- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

She has been so good for so long that some may tend to underrate her extraordinary achievements.

Hungarian GM Judit Polgar long ago established herself as the strongest female player of all time, but Polgar, who recently turned 27, may just be entering her prime.

Already one of the 10 highest-rated players in the world, Polgar turned in an eye-popping 2804 performance rating in winning the seventh Essent Chess Tournament, held in the Dutch city of Hoogeveen. The double-round-robin affair, a Category 18 event, featured a former world champion (Russia’s Anatoly Karpov), a former junior world champion (Germany’s Levon Aronian) and GM Ivan Sokolov, one of chess-mad Holland’s strongest players.

Polgar and Aronian were tied going into the sixth and final round, but the Hungarian managed a 35-move win with White to clinch sole first with a 4-2 score. Sokolov and Aronian tied for second at 3-3, and Karpov, who didn’t win a game at Hoogeveen, brought up the rear at 2-4. In her Round 1 game against the former world-title holder, Polgar caught the Russian in a stunning double-bishop sacrifice that brought about a quick mate.

Polgar and Sokolov split their two games in the tournament, with Polgar’s win on the White side of a Ruy Lopez — perhaps the most spirited fight of the entire event. The Dutch grandmaster offers a speculative piece sacrifice that forces both players to negotiate a combinational minefield.

Black’s 18. Nc4 bxc3 19. bxc3 Nxe4!? required both imagination and courage. Sokolov blows up the White center and exploits the overworked White queen to win three pawns for his piece, but his concept also gives Polgar an open g-file and a dangerous king-side initiative.

Thus: 20. Rxe4 Nxd5 21. Qc2 (Re1 Nxc3 22. Qc2 Nb5 nets a third pawn for the piece) Nxc3! 22. Rg4 Bxf3 24. gxf3 Ne2+! (deflecting the queen; trying to hold onto the White bishop leads to trouble in lines like 24. Kg2 Nd4 25. Rxd4 exd4 26. Ba3?! d5 27. Nb2 Bxa3 28. Rxa3 Qg5+ 29. Kf1Re1+! 30. Kxe1 Qe7+ 31. Kf1 Qxa3, winning a piece) 24. Qxe2 Rxb3.

The position after 29. Rag1 Rxa5 is extremely double-edged. White has loaded up on the g-file, and her pieces hover menacingly near the Black king. Yet Polgar not only must keep an eye on Black’s central pawn mass, but now must be wary of any ending in which the outside Black a-pawn could prove decisive. As she has done so often in her career, Polgar finds salvation in some clever tactics.

On 30. Nf1 d4 31. Ng3 f5, the White attack appears to be treading water, but Polgar counters with 32. Bd2! (Rh4 Ra2 33. Bd2 c5 is very pleasant for Black) fxg4 33. Bxa5 Qd5?! (a “threat” that White calmly ignores) 34. Ne4!!. It turns out that 34…Qxa5?? loses on the spot to 35. Qc4+ Kh8 36. Rxg4 g5 (Qb6 37. Rh4+ Qh6 38. Rxh6+ gxh6 39. Nf6 is winning) 37. Rxg5 Bd6 38. Qf7, and mate next move.

With time-control looming, Sokolov finds it hard to adjust to the changed set of circumstances: 34…Re6 35. Rxg4 c5 (again 35…Qxa5? loses, this time to 36. Qc4 Qb6 37. Rg6 Kf7 38. Rxd6 Qxd6 39. Ng5+) 36. Nd2 e4? (Better was 36…Qa2 37. Qc4 37. Qxc4 38. Nxc4 Bd6 39. Kg2, when White’s edge is minimal) 37. fxe4 d3 38. exd5 Rxe2 (dxe2 39. Ne4 Rb6 40. Rg1 Rb5 41. Bc3 c4 42. Re1 Rxd5 43. Rxe2, and Black’s biggest threat is eliminated) 39. Kg2 Re5 40. Ne4, holding the fort as 40…Rxd5? walks into the knight fork on 41. Nf6+.

The tactical flurry has left Polgar with a passed d-pawn of her own, and Black falls into a cute trap trying to run the passer to ground: 42. d6 Rd5 43. Bc3 (setting the trap) Bxd6 (see diagram) 44. Rf5!.

A nice idea — the attacked Black rook can’t fire back, and there’s no place to run. If 44…Rxf5, White cleans house with 45. Nxd6+ Ke7 46. Nxf5+. Sokolov resigned.

• • •

With a lineup featuring world-class grandmasters on every board, the favored Russian entry won the European Team Championships that concluded earlier this week in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Russia edged out Israel for the gold medal, with Georgia taking the bronze over Slovenia on tie-breaks.

On the women’s side, Armenia took the gold medal, edging Hungary and Russia for the prize. (Polgar, who might have made the difference for her national squad, no longer competes in women-only events.)

The critical encounter in Plovdiv turned out to be the Round 5 pairing of Russia and Israel. Israeli GM Emil Sutovsky took home the gold medal for the best individual board performance, but it was his loss to rising Russian star GM Alexander Grischuk that proved decisive in the match.

In a Closed Sicilian, Sutovsky as Black evidently could not abide the White knight posted at e5, but his eviction notice backfires on him: 16…Ng4 17. Nxg4 Qxg4 18. f5! (already closing off one escape route for the Black queen and hinting at what’s to come) e6?! (trying to force things too quickly in the center and creating a hole at f6; moving either rook to the d-file was more prudent) 19. h3 Qg3 20. Nf3 Rad8.

Now a pawn sacrifice leaves the Black queen with nowhere to hide: 21. f6! Bxf6 22. e5! Bg5 (Bxe5 loses a piece on 23. Bf2 Qf4 24. Rxe5) 23. Bf2 Qf4 24. Re4 Qf5 25. Qe2!.

Now, with the knight of f3 protected, White’s threat is simply 26. g4, and the queen is trapped. Black must surrender a piece with the ugly 25…Be3 26. Qxe3 g5 just to preserve his queen. Sutovsky resigned.

Seventh Essent Chess Tournament, Hoogeveen, Netherlands, October 2003

Polgar Sokolov

1. e4 e5 23. gxf3 Ne2+

2. Nf3 Nc6 24. Qxe2 Rxb3

3. Bb5 a6 25. Bxh6 Qf6

4. Ba4 Nf6 26. Nd2 Rb5

5. 0-0 Be7 27. Bg5 Qe6

6. Re1 b5 28. Kh2 d5

7. Bb3 d6 29. Rag1 Rxa5

8. c3 0-0 30. Nf1 d4

9. h3 Bb7 31. Ng3 f5

10. d4 Re8 32. Bd2 fxg4

11. Nbd2 Bf8 33. Bxa5 Qd5

12. a4 h6 34. Ne4 Re6

13. Bc2 b4 35. Rxg4 c5

14. a5 Rb8 36. Nd2 e4

15. Ba4 Re7 37. fxe4 d3

16. Bb3 Re8 38. exd5 Rxe2

17. d5 Ne7 39. Kg2 Re5

18. Nc4 bxc3 40. Ne4 Kf7

19. bxc3 Nxe4 41. Rf4+ Ke8

20. Rxe4 Nxd5 42. d6 Rd5

21. Qc2 Nxc3 43. Bc3 Bxd6

22. Rg4 Bxf3 44. Rf5 Black

resigns

European Team Championships, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, October 2003

Grischuk Sutovsky

1. e4 c5 14. Rfe1 Na6

2. Nf3 d6 15. Ne5 Qe6

3. c3 Nf6 16. f4 Ng4

4. Be2 g6 17. Nxg4 Qxg4

5. 0-0 Bg7 18. f5 e6

6. Bb5+ Bd7 19. h3 Qg3

7. Bxd7+ Nfxd7 20. Nf3 Rad8

8. d4 0-0 21. f6 Bxf6

9. Be3 Qb6 22. e5 Bg5

10. Qd2 Nf6 23. Bf2 Qf4

11. dxc5 dxc5 24. Re4 Qf5

12. Qc2 Qc6 25. Qe2 Black

13. Nbd2 h6 resigns

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

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