there would be no room in chess for moral victories.

That may be true among the very top grandmasters, but for most players, there is something satisfying about putting up a game effort against a stronger player; in putting the fear of God in an overconfident opponent. Even if the final result is a loss, putting up an unexpectedly stiff fight offers real consolation.

At the 35th Virginia Open earlier this month, Maryland NM Stanley Fink felt the thrill of near victory against GM Alex Wojtkiewicz, one of the country’s strongest players. The grandmaster later had high praise for Fink’s exchange sacrifice, and White could have clinched first place in the tournament had he grabbed a clear draw at a critical juncture.

Outrated by nearly 450 points, White’s 11. h3 Be6?! 12. Re1 h6?! (a little too casual) 13. Rxe6! fxe6 14. Bd3 took considerable courage. White gets no immediate compensation for the lost exchange, but the positional pressure after 17. Bg6 Nc8 18. Bg5 fully justifies the gamble.

By 20. Bxh5 Rh6 21. Bxg4 Nf5 22. Bxf5 exf5, White has restored material equality, and his well-coordinated knights and passed kingside pawns give him a real edge in any endgame. The knights keep Black honest: e.g. 26…Bxh4? 27. Nxh4 Rxh4 28. Ng6+ wins.

Black does the best he can to work up pressure on the well-fortified White position but should have had no more than a split point on 41. Nd2 Qc1+ 42. Kg2 Re5 (Fink said the pin 42…Qd1 loses to 43. Qb5! Qxe2 44. Qe8+ and wins) 43. Nf3 (Nc4 Re1 44. Qxf5 Qb1 is dangerous) Re4, when simply 44. Nd2 forces Black to repeat the position with 44…Re5.

Having missed his chance, White is slowly outplayed by his grandmaster rival. By 47. dxe6 Qxe6 48. Qc6 Kh7 49. Nf3 Qxa2, Black has two potent queenside passed pawns, and the White queen and knight cannot coordinate well.

White has some checks in the queen ending after 55. Qg7+ Qf7 56. Qg5+ Kd7, but the win is just a matter of technique for Black. Fink resigned.

One very fine player best remembered today for a loss at the chessboard was William Ewart Napier. Born in England in 1881, he moved to the United States as a boy and compiled a fabulous early record before giving up competitive chess in his mid-20s.

He crushed future U.S. champ Frank Marshall (7-1-3) in an 1897 match, defeated Wilhelm Steinitz and Harry Nelson Pillsbury over the board and returned to his native land to win the first formal British Championship in 1904. He also wrote chess books and a newspaper column before settling here in Washington, where he died in 1952.

Napier is best known, though, for a glorious defeat he suffered at the hands of then-world-champion Emanuel Lasker in the famous Cambridge Springs tournament of 1904, in which the two went toe to toe in a slugfest that has had analysts buzzing for the past 99 years.

Lasker as White signals his aggressive intentions with 8. g4!? 0-0 9. g5, and Napier comes right back with 11. e5 12. Nde2 d5!, blasting open the center. The fun really starts on 14. Nxe4 Nxd5! 15. Nf5! (Nxd5? exd4 16. Bxd4 Qxd5 17. Bxg7 Qxh1 18. Bxf8 Qxh4+ wins material) Nxc3 16. Ne7+ (Nxg7 Nd5 18. 0-0-0 Bg4 19. Rd3 Nxe3 20. Rxe3 Rd1 mate), when the plausible 17…Kf8 18. Nxc8 Nd5 19. Bc5+ loses a piece for Black.

The next 10 moves show ingenuity of the highest order, as both players struggle to avoid losing decisive material.

The game is far from perfect. White’s 20. Bc4?, highly praised by some commentators, is vastly inferior to 20. bxc3! Bf8 21. Bb5 Rxe7 22. Bxe7 Bxe7, with a clear edge, while Napier might have achieved immortality of a different sort with 20…Ne4! 21. Bxf7 Bg4 22. Ba3 exf4, with a strong game for Black.

Lasker, perhaps the greatest street fighter the game has ever known, calmly surfs the swirling rapids on 23. Rb1 Bc3+ 24. Kf1 Bg4! (See diagram; Black sets up no less than four threats: 25…Rxe8, 25…Nxc5, and knight forks at d2 and g3.) 25. Bxh5!! Bxh5 26. Rxh5! Ng3+ 27. Kg2 Nxh5 28. Rxb7.

White returns his ill-gotten gains but has a clear position edge, even as material equality is restored. The Black f-pawn falls, and the White king goes to join the final assault.

On 34. a3 Na4 35. Be3, Black must relinquish material to save his king in lines such as 35…Nc3 36. g6 h6 37. Bxh6. Napier resigned.

35th Virginia Open, Triangle, Va., November 2003


1. e4c529. Rb1Bf6

2. Nf3g630. Qd2Qc7

3. d4Bg731. Rc1Qd7

4. c3cxd432. g3Rc8

5. cxd4d533. Kg1Rxc1+

6. exd5Nf634. Qxc1Kg8

7. Bb5+Nbd735. Qe3b6

8. Nc30-036. Qe2Rh7

9. d6exd637. Qd1Re7

10. 0-0Nb638. Qc2Re4

11. h3Be639. Ne6Qb7

12. Re1h640. Qd3Qc8

13. Rxe6fxe641. Nd2Qc1+

14. Bd3g542. Kg2Re5

15. h4g443. Nf3Re4

16. Nh2h544. Qb5Qc8

17. Bg6Nc845. h6Kh8

18. Bg5Ne746. Nd2Rxe6

19. Bxf6Rxf647. dxe6Qxe6

20. Bxh5Rh648. Qc6Kh7

21. Bxg4Nf549. Nf3Qxa2

22. Bxf5exf550. Qc1a5

23. Nf3Qd751. Ng5+Kxh6

24. Nd5Kh852. Ne4+Kg6

25. Nf4Bf653. Nxf6Kxf6

26. d5Rg854. Qh6+Ke7

27. h5Qh755. Qg7+Qf7

28. Kf1Bxb256. Qg5+Kd7

White resigns

Cambridge Springs Tournament, Cambridge Springs, Pa., 1904

Lasker Napier

1. e4c519. Bc5gxh5

2. Nc3Nc620. Bc4fxe4

3. Nf3g621. Bxf7Ne4

4. d4cxd422. Bxe8Bxb2

5. Nxd4Bg723. Rb1Bc3+

6. Be3d624. Kf1Bg4

7. h3Nf625. Bxh5Bxh5

8. g40-026. Rxh5Ng3+

9. g5Ne827. Kg2Nxh5

10. h4Nc728. Rxb7a5

11. f4e529. Rb3Bg7

12. Nde2d530. Rh3Ng3

13. exd5Nd431. Kf3Ra6

14. Nxd4Nxd532. Kxf4Ne2+

15. Nf5Nxc333. Kf5Nc3

16. Qxd8Rxd834. a3Na4

17. Ne7+Kh835. Be3Black

18. h5Re8resigns

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

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