- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

The just-concluded European team championships in Crete presented a remarkable spectacle: gods playing mortals.

The rise of supertournaments — Category 20 events in which the lowest invitee is ranked worse than 2,700 — has had an unfortunate side effect. The elite grandmasters end up playing only themselves, while lesser grandmasters and even strong IMs never get a chance to cross swords with the greats.

One can readily see why a top player would rather not play one of the lesser ones. He gets no credit for winning while risking a humiliating upset. Just that scenario played out for former world champ Garry Kasparov, who was having a spectacular run in Crete before he was ambushed by Israeli GM Alexander Huzman in just 22 moves.

We pick up the game from today’s diagram, where Huzman as White has just played 20. Rf1-d1, with a mild threat against the advanced c-pawn owing to the pin.

Now, moves such as 20…Re8 21. Qc2 (Bxc4? Qc8 wins material) Ne4 22. N3d4 (Bxc4? again loses, this time to 22…Qf6) Bc8 give Black at least equality. But Kasparov wants that annoying knight out of f5 and overlooks what for him is an elementary tactic: 20…Bc8?? 21. Rxd5! Qe8 (the knight can’t take on d5 because of 22. Qxg7 mate, while 21…Qxd5? 22. Ne7+ forks king and queen) 22. Bxc4.

Black has lost two pawns for nothing, and Kasparov, disgusted, throws in the towel.

The severe class system did not prevail in some of the great tournaments of the past, which tended to mix in a sprinkling of immortals with a healthy helping of lower-ranked and even outright amateur contestants.

In the great 1909 St. Petersburg Chess Congress, the strong Ukrainian master Fyodor Dus-Chotimirski finished with a modest 8-9 score. But he managed to defeat the tournament’s co-winners, world champion Emanuel Lasker and Polish great Akiba Rubinstein, both at the height of their powers.

Playing Black against Rubinstein, Dus-Chotimirski quickly got into trouble with the premature 8. 0-0 c4?! 9. Bg5 Be7 10. Ne5 (clearing the way for the f-pawn to advance) Qb6? (Lasker, in his great book on the tournament, recommends 10…h6 here) 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxc4! dxc4 13. d5.

Black’s pawn structure is ruined, and 13…Rad8 14. Qa4 provides no relief. Dus-Chotimirski correctly decides to gamble, and for once, it is the better player who mishandles the complications.

After 13…0-0 14. dxe6 Qxb2! (fxe6 15. Qd7 is very unpleasant for Black) 15. exf7+ Kh8 16. Nd5 Rab8 17. Rab1 Qe5 (Qxa2? 18. Nxe7 Nxe7 19. Qd6) 18. Qa4 c3, White could snuff out all counterplay and pick up material with 19. Qc4!. Instead, Rubinstein makes a rare calculation error, overestimating the value of his advanced f-pawn in the ensuing tactical thrust-and-parry.

Thus: 19. Rfc1 b5! (not just a desperado, this advance requires careful defense from White) 20. Rxb5? (Lasker sees a draw in 20. Qa6 Nd4 21. Nxc3 b4 22. e3 bxc3 23. exd4 [Rxb8? Qxb8 24. exd4 Qb2!] Rxb1 24. Rxb1 [dxe5? Rxc1+ 25. Bf1 c2] Qxd4 25. Qe2) Rxb5 23. Qxb5 Nd4 24. Qe8 Nxe2+ 25. Nf1 Nxc1 24. Nxe7.

The White attack looks menacing, but Black defends with checks, and the knight on c1 can escape: 24…Qe2+ 25. Kg1 Qd1+ 26. Bf1 Qd8! 27. Qxd8 Rxd8 28. Nc6 Rf8 29. Bc4 Ne2+!. As 30. Bxe2 c2 leads to a new queen. Rubinstein gave up.

A similar upset indirectly helped launch the international career of Bobby Fischer in 1958. The newly crowned 15-year-old American champion was in danger of failing to qualify for the candidates’ matches at his first interzonal in Portoroz, Slovenia.

Soviet great David Bronstein, who nearly won the world title in 1951, needed just a draw against Filipino tailender Rodolfo Tan Cardoso in the final round to ensure a qualifying spot. But Cardoso pulled off a major upset, allowing Bobby to secure the sixth and final spot.

In a Pirc, after 17. h5 c4 18. Ba2, White’s locked-in bishop gives Black at least equality, but Bronstein’s superficially attractive pawn sacrifice — 18…c3?! 19. bxc3 Qc7 — never quite works out, for the bishop on a6 ultimately gets no use out of the open lines created by the c-pawn’s advance.

Cardoso gets some good play on the king-side, and some rash pawn advances by Bronstein come back to haunt him. Black is on the defensive after 28. c3 f6 29. Ng7! Ra1 (Bxg7 30. hxg7 Rf7 31. Nb2 Ra3 32. Bxh7 wins material) 30. Nf2 Rxb1 (the formerly locked-in bishop now proves so potent that Bronstein sacrifices to remove it) 31. Rxb1.

Black is still in the mix on 31…Bxg7 32. hxg7 Kxg7 33. exf6+ Rxf6, but Bronstein’s 31…fxe5?! 32. Nxe6 Rc8 33. Rh3! exd4 34. Nxd4 Bxd4 35. cxd4 Rc6 36. Rbb3! allows Cardoso a clever mobilization of his rooks along the third rank.

The Black pieces are uncoordinated, and his weak pawns fall on 38. Re5 Re6 (Kg6? 39. Re7! and the mate threat will cost Black a piece) 41. Nh3 (decisive) Kf6 42. Nxg5!.

As in the first game, accepting the piece leads to a promoted pawn after 42…Nxg5 43. Bxg5+ Kxg5 44. h7. Bronstein resigned.

International Chess Congress, St. Petersburg, Russia, February 1909

Rubinstein Dus-Chotimirski

1. d4d516. Nd5Rab8

2. Nf3c517. Rab1Qe5

3. c4e618. Qa4c3

4. cxd5exd519. Rfc1b5

5. Nc3Be620. Rxb5Rxb5

6. g3Nf621. Qxb5Nd4

7. Bg2Nc622. Qe8Nxe2+

8. 0-0c423. Kf1Nxc1

9. Bg5Be724. Nxe7Qe2+

10. Ne5Qb625. Kg1Qd1+

11. Bxf6gxf626. Bf1Qd8

12. Nxc4dxc427. Qxd8Qxd8

13. d50-028. Nc6Rf8

14. dxe6Qxb229. Bc4Ne2+

15. exf7+Kh8White resigns

Portoroz Interzonal, 1958


1. e4d622. h6Bh8

2. d4g623. Nh5Rbc8

3. Bc4Bg724. Rc1Qxc3

4. Ne2Nf625. Qxc3Rxc3

5. Nbc3Nbc726. Bd2Ra3

6. f3c627. Bb1Rxa4

7. a4a528. c3f6

8. Bb30-029. Ng7Ra1

9. Be3e630. Nf2Rxb1

10. Qd2Rb831. Rxb1fxe5

11. Nd1b632. Nxe6Rc8

12. Nf2Ba633. Rh3exd4

13. g4c534. Nxd4Bxd4

14. h4h535. cxd4Rc6

15. Ng3hxg436. Rbb3Kf7

16. fxg4d537. Rbe3Ndf6

17. h5c438. Re5Re6

18. Ba2c339. Rxe6Kxe6

19. bxc3Qc740. Rb3Nd7

20. e5Nh741. Nh3Kf6

21. Nd3g542. Nxg5Black


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

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